TERRESTRIAL BIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME
Sam Ralston spent most of the week updating the draft guidelines for Cape Vultures and Wind Farms in response to stakeholder comment. She also finalized comments on the draft Strategic Environmental Assessment for Wind and Solar Energy. 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 the high altitude grassland management and monitoring project, data collation continued and analyses with regard to grass cover and biomass commenced. The final niche model output and refinement was completed this week for Botha’s Lark, concluding the niche modelling aspect of the high altitude threatened grassland avian species project. The next phase of analyses commencing will determine habitat fluctuation for each species assessed, as well as population densities across surveyed regions. As part of the escarpment forest corridor study, Robin and Alastair serviced three camera traps on the Msonti properties. Presentations for the annual staff meeting next week was finalised. A progress report on a proposed Northern Cape Protected Environment was completed and submitted to KEM-JV this week. Furthermore, liaison related to this project continued this week with numerous stakeholders. Robin amended the final draft of the Southern Bald Ibis scientific article for submission to an appropriate journal. Linda van den Heever spent the bulk of the week in the Zoology labs at the University of Pretoria, preparing the first of the bone samples that are to be tested for chronic lead exposure.
SEABIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME
Albatross Task Force
Andrea Angel and Bronwyn Maree facilitated a two day "Responsible Fishers" course, given by the Responsible Fisheries Alliance (RFA). She and Bronwyn also attended the Marine Stewardship Council surveillance audit meeting where the focus was on the inshore trawl fishery and the need for the collection of seabird bycatch data. They also attended the stakeholder meeting where the content for the update of the National Plan of Action for Seabirds was discussed. This is a project lead by the Benguela Current Commission. Reason Nyengera attended the RFA Responsible Fishers course which aims to raise awareness about the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries and management systems. It also deals with bycatch of non-target species such as seabirds and mitigation measures used in the various fisheries. Bokamoso Lebepe spent the week on board a pelagic longline vessel testing out the new bird-scaring line design developed for the smaller domestic longline vessels in our fleet.
Bronwyn Maree put together a presentation for the upcoming staff meeting. Bronwyn and Nini van der Merwe worked on Monitoring and Evaluation reports for the Common Oceans Tuna Project. Nini was in conversation with the Chinese representatives to discuss the Observer training workshop planned for later this year. She also continued to work on the Seychelles and Mozambique National Awareness workshops. She has also been providing assistance to Ross Wanless for his extensive upcoming travel schedule.
Penguin fieldwork to Robben Island was delayed this week leaving Taryn Morris desk-bound. Instead she submitted a report to the Charl van der Merwe Trust and investigated funding options for much needed Bank Cormorant research. After getting affirmation that her application to NRF for Atlas of Seabirds at Sea (AS@S) berths on the upcoming Winter Southern Oceans voyage was successful, Taryn spent time coordinating logistics for this trip. She also trained two Department of Environmental Affairs interns in Seabird Identification and AS@S Protocols and wished them a safe and birdful voyage on the Algoa Research Vessel next week. Christina Hagen finalised a presentation for a meeting with CapeNature next week on the new African Penguin colony work and prepared for the staff meeting.
Ross Wanless spent the week in Cape Verde, doing fieldwork for the Cape Verde Shearwater project. The aim of the project is to attach gps loggers to the birds, in order to identify where the breeding colony is. These birds are under serious threat, and identifying their breeding sites will assist with enforcing sufficient mitigation measures in the correct areas. Ross is also spending some time in Dakar, meeting with the Alcyon Programme manager, and discussing the various Marine IBA projects currently underway off the west coast of Africa.
IBA PROGRAMME HIGHLIGHTS
IBA PROGRAMME - NATIONAL
Daniel Marnewick started the week in a meeting for the Biodiversity Stewardship Guideline sub-committee to discuss the current draft of the Guideline and plan the way forward. Daniel then refined his Key Biodiversity Areas presentation for the upcoming staff meeting. Daniel spent time catching up with numerous emails that have accumulated over the past few weeks due to public holidays, travelling and workshops. Daniel and Romy Antrobus-Wuth developed material for a possible funding source to support the IBA Programme’s work in KZN. On Friday, Daniel attended a meeting with Ernst Retief for the Free State Biodiversity Stewardship Working Group held at Koppiesdam Nature Reserve.
