SEABIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME
Christina Hagen met with Garth Mortimer from CapeNature about the site in Plett on which we are interested in setting up a new African Penguin colony. She also commented on the draft Translocation Guidelines for penguins, which specify what considerations to take into account when releasing African Penguins at both existing colonies and new sites. Taryn Morris worked on the Global Penguin Campaign nearing its final stages and ready to launch in just a few weeks. She also pinned down Ross Wanless for a useful meeting to brainstorm on future research and publications.
Bronwyn Maree has spent the week working on additional revisions and proposals for the Common Oceans Tuna Project going forward. She has continued with the final planning and preparation for the upcoming 2nd Regional Seabird Bycatch Pre-assessment workshop to be held in Vietnam in the first week of April. She held a debrief with the Seabird Bycatch Mitigation Instructor based in Namibia, who had just returned from a 7 week trip on board tuna longline vessel (second trip on the project). Pete Watt-Pringle met with additional agents representing longline vessels that will be docking in Cape Town, in order to conduct future port-based outreach on seabird bycatch mitigation on these vessels. Nini vd Merwe spent the week catching up after almost three weeks out of the office for various work related travel. She is currently organising a National Awareness workshop in the Seychelles, which will take place in June. Planning for the Mozambique and Brazil workshops are also underway.
Andrea Angel finalised the research permit application and proposal for the experimental trials that Bokamoso Lebepe will be carrying out on a pelagic longline vessel to look at varying design options for birds scaring lines for vessels under 35 metres. She spent time with Reason Nyengera upon his return from sea looking that his results after a pilot test of a new mitigation measure "the Pinkie" buoy, used in Australia in place of bird scaring lines. She also worked on the 2017 work plan for the team for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Reason Nyengera, returned from a six-day trip onboard Harvest Selina of Sea Harvest Fishing where he conducted a Bird Mitigation Plan assessment as well as regular recording of seabirds interactions. Furthermore, he tested the warp deflector (“Pinkie” buoy) on two trawls. The Pinkie buoy is attached directly on the warp cable where it slides to the point where the warp enters the water, providing a physical barrier meant to deter to seabirds from feeding at the base of the warp. In Australia, the Pinkie has proven to reduce seabird interactions with trawl warp cables by 75% and the ATF is exploring how effective it is in South African waters. Bokamoso left for his first sea of the year on a pelagic longline vessel this week, we wish him safe travels.
Ross Wanless spent time working with RSPB colleagues on their plans for the Gough mouse eradication, and a lot of time working on the West Africa marine programme developments. He also registered for the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission meeting, as a member of the official South Africa delegation, taking place in Indonesia in May. Ross will work with government officials to try and get a strengthened IOTC measure for seabirds agreed. Ross also worked with the Common Oceans team on a number of matters, and assisted Taryn in strategizing how to best use her time and resources for this year, with a number of key decisions and opportunities for advancing coastal seabird conservation on the horizon.
TERRESTRIAL BIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME
The highlight of Sam Ralston’s week was a visit the Haarwegskloof Nature Reserve (near de Hoop) where the Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust hosted a meeting with the Department of Environmental Affairs, EWT, the Overberg Crane Group, CapeNature and BirdLife South Africa. The meeting was convened to discuss wind energy and conservation in the context of Lowlands Renosterveld and Sam presented a summary of the results of post-construction monitoring in South Africa. It was a valuable opportunity to visit one of the largest remnants of Eastern Rûens Shale Renosterveld, and to visit the area of two proposed wind farms. Sam also submitted an abstract for the upcoming Birds of Prey Conference, and reviewed the EIA reports for the proposed Letsoai and Enamandla Renewable Energy Projects (2 CSP tower and 5 PV projects), near Aggeneys, Northern Cape.
