SEABIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME
Christina Hagen prepared for staff meeting and worked on documents for the new colony in Plettenberg Bay. Taryn Morris, wrote an article on guiding for the BirdLife Newsletter which left her longing to be back on Flock. She also readied equipment and logistics for African Penguin fieldwork next week on Robben Island where she will be helping colleagues collect breeding season tracking data.
Bronwyn Maree and Andrea Angel spent time preparing BirdLife South Africa's stakeholder comments for this year's surveillance audit meeting for the Marine Stewardship Certification of the South African Hake Trawl Fishery. They raised concerns about the inshore hake trawl fishery’s certification and failure to meet its stated targets for seabird conservation. Pete Watt-pringle visited another vessel in the Port-based Outreach pilot project in Cape Town harbour. Pete also trained an additional three international-language interpreters to accompany him during outreach visits to vessels in Port. With the Seychelles and Mozambique National Awareness workshops fast approaching, Nini vd Merwe spent this week finalising agenda, contacting invitees and dealing with the logistics of the events.
Albatross Task Force
Andrea worked with Ross Wanless and Bronwyn on two draft National Plans of Action (NPOA) for Seabirds (for South Africa and Namibia) and submitted comments for the Namibia NPOA stakeholder workshop. Andrea has also been in contact with Mozambican colleagues in preparation for the upcoming National Awareness Workshop in that country. Reason Nyengera's trip planned trip to sea this week had to be re-scheduled and he spent most of the week constructing bird scaring lines, tailored for demersal and smaller pelagic longline vessels. He assisted in preparing material for the upcoming staff meeting and conducted harbour visits to build relationships with demersal longline fishermen as he transitions into working more closely with that fishery. Bokamoso Lebepe attended CapMarine briefing in preparation for his upcoming sea trip on a pelagic longline vessel, where he fulfil fisheries observer duties as well as collect seabird data. He also worked with Reason on the making of bird-scaring lines.
Nini also been working on the Marion Island adopt a hectare project and assisting Ross Wanless with various travel arrangements. Ross also spent time working on an incident that was reported to him – a seabird was shot with a paintball gun by a recreational angler during a fishing competition. He has also been dealing with matters ahead of his trip to Cape Verde, where he will assist a team to capture Cape Verde Shearwaters at sea, deploy satellite trackers on them, and follow them back to their colonies at Santa Antao Island (we currently do not know where on this massive island they breed). He, Mark Anderson, Nini and Peter Ryan have been shaping the Marion Island eradication fundraising concept this week, and a final concept for the ‘sponsor a hectare’ is being drafted. Ross, Bronwyn and Taryn also finalized and submitted proposals for two positions to be created within the team. And yes, this week there was still stuff to wrap up after Flock…
TERRESTRIAL BIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME
Birds & Renewable Energy
On Monday Sam Ralston had a Skype meeting with Ernst Retief, Robin Colyn and Daniel Marnewick to discuss BirdLife South Africa’s input into DEA’s site screening tool. This tool will help identify issues that need to be addressed in impact assessments. Sam spent much of the rest of the week drafting comments on the proposed Renewable Energy Development Zones which have been gazetted for comment (wind and solar projects within these areas will only be required to conduct a Basic Assessment, full scoping and EIA). On Friday, Sam met with SANBI and the CSIR to discuss how BirdLife South Africa can contribute to the second Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for wind and solar energy. Although BirdLife South Africa is unhappy with the first SEA, we will try to positively influence the next phase.
