BirdLife South Africa e-Newsletter: February 2018

BirdLife South Africa e-newsletter February 2018

Roaming Rocky on social media

Roaming Rocky for websiteTo celebrate the declaration of the African Black Oystercatcher as Bird of the Year for 2018, we are selling some very cute fluffy toy oystercatchers. Modelled on Chrissie Cloete’s little character Rocky, these toys are available for R150 each at BirdLife South Africa’s Shop For the Birds! and at the offices of the Nature’s Valley Trust in Nature’s Valley and Offshore Adventures in Plettenberg Bay.

To raise awareness of the Bird of the Year, we will be running a social media campaign that encourages people to take photos of their fluffy toy, Rocky the oystercatcher, in all the beautiful, wild or interesting places they visit. We would particularly like to see if we can get a shot of Rocky visiting each of South Africa’s 112 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) during 2018. So make sure to take your Rocky toy with you on your travels and post your photographs on social media with the following hashtags (#RoamingRocky, #BOTY2018, #Oystercatcher, #ShareTheShores, #WhereIsRocky). Let’s see how far Rocky can travel in 2018!

Monty Brett online

montybrett final resized

Endorsed by BirdLife South Africa, Monty Brett’s Online Bird Courses cover a wide range of topics, from bird identification for beginners to tackling cryptic LBJs and perplexing birds of prey. The comprehensive courses are hosted by two of South Africa’s best-known bird experts, Geoff Lockwood and Duncan McKenzie. They take you step by step through an abundance of information in an easy and engaging manner. Best of all, you can watch the sessions at leisure on your computer, tablet or smartphone – all you need is an Internet connection. And you can watch them repeatedly to refresh your memory and ensure you don’t miss a thing. No matter your level of experience, you’ll learn a great deal from Monty Brett’s Online Bird Courses. Visit

Bird of the Year 1

Bird of the Year 2018 merchandise

Shop For the Birds! is now selling African Black Oystercatcher-themed T-shirts, buffs and pins, as well as fluffy toys of Rocky the Oystercatcher that are sure to be a huge hit with kids. Visit the shop at Isdell House, 17 Hume Road, Dunkeld West in Johannesburg or e-mail Bianca at for postal orders.

International Land Conservation Congress

International Land Conseervation Congress DW Panel Discussion

Dale Wright, IBA Regional Conservation Manager for the Western Cape, and Candice Stevens, Policy & Advocacy Programme Manager, attended the International Land Conservation Network Congress 2018, which was held in Santiago, Chile, from 24 to 26 January. This congress takes place every two years to host leaders in Private Land Conservation and facilitate lesson sharing and the formation of strategic global partnerships. The 2018 event was attended by 160 delegates from 24 countries.

The need for Privately Protected Areas (PPAs) is growing worldwide. So too is their success, which is based firstly on increasing pressure to protect formally and manage effectively our last bastions of biodiversity, and secondly on realising that vast tracts of land that are crucial to successful conservation lie within private ownership, be it communal, business, individual or otherwise. Candice and Dale were able to lend their expertise and experience to this global platform and showcase innovative achievements resulting from their work in South Africa.

International Land Conservation Congress Birding in La Campana IBAThe 2018 congress focused on legal and policy frameworks, with specific emphasis on conservation finance, particularly tax incentives, and on tools for better governance and management. Candice was invited to present her work in developing South Africa’s first effective biodiversity tax incentive, section 37D, and this success story was warmly applauded by the global community. Dale talked about enhancing the conservation of private land in South Africa as part of a discussion session entitled ‘Thinking strategically: Responding to changing needs’ and he got participants reflecting on innovative ways to improve their own projects back home. The BirdLife South Africa team helped to put South Africa on the map at this congress, illustrating how we are achieving Private Land Conservation through South Africa’s unique and world-leading PPA model, Biodiversity Stewardship.

International Land Conservation Congress CS Panel DiscussionDale and Candice were enriched by the many practical lessons learnt in various sessions and the great networking with colleagues within this specific sector. A number of exciting strategic outcomes were also achieved, including a preliminary discussion regarding the establishment of a Land Conservation Network in Africa. Dale is looking forward to making progress in documenting and understanding the various Private Land Conservation approaches under way across the continent. Candice was invited to co-chair a global conservation tax committee to create a platform for developing tax incentives in other countries and transfer successes from the likes of South Africa to other parts of the world.

Fortunately there was also time for some birding, with the highlights being a Giant Hummingbird in the La Campana National Park and fantastic views of Andean Condors in the Yerba Loca National Park, surrounded by the high Andean mountains.

Bag a Cape Parrots bag from Woolworths

Cape Parrot BagsThese beautiful shopping bags are available at Woolworths stores throughout South Africa. There are now only a few thousand left, so get to your closest Woolworths store today and show your support!

R10 from the sale of each bag will be donated to BirdLife South Africa’s IBA Programme. Funds raised through this initiative will help to safeguard the remaining patches of Cape Parrot habitat and support the annual Cape Parrot census.

The biggest challenge facing the conservation of this species is the need to protect the forest habitat on which it relies so heavily. Over-utilisation and degradation have resulted in the fragmentation of the parrots’ home, which continues to this day. Mortality from Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease is also an increasingly common concern.

For more information, go to

On the road with Ross

image2Readers of this blog should hold onto their seats because there’s a travel schedule for the first quarter of 2018 that may well be the end of me! January got off to a rollicking start when I joined my colleague Bronwyn Maree for a Common Oceans meeting in Fiji. We’ve established a beachhead there as a means to engage with the Chinese distant-water fleet because all our other attempts have resulted in much talking with officials but nothing on the water. A large contingent of China’s high-seas fleet uses Suva, the capital of Fiji, as a base, so we have appointed James, a Fijian, as our Port-Based Outreach (PBO) officer there.

image 1The main purpose of going to Fiji was to host an inception workshop for Fijian officials and, crucially, the many agents who work with the Chinese fishing vessels. However, Bronwyn and I also needed to get an understanding of James’s working conditions. It’s difficult enough to manage people remotely, but without knowledge of the ‘lie of the land’ and how things work (or don’t work), it’s even more tricky. Both objectives were well achieved. We spent a good evening sharing a bowl of kava (a traditional Fijian drink) with the staff of BirdLife International’s (BLI) Pacific Office (it hosts James who, like Bronwyn, is not actually a BirdLife staffer) and some people from Nature Fiji, the BirdLife Partner. Fiji is a big country and the main island, Viti Levu, is massive, but the towns are small and the people are wonderfully relaxed and friendly, but still professional and efficient. What a great mix!

I had never been to Polynesia, so there was always going to be a crushing need to get out into the forest to find some of the endemics – and I duly did. Mark O’Brien from BLI kindly took Bronwyn, Karen Baird (my counterpart for the Pacific region) and myself out one afternoon after our meetings. Just a 10-minute taxi ride from downtown Suva is some intact habitat with most of the Viti Levu endemics. The Masked Shining Parrot was probably the top bird, but the Red Lory came in a close second! I had hoped to do some decent birding elsewhere, but torrential rain and disastrous flight cancellations put a premature end to those hopes. In the end I came away with 15 lifers – not an unreasonable outcome for so little quality birding. However, quite a few Fijian endemics, including the Fiji Petrel, will remain on my wish list for the foreseeable future.

Above left: The exquisite blue sea and tropical reefs that fringe emerald islands make Fiji a stunning tourist destination.

Above right: A visit to Levuka, an outlying port, required a short flight. The size of the plane to take us there was cause for some excitement!

IBA challenge for website map of IBAsNew IBA BirdLasser Challenge

The new Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas BirdLasser Challenge focuses on the network of 112 sites identified by BirdLife South Africa’s Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) Programme. These IBAs are critical for the long-term survival of bird species that are globally threatened, have a restricted range or are confined to specific biomes or vegetation types. Included among them are birding hotspots such as the Kruger National Park, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Wakkerstroom and iSimangaliso Wetland Park. For a map of South Africa’s IBAs, see; to find out more about each IBA, go to

Left: The IBA Programme has identified 112 IBAs across South Africa.

For the challenge, launched by BirdLife South Africa and BirdLasser in 2018, only birds logged within IBAs will count. It is hoped that birders participating in the challenge will collect valuable data about the distribution of birds within the IBA network.

To take part, go to, click on ‘Log in’, visit an IBA and start logging. The data will automatically update to the online map. We believe the network holds more than 750 bird species. The challenge is, can we record most of them in one year? Sign up now and let’s try to log sightings within all the 112 IBAs before 31 December 2018. We need you to take up the challenge and help us ‘give conservation wings’.

Engaging a new generation of conservationists

Spring Alive 2017 featured the campaign’s first children’s story book, a cuddly toy and a bird fact ‘Advent calendar’. The success of all three sums up its achievements.

30 Days of Spring

Spring Alive Learners from Country College Volksrust meeting Ringo and learning about her storyKicking off Spring Alive in South Africa, an ‘Advent calendar’ of bird-related facts and activities each day took children on a month-long journey of learning about bird migration. CDs distributed to schools across the country contained 30 bite-sized activities devised to gradually build up the class’s knowledge in a fun and varied way. Tasks ranged from word searches and food web designs to recording and monitoring the birds in their neighbourhood.

Teachers reported that this was an excellent way to introduce children to the Spring Alive message. Thanks to 30 Days of Spring, children across South Africa have gained a better understanding of the birds they see around them and they are now aware that some of the species they encounter are on just one step of an amazing round-the-world journey.

Ringo – the Journey of a White Stork

Spring Alive Ringo Story2017 saw the publication of Spring Alive’s very first children’s story book: Ringo – the Journey of a White Stork. This charmingly illustrated narrative follows Ringo on her first migration from her nest in Germany to Wakkerstroom, South Africa. On the way she encounters issues common to many migrating birds: conservation efforts like the ringing of chicks, and negative human impacts such as hunting and climate change. The book shines a light on the fascinating life history of the White Stork, from nest building and raising young to the way in which individuals communicate with each other. It also incorporates tales of human traditions surrounding the species and the ways in which some European villages honour this symbolic bird. The book has already been distributed in electronic form to 60 schools across South Africa, with the plan to expand to another 40 schools in 2018.

Spring Alive The Ringo team Judy Lynn Wheeler Carol Preston and Kristi GarlandTo bring Ringo and her story to life, Spring Alive created a White Stork soft toy to accompany the book – it even bears the leg ring that inspired the original story. Having something tangible to hold, like this toy, provides young children with a character to connect with, enabling them to identify better with the White Stork and its inspirational migration journey.

Conservation Club workshops

Complying with this year’s theme, ‘Don’t Take Chicks with You’, various activities were designed to spread the important message of what to do if a chick is found outside its nest. The Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) trained school Conservation Club coordinators to run workshops on this theme that could be taken back to their schools. Coordinators were also shown how to construct bird feeders and nest boxes, which were then replicated in their respective schools, with impressive results.

Judging by the enthusiasm that greeted the Spring Alive campaign, it’s clear that the next generation of conservationists is going to be more talented and passionate than ever before.

Spring Alive Action of the Year results

BirdLife South Africa e-Newsletter: January 2018

BirdLife South Africa e-newsletter January 2018

Year of the Bird

2018 Year of the Bird logoNo, it’s not Bird of the Year, it’s Year of the Bird! 2018 marks the centenary of one of the most important and powerful laws to protect birds ever passed in the USA: the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. To honour this milestone, National Geographic, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon and BirdLife International, as well as more than 50 other participating organisations, have committed to raising awareness about birds, the threats they face and the conservation measures needed to protect them. News about birds will be broadcast across many channels – magazines, television and social media, among others – with fresh editorial, content and programmes. Follow it on the official website or #birdyourworld.

BirdLasser challenge a huge success

BLSA Staff birding challenger 2017The winner of the BirdLife South Africa staff’s fun BirdLasser challenge for 2017 was Melissa Whitecross, who recorded 533 species. She was followed by Fanie du Plessis with 515 species, Linda van den Heever with 483 species and Mark and Tania Anderson with 481 species. Fanie is the finance and operations manager and Mark is the CEO, which makes their contributions even more impressive as they have fewer opportunities to go out birding than the rest of the conservation staff. Fifteen of the staff members recorded more than 200 species during the year. Bianca Hare deserves special mention as she only started birding in 2017 and recorded 293 species! Ernst Retief logged the most records (5130), followed by Fanie du Plessis (4099).

Most of the staff members are also keen contributors to SABAP2, so many of these records were added to the database. The most common species logged was Hadeda Ibis, while 59 species were recorded only once. Although this is a fun event that generates a lot of banter among the staff, it does also show that they have a genuine passion for birds and really do enjoy birding as a hobby.

A new project manager for Threatened Species

Melissa Whitecross Levuvhu Black Stork SurveyWhile completing her PhD in savanna ecology at Wits University, Dr Melissa Whitecross joined BirdLife South Africa as a part-time intern in the Terrestrial Bird Conservation Programme (TBCP) in January 2017. After graduating in July, she took on more responsibility with the TBCP and has become a valued member of the team.

Melissa is an avid birder and was the winner of the 2017 BirdLife South Africa staff BirdLasser challenge with a tally of 533 species. She cycled for the organisation’s Fast & Featherless team in last year’s Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge and will be riding again in 2018 – and has challenged colleagues to join her. A keen wildlife photographer and passionate naturalist, Melissa hopes to combine her background in ecology and vegetation analyses with her ornithological knowledge and skills to contribute to furthering our understanding of threatened bird species and their habitats in South Africa. She will be focusing on projects involving the Secretarybird, White-winged Flufftail, Taita Falcon and Southern Banded Snake Eagle.

Melissa is also a strong public speaker and delivered several well-received talks about the plight of Africa’s vultures to school groups and bird clubs during 2017. We look forward to watching her progress in her new role – and seeing whether she can defend her challenge title in 2018!

