7-12 May 2018


Hanneline Smit-Robinson and Linda van den Heever joined a multi-national, multi-disciplinary group at SESYNC in Annapolis, USA, aimed at formulating tools to reverse the decline in Africa’s vultures. Melissa Whitecross finished the analyses for the first draft of the juvenile Secretarybird dispersal publication and sent an initial draft to Hanneline and Ernst Retief for review. Melissa gave a radio interview to Radio Islam about the Flufftail Festival, wetland conservation and how to attract garden birds during winter. Melissa also presented on the White-winged Flufftail project to the Mpumalanga Wetland Forum in Nelspruit on Friday. Carina Coetzer and Sakhile Mthalane completed some avifaunal surveys on Ingula, and completed the White-bellied Korhaan surveys in the area surrounding. Carina also liaised with surrounding farmers regarding the Wilge Stewardship Project, and general birdlife enquiries. Carina also attended the Harrismith District Farmers Union meeting to give feedback on the Wilge Stewardship Project on 11 May, and to request the donation of livestock carcasses for the vulture restaurant. Sam Ralston and Robin Colyn met with Prof. Peter Ryan and representatives from Mainstream to discuss a research project that will address some of the shortcomings in our knowledge about Red Lark and how they might be affected by the large-scale roll-out renewable energy in the Northern Cape. Robin spent the week finalising the modelling and remote sensing toolkit for estimating Critically Endangered White-backed Vulture breeding habitat across the Kalahari region. Furthermore Robin finalised the first draft of the first conservation network study being conducted.

Renewable Energy

Nndwa Muhali attended the SANBI’s 1st Annual Student Research Day on Tuesday (8/5/2018) at Kirstenbosch Research Centre, where SANBI interns presented their work. This was a nice opportunity for Nndwa to network with other interns and it inspired her follow her career as conservation researcher. Sam spend most of the rest of the week working on her six-monthly report to Investec (who funds her position), as well as a report reflecting on the challenges and successes of her project to date and the recommend way forward for BirdLife South Africa’s engagement with renewable energy.



Common Oceans

Bronwyn Maree worked up an outstanding financial report for the Port-based Inception Workshop conducted in Fiji earlier this year and on vessel visit reports from the Port-based Outreach Pilot projects in Fiji and South Africa. Nini van der Merwe and Ross Wanless worked with their contact point at the FAO office in Rome to set-up and sign another round of funding, which will allow them to set in motion certain action points identified at the Peru meeting in February.  Nini worked on a paper submission for the tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organisations. Flights and accommodations were booked for the Common Oceans data consultants heading to South Africa for a small working group to progress the goals set out for the Global Seabird Bycatch Assessment.

Albatross Task Force

Andrea spoke with Theo Kairua, who is working with the pelagic longline fleet in Namibia to follow up on progress with the observer programme. She, Bronwyn Maree and Reason Nyengera attended the annual Marine Stewardship Auditing meeting, assessing the 3rd year of MSC certification of the hake trawl fishery. They also met the with the crew and skipper of the pelagic longline vessel Edinburgh, that fishes around Tristan da Cunha, to assist them with fitting a bird-scaring line to suit their vessel as well as raise awareness of seabird bycatch. Reason  worked with Makhudu Masotla on constructing a new Bird-scaring Line better suited for small pelagic and demersal longline fishing vessels. He also carried on with last week’s work of evaluating seabird bycatch mitigation plans for offshore trawl vessels and streamline the process to target vessels most in need of assistance. Makhudu Masotla logged ASAS cards and managed a few office logistics including calling on port-based skippers/managers for the possibilities of a fishing trip. He also went on two port visits, one in Cape Town and one at Hout Bay to meet with the skippers and collect Bird-scaring Line questionnaires used in assessing vessel owners perceptions and feedback.

Coastal seabirds

Andrew de Blocq was a powerhouse this week bringing the first draft of the West African seabird review to near completion for submission to BirdLife International. This will be submitted early next week for comment. Taryn Morris completed the analysis of Korean line weighting trials. She also submitted a quarterly report to the Charl van der Merwe Trust and an application to the International Indian Ocean Expedition for an AS@S observer on the upcoming cruise up the East Coast of Africa. In her few spare moments, she assisted Andrew with the review of West African seabirds. Christina Hagen met with a consultant regarding cameras that we will need to monitor the penguin colony at De Hoop remotely and worked on refining the plans for the predator-proof fence.

Marion Island

Andrea Angel returned from Marion Island this week where she had a very successful trip setting up the research programme that the year-team will progress, as part of the plan to eradicate mice.


Ross attended the Meeting of Parties to the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatross and Petrels (ACAP), which was held in Kruger Park this week. He gave an NGO statement (that included BLI points of interest as well as talking to Marion and Gough mouse eradication plans) and made various interventions from the floor.



Landscape Analysis & Project Development

The IBA Programme held its first 2018 IBA Team meeting this week. It took place over Skype, and addressed issues such as report backs, strategic planning, and included input from the Policy & Advocacy Programme on cross-cutting issues effecting IBAs. Dale Wright met with staff of the Centre for Invasion Biology at Stellenbosch University to discuss collaborative research projects focused on the impact of invasive species on Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas.

Estuary IBA Conservation Project

Giselle Murison met with landowners at the Berg River estuary this week to discuss details of the proclamation process for a Protected Environment for their property.  Giselle met with Dale Wright on Wednesday to discuss progress on the Western Cape Estuaries Conservation Project. She spent much of the rest of the week drafting comments on proposed changes to the Bergrivier Spatial Development Framework (SDF) and on a Basic Assessment for a development proposal at a property at the Berg River estuary. The final project report for the Verlorenvlei Protected Areas Project was drafted and submitted to the WWF Nedbank Green Trust for approval.