IBA PROGRAMME - REGIONAL CONSERVATION
Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Free State
On Tuesday, Ernst Retief travelled to Memel where he presented his draft Management Plan for the Sneeuwberg Protected Environment. According to legislation, a Management Plan must be submitted to the relevant MEC one year after the declaration of a Protected Environment. The Management Plan contains information about various environmental features of the Protected Environment, an analysis of issues that the Management Plan must address, a list of activities to address these issues, timelines, allocation of responsibilities and a budget. Ernst presented the 37 page document to the land owners and provincial officials. The plan was accepted in principle. Land owners will now have until the end of May, when the document will be finalised and submitted to the MEC, to comment. Some of the activities in the Management Plan include the elimination of the poaching of birds, animals and plants, the identification of important breeding and roosting sites of threatened species, the elimination of threats to these species, removal of alien plants and the establishment of a research programme. On Friday, Ernst and Daniel Marnewick travelled to Koppiesdam in the Free State to attend a Stewardship Forum Meeting. During this meeting, issues relating to stewardship in the Free State were discussed. The meeting is arranged by the Free State Provincial Government and is attended by various NGOs that are involved in stewardship work in the Free State. The rest of the week was spent on admin, writing of various reports and drafting of funding applications.
Dale Wright joined Dr Alan Lee in Middelburg in the Eastern Cape this week to attend the annual Arid Zone Ecology Forum. The Forum brings together scientists and conservation practitioners from across the arid region of South Africa, with a focus on the Karoo, including the Succulent- and Nama-Karoo Biomes. The pair took the opportunity to introduce the new Karoo Birds Research and Conservation Project to this group, along with research which Alan has conducted into the population trends of certain Karoo birds, gleaned from SABAP2 data. Dale presented a talk on BirdLife South Africa’s national IBA Programme, with a focus on the Karoo IBAs, as well as a poster regarding the IBA Prioritisation framework and his work in the Western Cape. Dale also spent time atlasing two pentads in the area for the SABAP2 Project, whilst Alan completed a number of avian point-counts as part of the data collection for the Karoo Birds Project. The Forum also provided an opportunity to better understand the state of research in this region and emerging threats to this globally important biodiversity area, and identify potential collaboration opportunities for the Karoo Birds Project.
IBA PROGRAMME - PROJECTS
Biodiversity Stewardship Fiscal Benefits Project
Candice Stevens and Romy Antrobus-Wuth attended an Environmental Law Seminar in Pretoria this week. They enjoyed hearing a detailed overview of environmental legislation and received valuable learning experience regarding the interaction between mineral resource legislation and environmental legislation. BirdLife South Africa’s involvement in representing environmental rights regarding Protected Areas was highlighted during the seminar. Environmental law was not the only learning development that Candice undertook this week – she joined a VAT webinar as well. During the rest of the week, Candice had skype and tele-meetings with SANBI regarding the financial reporting template recently provided to the project. This culminated in a detailed discussion between Candice, SANBI’s financial manager, Natasha Wilson (SANBI), and Fanie du Plessis. Fanie and Candice clarified a number of important points during this meeting. Candice then followed up these meetings with considerable work for SANBI. Candice also had a number of discussions with Mark Anderson and Daniel Marnewick during the course of the week on similar matters. This week also saw Candice receiving confirmation from SANBI that her finalised tax materials were placed on the SANBI biodiversity advisor website as a national resource. This is an exciting step in ensuring the mainstreaming of section 37D. Her travel arrangements for the upcoming Northern Cape Tax Workshop were also finalised. Candice then worked on her presentation for the BirdLife South Africa staff meeting to be held next week in Cape Town. The staff meeting is to be followed by the IBA team meeting which Candice spent time preparing for by reviewing, drafting and commenting on documents provided by Daniel Marnewick regarding global PPAs and OECMs.
Verlorenvlei Protected Area Project
On Monday, Samantha Schröder met with landowners in Moutonshoek to collect outstanding documentation that is needed for the preparation of the final documents to be signed by the landowners for the registration of the Moutonshoek protected environment. On Thursday, she attended the Municipal Coastal Committee meeting in Veldrift, where she gave feedback on the Verlorenvlei Protected Areas Project, and partook in the discussion on the drafting of the State of the Coast Report for the Western Cape, currently being compiled by EOH Coastal and Environmental Consultants. On Friday, she visited landowners from Moutonshoek in Cape Town as the owner is currently in hospital.
