Kruger Challenge 2023
From 12 to 19 February 2023 the Kruger Birding & Wildlife Challenge is on: see how many bird and other wildlife species you and your team can find in the Kruger National Park! There’s a bonus of 10% discount for South Africans booking before 31 August, while the organiser of a group booking for nine guests can receive 50% discount. Help conserve the White-winged Flufftail by participating in this fun adventure.
BirdLife South Africa, Middelpunt Wetland Trust and Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Tours are joining forces to bring you this exciting event and raise funds for the conservation of the Critically Endangered White-winged Flufftail. Starting at Skukuza on 12 February, each nine-member team will explore the full length of the Kruger Park in a comfortable, open-sided safari vehicle, accompanied and assisted by a dedicated birding and wildlife expert. After eight species-rich days, the teams will meet at Mopani Camp for the prize-giving and their final dinner.
The cost varies, depending on the route selected. For the regular competition route, the regular non-competitive southern route and the photographic route the cost is R22 950 (about US$1400 at the current exchange rate); for the non-competitive northern route it is R26 950 (US$1650); and for the regular high-end route it is R31 950 (US$1900). All prices are inclusive, and if you put together a team of nine the organiser earns a 50% discount. There is also a 10% discount for South Africans and bird clubs, which is available until the end of August.
For more information, go to https://www.rockjumperbirding.com/tours/kruger-bird-wildlife-challenge-2023/. Please e-mail email@example.com to register your interest.
ABIGAIL RAMUDZULI, CONSERVATION INTERN, AND HANNELINE SMIT-ROBINSON, HEAD OF CONSERVATION
BirdLife South Africa received an amazing number of entries for its ‘Win with Faansie’ colouring-in competition at The African Bird Fair last month and would like to thank all the participants who submitted their beautiful artworks. Their efforts were exceptional and it proved to be very difficult to select the winners.
After much deliberation, the prizes were awarded to Georgia Blackwell, 7, from Mpumalanga (7–10 age group); and Luke Broadaway, 13, from the Western Cape (11–13 age group). Each received a signed copy of Faansie’s Bird Book.
CLARE NEALL, EVENTS MANAGER
In the new issue of African Birdlife…
In the latest issue of African Birdlife you’ll explore the birding hotspots of Mozambique with Peter Ryan and Etienne Marais and accompany Wesley Gush to the Bubye Valley in Zimbabwe. Closer to home, Garret Skead finds atlasing Cape Town’s City Bowl surprisingly productive and Black Sparrowhawks are moving westwards, while on the photographic front Peter Ryan field tests the new Canon R3 mirrorless camera.
And if you’re already looking forward to next year, you can get a peek at BirdLife South Africa’s 2023 calendar and order your copy now – while stocks last!
Enjoy a discounted rate for all six issues of African Birdlife per year by becoming a subscriber. Alternatively, join BirdLife South Africa and as a member receive your copy of the magazine while helping us conserve our country’s magnificent birdlife.
Your photos can help birds
The Science and Innovation team at BirdLife South Africa is working on the next edition of the Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Eswatini and high-quality photographs will be an important element of this publication. We have no doubt that many photos are sitting in memory cards and hard drives all around South Africa. If you would like your best bird photos to contribute to conservation, we would love to receive them.
All photographers will retain copyright of their photographs used and will be credited either alongside their images or on a picture credits page.
If you are interested, please e-mail your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org. I would greatly appreciate it if you renamed your file(s) to follow the convention of ‘name to credit – common name of bird’ as this would help with organising the images.
SHAMISO BANDA, RED DATA BOOK AND SEABIRD LIAISON OFFICER
Learning more about African Penguins
Every year, in collaboration with SANParks, SANCCOB (the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) and CapeNature, the Coastal Seabird team at BirdLife South Africa records the movements and behaviour of breeding African Penguins using GPS, depth loggers and animal-borne cameras. The data give us amazing insights into the penguins’ marine world and allow us to monitor how much energy they expend to catch their prey. This information is used to inform important conservation management strategies for the species.
During the winter months, the Coastal Seabird team travels to various African Penguin breeding colonies along South Africa’s coast. At each colony we attach GPS, accelerometer and depth and temperature loggers (all combined into one unit weighing less than 60g!) or an animal-borne camera to the feathers on the back of a penguin using only a few strips of tesa tape. These amazing, miniaturised devices are removed, without damaging the feathers, when the penguin returns from a day of foraging at sea. The information they have recorded gives us valuable insight into the birds’ daily lives – an achievement that, just a few decades ago, scientists thought was impossible.
