BirdLife South Africa e-Newsletter: May 2017

Flock at Sea 3What the Flock is all the fuss about AGAIN?

Tuesday, 25 April 2017 was a day that few people on Flock at Sea AGAIN! will ever forget. By now it is probably also etched in many bird books, notebooks, spreadsheets and apps as the day a lucky few (hundred) got to tick off lifer after lifer after lifer. ‘GREY PETREL! SHY ALBATROSS! WHITE-HEADED PETREL! WANDERING ALBATROSS RIGHT BEHIND THE BOAT!’ were just a few of the IDs shouted by guides throughout the morning. Read more.

Shop For the Birds!

Shop for the birdsAt Shop For the Birds! we have books, T-shirts, bird feeders, pin badges, posters and cards. The T-shirts are 100% quality cotton and printed Direct to Garment so the pattern won’t fade or peel. A variety of designs are available, ranging in price from R140 to R300 (excluding postage).

Among the books we have in stock are Guide to Seabirds of Southern Africa, 101 Kruger Tales, Roberts Bird Guide (2nd edition), Eagles of Africa, South African Birdfinder, Guide to Birds of the KNP, Guide to Dragonflies & Damselflies and the two ever-popular Chamberlain’s guides, LBJs and Waders. We have also just received a range of brilliant kiddies’ nature and birding books, as well as the stories of Landy. Our range of bird feeders and suet and seed products are locally sourced and made, including the new Suet Pop, a feeder with a difference.
Shop For the Birds! is open Monday to Friday, 08h00 to 14h30, at Isdell House, 17 Hume Road, Dunkeld West in Johannesburg. Arrangements can also be made to have merchandise posted. Contact Janine on 011 789 1122 or

Fast & Featherless

Ride this year’s Telkom 94.7 Cycle Challenge as part of BirdLife South Africa’s Fast & Featherless Charity Bond Team. All funds raised by cyclists taking part will go to the Important Bird and Bioidversity Area Programme, which works to conserve important bird habitats across South Africa. Join us for a day of fun in the name of conservation. To find out how to register to ride with the BirdLife Team, contact Romy at

94.7 Cyclists new shirts

Verlorenvlei Conservancy

VerlorenvleiThe manager of the Verlorenvlei Protected Areas Project has been working with the community of landowners around Verlorenvlei for a number of years as part of the WWF Nedbank Green Trust-funded project in the area. Recently six landowners, primarily farmers living next to the Verlorenvlei Estuary, have come together to form the Verlorenvlei Conservancy. Their properties currently cover an area of 14 000 hectares on both the southern and northern banks of the estuary, between the Elands Bay bridge and the Redelinghuys bridge. Their main goals for the coming year are to increase the membership of the conservancy and to document the threatened biodiversity – especially vegetation types – on their properties. The project manager will be helping the conservancy to finalise its registration with CapeNature and supplying information about alien clearing, reed management and other environment-related matters. The conservancy could act as a buffer for the Verlorenvlei Estuary Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA), helping to mitigate negative environmental impacts on the IBA.

The Verlorenvlei Conservancy and the Moutonshoek Valley Protected Environment form part of the Sandveld Corridor within the Greater Cederberg Biodiversity Corridor (GCBC), and the conservancy will play a direct role in furthering the GCBC’s conservation goals. The GCBC’s focus is essentially on people, primarily rural communities and landowners, and how they utilise their land. The initiative strives to introduce people to sustainable ways of using both the land and the natural resources of this unique and diverse region, while maintaining or restoring ecological connectivity across the landscape.

Already the GCBC includes the Cederberg Mountains and Verlorenvlei Estuary IBAs, but to achieve its goals it needs to stimulate the creation of additional protected areas through voluntary stewardship agreements such as conservancies, biodiversity agreements and contract nature reserves. The introduction of more benign land-use strategies and the restoration of degraded lands in key sites are also important. The Verlorenvlei Protected Areas Project has been working to address these goals, in particular supporting landowners keen on signing voluntary stewardship agreements. Our work in this region is helping to maintain ecological connectivity, support livelihoods and protect threatened biodiversity.


Swarovski binoculars

Swarovski BinocularsWe are very pleased to announce that on the Flock at Sea AGAIN! 2017 cruise we received no fewer than 66 applications for Conservation League membership, bringing the total number of Conservation League Members to 152. Thank you to all who took part in the lucky draw for the Swarovski binoculars; your support helps us to conserve South Africa’s birds and their habitats. Additional thanks are due to Andrew Whysall of Whylo Distributors, the generous donor of the binoculars.

A World Penguin Day to remember!

On World Penguin Day, participants in the Flock at Sea AGAIN! 2017 cruise were generous in both word and deed. We received a multitude of personal sustainability World Penguin Daypledges, whereby people promised to eat only sustainable seafood, stop using single-use plastic items and get involved in coastal clean-ups. These pledges went onto the ‘colony wall’, a visual display of everyone’s promises. We also asked people to support us financially by donating to penguin conservation – and we are delighted to announce that passengers pledged R51 000! A big, heartfelt thanks from everyone in the Seabird Office! This sum will make a big difference to the work we do, from ensuring there are enough fish in the sea for penguins to creating new penguin colonies. Special thanks go to Zeiss, who pledged R20 000.

We also officially launched BirdLife International’s #ProtectAPenguin campaign to raise funds for penguin conservation both within South Africa and globally. Please visit to see how you can help.

The highlight of World Penguin Day aboard MSC Sinfonia was undoubtedly the Captain’s Dinner, when we asked everyone to dress up as penguins and join us for drinks at the ship’s various bars. What a sight that was – hundreds of ‘penguins’ sipping champagne! We would like to thank everyone who made an effort, from a picture of a penguin stuck to their shirt to masks and full-on penguin onesies!
If you were not at Flock at Sea AGAIN! 2017 but would also like to contribute to the penguin work we do, please contact

On the high seas
Steve’s poem:

Out on the limitless oceanFor on the high seas poem
Nothing to see but the waves:
Ever changing, peaking, subsiding,
All the same but each detail different.
Cairns upon hills upon mountains,
Rolling, swirling, constantly in motion.
Now smooth, now rough,
Now blue, now white,
Wind whipping the spray along. Read more.

On the road with Ross

In early April my colleague Bronwyn Maree and I headed to Hoi An in Vietnam to run the second regional workshop on seabird bycatch. We’re trying to build consensus among the key nations that catch lots of seabirds in tuna longline operations that a global review should be undertaken. And then we need to figure out the hows and whys. It’s always tricky going into a meeting not knowing if there will be agreement, especially as the first regional workshop (in Kruger Park) laid groundwork but didn’t finish the plan. Would that groundwork still be acceptable? Could we get agreement on a final plan? Would the recent significant changes in Japan’s structures mean that progress made with that country at the first workshop would be undone? Read more.