Cape Estuaries Stewardship Project
This week, Giselle Murison spent time at the Berg River Estuary project site. She met with several landowners regarding options for the formal protection of the estuary and the proposed Berg River Estuary Ramsar Site application, with positive result. She also met with landowners regarding the renewal of the Benede Bergrivier Bewarea, with which she is assisting, and received further positive feedback on its progress, with a meeting planned for next month. Giselle attended the West Coast District Municipal Coastal Committee meeting on Thursday, which included a presentation on the ‘State of the Coast in the Western Cape’ Report, on which BirdLife South Africa will be providing input. On Friday, Giselle met with the general manager for a property at the Klein River Estuary project site. Giselle spent most of the rest of the week on a number of administrative tasks, including dealing with emails and requests for information from the Estuary Conservation Project’s legal team, and the landowners and users of the estuarine project sites, as well as continuing to organise landowner visits at the Berg River and Klein River estuaries for the end of May and June.
IBA PROGRAMME - ADMIN
On Tuesday, Romy Antrobus-Wuth and Candice Stevens attended and Environmental Law seminar held at the CSIR, which gave an overview of South Africa’s various pieces of environmental legislation and how they interact under NEMA. Romy also compiled content for a possible Bags4Good campaign to raise funds for the IBA Programme; reviewed BirdLife South Africa’s comments to DEA on the Strategic Environmental Assessment for wind and solar developments and compiled a social media IBA Quiz for May.
AVITOURISM & SPECIAL PROJECTS PROGRAMME
Martin Taylor reviewed reports from BirdLife Zimbabwe against contractual agreements between that organisation and the RSPB. Partner development reporting requirements for the RSPB were completed. A contribution was made to the 1st quarter SCRAMM report compiled by the BirdLife Africa Secretariat. Time was spent working on two SANBI contracts as well as the State of South Africa’s Bird Report. Maps covering migration routes of Palearctic waders and landbirds were completed and submitted to the EAFI Task Force. Preparations were made for the upcoming staff meeting as well as for a trip to Namibia (Partner Development Work) as well as France (East Atlantic Flyway Initiative). Martin and Ian Owtram met to discuss the BirdLife South Africa Bird Guide Training Project. A proposal covering two guide training courses for 2018 was completed and submitted to ACSA. Ian Owtram completed work on an itinerary for a tour group intent on utilising community guides and provided input on a proposal to SANBI relating to utilising local communities.
Bird club membership reports were generated and emailed out to the bird clubs, certificates for the new Conservation League Members were printed and posted, and the new membership fees (applicable from July) are being implemented.
Monday saw Kristi Garland and Daphne Pyott tackling a couple administrative tasks. They also spent time preparing for next week’s 2-day WESSA/WWF community workshop here at the Centre. Whilst Kristi is away at our annual staff meeting, Daphne will take the reins. On Tuesday, Kristi met with Judy Wheeler and Carol Preston to finalise the art work for the Spring Alive – White Stork children’s book. Kristi has made some great contacts with researchers in Europe regarding finer details about White Stork monitoring. This has not only assisted with the story line but also the art work. Wednesday saw Kristi visiting Country College, Volksrust, for the weekly junior Bird Club meeting. A great afternoon was had by all through playing guess the bird from a set of clues. Kristi is constantly impressed at how quickly these learners have picked up birding as well as their ever increasing enthusiasm. As mentioned, the weather in Wakkerstroom is turning a little cooler so on Wednesday evening the Wakkerstroom Bird Club decided to have a soup evening. The Centre hosted just over 30 attendees and two very interesting talks by Claudine Spencer on the clubs outing to Ingula and Jenni Maxted-Smith on CREW in Wakkerstroom. On Thursday Kristi spent some time on the Seme FPA administration and renewal of membership as well as attending to the Working on Fire team and their administration. Although we are still waiting for a good frost, the team is keeping busy with preparing both the Centre and FPA members for the fire season – cutting of tracer belts at the Centre itself (with some gorgeous sightings of Marsh and Grass Owl), and where members have used herbicide for tracer lines, burning these. Lucky Ngwenya has been off this week on family responsibility leave as his wife has been admitted to hospital. We send thoughts to Lucky and his family over this time and hope to see Sonto back to her cheerful self soon.
Chevaughn Nagiah attended a school talk at Dainfern College with Melissa Whitecross. Chevaughn presented the Fledge project which was very well received by the students. During this week Chevaughn also finalised and uploaded the monthly newsletter.
Several meetings took place this week, including the monthly meeting of the Board of Directors and a bi-annual meeting of trustees of the BirdLife National Trust. These meetings were attended by Mark Anderson and Fanie du Plessis. A small function was held at Isdell House to welcome back Eelco Meyjers after his epic 3600 km mountain bike ride to raise awareness for the Orange-breasted Waxbill.