Sunbird spectacular

Went for the most beautiful walk down at Sunbird earlier this morning – a mere 5 minute drive from where we live. So many fabulous little nooks and crannies to explore and things to discover. A real paradise for two young boys, with a gnarley tree to climb, port jackson seedlings to wrestle out, pine nuts to hunt for, crack open and nibble, a magic ‘secret’ pond to bundu bash through thick fynbos to find, pooh sticks to play at Otter bridge and special craggy views to enjoy…what a gem of a spot. Dogs loved it too!

You CAN do something

I sometimes feel that these posts get sucked into a cyber vacuum and nobody really bothers to read them. And then I get tons of feedback and I feel my rants are not in vain. Yesterday’s shocker about the state of our oceans drew a good few responses. The overiding sense is ‘so what can we do about it?’ Indeed, how CAN we act/react to something so seemingly insurmountable.

One of my readers passed on a frightening little article about the Pacific Garbage patch…or soup as it is now known. It is something we have all heard about (and would prefer it were not true). It is I am afraid…read below.

But it brings me to today’s point. Here’s something you can do…and you can start TODAY.

Just become plastics savvy. Stop buying the wretched stuff. It is possible to avoid it while traipsing down the shopping aisles. Find stuff that is NOT wrapped in plastic. Avoid anything remotely disposable – from utensils, to pens, to razors, to cigarette lighters. Just don’t go there.

When you walk on the beach or anywhere near a coastal area, TAKE A BAG and pick up anything that is ‘out of place’ (you won’t struggle to fill several bags, believe me). Recycle all the plastic you do find and dispose of the rest (in the hope that the municipal dump is positioned far enough away from the coast, of course!)

The photo above is of a haul of rubbish collected off our local beach a few days ago. On this short 40 minute walk, my family (the three of us) collected three shopping bags and a plastic crate full of stuff. Mostly plastic. Included in this = three cigarette lighters!!!

Snippets from the plastic soup article follows….read it and weep, but THEN take up arms and do something about it!

A “plastic soup” of waste floating in the Pacific Ocean is growing at an alarming rate and now covers an area twice the size of the continental United States, scientists have said.
The vast expanse of debris – in effect the world’s largest rubbish dump – is held in place by swirling underwater currents. This drifting “soup” stretches from about 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan.
Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer and leading authority on flotsam, has tracked the build-up of plastics in the seas for more than 15 years and compares the trash vortex to a living entity: “It moves around like a big animal without a leash.” When that animal comes close to land, as it does at the Hawaiian archipelago, the results are dramatic. “The garbage patch barfs, and you get a beach covered with this confetti of plastic,” he added.

… unless consumers cut back on their use of disposable plastics, the plastic stew would double in size over the next decade.Professor Karl is co-ordinating an expedition with Algalita in search of the garbage patch later this year and believes the expanse of junk actually represents a new habitat. Historically, rubbish that ends up in oceanic gyres has biodegraded. But modern plastics are so durable that objects half-a-century old have been found in the north Pacific dump. “Every little piece of plastic manufactured in the past 50 years that made it into the ocean is still out there somewhere,” said Tony Andrady, a chemist with the US-based Research Triangle Institute.

According to the UN Environment Programme, plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals. Syringes, cigarette lighters and toothbrushes have been found inside the stomachs of dead seabirds, which mistake them for food.
Plastic is believed to constitute 90 per cent of all rubbish floating in the oceans. The UN Environment Programme estimated in 2006 that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic.

By Kathy Marks, Asia-Pacific Correspondent, and Daniel Howden /

Shocking report

I heard Professor Rogers on the radio this morning and was left feeling as bleak as all hell. This is pretty serious stuff. When someone talks about changes that are almost certainly going to happen in our lifetime… you know things are hotting up. The startling reality is that my son may grow up to be an adult in a world where there simply are NO MORE coral reefs…and that’s not all…

The oceans are in a worse state than previously suspected, according to an expert panel of scientists that included coral reef ecologists, toxicologists and fisheries scientists. In a recent report, these top scientists paint a rather bleak picture of ocean life that is “at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history”.

Over-fishing, pollution and climate change are acting together in ways that have not previously been recognized and the impacts are already affecting humanity.

The panel was convened by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO).