African Birdlife magazine

African Birdlife MayNests is a recurring theme in the latest issue of African Birdlife. There’s a feature on the ‘tiny tailors’ of nest-building, a portfolio of nest photography, and the shocking revelation of the culprits in nest predation, as uncovered by camera-trap sleuths… It’s not just about the home front, though; for a really exotic birding trip, why not head up to Cameroon? But not before you’ve enjoyed all the regular rare bird news, snippets from science, readers’ input and competitions, plus a new gardening column.

BirdLife South Africa e-Newsletter: April 2017

penguinsmustnotfall mtPenguins must not fall!

Penguins are one of the most endangered seabird species worldwide and threats to their survival include habitat loss, food shortages, oil spills, predation, climate change and mortality caused by fishing nets. The African Penguin faces all these threats and its populations in South Africa and Namibia, the only two countries where it occurs, are decreasing.

The #ProtectAPenguin campaign launched by BirdLife South Africa in conjunction with the BirdLife International Partnership aims to improve the fortunes of penguins around the world by tackling the major threats that are driving declines. To achieve this, it intends to
• identify the most important places at sea for penguins and advocate for their protection
• tackle bycatch in fisheries
• carry out scientific and advocacy work to improve fisheries management
• protect important colonies by controlling predators, restoring habitat and improving security
• establish new colonies where appropriate
• monitor penguin populations to assess the effectiveness of conservation action

BirdLife South Africa is working to save the African Penguin by creating colonies in new locations and protecting vital marine habitat. To read more about our work, visit

If you would like to help #ProtectAPenguin, visit today to see how you can contribute to our research and conservation efforts.

Focus on Paarl Bird Sanctuary

Paarl Bird Sanctuary 2Human population pressure is encroaching on Paarl Bird Sanctuary (PBS) as it is on many other wildlife refuges, such as Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) and Ramsar sites.Paarl Bird Sanctuary A project has been started to inform communities that PBS and the adjacent Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTW) are unique assets for environmental and health education, as well as for tourism, recreation and research purposes. This asset belongs to the people. The main objective of the project is to persuade communities to use the asset wisely and help to protect it in perpetuity. To begin with, the project will be targeting schools so that teachers and children can feed information back to the communities they serve.

Five modern, well-equipped and fully staffed schools serve the Mbekweni community, which lies adjacent to PBS. A slide show presentation about PBS has been staged for teachers at these Mbekweni schools, as well as two in an adjacent community. Ninety pupils from Desmond Tutu High School toured the WWTW and PBS in September 2016. A number of children spoke favourably about the visit. Among their comments were:
‘I learnt many different things about birds, their behaviour and how they raise their children. It was the most awesome lesson I ever had.’
‘I enjoyed each and every moment I spent. I learnt so many new things about birds and nature and it made me more curious to study about nature.’

In addition, 150 scholars from Groenheuwel Primary School toured PBS over two days in February 2017. The focus for these younger children was on birds and there was great excitement when they got close-up views of Greater Flamingos. Telescopes were manned by volunteers and 50 pairs of binoculars were on loan from the Cape Bird Club. Colourful laminated bird ID charts were distributed to the children, together with a score card (in three languages), and they were asked to identify as many of the birds shown on the chart as they could. There was also a tour around the pans by bus, with stops to see and identify birds. As the photos confirm, a great time was had by all.

It is essential for children to get the environmental education that can only be provided by this type of outdoor excursion. In this way, and by creating neighbourly good will and support, we are hoping to put Paarl Bird Sanctuary back on the birding map.

For more information or to offer support, please contact John Fincham at

Back at the Berg to clear aliens

Berg River article bContinuing their efforts to eradicate alien vegetation from the Berg River estuary, the BirdLife South Africa team sprayed herbicide and hacked out plants from a stretch of the riverbank more than six kilometres long. The typical problem species were in evidence again, and work focused on the removal of coppicing blue gum, Sesbania species and ‘boetebos’ Xanthium spinosum. The team also recorded the location of significant erosion points along this stretch of the Berg River for input into the developing erosion control programme.

Funded by the Western Cape Estuaries Conservation Project, these practical conservation actions are identified in collaboration with farmers and, by producing tangible and positive results, they have helped to establish good relations with landowners. The primary objective of the Estuaries Conservation Project is to achieve formal protection for valuable, but highly vulnerable estuaries, such as that of the Berg River, through Biodiversity Stewardship or similar conservation models. The support of landowners is key to attaining this objective, and it is only by working together that we will achieve protection for the Berg River Estuary and ensure a safe haven for its incredible birdlife.

For more information, please contact Giselle Murison at

 An addition to the IBA teamRomy Headshot

A welcome addition to the Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) Programme, Romy Antrobus-Wuth will assist with marketing, media and fundraising and will provide general conservation support. She conducted research for her Master’s degree in Geography and Environmental Studies on the Makuleke Wetlands, a Ramsar site in the Pafuri section of the Kruger National Park, and is practised at conducting environmental impact assessments and management plans and at giving GIS support. Romy loves being outdoors and exploring wild places – the more remote, the better. She grew up in a family of avid birders and runs a green lifestyle blog to encourage people to make environment-friendly choices in their everyday lives.

Romy is looking forward to experiencing the different and inspiring work environment of a conservation NGO and to being part of the BirdLife South Africa team.

Buy this book, help IBAs

Igerbook CollageJoburg through the Eyes of Igers is a limited-edition coffee-table book that features the photographic talents of local Instagram enthusiasts (or Igers) and showcases the city of Johannesburg in a new and artistic light. From street scenes and urban architecture to powerful portraits, it captures the essence of the city in all its glory.
All proceeds from the sale of the book go to BirdLife South Africa’s Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) Programme and will support habitat management in identified IBAs.

Buy your copy for only R795 from

Roberts artwork for saleRoberts G.A Thrushes 1

Paintings commissioned for the two editions of the Roberts bird guide have now been available for purchase for two months and are selling briskly. The artworks by Ingrid Weiersbye, Penny Meakin, Graham Arnott and Ronald Cook include plates of cisticolas, raptors, waders and seabirds. Income from the sale of the plates goes to the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund and BirdLife South Africa to enable them to continue their work for the present and future welfare of birds. Go to  to view the plates for sale.

‘Big 6’ T-shirts for a small price!

WhatsApp Image 2017 04 21 at 12.42.51We have a limited supply of beautiful ‘Big 6’ T-shirts, which are made of 100% pure cotton. The design is printed Direct to Garment so it won’t fade or peel, and you can tick off the ‘Big 6’ birds with permanent marker as you see them.

The T-shirts can be purchased directly from ‘Shop For the Birds!’ (open Monday to Friday from 08h00 to 14h30) at Isdell House, 17 Hume Road, Dunkeld West in Johannesburg. Arrangements can also be made to have them posted. Contact Janine on 011 789 1122 or

BBD at Mongena Game Lodge

Take Flight to Mongena Game Lodge in Dinokeng Game Reserve for an exciting Birding Big Day event as part of Witwatersrand Bird Club’s 70th anniversary celebrations. The target for this BBD event is 200 bird species. Proceeds in aid of BirdLife South Africa conservation projects. Click here for more information.