Welcome to three new ‘seabirds’

Three new seabird staffThe three new recruits who have joined the seabird conservation squad are Andrew de Blocq, Philip Augustyn and Makhudu Masotla. Andrew joins the penguin team as the project officer for Coastal Seabirds Conservation. A recent ‘Fitz’ graduate, he researched the impact of disturbance by boat-based tourism on waterbirds at De Hoop for his MSc and after completing his studies took up a post as teaching assistant on an ecology and conservation course in the Kruger National Park. Andrew is a passionate birder and worked part-time as a professional bird guide while studying. In 2017 he participated in the Champions of the Flyway event in Israel, raising more than R180 000 for the conservation of migratory birds. He will be taking on field-work and research duties as part of his new role, focusing mainly on the African Penguin.

Philip took up a joint position under the Common Oceans Tuna Project and the Albatross Task Force (ATF). An experienced scientific observer who has studied marine mammal, fish and seabird activity around Africa, Asia, the Americas and Antarctica, he will be responsible for working with foreign tuna longline vessels that operate on the high seas and will engage in awareness activities on seabird bycatch by visiting foreign vessels that dock in Cape Town harbour. He will also be putting his extensive observer experience to use as an ATF instructor in local fleets.

Makhudu joins the team as the Seabird Conservation intern. He grew up in a village near Polokwane and it was his upbringing on the family farm that led him to pursue ecological studies. His MSc, from the University of Limpopo, focused on the breeding biology and ecology of the African Quail-finch. During his time at the university he established the Solomondale Green Movement, a project that taught young people in his community about biodiversity through tree-planting, soccer and chess. Makhudu recently returned from Marion Island, where he gained valuable experience in research and the monitoring of the island’s seabirds. He will work for the ATF and Common Oceans Project, focusing on seabird bycatch mitigation.

The addition of these new team members is most welcome and we look forward to watching them grow and spread their wings in their respective positions.

Alphabet soup: the UN FAO ABNJ Brazil-based COTP NAW

Brazil NAWThe Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) Common Oceans Tuna Project has a lot of moving parts. When friends or family ask what I actually do, I usually explain that there are four different elements of the project and that each element enables us to engage and work with different individuals and institutions operating within the tuna longline industry. My questioners usually stare blankly at me and I realise that I probably threw in too many acronyms or the terminology and statements that are second nature to me mean nothing to those who are not thinking, breathing and living in this industry as fully and consistently as my colleagues and I are.

On paper, the project aims to reduce the effect of tuna longline fishing on biodiversity. In other words, we are trying to prevent the accidental bycatch of seabirds, turtles, endangered sharks and other marine mammals in longline fishing. The first step in this process is to host a National Awareness Workshop (NAW) in a specific country. The countries selected tend either to be in the process of developing a fishing industry or to have had a large fishing industry. The NAW serves to inform industry, government and other related parties about the importance of conserving seabirds; about tried and tested mitigation measures designed to increase safety for the birds without affecting the catch effort; and about the reporting procedures and requirements as set out by the bodies that govern the high seas (otherwise known as Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, which are the 64% of the world’s oceans not governed by a country).

Above: Andrea Angel talks about the importance of using seabird bycatch mitigation measures during fishing operations.

The Brazilian NAW was set for the second week of December 2017. Ross Wanless, Andrea Angel and I set off for Cabo Frio, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, to host the event together with Projeto Albatroz, the Brazilian equivalent of our Albatross Task Force (ATF). Projeto Albatroz has a long history of working with the Brazilian fishing industry and trying to find innovative and cost-effective ways to reduce the accidental bycatch of seabirds in the Brazilian fleet.

The workshop went well, with BirdLife South Africa and Projeto Albatroz sharing the floor, but from the outset it became apparent that there was a lot to discuss. While we managed to cover most of the agenda items and there were great opportunities for networking, we did leave the workshop feeling as though we could have done more and spent another few days there.

Brazil NAW 2A noticeable difference between this workshop and others we have held was the general age in the room. It was refreshing to see so many people in their late 20s or early 30s, considering the situation that Brazil currently finds itself in. Political turmoil is nothing new to South Africans, but the situation in Brazil reminds us that things can get worse. Getting the country back on track is going to take a long time and a lot of work, and it was good to see the energy and drive in those who will be responsible for the task.

What I learned from this workshop is that, more than anything else, this project is really about people: fishermen trying to put food on the table for their families; company owners trying to make a profit; researchers trying to make sense of data; government officials trying to keep everyone happy… And then there’s us, conservationists trying to save species. When all of these elements come together, it’s often difficult to keep the aims and goals clearly defined. The Brazil NAW proved to be one of the workshops where, despite all the politics and agendas, one thing was certain – everyone in the room was concerned about saving seabirds.

Left: Workshop attendees included scientists and representatives of government and NGOs, as well as the Projeto Albatroz and BirdLife South Africa teams.

I come home after each workshop with a sense of achievement because, on paper at least, we’ve completed a task. But the amount of work that needs to be done after each workshop in order to make a true difference in the lives of seabirds also increases, and that can sometimes be discouraging. It’s a challenge that all of us involved with this project have signed up for and will continue to strive towards.


Barn Owl squatters

Barn OwlBarn Owl 2Several bird species, notably the parasitic cuckoos or generalists like the Egyptian Goose, prefer to use ready-made nests rather than build their own. Western Barn Owls tend to either search for abandoned nests or simply take over a site that is already in use. As burrow-nesters, they occupy any type of chamber for nesting, from mine shafts, buildings or nest boxes to tree holes – or even a neighbour’s deluxe suite (the neighbour at Ingula being the resident Hamerkop pair). There have also been reports of Barn Owls taking over nests from kestrels by force in the UK. Hamerkops will spend several months building their large nest and, if undisturbed, will use it for at least four consecutive years. However, more often than not, these nests are usurped by bees, monitor lizards, Egyptian Geese – and Barn Owls.

Our find was exciting, but it also posed some questions: how long had the owls been in the Hamerkop nest? Are they breeding there? Did they force their way into the nest or did they take it opportunistically? Are there other Hamerkop nests in the area that have also been invaded by Barn Owls? We are no closer to finding answers at present, but we hope to share more exciting news in the near future!


Peter Ryan to talk at Wits Bird Club

Peter RyanProfessor Ryan’s talk about the Prince Edward Islands as a seabird Mecca will take place at Delta Park on Saturday, 17 February 2018 at 14h00. Declared a Special Nature Reserve, South Africa’s Prince Edward Islands are home to 28 breeding seabird species, including almost half of the world’s Wandering Albatrosses, four other albatross species and four penguin species. Their only land bird is the Lesser Sheathbill, which rears its chicks by stealing food from seabirds. Marion Island, the larger of the two islands, has suffered more from human activities than Prince Edward, but this is slowly being redressed through an ambitious restoration programme. This talk will illustrate the amazing diversity of birds and other wildlife at South Africa’s only overseas territory.

The cost is R50 per person and includes cheese and wine. Book by calling Lauraine at the Wits Bird Club office on 011 782 7267 (Tuesdays and Wednesdays) or visiting

All proceeds will be donated to the Marion Island Restoration Appeal.

Monty Brett online

montybrett final resizedEndorsed by BirdLife South Africa, Monty Brett’s Online Bird Courses cover a wide range of topics, from bird identification for beginners to tackling cryptic LBJs and perplexing birds of prey. The comprehensive courses are hosted by two of South Africa’s best-known bird experts, Geoff Lockwood and Duncan McKenzie. They take you step by step through an abundance of information in an easy and engaging manner. Best of all, you can watch the sessions at leisure on your computer, tablet or smartphone – all you need is an Internet connection. And you can watch them repeatedly to refresh your memory and ensure you don’t miss a thing. No matter your level of experience, you’ll learn a great deal from Monty Brett’s Online Bird Courses. Visit

Birding at Lekgalameetse

Hosted by Natural Scientific Services, this self-drive, self-catering weekend getaway is aimed at nature enthusiasts of all knowledge levels and will take place in the breathtaking Lekgalameetse Nature Reserve. Accommodation is in the reserve’s log cabins, which lie in dense forest by a stream at the foot of the imposing mountains. Activities will include a presentation about the local flora, birds and other wildlife and walks focusing on birds, butterflies, amphibians and plants. For more information, call NSS on 011 787 7400 / 083 622 9224 or e-mail or

Waterberg birding

Shakati lodgeShakati river















Shakati Private Game Reserve in the heart of the Waterberg IBA (on the birding route) is a favourite destination for many birders, boasting as it does river, savanna, woodland, acacia forest and indigenous garden habitats, as well as plenty of birds and wildlife. To see the bird list, go to

Accommodation is in our small and luxurious, but affordable safari lodge. See the video at

Contact Gideon on 082 410 1808, or


African Birdlife

News, reviews and stunning photography are all wrapped up in the latest issue of African Birdlife. There’s news about the African Black Oystercatcher (Bird of the Year), a ground-nesting Black Sparrowhawk and avian flu; reviews of books, a camera and a spotting scope; and breathtaking photographs of African Pygmy Geese – and much, much more. Plus, there are binoculars and books to be won!

Calendar 2018 Cover

BirdLife South Africa calendar

Celebrate the New Year with the latest Birds of Southern Africa calendar and enjoy a stunning full-page colour photograph for each month of 2018. The calendars are selling at R140 each (excluding postage). Please contact Shireen Gould at to place your order. Don’t delay – remaining stock is limited and selling fast!

Bird of the Year merchandise

The African Black Oystercatcher has been chosen as Bird of the Year 2018 and Shop For the Birds! has specially themed merchandise to celebrate this. Be the first to buy African Black Oystercatcher pin badges, buffs, T-shirts and fluffies. Visit us at 17 Hume Road, Dunkeld West, Johannesburg, or e-mail Bianca Hare at to order.

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BirdLife South Africa e-Newsletter: December 2017

BirdLife South Africa e-newsletter December 2017 

IMG 508411Giving Conservation Wings in 2017

It has been another successful year for BirdLife South Africa in our efforts to conserve our country’s birds and their habitats. Although our work is carried out by a team of hardworking and dedicated staff and volunteers, our members, affiliated bird clubs, supporters, collaborators and donors all contribute to our success. We are grateful to everyone who is helping us to ‘give conservation wings’.


Credit: Bryn De Kocks

Events 1Greetings from the Membership team

We ran a fantastic membership campaign at Flock at Sea AGAIN!, where existing or new Conservation League Members stood the chance to win a pair of Swarovski binoculars. It was a great success and 67 new Conservation League Members signed up on the cruise. Thank you for your support!

In July this year we said a sad farewell to Elaine Cherrington, who had been the African Birdlife administrator for the past four years. Elaine is enjoying her retirement spending time with her husband John, but can still be found in the office where, as a valued volunteer, she assists with the library, membership and various events. Janine Goosen joined the team in July as our new African Birdlife administrator.

Elaine and Shireen Gould once again visited the Environmental Club at Kyalami Prep, where we had a fun afternoon learning about the Lappet-Faced Vulture. We discussed how the vultures use thermals for flying, and the boys and girls made their own paper planes to fly outside on the field. 

The Membership Programme assisted at The African Bird Fair in September, where we had a membership stand and sold ‘Shop for the Birds!’ items and second-hand books. This year’s fair was once again a great success. The weather was fantastic and the support from members and non-members was great.

Events 3

At the end of September, the Membership Programme championed a stand at the Gauteng Getaway Show held at The Ticketpro Dome in Northgate, Johannesburg. The three-day event was well attended and we promoted membership and subscriptions to African Birdlife and sold goods from ‘Shop for the Birds!’. With more than 30 new members signed up, it proved to be a wonderful public awareness campaign.

In another awareness campaign, and to promote the digital issue of African Birdlife, we sent flyers to The American Bird Fair held in Pennsylvania, USA.

Through the year various events such as book launches and garden club visits have been held at Isdell House and the Membership team has been available to promote membership and open ‘Shop for the Birds!’.

The 2018 calendars arrived in time to be launched at The African Bird Fair, and they are once again filled with beautiful images. There are still calendars available if you would like to buy one – they make lovely gifts!

The Membership team – Shireen, Bianca and Janine – wishes you all a blessed festive season. Travel safely and wishing you all well for 2018!


The best of 2017

In April, Flock at Sea AGAIN! was the largest congregation of birders ever to have been seen in the southern hemisphere, while in September The African Bird Fair brought together several thousand birding enthusiasts during the weekend event.


Will penguins return to De Hoop?

African Penguins began to establish a colony at the eastern edge of De Hoop Nature Reserve in 2003. The colony reached about 18 pairs before attacks by a terrestrial predator, thought to be a leopard or caracal, caused the attempt to be abandoned in 2006. With the support of CapeNature, BirdLife South Africa aims to re-establish this colony, after having made sure that predators cannot disrupt the attempt this time. A suite of protection measures is still to be fully developed, but is sure to include a predator-proof fence!

The plan to re-establish the colony uses to its advantage the natural tendency of penguins to breed in groups. The birds will be attracted to the site by social cues that indicate a number of penguins are already breeding there. Decoys, call playback and artificial burrows will trick penguins into thinking that a colony exists, making it more likely that young penguins will come ashore to breed. Other plans will be developed in case this doesn’t work, and we will also consider translocating birds if necessary. There is still plenty to be done before penguins will once again breed at De Hoop, but watch this space!

De Hoop panorama Adam Welz

 The beautiful site at the eastern edge of De Hoop Nature Reserve, where BirdLife South Africa is trying to re-establish a penguin colony. Credit: Adam Welz

This work would not have been possible without the support of Pamela Isdell, Patron for the African Penguin, who has funded the project thus far. We would also like to thank CapeNature and the Department of Environmental Affairs for their assistance and support of this endeavour.


