Editor’s Message

The Friends Of Silvermine Nature Area AGM, held on Wednesday 30th April, has come and gone and I am sure was enjoyed by all who attended. The AGM began with the Chairman’s report where Sue Frew highlighted the activities and achievements of FOSNA during the past year.

Our treasurer, Jay Cowen then presented the financial report for the year.

The committee stood down and everyone, bar Heron Burger, was available for re-election. The old committee was re-elected with the addition of two new members, Diane Brown and Gail Breslan. Welcome to them.

Thank you to Sue and Jay for their sterling work done for FOSNA during the year.

After a short tea and eats break we were treated to a wonderful presentation by David Hurwitz entitled “Whale Season 2013”.

What a presentation! His photos varied from whales mating, Gannets diving for fish at 100km per hour to dancing dolphins and everything in between. (Ed’s note: Type in Whales Dave Hurwitz on the search facility on the Scenic South to see more of Dave’s beautiful images of the whales and dolphins of False Bay)

Once again it was brought home to me how blessed we are to be living here! False Bay, with its 120 Km of coastline from Cape Point to Hangklip provides wonderful opportunities.  David spotted about 100 Southern Right whales during the last season.

Because we have two ecosystems due to having both the cold Benguela and the warm Agulhas currents flowing along our coastline many of the 37 species of whales and dolphins are found here.

Southern Right, Humpback and Brydes whales are most often spotted, and since 2009 Orcas have been seen every year. Whales are migratory and generally appear around here from May to August while dolphins are found all year round. The most often encountered dolphins include the Common dolphin, Bottlenose and Dusty dolphins. They really seem to have a lot of fun in their daily lives.

Orca (Killer Whale)in False Bay. Photo by Dave Hurwitz

Orca (Killer Whale)in False Bay. Photo by Dave Hurwitz

During one of his trips David came across a Southern Right whale that had just given birth. He witnessed the new-born taking its first wobbly swim! He had fantastic photos of this.

Whale in False Bay. Photo: Dave Hurwitz

Whale in False Bay. Photo: Dave Hurwitz

The 6m, 1.5 ton Southern Right new-born drinks about 150 litres of high-fat milk (consistency of cream cheese -40% fat) from its mother. With this nourishment the youngster grows at about 2cm per day!

I am sure all who attended the meeting enjoyed the presentation tremendously. I know I did.

David Hurwitz of Simons Town Boat Company runs whale and dolphin spotting trips. To ensure a personal experience he takes a maximum of 12 people per trip. He is very knowledgeable and obviously passionate about the environment and I am sure ensures that every trip is wonderful.


Dolphins in False Bay. Photo: Dave Hurwitz

Dolphins in False Bay. Photo: Dave Hurwitz


Thank you David.

Just a reminder, a standby system has been set up to deal with unauthorised activity on the mountain.  When the emergency number 0861-106-417 is called, the control room can contact two rangers to respond any time, night or day.  If anyone has any information about illegal activity on the mountain, please call the number above. It would be a good idea to save the number in your cell phones so if you see anything untoward on the mountain you can contact the authorities immediately.

Please note that the car guard at Gate 2 does not get a salary. He would appreciate any donation to him for this duty.

Happy hacking and hiking.

Meryl Hutchison 

Chairman’s Report


A very successful Annual General Meeting was held on Wednesday the 30th April 2014.

The existing Committee was elected in 2012.  As per the FOSNA Constitution the committee can only stand for two years.

The elected committee standing down was:-

Heron Burger

Jay Cowen

Lynda Downing

Sue Frew

Meryl Hutchison

Terry Rothwell

Maria Sibley

Yvonne Viljoen

Tammy Weinberg

We were all prepared to be re-elected with the exception of Heron Burger.

All members were re-elected onto the committee with a welcome addition of two ladies from the Walking Group.  Gail Breslan and Diane Brown.  And a very warm welcome is extended to them both.

The guest speaker, Mr David Hurwitz, had some wonderful pictures, information and anecdotes about the Whaling/Dolphin Season of 2013 in the False Bay area. Mr Hurwitz has a business which offers whale watching boat trips from Simons Town harbour.  He is also very instrumental in rescuing sea life when it has become entangled in fishing nets/lines etc.  At the moment he is involved in a film shoot of False Bay sea life for National Geographic. An excellent advertisement for this beautiful part of the peninsula.

FOSNA was very fortunate in receiving three large donations during the past year. The first one came from the very successful award made to Jay Cowen and his hacking team along with the Friends of Vlakkenberg.  This award is earmarked purely for alien clearing.

The second came from Wildrunner Trail and Athletic Club. FOSNA was requested to provide marshals for this trail and received a very generous donation for their trouble.

The third was a fabulously generous anonymous donation.

We must decide how best to use these monies. FOSNA is not in the habit of making and holding onto profits.

We are asking our members to advise us if there is any particular issue you would like to explore further.  I.e. it was suggested at the meeting that we plant more trees.  These issues have to be motivated and well researched before being presented to Sanparks.  We, as an organisation, are unable to make any independent decisions.

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any new ideas.  We will be more than happy to research them further and motivate them should they be adopted by the committee. You will find all email addresses at the end of this newsletter.