Ingula Partnership/Northern Cape Species Conservation
Robin Colyn, with the assistance of Ingula Partnership Assistant, Sakhile Mthalane, conducted monthly avifaunal count walked transects in the Braamhoek rehabilitation areas. As part of a medium-to-large mammal diversity study along escarpment corridors, Robin and Alastair placed two cameras along escarpment habitat in the Sterkfontein area. Additionally, Robin attended a meeting at Drakensberg Pumped Storage Scheme with Eskom and Ezemvelo to discuss aspects related to this camera trap project. Robin made significant progress on the species prioritisation analyses currently underway. These analyses aim to prioritise threatened avian species in the Northern Cape and develop targeted conservation initiatives accordingly. Spatial analyses completed assessed threatened species distributions in relation to the existing protected area network. Stewardship analyses and stakeholder engagement related to Rooifontein and Benfontein continued this week and all findings will be submitted next week. Robin completed the calibration of a number of thresholds for a monitoring toolset for high altitude grasslands. These indices and toolsets will enter a testing phase within the next few weeks. Robin completed and submitted the Ingula BirdLife Monthly Report for review.
Linda van den Heever joined Ronelle Visagie (EWT) in De Aar in order to gather samples for BirdLife South Africa’s lead project. Over four days they collected blood and bone samples from various bird species, which would greatly assist in estimating the lead levels in South Africa’s bird species. Sincere thanks to Ronelle and her husband Stoffel for their hospitality and kindness. On Friday Linda met with Prof. Vinny Naidoo (Onderstepoort) and Prof. Andrew McKechnie (UP) to discuss the best way to process bone samples prior to testing.
IBA PROGRAMME HIGHLIGHTS
IBA PROGRAMME - NATIONAL
Daniel Marnewick started the week with a number of meetings. First was a meeting with Ernst Retief to catch up on his work, followed by a meeting with Ernst and Sam Ralston on the new EIA screening tool. This was followed by a Private Protected Areas (PPAs) sub-committee meeting with Dale Wright and Candice Stevens. We will soon develop a document outlining our strategic involvement in PPAs at a policy and global scale. Daniel and Dale then had a catch-up meeting on progress in the Western Cape IBA work. Daniel then completed a number of reports and prepared a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) presentation which he presented to the IUCN members meeting on Thursday. The week ended with Daniel catching up on emails and meeting with Dale and Ernst to discuss the project assessing Other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs) within the IBA network.
IBA PROGRAMME - REGIONAL CONSERVATION
Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Free State
On Tuesday Ernst Retief spent some time at Rietvlei Nature Reserve with a representative of the Friends of Rietvlei Nature Reserve, to discuss the bird hides in the reserve and their attempts to make these hides more accessible to people that are mobility impaired. Most of the hides are now fully accessible or almost so. Ernst will continue to play an advisory role here. The rest of the week was spent on editing the draft Management Plan for the Sneeuwberg Protected Environment. This plan will be presented to farmers next Tuesday at Memel. Ernst participated in a number of Skype meetings to discuss topics such as a “Site Screening Tool “ for DEA, the definition of the parameters for OECMs under Aichi Target 11 and how it relates to our IBAs and Robin Colyn’s work in the Northern Cape and western Free State. Numerous email enquiries, for example with regard to the mining issues in the Dullstroom area, were also handled.
Dale Wright caught up with Samantha Schröder and Giselle Murison briefly on Monday to discuss progress in their respective projects – the Verlorenvlei Protected Areas Project and the Western Cape Estuaries Conservation Project, before joining a skype meeting with Candice Stevens and Daniel Marnewick. The Privately Protected Areas sub-committee discussed developments at the recent national Biodiversity Stewardship technical working group and peer learning meeting, as well as the potential approaches Dale plans to take for the new Wilderness Lakes Stewardship Project. He also met with colleague Philippa Huntly to discuss her continued involvement in the Verlorenvlei Protected Areas Project, and joint initiatives for 2018. Dale and Daniel Marnewick had a lengthy catch-up on Tuesday morning, discussing various aspects of the Western Cape Regional Conservation Programme. The False Bay Nature Reserve Protected Areas Advisory Committee meeting was held on Wednesday morning and Dale took the opportunity to catch-up on management issues related to this IBA. Dale presented a talk to the Cape Bird Club on Thursday evening, focused on progress over the past five years for the Western Cape Regional Conservation Programme, and introducing some new projects going forward. He then shifted across the age spectrum and gave a very brief talk to a pre-primary school in Newlands on Friday morning, during their “Conservationists” themed week. He also sat in on a meeting with BirdLife South Africa staff regarding a potential international funding opportunity, and met with Ernst Retief and Daniel regarding their BirdLife International pilot project investigating alternative mechanisms for protecting conservation areas. Time was also spent drafting Owl award nominations, finalising two popular articles and developing presentations for various talks. Great news this week was the signing of an agreement with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) regarding the collaboration between BirdLife South Africa and SANBI, on the SANBI-led Karoo BioGaps Project , with whom our own Karoo Birds Research and Conservation Project has already begun working.