Penguin and chick Ross Wanless

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Above left: Hopefully African Penguins will soon be a common sight at De Hoop. Credit: Ross Wanless

Above right: A meeting on site with CapeNature staff and consultants. Credit: Christina Hagen

Paired perfectionMAVA Foundation supports seabirds in West Africa

IMG 7326

My journey with the MAVA Foundation began in 2011 when, in my role as Africa Coordinator for the BirdLife International Marine Programme, I began supporting, a spatial research and mapping initiative on seabirds in West Africa. Called the Alcyon Project, it was funded by the foundation.

I could see that once we had a reasonable idea of where birds go, we would want to understand and address threats in the hotspots. And given the scale of fishing in the Canary Current, the third most productive marine ecosystem on earth, bycatch was always going to be on the radar. So I began to position BirdLife International as the go-to team for addressing seabird bycatch threats.

Tarrafal St Antao 2

In 2015, the MAVA Foundation announced that it was closing its doors and would provide no funding beyond 2022. This may seem like bad news, but MAVA is an extraordinary donor that prefers to develop projects that will have a lasting impact – and seabird and turtle bycatch is a key issue. I was asked to lead the process of developing a bycatch project for West Africa. On 15 November 2017 I was advised that our efforts (‘our ’ includes my BirdLife International colleagues, consultants, project partners and the Albatross Task Force) had been successful – to the tune of €5.5-million!

With a team in Dakar that will grow to six in early 2018, we will spend two years understanding the nature, scale and extent of turtle and seabird bycatch in the region, and the following three years doing trials to get workable solutions into target fisheries. Throughout this time we will also build capacity and a cadre of young scientists to strengthen the future of marine science and conservation in West Africa; roll out engagement programmes across the fisheries sector in all key countries; and expend significant time and energy on building better, more robust fisheries governance structures and institutions. Suddenly, R20-million a year doesn’t seem unduly generous…


IBA team’s 2017 successes

IBA Team 2017

Based on the significant progress and successes of the Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) Programme and our national position within the conservation sector, we decided to assess our current resources, skills and operational structures and develop a future strategy that will increase our success of conserving key sites and habitats. The strategy is close to being finalised and will be implemented from 2018.

Part of the metamorphosis of the programme has been the advent of the global Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) Programme. Daniel Marnewick, the manager of BirdLife South Africa’s IBA Programme, decided in late 2016 that it would be in the programme’s best interests to play a proactive role in embracing KBAs. In 2017 he developed a strategic partnership with the South African National Biodiversity Institute to drive KBAs nationally. He was also nominated as the KBA Community regional representative for Africa and the KBA Community chairperson, which earns him a voting seat on the global KBA Committee. Consequently, Daniel is now playing strategic roles in KBAs nationally, regionally and globally. It is his intention that BirdLife South Africa, and South Africa as a country, will play a leading role in the global KBA Programme.

The IBA Programme continued to take the lead in securing and managing key sites and habitats for birds. After the declarations of Chrissiesmeer (2014) and Sneeuwberg (2016) as Protected Environments, the IBA Programme, through Ernst Retief, played a significant part in supporting the declaration of the Greater Lakenvlei Protected Environment in 2017, securing 12 000ha of critical grassland and wetland habitat. This brings the total area in IBAs protected by these three sites to more than 90 000ha.

Thanks to Sam Schroder’s hard work, the declaration of the Moutonshoek Protected Environment will hopefully be gazetted before the end of 2017 or in early 2018; the accompanying management plan has also been drafted. Sam has also re-established and formalised the Verlorenvlei Conservancy, thus making substantial progress towards securing this vital estuarine system. Similarly, Giselle Murison re-established the Berg River Estuary Conservancy, and her surveys over this summer in both the Berg River and Klein River estuaries have shown high biodiversity value on properties abutting them. We are therefore hoping that these supporting properties will also be declared protected areas in 2018.

The success of securing and managing the protection status for privately owned land rests with the willingness and support of committed landowners. They are the true champions. It is also indicative of how much of our conservation work focuses on building positive relationships with the people who depend on IBAs. Part of this is skills development and supporting local job creation. In 2017 Sam facilitated the training of 40 local community members, all from the Verlorenvlei project area, as well as others from additional sites on the West Coast. They received training in three separate courses: herbicide application, first aid and health and safety. They are all accredited Extended Public Works Programme workers for the West Coast District Municipality. The training ensures that they meet all legislative requirements, and also for some it has meant an increase in their daily rate of pay. Thus, on top of the improvement and rehabilitation of critical bird habitat at our West Coast IBAs and their catchment, including Verlorenvlei and the Berg River estuaries, there are also direct socio-economic and livelihood impacts via increased wages and overall employability. BirdLife South Africa’s IBA Programme is certainly now being seen as a leader in estuarine conservation in the Western Cape.

The programme continues to guide the appropriate management of key habitats for birds. In 2017 Dale Wright published Bird-friendly Habitat Management Guidelines for the Endemic Birds of the Fynbos Biome (Wright et al. 2017a) and Floating Wetlands: Increasing Biodiversity and Cleaning Water in Farm Dams (Wright et al. 2017b), which provides guidelines for making farm dams more waterbird-friendly.

None of this work would be possible without the support of our funders. We are grateful to Trencor, Neil Jowell, Italtile Foundation, Zeiss, Rand Merchant Bank, Ford Wildlife Fund, Mr Price, Grindrod Bank, Rupert Natuurstigting, WWF Nedbank Green Trust, WWF-SA, Toyota and the Table Mountain Fund.

Wright DR, Lee, ATK. 2017a. Bird-friendly Habitat Management Guidelines for the Endemic Birds of the Fynbos Biome. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg.

Wright DR, Purnell AJ, Altern S, Frenzel, P. 2017b. Floating Wetlands: Increasing Biodiversity and Cleaning Water in Farm Dams. Table Mountain Fund, Cape Town.

Renewable energy in harmony with nature

Renewable energyAs 2017 draws to a close, many Cape Town residents are wondering if they will be queuing for water at Christmas. Across the world, news of droughts, intense storms, fires and flooding has become the norm. We cannot attribute a single weather event to global climate change, but 16 of the 17 warmest years in NASA’s 136-year record of global surface temperatures have occurred since 2001. There is strong evidence that the intensity and frequency of severe weather events are a result of increasing global temperatures.

BirdLife South Africa has little doubt that there is an urgent need to address the threat of global warming. One approach is to minimise greenhouse gas emissions, for example by shifting from our heavy reliance on coal to renewable energy sources. Another key response is to protect and restore ecosystems – nature is our first line of defence against severe weather events. This implies that development, including that of renewable energy facilities, must take place in harmony with nature. For all the environmental benefits associated with wind and solar energy, poorly planned facilities can impact negatively on environmental health. Fortunately, the need to reconcile the development of renewable energy with biodiversity conservation is gaining recognition both locally and internationally, and thanks to sponsorship from Investec Corporate and Institutional Banking, BirdLife South Africa has been helping to address this challenge.

BirdLife South Africa’s Birds and Renewable Energy Project provides rational, evidence-based guidance and advice to stakeholders, including government, renewable energy developers and operators, environmental assessment practitioners and consulting bird specialists. One of our major achievements for 2017 was the publication of a report summarising the results of operational phase monitoring at wind farms in South Africa. The report was based on the first eight wind farms of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme, where less than two years of operational phase monitoring was completed at each site. Although the results are preliminary, they provide important information for risk assessment and mitigation at new wind energy facilities. They also point to new priorities for research and conservation action.

The publication comes after years of groundwork to ensure that the monitoring of birds takes place at wind farms and follows standard survey protocols (as outlined in BirdLife South Africa and the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Best Practice Guidelines), and that the monitoring reports are made available for review. These are challenges that many other countries are still struggling to overcome.

BirdLife South Africa would like to express its gratitude to the Department of Environmental Affairs, the South African Wind Energy Association, the Endangered Wildlife Trust, our advisors on the Birds and Renewable Energy Specialist Group, and our sponsors, Investec Corporate and Institutional Banking, for helping to make it happen.

For more information, contact Samantha Ralston-Paton at or visit BirdLife South Africa’s website

Wins for vulture conservation

WBV chick from cherry pickerDuring the past 18 months a great number of blood, bone and feather samples has been collected from vulture species across South Africa in an effort to understand the prevalence of lead poisoning. As this collecting nears completion, all samples will be processed and submitted for testing and the results will be published in 2018. BirdLife South Africa will then move on to the next and most important phase of the project: to determine the source of the lead poisoning.

In October 2017 a team from BirdLife South Africa attended a workshop in the USA that was sponsored and facilitated by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) in Annapolis, Maryland. This was the first of four workshops aimed at addressing the complex reasons for the alarming declines in Africa’s vulture populations. The themes of this meeting focused on poisoning (both intentional and unintentional) and the threats posed by energy infrastructure, as well as possible ways to mitigate these problems. BirdLife South Africa has been tasked with developing a comprehensive review of vultures and the role they play in the prevention of disease, as well as producing a document that could be used to gain traction with policy makers.

Also in October, the Multi-species Action Plan (MsAP) for saving Africa and Eurasia’s vultures was accepted by the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) COP. One of the actions called for by the plan is the creation of Vulture Safe Zones, where owners of large tracts of land commit to managing their properties in ways that will provide safe havens for existing vulture populations. Importantly, this approach encourages positive action for vultures, focusing less on prohibition and negative messaging and more on sound environmental practices that could provide the landowner with reputational and economic benefits. Initially implemented by countries in Asia, and recently in Zambia, Vulture Safe Zones could offer conservation solutions that are effective, realistic and achievable at grassroots level.

We would like to thank Neville Isdell and Niall Perrins for making our research on vultures and lead toxicosis possible.

Flufftail Festival 2017

The Flufftail Festival’s display took the form of a maze where individual stations provided information about different aspects of water, wetlands and waterbirds. As well as learning about the basic ecology of wetlands and the services they provide, visitors discovered how to avoid polluting wetlands, why it is important to have key conservation species like the Critically Endangered White-winged Flufftail and how critical it is to conserve water in a semi-arid country such as South Africa. Shoppers were encouraged to move through the maze and complete a competition form with five questions about wetland conservation. Prizes for the daily competitions were provided by Woolworths, Mr Price, Panarottis and Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo. Raymond Rampholokeng, the founder of Bay of Grace Tours and a BirdLife-accredited guide in Soweto, also donated a half day’s birding tour as one of the prizes.

This year the Flufftail Festival partnered with the Sowetan Schools Programme and brought Grade 6 and 7 learners from four different schools in Soweto to experience an educational puppet show, ‘Waxi the Hero’, hosted by the Rare Finch Conservation Group. After the show the children were taken through the maze in small groups and were given the chance to enter the daily competitions.

The Flufftail Festival was a huge success, with a record 2288 participants working their way through the maze and learning about the importance of wetlands and the biodiversity in them. Numerous attendees commented on the positive experience they enjoyed while attending the festival and left with a new understanding about conserving the wetlands of South Africa. The positive collaboration between BirdLife South Africa, Eskom and Rand Water ensured a successful Flufftail Festival and exposed the residents of Soweto – many of whom had never heard of wetland, nor realised that Soweto is situated in a wetland – to the world of conservation and sustainable living.

flufftail images

Sowetan Schools Programme

In the current year’s cycle of the Sowetan Schools Programme, BirdLife South Africa and the Water Wise team arranged four contact sessions with learners from each school to demonstrate to them the importance of wetlands and their inhabitants. The introductory session, held in the first week of November 2016, was followed by a session when the learners attended the Flufftail Festival, hosted by Maponya Mall in Soweto from 31 January to 6 February 2017.

For the third contact session, learners were taken on guided walks in Tokoza Park to see its wetlands, dams and fields. They were shown the many different bird species that utilise this important green space and then they learned how to conduct a miniSASS assessment, which is a tool used to assess quickly the health of a stream or river. The South African Scoring System (SASS) ranks the presence of different invertebrates based on their sensitivity to pollutants in the waterway and enables users to calculate a health score.

The final contact session taught the learners about the importance of recycling and making sure that rubbish stays out of the fragile wetland systems that surround Soweto. BirdLife South Africa is proud to have partnered with Rand Water’s Water Wise team to bring the message of water conservation to learners in Soweto and we look forward to continuing our community engagement work with young people.


Raymond Rampolokeng (left) and Melissa Whitecross (right) tell learners from Lakeview and Sekwati primary schools about the birds in Tokoza Park, Soweto.


Left to right: The recycling bins used to quiz students about what items of trash should be recycled; students from Sekwati Primary School hold up bird feeders they have made; learners of Lakeview Primary School hang their feeders in a tree at the school; at Molalatladi Primary School, students complete an assessment of what they have learnt from the contact sessions.

South Africa and Ethiopia: the White-winged Flufftail link

Research on the White-winged Flufftail published in the African Journal of Ecology is the first to confirm genetic connectivity between the South African and Ethiopian populations of this Critically Endangered species. In this study, analysis of mitochondrial and nuclear markers was conducted for samples from South African (n = 3) and Ethiopian (n = 7) White-winged Flufftails, as well as Red-chested Flufftail for species comparison. Analyses of the DNA regions identified only three interspecific variations between the two populations, supporting the hypothesis that the birds in South Africa and Ethiopia do not represent different species or subspecies, but constitute one migrating population that has separate ranges in different seasons in Ethiopia and South Africa.

The results of our study link to the species having been recorded in South Africa only during the austral summer, whereas it is known to breed in Ethiopia between June and August – or summer in the northern hemisphere. However, these results do not exclude the possibility of additional breeding and non-breeding sites in countries other than South Africa and Ethiopia. The low genetic diversity observed in the populations of White-winged Flufftail needs to be investigated, as it may ultimately contribute to the extinction of the species. The lack of diversity in the immune regions of White-winged Flufftails is quantified and further discussed in our recently published paper in Scientific Reports (Dalton et al. 2016), which focuses on the sequencing and analyses of Toll-like receptor genes.

