Preventing extinctions

Hanneline Smit-Robinson and Mark Anderson met with Strilli Oppenheimer and Duncan MacFadyen to provide feedback on work undertaken over the past six months.  Hanneline, Melissa Whitecross and Martin Taylor attended a meeting with ACSA officials to discuss the bird guide programme and species project funding. Hanneline and Melissa attended Skype meetings with the RRF Local Organising Committee and Kruger Challenge Committee. Hanneline commented on an internal BirdLife International Vulture Safe Zone document. Hanneline and Carina Coetzer participated in a meeting with a 5050 producer regarding a potential insert on Ingula and White-winged Flufftail on this television programme. Carina and Sakhile Mthalane continued with monthly avifaunal surveys on Ingula Nature Reserve, including breeding monitoring of threatened species, and analyses of camera trap photos. Carina also met with several landowners in the Upper Wilge Stewardship area. Linda van den Heever completed lead isotopic analyses of African White-backed Vulture samples at the University of Johannesburg. She submitted her paper on the prevalence of lead poisoning in South Africa’s vultures for a second round of comments, and developed two presentations for next week’s Raptor Research Foundation Conference, to be held in Skukuza (Kruger National Park). She also finalised logistics for the upcoming Taita Falcon survey and, with Hanneline and other members of the SESYNC group, discussed the data requirements for a proposed economic model that will attempt to quantify the possible economic impact of vulture losses on health and veterinary care in Africa. Linda and Tania Anderson met with Thomas Wilson (Harmony Gold) to discuss the possible creation of a Lesser Flamingo breeding island at Flamingo Pan near Welkom. Melissa Whitecross collated the data collected during this year’s Southern Banded Snake Eagle Survey in northern KwaZulu-Natal and began a draft of the trip report for Forestry South Africa. She spent most of the week preparing talks for the upcoming Dullstroom Birding Festival and the Raptor Research Foundation Conference where she will be presenting on the White-winged Flufftail and Secretarybird projects respectively. Melissa collated the outstanding National Rarities submissions. Robin Colyn spent the majority of the week working on data collation and analyses for the White-winged Flufftail Project. More than 70 000 images were processed. The dataset obtained is a first of its kind for many species, including 100s of sightings of rare and elusive Rallid species including White-winged Flufftail, Red-chested Flufftail, African Rail and various crake species.

Renewable energy

Sam Ralston attended the WindAc-Africa conference at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (5-6 November), organised by the South African Wind Energy Association and Global Wind Energy Council. She delivered a presentation titled "On a collision course? Wind energy infrastructure as a source of bird mortality in South Africa”. She also provided feedback on a potential wind farm site for G7 based on desktop screening and met with Ben Brimble and Belinda Mills from Windlab to discuss several of their proposed projects.



Coastal Seabirds

Andrew de Blocq prepared for the upcoming AEWA meeting on waterbirds, where he will assist in hosting one side event, speaking at another, and helping to run the BirdLife South Africa stand. He also assisted Christina Hagen with logistics for the De Hoop new colony, which he’ll caretake while she is abroad attending an international conference on reintroduction in Chicago. A highlight was having the final drafts for the West African seabird reports accepted and the final tranche of funding for this project come through on Friday from BirdLife International. Ross Wanless continued working on a proposal for the Charl van der Merwe Trust for 2019-2021.

Common Oceans

Nini van der Merwe drafted two Letters of Agreement for the Food and Agricultural Organisation, and finalized and submitted one of them, while waiting for Ross’ inputs on the second document. Cleo Small, the co-lead with Ross on the project, provided inputs to final steps for the Global Seabird Bycatch Assessment Workshop, and Nini’s engagement strategies with participating countries. Ross and Cleo drafted a letter to Japan to try and mend bridges after Japan took exception to our foray into compliance matters, through the paper that reported on use of mitigation measures from transshipment observers’ photographs.

Mouse Free Marion

Ross, Nini and Andrea Angel had a Skype meeting with Mark Anderson to discuss the way forward and BirdLife South Africa's role in the project going forward. This was followed by a Marion team meeting on Friday, during which Andrea and Nini could provide updates on resent developments and progress in both the research and fundraising aspect of the project. We also received news that Prof Peter Ryan and his wife Coleen Moloney have donated R25 000 towards the project, and Bird Studies Canada (a BirdLife partner) is actively assisting with fundraising for this project with Canadian donors. Ross engaged with Head Office and Keith Springer, to finalise terms of a short extension to the contract Keith had with us, to finalise an update to the draft Operational Plan for Marion.