IBA PROGRAMME - PROJECTS
Biodiversity Stewardship Fiscal Benefits Project
Candice Stevens spent Monday catching up with much needed project administration and detailing a number of funder requests. Tuesday was spent working on more tax materials and resources for the SANBI website and this included meetings with Natasha Wilson (SANBI) and Bryony van Wyk. Candice also received feedback on this material and future plans to increase the tax resource offering from Tracey Cumming (Dept. Environmental Affairs). Candice also used her time with Natasha to do a detailed catch-up on the Fiscal Benefits Project and discuss a number of financial and reporting requirements of the GEF 5 project. The rest of the week was spent on policy related work including drafting and reviewing comments on the Draft Offsets Policy with Romy Antrobus-Wuth as well as detailing a number of high level articles for Mark Anderson. Additionally, Candice worked with the tax expert members of the Biodiversity Tax Advisory Committee in their continued work and preparation for the draft SARS Interpretation Note on Section 37D and C. A number of meetings were held this week, importantly, she had a skype meeting with Matthew Selinske regarding incentives for global Privately Protected Areas (PPAs), was interviewed by Heather Dugmore regarding a Business Day article, and hosted Shelley Lizzio (head of the NBBN for EWT) at Isdell House. Candice also handled a number of general BirdLife South Africa items including an Owl Nomination.
Verlorenvlei Protected Area Project
On Monday Samantha Schröder delivered her vehicle for repairs and then met with Dale Wright at the Kirstenbosch office for a project progress meeting. Tuesday was spent preparing for the Verlorenvlei Estuary Advisory Forum (VAEF) Meeting. On Wednesday she attended the Verlorenvlei Estuary Advisory Forum Meeting where she gave feedback on the project. On Thursday she spent time typing up the minutes of the VEAF meeting and assimilating information received from the members of the forum. Friday was taken up with admin (reviewing project finances, replying to emails, filing) and collecting her vehicle from the panel beaters. She also contacted framers in Moutonshoek to make sure they have all the relevant documentation required of the Protected Environment process.
Cape Estuaries Stewardship Project
This week, Giselle Murison attended the Berg River Estuary Management Forum, where she provided feedback on the Western Cape Estuaries Conservation Project and the ongoing meetings with landowners regarding Ramsar status and the formal protection of the estuary. Also on the agenda was an interesting presentation on the Berg River Ecostatus Monitoring Programme, as well as feedback on the progress of the By-law. On Thursday, Giselle met with landowners regarding the renewal of the Benede Bergrivier Bewarea, with which she is assisting, and received positive feedback on its progress. She also met with a representative from Admiral Island at the site for a proposed new bird hide, on which BirdLife South Africa will be providing comment. On Friday, Giselle visited two potential erosion control pilot sites at the Berg River Estuary and met with their representative landowners regarding the history of these sites and current erosion control measures. This was in preparation for a site visit by soil engineer specialists towards the end of this month. Giselle spent most of the rest of the week on a number of administrative tasks, including dealing with emails and requests for information from landowners and users of the estuarine project sites, and organising landowner and site visits at the Berg River and Klein River estuaries for May and June.
IBA PROGRAMME - ADMIN
This week Romy Antrobus-Wuth compiled the IBA Team’s contribution to this month’s Executive Board Report as well as content for the e-newsletter. She finished generating provincial maps showing the possible threat climate change scenarios may have on the existing IBA network. Romy also spent time compiling the next IBA Quiz for social media and spent time finalising comments to DEA’s Biodiversity Offset Policy.
