05 December, 2013

Rocher Pan with beached seals

by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity in Porterville, near Cape Town in South Africa

My Ungardener’s Swiss pension is getting closer. To celebrate we went to RocherPan Nature Reserve to walk by the sea on a long, long sandy beach. (We've walked there before in Summer March 2011 and winter this August). Our WildCard permit was first collected from the office.

Rocher Pan and its office building

We walked along the road, covered in fine shell gravel, to the gate which I remember as  -  locked years ago. The end of the road. We walked on to the lookout picnic site on the crest of the dune.

Rocher Pan beach looking to Baboon Point near Eland's Bay

Rocher Pan beach with dune vegetation

We were quite alone as we walked, except for one other couple who claimed the picnic site as we left. She was festooned with huge binoculars.

Walking on the beach at Rocher Pan

Watching a Cape fur seal at Rocher Pan Nature Reserve

Our brains may have evolved to sift through the barrage of visual input in our eyes and identify those things that are most important for us to consciously perceive, such as a threat or resources such as food, Mary Peterson suggested.

Cape fur seal at Rocher Pan beach

The beach walk began grimly with beached seals. Some too young, with soft grey fur.

News24 20111209 "A scientist told us that the phenomenon is associated with the breeding season of seals, very rough seas, and strong wind conditions." He said seal pups were vulnerable during high winds and rough sea conditions and could find themselves in distress if they could not swim and that was why they died.

I approached yet another carcass cautiously … my heart stopped, as the seal suddenly twitched, blinked at me, then sat up and swore. The littler one near by also woke smartly Wassup?! They headed out to sea flipper by flipper. Littlest one wallowed in the surf waiting for those bleddie people to go. So he could settle on the sand again, heave a big yawn, and go back to sleep, warily.

Cape fur seal returning to the sea at Rocher Pan

Cape fur seals are endemic to Namibia and South Africa. Mating and breeding time is November/December. 

Cape fur seal on the shore at Rocher Pan

SeaShepherd Cape fur seal about seal culling in Namibia. On the SAPPI Seal Platform at the Two Oceans Aquarium within Cape Town Harbour, one animal had to be carefully released from a discarded plastic loop embedded in the flesh around his growing neck. Please always cut open plastic loops before you ‘throw them away’.

Sea colours at Rocher Pan with red seaweed and beached kelp

While we wait to sell our Porterville home, I’m planning sea colours for the False Bay house. Sea glass, breaking wave, milky green. Aqua skies and still waters. Ivory of sea foam. Taupe of wet sand. With a little of the best bitter chocolate in dried kelp fronds. That muted palette sparked with a wall painted in the rusty colour of red seaweed.

November flowers at Rocher Pan
Limonium peregrinum, Didelta carnosa
Grielum grandiflorum, Antholyzoa plicata

Since we walked the road instead of driving it, I could gather flowers (with my camera!). Pink Limonium peregrinum (or is it capense?) sea lavender, in the plumbago family, among 350 species of Limonium worldwide. Buttery yellow Grielum grandiflorum sandy coastal flats from Port Nolloth to the Peninsula, rose family. Strange ‘flowers’ which were the prickly bronzed seedheads of yellow daisies with succulent leaves Didelta carnosa with leaf-like involucral bracts beneath the yellow petals. On the dune near the sea siren song of fierce red flowers Antholyzoa plicata iris family
– Info from PlantZAfrica, and the South African Wild Flower Guides for the West Coast, and for Namaqualand.

Pictures by Diana and Jurg Studer

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  1. That was a lovely walk. It was warm and sunny with a gentle breeze over the water. I don't experience walks like that unless I am on vacation.

  2. Sea, seals and 26 degrees. Looks like a summer day in the north of Holland. Exept for the increase of shark activity because of the mass stranding of seal pups.

    1. this is the cold coast, Atlantic Ocean, Benguela Current. The sharks are on False Bay, Indian Ocean and warmer water.

  3. Thanks for sharing these pictures with us. I hope to one day walk that same beach. The flowers are beautiful.

  4. Beautiful pictures as always, Diana. I do miss being able to walk by the sea. Once again, love your montages of textures and colours that are so evocative. Thanks,

  5. What a beautiful place! The only place I love being as much as my garden is a beach like that.

    1. or up on the mountain, in the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area

  6. A beautiful and deserted place.
    The palette of colours you describe sounds very inviting, earth colours are always the easiest to live with

  7. Oh how I love the sea... it brings such peace. Loved the walk with you this morning. I'm quite sure those seals where annoyed with you for interrupting their naps.

  8. Diana how I love the sea and the critters found there. Your sea colors sound wonderful and what inspiration...especially those flowers.

  9. So interesting how universal the seascapes are, and how calming they are. Sounds like you had a wonderful day--seals and all!

  10. We have seals in Algoa Bay on Bird Island on the other side of the bay away from the city. In the early summer when we have rough weather the pups get washed off the island and wash up on the beaches. They then get collected by Bayworld and other organisations and returned to the island as soon as the weather is good.

  11. How lovely your walk by the sea! We have a favorite place on the New Jersey shore that we visit only out of season so we have the beach to ourselves. P. x

  12. I would love to take a walk like that... the sound of the waves, the wind... the pretty flowers... wooh, nice...


Photographs and Copyright

Photographs are from Diana Studer or Jurg Studer.
My Canon PowerShot A490

If I use your images or information, it will be clearly acknowledged with either a link to the website, or details of the book. If you use my images or words, I expect you to acknowledge them in turn.

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