This research is a collaborative effort between the National Zoological Gardens, Pretoria, and BirdLife South Africa.


Dalton DL, Smit-Robinson HA, Vermaak E, Jarvis E, Kotzé A. 2017. Is there genetic connectivity among the Critically Endangered Whited-winged Flufftail (Sarothrura ayresi) populations from South Africa and Ethiopia? African Journal of Ecology. Accepted.

New habitat for threatened grassland species

yellow breasted pipit

A combination of ecological niche modelling, remote sensing and field surveys has enabled us to determine the distribution and population status of three threatened grassland species: Rudd’s Lark, Botha’s Lark and Yellow-breasted Pipit, all of which are localised and require specific habitats.

From 5 to 7 October, a field trip was conducted in the Memel area of the Free State to increase survey effort across these species’ ranges and to establish the accuracy of ecological niche models that had been developed. These models make it possible to identify sites for certain species that may not be covered by other monitoring projects. By identifying one of the largest contiguous patches of habitat for Rudd’s Lark and Yellow-breasted Pipit, the surveys supported the accuracy of our findings, yielding tracts of optimal and untransformed habitat. The results of this research are being fed directly into biodiversity stewardship initiatives that aim to secure these intact patches of habitat and thus contribute to the conservation of these threatened species. Large patches of the newly discovered habitat overlap with the recently created Sneeuwberg Protected Environment, which also contributes enormously to the species’ conservation.

Further studies will be done to describe and understand the current farming practices on these properties in order to determine, for example, how burning and grazing regimes impact on the three species. Such information will feed back into improved management practices.


Yellow-breasted Pipit. Credit: Warwick Tarboton

Threatened larks absent from protected areas

red larkIn a prioritisation study focusing on threatened bird species in the Northern Cape, it has been determined that more than 60% of the South African range of six of the species falls within that province. And of these six species, three – the Near Threatened Barlow’s and Sclater’s larks and the Vulnerable Red Lark – have South African ranges that are restricted entirely to the Northern Cape. Disturbingly, these three species are also the least represented species within the existing protected area network.

The aim of the study was to identify which threatened species or suites of species in the Northern Cape require the most urgent conservation intervention, research and formal protection. Red Lark and Barlow’s Lark were chosen to be the first subjects for further research. Initial objectives will include the assessment of the species’ global ranges by means of ecological niche modelling. The relatively small climatic threshold range (in terms of rainfall and temperature) in which both species occur suggests that they may be vulnerable to global climate change.

This project in the Northern Cape is supported by Kimberley Ekapa Mining Joint Venture.

Right: Red Lark. Credit: Japie Claassen

Grey-headed Gulls head to the coast for summer

As part of its operational support for Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), BirdLife South Africa has helped set up a research project to track Grey-headed Gulls in the vicinity of OR Tambo International Airport and establish their daily and seasonal movements. Once the team was comfortable that the correct harness fit had been achieved, three birds were trapped on the morning of 22 August 2017 and were fitted with trackers before being released.

Map All GHG Movements Sept17

Map of the movements of the three tracked Grey-headed Gulls between 23 August and 31 September 2017.

Two of the birds flew to the coast, indicating a possible migration, although this will only be confirmed if these birds return to Gauteng in autumn next year. The female, Embraer, made a mammoth overnight flight from eastern Gauteng to the iSimangaliso Wetland Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal on 2 September. Antonov, a male, flew to Maputo approximately two weeks later. This is the first concrete evidence that Grey-headed Gulls in Gauteng are heading to the eastern coastal areas for the summer. The information gained from these trackers will assist in monitoring the gulls’ movements to and from OR Tambo and will improve the mitigation efforts to decrease bird-strike incidents at the airport.

gull collection

Left: A Grey-headed Gull. Credit: Mark D. Anderson
Centre: Hanneline Smit-Robinson, Craig Nattrass and Gail Schaum fit a tracking device to one of the Grey-headed Gulls. Credit: Albert Froneman
Right: Melissa Hofmann releases one of the tracked birds. Credit: Albert Froneman

IBA fundraisers in 2017

Phil Liggett Collage

Fast Featherless CollageOn 16 November BirdLife South Africa and Zeiss hosted their annual evening of cocktails and canapés with special guest speaker, Phil Liggett, the world-renowned Tour de France commentator. The event was held at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in Sandton and guests were treated to a fascinating talk by Phil, who detailed how the Tour de France has changed since it commenced in 1903 and his impressions of some of the race’s top cyslists over the years.

Right: This year Team Fast & Featherless raised more than R40 000 for the IBA Programme. Well done!

Through ticket sales and a raffle for prizes generously donated by Zeiss and JustEyewear, as well as the auctioning of an original Chris Froome cycling shirt from the 2012 Tour de France, more than R50 000 was raised for the IBA Programme.

Above: A successful annual fundraiser was held in partnership with Zeiss and Phil Liggett.

Cape Parrot Bags

On Sunday 19 November, cyclists took to the streets of Johannesburg in the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge and 29 of them were riding in aid of BirdLife South Africa. It was a very hot day on the roads, but Team Fast & Featherless did us proud, managing to raise more than R40 000 for the IBA Programme. THANK YOU Team Fast & Featherless; we hope to see you all again next year.

Thanks to all these wonderful supporters, more than R90 000 has been raised to assist with the IBA Programme’s work to safeguard important bird habitats throughout South Africa.

The IBA team is also very excited that the first Woolworths shopping bags in support of BirdLife South Africa have been designed and will raise funds to support our work to protect the remaining fragments of Cape Parrot habitat. These beautiful bags are available in Woolworths stores nationwide and R10 from every bag bought goes towards protecting Cape Parrots and funding the annual Cape Parrot census. For more information, go to

Uninhibited funds raised from initiatives such as these are very important in assisting with the day-to-day running costs of the IBA Programme. We thank everyone who has supported these initiatives as we close 2017 on a high note and look forward to another productive year in 2018.

state of sa birdsThe state of our country’s birds

The State of South Africa’s Bird Report, which provides a snapshot of the current state of birds in South Africa, the pressures they face and the steps being taken by various stakeholders to mitigate these threats, was completed this year. This is the first time this publication has been produced for South Africa.

Policy & Advocacy – a new approach

Policy and Advocacy Programme 1Although specific conservation action projects are undeniably important, laws and environmental policy create the wider framework into which all conservation efforts fit. The ability to reform and direct the ambit of legislation and environmental policy, while often challenging to accomplish, can have far-reaching positive consequences that impact numerous sites and species. Yet even where solid policy commitments exist, advocacy and monitoring by civil society are often essential to ensure that they are properly implemented. BirdLife South Africa’s new Policy & Advocacy Programme is tasked with this in support of its nationwide conservation work.

The programme’s team comprises Candice Stevens as manager and Jonathan Booth as the advocacy officer. With a combined skills set that encompasses tax and biodiversity finance, environmental law and sustainability, they have revised the strategy and outlook for BirdLife South Africa’s national policy work and regional and local advocacy responses, and are supported by funding from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. This new approach began in July 2017 and has seen some interesting successes and challenges.

Our policy work has been instrumental in providing carefully considered input into the Draft National Offsets Policy that is currently being developed by the Department of Environmental Affairs. This is a somewhat contentious topic that poses opportunities and challenges to the country’s key biodiversity areas and protected areas network. Our comments on the need for legal protection mechanisms in perpetuity for offset sites have been accepted and drafted in, giving this component of policy work long-term security and protection.

We have also been hard at work creating BirdLife South Africa’s first advocacy structure, which provides us with a clear and well-formulated approach to answering development applications and enables us to expand our proactive approach to dealing with threats to our birds and their habitats. The structure is aimed at prioritising where and how we respond in order to ensure both the efficient use of our limited resources and the effective and legal accuracy of our work. The team has already responded to numerous development applications and has taken on larger legal advocacy cases in areas requiring urgent action to protect the birds and other biodiversity housed there, such as the Mabola Protected Environment in Mpumalanga and the Letseng Wind Farm in Lesotho.

An interesting and unique element of the policy work we do involves the Fiscal Benefits Project, managed by Candice in her capacity as a tax specialist. This project has introduced South Africa’s first biodiversity tax incentive – an historic achievement nationally that is also globally unique. Candice continues with her work on mainstreaming access to section 37D of the Income Tax Act, as well as engaging with National Treasury and SARS to further amend legislation to create additional biodiversity finance for protected areas in South Africa. This work is conducted in partnership with SANBI through funding from the Global Environment Fund.

Despite the growing threats to our birds and our environment in general, as well as limited resources, the Policy & Advocacy team has secured achievements in both the national policy frameworks that impact our conservation work and within the sphere of biodiversity finance that ensures their financial sustainability, while holding the thin green line on the advocacy front. We look forward to a positive and impactful 2018.

Black Eagle fixedBlack Storks in South Africa

Although the Black Stork is globally listed as Least Concern by the IUCN, the resident population of Black Storks in South Africa is regarded as regionally Vulnerable due to the loss of appropriate breeding and foraging habitat. It is of great concern that, for two years running, none of the traditional nest sites in the Waterberg area have been found to be active, nor could any other active nest sites be found.

In August 2017, BirdLife South Africa was granted permission to survey the length of the Levuvhu River in the northern regions of the Kruger National Park, an area that was previously regarded as a stronghold for the species. Again, none of the traditional nest sites were found to be active, with the week-long survey recording only 3–5 adult birds in flight. The survey team did note the presence of an impressive number of Verreaux’s Eagle breeding pairs along the river (6–7 pairs), as well as one aggressive interaction between a Black Stork and a Verreaux’s Eagle above Lanner Gorge, which prompted a discussion on the possible role this dense population of Verreaux’s Eagles may be having on the breeding success of the Black Storks. A follow-up survey is scheduled for August 2018.

Left: Disappointingly, 2017 surveys of traditional Black Stork breeding sites found no active nests.

Champagne weekend getaway for the whole family

Set in the central Drakensberg, the prestigious Champagne Sports Resort offers activities for the non-birding sports enthusiast and relaxation for the spa lover. While you and other like-minded birders take part in birding lectures and guided walks, they will have plenty of time to engage in activities they find fulfilling.

For the birders in the family, this is your chance to have a unique ‘Rockjumper Birding Experience’. You will be whisked away on bird walks by our highly experienced and knowledgeable guides, who will be aiming for sightings of sought-after species such as Southern Bald Ibis, Barratt’s Warbler and the stunning Malachite Sunbird. Guides will be on hand to deliver lectures about current birding topics and trends, and will be available during social times to discuss birds and birding and to share stories of their adventures. This promises to be a very enjoyable and enlightening time.

In the meantime, your family has access to the resort’s incredible facilities:

  • a championship golf course that has been rated one of South Africa’s most beautiful courses in recent years;

  • a salon whose well-balanced range of treatments and incredible views from the resting area ensure a relaxing upmarket experience;

  • an outstanding kids’ club that will keep your young ones entertained nonstop as they make friends and play games.

There is so much for the family to do that no one will feel like they’re just ‘tagging along’, but instead that they are also having a fantastic time.

More details are at

logo rockjumper2

BirdLife South Africa e-Newsletter: November 2017

BirdLife South Africa e-newsletter November 2017


Raise funds for conservation!

Birding Big Day (BBD) 2016 raised more than R60 000 for BirdLife South Africa through the purchase of Birding Big Day badges, donations and dedicated fundraising. We hope that BBD 2017 will raise even more funds to support terrestrial bird conservation, such as research on threatened species and efforts to conserve valuable habitat. You can help to raise funds in the following ways:


  • Teams that participate in BBD 2017 can buy BBD badges at R300 for four cloth badges and then R45 for any additional badges; 
  • Teams can raise funds by asking individuals and companies to sponsor them on the day. Sponsors can either donate one amount or sponsor an amount per bird seen. A sponsorship form and Funding Support Letter can be downloaded from;
  • Direct donations can be made at Just select ‘Birding Big Day 2017’ under the ‘Donations Options’ heading. 

BirdLife South Africa can provide any company or individual who donates more than R500 with a Section 18A tax certificate. In order to do so we need the complete details of each donor, including their full name, address and the amount donated. 

This year for the first time a prize will be awarded to the team that raises the most money on average per team member (total money raised / number of team members). The winning team will enjoy two nights for four guests on a walking trail at Pafuri Trails Camp, including accommodation, all meals and walks each day. The prize is sponsored by RETURNAfrica.

A Christmas gift that keeps on giving

Gift membershipHere’s an idea for a Christmas present for someone special – why not take out a gift membership to BirdLife South Africa or a gift subscription to African Birdlife magazine for them? There are three options you can choose from:

Wings One: Ordinary – R500/Senior citizen – R350

Wings Two: Ordinary – R680/Senior citizen – R530

African Birdlife magazine only – R288

To take advantage of this offer in time for Christmas, please e-mail Shireen Gould at before 15 December (the office will be closed from 15 December 2017 until 2 January 2018).


Raptors with Joe Grosel

712023 SANParks February Raptor Course Facebook

View more information

Perfect for birding

Crab Apple photo

Lying at the edge of the Dargle Conservancy in the KZN Midlands, Crab Apple’s cosy AA Superior self-catering cottages are the ideal spot for relaxing and, with more than 200 bird species and the Oatley bird hide, are a birder’s haven! Book now via or





A measure of success

Sponsored by Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), 12 learners from Ekurhuleni Municipality were selected in November 2016 to take part in the BirdLife South Africa guide training programme. Over the past year they have studied for their Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA) qualification, spending time with various birders and bird clubs in the Gauteng area and in the bush in Grietjie Nature Reserve.

Guie article IMG 20170215 WA0007

After their second attempt at the FGASA exam two of them got the required 75 per cent to pass and three others came close with more than 70 per cent. This is some achievement, considering that a year ago they had never handled binoculars and were unable to name more than a dozen bird species. Most of them had never even ventured out of the city!

