SEABIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME

Coastal Seabirds

Christina Hagen and Ross Wanless met with representatives of SANCCOB to discuss matters of mutual interest relating to establishing new penguin colonies by translocating chicks. Christina also worked on a funding proposal to the Table Mountain Fund, and continue addressing comments received on the draft management plan for the De Hoop penguin colony. Taryn Morris worked on the African Penguin Biodiversity Management Plan as well as squaring away some deep work time getting to grips with the "Tidyverse" statistical analysis tool, and advancing the pre-and post-moult penguin foraging analyses. Andrew de Blocq focused on the review of West African seabirds and attended a working group meeting at the V&A Waterfront where he presented a draft research plan for the Marine Wildlife Programme as it relates to the Swift Tern colony that is breeding on rooftops at the Waterfront.

Common Oceans

Bronwyn Maree prepared an article for the FAO website and BirdLife South Africa e-newsletter. She also worked on a proposal for a collaborative training pilot programme for fisheries compliance officers in South Africa. Nini van der Merwe followed up on deliverables from a wide variety of international colleagues. She assisted Ross Wanless with editing and finalising meeting reports, project proposals and the agenda for the National Awareness Workshop planned for Malaysia in September. Philip Augustyn was out of the office.

Albatross Task Force

Makhudu Masotla returned on Friday from a week-long trip on a demersal longline vessel. This was his first solo trip onboard a vessel and formed part of his training to be a scientific fisheries observer. Reason Nyengera acquired recent observer data from the inshore trawl fleet, from CapMarine observer agency. He is assessing the data to keep track on the uptake of seabird bycatch mitigation measures. He also purchased material for Bird Scaring line manufacturing and delivered lines to fishing companies that had purchased them from our Ocean View Association for Persons with Disabilities team, which builds the lines. Andrea Angel is currently at Marion Island.

Marion Island Mouse Eradication Project

Andrea reported that, after long delays and logistical challenges, the equipment needed to finalise the eradication-related research at Marion Island was finally in place, and we expect that the trials will soon get underway. Ross and Nini had a very productive meeting with Vernon Head and Mel Tripp about the plans for raising the funds required for this mammoth undertaking. Ross, Nini and Mel then had a meeting with a potential marketing and media management company to further develop their plans. They also had a productive meeting with John Kelly, the RSPB’s Gough mouse eradication project manager, who is in Cape Town.  Ross also was forced to spend significant time engaging with various colleagues about UCT’s internal challenges to ethical clearance for mouse research at Marion, driven by an animal rights lobby group.

Other

The seabird team welcomed Mark Anderson on Monday, and Mark and the team hosted Mike Hainebach, one of BirdLife South Africa’s Golden Bird Patrons. The team gave him a presentation on the various projects and successes that they’ve achieved, and Mike expressed his strong support for the global scale and implications of the seabird team’s work. Ross secured FAO funding support to cover participation costs for a meeting in September of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, to discuss issues relating to fisheries observers, and finalized accommodation and travel arrangements for his participation at the Meeting of Parties of the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatross and Petrels.

 

TERRESTRIAL BIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME

Preventing extinctions

Melissa Whitecross travelled to Middelpunt Wetland with Hanneline Smit-Robinson and Robin Colyn where they met up with Carina Coetzer and Alistair Campbell (Ingula Partnership), as well as the Working for Wetlands team. After discussing how Working for Wetlands and BirdLife South Africa could potentially work together to conserve the high altitude wetlands used by the White-winged Flufftail, all of the camera traps were removed from the wetland, concluding the 2017/18 Rallid Survey. Melissa spent the remainder of the week preparing for the Flufftail Festival and continued with analyses on the Secretarybird tracking data. All of the natal home ranges (MCP and kernel density estimates) have now been completed. Linda van den Heever joined members of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and other stakeholders for a three day review workshop of the Bearded Vulture Biodiversity Management Plan. Carina and Sakhile Mthalane completed the avifaunal surveys for April on Ingula. Robin Colyn continued analyses as part of the Forest Conservation Network study this week, with article compilation commencing as well. He also attended the Middelpunt Wetland Trust meeting in Johannesburg.

Renewable energy

Sam Ralston and Rob Simmons had a very fruitful meeting with the Civil Aviation Authority where they discussed whether it would be possible to test the effectiveness of painting turbines blade to reduce bird strikes. CAA regulations currently require that all turbine blades are painted white and although this potential mitigation measure has been mooted for some time, it has rarely been tested. Sam also attended a meeting with the CSIR, the South African Wind Energy Association and EWT to discuss the second phase of the strategic environmental assessment for wind and solar energy.

