Friday, 19 June 2015

For the Love of the Land (aka volunteers Rock)

Life on a CapeNature stewardship Nature Reserve is a bit different. At least it's hard to compare to other places I've lived across the world, which range from London to the Amazon.

Its beautiful, peaceful, healthy, invigorating. We live surrounded by the entertainment that nature has to offer, marking time by the state of bloom of the flowers on the hills. I wake each day with a feeling of purpose, excited about what the day has in store for me.

But being a custodian of the land is hard work, with few options for generating income. In effect, its a giant land-care hobby: we do it for the love of the land. We spend hours of time maintaining trails, attempting to maintain roads, mediate erosion, and controlling alien plants.

Thankfully, our lifestyle and location does appeal to the young and adventurous. We support a steady stream of volunteers from around the world, who come and help with various projects on a volunteer basis. Payment is food, accommodation, and a chance to explore a true wilderness area while contributing to conservation efforts. Here are some photos of volunteers and their activities.

Last year Jessie (Switzerland) and Adrian (France) got fit and healthy filling sandbags and planting vygies in an area that has not recovered from sheet erosion:

At least the alien black wattle trees are a consistent source of firewood, even if the light wood itself burns a bit fast. Getting the wood into firewood format is a big task:

Over the last month we've had three strong lads volunteering with us: Ivan (Ozzie); Augustin (France); and Brian (South African). We used their muscle power to move tons of rocks to change the route of a track to cross two deep erosion gulleys. These gulleys were the legacy of ploughing of sensitive soils decades ago. The track was routing over the head of these gulleys: sensitive areas where a road was merely exacerbating erosion. The new route now avoids this area, plus the rock bridges across the gulleys will slow down further erosion within the gulleys themselves. This is the culmination of a project that started years ago, where you can also get a better idea of how deep the erosion gulleys are.

photo courtesy of Augustin Calas

photo courtesy of Augustin Calas

On a buttonquail survey some weeks ago we found an isolated pine in a very remote section of the reserve. The three intrepid volunteers headed for the pine on their day off and chopped down another threat to our areas biodiversity.

Photo courtesy of Augustin Calas

The volunteers have also helped us with a variety of research and monitoring tasks. This past summer Christina van Midden, Dean Portelli, Marie Pascal, Ruby and Dan helped us with all day monitoring Cape Rockjumpers. Ruby and Dan transcribed pages of information stored in bird books into spreadsheet format for a meta analysis project that will explore life-history correlates of population declines. Over the last week we've digitized over 25000 photographs from our remote cameras monitoring visitation of nectarivores to proteas, and of a variety of bird species visiting drinking sites. Phoebe Barnard will be reporting on some aspects of these research project at this years Fynbos Forum, to be held in Montagu.

So... a big thank you to all the Blue Hill volunteers that have all helped our conservation and biodiversity actions in some small way, we are most grateful for you help (as are the voiceless species that represent the biodiversity of the Fynbos).   


  1. I could not live my life happily without volunteerism. It means so much to me to work on environment projects here at home. I hope these folks found much reward and continue in a lifetime of meaningful contribution.


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