Left: Three of the learners birding with members of the BirdLife Northern Gauteng bird club.

The commitment and dedication shown by these 12 learners was humbling to say the least. They would spend half the night studying, frequently going to bed at 01h00 and getting up again at 05h30 for a game drive and then the day’s lectures. If we could have given them a qualification based on dedication and hard work, I am sure they all would have passed.

However, that is not the case. We are controlled by standards – and rightly so. We dedicate ourselves to training learners to become role models within the tourism industry and so we need to ensure that minimum standards are maintained. This is vital for the benefit of all: the guides themselves and the tourists and birders, as well as for the reputations of BirdLife South Africa, FGASA and South Africa as a premier tourism destination with guides that can match the best in the world.

Some critics suggest that the standards are set too high and that it is not possible for some learners to ever achieve those heights. I firmly believe that you do not make something stronger by reducing the criteria required or moving the goalposts so that people can score an undefended goal. The only way to ensure that standards stay where they are, or even improve, is through education.

Guide article IMGP3587

Nelson Mandela said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.’ This is a philosophy followed by our bird guide training courses and we try very hard to get the required – and desired – results. However, we face an uphill struggle when the learners coming to us have gone through an education system in which standards have dropped and it is easier to achieve a matric pass now than it ever was. We have to balance the time we spend educating learners against the level of funding we are able to obtain. In a perfect world we should be taking these learners on for a full 12 months, but the costs associated with that would probably chase away even the most dedicated donors.

Right: The learners get their first lesson in how to use binoculars from one of our community guides, Raymond Rampolokeng.

In our courses going forward, learners will spend a minimum of two months in the bush under the permanent mentorship of a qualified and experienced trainer. I am convinced that this new strategy will begin to show better results and that the learners will benefit far more. 

One of the most important factors that we often forget about when considering success or failure is that one of our objectives through this education is to expose these learners to the world of conservation. Our vision is that they can return to their communities as future wildlife ambassadors. I believe that the learners of the past two years have become more aware of the natural environment and more conservation minded since studying with BirdLife South Africa and that they have indeed become ambassadors in one way or another. Our success in life is often measured only by a piece of paper or the job we end up with, when in fact success should be measured by what has been achieved in our mind and our heart and by the spirit with which we go forward.

In the words of racing driver Mario Andretti, ‘Desire is the key to motivation, but it is determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.’

To find out more about the guide training programme or to enquire about making use of the services of one of the community guides, contact me at or on 083 286 8281.


African Birdlife magazine

birdlife coverIn the latest issue of African Birdlife we journey to Chad and Lesotho in the name of birding – and quite spectacular birding it is too. There are tips for photographing in the dark (you’ll never miss a nightjar shot again) and for planting a grassland garden for birds, as well as insight into how African Emerald Cuckoos and Violet-backed Starlings are more than just pretty plumage. We also look at the importance of alates in some birds’ diets and how successfully a few species have adapted to monoculture in the Renosterveld. And that’s not to mention the usual crop of reader contributions, latest scientific news, rare bird sightings and stunning photographs!




Keep up to date with 2018! 

Calendar 2018 CoverBuy a BirdLife South Africa calendar and for each month of 2018 you’ll enjoy a spectacular full-page colour photograph of one of this country’s magnificent birds. The calendars are selling at R140 each (excluding postage) and, as stocks are limited, we recommend that you order soon to avoid disappointment. The calendar will make an amazing festive season gift. Please contact Shireen Gould at to place your order.



Welcome Simeon Bezeng

Welcome Simeon BezengBirdLife South Africa is partnering with the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) to assist other African countries in carrying out National Red List assessments to determine the status of threatened species and identify national Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) in support of the work of the IUCN’s National Red List Working Group Alliance. In order to achieve this, the new position of Regional Red List Programme Officer has been established and will be based at BirdLife South Africa’s offices in Johannesburg. 

BirdLife South Africa and the IUCN SCC are therefore excited to welcome Dr Simeon Bezeng Bezeng to the team as the Regional Red List Programme Officer. Simeon has a BSc in Botany and Environmental Sciences from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Now a South African permanent resident, he also has an MSc and a PhD in Botany from the University of Johannesburg. Since his early research days, understanding the threats that species face and providing recommendations for their management prioritisation has been Simeon’s passion. Throughout his academic career, he has studied ways to prioritise biodiversity management using modern advances in DNA technology and spatial techniques.

We look forward to having Simeon on the team and wish him luck as the new Regional Red List Programme Officer.


Watch conservation in the grasslands

 Grassland IBA video

iba logo

Agricultural production, mining, commercial plantations and over-utilisation have caused the deterioration or disappearance of large areas of our grasslands and associated wetlands. But there is good news: some of these land uses, such as livestock ranching, can operate while supporting grassland conservation. Through initiatives such as biodiversity stewardship, more and more farmers recognise that they have a responsibility to conserve grasslands. Watch this short video to find out more about BirdLife South Africa’s work in the Grasslands Important Bird and Biodiversity Area. 

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Cape Parrot shopping bags

From December, Woolworths stores throughout South Africa will stock beautiful Cape Parrot shopping bags. Buy one and R10 will be donated to BirdLife South Africa’s IBA Programme. Funds raised through this initiative will be used to help safeguard and secure the remaining patches of Cape Parrot habitat and to support the annual Cape Parrot census. The bag will make the perfect Christmas wrapping.

The Cape Parrot Poicephalus robustus robustus is a habitat specialist that depends on mature afromontane yellowwood forest at 1000–1700 metres above sea level for most of its diet and nesting sites. The species is listed as Endangered due to the continuing decrease in its population that is caused by habitat loss, declining food availability, disease and capture for the illegal pet trade.

Cape Parrot WTarboton

Cape Parrot bagsToday, less than two per cent of all South African landscapes comprise natural forest and only a small proportion of this is afromontane yellowwood forest. This habitat is being lost through the extraction, both legal and illegal, of yellowwood trees from the forests, resulting in the further fragmentation of the already disjointed territory occupied by the parrots. The core of the Cape Parrot population (where the most critical habitat remains) is represented by three Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs): the Wolkberg Forest Belt in Limpopo, the KwaZulu-Natal Mistbelt Forests in KZN and the Amatola–Katberg Mountain in the Eastern Cape.

Left: Image by Warwick Tarboton

The biggest challenge to the conservation of the Cape Parrot is the need to protect the forest habitat on which the species depends so heavily. It’s a challenge made more difficult by a history of forest over-utilisation and degradation that has resulted in the fragmentation that continues to this day. That aside, mortality from psittacine beak and feather disease is an increasingly common concern.

For more information, go to 

Cape Parrot IBA Map

On the road with Ross

Ross Wanless 1The annual expedition to the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission’s (IOTC) Working Party on Ecosystems and Bycatch is one of my favourites. Two years ago I reported on a very successful meeting that set the scene for really important progress for seabird conservation at the IOTC (duly achieved in 2016), as well as an amazing post-meeting birding trip in the Castro Verde region of Portugal. This time we were meeting in San Sebastian in the Basque Country, an autonomous community in northern Spain, and I was vaguely hoping for similarly exciting birding. I also hoped that the meeting itself would be dull. Why? Because we’ve done the hard yards and are now working for the science to be turned into new regulations at the IOTC. Therefore if there were any significant papers on seabird bycatch, we might have been in trouble. Fortunately, the meeting was as dull as dishwater! 

Left: Mundaka is a medieval town in the picturesque Basque Country.

Ross WanlessThe birding plans collapsed about me before I’d even made it to Spain. My efforts to find any birding information about the region all came to nought. And then came the rain. In the end, I bailed on my two nights in the mountains and accepted an offer from one of the participants to move out of San Sebastian and explore a bit of the region without doing birding. During the meeting I had taken advantage of San Sebastian’s famed pincho bar cuisine. Bars, which abound in the old town, compete for patrons by serving the most amazingly elaborate snacks, or pinchos, usually on fresh baguette – and they are delicious beyond description. Even breakfast, which is not served before 09h00, consists almost exclusively of a variation of pincho that is combined with Spanish tortilla (basically an omelette on baguette).

My stay in the scenic medieval village of Mundaka was very relaxing, though somewhat rain-interrupted and characterised by desultory birding, despite my efforts. And if I never see a breakfast pincho again, I won’t complain. But I’ll gladly return to the Basque Country with its beautiful vistas, deep culture and, according to the books, some decent birding.

Above: Some of San Sebastian’s legendary pinchos.

Soweto schools recycling for birds

As part of the annual Flufftail Festival, BirdLife South Africa has been involved with several Soweto-based primary schools to educate their learners about the conservation of water, wetlands and waterbirds through a strategic partnership with Rand Water’s Water Wise Team. For this year’s Flufftail Festival cycle, four contact sessions with learners from each school were agreed upon, starting in the fourth term of 2016 with Grade 5 pupils and continuing with them, now in Grade 6, in the first, second and third terms of 2017. The chosen schools were Sekwati Primary School, Molalatladi Primary School and Lakeview Full Service Primary School. 

Soweto Schools 1The fourth and final contact session with the learners taught them about the importance of recycling and making sure that trash stays out of the fragile wetland systems that surround Soweto. Dr Melissa Whitecross of theTerrestrial Bird Conservation Programme met with each of the classes on 18 September 2017. The learners first played a game to see if they could figure out whether an item presented to them belonged in the paper, plastic, glass/can or general waste bins placed in front of the class. All the groups displayed a good understanding of what was and was not recyclable.

Soweto Schools 3

The next activity involved learners splitting into pairs to build their own bird feeders out of recyclable materials such as plastic bottles, wooden skewer sticks and string. Once they had constructed their bird feeders and filled them with seed, the class went into the school grounds to hang up the new feeders. Each teacher was left with a bag of seed to replenish the feeders over the remainder of the school year.

The final activity of the day for the learners was filling out a worksheet and summarising what they had learnt. This exercise gave them the opportunity to express what they would take away from the contact sessions. 

BirdLife South Africa is proud to have partnered with Rand Water’s Water Wise Team to bring the message of water conservation to the young people of Soweto and we look forward to continuing our community engagement work with South Africa’s youth into the future.

Birding for schools in Camdeboo

Camdeboo birdingIn this technological age when young people spend so much time on cell phones, video games and a host of other high-tech distractions, Johan Bouwer and his SANParks Honorary Ranger: Camdeboo Region team are to be commended for their initiative to provide the children of Graaff-Reinet with something very different, wholesome and positive to do at the Camdeboo National Park’s education centre.

On Friday, 20 October the junior grades from all the schools in Graaff-Reinet were introduced to birds, taken on birding outings and assessed. We don’t expect the children to know the birds well after only a couple of outings – that would be asking a lot – but they were assessed on their ability to pay attention and on their enthusiasm for the birds and nature in general. It is not necessary to have a lot of knowledge to be able to love and appreciate nature.

Camdeboo birding 2On Saturday it was the turn of the higher grades and, as is to be expected, some of the learners knew some of the birds. Again, though, the emphasis was on the appreciation of nature and how birds fit into the whole scheme of things.

Professor Adrian Craig, an ornithologist from Grahamstown, and his wife Cheryl came for the weekend and showed the learners how to catch and ring birds. This added a wonderful dimension to birding at a more complex level and Adrian had a captive audience of children.

On Sunday the youngsters returned to Camdeboo National Park for the final bird hike, after which the various winners and winning schools were celebrated. Hoër Volkskool took the overall prize in the senior schools’ category, with students San-Marie de Goede from Hoër Volkskool taking first place, Theodor Dorfling, also from Hoër Volkskool, taking second and Alzane Loff from Asherville Secondary School taking third. The primary schools’ category was won by Thembalisizwe Primary, while learners Robyn Ludrick from Narsing Straat Primary took first place, Jaydene Vaaltyn from Laer Volkskool came in second and Xhobani Konogo from Isibane Primary came in third.

Camdeboo birding 4The honorary rangers also treated us to a braai on Saturday evening to round off a very worthwhile birding weekend at the education centre. 

The Camdeboo Honorary Rangers would like to thank Montego Pet Nutrition, Pick n Pay Graaff-Reinet, Shoprite Graaff-Reinet, Spandau Spar, L’Ormarins, Bush Transport, McNaughtons Bookshop, Kens Radio, Mesh Steel & Weld, Mr Paint and Camdeboo National Park for sponsoring the weekend, and Alan Collet, Zorb and Judy Caryer of the Graaff-Reinet Bird Club, as well as the South African College for Tourism for its support with the students in the culinary department. 

The Graaff-Reinet community and the honorary rangers would like to acknowledge the following schools for participating in the event: Laer Volkskool, Lincolm Primary, Graaff-Reinet Primary, Adendorp Primary, Isibane Primary, Thembalisizwe Primary, Narsing Street Primary, Ryneveld Primary, Hoër Volkskool, Nqweba Secondary School and Asherville Secondary School. Without the interest shown by these schools, the event would have not been such a success.

Our aim for the 2018 Camdeboo National Park’s inter-schools birding weekend is to involve more schools from the surrounding area and to involve more parents to join our festivities with the children. They can only have a lot of fun!

West Coast Wader Bash

Wader bash 2

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River Valley Nature Reserve 

River Valley 1River Valley 3River Valley Nature Reserve lies within a horseshoe of a picturesque section of the iVungu River, which meanders through a valley of hills into the Indian Ocean at well-known Uvongo Beach, rushing over the iVungu Falls. As one of the few remaining privately owned and family-run pockets of natural habitat on the South Coast, it is a small reminder of the once untouched natural coastline that boasted varied ecosystems consisting of grassland, riverine and coastal forest. 

The reserve’s abundant birdlife includes Narina Trogon, African Finfoot, Crowned Eagle, Knysna Turaco and Olive Woodpecker among the 145 or so species that inhabit the area. Antelope such as nyala, impala, bushbuck and blue and grey duiker can also be seen, and if you’re fortunate you may even catch sight of a Cape clawless otter.