Robin Colyn, with the assistance of Ingula Partnership Assistant, Sakhile Mthalane, conducted vegetation assessments as part of a grassland management tool being developed. Vegetation cover, height and biomass were recorded across multiple low-altitude grassland sites at Ingula and surrounds. The final Rudd’s Lark model was completed this week and final analyses commenced as part of the scientific article being compiled. Robin commenced data analysis on the collated rallidae database, with a specific focus on White-winged Flufftail presence and activity patterns noted over the last season. Additionally, species richness analyses also commenced. Robin serviced the camera traps deployed in escarpment forest habitat at Ingula, whilst additionally began populating a database tracking pelage signatures of identified medium-to-large felid species.
Linda van den Heever travelled to Punda Maria to meet with Sandra Visagie (Head Ranger of the Pafuri region) to discuss logistics surrounding the Black Stork and Taita Falcon survey of the Levuvhu and Mutale rivers in August. She then travelled to Blouberg Nature Reserve to meet with Johan van Wyk regarding his participation in collecting blood samples for BirdLife South Africa’s new project looking into the effects of lead toxicity in South Africa’s birds. Finally, she joined Simon Gear at Olifants Private Game Reserve, where Kerri Wolter (Vulpro) is collecting blood samples from White-backed Vultures. We are very grateful to Kerri for her assistance in this regard.
IBA PROGRAMME HIGHLIGHTS
IBA PROGRAMME – NATIONAL
Daniel Marnewick was pleased to welcome Romy Antrobus-Wuth to the IBA team this week. Romy will be assisting the IBA Programme with various administrative, marketing, media and other tasks on a part-time basis. Romy is an avid birder and has a Master’s Degree in Geography and Environmental Studies. Daniel and Candice Stevens started the week attending the KZN Biodiversity Stewardship (BDS) Working Group and Forum meetings held at Midmar Dam Nature Reserve IBA. While in KZN, they also met with BDS landowners; conservation NGO partners; and the Sani2C organisers to formulate a potential new partnership around land management. Along with Dale Wright, they had a skype meeting with Emily Myron from the International Land Conservation Network to discuss collaboration on Privately Protected Areas. Daniel had a skype meeting with Zoltan Waliczky, the BirdLife International IBA Coordinator, to discuss the KBA Community work Daniel has undertaken. Before heading off for a long weekend, Daniel ended the week in a skype meeting with the BDS Guideline sub-committee, planning the way forward for the writing of this very important document, which aims to guide the implementation of BDS nationally.
IBA PROGRAMME - REGIONAL CONSERVATION
Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Free State
Ernst Retief attended three important meetings this week. The first was a meeting with a landowner in the Wilge Stewardship area to discuss his participation. He agreed to be part of the project and this will add another 1 200 ha to this initiative. The second was with Dave Hayter, Free State provincial government, to discuss the draft Management Plan for the Sneeuwberg Protected Environment as well as other issues. The draft plan will now be finalised and presented to participating farmers in May. The last meeting held was on Friday when Ernst met with a company, Pinkmatter Solutions, to discuss sharing of satellite imagery and other opportunities for co-operation with BirdLife South Africa. Ernst also began the process to create the threatened species maps for SANBI. These maps will be published on an online portal developed by SANBI. Ernst also made preparations for the SANBI workshop next week in Cape Town about the effectiveness of the protected areas network for the conservation of birds.
Dale Wright begun this week meeting with colleagues and Melomed Hospitals to discuss their involvement in the 2017 False Bay Nature Reserve Birdathon event, to be held on Saturday 6th May. Following this, colleagues working on the Verlorenvlei Protected Areas Project met with our legal support team to discuss progress in the declaration of the Moutonshoek Protected Environment. Dale, Daniel Marnewick and Candice Stevens held a skype meeting with a representative from the International Land Conservation Network to discuss synergies between our Biodiversity Stewardship work and this group, which will provide a great platform for sharing our lessons learnt on a global scale. Dale also held a skype meeting on Monday evening with a colleague working on the Eastern Cape Forest Biodiversity Project in order to discuss the best approach for monitoring forest birds and their habitat associations. On Tuesday a series of meetings took place at the False Bay Nature Reserve; firstly, to determine the best course of action for the funds raised via the Strandfontein Birding Area Habitat Initiative; secondly, to plan actions for the 2017 Birdathon event; and finally, to discuss a proposal to the Cape Town Marathon and Sanlam regarding the False Bay Nature Reserve Skills Development Project. Dale gave a presentation to the Hermanus bird club on Wednesday evening regarding five years of progress in the Western Cape Regional Conservation Programme, whilst also encouraging the club to formally join BirdLife South Africa as an affiliate bird club. Time was also spent drafting an article for African Birdlife magazine, reviewing a BTech research project proposal, finalising details of IBA signboards for the Eastern Cape, dealing with logistics for the Birdathon event, and actions related to the Toyota sponsorship promotional video and launch event.
