29 January - 2 February 2018


Threatened species

Hanneline Smit-Robinson attended a meeting with Sam Ralston (project manager) and colleagues from the Royal Society for Protection of Birds to discuss BirdLife South Africa’s Birds and Renewable Energy project . Hanneline also attended a meeting with Airports Company South Africa and another meeting to discuss the proposed White-winged Flufftail research facility. Melissa Whitecross and Linda van den Heever met with Ian Barber and Chris Magin from the RSPB to update them on the work that they are currently involved in. Melissa, Linda and Hanneline held a Skype meeting with members from EWT regarding the upcoming Raptor Research Foundation Conference. Melissa spent most of the week accessing citizen science data on Black Storks from the eBird database, compiling a literature review for the juvenile Secretarybird dispersal publication and collating the January tracking data for the Grey-headed Gulls in the ACSA birdstrike project. She also uploaded additional species to the National Sensitive Species List database coordinated by SANBI. Carina Coetzer assisted Ernst Retief and Bradley Gibbons (EWT) with the Wilge Stewardship Initiative by meeting with several interested farmers in the area. She and Sakhile Mthalane also monitored several threatened species at Ingula, including all three crane species, and Yellow-breasted Pipits. Robin Colyn continued data collation and analyses as part of the White-winged Flufftail 2017-2018 survey project. Robin spent a significant part of the week designing and compiling an environmental, topographical and climatic modelling framework. These analyses form part of a forest conservation network project currently underway in collaboration with the University of KwaZulu-Natal and will aim to delineate priority forest habitat across core provinces. Linda finalised the content of the Flock on the West Coast 2018 pocket guide, researched the prey preferences of the Black Stork, investigated guidelines on how to conduct a systematic review and met with Col. Burgert Kloppers from the SAPS to discuss matters relating to the lead project.

Renewable Energy

Sam Ralston met with Marshall Mabin and Stephnie Kot, new chairs of the South African Wind Energy Associations Environmental Working Group. She also met with Tommie Potgieter, of Moyeng Energy, to discuss mitigation at some of their wind farms that are in the pipeline. She met with Prof. Peter Ryan and Vonica Perold from the FitzPatrick Institute to touch base on their plans for the year, and met with Dr Gareth Tate (EWT) to discuss projects he has planned for raptors that are of relevance to wind energy. She also had a Skype meeting with Dr Morgan Pfeiffer to discuss her research on Cape Vultures and the draft Cape Vulture Guidelines. In between all the meetings ,Sam also drafted text for a new brochure on birds and wind energy, and drafted a press release relating to the proposed Letseng Wind Farm in Lesotho.


Common Oceans

Ross Wanless and Nini vd Merwe concluded a very important meeting with scientists from Japan, to map out objectives and collaborations for the forthcoming Seabird Bycatch Assessment workshop in Peru, and this was Bronwyn Maree’s sole focus for the week.

Albatross Task Force

Andrea Angel engaged with Rory Crawford (the new ATF Coordinator at RSPB) to discuss the upcoming ATF workshop being held in Argentina in March. She also assisted the South African National Antarctic Programme with the shortlisting of candidates who will be carrying out mouse research work on Marion Island during 2018/19. Philip Augustyn returned from his pelagic longline trip this week and has been entering the data for the remainder of the week. Reason Nyengera  provided reports of the data collected onboard pelagic longline vessels to Bronwyn. He also left on his first demersal longline trip for this year. Makhudu Masotla worked on demonstration kits of bird scaring lines and helped Andrew de Blocq collect loggers off African Penguins at Stony Point.

Coastal Seabirds

Andrew de Blocq and Taryn Morris worked on a funding grant to address urgent action needed for the endangered Bank Cormorant. They, together with Makhudu Masotla, also attended an R tracking workshop kindly facilitated by Alistair McInnes. Taryn continued with the theme of the tracking workshop and spent time cleaning and analysing the non-breeding season penguin tracking data. Christina Hagen met with a Transnet lighthouse services representative see how we can collaborate and share resources (i.e. use their electricity) at the De Hoop penguin colony, which is near one of Transnet's lighthouses.


Ross put in another brief appearance in the office between trips, and spent the time catching up with some of the team, dealing with a slew of late/overdue reports, and a backlog of hundreds of emails. La luta continua! But Ross’s primary focus remains on supporting the Common Oceans work in the lead-up to the Peru workshop, while also touching base with Alcyon team in Dakar and trying not to be the obstacle to progress in recruiting the new bycatch staff. Nini was on leave after the Japan workshop.


Daniel Marnewick and Bezeng Bezeng met with Chris Magin and Ian Barber from the RSPB to introduce them to Bezeng’s project, the “Regional Redlist Programme”. Daniel spent the rest of the week writing reports, funding proposal, preparing for next week’s Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) National Coordination Group meeting, and developing a survey for the KBA Community members. Romy Antrobus-Wuth spent time this week finalising the organisation of the first Booze for Birds event, to be held at Isdell House on Sunday afternoon. She also spent time on the IBA (and P&A) social media campaigns and looking into options for this year’s Phil Liggett fundraising event.


Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Free State

Ernst Retief visited the eastern Free State from Monday to Wednesday, together with Carina Coetzee and Bradley Gibbons, to meet with landowners and other role players within the Wilge Stewardship Area. The visit was successful as four landowners agreed, in principle, to support the stewardship initiative. Meetings were also held with the owners of Oaklands about the Murphy’s Rust IBA which is up for sale. A short meeting was also held with the principle of a local school to talk about co-operation opportunities. A further meeting was held at Van Reenen with Bongikosi Ndaba, a local bird guide, as to how he can be used in the Wilge Stewardship Area. A number of atlas cards were also compiled.

Western Cape

Dale Wright travelled back from Chile early this week, and continued with preparations for the year ahead. These included final reviews of project budgets, and re-design of annual work plans and performance appraisals to align with the new IBA Programme Strategy. Dale and Giselle Murison also met to discuss strategic priorities for the year ahead, and the growth of the Estuaries Conservation Project in the Western Cape. Dale met with Kerry Maree of the Table Mountain Fund to discuss progress in our Biodiversity Stewardship review project, provide a report back on the International Land Conservation Congress, and discuss potential new projects which may be launched later this year. A meeting was also held with a MSc student who will be studying Agulhas Long-billed Larks.


Cape Estuaries Stewardship Project

On Monday, Giselle Murison attended a farmers’ meeting near Moorreesburg on the drought crisis in the lower Berg River area. She also met with staff from the Berg River municipality at their offices in Piketberg on Tuesday around proposed developments in the lower estuary. Giselle spent much of the rest of the week organising meetings with landowners at the Berg River estuary for February and preparing for a meeting next week with landowners at the Klein River estuary.


Candice Stevens returned from attending the International Land Conservation Network Congress in Santiago, Chile. A number of exciting outcomes were achieved during this conference, most notably, Candice has been asked to co-chair a global committee on tax conservation incentives for private land conservation together with the USA’s leading tax expert in this field. This is a very exciting prospect and Candice is honoured to receive this level of international recognition for her work on biodiversity tax incentives for Privately Protected Areas in South Africa. Additionally, Candice will be providing case studies on the South Africa PPA situation to the IUCN as well as case studies to the UNDP BioFin project as a country expert as actions from the congress.


Jonathan worked on two project concepts for proactive advocacy work which have potential for significant impacts. He also spent the week researching and following up on important Lesotho based infrastructure threats, and engaged with government ministries in Maseru with regards to setting up meetings.


Martin Taylor attended a workshop in Johannesburg hosted by the Department of Environmental Affairs and the German Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) focusing on the development of cross border tourism products. A talk was presented on developing birding tourism throughout the SADC region. Several productive meetings were held during the course of the workshop with opportunities to further birding tourism work in the Lebombo and KAZA transfrontier areas. Work was initiated on the drafting of proposals in this regard. Martin travelled to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, to meet with RSPB and BirdLife Zimbabwe representatives as part of BirdLife South Africa’s commitment to assisting partner development in the region. A scoping application to the Darwin Initiative to undertake work at Mt Moco, Angola, was completed and submitted. Ian Owtram coordinated the PDP applications of learners and met with two lodge managers regarding the ACSA guide placement initiative.


Wakkerstroom is turning greener and greener each week.  Close on 65mm has fallen the past week and we are all a little soggy.  This however hasn’t slowed down the activity at the Centre.  Kristi Garland and David Nkosi have been taking roads less travelled this week, visiting the National Lotteries Biodiversity Stewardship schools both in Mpumalanga and KZN.  Over four days we visited ten of the forty schools, keeping in mind that some of these schools are either in long forgotten areas or are currently inaccessible due to the rather wet weather.  We can report the following sightings from our travels:  Red-backed Shrike and Golden-breasted Bunting on the Utrecht Road, Red-footed Falcon and Violet-backed Starling in the Pongola area, Mocking Cliff Chat on the Jankieshoek Road and a Long-crested Eagle on the Dirkiesdorp Road.  Wednesday afternoon saw Kristi attending the junior bird club meeting at Country College where we discussed the year ahead with the learners.  Kristi also attended the Wakkerstroom Walks and Trails meeting on Wednesday.  Here further discussion were held as to adding mountain biking routes to our current walks.  Thursday afternoon was the turn of the Clay Edu-Centre’s junior bird club with both Kristi and David.  This lesson focussed on identifying organisms in water samples taken from the wetland and as well categorising various birds according to their habitat preference.  Kristi and David spent Friday planning school visits for the week ahead as well as catching up on some administrative tasks.  The Working on Fire team was out on production this week, completing 55ha clearing of alien invasive plants. Our Centre’s renovations are moving along nicely with a few more quotations coming in throughout the week, some jobs finishing off and new ones starting.   Kristi received some really exciting news this week from the Spring Alive African Action of the year competition.  She entered two actions this year – Ringo – the Journey of a White Stork children’s book and the Spring Alive Advent calendar.  All coordinators across Europe and Africa voted for their favourite action and we are pleased to share that Ringo won the African component of this competition.  Thanks must be extended to Carol Preston (artwork) and Judy-Lynn Wheeler for their assistance in bringing Ringo to life.  Saturday saw the Centre hosting the Wakkerstroom Bird Club AGM with Bob Scholes as our guest speaker. 


Meetings were held this week with Ulrico Grech-Cumbo (regarding the possibility of a VR video for BirdLife South Africa), Casper Kruger (MD of Ford South Africa), Andy Rice (marketing guru, and television presenter), and Paul Nel (Beyond Luxury). A large amount of time was spent preparing the Board packs for next week’s Board of Director’s meeting.