TERRESTRIAL BIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME
This week the BirdLife South Africa Terrestrial Bird Conservation Programme team (Hanneline Smit-Robinson, Samantha Ralston-Paton and Linda van den Heever), joined by Andrew de Blocq from the Seabird Conservation Programme, hosted two side events, (1) South African birds on the brink of extinction: Collaborative efforts to save the Critically Endangered White-winged Flufftail and Endangered African Penguin and (2) promoting universal access to clean, modern, sustainable energy, at the 7th Meeting of Parties of the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA MoP7). The BirdLife South Africa team, forming part of a larger BirdLife International delegation, also provided support to a side event on how AEWA Parties can address the problem of lead poisoning. Hanneline presented an update on recent discoveries within the White-winged Flufftail conservation project. Several meetings were held including with the AEWA Secretariat, Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority, SA Hunters and Wingshooters. Carina Coetzer and Sakhile Mthalane completed all avifaunal surveys on Ingula Nature Reserve, including species counts and breeding surveys. Carina also assisted with the Upper Wilge Stewardship initiative, and attended the information meeting for the proposed oil and gas exploration in the Eastern Free State. Melissa Whitecross spent much of the week preparing the media content for the BIG announcement relating to the White-winged Flufftail project. Melissa continued to develop the layers for the refined species distribution model for the Southern Banded Snake Eagle and is near completion on the Forestry Report and funding proposal for the Southern Banded Snake Eagle Project. Melissa also completed a proposal presentation which she will deliver to Investec early next week to secure funding for her raptor research. The Taita Falcon Survey team, consisting of Dr Andrew Jenkins, Anthony van Zyl, Johan du Plessis, Kyle Walker and Hana Weaver (Peregrine Fund), completed a week-long survey of the Mpumalanga/Limpopo escarpment in order to assess the breeding activity of this Critically Endangered bird. Robin Colyn attended the African Bioacoustics Conference hosted at the University of Cape Town from 3 to 7 December. As part of the conference, Robin presented on the White-winged Flufftail Project acoustic results.
SEABIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME
Albatross Task Force
Andrea Angel met with CapMarine to review a report of the seabird bycatch monitoring data collected by their observers before submitting it to the inshore trawl association. She and Bronwyn Maree worked inspection forms for compliance officers to use, that address compliance with seabird bycatch mitigation measures. Comments were submitted to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds for their review into global seabird bycatch in trawl fisheries. Reason Nyengera left on his last demersal longline trip for the year and Makhudu Masotla returned from his pelagic longline trip and has been entering data.
Christina Hagen met with people interested in assisting us to document and film the African Penguin new colony project. She attended a Small Pelagic Fishing stakeholder consultation meeting where important details of the way quotas are set for sardine and anchovy were discussed. She also travelled to De Hoop on Thursday to oversee some upgrades to the fence and other infrastructure at the penguin colony site. Andrew de Blocq is in Durban attending the 7th Session of the Meeting of the Parties for the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) along with colleagues Sam Ralston-Paton, Hanneline Smit-Robinson, and Linda van den Heever. For Andrew, the focus has been on seabird conservation within the Agreement, and in particular the International Multi Species Action Plan (IMSAP) for Bengulea Current seabirds. The meeting has been an incredibly useful experience in learning about the mechanisms involved in such international agreements that drive conservation globally.
Bronwyn Maree analyzed the port-based outreach pilot project data from South Africa. This will inform us whether creating awareness in port with captains fishing on the high seas is a useful tool to increase implementation of seabird bycatch mitigation measures. She also spent time on various reports for the project, as well as drafting comments for changes to be made to the port inspection forms completed by Fisheries Compliance Officers (to include seabird bycatch-related fields). Nini van der Merwe engaged with project leads and data consultants to discuss details for the upcoming Global Seabird Bycatch Assessment workshop. She arranged flights and other logistics for the group of international data scientists and managers who will be attending the workshop in February 2019.
Nini has been invited to give a brief presentation on the Marion and Gough Island restoration projects to a group at the Bird Studies Canada office in Delta, Canada, next week. She has spent some time preparing for this and collaborated with colleagues working on the Gough Project to ensure that both projects, and their relationship with the Department of Environmental Affairs is portrayed accurately. She worked on some logistics for the Gough project, which included sourcing a local shipping agent and also drafting a Memorandum of Understanding between BirdLife South Africa and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds - to inform and strengthen the partnership going forward.
Ross Wanless travelled to Dakar, Senegal, to meet with the West Africa team and engage with project funders.
Wilge Stewardship Project
Ernst Retief, Carina Coetzer and Bradley Gibbons met with Rick Dillon, the Chairperson of the Upper Wilge Landowners Association, to discuss the constitution of the association. The constitution will be finalised in the coming week and distributed to all the landowners to obtain their support. During the meeting it was also agreed that the objectives and actions for the Sneeuwberg Management Plan will be very similar for the Upper Wilge Protected Environment, so it will be used as a template. The first draft of the plan should be ready in early 2019.