We offer two upmarket self-catering cottages, a small private campsite and a picnic area in addition to walking trails. Although the reserve borders the Margate golf course and is close to the main South Coast beaches and shopping centres, its rural location ensures a peaceful stay. 

For bookings, please contact Andrew on 083 263 5537 or visit our website

BirdLife South Africa e-Newsletter: October 2017

BirdLife Africa in Burkina Faso

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1. The BirdLife Africa Regional Committee members.

2. The Double-spur Spurfowl is common in southern Burkina Faso.

3. Baobab trees are numerous in southern Burkina Faso.

4. The Exclamatory Paradise Whydah is not very common, but in its breeding plumage is impossible to miss.

5. Nazinga Game Ranch was lush and green after good rains.

6. Idrissa Zeba is the executive director of Naturama, the BirdLife Partner in Burkina Faso.

7. Naturama is a well-respected conservation NGO that is responsible for numerous projects across the country.

8. The White-headed Lapwing is relatively common in southern Burkina Faso.

9. The Yellow-crowned Gonolek is a striking bird.

10. During a short field trip, the ARC members visited the legendary Clark Lungren, who was responsible for establishing the well-known Nazinga Game Ranch. Clark is still active in several conservation and education projects.

11. The White-shouldered Black Tit has a conspicuous pale eye and white shoulders.

12. Vulture numbers in Burkina Faso have declined and only 16 vultures – 12 Hooded and four White-backed – were seen during a drive from Ougadougou to Po (about 120km) and then at Nazinga Game Ranch.

Key Biodiversity Areas: what sets them apart?

2. KBA Emailer Baviaanskloof A Lee 7

As the Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) Community Chair, Daniel Marnewick sits on the global KBA Committee. He believes that what sets the global KBA Programme apart from other similar initiatives – and stands out as one of its most important aspects – is that it has behind it the full weight of 12 of the largest conservation NGOs in the world. This means that advocacy for KBAs packs a powerful punch.

KBAs are ‘sites contributing significantly to the global persistence of biodiversity’ in terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems. Sites qualify as global KBAs if they meet one or more of 11 criteria, clustered into five categories: threatened biodiversity; geographically restricted biodiversity; ecological integrity; biological processes; and irreplaceability. The KBA criteria can be applied to both species and ecosystems.

2. KBA partners meeting Cambridge September 2017

Currently South Africa has 168 KBAs, a network that constitutes sites previously designated as IBAs as well as those KBAs that have been identified under the previous KBA criteria by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). These sites will soon be reassessed to ensure that they meet the new KBA criteria. New KBAs will then also be proposed so that other priority species and ecosystems are covered. This is a project in partnership with BirdLife South Africa and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).

For more information, contact

Left: KBA Partner and Committee representatives at the recent KBA Committee meeting held at the David Attenborough Building, Cambridge, UK



Pelagic birding on 2 October 2017

Pelagic birding 1

Conditions were calm when BirdLife South Africa’s seabird team and its Namibian fisheries observer guests set off from Hout Bay in a boat chartered from Hooked on Africa. Shortly after leaving the safety of the bay, we came across three humpbacked whales that appeared to be actively foraging. There were dozens of seals feeding in association with the whales, but remarkably few birds.

Pelagic birding 2

Our skipper had located a couple of trawlers quite far in the west and after a long steam we found them, but had missed the first haul of the day. As soon as we slowed down to take stock of the situation, a massive Wandering Albatross cruised by! The views of it weren’t amazing – it was heading into the sun – but it was a good find to start the day. There were a few late Pintado Petrels still about, but almost no Great Shearwaters, a species that we had expected to be abundant. Clearly most of them had returned to their Tristan and Gough breeding grounds to prepare nesting burrows and begin courting. We were pleasantly surprised to see good numbers of Black-bellied Storm Petrels, a few early arrivals of Sabine’s Gulls and even a Spectacled Petrel while we waited for the net to be hauled in. There were good numbers of other common albies in all stages of maturity (good for observers to get their heads around!) and decent views of both Giant Petrel species. On the way home, close to Hout Bay, two sharpish-looking Parasitic Jaegers must have recently arrived from Europe. It was unusual to see so many Kelp Gulls and Cape Gannets around the boat, and there were scores of Swift and ‘Commic’ terns kicking around the deep too Above: Spectacled Petrel
Right: Shy Albatross and White-Chinned Petrels

Pelagic images by Grant Scholtz

The following is a list of pelagic species seen, with ballpark numbers, throughout the day:

  1. Wandering Albatross: 1
  2. Shy Albatross: ~300
  3. Black-browed Albatross: ~300
  4. Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross: 2
  5. Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross: 10
  6. Southern Giant Petrel: 3
  7. Northern Giant Petrel: 1
  8. White-chinned Petrel: ~500
  9. Spectacled Petrel: 2
  10. Pintado Petrel: 10
  11. Sooty Shearwater: ~100
  12. Great Shearwater: ~20
  13. Black-bellied Storm Petrel: 10
  14. Wilson’s Storm Petrel: 20
  15. Sabine’s Gull: 3
  16. Subantarctic Skua: 5
  17. Parasitic Jaeger: 2
  18. Common Tern: 50
  19. Arctic Tern: 10 

BirdLife South Africa’s 2018 calendar

Calendar 2018 CoverBuy a BirdLife South Africa calendar and for each month of 2018 you’ll enjoy a spectacular full-page colour photograph of one of this country’s magnificent birds. The calendars are selling at R140 each (excluding postage) and, as stocks are limited, we recommend that you order soon to avoid disappointment. The calendar will make an amazing festive season gift. Please contact Shireen Gould at to place your order.



A gift for a friend – or yourself

3. Igerbook Xmas SpecialThe IgerBook 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 this coffee-table book go to BirdLife South Africa’s Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) Programme to support habitat management in identified IBAs.

Make the most of our limited Christmas offer and buy your copy of the book for only R375 from



Training seabird conservationists

For the week of 2–5 October, the Seabird Conservation Programme office was busier than an albatross breeding colony when the parents return to their chicks from a foraging expedition. Under the Common Oceans Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) Tuna Project, Bronwyn Maree and Nini van der Merwe, with help from Ross Wanless, Andrea Angel and Reason Nyengera, as well as the Namibian Albatross Task Force (ATF) team of Clemens Naomab and Samantha Matjila, hosted the Namibian Observer Training workshop. Four Namibian observers took part, one of whom was the coordinator of the Fisheries Observer Agency, and we were also pleased to welcome the new Port-Based Outreach (PBO) officer for Fiji, James Nagan.

The main aim of this workshop was to inform the fisheries observers about the use of best-practice seabird bycatch mitigation measures. The hope is that this will accelerate the uptake of such measures by fleets operating in critical fishing areas of the Atlantic and Indian oceans.

The workshop started off with a full day ‘in the field’, focusing on seabird ID skills’ training on a pelagic birding trip. Three days of lectures followed, as well as a harbour visit to view a local tuna longline vessel. Overall, the event created an invaluable opportunity to develop our working relationship with our neighbours to the north, and also for our team to get a better understanding of the challenges that observers face in the field.

Seabird training 1Capacity building of the fisheries observers and PBO officer was achieved through teaching them about the effective use of seabird bycatch mitigation measures, including practical demonstrations at sea; enhancing their seabird identification skills; and informing them of data collection and reporting requirements as stipulated by tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (tRFMOs). This type of training is important as it builds long-term sustainability by developing not only individuals involved in the local fishing fleets, but also coordinators of the observer programmes to further the training in their own countries.

The Namibian ATF team’s visit to Cape Town enabled it to gain experience in presenting in a workshop setting and gave it a valuable opportunity to strategise with the South African ATF so that joint goals for southern Africa could be streamlined and approaches to fishing industry-related matters could be aligned.

All in all, the workshop was a great success. The observers and James Nagan excelled in learning about seabirds and have returned to their home countries with an increased understanding of why these birds are so important and why it is our duty to protect them.

Seabird training 2We look forward to continuing our engagement with the Namibia Fisheries Observer Agency and the Republic of Namibia’s Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources as we work together to ensure the relevant mitigation measure regulations are implemented and the collection of seabird data is included as part of observer protocols in the near future.

For more information about the ABNJ Tuna Project, please contact Nini van der Merwe at or call the Seabird Conservation Programme on 021 419 7347.

Above: An excited, albeit somewhat bruised and battered group return from a full day’s pelagic seabird identification practical training session, led by Ross Wanless.
Right: During the pelagic trip the skipper sailed close to a fishing trawler so that the observers could practise their identification skills on the birds that gathered while the net was being hauled in.

Farmers help to revive the Lower Berg River Conservancy

1.Berg River Emailer Photo. Photo 2a

Although established in 1997 and active during its early years, the Lower Berg River Conservancy has been dormant until recently. Through a series of workshop presentations and individual discussions, BirdLife South Africa’s Western Cape Estuaries Conservation Project introduced the idea of a revived conservancy and the benefits it would bring to landowners. This was a first step in seeking formal protection for the estuary’s floodplain and riparian lands through Biodiversity Stewardship.

1. Berg River Photo 3

Led by a handful of dedicated farmers, the community mobilised to revive this voluntary forum. At the opening meeting in September this year, members emphasised the need for a united voice for farmers at the estuary and agreed that the conservancy would provide a recognised vehicle for collective action on a number of environmental issues. BirdLife South Africa presented on the proposed Ramsar application for the estuary and the upcoming biodiversity site assessments as part of ongoing stewardship negotiations. The issue of erosion was also high on the agenda, and BirdLife South Africa is an active partner in the development of an erosion control programme for the estuary.

 A workshop comprising riparian farmers, where the revival of the Lower Berg River
Conservancywas proposed by BirdLife South Africa and the issue of erosion was discussed.

The revived conservancy comprises all members of the original forum as well as several new members, bringing to more than 20 000ha the extent of riparian land within its borders. It will strengthen this committed group of landowners’ continued efforts to improve environmental conservation on private land.


Farewell to Mr B and Pete

Farewell Mr B! It is with mixed feelings that we say goodbye to Bokamoso Lebepe, or ‘Mr B’ as he is affectionately called by the seabird team, as he leaves us to rejoin his family back in Limpopo. For the past four years he has been part of the Albatross Task Force (ATF) team, having joined in September 2013. During his time as an ATF instructor, Bokamoso facilitated dialogue and good working relationships with people in the fishing industry. He spent many days at sea, often under strenuous working conditions, collecting data on seabirds and the use of mitigation measures by the longline fleets. His experience as a research assistant for three months on the SA Agulhas II was put to good use when he took over trialling the hook pod, a hook-shielding device aimed at preventing seabirds from getting caught while scavenging for bait behind longline vessels.

Farewell Mr B and Pete Golf dayMuch of Mr B’s work involved harbour visits, where he was good at striking up a rapport with the fishermen and explaining to them the work of the ATF. He was also the lead instructor in our engagements with foreign-flagged vessels, ensuring that they fully understood our local fishing operations. Bokamoso’s light-heartedness, good humour and cooperative nature made him an esteemed and much-valued colleague – and he was definitely the prankster in the office! However, being away from his family for long periods has been hard for him, especially since his daughter was born two years ago. We therefore understand his need to leave and wish him all the best in his new endeavours.

Left: The Seabird Team’s farewell golf game for beginners was loads of fun!

Pete Watt-Pringle has been with the Common Oceans team within BirdLife South Africa’s Seabird Conservation Programme for almost 18 months and has played an integral role in achieving the first port awareness outreach to foreign fishing vessels docking in Cape Town harbour. His was the difficult task of liaising with agents and coordinating translators, vessel access and skippers to ensure that these vessels have a good understanding of the regulations and mitigation measures they are required to use on the high seas. Pete’s leadership and help on various other awareness interventions with the public were enhanced by his friendly manner, while his scientific bent ensured that he was always quick to grasp concepts and worked in a systematic manner to achieve the required outcome. We will miss his analytical and quiet approach, and wish him the best as he departs for his next adventure!
Andrea Angel and Bronwyn Maree

Think Birds!

BirdLife South Africa’s new ‘Love Birds’ campaign will encourage all South Africans to think about birds – or ‘Think Birds’. Developed and executed by our advertising agency Utopia and our marketing committee, the campaign has come up with a number of clever adverts that play on the double meaning of names such as ‘cranes’ and ‘petrel’. Twelve billboards, sponsored by JCDecaux, carry these witty messages.

billboard ads

Peanut butter sandwiches, a puppy – and birds

Yvonne 1Once a month, a trusty band of birders convene at what is known as the Kingfisher Pond at the Paarl Bird Sanctuary for the monthly Coordinated Waterbird Count (CWAC) – a ritual that started in January 1993. At the heart of this long-running count is coordinator Yvonne Weiss, who celebrated her 90th birthday in September this year. It was Yvonne who, in 1994, prompted the town engineer of the Paarl (now Drakenstein) Municipality to give the birds that roost, feed and breed at the local sewage works proper protection. And although it has had its security challenges over the years, the sanctuary remains a favourite on many a committed birder’s list. Regular counter and photographer Rita Meyer says, ‘The bird lady! Yvonne taught me everything about birds. She has never missed a count, come rain or shine. And those sandwiches!’ The sandwiches (peanut butter jazzed up with rocket or nasturtium leaves) are Yvonne’s speciality and a welcome snack for the team after they have counted every pond and furrow at the works.

Yvonne 3According to the CWAC website, the Paarl Bird Sanctuary had been counted 254 times by the end of April 2017 – the highest count for any single site in the Western Cape. For Yvonne, it has not only been a 24-year labour of love, but is also where she found her beloved companion, Kwezi. Driving around the works one Saturday after a count, she saw a group of children running across the road. One of them thrust a wet puppy in the window, saying ‘Take this, take this!’ Yvonne surmises they had been sent to dispatch the pup but didn’t have the heart to do so – and that’s how Kwezi (now also advancing in age) came into her life. The two soldier on together in spite of what Yvonne calls their mutual ‘creaking’ due to arthritis.

James Harrison, who served on the first advisory committee for the Paarl Bird Sanctuary, recalls, ‘Yvonne made sure that the regular CWAC counts were meticulously executed and recorded. She epitomises the type of citizen scientist who takes conservation and environmental education forward. We need more like her.’

Happy birthday, Yvonne, and thank you for your commitment to the cause!

Andrew Weiss

BirdLife South Africa e-Newsletter: September 2017

All the fun of the (Bird) Fair

ClaireA variety of exhibitors and a range of activities at The African Bird Fair ensured that visitors were entertained throughout the weekend. We would like to thank everyone who supported us and joined in the fun. And we look forward to seeing you all again next year! BirdLife South Africa would also like to thank the following for their support of The African Bird Fair: Eskom, Jay van Rensburg, JC Decaux, Nikon, Struik Nature and the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden.

An evening with the ‘voice of cycling’

Phil Liggett Evening

Join us for an evening of cocktails and canapés with guest speaker Phil Liggett, a well-known cycling commentator who specialised in the Tour de France. Take this opportunity to meet and chat to this patron of BirdLife South Africa and listen to his anecdotes from more than 30 years of experiences in cycling, especially from the 'Le Tour'.
All funds raised through this event will go to BirdLife South Africa’s Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas Programme to help conserve important bird habitats across South Africa.

For event details and bookings, please see above.   Early bird bookings made before 30 September will receive a 10% discount.

Calendar 2018 CoverBuy a calendar, support bird conservation

Buy a BirdLife South Africa calendar and for each month of 2018 you’ll enjoy a stunning full-page colour photograph of one of this country’s magnificent birds. The calendars are selling at R140 each (excluding postage) and, as stocks are limited, we recommend that you order soon to avoid disappointment. The calendar will make an amazing festive season gift. Please contact Shireen Gould at to place your order.

African Birdlife magazineSept cover 2017

The latest issue of African Birdlife takes us right around South Africa, from Cape Point to Msikaba and up to the Blyde River Canyon, with a side-trip to Erongo in Namibia. There’s quite a bit about plants too, like the persuasive strategies of subtropical species to entice bird pollinators and which are good in bushveld bird gardens, as well as their diminishing role in providing cavities for nesting (and how competition for those cavities plays out). Falcons and eagles, larks and weavers, vultures and shearwaters – you’ll find them all in this issue.

Jono joins BirdLife South Africa

JonoThe BirdLife South Africa Policy and Advocacy team welcomes Jonathan Booth into its ranks. Jono has an Honours degree in Ecology and has just begun an MSc in Wildlife, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health at the University of Edinburgh (via correspondence). After guiding at MalaMala, he spent two years in London working for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem, the UK’s official energy regulator). On returning to South Africa in 2010, he joined KPMG and worked in the Climate Change and Sustainability team for three years and the Internal Audit team for 18 months. Subsequently he ran his own small business and worked as an independent sustainability consultant.

Whether visiting game reserves, exercising or working in his garden, Jono loves spending time in the outdoors and has a great appreciation for our unspoiled landscapes. He’s a keen mountain biker, canoeist and trail runner and has travelled extensively in the region’s national parks with his wife and family. Some of his greatest bush memories come from encounters with birds in Botswana, Zambia, the Lowveld and Zululand.

An enduring passion for conservation has precipitated Jono’s move back into the field. He is thrilled to be joining the dynamic BirdLife South Africa team and hopes to make full use of his skills and experience to make a positive impact for birds

Nedbank Reader Evenings

Join us in October for a Nedbank Reader Evening in either Johannesburg or Cape Town.
In Johannesburg on 5 October, Albert Froneman will talk about the art of bird photography. Acknowledged as one of the leading bird photographers in southern Africa, Albert understands that beautiful images of birds play a vital role in creating awareness for bird conservation, and in this spirit he works closely with BirdLife South Africa. During the lecture he will share interesting facts about the birds as well as tips, tricks and field techniques for capturing top-class images.

Date: Thursday, 5 October 2017
Time: 18h00 to 20h30
Venue: Nedbank Auditorium (parking entrance 2), 135 Rivonia Road, Sandton
Please click here to book.

In Cape Town on 19 October, Professor Peter Ryan will discuss the scourge of marine plastic pollution. Director of the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, Peter studied the impact of ingesting plastic on seabirds for his Masters degree in the mid-1980s, long before there was widespread concern about plastic pollution in the world’s oceans. He will explain why the increasing amount of plastic entering the environment is alarming and what we can do to tackle the problem.

Date: Thursday, 19 October 2017
Time: 18h00 to 20h30
Venue: Nedbank Clocktower Auditorium (parking Clocktower Precinct, Silo District level P2), V&A Waterfront
Please click here to book.

Both events are brought to you by Nedbank Green Affinity in partnership with WWF Nedbank Green Trust, BirdLife South Africa and African Birdlife. A light dinner and refreshments will be served after the talks. The events are free, but seating is limited and booking is essential.

Job shadowing at BirdLife South Africa

JoshuaWhen Joshua Olszewski (left) job shadowed the Terrestrial Bird Conservation team, his daily duties ranged from tracking gulls to attending meetings. Describing the experience, he said ‘I was lucky to have spent two weeks in August (21 August to 1 September) being taught and mentored by Dr Hanneline Smit-Robinson and Dr Melissa Whitecross in conservation and ornithology at BirdLife South Africa’s offices in Dunkeld West. This experience formed part of the compulsory job shadowing hours required by my school.

‘When it came to choosing an occupational field in which to complete my job shadowing hours, I knew for a fact that I would ideally want to shadow an ornithologist, a field biologist or a wildlife conservationist; basically, anyone who was working with birds in order to conserve them and their habitats. My reason for choosing this career path stems from my deep-seated passion for birds and other wildlife, a passion that I’ve carried with me from a very young age, as well as a desire to study and protect them.

‘When it came to recalling friends and acquaintances in this line of work whom I could shadow, I remembered that I knew people in higher places. Once settled in my mind that BirdLife South Africa was the way to go, I wasted no time in e-mailing the CEO, Mark Anderson, requesting permission to shadow Melissa. This led to me being able to shadow Hanneline for the first week and Melissa for the second. I felt extremely lucky to be working with such respected individuals in my preferred future career path.

‘During the job shadowing, I attended a number of meetings for various conservation projects and initiatives, from the Ingula Partnership and the Flufftail Festival to potential conflict between Cape Vultures and wind farms, and new work on Ludwig’s Bustards. These also included my first official meetings, which made me feel rather important.

‘I was also privileged enough to witness the capture, ringing and attachment of satellite-tracking devices to three Grey-headed Gulls near the O R Tambo International airport, as part of a new project BirdLife South Africa is running in collaboration with Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), to track the movements of these birds around the airport, specifically near the runway. This was a special event for me as I had never seen a bird being ringed before, let alone for such an amazing project.

‘Through job shadowing at BirdLife South Africa, I was able to meet many wonderful people and experience at first hand the exciting happenings in the world of conservation and ornithology. I am incredibly thankful to Mark Anderson for allowing me to shadow such highly respected and esteemed conservationists, and to Hanneline and Melissa for giving their time and efforts to mentoring me and teaching me about avian conservation, and for helping me to complete my job shadowing hours. I am most definitely looking forward to all the exciting developments that are coming up in BirdLife South Africa and will hopefully be doing more work with them in the near future.’


Flock on the West Coast 2018, with LAB

Block out 6–11 March 2018 in your calendar now and make sure to get to the Flock 2018 website to secure your spot for a great week of birding and bird-nerding in the Western Cape. Delegates who book for the Learn About Birds (LAB) Conference before 30 September 2017 stand a chance to win a free pelagic trip out of Saldanha Bay during Flock on the West Coast 2018.

All LAB delegates will be entered into a draw to win a free pair of Zeiss binoculars during the conference.
Information about the event can be found here and any additional queries can be directed to Melissa Whitecross, Emma Askes or Gisela Ortner at

BirdLife South Africa e-Newsletter: August 2017

Win with Birding Big Day 2017

BBD Pafuri Trail PrizeLast year, within a 24-hour period, more than a thousand birders recorded 654 bird species across the country and in doing so raised valuable funds, awareness and data for bird conservation. BirdLife South Africa strives to conserve birds, their habitats and biodiversity through scientifically based programmes, by supporting the sustainable and equitable use of natural resources and by encouraging people to enjoy and value nature. In order to do this, BirdLife South Africa needs funding.

While Birding Big Day (BBD) is all about finding and recording as many birds as possible, the sightings records help to determine bird population distributions. At the same time, the funds raised from the day are channelled into work conducted by the Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) and Terrestrial Bird Conservation programmes, as well as to BirdLasser.
To assist in the fundraising initiative and to reward the team that raises the most funds (on average per member), this year the organising committee has added an exciting new category to BBD in the form of a fund-raising competition that all teams can participate in.

RETURNAfrica Pafuri Collection has generously offered a prize, to the value of more than R16 000, of two nights for four guests on a walking trail at Pafuri Trails Camp, including accommodation, all meals and walks on each day. This prize will be awarded to the team that raises the most funds (per member) for BirdLife South Africa’s conservation programmes.

Teams can raise sponsorship by asking people or companies to pay either a certain amount per species seen or a fixed amount, independent of the number of species seen. The sponsorship can be sourced before, during or after the event, although payment must be made by 15 December 2017. BirdLife South Africa can provide any company or individual who donates more than R500 with a Section 18A tax certificate.
In addition to this fundraising prize, there will be some lucky draw prizes, including two copies of Michael Mills’ new book, The Birder’s Guide to Africa.

For more information about prizes and how the fundraising aspect of BBD will work, and for sponsorhip forms and fundraising letters, please visit the BBD page.

Support Team Fast & Featherless947 Cycle Challenge

This is your last chance to join Team Fast & Featherless and ride the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge for bird conservation. All funds raised by cyclists taking part for BirdLife South Africa will go to the Important Bird and Bioidversity Area Programme, which works to conserve valuable bird habitats across South Africa. Join us for a day of fun in the name of conservation.

For more information about how to register to ride with BirdLife South Africa’s team, contact Romy at Riders’ details must be submitted before 28 August 2017.


Managing habitat for fynbos birds

Orange breasted SunbirdBirdLife South Africa members probably recall Dr Alan Lee for the incredible 2400km cycle ride that took him across the Western Cape’s highest mountain ranges to study the impacts of climate change on bird species that are endemic to fynbos. The study now completed, Alan has joined Dale Wright to form the ‘fynbos birds team’, which has produced a user-friendly booklet that showcases birds endemic to fynbos, gives interesting pointers about their ecology and summarises the major threats facing them. The text also provides a set of management recommendations that private landowners or reserve managers could use to enhance their fynbos habitats to support these species. The booklet is available for free from the BirdLife South Africa website, and we encourage interested members to download and share this beautiful resource far and wide.
Get your copy here.

Image Credit: Alan Lee

On the road with Ross

The UK in summer. Again. I was there in June last year and found myself back there this July, with a sneaky little trip to Rome in between. But my eyes were set firmly on Scotland… Read more.

Membership team visits Kyalami Prep

On Friday, 21 July Shireen Gould and Elaine Cherrington of the membership team visited the Eco Club at Kyalami Prep to talk to the learners about Kyalami prepvultures and how they fly. The lesson started off with a short talk about the five vulture species found in South Africa and why vultures are so important in nature. It then proceeded to the flight of vultures, illustrated by a short YouTube clip by David Attenborough. Afterwards, the learners made their own paper gliders, which they took out onto the field to fly.

Each of the pupils received a copy of the March/April issue of African Birdlife, which included the Bird of the Year poster and a vulture pin badge. They especially loved the pin badges, as they were allowed to wear them on their school blazers for the two weeks following the visit.

Learn About Birds 8–9 March 2018


The fourth biennial Learn About Birds (LAB) conference, co-hosted by BirdLife South Africa and the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology (Fitz), promises to be even bigger and better than its predecessors. With a new programme format, exciting speakers lined up for both Science and Layman’s LABs and excellent evening entertainment to help attendees relax in typical West Coast fashion, this LAB will surely be one not to miss.

The plenary speakers for the Science LAB will be Dr Mark Brown and Dr Alan Lee. Mark is the current programme director at the Nature’s Valley Trust (NVT), a small NPO dedicated to integrating conservation into the communities of the Garden Route through education initiatives, research programmes and conservation partnerships. He is also an honorary researcher at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Life Sciences and is a Y2 NRF-rated scientist. Mark’s diverse range of research interests includes conservation biology, raptor ecology, physiology, pollination biology and climate change impacts. He has contributed to several books, including Roberts VII, and has published more than 70 peer-reviewed scientific articles. Having co-supervised more than 25 postgraduate students, he describes himself as a passionate and dedicated mentor of young conservationists – and his extensive education work through the NVT is testament to that. Mark is no stranger to the podium, having presented his research at national and international conferences, and he will no doubt deliver an exciting and engaging plenary talk during LAB 2018.

Alan took over as the editor of Ostrich: Journal of African Ornithology in July 2016 and aims to make it one of the flagship publication outlets for ornithological research in Africa. He joined the Fitz in 2012 as a post-doctoral researcher supervised by Phoebe Barnard and Phil Hockey, investigating the impacts of a changing climate on the bird communities of the fynbos biome. Alan is still at the Fitz, where his main research interests are the conservation biology of endemic birds and using SABAP2 data to inform conservation policy and management decisions. Alan and his father co-founded the Blue Hill Nature Reserve at the edge of the Baviaanskloof. He has received awards for his photography and research presentations, and we look forward to his plenary during LAB 2018.