Ross returned to the office on Tuesday after a short but productive trip to Dakar, where he’d worked with his marine team, the donor and other supporters on various project management and teamwork aspects. He also assisted with the visa application for a Cape Verdean student, who the Alcyon bycatch project will fund to complete the Conservation Biology Masters degree at the FitzPatrick Institute next year. Nini attended the 2nd Biosecurity Working Group meeting, during which the strategic action plan to improve biosecurity measurements related to South Africa's Antarctic territories was presented to the group. Ross, Andrea and Nini also met with colleagues from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), to discuss the continued partnership between BirdLife South Africa and the RSPB on the Gough Island Restoration project.


Andrea Angel commented on the BirdLife International review of the Marine Stewardship Council's (a fisheries certification scheme) approach to bycatch species. She submitted the final version of the mid-year technical and financial reports to the RSPB. She also engaged with an industry representative to look at options for joining a tuna pole fishing vessel before the end of the year.  Reason Nyengera focused on his First Line Management online course that is aimed at improving his project management skills. He assisted ATF Namibia in troubleshooting challenges and mapping out strategies to improve their Bird Scaring Line (BSL) manufacturing project, which has been mirrored on ATF South Africa’s project. He also liaised with several demersal longline fishing companies to organise his next sea trip. Makhudu Masotla has been entering data collected during his trip on the Japanese Joint-venture vessel. He finalised his trip report and data entry to CapMarine which was well received.



Landscape Analysis & Project Development

Daniel Marnewick, Dale Wright and Ernst Retief held the monthly IBA Management meeting, discussing various aspects of the programme and planning for the future. Dale Wright completed his own annual performance appraisal with Daniel Marnewick, and completed Giselle Murison’s performance appraisal. All were completed successfully, with almost all of the major targets achieved for 2018.

Estuary IBA Conservation Project

Giselle Murison attended the Berg River Estuary Advisory Forum this week, which provided feedback on the Resource Quality Objectives for the Berg River catchment, as well as the future management of the estuary. Giselle updated members on the project’s Protected Area expansion work in the area, as well as the progress made in the estuary’s bankside erosion control programme. Giselle also met with the Berg River Municipality this week to discuss informational signage at pilot sites for erosion control and habitat rehabilitation, and visited landowners at the Berg River estuary to discuss the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) indicating their intent to declare their property as part of a Protected Environment.

Blue Swallow Monitoring Project

The Blue Swallow monitoring programme received a minor setback this week when it was revealed that the person, who was going to be responsible for monitoring a significant number of nest sites, has resigned from this position. Steve McKean and Brent Coverdale (EKZNW) have called an urgent meeting with everyone involved in the monitoring programme for Friday morning (9 November) to resolve this and re-prioritise monitoring efforts. The monitoring schedule should be back on track after this meeting.

Mistbelt Grassland and Forest Conservation Project

Steve McKean gave a presentation on the BirdLife South Africa – Conservation Outcomes partnership at the annual Conservation Symposium held at St Ives in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands. The presentation was part of a special session facilitated by Conservation Outcomes entitled “Exploring the mechanisms available to ensure the long-term viability and resilience of protected area expansion efforts”. The presentation outlined the partnership, why it is doing the work it is, what it has achieved thus far and its contribution to conservation in KwaZulu-Natal and rare species targets. The presentation was well received. Steve McKean engaged further with the landowner of Sunnyvale to discuss the need for the proposed Nature Reserve area of the property to be surveyed out. Steve will be doing a site visit to Sunnyvale next week to discuss the issue and to fully explain the benefits of following through with the declaration process to the landowner. There appears to be a misunderstanding of the process and benefits and this will hopefully be cleared up during this visit.

Supporting Biodiversity Stewardship

Dale Wright continued with interviews as part of the alternative mechanisms for land protection project; including meeting with colleagues from the City of Cape Town regarding their biodiversity stewardship mechanisms, as well as colleagues working with commercial farms to secure their biodiversity areas.

Regional and Global Key Biodiversity Areas

Simeon Bezeng developed funding concept notes for the JRS Biodiversity Foundation and the African Development Bank. He also wrote an article for BirdLife South Africa’s November issue of the e-newsletter about his recent trip to Bangkok. The week ended with a year-end appraisal conducted by Daniel Marnewick and Domitilla Raimondo.

Awareness for IBA & KBA Conservation

Daniel Marnewick and Romy Antrobus-Wuth spent the week making the final arrangements for this year’s IBA fundraising event. This year’s event is again supported by BirdLife South Africa’s patron Phil Liggett, and comprises of a three day cycle trail through the Maseke Game Reserve in The Greater Kruger area from 9-12 November.




