Raptors, or birds of prey, always have some appeal to us because of their aerial antics and regal stance. The Black Sparrowhawk is one of the stealthy hunters and has moved into the Western Cape over the past 20 years. The availability of mature bluegum (eucalyptus) trees for nesting purposes has enabled this species to spread into the northern and southern suburbs. There are a few territories adjacent to the Tygerberg Nature Reserve and one nest has been seen to produce offspring over the past three years.
The Black Sparrowhawk can be identified by its large size and black plumage, with a white chest and belly. There is also a melanistic form where the black pigment is excessive and the white feathers are restricted to the throat and upper chest. As is the case with most raptors, the female is substantially larger than the male. These birds feed mainly on small birds, especially doves, but have been seen to take much larger prey up to the size of a Helmeted Guineafowl.
Black Sparrowhawks build a large nest platform high up in eucalyptus trees and lay between 2 and 4 eggs. The incubation period is about 36 days, with both parents participating in brooding the clutch. The youngsters remain in the nest for 37 to 47 days. The male usually brings the food items, which are fed to the chicks by the female. Once the fledglings have left the nest, they are dependent on their parents for food for a further 55 days. The immature sparrowhawks’ plumage does not resemble that of their parents. They have rich brown plumage, streaked with black, on their bellies and black feathers on the back and the folded wings.
At the onset of the breeding season one might be surprised by a sudden commotion in the vicinity of the sparrowhawk’s nest. Egyptian Geese, which do not build their own nests, attempt to take over the nest platform for their own brood. Squabbles often take place, accompanied with loud objections from the geese. However, the aerial prowess and powerful talons of the sparrowhawks usually settle the disputes relatively quickly.
The team, including members of the Friends of Tygerberg Hills, Mech-O-Care, the Cannon Association of South Africa and staff from the Tygerberg Nature Reserve, gathers around the cannon, back home on the top of the Tygerberg Hills.
The original cannon that stood on the Tygerberg Hills in the 1700’s has finally returned home. The cannon was manufactured around 1720 by a Swedish company, and was one of three 12 pounders in the approximately 54 gun system set up and used by The Dutch East India Company.
The cannon was used to call the burghers to arms in the event of an attack on the Colony, and was only used on 5 occasions: the first two were tests prior to the Battle of Muizenberg; then a false alarm and lastly prior to the Battle of Blouberg. The 12-pounder required a kilogram of expensive powder with each firing.
The entire journey of the Tygerberg Hills cannon is not certain, but it is believed that it served time as a fence post on the border of the De Grendel farm. In 1994, it was moved to the entrance of the Parow Municipal Building. At some point, a pedestal was built for the cannon, and it was moved to the pavement on Voortrekker Road, in front of the Municipal buildings.
After much negotiation between the Friends of Tygerberg Hills and various relevant bodies in Cape Town, the Heritage Department of the City of Cape Town kindly agreed to return this valuable commodity to its original site in the Tygerberg.
On Wed, 28 March 2012, in the capable hands of Rob Nash from Mech-O-Care, Gerry de Vries of the Cannon Association of South Africa, as well as members of the Friends of Tygerberg Hills and the Tygerberg Nature Reserve, the cannon was returned to its home on the Tygerberg Hills.
The Friends of Tygerberg Hills have undertaken to restore the cannon if at all possible so that it will once again be fired from the Tygerberg Hill on special occasions.
Special thanks to Bill Wilson and Pearl van Zyl who have spent many months and a great deal of time in sensitive negotiations to get the cannon home. Special thanks also to Rob Nash of Mech-O-Care, who lifted and transported this weighty piece of history with great expertise and care … at no cost whatsoever to the Friends of Tygerberg Hills. We are greatly appreciative. And last, but not least, special thanks to Gerry de Vries of the Cannon Association of South Africa for his expertise and assistance in the relocation of cannons.
For more photographs of the move, take a look at the gallery on our Facebook page.