Blue Swallow Monitoring Project
A further trip to the Ixopo area was undertaken for Blue Swallow monitoring. The Buddhist Retreat area looks to be the most promising, with birds seen there and with a reported 3 active nest sites. Steve McKean will be following up on these during December. Other monitoring reports that have come in from the Ixopo area thus far have not been promising, with only 1 area containing a pair which do not appear to be breeding or preparing to breed as the nest hole shows no activity at this stage. The Ixopo area is experiencing a very dry period and the lack of moisture could be affecting the birds.
Mistbelt Grassland and Forest Conservation Project
Steve McKean met with Prof. Colleen Downs at the University of KwaZulu-Natal to discuss priority areas for Cape Parrots to address in the Stewardship Programme. The meeting was a productive one and a number of potential sites were discussed. Of these, Mpesheni Forest near Ngeli, southern KZN is a high priority to attempt to secure along with several areas in the KZN Midlands (Dargyle area). Several properties in the Creighton area were also identified as important, as well as an area which is already in the declaration process (Trewirgie). The meeting provided a good base on which to plan future Stewardship activity for Cape Parrot conservation.
Supporting Biodiversity Stewardship
Dale Wright spent time this week working on the first draft of the report investigating the alternative mechanisms for area-based conservation in South Africa. He also finalised and submitted the annual review of the Moutonshoek Protected Environment, after meeting with the relevant landowners to discuss progress against their management plan. Dale also participated in a planning meeting for the 7th Global Environment Facility disbursement, to discuss potential projects for biodiversity stewardship and estuary conservation.
IBA/KBA delineation Project
Ernst Retief and Daniel Marnewick had a Skype conference with Paul Donald and Ashley Simkins of BirdLife International to discuss the first draft list of trigger species for Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) as well as the species maps, as developed by Ernst Retief, which will be used to delineate KBAs. The discussion was of great value and it was agreed that both the list of species and maps will be of value to the larger KBA community as a case study. Ernst will forward a report on the work done to the KBA committee in January.
Regional and Global Key Biodiversity Areas
Simeon Bezeng spent this week preparing for the Biodiversity Assessment for Spatial Prioritization in Africa (BASPA) project year-end meeting which took place on Friday at Isdell House. At the meeting Simeon, Domitilla Raimondo and Daniel Marnewick reflected on BASPA activities for 2018 comparing them against targets set in a bid to identify successes and setbacks. They also tracked progress on project finances and concluded by setting a target bound work plan for 2019.
POLICY & ADVOCACY PROGRAMME
Candice Stevens delivered official comments and input on behalf of BirdLife South Africa to the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) on the Draft National Protected Area Expansion Strategy 2018 (NPAES). This is a vitally important national policy document that outlines the country’s national commitments, targets and strategies to expand the protected area network, the primary tool for area-based conservation and management in South Africa. Candice also met with Ellane van Wyk, newly appointed contractor to BirdLife South Africa to facilitate the role of Tax Extension Officer to the Fiscal Benefits Project. Ms van Wyk will be responsible for appropriating section 37D on behalf of qualifying protected areas across the country as of January 2019. This is a very exciting development and promises to increase the impact of the innovative work on biodiversity tax incentives. Candice was on study leave to undertake her annual tax exams during the rest of the week.
This week Jonathan Booth finalised BirdLife South Africa’s objection to Mpumalanga local government’s plan to remove farms from the Mabola Protected Environment in order to make way for mining. He also distributed this objection and a response template to bird clubs asking them to object in their club/personal capacity. Jonathan also worked on reviewing applications for, and finalising the appointment of a service provider to work on the Best Practice Guidelines project that starts in January. He was also pleased to note that the inputs provided to Eskom on their forthcoming Eskom Factor report (a sustainability review) were largely incorporated into the final report.
AVITOURISM AND SPECIAL PROJECTS
Martin Taylor spent the majority of the week drafting a strategy guiding the work of BirdLife Zimbabwe. This document was sent through to Julia Pierini, BirdLife Zimbabwe CEO, for input. Two proposals covering vulture work and KAZA Bird conservation working group were reviewed. Work was completed on the draft avifaunal regulations for Mozambique as well as on three birding tourism feasibility studies. Logistics for two tours led by Sakhamuzi Mhlongo and David Letsoalo were confirmed. Feedback on previous community bird guide led tours were received from Charles Thornton-Kolbe and dates for tours in 2019 confirmed. A meeting was held with Ian Owtram to discuss assessments of guides in the BirdLife South Africa guide learnership programme. Work on two reports covering the activities of the guide training programme was started.
Mark Anderson attended the BirdLife Global Council Meeting in Cambridge on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday he attended various meetings at the RSPB’s head office in Sandy, including a lunch meeting with Dr Mike Clarke (RSPB CEP) and then returned to South Africa on Wednesday night. The annual Remuneration Committee meeting was held on Friday. Mark had a Skype meeting with Chrissie Cloete to discuss the Bird of the Year materials.