Using data from these state-of-the-art ‘biologgers’, we are attempting to learn more about how natural drivers of prey availability, competition for prey with fisheries and increasing marine traffic may negatively impact African Penguins’ breeding attempts. Once we better understand how this ensemble of anthropogenic and natural stressors may influence the breeding success of our nation’s only penguin species, we can help inform conservation and management strategies that will help alleviate some of the pressure this Endangered species faces.
DR TEGAN CARPENTER-KLING, COASTAL SEABIRD PROJECT MANAGER, AND DR ALISTAIR McINNES, SEABIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME MANAGER
And the nesting box goes to…
Elaine’s Birding, a longtime supporter of BirdLife South Africa, donated a nesting box as a raffle prize at The African Bird Fair Open Day held at Isdell House on 23 July. We are pleased to announce that Frances Harrison of Gauteng has won the prize and we wish her many happy hours of watching birds that make use of the nesting box.
Thank you to Elaine’s Birding for this generous donation.
CLARE NEALL, EVENTS MANAGER
Bats & birds
BirdLife South Africa’s Regional Conservation Programme and Bats without Borders have been working together to identify and find funding for joint projects that could benefit birds and bats within the southern African region. Part of our collaboration is to create more awareness about bats within local birding communities, as bats and birds often utilise similar spaces.
With this in mind, Bats without Borders invites you to a new and exciting event, Around the Bat World in 8 Sessions, on 17 September 2022. We will be hearing about the diversity of work carried out by different bat groups around the world and are lucky to have a wonderful line-up of speakers to showcase some of the great work carried out by different bat groups. Speakers based in Australia, Asia, South Africa, Zambia, Ghana and Europe will provide a snapshot of the work they do and disclose some of the lessons they have learnt along the way. The aim of this day is to learn about bat conservation work taking place in different parts of the world and to inspire the creation of new bat groups, particularly in southern Africa.
To learn more about the event and to book, please go to https://www.batswithoutborders.org/bat_group_event.html
BRONWYN MAREE, EAST ATLANTIC FLYWAY INITIATIVE PROJECT MANAGER
Wanted: an editor for Ostrich
BirdLife South Africa is currently recruiting for the position of editor-in-chief of the scientific journal Ostrich: Journal of African Ornithology. Africa’s premier ornithological journal is also one of South Africa’s oldest journals, having been published for more than 90 years under the same name. It is produced by NISC in partnership with international publishing house Taylor & Francis.
To help us find the ideal candidate, please distribute this advertisement as widely as possible. Applications, including a detailed CV with three contactable referees and a cover letter and motivation, should be submitted to email@example.com by 30 October 2022.
For more details, read about the vacancy in full here.
DR ISABEL HUMAN, HR MANAGER AND EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT
The African Protected Areas Congress
The inaugural IUCN African Protected Areas Congress (APAC 2022), hosted in Kigali, Rwanda, in July 2022 brought together nearly 3000 delegates to deliberate on the future of protected and conserved areas in Africa. It was the first continent-wide gathering of African leaders, local communities, NGOs and citizens to discuss safeguarding Africa’s biodiversity. And, as one of the first in-person meetings following two years of virtual discussions, it presented a great opportunity for networking.
Many of the discussions focused on halting biodiversity loss and how to manage Africa’s protected and conservation areas effectively. Three main themes featured throughout the conference: promoting effective and well-managed networks of protected and conserved areas in Africa; championing community-led conservation on the continent; and unlocking the opportunities for biodiversity conservation in Africa. In addition, an innovative funding model, the African Protected Area Conservation Trust (APACT) was launched.
BirdLife South Africa’s team comprised Hanneline Smit-Robinson, Simeon Bezeng, Linda van den Heever and Bronwyn Maree, who delivered presentations and hosted discussions on Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) to identify areas of conservation importance; building effective partnerships for the sustainable deployment of wind energy; and vulture conservation with a focus on Vulture Safe Zones, the link between vultures and disease, and vultures’ potential role within the One Health framework. Bronwyn also supported sessions on collaborative efforts along the East Atlantic Flyway and the wider implementation of other effective area-based conservation measures across Africa. We were invited to participate in a panel discussion on a framework for the development of sustainable energy infrastructure through effective partnerships.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) was an active participant and showcased its many achievements and challenges in implementing Transfrontier Conservation Areas in southern Africa. These are an important focus for achieving cooperation within the region and the conservation and sustainable utilisation of its natural resources. SADC’s participation gave Bronwyn the opportunity to meet key role players she had been engaging with over the past two years and to attend many panel discussions relevant for the work of the Regional Conservation Programme.
