Natural decoration

We’ve used this joke before, but that’s okay: Ferncliffe trees come pre-decorated!

Summer is a wonderful time for feathered critters to be flying by, and some are just spectacular. We’ve had to about-turn from work and go in search of Narina Trogons (Apaloderma narina) after hearing their deep hoo-hooting. And they come in full festive season regalia – how cool is that?

The flawless female Narina Trogon, photographed in a flowering Tree Fuchsia (Halleria lucida) Photograph: Ingrid Weiersbye

Just as gorgeous are the butterflies, when the misty conditions lift and they have a spell of sunshine to dance in. This is a Mocker Swallowtail, better than coffee. And next to it, a walking bauble and member of the Eumolpinae family of beetles, seen during the Great Southern Bioblitz (more about that below).

Summer in KZN is a glorious riot of vegetation, often dripping wet. Which means all your trees are growing and are so far shrugging off the occasional (and extreme) 38 to 40 degrees Celsius temperatures. We have carried some water to faraway places, but on the whole, the kids are alright. Phew.

We want to share so many things, but we know you’re busy and it’s time to pack up 2023, let everyone go on final shopping sprees, and then settle down to rest a little. So here are the project need-to-knows:

  • We’ve planted 376 trees and will hit 400 before the year runs out. Here’s a quick screenshot of a planting area – not all trees are uploaded yet, but isn’t it glorious?
  • We’ve created 243 worker days for the team (plus another 200+ via Amanzi ethu Nobuntu)
  • We’ve cleared and weeded shedloads of invasives, including more bamboo sprouts than a zillion bushpigs could consume
  • Restor, the Swiss-based restoration movement with 1000s of projects and members chose to feature us as one of five lucky organisations to #TellYourStory. Our social media supporters will have seen the short film they made on our social media channels, but in case you missed it and would like to take a peek, please click here:
  • An amazing partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation in the USA and FedEx, made it possible for us to bring 24 Grade 10 and 11 learners from Fundokuhle Secondary School to the forest to plant 20 indigenous trees  in a Bugweed infested zone and take part in the Great Southern Bioblitz. What is the GSB? It’s a massive data collection drive, using an app called iNaturalist to record all wild living things from fungi to fish to robber flies. iNat helps you identify what you see, so the learners had a reason to slow down, look closely at what surrounded them, and see that yup, every species in the ecosystem counts. You get the same points for a Wahlberg’s epauletted fruit bat or a forest elephant… sadly we saw neither 😉

It was the first time the Arbor Day Foundation has worked in South Africa. Welcome!

We are now partners of the Global Rewilding Alliance! And as if to celebrate, a gorgeous furry couple moved into the rocky Dell that we’ve been clearing in hope. Rock hyrax or rock dassies (Procavia capensis) haven’t lived here for a good 30 years. Helios and Inti, as we’ve nicknamed them, are hopefully the pioneers of a new colony. A dassie expert (yes, there are such jobs) assured us that there were likely to be more and sure enough: a third animal was seen pretending to be a small boulder and doing some sun worshipping just two weeks back. Let’s hope the Crowned Eagles, rain and caracal give them some breathing room.

These are just a taste of the highs of the past few months. Far more are quieter, less public, and we wish you could experience them too: sulphur light after a storm, a damp lesser striped swallow’s call, dewdrops on a leaf.

We know that’s what actually matters. The rest is all just the means to creating space for more nature, gratifying as publicity may be.

If you can help by gifting or adopting a tree for someone you love this festive season, or by paying a day’s wage or simply donating, that would be lovely. Just visit the support section of the website to make a choice. Coming soon: a “Pot Luck Club” tree donation for those who find it hard to decide what species to choose: we’ll decide for you! Just mail us about that in the interim until we load it on the site. Gift a tree and gift life 🙂

Connor & Janine

* Please mail us if you’re a local and would like to join a Whatsapp group to be alerted as to Ferncliffe news and events (all volunteers are so welcome).

* Thank you again to Husqvarna South Africa for our trusty Silent Nature electric brushcutters and chainsaw (they’ve been smokin’ this summer as we hit the bamboo regrowth), and Industrial & Chainsaw for looking after them for us so well!

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