Category Archives: Birds

Monthly Newsletter August 2015

Grietjie Newsletter Aug 2015 for web


image by Lindy Thompson

COMMITTEE UPDATE         by Hans Schmid


Our immense gratitude goes to Ian and Penny Lourens (#100 & 70) for an extremely generous donation to the value of R30,000. The donation will be used for specific items: a new laptop for the Reserve Manager, cupboards and new mattresses for our staff, some traffic calming measures on the access road, road name bollards and enhancement of the Main Gate entrance.

Ian and Penny, we really appreciate your concern for the wellbeing of Grietjie. Thank you very much from all of us.

Game drive vehicles

There seems to be an influx of game drive vehicles on Grietjie. As these vehicles are not marked with our logo and to make them identifiable as Grietjie vehicles, can all these vehicle owners please put their plot number on display.


  • This sticker is 300m wide x 200mm high and can be obtained from PNS (015 781 1528 ). Contact Sondra, the cost per sign is R35.00 +VAT.
  • Two stickers are required, one on the driver’s door and one on the back of the vehicle.

Any game drive vehicle passing through the Main Gate must also have the relevant Grietjie entrance sticker displaying the current year number.

Bush-meat poacher caught

Theunis Trollip investigated and did the footwork to trap a snare poacher along the river. Gerrie then caught him red handed. Well done to both of you. It is mainly the staff of non-resident owners who are involved in snaring and poaching. It is the owner’s responsibility to control employees; anyone who is caught involved in illegal activities will be banned and blacklisted from Grietjie with immediate effect. Please warn your employees of the consequences of poaching.

Tractor, grader and trailer


Our grader has been delivered and Blackie has obtained a tip-trailer at a cost of R60,000 (including transport to Grietjie).


With sadness we announce the recent passing away of Ernest Vosloo (#125), one of our long-time residents on Grietjie. A month ago, Danie Pio the part owner of 115, also passed away. Our condolences to both families and to their close friends.


BALULE PEL’S FISHING OWL SURVEY 2015         by Sharon Schmid


Slogging through deep sand, picking our way over river boulders and following game paths that criss-crossed up and down banks and between thorn bushes, two teams of birders and wardens hiked from plot 117 on Grietjie to Three Bridges at Mica searching for the elusive and increasingly rare Pel’s owl. Starting at 7:00H and walking till midday, we covered about 43km over three days.

The survey is conducted on behalf of EWT as part of their Birds of Prey programme. All birds reliant on the river are counted (as well as hippos and crocodiles), in an attempt to monitor the health of the river and the status of these birds. Vultures and their nests are also counted as Balule is considered an important conservation area for the hooded vulture.

This year Dr Lindy Thompson, who is researching hooded vultures, joined us and was delighted to find so many active hooded vulture nests on Grietjie. She will be returning to continue research on breeding pairs.

The survey has been conducted since 2007 and wardens tell of numerous Pel’s sightings in the past. However, over the past 3 years one bird in 2013, two birds in 2014, and four birds this year, were recorded. Of the four birds recorded this year, one was seen on Grietjie, one on ONGR, one on Ukhosi, and one on Parsons. Of course the owls prefer not emerging in daylight as they are often mobbed by louries and starlings among other birds, so these may not have been solitary birds and it’s quite possible that we failed to flush both owls in a pair.

Joe Pearson will be correlating and submitting the data and our thanks go to him for organising the 2015 Balule survey.




This time last year, I was preparing myself for my second attendance at a Grietjie AGM.  I had some idea what to expect, but was not prepared for what actually happened!  It was a long day (something I know will be improved on this year), where we sat most the day going through the business of the AGM.  We got to the elections and there was some considerable ‘dragging of feet’ with some reluctance for people to come forward to dedicate a few hours each month for committee business to support the management of the reserve.  I have to say, I was one of those in attendance who got involved in the discussions of the day, I found the interaction with other members very useful and enlightening.  What I was not prepared for was being offered up to take a seat on the committee.  There were a few reasons for my reluctance (1) I only part live on Grietjie, approx. although quite frequently, we also have other commitments and we travel quite a bit.  I had automatically assumed to be on the committee you had to permanently be on Grietjie.  (2) I had no idea what it would involve to be on this committee, to be quite honest, I had assumed the committee to be rather male, rather grey and rather mature in years (sorry guys), but just not the sort of forum that I felt I would ‘fit’ and (3) I was already committed to 4 other committees elsewhere in the world and with business and volunteer interests elsewhere.  So, all things considered, I could not see the likelihood of being a committee member.  Brian Sears, our good neighbour on plot 11 had other ideas and nominated me for the committee, which seemed to gain a momentum all of its own and before I could say ‘Wildebeest’ I was voted on the committee.