BirdLife South Africa e-Newsletter: March 2017

CapturePeter Steyn’s latest book

Peter Steyn’s travels have taken him from the Arctic to the Antarctic as well as to remote islands such as Ascension. Seven of the twenty-one chapters deal specifically with his

Roberts Bird Guide 3

seventeen years in Zimbabwe. The book is illustrated with 425 of his photographs. The price of the book, which can only be ordered from, is R300 with delivery

additional (depending on the buyer’s delivery preference). It is NOT in bookshops.

Roberts’ bird art

The absolutely magnificent original art from the “Roberts Bird Guide” is available for sale. See for

images of the 397 plates, prices, and details about how to purchase the art. Note that 25% of the proceeds of all sales will go to BirdLife South Africa, thus contributing to the conservation of birds in South Africa.

On the Road with Ross

Albatrosses in Kruger! No, this was not another freak landfall of seabirds in the park after Cyclone Dineo. It was a seabird workshop that we hosted in Skukuza, after our first-choice venue proved insufficiently attractive to invitees. Read more.

Penguin LoveValentine’s Day Winner

To celebrate the month of love, BirdLife South Africa ran a promotion for our loyal members to stand a chance to win a mid-week break for six people at the gorgeous self-catering Crab Apple Cottages. Delightfully comfortable, Crab Apple’s AA Superior Cottages are set on the edge of the Kilgobbin Forest and the Dargle Valley Conservancy, and is a popular Birder Friendly Establishment. Members were asked to send in their best photos of “birds being lovey”. While we received many entries, Geoffrey Lautenbach, with his photo of “Penguins in love”, won the grand prize. We’d also like to make special mention of John Jellema and André Stapelberg, our runners-up who both won a Robins of Africa coffee-table book. Thank you to all who entered.

Meet Isabel Human, BirdLife South Africa’s new staff memberIsabel Human

BirdLife South Africa welcomes Isabel Human, who took up the position of “HR Manager/PA to CEO” on 6 March 2017. Isabel was since 2006 the Professional Services Officer at the Zoology and Entomology Department, University of Free State. She has a Master’s Degree in Governance and Political Transformation, which included a Human Resource Management component. She’s also familiar with labour legislation, and has experience in disciplinary processes, performance management, Employment Equity, and much more. Isabel speaks several languages, including seSotho and seTswana. Isabel is also a passionate conservationist, and in her spare time she has completed a PhD degree on the ecology of the panhandle of the Okavango Delta (she will graduate in a few months’ time). Welcome Isabel, and we wish you an enjoyable and productive time in your new career.

Penguin colony camera trap 3Monitoring penguin predators

We’ve been monitoring a site for the new African Penguin colony to see what potential penguin predators are there, so we can set up the best predator deterring measures possible. We’ve identified four potential predators and photographed some other endearing animals. Read more.

Monty Brett Arm Chair Courses

Attend the famous Monty Brett courses, from the comfort of your armchair. Download


BirdLife South Africa e-Newsletter: February 2017

Flufftail Festival

FF 30BirdLife South Africa’s third annual Flufftail Festival kicked off at Maponya Mall in Soweto on 31 January. Coinciding with World Wetlands Day, celebrated on 2 February, the festival focused on a subject that could not be more relevant in drought-stricken South Africa today: the conservation of our most critical natural FF 13resource, water.

A giant maze led mall-goers past five stations, each focusing on a different aspect of water, wetland and waterbird conservation. Stations were manned by representatives from BirdLife South Africa, Rand Water, Eskom and the Department of Environmental Affairs, as well as Joburg City Parks and Zoo (JCPZ), Bay of Grace Tours (Raymond Rampolokeng) and Youth Africa Birding. By filling in an entry form and answering five different questions relating to the different stations in the maze, children of all ages stood a chance to win great prizes from Woolworths, Mr Price, Panarotti’s and JCPZ.

We were especially pleased to welcome learners aged between 7 and 12 from four different primary schools in the Soweto area. First the children were treated to the excellent ‘Waxi the Hero’ puppet show, presented by the Rare Finch Conservation Group in one of the Ster-Kinekor theatres. Eagerly they helped Waxi to find Fluffy, a very rare White-winged Flufftail that had mysteriously disappeared. Once Fluffy had been found, the children were guided through the maze and given the chance to absorb the festival’s main message: without healthy wetlands and clean water, the Fluffies of our planet will disappear for good.

It is especially gratifying that interest in the Flufftail Festival skyrocketed this year, with record numbers of people passing through the maze during the week-long festival. This annual event has grown with each passing year, and it is with great excitement that we anticipate its continued success in the future.

Research into fynbos birds continues...

Fynbos bird research 3Phylogeography is the study of the genetic relationships among individuals or populations (the ‘phylo’ part) and how they are affected by location (the ‘geography’ part). It paints a picture of gene flow within a species, telling us where individuals have moved, identifying barriers and corridors for dispersal, and predicting how species might respond to changes inFynbos bird research climate and land use.

As part of ongoing research into birds endemic to fynbos, Campbell Fleming and Krista Oswald are examining these relationships in the Cape Sugarbird and Cape Rockjumper. In order to do this, they need to collect genetic material from across the species’ ranges. BirdLife South Africa recognises that this work can provide valuable insights for the conservation of fynbos endemics and in late 2016 provided funding for a field trip to two important sampling locations.

The team first visited the majestic Cederberg–Koue Bokkeveld Complex Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) and established a base at Driehoek Guest Farm. Cape Sugarbirds were targeted here by setting up mistnets among protea stands. This was very successful, with a total of 32 Cape Sugarbirds sampled. Cape Rockjumpers, on the other hand, proved to be far more tricky. Instead of using mistnets, the researchers baited spring-loaded traps with mealworms. Sometimes they spent a whole day bagging a rockjumper, first locating a bird (usually very high on a steep slope), then guessing where it might move and setting traps. Then they waited – and more than likely were pulling out their hair in frustration as the rockjumper moved off in a completely different direction! Fortunately Krista has been working with this species for years and is familiar with its behaviour. She predicted the birds’ movements and placed traps with uncanny accuracy, catching a total of 10 rockjumpers.

The next sampling stop was Anysberg Nature Reserve IBA, where CapeNature staff escorted the team up the rough 4x4 track to camp at Anysberg peak. Bad weather made this trip less successful than the Cederberg exercise (one morning the mistnets were found frozen shut!), but the researchers still managed to sample eight Cape Sugarbirds and two Cape Rockjumpers. The Anysberg is a fynbos ‘island’ separated from the Swartberg and Langeberg by a considerable expanse of renosterveld and Karoo vegetation, so the relationships between these populations and neighbouring ones could reveal interesting patterns in movement or important corridors for conservation.

Image credits:
Campbell Fleming: Rockjumper in hand, mountain camp

BirdLasser workshops a huge success

Birdlasser 1There is a close partnership between BirdLife South Africa and BirdLasser, whose mobile app enables you to log the birds you see, and it’s a partnership with mutual benefits.Birdlasser 4 BirdLife South Africa promotes the use of the app to its members and the general public, and in return receives data about threatened bird species. Birders also use the app to submit data to the Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2), and these are used extensively by BirdLife South Africa.