IBA PROGRAMME PROJECTS
Fiscal Benefits Project
Candice Stevens started the week by attending the KZN Biodiversity Stewardship (BDS) Working Group and Forum meetings, together with Daniel Marnewick. Candice presented on the recent achievements of the Fiscal Benefits Project during the course of these meetings and facilitated lengthy question and answer sessions on both the fiscal benefits for BDS as well as the legal intricacies regarding alternative options for lodging the required title deed endorsements. Whilst in KZN, Daniel and Candice also had meetings with BDS landowners from the Blue Swallow Stewardship sites; collaborative conservation NGO partners; and the Sani2C organisers, in order to flesh out a potential new partnership around land management. Candice, Dale Wright and Daniel also had an evening skype meeting with Emily Myron from the International Land Conservation Network (ILCN), based in the U.S, to discuss collaboration on Privately Protected Areas (PPAs). The ILCN offers a wonderful, global platform for international PPA implementers to share resources, lessons learnt and discuss new strategies. Candice finalized her tax materials to be hosted on the SANBI website. Candice’s biodiversity tax incentive materials will be used as public resource on the SANBI website and will aid BDS and Protected Area Expansion implementers to inform landowners of the available fiscal benefits. The end of the week was spent on numerous administrative tasks, including: financial reporting; tax registration; tax material editing and finalizing; and planning her next Fiscal Benefits Project presentation and tax training trip.
Verlorenvlei Protected Area Project
On Monday, Samantha Schroder, Dale Wright and Philippa Huntly met with Robert Ferrandi, the project legal advisor, to work through the progress made with the preparation of the declaration of the Moutonshoek Protected Environment. On Tuesday, Samantha the attended the West Coast Conservation Committee Meeting in Citrusdal. The presentation on the Rehabilitation/Restoration Trials in the Sandveld was very interesting, and it will be interesting to see the final results of this project as it will assist landowners in the Sandveld who would like to rehabilitate old potato circles. On Wednesday, Samantha collected the two signboards which had been produced as part of the Verlorenvlei Small Grants and delivered these to the two landowners that have kindly volunteered to erect them on their properties. The remainder of the week was taken up with project admin.
Cape Estuaries Stewardship Project
This week, Giselle Murison participated in a one-day workshop around the by-law relating to the management and use of the Berg River Estuary; the by-laws are currently out for public consultation. The meeting was attended by riparian landowners/farmers and members of the Port Owen Yacht Club, as well as other property owners and users of the estuary, and proved highly informative. Giselle also met with landowners/farmers at the Berg this week to discuss the possibility of including their riparian land in a number of pilot sites to test the soft engineering techniques recommended by the Western Cape Department of Agriculture for the control and prevention of erosion at the lower Berg River. Giselle spent the remainder of the week on a number of administrative tasks, including designing signage for the Klein River Estuary Bird Sanctuary and attending to requests of landowners, such as preparing briefing notes on RAMSAR and Conservancies, outlining landowner obligations and benefits, in preparation for one-to-one meetings with farmers at the Berg River Estuary in March and April.
