SEABIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME
Bronwyn Maree has been working on a report for the Project Steering Committee that Ross Wanless will present in Rome next month. She also prepared a Project Outcome Indicator document against which the project will be assessed. Lastly, she spent time advertising for new vacancies under the project (one in Cape Town and one in Fiji). Nini van der Merwe spent the week wrapping up the report on the Seychelles National Awareness Workshop, and feverishly organising the South African National Awareness workshop which is due to take place next week. Due to the short lead in time, she had to spend a lot of time on the phone, contacting fishing rights holders, many of whom are often at sea or unreachable. Pete Watt-Pringle completed two vessel visits. He was able to use the (shiny new) tablet to show videos and outreach materials more effectively.
Albatross Task Force
Andrea Angel spent some time this week participating in an Open Day for the SA Agulhas (Antarctic resupply ship) sharing a stand with the FitzPatrick Institute, speaking to eager school children about the work that we do and the plight of the seabirds. She met with the Chair of the South African Hake Longline Association to facilitate Reason Nyengera being able to board demersal longline vessels to test the new bird scaring line (BSL) design. Reason Nyengera submitted a detailed trip report after his sea trip acknowledging their use of bird mitigation measures and support for his BSL trial. He also spent time entering observer debriefing data. Bokamoso Lebepe and Reason spent time building an improved version of the BSL, incorporating suggestions from skippers and New Zealand scientist Dave Goad who has been testing BSL designs in the New Zealand fleet. They will test these on their next trips.
Taryn Morris is on Robben Island conducting field work tracking the foraging trips of breeding African Penguins and has extended her trip to assist with the rescue of penguin chicks with avian pox! Christina Hagen returned from an extended period of leave and spent time catching up and preparing for meetings next week.
Ross Wanless attended an inception meeting (with Department of Environment officials and various colleagues) as BirdLife South Africa’s representative on the advisory committee for the Marion Island Mouse Eradication project. This was a critical first step towards more significant action in this very complex but important work, and while BirdLife South Africa’s support and roles are still being defined, it’s evident and agreed by all that we will play some key parts in this broad, collaborative effort. Ross also commented on a paper he and colleagues are drafting (relating to rodent eradications) and reviewed two manuscripts for international journals.
TERRESTRIAL BIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME
Hanneline Smit-Robinson completed her mid-year staff appraisal discussion with Mark Anderson. Hanneline participated in several meetings including an internal Learn About Birds 2018 meeting as well as an external meeting with Dr Rob Little about the conference planning; a Skype discussion around Secretarybird work with Arjun Amar, FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, and Ernst Retief; a meeting with Eelco Meyjes, Rare Finch Conservation Group, and Alastair Findlay and Melissa Whitecross about the way forward for the Waxi the Hero puppet show; a short update meeting about the lead analysis project with Prof. Andrew McKechnie and Linda van den Heever. She also met with Dr Shane McPherson, Prof. Colleen Downs and Dr Andrew Jenkins about the final report and results of the Southern Banded Snake Eagle study. She also had a progress meeting with Susannah Patrocinio, UNISA MSc student, on the current study undertaken on the effect of Seriphium plumosum (Stoebe) on plant, mammal and bird diversity - this study is undertaken at Telperion. She was interviewed, with Kishaylin Chetty (Eskom), by a US journalist on the Ingula Partnership successes. Sam Ralston returned back to work on Thursday after two weeks leave. She worked through her email backlog and reviewed a couple of or post-construction monitoring reports. Robin Colyn, with the assistance of Ingula Partnership Assistant, Sakhile Mthalane, conducted monthly avifaunal counts in the Braamhoek survey block. The majority of the week was spent continuing data analyses related to the Yellow-breasted Pipit project, as well as commencing the compilation of a scientific manuscript. Data analyses largely entailed assessing the distributional trend of the species, as well as the current population status. Drivers of habitat quality and accessibility were assessed across a varied temporal scale (1999 - 2016). Alastair Campbell and Robin serviced camera traps at numerous locations across the eastern escarpment as part of an escarpment study assessing the use of escarpment habitat as corridors and refugia. Linda van den Heever and Tania Anderson met with Thomas Wilson (Harmony Gold Mining Company) to discuss the feasibility of creating a Lesser Flamingo breeding island at Voëlpan, near Welkom. Linda and the rest of the LAB2018 organising committee had a progress meeting in preparation for opening bookings in July. Linda and Hanneline finalised the budget for the event. Linda, Hanneline and Andrew McKechnie met to discuss progress on the lead project. Linda and Andrew had a separate meeting with Roger Dixon (UP) to discuss the feasibility of using high resolution X-ray fluorescence microscopy to map lead deposition in feathers. Linda also sorted out a number of logistical issues relating to the Black Stork survey scheduled for August. She also sorted and catalogued a number of vulture bones and carcasses recently collected in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape for lead testing.