Supporting Biodiversity Stewardship

Dale Wright begun work on a report investigating alternative mechanisms for land protection in South Africa, as part of the Table Mountain Fund – Supporting Biodiversity Project. Dale also met with Dr Hayley Clements from the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition (Stellenbosch University) to discuss the development of a research agenda for biodiversity stewardship.

Regional and Global Key Biodiversity Areas

Daniel Marnewick facilitated two meetings with Nature Kenya to discuss how BirdLife South Africa and Nature Kenya could share their country experiences in leading on Key Biodiversity Areas. Both BirdLife country partners have been leaders in Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas, and are now embracing Key Biodiversity Areas. It is noted that every country is unique, and so lesson sharing amongst the BirdLife country partners is one of the strengths of the partnership. The second meeting took place with Nature Kenya, Daniel Marnewick, Bezeng Bezeng (Biodiversity Assessment for Spatial Planning in Africa – BASPA manager), and Domitilla Raimondo (IUCN Species Survival Commission & SANBI). The objective was to introduce the BASPA project to Nature Kenya, and to secure their partnership to use Kenya as a pilot country. Simeon Bezeng has been busy preparing for the up-coming IUCN SSC red list committee meeting scheduled for the 16-18th May 2018 at Kew London.



Candice Stevens spent the week attending to internal documentation and funding reports. Candice worked with Romy Antrobus-Wuth to finalise all processes regarding the Vacation Work Programme which will be piloted in July 2018.


Jonathan Booth attended a meeting with regards to a housing development close to Kamfers dam in Kimberley (Lesser Flamingo breeding site), BirdLife South Africa will continue to engage with the developer on this matter. Jonathan also spent time working on RSPB reporting matters, drafted an internal policy on Position Statement writing, and wrote to the South African Mining Biodiversity Forum to notify them of our withdrawal from the Forum. He also spent time working on the two Highveld grasslands coal mining threats that we are confronting.



Martin Taylor prepared for a partner review of BirdLife Botswana. Comments were incorporated into a Partner Framework Agreement covering the relationship between BirdLife South Africa and the RSPB. A similar document was prepared for the Peace Parks Foundation covering work in Transfrontier Conservation Areas in southern Africa. BirdLife Zimbabwe technical and financial reports were reviewed. A call was held with Ian Barber to discuss issues relating to partner development in southern Africa. Martin Taylor and Ian Owtram travelled through to Sefapane Lodge to meet with two of the guides involved in a learnership programme. Files relating to the guide training programme were picked up from Antares Training Centre in Grietjie Private Nature Reserve.



Monday saw Daphne Pyott attending to various admin tasks, ranging from bookings and general office items.  Kristi Garland spent Monday out in the field on the National Lotteries Biodiversity Stewardship Project  (NLBSP) with the Utrecht node of schools.  She conducted an introductory session on bird identification with five schools as well as introducing the teachers to a very basic bird monitoring project for the learners to do in and around their school focussing on local species.  Tuesday saw Kristi heading off to the Paulpietersburg NLBSP node. David Nkosi spent his Tuesday visiting the Utrecht node schools and conducting their learner programmes – in introduction to bird identification with three schools and a total of 80 learners.  Wednesday saw David visiting the second Paulpietersburg node of schools and again working with learners from two schools, totalling a whopping 488 learners and teachers on basic bird identification.  Kristi spent some time in the office and in the afternoon, visited the Country College Junior Bird Club in Volksrust.  On Thursday Kristi headed off to the back of Groenvlei to visit two schools – one teachers workshop on basic birding and the other a learners programme for a Grade 4 class on Birds in Language.  This was a very well timed lesson as the learners had just finished their own lesson on spelling and learning the sounds of various letters and the combinations thereof.  David was out too, working with three schools on learners programmes, focussing on the introduction to bird identification.  Thursday afternoon saw Kristi rushing back to Wakkerstroom to attend the Clay Edu-Centre Junior Bird Club.  This session focussed on wetland birds and the food webs that exist in this habitat.  Straight after the club meeting, it was off to the Wakkerstroom Interest Group update meeting and the Wakkerstroom Tourism Association meeting.  We are super excited to announce that Wakkerstroom now has a fold-out village map, lists of activities and contact details of all clubs, businesses etc. listed.  These are available at various outlets, including the Centre at no cost to guests or visitors.  Friday saw David visiting some more schools outside Piet Retief for the NLBSP, working on the learners programmes whilst Kristi spent time in the office, catching up on various admin items for the Centre and the various committees she sits on in Wakkerstroom.  She also spent time preparing for next week’s visits to schools and teachers workshop.  Lucky Ngwenya assisted this week with various maintenance tasks around the Centre.  We also started installing the skirting in the dormitory block – a final touch on the internal renovations.  The Working on Fire team was out majority of this week, assisting local farms with burning their tracer belts in preparation for the upcoming fire season. 



Fanie du Plessis attended the quarterly IUCN National Committee meeting. Mark Anderson had meetings with Mark Cooper (CEO of JCDecaux), Michael Mills (re Angolan work), and Ian Barber (RSPB). He also attended the BirdLife Africa Secretariat Fundraising Task Force meeting which aims to raise funds for the BirdLife Partners in Africa’s attendance of the Global Partnership meeting in September.  He presented a talk, via Skype, on vultures and farm reservoirs to the SESYNC meeting in Annapolis. Mark also facilitated various discussions at the Kingsmead Book Fair on Saturday. Mark and Fanie attended the bi-annual meeting of the BirdLife National Trust.

BirdLife South Africa sadly bid farewell to Ian Owtram and Bianca Hare on Friday, and we wish them all the best in their future endevours.