Common Oceans
One activity dominated the week for ATF, Common Oceans team, and even Ross Wanless – the training of Indonesian fisheries observers. The key objective was to upskill them to the point where they can undertake scientific, experimental research onboard an Indonesian fishing vessel. Several other aspects of seabird bycatch in tuna longline operations were covered, and turtle bycatch issues. We are confident that after this week of collaboration, the relationship between BirdLife South and Indonesia’s fisheries management authority has been strengthened, and that, in addition to undertaking research, the regular fisheries data they collect will be a useful contribution to the final global seabird bycatch assessment.
Albatross Task Force
Andrea Angel and Reason Nyengera were involved in the training of Indonesian Observers as part of the Common Oceans project. Andrea prepared the draft Memorandum of understanding for managing the observer deployments between CapMarine and BLSA. She also set working objectives for the upcoming science meeting  at the South-East Atlantic Fisheries Organization. Reason Nyengera finalised data entry from his last sea trip. Philip Augustyn signed on as a Service Provider, to assist the ATF with meeting it’s at-sea data collection and outreach objectives for the domestic tuna longline fleet. Philip left on Friday onboard the Ubuntu, and we expect him to be at sea for 15-20 days. The Common Oceans project covers the costs of Philips work, and Brownyn has put his name forward to take up the vacant Port-based Outreach Officer post; we anticipate that he’ll be appointed by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation to that part-time post before we close in December. Andrea and Ross spend several hours in Hout Bay harbour on Friday, discussing challenges with seabird bycatch mitigation measures that one of the skippers is experiencing.
African Penguins
Christina Hagen attended an African Penguin Population Reinforcement Working Group meeting. This group is responsible for attempts to bolster and increase the penguin population. She also travelled to Plett to meet with partners working on the proposed new colony site there and attend the release of rehabilitated penguins on Saturday. Taryn Morris trained two people on AS@S protocols for upcoming sea trips. She also engaged with several collaborators on the island closure experiment regarding data availability and progress in preparation for next week’s small pelagic meeting. Taryn presented an overview of the Seabird Conservation Programme work at the Cape Bird Club and was delighted with the interest and enthusiasm shown for our work.
Ross Wanless met with RSPB colleagues and Guy Preston from Working for Water/Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) on Sunday to discuss the mouse eradication efforts at Marion and Gough. Ross then presented the fundraising website that BLSA has developed to the Marion Island steering committee meeting on Monday;  it was well received, but there is a need from DEA to endorse BLSA’s fundraising efforts before it goes public. Ross also spent Tuesday meeting with the renowned novelist and journalist, Jon Franzen, who is developing a story on seabird conservation for National Geographic; it is hoped that when this is published (July 2018), we can used it to launch the crowd-sourced fundraising website. Jon will join Ross and Taryn onboard a boat on Sunday, as they lead the Indonesian seabird ID training pelagic trip. Ross also had many discussions and sent many emails about the Common Oceans seabird bycatch assessment workshops, trying to keep as many countries engaged in the process as possible; it’s not proving a simple matter, despite the success of the two meetings earlier this year and the looming data of February 2018 for the data-preparation workshop.
