Consol Head Office visit 28 October 2016.

The Conservation Committee had been requested to visit the Consol Glass mining “Head Office” site at Manenberg by the Manager to give advice on the potential of rehabilitating a section of the sand mining waterbody and its shoreline.
On 28 October 2016 we were represented by Gavin Lawson and Simon Fogarty. Andrew de Blocq also accompanied us. We met the Manager, William Lily on site and he accompanied us around the southern and south western sections of an area he described as being set aside for conservation purposes. It has been mined out and has no commercial value any longer we were told. He also explained that Consol are sponsoring students at UWC to do a study and write a report for the rehabilitation of this section of the site. They did not have any birding background or knowledge and needed input from us. We suggested Consol sponsor the students for a minimum of 3 years with the study.

The Edith Stephens Nature Reserve is situated across the R300 freeway to the south of the Head Office property. The Edith Stephens property used to belong to the Consol Group years ago, and was sold we were told. Just to the south of the Head Office site fence and between the freeway is a long wetland with great potential for conservation as well. An observation, 2016 was a dry rainfall year in the Cape Town area, but the wetland had visible water standing in a large part of it, with a few ducks present. Many other seasonal wetlands in the nearby Philippi area were already dry. The Big Lotus River (which has its source very close to the Borchards Quary sewerage works site) flows past this wetland area, on the opposite side of Landsdowne Road to the Edith Stephens Nature Reserve.

William gave us all the back ground history information we asked about the site, the water body is about 80 hectares in extent. He gave us the various depths of the water bodies, observations of animals, birds, insects, fish, etc. We were shown an area which previous rehabilitation had been tried. There were a number of invasive plant species which were identified and it was suggested to get a team in and remove them as the growing season had started.

There was a heronry and breeding area in the reed beds in the SW corner of the waterbody, which had a variety of bird species competing for nesting space. They were bringing in nesting material from else where to the south. This was very encouraging.

Something which caught our attention across the waterbody, when looking through the binos was a vertical bank and there were nesting birds with holes in the wall. So we went off to see this. A very interesting little peninsula of vegetation was nearby offering different habitats to the shorelines. There were martins nesting in the holes. We did a good search for kingfishers but none were nesting in this valuable breeding bank which drops straight into deep water.


The section of the site has very good conservation potential for birds.
We need a few more role players from the City to also visit this site with their input, experience and knowledge. This we will organise. What was apparent and needs interventions to reshape the banks of the waterbody to accommodate wading species of birds and ducks. The sides of the waterbody are almost vertical to a depth of 15 metres in places. Something to note the mined waterbody area is isolated from any surface water natural streams or rivers. Its water source is from rainfall and ingress of ground water. The water line from peak winter rainfall drops about 1 metre by the end of summer after the hot temps and strong driving SE wind which can make almost 1 metre waves on the open water.

The bird flight paths from this site to the seasonal wetland in the buffer area outside the Consol southern fence to Edith Stephens Nature Reserve were evident. From there the birds would go to the wetlands of Philippi and then to the False Bay Nature Reserve, with the Strandfontein Birding Area, Zeekoevlei and Rondevlei.

Another site visit will be organised soon.

In the walk around Andrew and Simon recorded about 40 bird species.

Gavin Lawson.