 

IBA PROGRAMME

Sneeuwberg Protected Environment Project

Ernst Retief visited Memel to complete the document about birding in and around Memel. Describing seven birding routes, the document will hopefully increase avitourism in the area in support of the Sneeuwberg Protected Environment and Seekoeivlei Nature Reserve. The document will be available in PDF format and free to download. It should be complete in the next few months.

Estuary IBA Conservation Project

Giselle Murison met with existing and potential new landowners from the Klein Rivier estuary project site on Monday and Thursday to discuss the benefits of declaring their properties a Nature Reserve/co-managed Nature Reserve and the steps in the proclamation process. Giselle also met with Agri-tourism this week to discuss mutual opportunities offered by the proposed Berg River Camino Route and BirdLife South Africa’s Estuaries Biodiversity Stewardship Project. Giselle spent much of her time this week drafting a concept proposal to the Table Mountain Fund, submitting comments on the Berg River Camino Route’s evaluation of their initial consultation period, and in discussions around the proposed changes to the Bergrivier Spatial Development Framework (SDF).

Mistbelt Grassland and Forest Conservation Project

Conservation Outcomes prepared and submitted the memo required for the various Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW) committees to approve the proclamation of Tillietudlem as a Nature Reserve. The approval process for the EKZNW Board approval, required before the proclamation can be signed by the Provincial MEC, takes several months. The landowner is concurrently getting reserve boundaries surveyed and the management plan is being revised.  Proclamation of Tillietudlem will add over 1900 ha of mistbelt grassland to the Protected Area estate in KZN and secure critical habitat for Blue Swallow, all three crane species, Southern Ground Hornbill as well as Oribi to name some examples.

Supporting Biodiversity Stewardship

Dale Wright travelled to Kruger National Park this week to attend the National Biodiversity Stewardship Technical Working Group meeting, as well as a legal training day focused on protected area expansion. The meetings provided much scope to catch up with colleagues regarding various existing and future planned land protection projects and participate in robust discussions focused on specific technical issues within protected area expansion. The technical issues included standardising municipal rates rebates in relation to protected areas, providing adequate support to landowners post-declaration and removing obstacles to further protected area declaration. Dale was also able to meet with colleagues from the International Land Conservation Network who were conducting a scoping visit focused on establishing an African Land Conservation Network. 

Karoo Research and Conservation Project

This week Alan Lee has been liaising with Richard Dean on a manuscript of the vulnerability of birds of the Karoo to contaminated water sources, which would result from fracking. This included compiling a list of 371 species found in the Karoo, scoring if they are aquatic or not, if they'd been observed drinking during surveys, and if they are granivores (since this is an explanatory variable for drinking). Planning for the May trip to the northern Karoo is also coming along. Alan spent time helping Belgian PhD student Svana Rogalla catch sunbirds at Blue Hill Nature Reserve as part of a project to see whether iridescent plumage has thermal properties that assist in maintaining body temperature. Alan has also been communicating with Henk Nel regarding a potential manuscript on the influence of BirdLasser on SABAP2: roughly 96% of full protocol lists submitted to SABAP2 were through BirdLasser in 2017, from next to nothing in 2014.

Data Management Project

Ernst Retief made preparations to visit the Waterberg System IBA next week. During the week he will meet with Warwick and Michelle Tarboton to discuss their data collection project in this IBA.

Regional and Global Key Biodiversity Areas

Daniel Marnewick spent this week attending the KBA Committee meeting in Austin, USA. Daniel reported back on the KBA Community, formation of KBA National Coordination Groups, and on KBA training development. Simeon Bezeng attended the Southern African regional Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management (BIOPAMA) inception workshop held in Johannesburg. In this workshop, the various components of the BIOPAMA programme were explained ranging from governance and equity, management effectiveness and action. It was a platform for Bezeng to engage with the different stakeholders on the Biodiversity Assessment for Spatial Prioritization in Africa (BASPA) project and share information on how this programme fits into the BIOPAMA objectives.

 

POLICY & ADVOCACY PROGRAMME

National

Candice Stevens attended the Biodiversity Stewardship Technical Working Group (BDS TWG) meeting in Skukuza. The BDS TWG is the foremost body in biodiversity stewardship and deals with a range of technical, policy, and practical implementation considerations that seek to advance the effectiveness of the stewardship tool and protected area expansion in general. Candice also assisted with the facilitation of SANBI’s Legal Capacity Training held during the same time. Furthermore, Candice presented on behalf of SANParks at the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Agreement (GLTFCA) Joint Management Committee (JMC) regarding section 37D and the regularisation of properties in the Kruger National Park buffer zones.

