TERRESTRIAL BIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME

Hanneline Smit-Robinson attended the annual UNISA Nature Conservation Advisory Committee meeting. Hanneline and Mark Anderson attended the 20th year celebrations of the SANParks Honorary Rangers: West Rand region Kruger birding weekends. Hanneline and Alastair Findlay met with Italtile foundation regarding their support for developing the Waxi the Hero puppet shows as part of an educational school programme. Hanneline had various catch-up meetings including with Dr Andrew Jenkins (regarding Taita Falcon surveys and research), Dr Pat Benson (vulture research) and Arno Ellmer (reviewing of the building plans for the proposed White-winged Flufftail captive research facility). Robin Colyn commenced finalising the Rudd’s Lark habitat modelling incorporating the latest Memel field trip results into analyses. Similarly, distance analyses incorporating all walked transect data for the respective species also commenced this week. RC also completed and submitted the final assignments for two NASA applied remote sensing courses this week. Carina Coetzer, helped by Sakhile Mthalane (Ingula Partnership Assistant) and Alastair Campbell (Eskom ECO) explored Ingula, visiting the Southern Bald Ibis breeding colonies (both natural and artificial), and installing a camera trap at the artificial breeding site. The Yellow-breasted Pipit breeding site in the high-altitude grasslands were also inspected and several birds started their breeding displays. Vegetation surveys and monthly counts in the low-altitude grasslands were conducted prior to introducing cattle to graze. Some camera traps in escarpment forests at Ingula were also serviced. Melissa Whitecross spent most of the week collating the abstracts submitted for the Learn About Birds (LAB) Conference. She has produced the first draft of LAB programme which includes the Science and Layman's speakers. Melissa has begun work on the SABAP data for the Grey-headed Gull and collected the September data for the three GSM tracked Gulls. Melissa met with Hanneline to discuss the start of a Keeping Common Birds Common project assessing changes in the distribution and abundance over the past years of ten common bird species in Gauteng.

SEABIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME

Common Oceans

Bronwyn Maree helped James Nagan, the new Port-based Outreach Officer based in Fiji, to settle in and guided the development of his work programme. She has also been working on the logistics and attendance of national scientists to the upcoming Data Workshop planned for Peru in February 2018. She and Nini vd Merwe drafted a proposal for a collaboration with China, to explore options for Chinese vessels to use seabird bycatch mitigation measures.  Nini also compiled the Namibian Observer Training Workshop (OTW) report and prepared for the Indonesian OTW in early November. On a positive note, communications with Brazil regarding the National Awareness Workshop planned in Santos in December, have started to flow.

Albatross Task Force

Andrea Angel met with Melanie Smith from CapMarine to discuss data protocols and observer work for the offshore and inshore trawl fishery. She also met with Carolina Hazin from BirdLife International to discuss EBSAs (Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas) and a possible brief for the South East Atlantic Fisheries Organization, Scientific Committee meeting she will attend in November. She also had several meetings with Common Oceans staff around the deployment of observers for the Pelagic Longline Observer project and the upcoming Brazil National Awareness Workshop in December. Reason Nyengera finalised the Demersal Longline trip report and spent the week updating the databases for harbour visits and trawl observer data (collected by CapMarine). He also debriefed a CapMarine observer and reviewed the status of the Bird Mitigation Plan project for the Trawl fishery.

Coastal Seabirds

Taryn Morris attended a DAFF Small Pelagic Scientific working group meeting where the way forward for spatial management of sardine stocks and the island closure experiment were discussed. Taryn and Mariëtte Wheeler visited the Stony Point penguin colony to assess the feasibility of using this site for pre-moult tracking deployments. Thanks are extended to our CapeNature collaborators for facilitating the site visit and agreeing to allow us to deploy loggers on penguins at this site. Mariëtte also spent the week updating the tracks of our penguins that are currently equipped with GPS-GSM loggers. The birds seem to mostly be swimming in nearshore waters between Cape Point and De Hoop. Christina Hagen met with an artist who has offered to assist with creating African penguin decoys for the new colony project. She also assisted a CapeNature colony in preparing for a meeting where the new colony project was discussed and prepared documents for a risk assessment for the Plettenberg Bay site which is being investigated as a potential new penguin colony site.