Over the past two years, Ernst Retief of BirdLife South Africa and Henk Nel of BirdLasser have held a number of workshops across the country, travelling from Nelspruit, Pretoria and Johannesburg to Newcastle, Durban, Richards Bay and St Lucia, and on to East London and Port Elizabeth. During the two- to three-hour workshops, Henk explains how to create a trip card, log a species and support conservation causes and SABAP2, while Ernst demonstrates all the steps live on a screen. By the end of the session, participants are able to use all the app’s functions. These workshops are well received and many participants started using the app soon afterwards. BirdLife South Africa covers all the travel and accommodation costs, which currently stand at about R30 000. A few more workshops are planned, including ones in Cape Town, Gauteng and possibly the Northern Cape.

On the road with Ross...

Ross Wanless travel blog Caption Ross and family birding Down Under2016 ended with quite a bang – so big, in fact, that it rolled on into 2017. I spent most of December on leave in Australia with my family, followed by a three-week sabbatical placement with BirdLife Australia, giving me almost seven weeks in that fabulous land of the wallaroo and wombat, platypus and paddymelon (those are all endemic mammals, by the way!). The December bit was pure holiday, spent in New South Wales and including a trip to Cabbage Tree Island, where I was able to tick Gould’s Petrel.

We spent Christmas in Darwin – at the Top End of Down Under – and just before New Year travelled to Cairns, where I spent three weeks working with Dr Golo Maurer, BirdLife Australia’s (BLA) IBA coordinator. I was there to discuss marine IBAs and seabird conservation more generally, as our sister organisation currently has no seabird conservation programme to speak of, yet there is a real need for one. It was a great opportunity to provide some ideas and explore opportunities for BLA to initiate conservation work on seabirds. There are a few challenges, but overcoming the first – getting funds to support someone who will undertake some of the basic work – is likely to be the watershed that is required. Once a person is in place, I am sure BLA will fast become a serious player in seabird conservation.

Readers of my travel blog will know that I’ve visited Australia twice before – Tasmania and the Perth area – so it was by a combination of luck and design that I ended up going to places that gave me access to new habitats and, critically, many new bird species! Of the 256 species that I saw in the seven weeks, 132 were lifers and 141 were new to my Australia list. A real highlight, after days of fruitless searching, was a weekend trip to Etty Bay, south of Cairns, where we had amazing views of a Southern Cassowary. It was also immensely satisfying to ‘page out’ on Australia’s stunning rosella parrots and find all its ‘rainbow’ birds (lorikeet, bee-eater and pitta), while getting to grips with some of the continent’s most celebrated mammals. Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroo and the wombats feeding on my colleague Nicholas Carlile’s lawn take first prize!

My next trip, in February, is local – to the Kruger National Park for a workshop. I’ll probably see more mammal species in two days than I saw in seven weeks in Oz, but I suspect I’ll see fewer birds…

Exciting news about Africa’s rarest seabird

There are probably several contenders for the ‘rarest bird’ in Africa; even under the seabird banner there are a few. But among the latter, the cryptic Reunion/Mascarene Petrel Pseudobulweria aterrima is top of the list inMascarene Petrel Photo H Shirihai The Tubenoses Project 9 my view. Its population size is unknown, although we’re pretty certain it is extremely small and probably decreasing. Barely any information exists about the species at all. It breeds exclusively on Reunion Island in the Mascarenes and is a member of the enigmatic Pseudobulweria group, which comprises four species. Of these, only one is not Critically Endangered and has a known nesting site. Every year a few Mascarene Petrel fledglings are found in a particular coastal town on Reunion, downed by street and house lights at night, and there are a few scattered records of the species at sea. And that’s it. Or at least, that was it until earlier this year.

Dr Patrick Pinet and his colleagues reported in January that, after many years of searching, they have finally found a small breeding colony! This beats other teams trying to find colonies of Fiji Petrel P. macgillivrayi and Beck’s Petrel P. becki. Now, at last, we can learn more about the Reunion Petrel’s breeding ecology, estimate the population size and possibly locate other colonies on the island (if they exist). More importantly, however, the national parks authority in Reunion can start active predator control. Feral house cats and introduced rats are ubiquitous on the island and are a source of significant mortality for all Reunion’s endemic birds, including its other endemic petrel, the Endangered Barau’s Petrel Pterodroma baraui.
Image credit: Hadoram Shirihai

Welcome to the team

Melissa WhitecrossBirdLife South Africa’s Terrestrial Bird Conservation Programme is pleased to welcome Melissa Whitecross, an intern with a highly impressive pedigree. Her MSc on the benefits of early-greening phenology (for us lesser mortals, that means when deciduous trees flush their new leaves ahead of the start of seasonal rainfall) was upgraded to a PhD and was submitted for examination at the end of 2016. Despite this unforgivable lapse into savanna ecology, soon-to-be Dr Whitecross is an avid and passionate birder, with a keen interest in branching off into ornithological research in the future.

Having grown up on the East Rand, young Melissa’s passion for nature was sparked by her grandparents, who took her into their garden or the nearby park to admire birds, butterflies and flowers. We are eternally grateful to them as Melissa, now a newly fledged scientist, is ready to enter the world of conservation and use her remarkable skills to help us save South Africa’s birds. Oh, and when she is not chasing year lists, she hikes, runs and plays field hockey. In other words, a woman not to be taken lightly.

Welcome, Melissa. We look forward to working with you!

Stanford Youth Eco-Camp

Photo 2 Practicing with binoculars with Stanford Bird Club chairperson Peter Hochfelden Sheraine Van WykThis summer, participants in the Stanford Youth Eco-Camp were given the opportunity to help gather ecological data for a number of different conservation projects at the Klein River. Organised by Whale Coast Photo 1 Giselle Murison introducing the morning birdwalk Sheraine Van WykConservation, the camp drew local learners of all ages. Activities ranged from frogging and fishing to dragonfly monitoring and birding.

Giselle Murison, BirdLife South Africa’s Estuaries Conservation Project Manager, took the lead on birding and gave a short introductory presentation on the local birds. Then, helped by Stanford Bird Club members, learners first practised with binoculars, focusing on photos of birds and, more interestingly, a nearby African Harrier-Hawk nest with attending adult.

Practice was followed by a birding walk through Stanford, with the young birders checking species off their lists of common local birds provided and using field guides to add to their tallies. The group followed the ‘Wandelpad’ through the reedbed and gardens, ticking species like African Paradise Flycatcher and Common Waxbill before finishing at the Willem Appel Dam bird hide with Black Crake, African Swamphen and Malachite Kingfisher.

A research project is currently being developed to monitor bird activity in and around the dam and several of the youngsters from the camp will help with future monitoring. With more than 40 species recorded and fun had by all, the day proved to be an enjoyable introduction to Stanford birding!

The eco-camp was made possible through the support of Ds. Jan Bronkhorst (NG Church, Stanford), Overstrand Municipality and WWF South Africa’s Table Mountain Fund.