Cutting through the three themes explored was a global call to achieve 30% protection of the planet by 2030. African countries can play a major role in achieving this ambitious target, since the continent is home to biodiversity hotspots with many endemic and range-restricted species. In addition, mechanisms are now available that harmonise exciting approaches and capture diverse ways in which an area’s biodiversity can help to identify it as worthy of protection. KBAs are one such mechanism and Simeon and Bronwyn hosted two KBA events at the congress. The first showed how various African countries are implementing the KBA programme and the second was a short KBA training session. The KBA community is growing faster in Africa than on any other continent and various African countries are at different stages of implementing the KBA programme.
DR HANNELINE SMIT-ROBINSON, HEAD OF CONSERVATION; DR SIMEON BEZENG, REGIONAL CONSERVATION PROGRAMME MANAGER; LINDA VAN DEN HEEVER, VULTURE PROJECT MANAGER; AND BRONWYN MAREE, EAST ATLANTIC FLYWAY INITIATIVE PROJECT MANAGER
ESRI South Africa supports bird conservation
It is now standard practice to use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to make maps to communicate, perform analysis, share information and solve complex problems around the world. This helps people, businesses and organisations, including those in the conservation sector, to take appropriate action. GIS is used to map the distribution of species or to build complicated models that predict where species might occur now or even in a few years’ time as climate change has an impact.
Many of the BirdLife South Africa staff make extensive use of GIS data, using software such as ArcPro and ArcMap from ESRI South Africa. Usually, this software would be too expensive to use, but as an NGO, BirdLife South Africa can obtain it at a fraction of the normal price. This is a massive contribution that ESRI makes to the conservation of our natural environment.
So how are staff using this software? From remote sensing analyses Carina Pienaar develops various indices that enable her to advise landowners and the managers of protected areas about appropriate land management (in terms of grazing and fire) and to show the extent of encroachment by invasive alien plants into waterways and indigenous forests. She also uses the software to keep extensive databases on bird sightings, including colonies of breeding and roosting Vulnerable Southern Bald Ibis, and farm directories for existing and proposed protected environments in the landscape. Says Carina, ‘ArcMap provides a user-friendly way to display the necessary information and features on maps included in funding proposals, protected area management plans and other documents.’
For Kyle Lloyd, the data from the software is useful for conservation planning in Mpumalanga that involves, among other things, expanding protected areas, developing local avitourism and improving habitat management practices. Giselle Murison uses the software to manage the various biodiversity stewardship projects in the Western Cape provinces. Simmy Bezeng uses ArcMap to create species’ range maps that inform IUCN Red List assessments and for delineating Key Biodiversity Areas boundaries in Africa.
And I make use of the software to prepare data for building habitat suitability models for threatened bird species in South Africa, editing hundreds of location data points received from the mobile application BirdLasser. I also find the software useful for mapping the algal content of Kamfers Dam and for counting flamingos from drone and satellite imagery (an approach developed by Robin Colyn that will soon be published in a scientific paper).
The wide use of this software across BirdLife South Africa is because it is powerful in the spatial tools it offers, but is also easy and intuitive to use. We would like to thank ESRI for its support and look forward to an even stronger partnership.
ERNST RETIEF, SPATIAL PLANNING AND DATA PROJECT MANAGER
A festival to celebrate BirdLife Wesvaal
To celebrate its 40 years of existence, BirdLife Wesvaal Bird Club is planning to hold a birding festival from 21 to 24 March 2024. Diarise the dates now, as this is an event you definitely won’t want to miss!
More information and contact details will be released in due course.
PIETER LABUSCHAGNE, CHAIR, BIRDLIFE WESVAAL
INSAB marches on
Earlier this month, BirdLife South Africa’s Indigenous Names for South African Birds (INSAB) initiative made a huge stride forward with a workshop on isiZulu bird names. The aim of the workshop was to record and/or create isiZulu names for the whole of South Africa and a varied team gathered for three days to fulfil this mission. This marks a critical milestone in a country with more than 870 bird species and one that is vastly diverse in culture, language and heritage. For the first time ever, isiZulu names for some seabirds and tropical birds were developed at this workshop.
