SEABIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME

African Penguins

Christina Hagen organised another field trip to the De Hoop site of the potential new African Penguin colony to look at options for predator proof fencing, worked on the risk assessment for the establishment of the new colony and wrote comments on an application for aquaculture development in Saldanha Bay. Taryn Morris wrote a press release on the worryingly low sardine stock status. Sardines were also a topic of importance at the quarterly Department of Fisheries Small Pelagics Scientific Working Group meeting Taryn attended on Wednesday. She also spent time producing seabird ID cards for #FlockFridays;  find these on our Facebook Page.

Common Oceans

Bronwyn Maree has spent the week preparing documents and presentations for the upcoming Regional Seabird Bycatch Pre-assessment Workshop in Kruger National Park. Twenty-five local and international delegates will be attending this workshop. She has also been working on updating the Letter of Agreement between BirdLife South Africa and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, which outlines the remaining targets and financials for the Common Oceans Tuna Project. Pete Watt-Pringle conducted outreach visits on two pelagic longline vessels docked at Cape Town harbour in the Port-based Outreach Pilot Project.

Albatross Task Force

Andrea Angel met with CapMarine to discuss the observer training workshop as well as how to improve data collection protocols for longline and trawl fisheries. She worked on the end of year budgets and report for the Albatross Task Force (ATF) annual report. She also worked with Reason on the possibility of trialling a new seabird mitigation device in the trawl fishery. Bokamoso Lebepe finalised his presentation for the observer training workshop. He attended a one-day CapMarine workshop with longline observers to troubleshoot their data reporting, including that of seabird data and the handling of dead birds. He also worked on the ATF annual report. Reason Nyengera has spent time this week working on the observer training material as well as assisting Andrea with the annual report. He amended the trawl fishery seabird data collection sheets used by CapMarine to match the data collected by the AFT. He is also constructing a sample of the proposed new mitigation device to test on his next trip to sea.

Other

Ross Wanless spent the better part of two days on skype, participating in a marine IBA policy and advocacy meeting with BirdLife International colleagues. He also spent 3 days driving to and from and in Plettenberg Bay, giving a talk to the Plett bird club AGM and spending a day with Anton Wolfaardt, discussing African Penguin and Indian Ocean Tuna Commission matters for 2017. He also continued to provide comments on Dom Rollinson’s PhD thesis, which he co-supervises with Peter Ryan; Dom will submit his thesis early in March. Nini vd Merwe was on leave this week.

TERRESTRIAL BIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME

Linda van den Heever met with Kobus du Plessis from Impala Bullets to discuss the properties of lead bullets versus so-called monolithic bullets.  Sam Ralston reviewed another draft of Corey Jeal’s minor dissertation thesis (Corey is studying the effects of a Concentrated Solar Power Facility on birds and other biodiversity, and has some promising results). Hanneline Smit-Robinson and Sam previously wrote a case study for a review of raptor interactions with wind energy around the world. Sam revised this section following feedback from reviewers. She also drafted an abstract for the Conference on Wind Energy and Wildlife Impacts that will be held in Portugal later this year, met with Ben Brimble (chair of the environmental working group of the South African Wind Energy Association) to catch up on various issues, and met Savannah Environmental Consultants to discuss the environmental impact assessment for the proposed Hartebees Wind Farm near Mooreesburg.

IBA PROGRAMME HIGHLIGHTS

  • Daniel Marnewick held several meetings to set up the Key Biodiversity Areas coordination committee.
  • Dale Wright presented a detailed talk at the Western Cape Birding Forum.
  • Ernst Retief presented two successful talks at the Honorary Rangers weekend at Golden Gate.

IBA PROGRAMME NATIONAL

Daniel Marnewick had another week filled with meetings. He started with a meeting between himself, SANBI and DEA regarding coordinating the writing of the Biodiversity Stewardship Guideline. Daniel also applied for membership to two IUCN Commissions, i.e. the World Commission on Protected Areas and the Commission on Ecosystem Management. Daniel then continued with his work to establish the national Key Biodiversity Areas coordination committee, meeting with SANBI and WWF-SA, as well as writing a concept paper on the strategy for the KBA Community in Africa.

