SEABIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME
Taryn Morris and Andrew de Blocq worked on preparing equipment, data and schedules for the year's African Penguin fieldwork. Taryn also completed funding reports and reviewed a scientific journal article while Andrew worked on an article for African Birdlife and began preliminary work on a desktop review of West African seabirds. Christina Hagen continued work on the management plan for the De Hoop penguin colony after receiving comments from colleagues. She also wrote a funding report and a grant application to attend the International Wildlife Reintroduction Conference happening later this year.
Philip Augustyn checked and updated the Port Visit Database, and he discussed with Ross Wanless challenges with the transshipment photo database that he’s populating (to understand levels of use of different mitigation measures from transshipment observers’ photographs). Taryn assisted Philip with the downloadable Global Fishing Watch database for future vessel search functionality. Nini van der Merwe finalised the agenda and invitation for the South African Observer Training Workshop. She also followed up on previous correspondence with international partners relating to future workshops and meetings. Bronwyn Maree was on leave this week.
Andrea Angel, Reason Nyengera and Ross planned out their participation in next week’s ATF team meeting in Argentina. This will be Reason’s first overseas travel, so his excitement is building quite palpably. Philip arranged a trip on a tuna poling vessel and along with Nini vd Merwe and Reason Nyengera, planned Makhudu Masotla’s next sea trip. Philip also met with the seabird office managersregarding BirdLife South Africa’s future involvement in the MSC small scale fisheries projects. Makhudu did two port visits to meet with contacts and work towards organising trips for the upcoming weeks.
Nini has continued to work towards getting equipment and paperwork finalised for the Marion Island trials set to take place in April. She assisted Makhudu with dyeing some of the non-toxic bait to be used in bait uptake trials. Andrea and Ross assisted with other planning aspects for Marion, including finalizing contracting processes for Keith Springer, an operational expert and one of the global leaders in rodent eradications, to participate in the Marion relief voyage and to draft a first operational plan.
TERRESTRIAL BIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME
Hanneline Smit-Robinson attended a meeting on the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) at the Department of Environmental Affair offices. She also hosted and attended a Mabula Ground Hornbill Project board meeting and participated with Melissa Whitecross in the Southern Ground-Hornbill (Project Thunderbird) bi-annual task force meeting. An internal BirdLife South Africa meeting was attended by most programme staff (also from the IBA and Policy and Advocacy programmes) to discuss BirdLife South Arica’s work in the Grasslands Biome. Lessons learnt (both positives and negatives) were discussed in a Flock 2018 debriefing meeting and planning for the Flufftail Festival, that will take place at the Johannesburg Zoo on, continued. Melissa prepared Secretarybird tracking data for analyses for the upcoming publication on juvenile dispersal. Carina Coetzer attended the Free State Stewardship Working Group meeting at Koppies Dam Nature Reserve with Ernst Retief. Sam Ralston, Robin Colyn, Ernst Retief and Jono Booth participated in a full day workshop with SANBI, CSIR and DEA to discuss the site screening tool being developed.
Sam Ralston-Paton, Jono Booth, Hanneline and Nndwa Muhali met to discuss the advocacy strategy for the proposed Letseng Wind Farm in Lesotho. Sam and Nndwa met with WKN Windcurrent to discuss several of their wind farm projects, as well as wind farms and vultures in general. They also met with Vonica Perold (FitzPatrick Institute) to discuss scientific papers in process.
IMPORTANT BIRD AND BIODIVERSITY AREA PROGRAMME
Landscape Analysis & Project Development
Dale Wright held a planning workshopwith colleagues from the IBA, Terrestrial Species and Policy & Advocacy Divisions to discuss future work in the Grasslands Biome. The workshop focused on how the various Divisions could best collaborate to ensure maximum gains for BirdLife South Africa, whilst also seeking to identify the critical areas to implement conservation projects. The Grasslands Biome and its associated bird species remains a major focal point for the organisation.