I left that meeting thinking “what the hell happened there”?  Ian, my husband, just kept quiet with a knowing smile.  He is quite often heard to say “I know my wife” (say no more)!

We are now coming to the close of my year on the GPNR Committee, it has been an experience and by that I mean it has been:  interesting, exciting, adventurous, demanding, fulfilling, fun, challenging and extremely rewarding.  I really had no idea of what to expect, but I did not expect this.

Of the committee members – what an amazing group of people and what a pleasure it has been to work with them all.  We were pretty much thrown together through the process of the elections and we had to (through monthly meetings and the occasional meet-ups), quickly find our feet in making it known what areas our skills and interest lie, so we could make a plan to consider the key priorities to achieve throughout the year, whilst attending to the operational needs of the reserve.  We have had some great laughs, we have also surprised ourselves in what we have achieved (Hans Chairman’s report will have the highlights of that), we had to learn to become diplomats (not one of my greatest skills), we had learnt so much about Bush considerations in land management, game management, Balule and the relevance of being part of a much bigger picture in the whole scheme of things.  All of this, whilst also having a new insight into issues facing our staff workers and the team supporting the operations within Grietjie.  Some may read this and think, “sod that, it all seems too much”.  Well, it is not, what I am explaining here is an amazing experience of diversity that we have here on Grietjie and from that and this beautiful reserve that we all live in, the pleasures of experiencing first hand why it is critical to analyse the game flow, why we need to take consideration of how we manage ourselves as we traverse from our homes to the gate and the consequences of this if things go wrong.  At the end of the day, we ALL have something in common, and that is GRIETJIE.

Through the leadership of Hans, who is so dedicated to his responsibilities as the Chairman of the Reserve, through the challenges faced by Johan as our previous Warden at a time when the anti-poaching issues escalated to the highest ever known in the Bush environment and through the combined knowledge, skills and dedication of my fellow committee members, also as my neighbours I can honestly say it was been such a privilege to have been able to serve the reserve, to have been part of the committee, to have been able to put a little back into this beautiful blessing of the land, the home of Grietjie.

Due to personal and business commitments, I have to step back from putting myself forward for another year.  I hope maybe the year after, I will be able to put myself forward (this time without a nudge) I am not sure if I can attend the AGM this year, but I wanted to make sure I shared a nugget of my experience to others, in the hope that you may open your minds and your hearts to Grietjie and put yourself forward to experience this amazing journey, for the reasons I have explained. If you wish to know more, please call me at any time and I will happily provide you with some orientation so your decision is one you feel informed and comfortable with.  If you do not want the full commitment of ‘committee’ then just volunteer some time to be co-opted or on one of the sub-groups and spread the load a little for the new committee coming through this year who will be doing their utmost to protect the reserve, sustain the value of our land and our homes and keep us and our fauna and flora safe.

Wishing you all well, your neighbour on #10.




Our day started with a beautiful bush sunrise as we made our way over to Marius for 6:30am one morning. Marius Swart was our bush expert for the day and an eccentric one at that as he met us with a broad smile and bare feet!   After our welcome coffee, rush and a briefing on the day, we headed out with absolutely no expectations, but an open mind of the day ahead of us. We had no idea of what was to come.

Literally, just out the door, driving down to the 4-way stop we happened upon 3 Elephant bulls, and let us just say, “there the learning began…….”

Marius proved himself to be a great educator, he took the time to explain many aspects of the Elies, their habits, their logic and so many things we did not ever consider, especially when previously driving by and coming across an Elephant.

