TERRESTRIAL BIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME
Hanneline Smit-Robinson attended the Middelpunt Wetland Trust and Mabula Ground Hornbill board meetings. Melissa Whitecross was interviewed on television by Groot Plaas and radio by RSG about BirdLife South Africa’s Secretarybird work and the Bird of the Year campaign. Melissa also gave a lunchtime seminar to the University of the Witwatersrand School of Animal, Plant & Environmental Sciences on her raptor conservation work. Melissa attended the Southern Ground-Hornbill Action Group meeting at the Johannesburg Zoo. Melissa submitted a proposal to Investec for funding towards the Secretarybird project as well as concept notes to Eskom’s research division for projects on the Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Ludwig’s Bustard and Black Harrier. Melissa spent the rest of the week working on the Black Stork SABAP2 data analyses. Linda van den Heever and Robin Colyn continued work on the White-backed Vulture breeding habitat model. Linda met with Brent Coverdale (EKZN Wildlife) and Chris Kelly (Wildlife Act) to discuss the implementation of Vulture Safe Zones in Zululand. She also met with Dr Linda Iaccheri (University of the Witwatersrand) to discuss the preparation of soil samples for isotopic analyses. On Friday she met with Stephen Palos (National Confederation of Hunters Associations of South Africa) and Hardus Els and Herman Els (National Hunting and Shooting Association) to discuss collaborative research opportunities that will aim to clarify the role played by lead ammunition in lead poisoning in vultures. Linda continued work on the Black Stork research paper, completed a number of internal reports and compiled a quarterly report to all donors supporting the BirdLife South Africa Vulture Project. Robin Colyn spent the majority of the week working on two scientific manuscripts related to the White-winged Flufftail Project. These two articles synthesis ground breaking results related to the breeding and migratory status, vocalisations and breeding density of this critically endangered species. Some significant milestones finalised this week included the first quantified estimates of habitat availability and population size for this Critically Endangered species across the Sululta highlands, Ethiopia. Carina Coetzer continued the monthly surveys on Ingula, and assited with the guiding of several visitors on site.
SEABIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME
The seabird team's office was in a bit of disarray this week as we moved out of the downstairs portion of the building into the upstairs portion only.
Albatross Task Force
Andrea Angel worked on the annual report for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and prepared a presentation for the West Coast Bird Club for this weekend. She is also working with the trawl association on the Marine Stewardship Council's action plan for the inshore trawl sector to assist with adaptations of their bird scaring lines. Reason Nyengera finalised admin and assisted with reports before his leave for Zimbabwe to visit his newborn daughter.
Christina Hagen and Andrew de Blocq attended another Small Pelagic Scientific Working Group meeting to finalise the sardine Total Allowable Catch levels for the year. They worked closely with colleagues from WWF-SA, SANCCOB and UCT to prepare their inputs. Christina and Andrew also met with WWF-SA colleagues to discuss the details of an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries project that will be funded by the Responsible Fisheries Alliance.
Nini van der Merwe worked with Cleo Small from the RSBP to finalise the Global Bycatch Assessment workshop report in order to share it with participants and the project funder. Nini also engaged with the Fiji Port-based Outreach Officer, and edited a number of vessel visit reports.
Gough Island Restoration Project
Nini and the Gough Operations manager had a number of Skype calls with the rest of the Gough team. They also inspected a shipment of bait sent from New Zealand, testing various transport methods. They are happy to report that the bait made the journey without any deterioration.
Mouse Free Marion
Nini and Andrea Angel met with a bait manufacturer to discuss the process involved in getting the product registered in South Africa. She also spent some time liaising with donors on the project.
Landscape Analysis & Project Development
Dale Wright worked on a project concept note for a new community conservation project planned for the Zululand IBA in KwaZulu-Natal. Dale also met with Samuel Temidayo Osinubi, the Conservation Programmes Manager for the BirdLife Africa Secretariat, to discuss BirdLife South Africa’s IBA Programme and our approach to safe-guarding these sites.