BirdLife South Africa e-Newsletter: January 2017

Bird of the Year 2017 pin badges

Bird of the Year 2017 Lappet faced VultureFor 2017 the iconic Lappet-faced Vulture has been chosen as BirdLife South Africa’s Bird of the Year. We are using this majestic bird to highlight the plight of all Africa’s vultures. By purchasing and wearing a pin badge, you will go a long way towards raising awareness of these threatened and often misunderstood, but very necessary birds.

As usual, the pin badges are of very high quality, with information about the species printed on the backing card. They cost R25 each.

Pin badges can be purchased directly from ‘Shop For the Birds!’ (open Monday to Friday from 08h00 to 14h30) at Isdell House, 17 Hume Road, Dunkeld West in Johannesburg. Arrangements can also be made to have them posted.
Contact Janine on 011 789 1122 or

Selati Game Reserve’s annual birding weekendSelati Game Reserve

Birders from around South Africa gathered at Selati Game Reserve in the Greater Kruger Area in November last year to participate in the conservancy’s annual birding weekend. Divided into eight groups, they identified 168 species, including four new sightings (Brown-backed Honeybird, African Jacana, Common Myna and Speckled Pigeon) to increase the reserve’s official list to 300 species.

Although some of the rarer species, such as Arnot’s Chat, were not seen, several sightings of Thick-billed Cuckoo, a vocal Coqui Francolin and the nesting antics of a pair of Grey Penduline-tits got air-time at the end-of-day refreshment hour.

The success of this new annual initiative is helping to ensure a heightened awareness of the birdlife heritage on this 23-year-old, 27 000-hectare Lowveld conservancy.

Saving the White-winged Flufftail

WwF by Arno EllmerIn addition to her efforts for the planned White-winged Flufftail Research Facility at the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria, Professor Antoinette Kotzé and her team have been involved in scientific research that is unravelling the mysteries of the White-winged Flufftail, including pioneering work on immunogenetic variation in the species.

Four academic papers have been completed, the first of which – by Dr Desire Dalton, Dr Elaine Vermaak, Dr Hanneline Smit-Robinson and Professor Kotzé – has been accepted for publication in the prestigious peer-reviewed international journal Scientific Reports. Titled ‘Lack of diversity in innate immunity Toll-like receptor genes in the Critically Endangered White-winged Flufftail (Sarothrura ayresi)’, the paper confirms low genetic diversity in the flufftail similar to that observed in other bird species that have experienced population bottlenecks. The species is thus likely to be more vulnerable to changes in the environment, such as exposure to a new disease.

It is critical that the current conservation and research be continued and that the White-winged Flufftail’s habitat be protected from additional human impact. Professor Kotzé also serves on the national White-winged Flufftail working group of the Department of Environmental Affairs.

Networking for European RollersLilac breasted Roller IMG6448

A familiar and much-admired bird across the bushveld region of South Africa, the European Roller is a charismatic summer visitor from Europe and Asia. During their non-breeding season, the rollers escape the cold northern winter and migrate south, spreading out across much of sub-Saharan Africa to enjoy the region’s abundant food resources.

A common thread running through most of the presentations on Afro-Palaearctic migratory birds was that most research in the past has focused on their breeding grounds in Europe, resulting in a significant lack of information about Afro-Palaearctic species on their non-breeding grounds in Africa. This is certainly true in the case of the European Roller. We hope that the newly formed monitoring network in Africa will help us to fill in some of the vital missing pieces of the migration puzzle, such as population status and trends and the threats these birds face on our continent. This information will then help to inform practical conservation action in the future that will contribute to the conservation of this charismatic species. The Pan African Ornithological Congress in Dakar provided an ideal opportunity to network with conservation organisations and research institutions across different range states in order to set up an active African network.

Helene Loon, BirdLife Species Guardian for European Roller monitoring and conservation

Strandfontein Birding Area Habitat Initiative

StrandfonteinThe Strandfontein Birding Area, part of the False Bay Nature Reserve Important Bird and Biodiversity Area in Cape Town, has been extremely generous of late, providing not only fantastic birding, but also a number of national rarities. There was, for example, a Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin in July 2016, while in December we had a Temminck’s Stint, an American Golden Plover, Pectoral Sandpipers and a Red-necked Phalarope – all at the same time!

But many people may not realise that a tremendous amount of long-term effort and resources goes into the maintenance of this area as a haven for migratory waders and many other bird species, culminating in these great sightings. It’s not just the ‘ponds’ where the rarities have been seen; there are many others that are in dire need of alien vegetation clearing. With this in mind, we launched the Strandfontein Birding Area Habitat Initiative in December 2016 and encouraged our members and other birders to give back to this fantastic site. We were overwhelmed by the initial response and have already accumulated a substantial proportion of our R50 000 target! Thus we wanted to send out huge thanks to those members who have already made generous contributions.

The funds generated so far have been raised via the accumulation of many small donations, showing the true power of our large membership base. We would also like to make one last call for support and encourage our members to contribute to this worthy project – no amount is too small to make a difference! All donations for the future habitat management of this site could go a long way to further improving and maintaining the area.
All monies collected will go directly to habitat management interventions at this site.

Click here to make your donation.

For more information, please contact Dale Wright.

Migratory species and climate change

An international task force has been established to reconcile the need for the rapid deployment of renewable energy while protecting migratory bird species. The Energy Task Force’s first meeting was held in Cape Town late last year and BirdLife South Africa was privileged to share experiences and insights with the group. Read more.

African Birdlife magazine

AB coverThe latest issue of African Birdlife is full of surprises – like observations of unexpected sparrow-lark breeding behaviour and Lesser Jacanas bent on drowning each other. There’s also a feature on scrub robins and the Karoo Scrub Robin ‘misfit’, a profile on one of South Africa’s leading bird photographers and an introduction to the new Bird of the Year. Add in prizes to be won, readers’ photographic observations, rare bird sightings and snippets of scientific news and you’ll want to be sure to get your copy.

BirdLife South Africa e-Newsletter: December 2016

Happy holidays
BirdLife South Africa staff meeting 2 July 2016

On behalf of the team of dedicated and hardworking staff who’re doing all they can to conserve South Africa’s birds, I’d like to wish you restful and enjoyable holidays. The staff are very grateful for all the support they have received from collaborators, donors and our organisation’s members. Thank you for helping us to ‘give conservation wings’.

Mark D. Anderson
Chief Executive Officer
BirdLife South Africa

Saving seabirds

seabirdsFor the Seabird Conservation Programme, 2016 has been a year of steady progress on existing work and expansion into new areas. Our staff also grew to 11 in Cape Town, with two others in West Africa – a great boost to productivity. Read more.




The Events Programme over the past 12 months was as versatile as ever and new twists to familiar themes proved to be very popular.

On behalf of everyone at BirdLife South Africa, I'd like to say a big thank you to everyone who supported our Events Programme for making this year a great one. With 2016 drawing to a close, it's always nice to look back and reflect on the year gone by. Click here for some of the Events Programme highlights of 2016.

Are IBAs better off at the end of 2016?