Estuary IBA Conservation Project
Giselle Murison presented on BirdLife South Africa’s work on the West Coast at the West Coast District Municipality Coastal Committee meeting. The presentation highlighted the Protected Area expansion and conservation work at Verlorenvlei and the Berg River estuary, and was well received. Giselle attended the Estuaries Management Task Team meeting . Presentations covered the Estuary Management Decision Support Tool, currently under development, and the progress of the determination of water resources classes in the Berg and Breede-Gouritz Water Management Areas. Barry Clark spoke on the latter and highlighted the urgent need for comment on the proposed reduction in freshwater inputs at key estuaries. Giselle also attended Estuary Management Forums in the Overberg this week. The Forums provided feedback on the developing Estuary and Mouth Management Plans, as well as the impacts of recreational use over the summer, and current water conditions on estuary health. , Giselle joined the first stakeholder meeting of the proposed Berg River Camino route to discuss the development the first leg of the route between Velddrif and Bridgetown. She presented on the conservation value of the lower Berg River, the potential impacts of increased disturbance to the area, and measures to reduce/avoid negative impacts. Giselle also spent time this week preparing draft comments on an EIA report for a Solar Energy Facility proposal on the West Coast.
Mistbelt Grassland and Forest Conservation Project
Conservation Outcomes (Steve McKean and Kevin McCann) met with BLSA staff (Daniel Marnewick and Dale Wright) as well as EKZNW staff (Brent Coverdale) to establish the partnership between Conservation Outcomes and BirdLife South Africa to support Blue Swallow conservation and monitoring, mistbelt grassland and forest conservation and associated Biodiversity Stewardship work in KZN. The partnership is set to be a productive and exciting one. The proclamation process for two Blue Swallow and mistbelt grassland and forest areas (Trewirgie and Sunnyvale) has already been initiated and field work for the required veld condition analysis done. Further sites to be engaged with in the next few weeks include Tillietudlem (near Impendle in the KZN midlands), Roelton (SAPPI owned Blue Swallow area near Ixopo) and Roselands (proclaimed Blue Swallow and mistbelt grassland Protected Area near Richmond). Steve McKean drafted a press release announcing the new Conservation Outcomes – BirdLife South Africa partnership for review by BirdLife South Africa and Conservation Outcomes partners.
Supporting Biodiversity Stewardship
Dale continued work on the Table Mountain Fund report focused on enhancing biodiversity stewardship in South Africa. Ernst attended a meeting at Koppiesdam to discuss biodiversity stewardship projects in the Free State. The following is the two most important decisions taken (a) A report was provided on activities at the Sneewberg Protected Environment. Daye Hayter indicated that he is happy with progress and also approved a Phase 2 of the project and (b) Feedback was provided on the Wilge Stewardship Project. It was agreed that the formal process to declare properties for a Phase 1 of the project can commence.
South African Key Biodiversity Areas
After 18 months of partnership development between BirdLife South Africa, the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and the WWF Nedbank Green Trust, we were elated that the Green Trust approved our funding application to support the national, regional and international Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) work of Daniel Marnewick for the next two years. With co-funding from SANBI, the South African KBA National Coordination Group will lead the revision of the national KBA network in 2018. Daniel will now also focus on driving the KBA Community, creating the platform to support grassroots practitioners to expand the KBA Programme across Africa and other regions.
Regional and Global Key Biodiversity Areas
Daniel undertook the first KBA Community survey to better understand the needs of the Community members. The results will be analysed at the end of March.
Awareness for IBA & KBA Conservation
Daniel Marnewick, together with Candice Stevens, hosted Dieter Hoffman from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Dieter was very complimentary of the IBA Programme and its KBA work, and of the Policy & Advocacy Programme’s work. The RSPB funds both these programmes. Dale Wright joined the University of Cape Town (UCT) MSc Conservation Biology students, where he provided two guest lectures for the class. The first of these focused on the IBA Programme and various research and conservation initiatives in the Western Cape, whilst the second provided an introduction to Biodiversity Stewardship and the roll of Privately Protected Areas in protected area expansion. Romy Antrobus-Wuth attended the national Ramsar Committee member and wetlands stakeholder meeting at the Department of Environmental Affairs. 22 Ramsar sites fall within the IBA network and the correct management of these sites is critical for them to maintain their Ramsar status and support biodiversity conservation. The Ramsar Committee is preparing to represent South Africa at the 13th Ramsar Conference of the Parties meeting to be held in Dubai in October 2018.