SPECIAL PROJECTS AND AVITOURISM PROGRAMME
Martin Taylor spent the majority of the week with a delegation from the RSPB interviewing different aviation companies in relation to the Gough Island Eradication Project. Work was completed on the Red List Index and portions of the State of South Africa’s Bird Report. Martin Taylor provided input into a proposal to the MAVA Foundation to undertake work on coastal seabirds in West Africa. Various administrative tasks were taken care of and an article was completed for African Birdlife. Ian Owtram and Martin Taylor met to discuss the bird guide training project and future activities relating to guide trains the Recognition off Prior Learning (RPL) Assessments. Ian Owtram is in the process of preparing for a FGASA Assessors exam. Geoff Lockwood took two ACSA students to Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve this week and Stan Madden showed two around Marievale. Clothing for guides attending Flock at Sea Again 2017 was collected from Khaki Fever on Friday.
POLICY & ADVOCACY PROGRAMME
Simon Gear is working on a wide range of projects at the moment, from support of the Department of Environmental Affairs in their reporting on the Convention on Migratory Species, through ensuring that provincial governments are making adequate provisions to register African Grey Parrot breeders in compliance with the CITES uplisting of the African Grey, to our continued active participation in a number of legal challenges to inappropriate development in protected environments that are being undertaken by the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER). Simon attended the National Ramsar Stakeholders Workshop where he presented on a way forward for the rehabilitation of the Ndumo Wetland and IBA, as well as the protection of the Langebaan Lagoon and West Coast National Park IBA from mining threats. Simon headed down to the Lowveld at the end of the week to support vulture conservation organisation, VulPro, in the catching and tagging of vultures. This trip was undertaken partially to secure blood samples for BirdLife South Africa's Conservation staffer, Linda vd Heever's lead poisoning research and partially as an opportunity for a visiting team of vulture researchers from University of Maryland to engage in some hands on vulture work ahead of a project that we will be engaging in with them in the coming years.
Kristi attended to a couple of maintenance tasks around the Centre in preparation for the Wakkerstroom Music Festival – painting and the biggest job of all, maintaining all the lawns for a completely full Centre over the weekend! On Tuesday, Kristi Garland and the Health and Safety Committee – Wakkerstroom Working on Fire Team completed the first H&S audit of the year. The team received a 100% for their admin keeping regarding health and safety issues. Kristi spent the rest of Tuesday preparing for the weekly Country College Bird Club meeting on Wednesday afternoon. Both the Junior and Senior groups are really progressing well and enjoying our weekly meetings. Plans are being made for the end of term excursion to a stream below the school and everyone is excited. For most it is their very first excursion ever! Kristi spent some time this week on administrative tasks as well – replying to bookings for accommodation and bird guides as well investigating a few funding options for the Centre. Lucky Ngwenya has been out most of this week on tours with guests. Reported sightings include: White Stork, Secretarybird and White-bellied Korhaan in Dirkiesdorp, Yellow-breasted Pipit, Buff-streaked Chat and Southern Bald Ibis on the Paulpietersburg Road, Wooley-necked Stork, Amur and Red footed Falcon on the Amersfoort Road, South African Shell Duck and Long-crested Eagle in the Wetland and lastly, Barratt’s Warbler in Jankieshoek. The Working on Fire team also had a busy week, with three awareness activities at local schools, the previously mentioned H&S audit and assisting around the Centre with mowing of lawns and cutting of pathways to hides, in collaboration with Wakkerstroom Bird Club and Wakkerstroom Natural Heritage Association. Kristi also assisted the WNHA with producing their information flyer and village map this week. As mentioned, the Centre is fully booked this week by a group of Gauteng artists, who will also be displaying their sculptures and land art, under theme of “Flight”.
CEO Mark Anderson has taken some well-earned leave this week and next. Fanie du Plessis and Isabel Human met with several companies to discuss potential job grading procedures that the organisation wants to initiate. On Thursday, Fanie hosted the third year landscape architecture students from the University of Pretoria at Isdell House. The aim of the visit was to present them with a fine example of an indigenous garden via a guided tour through our head office premises.