IBA PROGRAMME - REGIONAL CONSERVATION

Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Free State

Last weekend Ernst Retief attended the Honorary Rangers weekend at Golden Gate. He presented two talks, one about citizen science and the other about the Secretarybird project. Both talks were attended by about 50 people. He also completed two full protocol atlas cards. On Tuesday evening, he attend the BirdLife Northern Gauteng Annual General Meeting. The rest of the week was spent on compiling a number of documents and work on GIS projects including: working on the report about the Fence Mitigation Project, this report will be drafted in co-operation with Dr Craig Whittington-Jones; working on the first draft about the age of first breeding of Secretarybirds; editing species shapefiles and also obtained information about other data sources which can be used to inform these maps; working on M&E indicators for RMB funding; and obtaining more inputs into the Sneeuwberg Protected Area management plan; assisting Henk Nel with the development of the KML file for Africa and its islands. Ernst also assisted with setting up backup systems for staff. On Saturday, Ernst attended the BirdLife Northern Gauteng committee workshop to discuss their contribution to conservation.

Western Cape

Dale Wright started the week with another early morning skype meeting on Monday with the company assisting with a promotional video for a Toyota sponsorship. Time was also spent during the week dealing with logistics related to this video filming. Dale drafted and submitted comments for an off-road beach 4x4 tour permit application for an area near the De Hoop IBA. BirdLife South Africa has opposed the permit application as we would rather support sustainable tourism activities such as hiking, with reduced impact on the sensitive coastal environment. A meeting was held with Simon Gear to discuss BirdLife South Africa’s approach to a phosphate mine adjacent to the West Coast National Park IBA. This mine might have severe negative ecological impacts and we are currently investigating options for various coalitions and other approaches to combating this unsustainable development. Dale also spent time preparing for the Western Cape Birding Forum which took place on Saturday morning, at which Dale reported on five years of progress in the Western Cape Regional Conservation Programme and plans for the future. Time was also spent doing research for his project focused on NGO involvement in protected area expansion, as well as circulating a survey as part of this research project.

IBA PROGRAMME - PROJECTS

Biodiversity Stewardship Fiscal Benefits Project

Candice Stevens travelled to SANBI in Pretoria this week to have a lengthy meeting with Tracey Cumming (BioFin Project Leader, DEA) to discuss various biodiversity finance items. Candice and Tracey continue to work closely together building policy and institutional frameworks for Privately Protected Areas, biodiversity tax incentives and overarching biodiversity finance investigations and costing. Follow on from this meeting, Candice provided input and comments into the draft BioFin Report for South Africa as part of the global UNDP Biodiversity Finance Project. Candice had further meetings this week with landowners and CapeNature regarding one of the Fiscal Benefits Project pilot sites in the Western Cape. Candice arbitrated a proposed way forward for the site which has hit numerous delays and obstacles in its Biodiversity Stewardship process. Candice spent time researching legislation and had a telecom with legislative experts at DEA in order to provide a legal opinion for this site with the aim of securing it as a Protected Area that is also commercially viable. Furthermore, Candice worked on drafting a legal response regarding a proposed alternative for the title deed endorsement for Nature Reserves and sought additional expert opinion from Notary and BirdLife South Africa supporter, Jeanne Thomas. Candice also drafted another Quarterly Update to be sent to all Fiscal Benefits Project stakeholders. Additionally, Candice attended to IBA Programme admin and Fast&Featherless orders.

Verlorenvlei Protected Area Project

This week Samantha Schröder finalised the signboard for Verlorenvlei, which has been sent to the printers to be printed. She made additions to the Environmental Management Plan for the Moutonshoek Protected Environment.  On Thursday, she visited landowners in the Moutonshoek valley to deliver letters to the landowners that do not have access to emails. On Friday, she obtained and collated outstanding documentation and information for the legal team working on the Moutonshoek PE declaration.