We were blessed that day as shortly after the 3 bulls sighting, a breeding herd came through with the smallest youngster in tow tucked amongst them. The day just got better with every minute and hour. Marius got us to a point of knowledge where we were so comfortable, and more importantly, the Elies were so comfortable with us; that we were able to park up, stand by the vehicle drinking coffee, nicely relaxed and surrounded by the breeding herd.  It was so funny when Hans (Grietjie Chairman) ambled by and gaped at us in wonderment as we stood there amongst these beautiful animals all of us minding our own business, enjoying the day.  Needless to say, Hans thought we had lost the plot!

We had a couple of ‘interesting’ situations with our Game viewer doing what aged Game viewers do well and yes, we broke down for a little while.   Interestingly enough we were not perplexed when waiting by the vehicle and ahead of us where the previously sighted 3 bulls gaining entry into the old Buffalo Farm. We knew how to behave and we were not a threat to them or them to us. Fortunately, eventually our temperamental vehicle regained its life and we were able to carry on the adventure.

As much as Ian and I previously and over many years have enjoyed our time in the Bush and our experience with the animals, that day on Grietjie with Marius and the Elephants was exceptional.  Marius knew exactly how to pre-empt the animal flow so we were able to literally spend the whole day with the Elies, pre-empting their every move so by the end of the day, the Elies assumed we were a natural part of the environment and they respected our presence, just as we were respecting theirs.  The night drive is something we will never forget. We were on the road coming back from Olifant North Gate and the herd were right there ahead of us, so we turned everything off (lights and engine), relaxed and had the herd brushing up against us around the game viewer as one.  The Elies were purring, literally around us and we were delighted.  This experience carried on for a while until we were interrupted with an oncoming vehicle. Approaching, as usual, way too fast, lights blazing and a little impatient to pass, the oncoming vehicle had an impact.  The mood of the herd changed immediately, not to us, but to the intruder, and they became immediately protective, cautious and slightly agitated.  Just goes to show, and confirms why education in the Bush is an essential part of living the bush life, the difference that a bit of time, knowledge, respect and appreciation can make to the experience of our wonderful day and night compared to the experience of those few minutes with the impatient driver!

We have decided to make every trip to Grietjie include a day with Marius Swart or Sean Pattrick to experience new animal behaviour experience.  As we drove around with Marius, he was as knowledgeable of the flora as he was the fauna so the experience was increased by having input onto the trees (which we have some unexpected species) on Grietjie.

P.S. Anyone interested in learning more about the animals we live amongst, here is Marius’ details:

Marius Swart
Skype: marius.swart72


Giraffe chased and killed by lions

A giraffe was chased by lions last night and ran into an electric fence and was killed by lions. The lions only ate a small part and then left the carcass in the bush. It has been transported away from any houses to allow for easy access by vultures onto the number 20 opposite airstrip. Within hours there were over 20 vultures eating the carcass. In the coming days we will no doubt see hyenas and jackals at the site.

Giraffe 2Giraffe 1

Grietjie Weather Charts

Grietjie weather charts Jan 2013

Weather charts presented by Ian Owtram from Antares

January was a phenomenal month for rainfall and has in fact been the wettest month that I have recorded since I started living here in 2000. We had just shy of 340mm although some areas had even more than this. This takes us to one of the wettest years on record and I have been forced to eat my own words when 2 months ago I was expressing concerns about a dry season on the cards.

The bush is looking fantstic as a result with lots of seeplines on the reserve flowing continuously now and with that comes all the frogs and other interesting wildlife. It will also bring with it the mosquitoes but hopefully with the recent spraying that has been done by the Department this will not be too problematic.

Birdlife has also been interesting with all the rain and many more duck species can be found now. I have also noticed 2 secretary birds on a regular basis recently and will keep monitoring these highly endangered species in the hope that they may start to breed here. This is about the 3rd year in a row now when they have put in an appearance. However there are concerns across the lowveld that bush encroachment is threatening the preferred habitat of wide open spaces so maybe we will need to consider this in future management plans.

Hope you enjoy the bush and that the grass cover remains good for some time now.

Ian Owtram