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Helderberg Nature Reserve Nocturnal Nature Walk


Female Rain-Spider out hunting

What a stunning evening the Night Walk was. Not a breath of wind. Our Eco-Rangers were excited to have Andreas leading a Nocturnal Nature Walk at the Helderberg Nature Reserve.

Nature after dark is a fascinating experience and often many younger children do not get the opportunity to go out in the dark because they’re asleep. This week we had a few children as young as 5 years of age join us and you should have seen the excitement on their faces.


Moon rise over the Helderberg Nature Reserve Dam

Our evening started with a quick discussion about nocturnal animals, before setting off for a walk around the reserve. Andreas explained the difference between day animals and night animals and we were most impressed by the fact that many of the children knew day animals were ‘Diurnal’. Okay it did not come out quite like that . . . rather they came up with words such as ‘Diturnal’ and ‘Deturnal’. Still really good considering they are all 6 years old and under. Well done to our Genets. And for homework they were asked to go and find out what the name is for an animal that is active during both day and night? Does anyone have the answer yet?

While we talked we had a tortoise pass by and a mongoose run off after a squirrel. The actual walk was beautiful. The Hottentots Holland mountains stood out sharp and majestic in the distance. They could almost have been cut out. And the Helderberg, as always, looks green and lush with a slight pink hue upon as the sun slowly disappeared. On our walk we came across the red faced mouse birds. I call them a blushing mossie. They also saw many sugar birds flitting in amongst the fynbos and they heard the call of the Olive woodpecker. All in all, the Genets enjoyed a walk as the sun gently bathed our surroundings in a soft golden light. At the same time, the moon was rising in preparation for the later walk with the Caracals and Leopards.


Discovering marbled geckos in the old Oak trees

Our second and much larger group met just before the sun had completely set. We gave a quick overview and presentation on Nocturnal life in nature. This topic promoted many interesting questions. Following this we discussed the various senses animals require to be active after dark. Many nocturnal animals will have one or more highly developed senses which they use for hunting, navigation and protection. We left off asking all the children a very important question – ‘Do you think light pollution affects nocturnal animals?’


A Rain Spider guards her nest

This is a topic for the future and we hope the children and their families will have spend some time mulling over this.

No more sitting inside – It was time to head out into nature. We asked the children to keep their torches turned off so that we could become accustomed to the darkness. The children then went off to see if they could spot Mrs. Chameleon who was released a few weeks earlier. She was expecting and the children were keen to see if they could find some young. Of course they will have moved away and we did not see any.


Haemanthus Coccineus – April-fools or Blood Flower

Once away from the education centre we asked the children what they could see and hear. Those who kept quiet could hear all sorts of night sounds – crickets, the alarm call of a Cape Sugar bird, the hoot of an owl in the distance, the leaves falling from the trees as well as the flap of bats wings. Our surroundings were alive with life and action. Every few meters someone found something be it a delicate March Lilly, a moth, the fascinating Blood Lilly (April Fool), large rain spiders and many other creepy crawlies. We saw many Fruit bats flying overhead collecting fruit from the Ekebergia Capensis trees along the river. Then, to end our walk, we spotted a duiker near Petes pond.


Catching tadpoles in the stream at night

We had the most exciting and enjoyable evening and night out and everyone from grandparents to siblings, to the parents enjoyed themselves and loved seeing the Helderberg Nature Reserve in different light. We could not have asked for a more perfect night out – not a breathe of wind, warm temperatures and a superb group of people.

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