“The findings are shocking,” said Alex Rogers, IPSO’s scientific director and professor of conservation biology at Oxford University. “We’re seeing changes that are happening faster than we’d thought, or in ways that we didn’t expect to see for hundreds of years.”These “accelerated” changes include melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, sea level rise, and release of methane trapped in the sea bed.
Some pollutants, for example, stick to the surfaces of tiny plastic particles that are now found in the ocean bed. This increases the amounts of these pollutants that are consumed by bottom-feeding fish.
Plastic particles also assist the transport of algae from place to place, increasing the occurrence of toxic algal blooms – which are also caused by the influx of nutrient-rich pollution from agricultural land.
In a wider sense, ocean acidification, warming, local pollution and overfishing are acting together to increase the threat to coral reefs – so much so that three-quarters of the world’s reefs are at risk of severe decline.

“We’ve still got most of the world’s biodiversity, but the actual rate of extinction is much higher [than in past events] – and what we face is certainly a globally significant extinction event.”

IPSO’s immediate recommendations include:
• stopping exploitative fishing now, with special emphasis on the high seas where currently there is little effective regulation
• mapping and then reducing the input of pollutants including plastics, agricultural fertilisers and human waste
• making sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Carbon dioxide levels are now so high, it says, that ways of pulling the gas out of the atmosphere need to be researched urgently – but not using techniques, such as iron fertilisation, that lead to more CO2 entering the oceans.

“If we don’t bring CO2 emissions down to zero within about 20 years, we’re going to see steady acidification of the seas, heat events that are wiping out things like kelp forests and coral reefs, and we’ll see a very different ocean.”

“The time to protect the blue heart of our planet is now.”

Abridged version of article by Richard Black Environment correspondent, BBC News
Photo – NASA

Got my mojo back!

I have come back from the past few runs this week feeling flat and miserable. My legs have felt like lead, the voices in my head have been chattering away VERY negatively about the rigorous training schedule that lies before me…and the pain in my butt has been….well, just a big pain in the butt that will not go away. I think I have been suffering from what is possibly a fairly common case of running blues. I had lost my mojo.
Today was different…
I headed out just after lunch…the winter sun was warm, not hot and there was the gentlest of breezes tickling the ocean. I headed first up chappies on the tar and then just beyond the top lookout point, I swung a right and headed up, up and up into the mountain with Chapmans Peak proper in my sights. The views were breathtaking, the sunbirds were bursting with song, there were ericas and proteas aplenty. The route down was the best though. From the trig beacon, I took the Hoerikwagga path down – and it was an absolute treat. I couldn't resist taking all these photos. What a stunning new perspective on Chappies. I think I may just have discovered a new training route (just under 2 hours out and back from home) with some awesome technical work thrown in. THIS is what it's all about.

I may just have got my mojo back….

Achtung Cormorant!

I had Chapmans Peak Drive to myself this morning.

Running along this coastal road is a privilege at the best of times, but when it is closed to vehicle traffic, it is a complete joy.
On the way back towards Noordhoek I had an amazing and unusual wildlife sighting. I watched a Cape Cormorant doing the most extraordinary aerobatics display! He was so obviously just in it for the sheer joy of flight….there was no clear destination or prey at the end of it all.

In this oceanic air show, I was treated to spectacular stall turns, loops and even one or two hammerheads (yes, I looked it up….). This is and I quote: ‘an aerobatic maneuver consisting of pulling back and flying the airplane vertical until airspeed runs out, and hitting either the left or right rudder, causing the airplane’s nose to fall exactly 180º from previous location’…
Once or twice the webbed footed ‘wheels’ came out when he felt he needed some brakes, but for the most part, this was one freewheeling cormorant out on one a hell of a joy ride. What a pleasure to watch.

Happy World Oceans Day all!

Lovely jet propelled cormorant pic from:
Chappies pic from:
With thanks.

Going batty

Tim was paging through a wonderful book the other day called ‘Ecology Crafts for Kids’…
In it there is a brilliant ‘recipe’ for a bat box. The list of requirements is simple and all the wood needed could be gathered off scrap heaps or found discarded lying about a building site.
Tim is hugely excited and has set his heart on building one this weekend. He has been drawing pictures of bats hanging inside the box, bats flitting about outside the box, bats at night peeking out of the slit in the box and bats sitting in trees around the house ….in anticipation of the box (!)
So this is what we shall be doing this weekend…

Here is the pic in the book – we shall aim for something similar and hope we get some little furry friends in time.