IBAs Fiscal Benefits Project Pilot Site tax and conservation Photo Y LauransThe IBA Programme contributed to the declaration of 17 000 hectares of priority grassland and wetland protected in the Grasslands IBA. We have another 120 000 hectares in the pipeline in estuaries and grasslands. Read more.

Money matters

There’s good news for BirdLife South Africa on the financial front, largely thanks to the generosity of our supporters who, like us, believe in the importance of ‘giving conservation wings’ .
BirdLife South Africa will end the 2016 financial year with an operating surplus for the seventh year running – a surplus that will be invested wisely to ensure the long-term sustainability of the organisation. This enviable financial situation is thanks largely to the many generous donors who understand that successful conservation projects need to be supported by a sustainable and effective administration. On behalf of the Business Division of BirdLife South Africa, I would like to thank all our supporters. With your continued aid we look forward to taking our organisation to even greater heights in 2017.

Fanie du Plessis
Finance & Operations Manager

What’s going on at WakkerstroomWAKKERSTROOM WEBSITE Spring Alive activities at Country Kids College 2016 Volksrust

It’s been a year of change and progress at the Wakkerstroom Tourism and Education Centre, a year in which we’ve all grown a little more and learnt new things along the way. Albert Einstein said, ‘Life is like a bicycle: to keep your balance, you must keep moving.’ So why don’t you move towards Wakkerstroom in 2017? Click here to book your trip soon to avoid disappointment! Read more.

Advocating for our birds and their habitats

POLICY ADVOCACY EMAILER CoP 13 CITES2016 seems to have been an eventful year for everyone with whom I have chatted and it’s been no different for the Policy and Advocacy Programme. We provided extensive support to our partners through the IUCN, worked with BirdLife International and the World Parrot Trust to advocate for the uplisting of African Grey Parrots at the CITES CoP17 and are currently collaborating with a plethora of talented and committed people and organisations to improve the lot of African vultures. Read more.

Working around the subregion

2016 was a very busy year for the Avitourism & Special Projects Programme, which has been involved in the East Atlantic Flyway Initiative, partner development work in southern Africa and the State of South Africa’s Birds Report and regional Red List publications, as well as the revived BirdLife South Africa Bird Guide Training Project. We are exceptionally grateful to our funders and collaborators for the support they have provided in 2016 and look forward to building on 2016’s successes in the year ahead. Read more.

Fledge Icon Web

Fledge: Young Birders Conservation Club.

BirdLife South Africa is excited to introduce its newest, hippest, coolest exclusive membership programme aimed at the YOUth: Fledge! On this creative and dynamic platform, education meets the digital age and everything is social. Whether you are an avid birder or a wandering scientist or you’re looking for the next big social trend, here it is – birding. And it promises to be lit! Click here to read more.

BirdLife South Africa e-Newsletter: November 2016

Fledge Icon Web

Fledge: Young Birders Conservation Club.

BirdLife South Africa is excited to introduce its newest, hippest, coolest exclusive membership programme aimed at the YOUth: Fledge! On this creative and dynamic platform, education meets the digital age and everything is social. Whether you are an avid birder or a wandering scientist or you’re looking for the next big social trend, here it is – birding. And it promises to be lit! Click here to read more.

Dullstroom Flufftail FestivalFlufftail Festival Final Logo

Please save the date for the Dullstroom Flufftail Festival, an exciting new event that will take place from 24 to 26 February 2017. The programme of events and registration details will be announced soon. Read more

On the road with Ross

Mbour map

It’s time to go to Senegal again? This month’s travel insert sees Ross Wanless heading off to Dakar, where a cancelled meeting gave him a one-day window for some birding…

Read more.


Four Grade 6 learners who manned a stall at an Eco-Fair held at St Mary’s DSG in Pretoria on Friday, 7 October decided to support BirdLife South Africa’s African Penguin Project and to donate their profits to this worthy cause. Each girl provided different items for sale at their stall, which was decorated with a coastal theme. They were very excited to explain why they were supporting this cause, sharing their enthusiasm for conserving our environment and our birds and mammals. They were thrilled when they counted up their takings – R1000!

(Left to right) Mikaela Collins, Emma Theron, Emma Divall and Jenna du Preez.

A fair exchange: A much needed computer in exchange for bird scaring lines to save seabirds!

resize ovapd

The Ocean View Association for People with Disabilities (OVAPD) centre has been given a boost in the form of a much-needed desktop computer. The centre runs the Tori Line project, which produces the bird-scaring lines used on fishing vessels to prevent seabirds from being killed. Read more.

Bringing Ocean View to the oceanholding albi

Flock At Sea Again! in April 2017 will have some special guests. The team from the Ocean View Association for People with Disabilities (OVAPD) centre that makes our bird-scaring lines will be joining us on board, thanks to the generous sponsorship of Rand Merchant Bank. Read more

Robins of Africa winners

These five members receive a free copy of the magnificent Robins of Africa for renewing their membership in September:

Bernard Heritage, Janet Haskin, Erick Schafer, Gideon Scheepers and Nick du Plessis

Birding Big Day 2016

13962572 1425041367522421 5233721078068151255 nThis year’s BBD will be held on Saturday, 26 November. BirdLife South Africa has partnered with the mobile app BirdLasser to show the progress of teams live on an interactive map. In addition, an operations centre will be established at Isdell House to report on social and other media how teams are progressing.

For more information about the different categories and rules, visit the BirdLife South Africa website, to see which teams have already registered, go click here. To add your team to this map, complete the online form.

For more information about BirdLasser, visit or e-mail

Oceans of Life – a retrospective


Bringing together the top images from the annual Oceans of Life Photographic Competition since 2009, this exhibition opened on 6 October at the Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town and runs until 25 November, from 10h00 to 17h00 daily. It aims to demonstrate how conservation, love and knowledge are interrelated and how these three elements are needed to preserve our most vital life source – our oceans.

We apologise to readers who were unable to access this link in last month’s newsletter. You can find the full text here.

Roberts Bird Guide reworked

November sees the launch of the all-new Roberts Bird Guide, with new artwork (about 240 annotated colour plates) and updated distribution maps and breeding and seasonality bars. The individual species descriptions are concise but informative and include details of the species’ calls and eating habits. Covering almost 1000 species found in South Africa, the guide is an essential addition to birders’ libraries.

The launch will take place at Isdell House, 17 Hume Road, Dunkeld West, Johannesburg, from 18h00 on Wednesday, 30 November. RSVP to

BirdLife South Africa e-Newsletter: October 2016


Fledge Icon Web

Fledge: Young Birders Conservation Club.

BirdLife South Africa is excited to introduce its newest, hippest, coolest exclusive membership programme aimed at the YOUth: Fledge! On this creative and dynamic platform, education meets the digital age and everything is social. Whether you are an avid birder or a wandering scientist or you’re looking for the next big social trend, here it is – birding. And it promises to be lit! Click here to read more.