Other

Ross Wanless was in Germany, at the kick-off meeting of a bi-regional project looking at strengthening how Regional Seas Conventions engage with the High Seas. Nini assisted Roger Wanless with documentation summarising the current office requirements of all Cape Town based staff. She also had a meeting with David Frylinck, discussing some final details on the Marion Island Mouse Eradication Project website and finalized the donation forms for West Rand Honorary Rangers, to enable them to fundraise for the Mouse Free Marion project.

IBA PROGRAMME - NATIONAL

Daniel Marnewick’s week was elevated by receiving the good news that the WWF Nedbank Green Trust has approved funding for BirdLife South Africa’s work on Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs). This work will take place both nationally (in partnership with the South African National Biodiversity Institute) and regionally within Africa. This support is critical for catalysing the KBA work over the next two years and creating the platforms and foundations for KBA identification and conservation. KBAs will be the future global currency for identifying sites of biological importance. Daniel then also formed part of the interview panel for the new Regional Red List Coordinator. The rest of the week was spent writing the new IBA Programme Strategy (2017-2027) and the aspects of the KBA Strategy. Romy Antrobus-Wuth spent time  making arrangements for both the Phil Liggett Fundraising Evening and the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge which is to take place on 16 November, there will be 29 cyclists riding for Team Fast & Featherless, raising funds for the IBA Programme.

IBA PROGRAMME - REGIONAL CONSERVATION

Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Free State

Ernst Retief, together with Fanie du Plessis and Robin Colyn, drafted a proposal detailing possible research projects which could be implemented in the Sneeuwberg Protected Environment (PE). The research topics, which are linked to the focus areas of the approved Management Plan, address a number of issues such as the location of threatened bird species in the PE, threats which impact on the species, the use of remote sensing to monitor the area and the development of burning and grazing regimes which will benefit farmers and biodiversity conservation. It is hoped that this PE can become an important case study to show how farmers can work with NGOs to conserve biodiversity. Ernst also worked on the second phase of the SANBI project to determine the protection level of threatened bird species. Ernst is now working through the 171 species which passed Phase 1 of the study to determine their protection level as set out in the guideline document. Ernst continues to promote Birding Big Day 2017 and so far 67 teams registered for the BirdLasser challenge and an additional 9 teams will submit paper lists. 

Western Cape

Dale Wright returned to the Karoo this week to complete further avifaunal point counts as part of the Karoo Birds Research and Conservation Project. He was based from the Karoo National Park Important Bird and Biodiversity Area, and completed three atlas cards along with 35 point counts. He was fortunate to encounter and record many of the Karoo IBA trigger species, including Ludwig’s Bustard, Karoo Korhaan, Blue Crane, Martial and Verreaux’s Eagle, and the smaller Karoo dependent passerines such as Sickle-winged Chat and Layard’s Tit-babbler. Dale was also interviewed by the WWF Nedbank Green Trust for a short piece on the Verlorenvlei Protected Areas Project, and met with Daniel Marnewick to discuss the various regional projects underway.

IBA PROGRAMME - PROJECTS

Verlorenvlei Protected Area Project

Samantha Schroder met with landowners in Moutonshoek to update them on the progress of the declaration of the Moutonshoek Protected Environment and to evaluate two sites for the possible alien clearing incentive project.

Cape Estuaries Stewardship Project

Giselle Murison spent much of this week on site at the Berg River and Klein River estuaries, carrying out surveys of riparian properties being considered for entry into the Biodiversity Stewardship programme. These surveys, which included estuarine habitat, bird and frog surveys form part of the biodiversity site assessment process, help determine the stewardship categories for which properties will qualify. Giselle also presented a talk entitled, “Protecting our Estuaries: the Western Cape Estuaries Conservation Project” at the Western Cape Birding Forum on Saturday.