Hanneline Smit-Robinson and Gisela Ortner met with SANParks staff regarding a planned fundraiser to be held in the Kruger National Park in early 2019. Robin Colyn and Carina Coetzer attended the KwaZulu-Natal Conservation Symposium in Howick this week, which included a Camera Trapping and Occupancy Modelling workshop. Robin presented a paper on the use of camera traps to monitor rails. Robin continued the final compilation of the White-winged Flufftail scientific article for submission to a journal later this month. Analyses related to the arid bird project, namely suitable habitat classification and delineation, continued this week. Robin attended a meeting with David and Yvette Ehlers-Smith, part of the Downs postdoctoral team, to discuss elements of two research projects underway related to KwaZulu-Natal forest health.  Carina Coetzer, with the help of Sakhile Mthalane (Ingula Partnership Assistant), completed the monthly avifaunal surveys at Ingula. They also checked on the breeding status of Half-collared Kingfishers, African Marsh Harrier, and Yellow-breasted Pipit. Carina attended the 2017 Symposium of Contemporary Conservation Practice at Howick, KZN. Linda van den Heever joined Hanneline and Mark Anderson for a meeting of the BirdLife Africa Vulture Advisory Committee. Sam Ralston studied the Biodiversity Action Plan for the proposed Kipeto Wind Farm in Kenya and gave advice to BirdLife International and NatureKenya regarding the proposed approach to mitigating impacts. She also had a Skype meeting with Masumi Gudka to discuss the project. Sam developed a presentation to the Signal Hill Rotary Club on Thursday and finalised her presentation for the WindAc conference that will be held in Cape Town next week. Sam also assisted Investec with resources on vulture conservation and fact-checking documents for a “Coaching for Conservation” vulture day they are arranging at a school in Port Elizabeth.
Daniel Marnewick spent this week working on various strategic documents, including: The KBA Community invitation letter, The IBA Programme Strategy, commenting on the Other Areas-based Effective Conservation Measures standard, the Biodiversity Stewardship Guideline, the MoU between SANBI and BirdLife South Africa, and the State of South Africa’s Birds report. Daniel also started completing end of year appraisals with IBA staff. Romy Antrobus-Wuth continued with the process of quantifying bird population numbers within IBAs for the World Population Database. Much of her time this week was spent finalising arrangements for the Phil Liggett Fundraising Evening and the Telkom 947 Fast & Featherless Team as both of these events take place next week.
Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Free State
Ernst Retief is on leave after attending a workshop in Washington DC about the delineation of Key Biodiversity Areas.
Western Cape
Dale Wright spent time this week finalising staff performance appraisals for 2017 with Giselle Murison and Samantha Schröder, as well as completing his own appraisal with Daniel Marnewick. These also provide an opportunity to reflect on major project progress, the achievements of the past year, and forward planning for the future. The Western Cape Regional Conservation Programme is in a strong position, and contributing substantially to the conservation of birds and their habitats in the region, thanks to the very hard work and persistence of both Samantha Schröder and Giselle Murison, who lead on our estuary conservation work. Dale also attended the Overberg Crane Group Annual General Meeting, as a member of the steering committee of the organisation. The Overberg Crane Group has been steadily expanding its focus to encompass the other threatened bird species of the Overberg region, and is currently shifting gear into a period of renewed fundraising and conservation action, targeting the large threatened bird species of this region – which include the Southern Black Korhaan, Denham’s Bustard, Blue Crane and Secretarybird, amongst others.
Verlorenvlei Protected Area Project
Samantha Schröder attended the final meeting of the year for the Verlorenvlei Estuary Advisory Forum which was held in Elands Bay. She performed the task of secretariat and gave feedback on the Verlorenvlei Protected Areas Project. On Friday she met with Dale Wright for a project meeting, to review current progress in the project and evaluate outstanding items.
Candice Stevens attended the KZN Symposium this week to present a paper on Privately Protected Areas and Sustainable Financing. She was part of the discussion held on conservation finance together with contemporaries from Australia and South Africa. She also assisted Martin Taylor with text for the State of South Africa’s Birds. Jono Booth spent the week in Nairobi, where he attended a workshop titled ‘Strengthening Civil Society to Advocate for Mainstreaming Biodiversity’. It was jointly hosted by BirdLife International (both Global and Africa Secretariat representatives) and the Danish BirdLife partner, Dansk Ornitologisk Forening (DOF). Representatives from 13 BirdLife African partners attended. Jono will be writing up a trip report with more detail, however it is worth noting that it was a valuable week with many learnings and networking opportunities. Snethemba Msane met with Hanneline Smit-Robinson for a discussion on the key projects and responsibilities under BirdLife South Africa’s Terrestrial Bird Conservation Programme. Snethemba was also briefly introduced to different types of bird species and their protection status in South Africa.