IBA/KBAs and bird data and Spatial planning Project
Ernstjoined the meeting to discuss the DEA/SANBI site screening tool. Agreement was reached on how the bird related data, both habitat modelling data and shapefiles for species, will be incorporated into the tool.
POLICY & ADVOCACY PROGRAMME
This week Candice Stevens finalised two letters to various ministers and heads of government with regard to protected area declarations and water security respectively. These processes form part of Candice’s policy engagement with key collaborators in an attempt to encourage government to fulfil its environmental mandate with duty and care. Candice also facilitated the second meeting of the Global Conservation Tax Committee as its co-chair and formulated this new forums terms of reference. Candice also spent time with conservation strategist, Mark Botha, in discussing a number of high level conservation policy agenda items. Finally, Candice assisted in hosting Dr Dieter Hoffman at Isdell House and thoroughly enjoyed sharing her conservation finance work with him.
Jonathan Booth hosted South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) representatives to discuss the DEA site screening tool data and the protocol/best practice which will accompany this. The outcomes of this were very positive. Jonathan also developed a new methodology for doing an advocacy strategy, and has trialled this with the Letseng wind farm strategy. He attended BirdLife South Africa’s grassland strategy workshop, in which the future role of advocacy in this strategy was decided upon.
AVITOURISM & SPECIAL PROJECTS PROGRAMME
The majority of the week was spent catching up on administrative tasks. Martin Taylor accompanied Dr Dieter Hoffmann to Kruger National Park - several discussions were held regarding future collaboration between BirdLife South Africa and the RSPB as well as the role that BirdLife South Africa could play with regards to policy development in Africa. Work was completed on a proposal facilitating the development of bird conservation working groups in transfrontier conservation areas. Ian Owtram attended the Escarpment Bird Club Birding Workshop where Geoff Lockwood, Etienne Marais and Duncan McKenzie were the guest speakers and guides. Ian, Sakhamuzi Mhlongo and Junior Gabela attended the Biodiversity Economy Indaba in East London, Eastern Cape, and manned an exhibit marketing the community guides and training project. A large portion of time was spent on conducting FGASA Recognition of Prior Learning assessments on four community guides. Final amendments to the ACSA contract for sponsoring the learnership programme have been attended to.
The staff at Wakkerstroom have had an extremely busy week. Whilst Daphne Pyott has kept on eye on bookings and various tasks in administration, Kristi Garland and David Nkosi have focussed much of their time on the National Lotteries Biodiversity Stewardship Project., the Centre hosted Node 1, consisting of four schools located reasonably close or in Wakkerstroom itself. saw us heading off to Dirkiesdorp to workshop Node 7 on Basic Bird Identification. The educators attending were absolutely phenomenal and quickly got into the swing of things. saw David attending the Country College Junior Bird Club meeting for their term 1 bird quiz. Learners were quizzed on their identification skills based on the whole terms work. There were three learners that really excelled. They will be recognised for their efforts at the school’s final assembly on the and each will receive a certificate. Kristi spent time focussing on gathering more quotes for renovations at the Centre. saw Kristi and Lucky Ngwenya focussing on some smaller items around the Centre in preparation for the annual Wakkerstroom Music Festival – cutting lawns and tidying up around the property. Kristi also assisted in the Festival ticket office afternoon whilst David attended the Clay Edu-Centre Junior Bird Club meeting. This group went out on a mini excursion with David and Carol Preston, focussing on practising their birding skills developed over the past term as well as revisiting areas previously cleared of litter. The Working on Fire Team has been assisting local farmers this week with both herbicide application and tracer belt burning. They have also been down at the Wakkerstroom Wetland, around the hides, clearing paths etc. before the Music Festival. Some of the team has also assisted around the Centre. Sightings this week include: European Roller on the Pet Retief Road, a couple of Glossy Ibis at the Wetland, Red-throated Wryneck at the Centre and Grey-Crowned Cranes on the BirdLife South Africa property.
Several meetings were held at Isdell House during the past week: Management Committee meeting (), Programme Manager meeting ( ), Marketing Committee meeting ( ) and Flock on the West Coast debriefing ( ).