POLICY & ADVOCACY PROGRAMME

Candice Stevens welcomed Snethemba Msane to the Policy & Advocacy (P&A) Programme. Snethemba’s has taken up an internship with BirdLife South Africa in the P&A Programme and we are thrilled that he has joined the team. Candice attended to the necessary processes to ensure his smooth transition into the organisation as well as detailed his deliverables and learning schedules. Candice also reviewed the full Advocacy Structure developed by Jono Booth and the team feels ready for the two advocacy workshops that we are set to host shortly.  Jono Booth arranged an introductory meeting with Steve Nichols, head of Environment and Finance at the National Business Initiative (NBI), which was attended by him, Candice Stevens, and Daniel Marnewick this week. It was constructive and areas of potential collaboration will be explored further. With the advocacy process work largely complete, Jono focused on advocacy work as well as populating the advocacy database with current cases and historical information. Snethemba Msane settled in very well in his first week of assuming his duties with BirdLife South Africa. He familiarized himself with the staff as well as their different roles and was taken through his duties, responsibilities and deliverables by Candice Stevens. He further met with Jono and Romy to discuss the advocacy decision tree and relevant datasets which are required for the BirdLife South Africa Geodatabase.  Candice Stevens made contact with National Treasury regarding future amendments to national legislation. This is a very exciting prospect and Candice will be focusing her energy on this in the coming weeks.

AVITOURISM & SPECIAL PROJECTS PROGRAMME

Martin Taylor was on leave for the majority of the reporting period with the time available being spent on dealing with administrative matters with a limited amount of time devoted to the State of South Africa’s Bird Report. Logistics regarding the transportation of Red Data books was dealt with. Ian Owtram spent the majority of the week preparing two applications focusing on the upgrading of infrastructure at Golwe, Limpopo and Amatikulu, KwaZulu-Natal for submission to the Department of Environmental Affairs. Both facilities will be utilised for bird guide training purposes and will be managed by local communities. Time was spent designing amendments to the bird guide training pages of the BirdLife South Africa website. Results came back from FGASA after moderation with a 8% pass rate achieved. A PIB itinerary is being finalised in preparation of the arrival of a group in three weeks’ time.

WAKKERSTROOM CENTRE

Daphne Pyott attended to a the steady flow of bookings coming in for the remainder of the year.  Kristi Garland spent the first half of the week attending to tasks from the Spring Alive Project.  The Project has received great support from our sister organisations and schools alike across the country.  On Wednesday, Kristi attended the weekly Country College Junior Bird Club meeting.  This week the group delved a little deeper into the Spring Alive species, completing a species fact finding activity.  On Thursday morning, Kristi attended the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs’ Climate Change Provincial Awards Ceremony at Nooitgedacht Research Station in Ermelo as a VIP.  This gave Kristi the perfect opportunity to showcase and speak about the Spring Alive Project as well as support a Department who has for some years supported the Centre and our activities.  Close on 200 attendees and representatives from the Department of Basic Education, Regional Municipality, National Department of Environmental Affairs, DARDLEA – Environmental Empowerment and DARDLEA EE Centres, each received an African Birdlife magazine and each school a CD containing resources developed for the 2017 Spring Alive Project.  In the afternoon, Kristi attended the weekly Clay Edu-Centre Junior Bird Club meeting.  In celebrating International Outdoor Classroom Day, the group had their first experience of working with field guides and binoculars!  For an hour and half, 60 children were totally enthralled with the world of birds!  Although we still need to work on correctly identifying species a little more before Birding Big Day – the enthusiasm of these children is all inspiring.  Friday saw Kristi attending the Wakkerstroom Bird Club’s monthly committee meeting as well as the Smileys’ Junior Bird Club in the afternoon.  Again, another group of children who are taking to birding in an amazing way!  Lucky Ngwenya has been out in the field most of the week.  He has reported consistent sightings of Rudd’s and Botha’s Lark, Blue Crane, African Snipe and Southern Bald Ibis.  David Nkosi, a freelance guide also operating in Wakkerstroom, reported a White-fronted Plover in Wakkerstroom recently, perhaps blown in with the high winds recently experienced. 

CORE

Fanie du Plessis attended a meeting regarding the cultural significance of birds on behalf of the organisation. Mark Anderson attended meetings with Toyota and Ford, and attended a SANParks Honorary Ranger event. He spent three days in Kimberley participating in the 25th year of the annual White-backed Vulture monitoring/ringing project.

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