Mziki Private Game Farm:logo mziki

Nestled beneath shady karee trees in the heart of Mziki Private Game Reserve, just two hours’ drive from Johannesburg, Mziki Safari Lodge offers a natural, affordable haven for eco-travellers. The reserve is home to 372 bird species, making it one of the best birding areas in South Africa. BirdLife South Africa members receive 15% discount PLUS a free upgrade! To book, e-mail and quote ‘BirdLife SA’ or call +27 (0)82 902 2058. See more:

Namibian National Awareness Workshop

Through a series of workshops, the Common Oceans Tuna Project aims to reduce the impacts of pelagic (tuna) longline fisheries on albatross and petrel populations and ensure that the implementation of best-practice seabird by-catch measures is accelerated. Read about the latest National Awareness Workshop in October, which was aimed at government officials, fishing industry representatives and fisheries observers. Click here to read more.


13962572 1425041367522421 5233721078068151255 n
Birding Big Day 2016

This year’s BBD will be held on Saturday, 26 November. BirdLife South Africa has partnered with the mobile app BirdLasser to show the progress of teams live on an interactive map. In addition, an operations centre will be established at Isdell House to report on social and other media how teams are progressing.

For more information about the different categories and rules, visit the BirdLife South Africa website, to see which teams have already registered, go click here. To add your team to this map, complete the online form.

For more information about BirdLasser, visit or e-mail

 Birding with CITES

An opportunity arose for Hanneline Smit-Robinson, Linda van den Heever and Rowan Martin (World Parrot Trust) to accompany the secretariat staff from CITES to the Magaliesberg area to view Cape Vultures.CITES COP image

The BirdLife South Africa and CITES secretariat staff visited the Magaliesberg on Saturday 1 October. They had great views of soaring Cape Vultures, and an additional highlight was protracted views of another threatened species, Black Stork. A single adult stork was seen flying along the high ridges and then joining the vultures as they took to the thermals. The outing provided an ideal opportunity to discuss some pressing trade and conservation issues, such as the illegal trade in wild-sourced African Grey Parrots and the trade in vulture body parts that is contributing to the African vulture crisis. With thanks to James Smith for hosting us at his magnificent property, Lance Robinson for leading the outing and Gisela Ortner for assisting with logistics and accompanying us.

Brush up on seabirds before Flock At Sea AGAIN! 2017 

flock yeahMost of us landlocked birders don’t get to sea very often and are a bit rusty when we do. This pre-cruise course is for you. On Saturday 25 March 2017, Dr Ross Wanless, BirdLife South Africa’s Seabird Conservation Programme manager, will run a course in Sandton on the birds we hope to see on the cruise. Click here for more information.



Oceans of Life – a retrospective

OceansOfLife6Oct1618Bringing together the top images from the annual Oceans of Life Photographic Competition since 2009, this exhibition opened on 6 October at the Iziko South Africa Museum in Cape Town and runs until 25 November, from 10h00 to 17h00 daily. It aims to demonstrate how conservation, love and knowledge are interrelated and how these three elements are needed to preserve our most vital life source – our oceans. Click here to read more.


On the road with Ross

The Seychelles is a tropical island paradise with a swathe of endemic species and stunning landscapes. Ross Wanless reports on his tuna commission meeting and finding endemic frogs, visiting a seabird island and seeing most of those endemic birds… Read more

Book donationBook donation

On behalf of my group of enthusiastic children, I would like to thank you for the box of informative bird field guides and beautiful bird photography books, which I shall use as special prizes. BirdLife South Africa’s donation has significantly boosted our small collection and will help so much on our field trips. Thank you!

Christine Harries, Facilitator, North School Birding and Environment Group.

Jaci’s Lodges Big Birding Safari

jacis lodgeThis unique safari, led by Etienne Marais and Trevor Hardaker, will take place 24–27 November 2016!

Madikwe boasts more than 300 bird species and sightings of the elusive African Finfoot, Greater Painted-snipe and yellow morph Crimson-breasted Shrike. Jaci’s Lodges is the perfect location to enjoy BirdLife South Africa’s Birding Big Day. Our Big Birding Safari offer will combine the best in birding with twice-daily safaris, luxury accommodation and outdoor dining experiences. It will be led by experts Etienne Marais and Trevor Hardaker. For rates and more information, please e-mail or call +27 (0)83 700 2071 or +27 (0)83 447 7929.

Birding at Marakele National Park

The SANParks Honorary Rangers, Marakele Region, will achieve a birding first in this Big 5 national park with guided walks in the wild to tick birds and do some atlasing.

Download here.

Guide training

Over the past month, 10 students from KZN have been studying really hard on a bird specialist course. The course is endorsed by FGASA and skill, dedication and hard work are needed to get the desired results. Guide training 5Congratulations to Lethukuthula Nxele, Bongiwe Nxumalo and Simphiwe Gumede, who have made the grade. Although further assessments are still to be done next year before they get the regional birding certificate from FGASA, they are on the right road. Read more.

Tracking penguins

African Penguins picThis winter, BirdLife South Africa’s Seabird Conservation Programme joined Dr Richard Sherley and fellow penguin researchers to deploy GPS loggers and gather data on the foraging ecology of the African Penguins on Robben Island during the breeding season. These data provide the science needed to ensure penguins are considered in the management of the small pelagic fishing industry along the west coast of South Africa. Read more.


Wilge Stewardship Project

The Wilge River runs through the grasslands of the beautiful eastern Free State, an area that contains many threatened bird species and is an important water catchment. Its formal protection is a matter of urgency, which is why BirdLife South Africa and partners are undertaking the Wilge Stewardship Project. Read more.

Cape Big Daycape bird day

On Saturday 8 October, a team comprising Garth Shaw, Dominic Rollinson, Frans-Hendrik Joubert and Andrew de Blocq did their own Cape version of Birding Big Day. In 24 hours they visited Kirstenbosch, West Coast National Park, Paarl Bird Sanctuary and the Tankwa Karoo, recorded 191 bird species and raised more than R11 000 for BirdLife South Africa.

Welcome Bianca

11141250 10153065709483721 6790849884768619038 nBianca Hare has recently joined us at Isdell House in the role of membership administrator. After matriculating, she spent a year working in the UK and travelling around Europe before returning to South Africa to complete a degree in marketing management. Bianca’s interests lie in wildlife conservation, charity work and green business practices, and it has long been her dream to work for BirdLife South Africa. She is eager to do her part to increase membership and thus ensure BirdLife South Africa’s continued success in its important work for conservation.


BirdLife South Africa e-Newsletter: September 2016


The African Bird FairThe African Bird Fair 2016

The African Bird Fair took place over the weekend of 3 and 4 September at the beautiful Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden – and what a weekend it was! The weather certainly played its part and the glorious sunshine throughout the weekend helped to show off the variety of eye-catching stands of the more than 50 exhibitors who took part.

It was wonderful to see the garden teeming with bird enthusiasts who had flocked to the Fair to visit the exhibitor stands, go on guided walks and attend presentations and photography workshops.

The African Bird Fair was a huge success and we would like to thank everyone who supported us and joined in the fun. We look forward to seeing you all again next year!