The Policy & Advocacy Programme received incredible news this week when the Mabola case judgment was handed down. The Mabola Court Victory sees the Mabola Protected Environment’s mining threat halted, the ministerial decisions to allow mining in this protected area remitted, and an incredible legal precedent set for South Africa’s protected areas. This has been the combined effort of eight civil society organisations represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights. Candice Stevens was unable to attend the ELCN Workshop in Spain this week as planned, due to a family emergency. The week focused on the court victory in the Mabola case as well as responding and preparing for the Pathfinder Award Ceremony to be held in Egypt at CoP 14. Candice also worked extensively on biodiversity finance this week. She submitted an Annexure C Submission to National Treasury regarding the proposed amendments to section 37C of the Income Tax Act. Candice liaised with the Department of Environmental Affairs and the South African National Biodiversity Institute in this regard. Additionally, Candice submitted implementation plans for Phase 2 of the BIOFIN Initiative regarding the biodiversity tax incentives as well as other BIOFIN Solutions. There is currently considerable momentum regarding biodiversity finance and 2019 looks to be another fantastic year for innovation and success.


This week Jonathan Booth worked on reviewing the draft Eskom Factor report, for which he will be on a panel that provides feedback to Eskom. He also attended a workshop with the Department of Environmental Affairs, the CSIR, and the Endangered Wildlife Trust on developing a standard for powerline developments, so as to proactively respond to threats that birds face as a result of powerlines. The Programme’s interim financial report was also drawn up and submitted to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.



Martin Taylor attended a meeting at ACSA head office to provide feedback on the progress made by trainee guides placed in learnership positions at lodges in Mpumalanga and Limpopo. A presentation on the birding tourism opportunities available in Lubombo TFCA was given at a destination promotion workshop hosted by Boundless South Africa.  A copy of the State of South Africa’s Bird Report was reviewed and signed off on in preparation for the final print run. Matters relating to the SPEED+ funded drafting of regulations for the protection of avifauna in Mozambique were dealt with. Preparations were undertaken for two guided trips in December 2018.



General Centre operations: The Wakkerstroom Centre has definitely been a hive of activity this week.  We had the Bhejane Nature Training group with us from Monday to Friday, led by Richard and Candice McKibbin from the Lionheart Experience. They all had a super time and report sightings of Red-chested Flufftail, both endemic species of butterfly from the area, aardvark, aardwolf, wonderful displays from the otter and even one of our orchid species.  No sooner had we said goodbye to this group when the Centre once again started to fill up with a few walk in visitors looking for accommodation.  A quick turnaround with the facilities and we were on our way again.  Bookings for 2019 are starting to roll in nicely now.  If you want to come through in the new year, please do start your enquiries now to avoid disappointment. 

National Lotteries Biodiversity Stewardship Project (NLBSP): Kristi Garland and David Nkosi spent most of this week out visiting schools for this project.  In total, we worked with four schools and 160 off learners.  Our focus was getting the learners to grips with using binoculars and field guides, completing a plant audit of the school premises and following up on the learners monitoring projects.  This is really going well and we continue to see some very long lists of species seen over the last few weeks – there is a definitely competition at each school for the ‘Birder of the Year’ award.  We can report the following sightings from this week: frequent sightings of Diederick Cuckoo, White-browed Scrub Robin, Southern Black Tit, Black Cuckoo, Golden Breasted Bunting and a Greater Honeyguide. 

Guiding operations: Lucky Ngwenya has been quite busy this week.  He reports the following sightings: Wailing Cisticola, Barratt’s Warbler, Bush Blackcap, Black Harrier and Eastern Long-billed Lark on the Jankieshoek Road, Secretarybird on the Paulpietersburg Road, African Rail and Southern Grey Crowned Crane at the Wetland, Botha’s Lark in Daggakraal and Rudd’s Lark at Fickland Pan. 

Junior Bird Clubs: The junior birders had an extremely good week of birding.  Kristi attended to the Country College group on Wednesday afternoon where the schools resident Ground-scraper Thrush was in full display.  Thursday afternoon saw Kristi and David working with the Clay Edu-Centre group – full preparations in place for Birding Big Day.  Friday afternoon saw David seeing to the Smileys group where they completed drawing up lists of the most common species of the area as part of their monitoring project.

Working on Fire Team:  The Fire team is slowly starting to wind down for the year with another month and a bit before they close for the festive period.  Planning for the 2019 season is beginning to take place. 



Several meetings were held Isdell House during the past week, including Northern Bird Club Forum (Monday), BirdLife National Trust (Tuesday) and Fundraising Committee (Wednesday). Mark Anderson presented a talk to the German Women’s Association (c. 100 people) in Parkview on Tuesday and he, and Hanneline Smit-Robinson, had lunch with Nicky and Strilli Oppenheimer and Duncan MacFayden on Wednesday and then reported to Strill Oppenheimer on the Terrestrial Bird Conservation Programme work after lunch. Mark and Jonathan Booth attended a meeting at the CSIR on Thursday, during which protocol  and standards were developed for a Strategic Environmental Assessment for the identification of energy corridors for the development of a gas pipeline network and expansion of electricity grid infrastructure for South Africa. As a guest of Nedbank, Mark attended the Nedbank Golf Challenge on Friday.