Our field survey in mid-June 2020 was aimed at building up a co-operative relationship with the landowners of the area, by means of setting up collaborative plans for the management of the rivers and wetlands of the corridor area, as well as the establishment of practical solutions for the management of fire in the area.
Starting with the rivers and wetlands, we surveyed the Weyers River, an important tributary of the Gouritz River. This entailed locating ecological survey sites at intervals along the river, permanently marking those sites with GPS co-ordinates, photographing the river or wetland from a permanent fixed point marker and collecting information at each site in terms of the soil stability, vegetation cover, alien plant infestation and so forth. We set up eight fixed point photo sites along the river and also established 17 ecological monitoring sites. The real value of these sites is that the exact same site can be visited again in the future, guided by the GPS co-ordinates, to re-survey conditions and compare the results from year to year.
In this way it will be possible to objectively measure the progress with alien tree clearing operations, determine the need and priority for interventions and keep a watch on changes, good or bad, in the river system.
We were overjoyed to find that much of the Weyers River’s wetlands were still in a fairly good condition and with relatively little intervention, to remove the encroaching alien black wattle trees, the entire Weyers River wetland system can be conserved in a pristine condition. This identifies the Weyers River wetlands as a high priority for future black wattle clearing projects.
Recent fish surveys revealed that the Weyers River is home to two little fish species (rooivlerkies) that occur only in the upper Gouritz River tributaries and one new species that has not yet been scientifically described!
The Weyers River is thus quite special and something of a gem in the Gouritz River system.
During the surveys we also recorded the birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians observed during the surveys. At one locality, a full-grown clawless otter, fully occupied with his search for crabs in amongst the river stones almost walked right into us as we stood surveying the river. At another site, while struggling through dense wetland growth much taller than me, I startled a big bushpig and sent it crashing off through the “palmiet” and reeds in disgust, luckily in the opposite direction.
We confirmed the presence of 49 bird species and 15 mammal species during the survey and hope to add many more to our checklists for the area during our next survey which will include the Langtou and Kamma rivers and wetlands.
Another positive to come out of the survey is that the landowners are keen to co-operate with the GCBR in the establishment of conservation planning for water, alien plant control and fire management. With their goodwill, half the job is already done.
Compiled by Ken Coetzee, Field Evaluation member of the Gouritz Ecological Corridors Project team.
Photos courtesy of Ken Coetzee and Bruce Taplin