Cape Estuaries Stewardship Project

Giselle Murison met with several committee members from the Home Owners Association for a property at the Klein River estuary project site early this week. Discussions focused primarily on Protected Environments, specifically the declaration process and the implementation of the management plan, post-proclamation. Various conservation action proposals for the property were also discussed. The meetings went well, and follow-up discussions with the committee are planned. Unfortunately, Giselle was sick and desk-bound for the remainder of the week; however, she still managed to complete a number of important tasks, including preparing a presentation for the Western Cape Birding Forum, collating designs for floating signage demarcating a bird sanctuary within the main waterbody of the Klein River Estuary, and preparing comments on the draft Bot/Kleinmond Estuarine Management Plan.

POLICY & ADVOCACY PROGRAMME

This week saw BirdLife South Africa begin to focus more seriously on the issue is mining in the Langebaan area. Phosphate mining threatens the aquifer that feeds freshwater into the lagoon (a Ramsar wetland and an important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA)). In addition, there is an application to deproclaim part of the West Coast National Park to be given over to mining. This would set an appalling precedent and place all other protected areas in the country under threat.  In addition to this work, Simon Gear attended a workshop on Small Grants by the Global Climate Fund aimed at encouraging NGO investment into climate change threatened municipalities in South Africa, with a particular focus on Limpopo and the Northern Cape.

AVITOURISM & SPECIAL PROJECTS PROGRAMME

Martin Taylor revised references that were used in the 2015 Eskom Red Data Book of Birds in preparation for exporting the file for up load to SANBI’s online platform. A backcasting exercise was initiated covering the threatened species covered in the 1976, 1984 and 2000 red data books in preparation for the development of a Red List index. Work was completed on a final report to the RSPB covering partner development work completed in 2016/2017 as well as on the draft of the State of South Africa’s Bird Report. A financial forecast, received from BirdLife Zimbabwe, was reviewed. Martin and Ian Owtram met to discuss the funding status of the bird guide training project and the strategic development of the project. A meeting was held with Italtile. Ian Owtram spent some time handling the logistics for guides attending Flock At Sea Again 2017. The quotes for the 1st aid training and the flights for the learners have been accepted and an invoice request sent through. Three guides were taken on an outing to Northern Farm by Birdlife Northern Gauteng. Ian Owtram will be on leave from 17-28 February.

WAKKERSTROOM CENTRE

Daphne Pyott spent Monday morning attending to a number of bookings for the later part of the year for both accommodation and bird guides.  Kristi spent most of Tuesday preparing for a visit to a local school, called Country College. This school has asked for support in developing a junior bird club as part of their array of extra-mural activities. Wednesday afternoon saw all the planning come together with the first club meeting.  A total of 38 learners attended and, even though time was quite short, this did not stop the enthusiasm of the grade R to 3 learners. Kristi introduced the aims and objectives of the club as well as what makes birds different from other animals – physical characteristics.  Next week sees the club really digging into birds and birding by getting to grips with identifying birds based on their physical appearance, shape and size.  The rest of the week was spent attending an informal Wakkerstroom Natural Heritage Association meeting to discuss creating a database of fauna and flora found in the area, a few maintenance issues and assisting the Wakkerstroom Bird Club with their migratory bird monitoring project.  On the birding front, Lucky Ngwenya continues to guide guests and tour groups in and around Wakkerstroom.  This week he reports special sightings of Yellow-breasted Pipit and Horus Swift on the Paulpietersburg Road, Blue Korhaan, Marsh Owl and Montague’s Harrier on the Amersfoort Road as well as White-bellied Bustard in Dirkiesdorp.  We continue to receive great report backs from guests who have made use of Lucky’s service – keep it up Lucky! The Working on Fire team have conducted two awareness activities in the local community as well as attending to two Fire Protection Association members properties in terms of slashing and manual fuel reduction. Over the weekend, the Centre hosted the Spider Club from Johannesburg.  An evening talk on Friday night as well as some excursions through our grassland and wetland.

CORE

Mark Anderson returned from Kenya on Thursday evening, where he had been attending the BirdLife Africa Regional Committee meeting (and meetings with Nature Kenya and the BirdLife International Secretariat). He attended a talk by Trevor Hardaker on Saturday; part of Wits Bird Club’s 70th anniversary celebrations. With extensive assistance from Fanie du Plessis, and Rose Knight, the external audit of the 2016 financial year has been successfully completed by KPMG. The audit findings will be presented at the Governance Committee meeting on 22 February.

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