The Seabird Conservation Programme is very excited to welcome Makhudu Masotla to the team. Makhudu will be interning in the programme under the Albatross Task Force and Common Oceans projects.
Albatross Task Force
Reason Nyengera returned from annual leave over the festive season this week. His focus upon return was to setup a sea trip as well as to re-engage with the fishermen and set up goals for 2018. He and Makhudu carried out a harbour visit induction, familiarising Makhudu with the demersal and pelagic longline fleet as well as introducing him to the fisherman. Reason also worked on bird scaring lines orders. Makhudu underwent BirdLife South Africa induction to familiarise him with organisational information and protocols. He spent time with various people in the team, learning about their work and getting to grips with the programme's objectives.
Common Oceans
Nini van der Merwe assisted Taryn Morris with introducing the new seabird programme intern, Makhudu, to the ins and outs of the office. She has also been working on the report for the Brazil National Awareness Workshop (NAW) and engaging with Korea for their NAW set to take place at the end of the month.  With the Common Oceans Bycatch Assessment workshop fast approaching, she has been assisting Bronwyn Maree with finalising the logistics.  Philip Augustyn strategized with Reason Nyengera regarding securing pelagic longline trips for his observer work. He also visited local fishing vessels in port to engage with captains regarding future fishing trips. For his port-based outreach, Philip engaged with the interpreters regarding documentation and completed several visits to port to see if there were any changes to the previous week’s slow activity. Philip also introduced Makhudu Masotla to the basics of the fishing industry and the observer program, and took him into the harbour to learn about port-based vessel visits. Bronwyn Maree and Ross Wanless are in Suva, Fiji, for the second Port-Based Officer Outreach Programme Inception workshop. They have reported positive interactions and discussions with China and other Asian fishing nations.
Coastal Seabirds
The Coastal Seabirds trio locked themselves in the boardroom for several hours for a strategic planning meeting where they outlined high level goals of their work and set several objectives for the year going forward. Christina Hagen returned to the office after annual leave and started gearing up for the year, preparing budgets, starting work on the annual report and working on the management plan for the re-establishment of the De Hoop penguin colony. Andrew de Blocq drafted an article for African Birdife magazine, completed the induction process and read background literature on coastal seabirds and small pelagic fish. Taryn Morris finalised both Andrew and Makhudu’s arrival into the team. This included finalising induction procedures and forms, initialising work plans, welcoming them via various communication platforms and firing them up for a great year of saving birds! She also engaged with collaborators on the current issue of bird flu affecting several swift tern populations.

Threatened species
We welcomed Dr Melissa Whitecross to the team. Melissa is a trained ecologist and graduated with a PhD from Wits University in 2017. Following a one year internship with BirdLife South Africa, Melissa officially joins us in the new position of Threatened Species Project Manager. Her main responsibilities will include a focus on a number of species-specific projects. Hanneline Smit-Robinson attended an internal vulture discussion with Linda van den Heever and Mark Anderson; Secretarybird data analyses meeting with Melissa Whitecross and Ernst Retief and an internal Terrestrial Conservation Programme Managers meeting with Candice Stevens, Daniel Marnewick and Martin Taylor. Hanneline and Ian Owtram also attended a donor meeting with Airports Company South Africa.  Hanneline spent time working on annual budgets, annual report contributions and reporting on 2017 strategic framework targets and measures. Carina Coetzer had an exciting week at Ingula, adding two new species to the species list, namely Squacco Heron and Sedge Warbler. She also continued with the monthly avifaunal surveys and priority species monitoring on site, including Grey Crowned Cranes, Yellow-breasted Pipit, Secretarybird, and Wattled Crane. Melissa Whitecross had her induction meeting with Hanneline to discuss the new role she will fill as the Threatened Species Project Manager. Melissa compiled the Terms of Reference documents for the National Rarities Committee. She also sent in her documentation to apply for Honorary Researcher status at Wits University. Melissa met with Candice Stevens to discuss the new format of BLSA position statements. Melissa compiled a position statement on fireworks and drafted a sponsorship proposal to Consol Glass for 300 glass water bottles for the upcoming Flock on the West Coast 2018 event. Melissa wrote up a newsletter contribution about her appointment to the Threatened Species Project Manager position and spent time drafting a plan for deliverables during the year while compiling her staff appraisal. Melissa also spent time updating the Grey-headed Gull maps for the website. Robin Colyn was in the Northern Cape this week, conducting Calendulauda field surveys as part of the arid bird species project. Hanneline and Linda met with Dr Grant Bybee and colleagues at the Wits Geosciences Laboratory to discuss a possible collaboration on the lead project.
Renewable energy
Sam Ralston prepared budgets and work plans for the year ahead, and attended an internal meeting to discuss internships within BirdLife South Africa and worked through the 30-odd applications for the birds and renewable energy internship. Sam also provided comment on interim monitoring reports for a proposed solar energy facility near Pofadder, provided information to DEA with regards to avian assessment protocols, and assisted Bruce Liggitt (International Casework officer at RSPB) with guidelines and other information on assessing and mitigating the impacts of powerlines on birds.

This week Daniel Marnewick returned from leave. He spent time planning the year, meeting urgent deadlines, and planning a number of important meetings. Romy Antrobus-Wuth spent time this week compiling a funding proposal for the second round call for proposals from the African Climate Change Fund, to fund the investigation of Biodiversity Stewardship financing mechanisms in the Wilge Stewardship Site.

Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Free State
Ernst Retief spent the first week back from the office catching up on emails, reports, draft budgets and strategic documents. He also completed the draft for the revised 2018 Afrikaans checklist for birds. Payments for Birding Big Day were checked and the draws for prizes will soon be done. Exciting news is that more than R100 000 was raised during BBD 2017, the most money ever raised during this evebt! Ernst on Wednesday had a number of meetings in Johannesburg about funding applications, the Secretarybird Project and also assisted with a number of IT issues. He also assisted with setting up a BirdLasser challenge for the eastern Free State. On Saturday Ernst met with Warwick Tarboton about the work they are doing as a Local Conservation Group in the Waterberg System Important Bird and Biodiversity Area.
Western Cape
Dale Wright spent this week preparing for the year ahead. This included preparing multiple project budgets, reviewing goals and objectives for the IBA Programme and aligning these with the individual projects and drafting performance appraisals and annual work plans for the year. Giselle Murison and Dale met to discuss the Estuary Conservation Project plans and budget, and Dale also finalised and submitted a presentation for his talk at the International Land Conservation Congress, happening in Chile later this month. Dale reviewed the 2017 annual report for the Karoo Birds and Research Conservation Project, which has produced some very interesting outcomes from its first year.  

Candice Stevens focused on upcoming litigation regarding the Greater Lakenvlei Protected Environment and the need to safeguard this Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) and its legal status. Candice worked on a number of internal BirdLife South Africa reporting requirements and staff appraisals. She also spent time finalising a number of logistical plans for her upcoming trip to the International Land Conservation Network Global Congress in Chile. Jonathan Booth worked on the Policy & Advocacy contribution to the annual report, as well as assisting other programmes with their contributions, and meeting with the report designer in order to prepare for the report compilation. Much time was spent on preparing for the upcoming Greater Lakenvlei Protected Environment (GLPE) litigation and on researching the historical William Patrick Bower mines case which also poses a significant threat to the GLPE. He also researched and worked on project concepts which we plan to take to the proposal stage over the coming months
Fiscal Benefits Project
Candice Stevens had meetings with tax specialists on the Biodiversity Tax Advisory Committee regarding technical work currently underway in preparation for meetings with National Treasury in the coming weeks. Candice also followed up with SARS regarding progress of the release of the Draft Interpretation Note on the biodiversity tax incentives.

The majority of the week was given over to administrative tasks. An update meeting was held with Chris Magin and Ian Barber of the RSPB. Martin Taylor spent a portion of the week attending to logistical arrangements for a PAMBEAF meeting in Tunis, Tunisia as well the Zimbabwean component of an RSPB visit to southern Africa. A call was held with Julia Pierini of BirdLife Zimbabwe to discuss the visit as well as certain aspects of the visit. Work was completed on aspects of the State of South Africa’s Bird Report as well as the Checklist of Birds for South Africa for 2018. A meeting involving conservation programme meetings (terrestrial) was held where the integration of work across programmes was discussed as well as joint funding initiatives. Martin Taylor has a brief meeting with gary Allport regarding future Key Biodiversity Area work in Mozambique. Ian owtram spent the majority of the week running a FGASA workshop for four ACSA sponsored learners. The workshop culminated with them writing their FGASA exam on Thursday morning.
A meeting was held with ACSA to discuss the guide training funding proposal  On Friday morning a meeting was held with the Academic Director of FGASA to discuss aspects of training courses.

Kristi Garland and David Nkosi attended the Small Town Initiative brainstorming meeting on Monday.  Wakkerstroom has been selected as part of a 13 small town TV programme, showcasing the various grassroots initiatives being run by community members.  We have put forward our junior bird clubs projects for consideration to be included in the filming in late March.  We should know next week if our project has been accepted.  Tuesday saw Kristi and David out at meetings – in the morning with the head teacher and director of the Clay Edu-Centre along with Carol Preston (Carol is doing her PhD on Environmental Awareness through the Arts).  Here we focussed on planning for the year ahead with regards to themes and units of work and how to best structure our weekly meetings with their now 110 strong group!  Kristi also met with Lucky Ngwenya regarding his 2018 appraisal.  In the afternoon, Kristi and David attended the first Wakkerstroom Bird Club Committee meeting of the year.  Thursday was set aside for the National Lotteries Biodiversity Stewardship Project.  Kristi and David spent the day streamlining the resources file for teachers as well as developing some exciting new activities for teachers and learners alike – making birds and birding fun!  On Friday Kristi met with Judy-Lynn Wheeler, vice chair of the Wakkerstroom Bird Club, to plan for the upcoming CAR count on the 27th January.  The briefing session will be held on 26 January at the Centre and we plan to make it a little different to previous years.  The Working on Fire team has been out assisting farmers this week.  Approximately 45ha were worked this week, including alien plant removal and fuel reduction.  Lucky Ngwenya had a pretty busy last half of the week.  Sightings from both Lucky and David include Button Quail, Bush Blackcap and Olive Bush shrike on the Luneburg Road, White-bellied Korhaan in Dirkiesdorp, Coqui Francolin on the Jankieshoek Road and Horus Swift, Yellow-breasted Pipit on the Utrecht Road.  We have also had plenty sightings of White Stork and Amur Falcon in the surrounds and in addition reports of Arrow-marked Babbler (sighted) and Golden-tailed Woodpecker (heard) in the village.

The admin staff have been incredibly busy with end of year matters (including financial and governance) and beginning of year matters (including budgeting and the drafting of appraisals forms). The monthly Management Committee meeting was held an Intern meeting was convened. A meeting was held with Sappi and the designer re the 2017 Annual Report. Mark Anderson met with Servest about indigenous garden accreditation and with the RSPB’s Martin Harper, Chris Magin and Ian Barber.