To end I would like to express our appreciation and heartfelt gratitude to Heron.  Heron and her late husband Brian joined FOSNA on the 29th April 1993.  FOSNA had been an organisation since the 6th August the previous year (1992) so the Burgers were very early settlers in the FOSNA history. Heron was appointed to the committee as Walks Co-ordinator on the 11th February 1994.

The following describe Heron and her devotion to walking and the mountain perfectly:-

“….braving the major storm and sitting at Gate 1 just in case some intrepid individual wanted to go walkabout”!


“…. Saw a party of 5 battling their way to the top of St James Peak in a blustery North Wester. Cobwebs that weren’t blown away by the wind were washed away by the rain on the way down”.

Heron has served as Chairlady, Tea lady, walks co-ordinator, minute taker, and information clerk – just about everything to assist and improve the organisation.  Her deep knowledge of the Peninsula mountains in general and Silvermine in particular has enriched many a walk and meeting.  She will be greatly missed and we are pleased to note that, although retiring from the committee she will still be an active member of FOSNA and the Walking group.

Sue Frew

Evanne’s Wetland Update

 News from the Riverine Rovers.

The Riverine Rovers held a snake education morning for the Working for Water team that works in the Silvermine Wetlands, and for the river monitors of the Silvermine Wetlands and for the Sun Valley Eco Watch.  We felt that, as these men and women all work where there are likely to be snakes, and most of them are frightened of them, it would be a good idea to give them some education.  Grant Smith, of the Cape Snake Conservation Group arrived with boxes of mysterious wriggly creatures and we all collected on our veranda.  Our monitor placed himself in front of the open door, ready to make a hasty retreat if necessary!

Starting off with a harmless mole snake, house snakes and an egg eater, we then progressed to the “heavies – a puff adder, Cape Cobra and a Rinkhals.  Grant was excellent in explaining the different snakes and how they would much rather get away than meet us face to face, and a few brave souls (myself included) touched their first snakes.  To show how successful the morning was, I was told by our monitor that he had seen a baby mole snake; knew it was harmless and that it ate rodents!  I think they are all more confident now, and able to talk about them to any members of the Public they meet while at work.  My thanks go to the City for their co-operation in getting their team to us for the talk.

Puffadder. Photo by Evanne Rothwell

Puffadder. Photo by Evanne Rothwell


Walking for Wetlands

Western Cape Wetlands Forum & TMNP, assisted by the Working for Wetlands project team organized a ‘’Walking for Wetlands’ walk for Wetlands Day on the 1 Feb 2014.

The walk was on a 6.2 km track around the Silvermine River Catchment  area, above the dam.   Participants were given a map of the route, highlighting spots where they could note interesting facts en-route.

The aim was a get-together for wetland awareness, facilitating interaction with different wetland conservation partners, as well as spreading awareness of different organizations that are involved in wetland conservation work in one way or another.

Lynda Downing of FOSNA manned a table with posters and brochures displaying activities, Flora Documentation CDs and booklets for sale and a collection box for any donations.

Children from local primary schools took part.   They were informed of the importance of wetlands in storing fresh water, improving water quality by filtering pollutants from water that flows through them on its way to lakes, streams, aquifers & oceans.  They also help control erosion, provide habitats for plants and animals and make floods less severe, in addition to their recreational use.

All participants were given an indigenous plant to plant at home or at their school and enjoyed winning raffle prizes.

Alien Vegetation Hacking

The Friends hacking team has for many years now met on the first Saturday afternoon of each month, to venture out for a few hour’s work. The alien infestations used to be so widespread within Silvermine that one could find plenty to do virtually everywhere one looked, but the efforts of contractor teams and our volunteers have left only scattered and light infestations remaining within the reserve.

This means that our hack group is now tasked with working on distant and often almost inaccessible patches of aliens, and for the last couple of years we have been active mostly on the western boundaries of the reserve. To get there involves a bakkie ride part way up the Noordhoek Peak gravel road, followed by a 20 minute walk across the western plateau area to the western ridges overlooking Noordhoek valley.

The attached photo shows just how bad the remaining old Hakea and Pine patches there can be, (this one is on privately owned land at the reserve boundary), and what we are doing about preventing them from advancing back into Silvermine.  We also assist other hack groups from time to time who are working on the Vlakkenberg and in the Glencairn / Simons Town area, and will post some photos of those events in future.

Friends of Silvermine Hacking group removing alien vegetation. Photo by Jay Cowan

Friends of Silvermine Hacking group removing alien vegetation. Photo by Jay Cowan

Forthcoming Environmental Days

International day for Biological Diversity  22nd May

World Environmental day      5th June

World Oceans Day                8th June

World Desertification Day    17th June

Newsletter Contributions & Useful Contacts

Our membership portfolio is run by Tammy Weinberg. For any membership related queries please contact her at: weinberg@discoverymail.co.za

Our chairman Sue Frew can be contacted at: suefrew@isat.co.za

If you have any comments, criticisms, ideas or requests or anything of interest that you would like included in the newsletter please email it to me at: hutchison.meryl@gmail.com

All contributions will be gratefully accepted and appreciated.

For the Friends of Silvermine Nature Area walks programme see