NANDI THOBELA, EMPOWERING PEOPLE PROGRAMME MANAGER
Citizen scientists for Secretarybirds
Secretarybirds require large, open and intact natural areas, ideally grassland. Although their preferred prey is locusts, they also hunt snakes and rodents and are therefore appreciated by ecologically minded farmers. In 2020, the species was uplisted to Endangered due to dramatic population declines over the past three decades.
BirdLife South Africa is conducting a range of scientific studies to help ensure that this endemic African raptor does not go extinct. The ongoing Secretarybird Conservation Project aims to reverse the population declines by means of evidence-based conservation science and to this end we are tracking Secretarybirds to understand the threats they face, their habitat requirements and how climate change may affect them. At the same time we are encouraging citizen scientists across South Africa to report nest sightings so that we can build a national database of Secretarybird nest sites and breeding attempts. This database will help us monitor the population and investigate changes in breeding success and why the birds abandon nest sites.
To assist in this work, BirdLife South Africa calls on members of the public to become citizen scientists and support the conservation of the bird that is proudly displayed on the national coat of arms. If you would like to help, please record any Secretarybird breeding and nesting attempt on our Secretarybird Conservation Project web page (https://www.birdlife.org.za/what-we-do/landscape-conservation/what-we-do/wetlands-grasslands/secretarybird/). It is important that you include the coordinates of the nest site, as without them we cannot do anything with your report. You can also download the BirdLasser app to your phone, sign up to BirdLife South Africa’s Threatened Species Cause under settings and log general sightings of Secretarybirds and other threatened species. We will be able to access the data remotely and use it for various research projects that inform the conservation-related decisions we make.
DR CHRISTIAAN WILLEM BRINK, RAPTOR AND LARGE TERRESTRIAL BIRD PROJECT MANAGER
Together for 10 years
This month BirdLife South Africa’s Birds and Renewable Energy Project celebrates its 10th anniversary – and much achieved.
A transition to renewable energy is essential in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, yet renewable energy can also present an unintended but potentially significant threat to biodiversity. Birds and bats are killed by wind turbine blades and important habitats are fragmented or even destroyed by the infrastructure needed to produce wind and solar power. Negative impacts such as these must be identified, assessed and managed. Failure to do so could increase the probability that some species will go extinct and could undermine investment in efforts to mitigate climate change.
Sponsored by Investec Corporate and Institutional Banking, BirdLife South Africa’s Birds and Renewable Energy Project advocates for a nature-friendly roll-out of renewable energy initiatives. Follow our social media channels as we reflect on some of our successes over the past decade.
SAMANTHA RALSTON-PATON, BIRDS AND RENEWABLE ENERGY PROJECT MANAGER
You might win, birds do win!
There are only a couple of hundred tickets left in BirdLife South Africa’s raffle, which is an annual fundraiser in support of our important conservation work. So not only do you stand a chance to win R100 000 (1st prize), R25 000 (2nd prize) or R10 000 (3rd prize), but by entering you are helping us in our mission to conserve South Africa’s beautiful diversity of bird species in the process.
Don’t delay; buy your ticket at https://www.birdlife.org.za/jackpot-birding-2022/ today.
Society Lottery Scheme is registered with National Lotteries Commission (Reg No. 00293/04).
How to engage effectively with EIAs
BirdLife South Africa’s Policy and Advocacy Programme takes various proactive and reactive measures aimed at curtailing threats to priority sites and bird species. One component of our work is selective engagement in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) processes. Our limited capacity, however, means that it is crucial that other stakeholders also play a role in commenting on proposed developments that threaten birds. In our Conservation Conversations webinar on 19 July 2022, we included a presentation on how to engage effectively in EIA processes. In case you missed it, the presentation can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xE5YN7eoyew&t=3903s
As mentioned in the presentation, the Policy and Advocacy team has been hard at work developing a resource pack that will guide interested parties – and BirdLife South Africa members in particular – who wish to review and respond to EIA reports. The relevant documents have now been completed and are available on the BirdLife South Africa website at https://www.birdlife.org.za/what-we-do/policy-and-advocacy/media-and-resources/
The resource pack comprises three documents:
A Guide to Effective Engagement in Environmental Impact Assessment Processes: a comprehensive overview of the EIA process and how to engage effectively from when the first notification is received to the final decision-making stage.