Advocacy

Jonathan Booth attended an RMB CSI workshop, learnings from which will assist in shaping future funding proposals. This was also a great networking opportunity. Jonathan also acted on a number of advocacy cases and provided some input into the Ghana Wildlife Society policy and advocacy strategy.

 

AVITOURISM & SPECIAL PROJECTS PROGRAMME

Martin Taylor spent the majority of the week in Johannesburg. A talk was given to the South African Hunter and Game Conservation Association. A quarterly RSPB Partner Development Officer meeting was attended (via Skype) as well as a BirdLife International Capacity Development meeting, the focus of which was the completion of assessments of BirdLife partners. Martin participated in a BirdLife East Atlantic Flyway Task Force meeting to discuss policy positions at the upcoming BirdLife International Flyways meeting to be held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. A regular update was obtained from Julia Pierini of BirdLife Zimbabwe. Financial forecasts of that organisation were received and reviewed. A meeting regarding future funding options for the bird guide training project was attended.  FGASA learning material was distributed to trainees involved in the learnership programme during the week. Department of Tourism registration cards cards were distributed. Notice of a possible disciplinary hearing for damage to a vehicle by the two learners at Kapama was received.

 

WAKKERSTROOM CENTRE

The Working on Fire team has been out in the field, not only preparing tracer belts at the Centre but also completing manual fuel reduction activities in and around the Wetland in preparation for the upcoming fire season.  After being on a few days sick leave, Kristi Garland has been attending to various tasks relating to the renewal of approximately 60 Fire Protection Association memberships as well as booking the team out for production – either tracer belt or fire break burning.  Daphne Pyott has kept her finger on the pulse with regards to bookings for later on in the year.  Kristi and David Nkosi have spent most of this week preparing for our National Lotteries Biodiversity Stewardship Project’s teacher workshops as well as learner programmes.  Over the next few weeks, Kristi and David will be visiting each of the 40 enrolled schools to run a learners programme.  This has been quite an exciting time as we have developed some new activities to not only bring biodiversity closer to each child but also support teachers in making biodiversity come alive in their classes.  David ran a teachers workshop at one of the seven nodes this week and was received very well.  Overall, teachers are eager to start incorporating the concepts of biodiversity learning and stewardship into their daily teachings.  Lucky Ngwenya has had a slightly more ‘centre based’ week, with a few tours mainly over the past week.  His sightings include: African Rail, Red Phalarope and Black Crake at the Wetland, Sentinal Rock-thrush and Blue Crane on the Paulpietersburg Road, White-bellied Bustard at Vaalbank, Marsh Owl and Yellow-breasted Pipit at Fickland Pan.  The Centre hosted the Wakkerstroom Bird Club evening meeting on Wednesday evening. On the junior bird club side of things, Kristi has finalised the sponsorship of Junior Bird Club t-shirts for the Clay Edu-Centre.  Each term, four learners are selected as leaders to assist both Kristi and Carol Preston during their sessions.  The Wakkerstroom Bird Club has agreed to sponsor Term 2 to 4 t-shirts.  On Wednesday afternoon David attended the Country college Junior Bird Club session.  Here, these learners, spent time an learning a little more about five more common species found in their area.  David also worked with the learners on a bird themed song which will be submitted to the World Migratory Bird Day project for marketing purposes.   On Thursday afternoon, Kristi, David and Lucky together with Carol Preston attended the Clay Edu-Centre Junior Bird Club session.  This week Kristi and David focussed on how to use a field guide to find out a little more about the birds we see whilst Carol and Lucky focussed on what to do once you have collected litter.  These learners are responding so well to each session as well as retaining the information learnt.  Fridayafternoon saw David and Lucky attending the Smiley’s Junior Bird Club session where they too learnt a little more about handling field guides.  Kristi also attending to some tasks relating to the Wakkerstroom Walks and Trails Group – some adjustments to the current booklet, as well as assisting the Wakkerstroom Bird Club with submissions and judging of the Sandy Twomey Memorial Photographic Competition where anything Wakkerstroom goes.

 

BUSINESS DIVISION

Mark Anderson attended various meetings in Cape Town on Monday and Tuesday, including with Dr Andrew Jenkins, Homebrew studios, Mel Tripp, Mike Hainebach, and the seabird conservation programme team. In Johannesburg, he met with Gail Schimmel (CEO of the Advertising Standards Authority), Mike Brown (CEO of Nedbank), and Colin van der Meulen. The bi-annual Middelpunt Wetland Trust meeting was held on Wednesday. The Flufftail Festival was held at the Johannesburg Zoo on the weekend.

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