Common Oceans

Bronwyn Maree, Ross Wanless, Nini van der Merwe and Andrea Angel had a fruitful meeting to discuss capacity development of fisheries compliance officers in terms of increasing their knowledge and data collection on seabird bycatch. Nini hit the ground running upon her return from annual leave, preparing the Mozambique National Awareness Workshop report and engaging with Mozambique on next steps discussed during the workshop. She has also been engaging with Namibia on the Observer Training workshop planned for October. Pete Watt-Pringle conducted four port-based outreach sessions on foreign-flagged tuna longline vessels visiting Cape Town harbour. Ross put out a data request to all seabird tracking data holders in the BirdLife Seabird Tracking Database, for distributional data on seabirds at risk from tuna longliners in the Southern Ocean, as part of the Common Oceans seabird bycatch assessment work.

Albatross Task Force

Andrea Angel gave a talk on albatrosses and the work of the Albatross Task Force to Westerford High School children. She had a meeting with Oli Yates over Skype to discuss recent updates regarding the Hake Longline fleet and horizon thinking regarding the future of the ATF in South Africa. Bokamoso Lebepe returned from a 16-day sea trip on a pelagic longline vessel. He has worked on capturing the at-sea data and compiling his trip report. Reason Nyengera is on leave till 4 September.

Coastal seabirds

Taryn Morris and Ross met with a CEO of one of the Responsible Fisheries Alliance companies to discuss new approaches for implementing ecosystem approaches to fishing operations. Although nothing concrete came from this, it was an excellent opportunity for frank discussions and gaining shared understanding on needs, constraints and objectives from industry’s and BirdLife’s perspectives. Christina Hagen travelled to De Hoop Nature Reserve with Vodacom technicians to explore options for receiving cell phone signal at the site of the proposed new penguin colony.


Ross has been working to finalise the R85 million bycatch project in West Africa (Alcyon Programme) for BirdLife International, which is due at the end of the month. He spent a day at a workshop about assessing the state of our territorial waters around the Prince Edward Islands, while also having very useful discussions in the margins of that workshop with key colleagues. Nini assisted in finalising travel arrangements for Ross and producing overseas business travel reports.


Hanneline Smit-Robinson, Robin Colyn and Ernst Retief attended a threatened grassland species conservation meeting hosted by Eskom at Ingula. Hanneline met with colleagues from Rand Water to discuss ideas around the planning of the 2018 Flufftail Festival. Hanneline was also involved in the fitting of a new harness on a test bird as part of an Airports Company South Africa (ACSA)/BirdLife South Africa initiative to track the movements of Grey-headed Gulls. Hanneline met with the 12 students enrolled for FGASA as part of a collaborative project between ACSA and BirdLife South Africa’s guide training programme. Linda van den Heever, Melissa Whitecross and Robin, along with Anthony van Zyl, Kyle Walker and Lance Robinson, participated in a week-long survey of Black Stork nest sites along the length of the Levuvhu River in Kruger National Park, last surveyed by Warwick Tarboton in the early 1980s.

Birds & Renewable Energy

Sam Ralston spent some time with Joel Avni to learn more about a tracking device Joel is bringing in from Poland. These devices can be set up on wind turbines to detect birds and emit noise and/or light to scare birds away if they are at risk of colliding with the turbine.  An Energy Task Force Technical Working Group meeting was held via Skype in preparation for the upcoming Task force meeting in Bonn. Sam joined a meeting between BioTherm, CapeNature and the Overberg Renosterveld Trust to discuss conservation issues relating to two of BioTherm's wind energy projects in the Overberg Region. She met with Andrew Jenkins (avifaunal specialist consultant) and Katherine Pearson (Windlab) to discuss a number of Windlab’s approved and potential wind farms. Sam has also been busy with arrangements for the Birds and Renewable Energy Forum which will be held at the end of September and also spent time working on her presentation for the Conference on Wind Energy and Wildlife Impacts which will be held in Estoril, Portugal, early next month. The South African Wind Energy Association is developing Wind Fact Series presentations in order to communicate information on wind technology to the South African public. Sam assisted by providing information on wind energy’s impacts on birds. Sam assisted Lydia Cape (CSIR) draft development protocols for wind and solar energy.


Daniel Marnewick took part in BirdLife South Africa’s Conservation Division meeting. This is a new initiative where conservation programme staff will be meeting more regularly to improve strategic planning and collaboration across the conservation programmes within the organisation. Daniel had a meeting with Ernst Retief and Dale Wright to discuss the draft IBA Programme strategy. Daniel also met with the new Advocacy Manager, Jonathan Booth, to define the criteria for when BirdLife South Africa is to comment on development applications. Daniel and Candice Stevens met with Angus Burns (WWF-SA) to strategically plan collaboration between the two organisations. Daniel spent time working on the MoU between BirdLife South Africa and the South African National Biodiversity Institute.


Western Cape

Dale Wright, Giselle Murison and Samantha Schröder attended the quarterly Western Cape Biodiversity Stewardship Reference Group meeting on Thursday. This Forum brings together all of the organisations involved in implementing Biodiversity Stewardship across the Province to discuss recent developments and individual project progress. BirdLife South Africa is regarded as a prominent partner in Biodiversity Stewardship in this region, and the team provided a report back on Dale’s National Biodiversity Stewardship Review Project being undertaken for the Table Mountain Fund, Giselle’s Western Cape Estuaries Conservation Project targeting our critically under-protected estuarine IBAs and Samantha’s Verlorenvlei Protected Areas Project which is nearing completion.

Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Free State

On Saturday Ernst and Henk Nel from BirdLasser present an atlasing workshop in Cape Town. About 30 people attended the workshop. This is the latest in a series of similar workshops which were held during the past year. All the workshops were funded by BirdLife South Africa. On Monday Ernst was at Isdell House and attended a number of meetings including a discussion about the future strategy of the Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas Programme, the membership database and how it can be linked to the new BirdLife South Africa website, and a meeting with Jonathan Booth about Environmental Impact Assessments. On Thursday Ernst visited Memel to obtain the last bit of information to complete the document about birding routes around Memel. On Friday he joined Hanneline Smit-Robinson and Robin Colyn at Ingula to discuss the future of various Eskom projects.


Verlorenvlei Protected Area Project

On Wednesday Samantha Schröder meet with Belia Karsten of Karsten Boerdery (Pty) Ltd and their legal representative Herman van Niekerk to work through the presentation that will be needed to be made to the Board of Directors with regards to the inclusion of the their farms into the Moutonshoek Protected Environment.


Candice Stevens had important stakeholder meetings this week with the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) as well as WWF-SA regarding collaborative partnerships and prioritisation of policy and advocacy work. She also attended the first Conservation Division meeting. Candice also dealt with a myriad of internal processes with the aim of creating a sustainable and robust framework for policy and advocacy work, including the following: advocacy criteria, decision tree and protocol, BirdLife South Africa position statements, the P&A webpage and resources, and Multi-lateral Environmental Agreements. Candice addressed certain legalities regarding the MOU for the Corporate Conservation Partnership, which will aim to mainstream the biodiversity tax incentives into the private sector. Through consultation with various programme managers, Jono Booth completed a draft advocacy decision tree which will be used for determining the level of BirdLife South Africa’s involvement in development applications (i.e. an active role, an inactive role, or no action to be taken). Further engagement and testing is required before completing the draft for feedback purposes. Jono also mapped advocacy processes and identified areas that require policy/protocol and template development.  Jono registered BirdLife South Africa as an Interested and Affected Party for, and provided comments in response to, two development applications: (1) a coal prospecting application within the Steenkampsberg IBA, and which borders a formally protected Nature Reserve which contains important White-winged Fluff-tail habitat, and (2) an industrial development that sits within an undeveloped and sensitive region of the Wilderness – Sedgefield Lakes Complex IBA. Jono also attended the Biodiversity and Research Indaba on Friday.


Martin Taylor completed work on  SANBI Red List online platform adding in references to Red Data accounts.  Time was spent on the BirdLife South Africa conservation strategy. A Skype call was held with Julia Pierini to discuss the development of two funding proposals relating declining raptor populations in the Matopos National Park as well as addressing the encroachment of wetlands in Harare. Recent developments at Chimanimani National Park were also discussed as well as preparations for the visit by representatives of BirdLife Zimbabwe to The African Bird Fair in September. Preparations are underway for two submissions to the Darwin Initiative. A feedback session was held with the learners regarding the recent training workshop held at Grietjie Private Nature Reserve, Limpopo. Logistical preparations are underway for a further three week course to be held in September for the 12 students to rewrite their FGASA Level 1 exam. Work was undertaken on the development of a course prospectus on behalf of BirdLife South Africa.


The painters finished up at the Centre on Monday and our roofs are looking ever so grand.  Thank you again Promac Paints for assisting with all the painting materials.  Kristi Garland met with Carol Preston this week to finalise the art work for the Spring Alive White Stork book.  Things are starting to look super on this front as well and will ready to be showcased at the Steering Committee meeting in Poland in three weeks’ time.  A meeting was also held with a local journalist, Wilna Forbes, regarding an article for the Wakkerstroom Biobash and Frogging weekend to be held in December.  The weekly meeting with the Country College Junior Bird Club also went well.  Another four learners joining this informative group of youngsters who are experiencing and enjoying the world of birds.  Kristi met with Judy Wheeler in preparation for Saturday’s Wakkerstroom Bird Club meeting.  Along with a few other presenters, Kristi and Judy will be showcasing the club’s involvement in various bird monitoring projects the club has been involved in thus far this year.  Special mention of our Coordinated Avifaunal Roadside count results from July.  Friday saw the launch of the Wakkerstroom Smiley group’s bird club.  Kristi will be working with a group of 80 local children with the assistance of the local bird guides.  Lucky Ngwenya has been out in the field.  He reports special sightings of Rudd’s Lark, Blue Korhaan and Grey Crowned Crane at Fickland Pan as well as Botha’s Lark in Daggakraal and Secretarybird along the Amersfoort Road.  Bookings for the latter part of the year are starting to come in for the local bird guides, so if you are planning a trip to Wakkerstroom – please remember to book a guide well in advance.  The Centre hosted the monthly Wakkerstroom Bird Club meeting on Saturday. 


The monthly meeting of the Board of Directors took place this week, as well as the Programme Managers meeting. Mark Anderson presented a talk to BirdLife Overberg on Monday, met with the Hermanus Bird Club committee on Tuesday, and spent Tuesday afternoon with the Seabird Conservation Programme staff.