Wilge Stewardship Project
Ernst Retief spent the week doing a desktop site assessment for the proposed Upper Wilge Protected Environment. He developed 11 parameters which can be used to measure the biodiversity value of 53 farms and developed scores which can be used with each parameter. A draft of the table of data was submitted to the Free State Provincial Government for comments and they approved the proposal. Ernst will now finalise the submission.
Estuary IBA Conservation Project
Giselle Murison met with the Grootbos Foundation this week to discuss the possibility of a Nature Reserve declaration for the Grootbos property and a Protected Environment for the wider area. She spent time liaising with farmers/landowners at the Berg River and Klein River estuaries regarding upcoming meetings, including drafting notes and summarising project progress. Giselle also prepared a presentation on the results of the biodiversity site assessments and proposed Protected Environment for a meeting of Berg River estuary riparian farmers next week.
Blue Swallow Monitoring Project
A meeting with all involved in Blue Swallow monitoring for this last season was held on 12 April. All data will be handed to Steve McKean and Brent Coverdale for collation and Steve will then analyse it and begin pulling together the season’s report. Any challenges and issues will also be discussed, and planning will soon begin for the next season’s monitoring work.
Mistbelt Grassland and Forest Conservation Project
Steve McKean has been assisting with the arrangement of several meetings with four landowners who have had their properties declared, to assist in accessing their tax benefit. Ellane van Wyk, BirdLife South Africa’s Tax Extension Officer, will be visiting KwaZulu-Natal later in April to meet with landowners to assist with this process.
Supporting Biodiversity Stewardship
Dale Wright completed two sets of edits on the final draft report on ‘investigating alternative area-based conservation mechanisms in South Africa’, after receiving the report back from the professional designer that assisted with the layout.
Karoo Research and Conservation Project
Dale Wright assisted Dr Alan Lee with edits on a manuscript for a scientific journal, which focuses on the patterns of endemic bird species richness across the Karoo biomes.
IBA/KBA delineation Project
On Friday evening Ernst Retief talked about the Southern African Bird Atlas Project 2 (SABAP2) and the Waterberg System IBA to the Bosveld Bird Club in Modimolle. On Saturday he took potential atlasers out atlasing and showed them how to atlas.
Regional and Global Key Biodiversity Areas
Daniel Marnewick has co-authored a paper in Science on how Key Biodiversity Areas can be used as an indicator and measure towards achieving areas based conservation targets, such as the potential inheritor to the current Aichi Target 11 under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Aichi Target 11 speaks to protecting biodiversity with areas-based conservation using protected areas and conserved areas.
Awareness for IBA & KBA Conservation
Dale Wright finalised three popular articles on the Madagascar biodiversity survey expedition undertaken earlier this year, one for the BirdLife South Africa e-newsletter and two for African Birdlife magazine. Hiral Naik continued with logistical planning for the KBA Committee Meeting taking place in Cape Town in September 2019.
Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures
Daniel Marnewick and Candice Stevens had a meeting with Marc Hockings (Australia) about the Assessment Tool they have developed for assessing sites as Conservation Areas (OECMs). They then spent time revising the Assessment Tool based on the valuable inputs they have received from the OECM Task Force members. Daniel Marnewick presented on Conservation Areas (OECMs) at the Land Reform and Biodiversity Stewardship (LRBS) Reference Group meeting on Friday 12 April 2019. Hiral Naik worked on organising and finalising the first three focus groups for the Conservation Areas (OECMs) project, which will take place in the next few weeks.
AVITOURISM & SPECIAL PROJECTS PROGRAMME
Meetings were held with Carlos Bentos to discuss the draft regulations for the protection of avifauna in Mozambique as well as to discuss the incorporation of comments. A separate meeting was held with Afonso Madope to discuss different aspects of the project relating to completion of the translation of the draft regulations, the management of process and protocol for submitting documents to ANAC as well as the timing of a meeting to be held in Maputo in late April. Martin Taylor is in the process of engaging with several stakeholders (ornithologists, Key Biodiversity Area practitioners, BirdLife Secretariat) and is soliciting comments on different aspects of the draft. To date no comments have been received. Preparations for attendance at Travel Indaba were made. A significant amount of time was spent working on aspects of a tourism feasibility study covering four TFCAs in southern Africa. Comments relating to a series of prints (woodpeckers) to be used by the South African Post Office were provided
General Centre operations: The Wakkerstroom Centre was a little quieter this week, which gave all the staff an opportunity to attend to both administrative and maintenance tasks. Daphne Pyott dealt with a few bookings for later on in the year for both accommodation and guides. Whilst Kristi Garland attended a Wakkerstroom Tourism Association events meeting on Tuesday where all the events we are involved in were discussed amongst other 160 year celebrations. These include, in chronological date order, the Wakkerstroom Vleifees / Easter Market on the 20th April, the Wakkerstroom Bird Club (WBC) Sandy Twomey Memorial Photographic Competition (total of 129 entries received to date), the WBC ‘Name the Secretarybird Mascot’ competition, the WBC Quiz night 17th April, the Discover Wakkerstroom Treasure Trail on the 25th May, the first Stargazing event to be held at the Centre on the 6th July (22 participants already booked), the WBC Birding Bonanza from 11th – 13th October and finally the Wakkerstroom BioBash from the 13th – 15th December. The Centre staff are quite excited about all these events and hope that many will become annual fixtures on the calendar. Kristi and Lucky Ngwenya attended to a range of maintenance tasks around the Centre this week as well.
Guiding operations: Lucky’s reports the following sightings from the past week: Buff-streaked Chat, Eastern Long-billed Lark and Sentinal Rock-thrush on the Paulpietersburg Road, White-bellied Bustard, Black-winged Lapwing and African Cliff Swallows in the Dirkiesdorp area and finally Denham’s Bustard, Blue Korhaan and Blue Crane on the Amersfoort Road.
Environmental Education: Now that term two has begun, we have got our junior birds clubs back into the swing of things. The overarching theme for this term is Plants and birds. The clubs will be focussing on getting to grips with their local plants, designing an area map of where these plants are located and recording what birds are making use and favour particular vegetation. The children will develop skills with regards to plant identification through interesting and exciting activities. Kristi attended the Country College club on Wednesday afternoon and the Clay Edu-Centre, together with Carol Preston and her Litter Lion project, on Thursday afternoon. Kristi also met with Wakkerstroom Primary on Thursday morning to discuss the Biodiversity Stewardship Project moving forward with generous funds from Melomed. Further meetings are planned for the following weeks with the other schools.
Working on Fire Team: The Wakkerstroom Team had a rather administrative heavy week. Kristi together with the crew leaders submitted our Annual Production Outputs along with a recap of the previous fire season’s production levels. Kristi also attended to various other administrative tasks relating to renewal of membership for the new year and following up on outstanding invoices. We have already received a number of bookings of the team for tracer belt burning in preparation for the upcoming fire season.
Shireen Gould assisted in the shop whilst Emma Askes was on sick leave. The Randburg Horticultural Society had their monthly meeting at Isdell House. Tania Anderson gave a talk about the gardens and then gave them a tour. Each attendee was given a back issue of African Birdlife with a membership application form.
Mark Anderson attended BirdLife Zululand’s 21st AGM in Richards Bay on Monday. He met with Dr Thommie Burger (CEO of WESSA) and Donavan Fullard (head of education at WESSA) to discuss possible collaborations. He also attended the Middelpunt Wetland Trust meeting, a Flock to Marion meeting, and met with various donors and collaborators (including Colin vd Meulen, Mark Taylor - CEO of Nashua, Geoff Ball – UK-based Golden Bird Patron). Mark spent much time working on BirdLife South Africa’s 2018 annual report which has now been sent to the printers. He is also working on the recruitment of staff for several key positions.