AVITOURISM & SPECIAL PROJECTS PROGRAMME
Martin Taylor assisted with information for an application by BirdLife International to the Jensen Foundation and coordinated a meeting focusing on an application to the Toyota Environmental Activities Grant Programme. Work was completed on an EAFI document and comments submitted on documentation in preparation for an EAFI Task Force meeting to be held in Rochefort, France, in June. Preparation was made for a presentation to the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area Management Board in Katima Mulilo, Namibia. Work was undertaken on the BirdLife South Africa conservation strategy and on presentations for the BirdLife South Africa staff meeting. A bird checklist for San Sebastian, Mozambique, was completed. Ian Owtram was on leave for the majority of the week but hosted two representatives from ACSA on an inspection of the training venue (Antares) and cleared up some issues relating to a 1st aid course.
With winter closing in on Wakkerstroom, things are starting to slow down on both the birding and visitor front. On Monday, Kristi Garland and Daphne Pyott spent some time on administrative tasks relating to the Centre. Kristi also finalised items for the upcoming Wakkerstroom Art Ramble in June where she will be conducting two sessions with children around the Ramble’s theme of “Hand and Footprints”. On Tuesday, Kristi met with Judy Wheeler to discuss the progress on the Spring Alive children’s book. Further to this, Kristi met with Carol Preston, a resident artist, on Wednesday morning to go over ideas for the illustrations. Kristi also contacted the various co-ordinators of Spring Alive in Europe and Africa requesting country specific information to include in the book. In the afternoon, Kristi was at Country College in Volksrust for the weekly Junior Bird Club meeting. We had a small celebration in honour of our northern hemisphere friends and World Migratory Bird Day. The learners wrote post cards to their Spring Twins as well as completing a questionnaire on what bird related career they should pursue. Thursday was spent on various administrative tasks relating to the Seme Fire Protection Association and the Working on Fire team. In the afternoon, Kristi met with the Wakkerstroom Interest Group to discuss a wide range of local issues. On Friday morning Kristi met with the Working on Fire Regional Manager to go over plans for the upcoming fire season as well as attend to various pieces of administration. Lucky Ngwenya has been based at the Centre this week with only one tour on Wednesday and another on Saturday. A highlight this week with regards to sightings - two White-bellied Korhaan in the field close the Centre – which meant that Kristi and Lucky were off birding for a few hours just in case there were a few more surprises. The Working on Fire team were also out and about this week. On Monday they assisted a local group to clear vegetation around the infamous wagon on Ossewakop. This will be painted in the upcoming weeks by local farmers. The team also visited Wakkerstroom Primary on Wednesday for an awareness activity.
During the previous weekend, Chevaughn Nagiah attended the annual Birdathon at the False Bay Nature Reserve near Cape Town. The aim of her presence was to market our Fledge Young Birders Conservation Club to children in the surrounding communities. Her visit was a success as she signed up many new subscribers to her regular Fledge SMS campaign and also had lots of interest in membership of our Fledge website.
Several meetings were held at Isdell House this past week, including the Marketing Committee meeting. Mark Anderson met with several collaborators and donors, including Niall Perrins, John Samuel and John and Alison Bradshaw. The Randburg Horticultural Society visited Isdell House on Wednesday. Mark was interviewed by CliffCentral on Tuesday. Several BirdLife South Africa staff attended the memorial service for Shelia Stainforth, Nigel Stainforth’s late wife, on Wednesday. All of the material for the May enewsletter was collated and sent to Leni Martin for editing. The BirdLife South Africa material for the July/August issue of African Birdlife magazine was sent to Eve Gracie. With most things now being tied up for Flock at Sea, Emma Askes has started planning for The African Bird Fair and continues to work on the Owl Awards and staff meeting. The membership month end was completed and the recon was done with Rose Knight. Overdue members have been put on hold and the membership reports can now be generated. The new Conservation League Members have all be captured on the system.