BirdLife South Africa would like to thank the following for their support of The African Bird Fair: Canon, Eskom, Jalapeno Advertising and Promotion, JCDecaux, Mark and Christine Read, People’s Weather, Struik Nature, the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden, Swarovski and Zeiss.

The African Bird Fair 5

Visit the Bird Fair Website

 Thank you from Zeekoevlei Primary

Dragon boat rides lrgBirdLife South Africa and its partners, with financial support from Melomed Private Hospitals, host the False Bay Nature Reserve Birdathon at Strandfontein Birding Area each year. Part of the event includes a competition for the schools in attendance to win an overnight environmental education camp with our partner, the Cape Town Environmental Education Trust. This camp is an exciting and rewarding nature-based experience for children who may never otherwise have such an opportunity.

This year the three-day, two-night camp was won by Zeekoevlei Primary School, whose children thoroughly enjoyed a wonderful experience. ‘For many of our children it was their first experience out of their respective communities,’ said the teacher in charge of the group in a thank-you letter penned to BirdLife South Africa and other partners. ‘They learned new things, gained valuable knowledge and were exposed to many new experiences. Their night walks and dragon boat activities rated the most popular!’ It is nature experiences such as this that leave long-lasting memories in the minds of these children, helping to create the next generation of environmental stewards.

Membership Renewal Competition

The lucky draw has been done for BirdLife South Africa members who renewBMImg 11339 11339 oatley robins webed their membership in July 2016.

Congratulations to the five members who will each receive a copy of the beautifully illustrated Robins of Africa coffee-table book:

Jono Savadier
Kate Armstrong
Shirley van der Merwe
Thys Meyer
Petro Theron


Birding Big Day 2016

Red squareThis year’s BBD will be held on Saturday, 26 November. BirdLife South Africa has partnered with the mobile app BirdLasser to show the progress of teams live on an interactive map. In addition, an operations centre will be established at Isdell House to report on social and other media how teams are progressing.

For more information about the different categories and rules, visit the BirdLife South Africa website. To see which teams have already registered, click here. To add your team to this map you need to complete the online Fledge.

For more information about BirdLasser, visit or e-mail


Bird of Southern Africa 2017 calendarscal

The Birds of Southern Africa 2017 calendars are now in stock! With a stunning, full-page colour photograph for each month, they will make lovely gifts for local and international family and friends. They are selling at R130 each (excluding postage). Please contact Shireen Gould at to place your order or for more information. We suggest you don’t delay – stocks are limited!



Farewell to Ntombi Stungu

ntoBirdLife South Africa staff countrywide bid a very sad farewell to Ntombi Stungu, who passed away suddenly on 24 August 2016 after a short illness. Ntombi started working with BirdLife South Africa, in 2003, initially as a cleaner and then progressing to become our membership administrator. Our condolences go to her son Mzi, her daughter Aphiwe and her little grandson Lathitha. The staff and volunteers of BirdLife South Africa remember and honour her friendship, loyalty and commitment and will sorely miss her presence at Isdell House.


The ’Mericans

In June and July BirdLife South Africa had the pleasure of hosting two student interns from the United States. Mitul Patel, from the University of Maryland, and Jennifer Mitul and JennyReiss, from the University of Houston, were hand-picked by Prof. Bill Bowerman (University of Maryland) from a number of applicants to travel to Johannesburg and assist BirdLife South Africa in conducting a literature study on the levels and sources of environmental lead in South Africa, as well as the risks the lead poses to people and wildlife alike. The input from this study will form the basis of BirdLife South Africa’s future lead strategy document.

The harmful effects of lead on human health and the environment have been extensively researched. In humans it has been linked to decreased intelligence, hearing loss and aggressive behaviour, among other conditions. Likewise, it has been shown that chronic lead exposure has a severe impact on bird populations (especially scavenging birds), causing increased lethargy, decreased hunting ability and decreased spatial awareness. With Africa’s plummeting vulture populations, it is vitally important that BirdLife South Africa treat the possible impact of heavy metals such as lead as a matter of urgency.

We would like to thank Mitul and Jennifer (aka ‘the ’Mericans’) for their invaluable contribution to this project. The amount of literature they covered over the span of two short months is nothing short of inspiring. We especially miss Jenny’s dry sense of humour and Mitul’s propensity for bursting into song. We wish you both the best of luck in what could only be highly successful future careers. Your presence in the RJ Downie Conservation Wing is sorely missed.

A bitter-sweet farewell to an IBA Team member

It is with heavy hearts that the Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) Team says farewell to Nick Theron, the IBA Programme’s regional conservation manager in KwaZulu-Natal. After six years of tireless dedication tImage of Nick Therono conserving IBAs, Blue Swallows, Cape Parrots and Rudd’s Lark, he (with his wife Rina and their two young boys) will be pursuing new frontiers in Limpopo Province. Our solace, though, is that Nick is not lost to BirdLife South Africa; we will continue to work closely with him in Limpopo as he takes up the position of Biodiversity Stewardship coordinator for the Kruger2Canyons Biosphere Reserve.

Nick joined BirdLife South Africa’s IBA Programme in 2010 as the project manager for the Cata Forest Ecotourism Development Initiative. After completing a successful project by setting up bird tourism in this rural Eastern Cape community, he took up the position of the IBA Programme’s regional conservation manager in KwaZulu-Natal. At the same time, his wife Rina became the Blue Swallow monitor for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and together they became a formidable conservation force in southern KwaZulu-Natal.

Nick remains an IBA champion and we expect he will lobby hard for the conservation and protection of IBAs in Limpopo. Nick and Rina’s undying commitment to threatened species and IBAs has resulted in numerous achievements for the IBA Programme. These include expanding the IBA network for the benefit of White-backed and Cape vultures; monitoring and advocating for Blue Swallows; finding a remnant population of Rudd’s Lark in the Eastern Cape; and obtaining improved management and protection for key grassland sites in the highly fragmented southern KwaZulu-Natal.

BirdLife South Africa wishes Nick and his family all the best in their new venture and we look forward to a continued partnership to conserve our birds and their habitats.

Mziki Private Game Reserve

safNestled beneath shady karee trees in the heart of Mziki Private Game Reserve, just two hours’ drive from Johannesburg, Mziki Safari Lodge offers a natural, affordable haven for eco-travellers seeking an authentic, unaffected encounter with the African bush. The reserve is home to 372 different bird species, making it one of the best birding areas in South Africa. All BirdLife South Africa members receive 15% discount PLUS a free upgrade! To book this special, e-mail and quote ‘BirdLife SA’ or call +27 (0)82 902 2058.

Birding weekends in KZN

The Johannesburg Region of SANParks Honorary Rangers, in partnership with BirdLife South Africa, invites you to a three-night birding weekend at two of South Africa’s premier birding destinations: Ndumo (20–23 October 2016) and Mkhuze (28–31 October 2016) game reserves in northern KwaZulu-Natal. Accommodation is available in comfortable chalets or safari tents or at shady camping sites.

For more information or to book, contact Tim or Dave at More details are also available at click here.