EIA Review Checklist: a concise list of things to look out for when reviewing and commenting on EIA reports.
Frequently Asked Questions: responses to general queries about the EIA process that range from how mining fits into the EIA process to the role of the Green Scorpions.
We hope that these documents will be useful. If you have any questions or concerns that have not been included, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
KIRSTEN DAY, ADVOCACY OFFICER
How old is that Bearded Vulture?
The Maloti-Drakensberg range that connects South Africa and Lesotho is the last and southernmost stronghold of the region’s Critically Endangered Bearded Vulture. There are fewer than 100 breeding pairs left in these mountains, which are also a vital breeding and foraging site for the Endangered Cape Vulture. In the face of climate change and global warming, this high-altitude landscape is considered a critical refuge for biodiversity such as its resident, near endemic, vultures.
The separation of ages is not only of interest, but is also important when assessing the breeding and survival success of the Bearded Vulture. To help observers determine the age of the birds seen, an illustrated chart has been produced by the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund. By tracking changes in underwing pattern and facial coloration it shows the seven years from juvenile to adult. This will assist interested people who wish to get better acquainted with this awe-inspiring species, especially at the viewing and photographic hides and for research. This chart has been made available for free and a high-res version can be downloaded from www.robertsbirds.co.za
The John Voelcker Bird Book Fund acknowledges with gratitude guidance given by Dr Sonja Krüger of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary in KwaZulu-Natal.
More information about this species is available from the Bearded Vulture Recovery Programme at http://www.projectvulture.org.za/ and https://www.facebook.com/projectvulture
INGRID WEIERSBYE, JOHN VOELCKER BIRD BOOK FUND
Buy an artwork and help conservation
The John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, which publishes Roberts Bird Guides, will generously donate 25% of the proceeds from the sale of artwork produced for its books to BirdLife South Africa for its important efforts to conserve birds and their habitats.
By buying one of the magnificent seabird plates, not only will you be able to appreciate the work itself, but you will also be contributing to the conservation of South Africa’s birds. And for those who added many species to their life lists on the Flock to Marion voyage or perhaps enjoyed the recent appearance of the Snowy Sheathbill in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape, it’s an opportunity to remind themselves of these special occasions.
To place an order or find out more, please e-mail email@example.com
ANDY WASSUNG, COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
The African Bird Fair on YouTube
If you couldn’t attend last month’s African Bird Fair, you’ll be pleased to know that all the content, with the exception of the paid workshops and keynote presentations, is now available on an ‘African Bird Fair 2022’ playlist on BirdLife South Africa’s YouTube channel, which you can access here.
The African Bird Fair has been held annually for well over a decade, at the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden or Johannesburg Zoo. With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic it had to go online, and by organising Virtual African Bird Fairs in 2020 and 2021 we were able to test new formats and, importantly, open the experience to bird enthusiasts far beyond South Africa’s borders. This precedent was expanded to a hybrid event in 2022: more than 1000 people attended virtually, while we also hosted approximately 250 people at a smaller physical event at Isdell House.
We were able to offer a lot to both virtual and in-person guests, including informative birding workshops and fascinating keynote addresses; live birding safaris, broadcast around the world by WildEarth; and an incredible line-up of speakers and presenters who gave so willingly and freely of their time and knowledge – we are immensely grateful to you all! In addition, Canon very kindly supplied us with top-of-the-range studio equipment to take the production and visual aesthetic of The African Bird Fair to new heights.
We would like to thank everyone who was involved in putting together another successful African Bird Fair, and in particular we would like to express our gratitude to the following sponsors: Swarovski; Ford Wildlife Foundation; ZEISS; Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust; Italtile; MSC Cruises; Canon South Africa; Everard Read Gallery; WildEarth; Charles Greig; Exclusive Books; African Birdlife; Leica; Struik Nature; John Voelcker Bird Book Fund; Westerman’s; BirdPro; Chamberlain.
Although another in-person Open Day will be held at Isdell House in the coming months (watch this space!), the beauty of the virtual aspect of this year’s African Bird Fair is that the content lives on. So we encourage you to visit our YouTube channel and continue to enjoy the incredible diversity of the informative and interesting content showcased at the event.
ANDY WASSUNG, COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER