SEABIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME
This was a week of sorting out contracts, with the FAO signing a new agreement with BLSA, which allowed Nini van der Merwe to finalise contracts with two data consultants. They are being contracted in to ensure the final seabird bycatch assessment workshop, scheduled for February, happens smoothly and with cutting edge analyses to inform the workshop. Bronwyn Maree and Philip Augustyn were both on leave this week.
Nini assisted a number of individual donors with completing payments on the Mouse Free Marion website. She also worked on an article for African Birdlife magazine, which will assist with fundraising for the project.
Gough Island Restoration Project
Nini managed various aspects arising from last week’s meeting with John Kelly from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Carol Jacobs from the Department of Environmental Affairs. The aim of the meeting was to discuss and produce a framework for the newly established Island Biosecurity Working Group, which will be having its 2nd meeting in November. The meeting succeeded in producing a strategic framework document, including a SWOT analysis, Terms of Reference for the group, detailed action plan and also an agenda for the next meeting. Nini also progressed discussions for certain aspects of the Mouse Free Marion project, which cannot take place without increased biosecurity measures at the port, on the vessel and on the island stations.
Albatross Task Force
Andrea Angel attended a workshop on EBSAs (Ecologically and Biologically Significant Marine Areas) where the final and revised South African EBSAs where presented, some of which are relevant to foraging seabird hotspots and breeding colonies. Management approaches where also discussed and BLSA will continue to engage with this task team providing input in upcoming workshops. She and Reason Nyengera worked on final comments to the mid-year report. Reason returned from a productive 7-day trip onboard a demersal longline vessel, Shivon, during which he collected seabird interaction data and tested the improved version of the bird scaring line, designed for vessels under 35 m. He also collected data on the sinking rates of hooks placed along various sections of the fishing line. Back at the office he captured seabird interaction data. Makhudu Masotla is expected to return next week after over a month at sea.
Christina reached an important milestone in her New Colony project, with the commencement of the installation of a predator-proof fence at the De Hoop Nature Reserve site. She and Ross Wanless travelled to Gansbaai to meet with Wilfred Chivell and Trudi Malan, from the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary, to view the rehabilitation facility and to discuss various aspects of the conservation of the African Penguin. The fruitful meeting resulted, inter alia, in Wilfred donating 10 artificial nests for the De Hoop colony, and we invited him to join us next week when Pamela Isdell, our Penguin Patron, and her husband Neville visit the site. Andrew de Blocq spent Monday through Wednesday on Dassen Island doing African Penguin fieldwork. Andrew performed six deployments on birds coming to the end of their post-breeding moult. These birds have been landbound for around a month while they replace their feathers, and it is important that we learn where they go to replenish their lost body mass in order to protect them. He also recovered one device from a pre-moult deployment at Dassen Island performed in late August, and one device was retrieved on Dyer Island by Cape Nature staff from a bird that weighed in at 4.4 kg - the heaviest penguin of the project so far! He also brought two abandoned penguin chicks off the island for rearing at SANCCOB. The last two days of the week were spent capturing data from newly tagged birds, sorting travel logistics for upcoming commitments in Pretoria and Durban, and working on the West African seabird report.
Ross was in full crisis management mode, after a paper that colleague Steph Winnard from RSPB presented at a tuna commission meeting, caused significant consternation amongst certain delegates, as it has significant compliance implications. He also devoted time to writing draft sections of an Ecological Baseline report for the IKI STRONG High Seas project that he leads on behalf of BirdLife International.
TERRESTRIAL BIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME
Hanneline Smit-Robinson, Linda van den Heever and Mark Anderson attended the Oppenheimer De Beers Research Conference. Two posters, on the Introduction of Vulture Safe Zones to southern Africa and the other on lead levels in Gyps vultures, were presented. Hanneline was interviewed on Vulture Safe Zones by RSG. Hanneline attended a Flufftail Festival planning meeting. Linda continued lead isotope analyses of vulture blood samples at the University of Johannesburg and travelled to Mpeti Game Reserve (Zululand) to attend the AGM of the KZN chapter of Wildlife Ranching South Africa (WRSA), where she presented a talk on lead poisoning in South Africa’s vulture species. Carina Coetzer and Sakhile Mthalane completed the monthly surveys and Carina commenced with analyses of all data. Breeding monitoring for Southern Bald Ibis and White-bellied Korhaan also continued around Ingula Nature Reserve. Robin Colyn continued with Taita Falcon ecological niche modelling and prepared for the upcoming rallid camera trap survey. Melissa Whitecross was on leave this week.
Sam Ralston and Nndwa Mahale submitted an article to African Birdlife magazine and attended a seminar at the FitzPatrick Institute by Juanma Perez from Spain who discussed the use of raptors as indicator species for the management of wildlife-energy infrastructure conflicts. A letter was sent to the Department of Environmental Affairs (co-signed by the South African Bat Advisory Panel) offering technical support regarding operational phase mitigation at wind farms. Sam also drafted an internal discussion document on the opportunities and implications of the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions for BirdLife South Africa and commented on the draft Basic Assessments for the Proposed Highlands Wind Energy Facilities (North, South and Central) and associated grid connections (Eastern Cape Province).
Landscape Analysis & Project Development
Daniel Marnewick attended a meeting hosted by the Department of Environmental Affairs on the Global Environmental Facility 7 funding stream. This is significant funding that could assist BirdLife South Africa unlock substantial programme funding if a large enough project could be formulated with partners.
Wilge Stewardship Project
Ernst Retief met with Rick Dillon, the chair of the Upper Wilge Land Owners Association, to discuss the way forward, including the drafting of the constitution and development of a management plan.
Estuary IBA Conservation Project
Giselle Murison attended the Klein River Estuary Advisory Forum, where she provided feedback on the recent bird information signage working group meeting and the Estuaries Conservation Project. Giselle also met with landowners entering into stewardship at the Klein River estuary this week, to discuss various environmental management initiatives being developed for their property, including alien vegetation clearing and the construction of bat and owl boxes. Giselle participated in the first day of CapeNature’s Stewardship Peer Learning Programme on Thursday. Discussions focused on taking forward the recommendations of the Table Mountain Fund/BirdLife South Africa report, ‘Enhancing Biodiversity Stewardship in South Africa’, with additional presentations on Biodiversity Offsets.
Blue Swallow Monitoring Project
Steve McKean and Brent Coverdale met to finalise the allocation of monitoring sites to different partners, EKZNW Honorary Officers and staff as well as themselves for this blue Swallow season. Reports have been received that the birds have returned to parts of the KZN Midlands and monitoring has been initiated. A meeting involving all monitors and partners has been set for 9 November to evaluate progress, prioritise monitoring areas and deal with any challenges.
Mistbelt Grassland and Forest Conservation Project
Steve McKean and partners undertook the stewardship site assessment for Bravo Zulu properties. This area is critical for all three crane species and has the source of the Umgeni River within its boundary. This area is key for water production, wetland, grassland and critically endangered bird species conservation in KZN. The outcome of the assessment will be presented to the KZN Biodiversity Stewardship Working Group at their next meeting on 29 November where a stewardship category will be allocated based on the assessment. Steve also engaged with the landowner of Sunnyvale to discuss the need for the proposed Nature Reserve area of the property to be surveyed out. The landowner is aware of the costs and of the assistance available to him to cover these costs. He requested time to consider the issue and has said he will revert with his decision in due course.
Supporting Biodiversity Stewardship
Dale Wright participated in a workshop on protected area expansion as part of the Arid Zone Ecology Forum. He then led a workshop at the Western Cape biodiversity stewardship peer learning forum on Thursday. Both presentations tackled challenges and opportunities, with a focus on specific interventions which can be taken forward to enhance the sector.
Data Management Project
Ernst Retief distributed his document “Measuring protection effectiveness for terrestrial bird species in Protected Areas and OECMs in South Africa: Proposed Method” to staff for comments. He also submitted a draft mock-up of the layout of the proposed Annotated Checklist Series for further comments.
IBA/KBAs and bird data and Spatial planning Project
Ernst Retief submitted an interim report to BirdLife International for the IUCN/BirdLife International Species Monitoring Survey. Information about monitoring surveys for more than 50 projects were included in the report.
South African Key Biodiversity Areas
Daniel Marnewick, along with representatives from the South African National Biodiversity institute (SANBI), met with the consultants Resilience Environmental Advice. Resilience will be undertaking the revision of South Africa’s Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) over the next 12 months. Daniel will be overseeing this process with SANBI, and Ernst Retief will be representing the IBA data in the process. Daniel also prepared for the next KBA national Coordination Group Meeting, planned for 5 November.
Regional and Global Key Biodiversity Areas
Daniel spent time preparing his attendance at various upcoming meetings and conferences: (a) Biodiversity Stewardship Technical Working Group, 23-24 October. Daniel will present on Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs), (b) OECM Stakeholder meetings, 29 October (hosted by Daniel and Candice Stevens) and (c) Convention on Biological Diversity COP 14, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, 16-25 November. Daniel will be presenting at the side events for OECMs, KBAs, and attending discussions on protected areas and Aichi Target 11.
Awareness for IBA & KBA Conservation
Daniel Marnewick finalised the IBA Strategy 2018-2023 V1.2 and distributed the final version to partners and staff.
POLICY & ADVOCACY PROGRAMME
Candice Stevens attended the South African GEF 7 Workshop this week in Pretoria where the Global Environment Facility (GEF) allocation for South Africa was determined. Candice assisted the Terrestrial Species Programme and the BirdLife Africa Secretariat with a vulture proposal for GEF 7. Candice also finalised further technical submissions for National Treasury regarding the amendment to section 37C of the Income Tax Act. Candice also delivered a detailed South African Privately Protected Areas Case Study to the United Nations Development Programme. Lastly, Candice worked on last minute affidavits and monitored the Mabola court case.
This week Jonathan Booth attended the hearings at the Pretoria High Court concerning the judicial review of the decision made by the State to grant mining rights within a Protected Environment (the proposed Atha Africa mine in the Mabola Protected Environment). BirdLife South Africa is a member of a coalition of NGOs opposing this mine, and who are being represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights. The hearing concluded on Thursday, and judgement has been reserved. Jonathan also reviewed and made comments on an environmental impact assessment for exploratory gas drilling off the South African coastline and engaged with members of the public with regards to a property development project in the Cape Town area. Jonathan will be on annual leave from 19 to 29 October.
AVITOURISM & SPECIAL PROJECTS PROGRAMME
Martin Taylor attended a Destination Awareness workshop in Hoedspruit, Limpopo, and gave a presentation on birdwatching opportunities in southern Mozambique and Eswatini. A further meeting was held with Roland Vorwerk (Boundless Southern Africa) and Tanya Alexander (Peace Parks Foundation) to discuss plans for birding tourism development work in the Maputo Special Reserve, Mozambique. Logistics for an upcoming trip to attend a KAZA Secretariat meeting in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, were dealt with. The programme was successful with an application to the Darwin Initiative and have been invited to submitted a proposal in Round 2. Guide training issues were addressed. Final planning for a Partnership for International Birding tour being led by David Letsaolo was undertaken.
Invitations have been sent out for the Durban Golden Bird Patron event at uShaka Marine World in November. The first set of Sappi prints were sold this week Shireen Gould met with Andy Featherstone from Wits Bird Club to work through their overdue membership lists. The monthly BirdLife South Africa Management Committee meeting was held. Mark Anderson attended the two-day Oppenheimer/De Beers conferetnce, and he then travelled to the USA where he will be attended a week of vulture conservation meetings in Annaplois, Maryland.