Fiscal Benefits Project
Candice Stevens spent two days on study leave focusing on tax learning and examinations related to her status as a registered tax practitioner.
Work on the State of South Africa’s Birds Report as well as on the BirdLife South Africa Conservation Strategy was completed. Time was spent reviewing BirdLife Zimbabwe’s interim narrative and financial reports as well as cash flow forecasts. A Skype call was held with Justine Dossa and Miguel Lecoq to discuss a budget revision to the ecotourism component of a West African Coastal Seabird Project funded by MAVA. A completed Red List Index and supporting data were submitted to SANBI. Preparations were made for meetings with SANBI as well as travel to Namibia to attend a conference hosted by the Rufford Foundation. Ian Owtram and Martin Taylor met to discuss the bird guide training project and to complete Ian’s staff appraisal for 2017.
The Wakkerstroom Centre has been quite busy this week.  Kristi Garland attended to a range of activities – from administration to planning for 2018.  Monday was spent attending to bookings as well as collating all the art entries received thus far for the Spring Alive Art Competition.  An amazing 257 entries have been received from Mpumalanga Province alone!  Kristi spent time this week attending to the upcoming Wakkerstroom Natural Heritage Association’s AGM newsletter.  Wednesday saw Paul van der Vyver (Regional Manager Working on Fire) and Kristi planning for the 2018/19 year - setting targets regarding production for the Wakkerstroom team.  We also had the first White Stork of the season on Wednesday morning which created the perfect opportunity to carry on with the Country College Junior Bird Club and reading Ringo – The Journey of a White Stork in the afternoon.  The kids were hugely excited that Ringo’s “family” had started to make an appearance in the area!  Kristi and Lucky Ngwenya also met on Wednesday to complete his end of year appraisal.  Thursday saw the Centre welcoming the Bhejane Nature Training group who will be with us for the next few days.  In the afternoon, Kristi spent time with the Clay Edu-Centre Junior Bird Club, preparing for Birding Big Day and going over bird identification.  The whole group is extremely excited to put into practise what they had learnt over the last few weeks.  On Friday afternoon, it was the Smiley’s Junior Bird Clubs turn to practise a little more on bird identification.  Kristi also met with Richard and Candice Mckibbin from the Lionheart Experience regarding the upcoming Wakkerstroom Bio-Bash in December.  Saturday was another busy day with Kristi attending the Wakkerstroom Natural Heritage Association’s pre-AGM meeting as well as the Centre hosting the Clay Edu-Centre’s end of year function, with some more time to practise birding in the grassland.  Lucky Ngwenya has been out on tours most of this week and reports the following sightings: Blue Crane, Grey-winged Francolin and Blue Korhaan on the Amersfoort Road, Black Harrier at Fickland Pan, African Spoonbill, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Glossy Ibis and Black Crake at the Wetland and finally White-backed Duck in Groenvlei.
A successful launch of “Garden Birds in Southern Africa” was held at Isdell House on Tuesday.
Most of the annual staff appraisals for Core staff were done this week. Fanie du Plessis attended the quarterly IUCN South Africa Committee meeting in Pretoria. Fanie also met with potential future role players and collaborators on the Sneeuwberg Protected Environment project, to explore potential financial incentives for farmers. Mark Anderson met with potential donors (including Kim Pratley), chaired the BirdLife Africa Vulture Advisory Committee meeting, presented a talk to the West Rand Bird Club, attended a talk at Brenthurst, went to dinner with Strilli Oppenheimer and other guests, attended the launch of “Gardening for Birds in Southern Africa” and had dinner with the author (Duncan Butchart) and publisher (Pippa Parker and Belinda vd Merwe). He also held meetings with BLSA s programme managers and the Seabird Conservation Programme staff.