IBA PROGRAMME HIGHLIGHTS
Daniel Marnewick spent the week at the Biodiversity Planning Forum held in Skukuza. He presented a talk in a plenary session on Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), BirdLife South Africa’s role in the international programme and how we plan to, in partnership with SANBI, role KBAs it out in South Africa.
IBA PROGRAMME - REGIONAL CONSERVATION
Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Free State
Ernst Retief completed the first draft of the zonation of the farms in the Sneeuwberg Protected Environment. The zonation must be done to comply with legislation and the requirements of the soon to be approved Management Plan. Each farm is zoned into the following categories, Natural Vegetation, Commercial, Transformed and Rivers and Wetlands. The Management Plan sets out the permissible and non-permissible activities for each zone. The zones were defined using remote sensing data and will now be verified on the ground. Ernst also spent time this week replacing the tyres and shocks of the Honda vehicle, something which took longer than expected due to the specific type of shocks required. On Thursday Ernst spent some time at Isdell House. He had a look at issues with the cloud backup system on the server, assisted a staff member with virus related issues, and offered to assist with the development of an online registration form for Flock2018. On Wednesday Ernst attended a Skype meeting to discuss the analysis of the Secretarybird tracking data.
Dale Wright spent the majority of his time this week drafting a feedback report for the BirdLife International pilot project investigating “other effective area-based conservation mechanisms” (OECMs). These are sites which are alluded to in the Convention on Biological Diversity – global targets for protected area coverage; however they have not as yet been defined, and there is potential for confusion with the IUCN Privately Protected Areas (or Biodiversity Stewardship in South Africa). Conservancies, components of Biosphere Reserves, or specific area-focused NGO activities might all fit within this emerging category, which could meaningfully increase the global conservation footprint. BirdLife South Africa has been reviewing the definition of OECMs and testing their on-the-ground application at a number of IBAs around the country. Dale and Candice Stevens also had a brief discussion regarding this report and the initiative, and the final report will be submitted to BirdLife International and the OECM global task team. Dale also met with a student working at the Cape Point section of Table Mountain National Park to discuss her research project focused on Hottentot Buttonquail, and ground truth some of the field sites for her research, which all seem to present good habitat for the species. On Friday Dale met with Giselle Murison and Samantha Schroder to complete internal BirdLife South Africa skills audits; and following this met with Samantha Schroder and Philippa Huntly to complete the Verlorenvlei Protected Areas Project mid-year review.
IBA PROGRAMME - PROJECTS
Biodiversity Stewardship Fiscal Benefits Project
Candice Stevens had an incredibly busy week this week and dealt with two main areas of work. Firstly, she prepared for the scheduled tax workshops to be held in Limpopo next week and in the Northern Cape the following week. Preparations included detailed tax research, developing more materials and working on a number of different presentations for different audiences. She also had to overcome difficulties with accommodation and travel arrangements. Secondly, Candice dealt with BirdLife South Africa’s involvement in the coalition with CER. This has taken up a considerable amount of time and will involve detailed monitoring over the next few weeks. In line with this, Candice gave a presentation to the BirdLife South Africa Board. Additionally, Candice worked on the IBA team’s OECM feedback report for BirdLife South Africa and had a skype discussion with Dale Wright in this regard. She also had a detailed skype with Natasha Wilson (SANBI) to provide a Project update and deal with financial reporting. Lastly, Candice attended a meeting with Mark Anderson and a potential donor.
Verlorenvlei Protected Area Project
On Wednesday Samantha Schröder attended the Greater Cederberg Biodiversity Corridor meeting in Citrusdal where she gave feedback on the Table Mountain Fund Small Grant project, completed in conjunction with the Verlorenvlei Estuary Advisory Forum, and the current position of the Verlorenvlei Protected Areas Project. On Thursday she designed maps for the Moutonshoek Protected Area Environmental Management Plan and collected documents from a landowner in Moutonshoek. On Friday she met with Dale Wright and Philippa Huntly in Kirstenbosch to complete her mid-year performance appraisal, skills audit and to review project progress and the way forward. The remainder of the week was taken up with completing the skills audit, liaising with Avis regarding the extension of the contract for her vehicle rental and following up with a landowner from Moutonshoek regarding a meeting.
