Saturday, December 29, 2012

Fiery start to the 2013 orchid season

Voëlklip, Fernkloof Nature Reserve begins to burn
Flames march down towards the houses
As I report this, several Huey fire-fighting helicopters and a large Oryx from the South African National Defence Force are flying low repeatedly over our house in Voëlklip in Hermanus collecting seawater from the beach just streets away and bombing a large wild fire that is raging in the Fernkloof Nature Reserve and threatening homes just streets above us towards the mountain. The fire is being fanned by strong North-westerly winds and the road (R43) from Hermanus to Stanford has been closed. The fire is travelling fast and came over the top of the mountain from the Caledon side two days ago. It then moved West from Stanford towards Hermanus. It arrived opposite us at 03:20 this morning. Since I took the photos of the mountain early this morning the fire has moved down the slope towards the homes. The fire-fighters and other emergency service personnel are doing an amazing job and I take my hat off to those pilots, guided by a spotter plane who are continually bombing the fire line. I managed to take a few pics of the Oryx which had to land this morning to wait for a re-fuel. Ironically, I found a dried out Disa bracteata just a stones throw away from it!
Oryx waiting for re-fuel

Water bombing bucket
On the upside, the fire comes at a good time for the many orchid species in Fernkloof Nature Reserve. I counted 69 listed terrestrial orchid species on the list of plants from Fernkloof Nature Reserve. Most have probably already set seeds and have dried out in time for their Summer dormancy. Many of the South African terrestrial species actually need periodic burns to thrive which forms a critical process for the Fynbos of the Cape Floristic Region. The Spring season of 2013 will be especially rich with orchids and other plants which will be out in numbers after this fire. I am looking forward to this. A good webpage that describes the relationship between the local plants and fires can be found by following the link to the Fernkloof Nature Reserve webpage: . I guess one thing we residents will need to keep an eye out for now is the exodus of wildlife including venomous snakes coming down from the mountains to escape the flames. We already have some interesting birds in the garden which we have never had at home before. We have several Cape Sugarbirds (Promerops cafer) taking up temporary home in our large bottlebrush tree.

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