Cape Estuaries Stewardship Project
Giselle Murison spent most of the week digitising habitat and land management information gathered during visits to the Berg River Estuary, and preparing maps for the planned biodiversity site assessments in spring. She continued to meet with landowners regarding options for the formal protection of the Berg River Estuary and the proposed Ramsar site application. Giselle also prepared a presentation for the Bokkomlaan Action Group meeting this weekend in Velddrif, and dealt with emails and requests for information from partners, landowners and other interested parties at the estuarine project sites, as well as continuing to organise landowner visits at the Berg River and Klein River estuaries for June and July.
IBA PROGRAMME - ADMIN
Romy Antrobus-Wuth spent time this week contacting Zeiss regarding the ordering of Fast and Featherless cycling shirts for this year’s 947 Cycle Challenge as well as finalising our agreement with Return Africa for Birding Big Day 2017. She revised and submitted an article on the Greater Lakenvlei Protected Environment for BirdLife International and assisted with the final design to be presented to Woolworths for the Cape Parrot Bags4Good initiative. Funds raised through this initiative will go towards the annual Cape Parrot census and the IBA Programme to assist in protecting the remaining fragments of Cape Parrot habitat. Romy also spent time finalising and uploading IBA videos to YouTube and compiled comments to the Basic Assessment Report for proposed coal prospecting within the Devon Grasslands IBA (Yoctolux Collieries Prospecting Application).
AVITOURISM & SPECIAL PROJECTS PROGRAMME
Martin Taylor attended a briefing by Dr Hazell Thompson on the recent BirdLife International (BLI) Council meeting and its relevance on the BLI Capacity Development Programme. A document relating to the East Atlantic Flyway Initiative (EAFI) was completed, as well as on a Darwin Scoping proposal for EAFI related work in Namibia and Angola. A European Union call focusing on Transfrontier Conservation Areas was discussed with BirdLife partners in southern Africa, with partners looking to collaborate on several cross border initiatives. An Expression of Interest call for the Department of Environmental Affairs Biodiversity Economy Programme was discussed. A significant amount of admin was completed during the course of the week. A six month review of work was completed. Ian Owtram continued hosting a FGASA Level 1 Nature Guide course at the Antares Training Centre, Limpopo with trainers attending a snake handling course in Hoedspruit. Martin and Ian met to discuss the bird guide training programme.
It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Lucky Ngwenya’s wife last week Friday. Sonto has helped out with cleaning at the Centre for the past four years and will be sorely missed. The Wakkerstroom Centre had a busy past weekend with the 4th Annual Wakkerstroom Art Ramble, at which Kristi Garland ran two kiddies workshops on nature art and the Wakkerstroom Mountain Challenge road race at which the Centre and the Wakkerstroom Working on Fire team manned a water table. We are extremely happy to announce that we were voted as the best water table, shared with the Bistro Wakkerstroom, by the over 200 runners/walkers. The last time we were awarded this was in 2014. On Monday evening Kristi hosted a Bird Quiz at the Newcastle Bird Club. On Wednesday, Kristi spent the morning preparing for the weekly Country College Junior Bird Club meeting in the afternoon. Each week we mention how quickly the club is growing but maybe here’s some figures that should impress. The club currently has 107 members between grades R and 6. On average 60-65% of the members attend each weeks meeting and activities. Not too bad when the school has 140 enrolled learners! Wednesday evening saw Kristi hosting a quiz at the Centre for the Wakkerstroom Bird Club. Great fun was had by all. Thursday was spent on high alert by the Working on Fire team as we had 68 km/hr winds in Wakkerstroom. All Fire Protection Association members were warned and thankfully there were no runaway fires. On Friday morning, Kristi met with the chairs of the Wakkerstroom Natural Heritage Association and the Wakkerstroom Bird Club to discuss a couple of local issues as well as plans for the upcoming winter period. With regards to our recycling project at the Centre, a total of 2.453 tons of recyclables has been collected to date from the community of Wakkerstroom. This equates to 466 kg of paper, 799 kg of glass, 60 kg metal and foil, 253 kg plastic and 894 kg of mixed or unsorted materials.
Mark Anderson conducted appraisals with the staff who report to him. Meetings this week included the monthly Board of Directors meeting, and a meeting with Rand Merchant Bank. John Samuels (past CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation and past advisor to Prof. Jonathan Jansen facilitated a discussion with the Board of Directors about how BirdLife South Africa can remain relevant in future.