Layman’s LAB will run in parallel with the Science LAB and is designed to give attendees of Flock who don’t have a science background an opportunity to enjoy easily accessible talks about birds, birding, research and conservation efforts. Some of the topics and speakers currently lined up for LAB include Rob Simmons from the Fitz, who will highlight the Black Harrier research conducted in the West Coast National Park; Etienne Marais from Indicator Birding, who will talk about finding and identifying the tricky specials of western South Africa; and Kevin Shaw from CapeNature, who will give an in-depth view of the history of Dassen Island and the ecology of its avian residents.

The first call for abstract submissions has been opened and we encourage all students, post-doctoral researchers and lecturers to submit their presenter registration forms to Melissa Whitecross ( before 30 September 2017. Forms can be downloaded here and all other information pertaining to the event can also be found there.

Avoid Flock FOMO (fear of missing out) and register online now for a top week of bird-related fun! Flock on the West Coast will take place from 6 to 11 March 2018. The speakers listed above may change due to unforeseen circumstances.


 The Birder’s Guide to Africa

Birders guide coverThe Birder’s Guide to Africa covers all the continent’s mainland territories and its islands. The introduction presents an overview of birding in the region and highlights key destinations for different kinds of travellers. It is followed by country accounts, which detail travelling and birding in each territory and include a comprehensive list of important bird taxa to be targeted on a visit. In the family accounts, each family recorded from the region is described briefly and illustrated with spectacular photographs. Finally, the species accounts provide information about the distribution, status, habitat, subspecies and taxonomic issues of each species, as well as the best places to see it. Any serious world lister or keen African eco-traveller will find an abundance of information.
Specifications: 544 pages, full colour. Available from from late August. Retail price R450. Special offer: place your order before the end of September and pay only R400!





BirdLife South Africa e-Newsletter: July 2017

The African Bird Fair

2018 BirdFair logo RGBBe sure not to miss The African Bird Fair at the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden over the weekend of 9 and 10 September. An exciting variety of exhibitors will be showcasing all things birding, such as binoculars and spotting scopes, bird books, birding apps, bird feeders, wildlife art and birding holiday destinations and tour operators. There will also be lots of things happening throughout the weekend, including guided bird and botanical walks, photography workshops by well-known wildlife photographer Jay van Rensburg (booking essential) and fascinating presentations by experts such as Faansie Peacock and Jonathan Leeming.

The Fair will be open 08h00–17h00 on both Saturday and Sunday. For more information, please visit our website or contact Emma Askes at 

Don’t miss Birding Big Day 2017!

BBD BL Logo Med RGBSpotPlotPlay Red bannerBirding Big Day (BBD) 2017 could be the best yet! Last year (BBD 2016) saw more than 1000 birders record 654 different bird species during the 24-hour event thanks to our partnership with BirdLasser. This year we hope to break that record.

Are you prepared to enter a team and spend 24 hours on 25 November 2017 searching every corner of a selected 50km radius anywhere in South Africa to find every bird species you can? If you are ready for that kind of adrenalin-pumping action, then sign up now as an open category team with up to four members. All rules for the competition can be viewed on the BBD website.

All teams can sign up to have their progress monitored via the BirdLasser app, which is free to download from both Android and IOS application stores. BirdLasser will make logging your species during BBD a smooth and hassle-free process and track exactly when and where in your 50km radius you saw what. It also enables everyone to follow all the teams’ real-time progress via the BirdLasser challenge page. During BBD, the challenge page will automatically update as teams record their sightings, thus adding to the excitement of the day. Progress will be reported on social and other media and teams can submit live videos and photos during the event.

community bbd ryan thomas

The community category allows larger groups, such as bird clubs, to participate together in Birding Big Day. Photo by: Ryan Thomas

This year the BBD organising committee has added an exciting new category to BBD in the form of a fund-raising competition that all BBD teams can participate in. We know that BBD is all about finding birds, but it is important to conserve them too. Much-needed conservation funds raised through the competition will be channelled into work conducted by the Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas and Terrestrial Bird Conservation programmes, as well as to BirdLasser. For more information about how the fundraising aspect of BBD will work, please visit the BBD website.

In another innovation this year, BirdLife South Africa has partnered with RETURNAfrica to offer a great deal for BBD teams wishing to take on the Pafuri region for their challenge. RETURNAfrica: The Pafuri Collection is offering special rates to guests staying at Pafuri Camp and Baobab Hill Bush House for BBD 2017 and a percentage of each night sold will go to BirdLife South Africa’s conservation projects. Pafuri, located in the northernmost region of the Kruger National Park, is well known as a birding hotspot. Guests will also have access to specialist bird guides for their BBD activities.
To book, contact RETURNAfrica via  and be sure to use the code ‘BBD17’ so that the special offer will apply. For more information, go to or call 011 646 1391.
Registrations for BBD 2017 are open and should be completed before the event by submitting the online form on the BBD website. There is no entry fee, but a minimum donation of R300 per team is required for its members to qualify for a BirdLife South Africa Birding Big Day 2017 cloth badge. Please note that only four cloth badges will be produced per team of four members; for teams with more than four members, an additional R45 will be added per member.

For more information, please visit the BBD website. Team registrations can be submitted via the ‘Register’ link on the website; queries can be directed to Big Day 2013 Whatever your style of birdwatching, BBD is for everyone. Photo by: Melissa Whitecross

Flock on the West Coast 2018 with LAB

Flock 2018 LAB logos RGBFlock on the West Coast 2018 (6-11 March) promises to be a week of spectacular birding! The organising committee has secured excursions that will have you dreaming about all the exciting birds to see and places to visit with the assistance of world-class bird guides and knowledgeable local birders. The excursions will cover a diverse range of habitats to maximise the number of species that could be seen during the week. Pelagic trips will give delegates a chance to view the offshore seabirds up close, while boat trips to Dassen, Malgas and the Saldanha Bay islands will enable them to see breeding colonies of African Penguins and Cape Gannets.

For those who still need to tick off the Western Cape’s fynbos endemics, a full-day excursion to the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area will be sure to boost your life list. Local birding will take place in the nearby West Coast National Park and at the Berg River Estuary in Velddrif.

For more information about the excursions, please visit the Flock 2018 website, where a link to the downloadable PDF excursion information booklet is available. Places are limited, so book now to avoid missing out.

FitzLogo 10x10cm300dpiblsaThe bi-annual Learn About Birds (LAB) conference will be co-hosted by BirdLife South Africa and the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology. At this two-day event, scientists from around the globe will showcase their research and highlight the important role it plays in furthering bird conservation. For delegates who prefer talks that are slightly less technical than understanding the genetic differences between species X and species Y, the Layman’s LAB will be run in conjunction with the Science LAB and popular interest talks will be given by BirdLife South Africa staff, respected bird enthusiasts and top researchers and conservationists. The call for abstracts will be announced via e-mail and on the Flock 2018 website, while guidelines for abstracts are on the presenter registration forms, which can also be downloaded from the Flock 2018 website. Please contact Melissa Whitecross  for more information about LAB.

The BirdLife South Africa AGM will be taking place on 10 March 2017 and will be followed by a delicious dinner and an evening of socialising and story-swapping of the week’s birding exploits.

Keep an eye on BirdLife South Africa’s social media feeds for updates on other exciting developments leading up to Flock on the West Coast 2018. All information relating to the event will be posted here and booking forms can be filled in online via the website.

Soweto pupils learn about wetlands

On 13 June 2017, Melissa Whitecross (BirdLife South Africa), Raymond Rampolokeng (local bird guide trained by BirdLife South Africa) and Rand Water’s Water Wise team (Themba Nkuna, William Nissel, Faith Chauke and Sizwe Mndawe) met Grade 6 and 7 learners from Lakeview, Sekwate and Isaacson primary schools at Tokoza Park, Soweto.

Raymond and Melissa took learners on guided walks of the wetlands, dams and fields in the park, showing them the many different bird species that utilise this important green space. Sightings highlights included Grey Heron, Blacksmith Lapwing, Egyptian Goose, Red-knobbed Coot, African Darter, Grey Go-Away Bird, Southern Masked Weaver and Southern Fiscal. The learners showed impressive memory skills and were able to begin identifying the birds on their own after spending only a few minutes with them. It is hoped that when they return to their schools and families they will encourage them to enjoy the park and its birds. As Senegalese forestry engineer Baba Dioum famously said in 1968, ‘In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.’

melissThe second part of the day was spent teaching learners how to conduct a miniSASS assessment, which is designed as a quick tool to assess the health of a stream or river. SASS is an acronym for the South African Scoring System, which ranks the presence of different invertebrates based on their sensitivity to pollutants within the stream and enables users to calculate a health score. A miniSASS is designed as a simplified version that enables school-level learners who have no knowledge of invertebrates to engage with practical wetland monitoring techniques. 

The learners from Soweto were given nets and large white trays that they used to collect and examine the invertebrates from the Tokoza Park stream. The results of the assessment indicated that the stream is in fair condition. All results were uploaded to the miniSASS website and learners were given posters and magazines to take back to school to teach their fellow pupils about this process. This collaboration highlighted the importance of conserving urban green spaces and the biodiversity living in them and exposed a new generation of potential future conservationists to ways in which they can help advocate for nature.

Melissa Whitecross (BirdLife South Africa) teaches learners from Sekwati Primary School about the feeding behaviour of a Southern Fiscal that they were watching. (Photo: Willem Nissel)

Nini joins the Common Oceans Programme

nini2Although Nini van der Merwe joined the Seabird Conservation Programme team more than a year ago, being part of the team is not the same as being on the staff. Then, as the Common Oceans Programme reshaped towards the end of last year, it became apparent that Nini could take on some of the project’s important aspects. With funding all but guaranteed, we decided to formalise the work and create a position. Having completed an external recruitment process, we offered Nini the position and are pleased to welcome her officially as the full-time international liaison officer and office administrator. She will be working on the Common Oceans’ Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) project, which provides a series of awareness and training workshops for targeted international countries to help them reduce seabird bycatch in their tuna longline fishing operations on the high seas. She also assists the seabird team with general office administration and offers support to the various projects as required.

Nini came to seabird conservation via an unorthodox route. While sitting 2m from a Black-browed Albatross chick at the edge of a breeding colony at Steeple Jason in the Falklands, she became aware of how amazing these birds are. That was more than a year ago and since then her passion for conserving these majestic birds and their environment has only grown. Nini’s background in design and teaching has proved useful in her work, while her love of travelling is also handy in view of the amount of international travel that her work requires. And as a bonus, her colleagues on the seabird team have reason to be grateful for another of her hobbies: cooking.

Welcome Nini, we’re happy that you are now officially part of the seabird family!

Ford Wildlife Foundation supports conservation

fordIn order to engage with landowners in grassland areas, members of the Biodiversity Stewardship Project spend a lot of time travelling to remote aFord Hand Over Teamreas on roads that are often in bad condition. The Ford Ranger will therefore be a valuable asset in ensuring that the project, which aims to increase the protection of our grasslands, is successful. The handover forms part of Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa’s (FMCSA) commitment to protecting the environment in sub-Saharan Africa.

Over the past 25 years, FMCSA has supported more than 150 conservation projects and invested over R30-million to help maintain wildlife and ecosystems in South Africa. In September 2014, it officially established the Ford Wildlife Foundation to continue that support.

The Ford Wildlife Foundation is unique in that rather than giving a cash donation to the conservation projects it supports, it equips its partner organisations with Ford Rangers. The vehicles are provided to help with essential operational tasks and are monitored and serviced by Ford’s extensive dealer network to ensure they operate at peak efficiency.

Thanks to Ford, conservation manager Ernst Retief can now safely cover many kilometres in the important Grassland Biome.

Durban pelagic trips

Durban Pelagics Photo 1 IMG 7845Pelagic birding trips off Durban have hit a purple patch recently, starting with a landmark sighting of a Barau’s Petrel in October 2013. This was followed the next month by a visit from seabird guru Hadoram Shirihai, who came out on three trips with the primary purpose of photographing Great-winged Petrels. Hadoram introduced to us a highly successful chumming technique that we have employed ever since.

Equally important has been the involvement of Johannesburg-based birder Niall Perrins and local birder Rich Everett in the organisation and running of these trips. Indeed, it was Niall’s idea to chum well away from any trawlers that resulted in the first Barau’s Petrel encounter. It’s clear that the smaller, rarer seabirds are more likely to be found while chumming away from trawlers where large numbers of the bigger, dominant species such as albatrosses and White-chinned Petrels tend to ‘frighten off’ their shyer cousins. Also critical has been the support of both local and upcountry birders whose participation has made it all possible.

All our subsequent sightings of Barau’s have occurred between September and November, which fits in well with tracking studies of this species conducted at its Réunion breeding island. According to these studies, the males make regular pre-breeding visits to our coastline at this time. Essentially, there is a better-than-even chance of seeing the species on pelagic trips during these months. We’ve also learnt that ‘gadfly’ Pterodroma petrels, of which Barau’s is one, are particularly responsive to our chumming. Great-winged Petrel is the most abundant of these Pterodroma species and on some days we’ve had more than a hundred of them buzzing around our chum spot. Another exciting Pterodroma is Soft-plumaged Petrel, which occurs in small numbers earlier in the year than Barau’s, with all our recent sightings occurring in July and August.

The other two groups of small seabirds especially attracted to chumming are prions and storm petrels. The common prion off Durban is Antarctic, although we have recorded the occasional Slender-billed. These attractive birds are strictly winter visitors with all sightings between June and August; on one memorable occasion (July 2016) about 70 Antarctic Prions visited our chum.

The most common storm petrel is Wilson’s, which occurs throughout the year but with largest numbers between May and November (at times we see more than 100). Small numbers of European Storm Petrels are also regularly attracted to the chum and as they are visitors from the northern hemisphere, they are seen mainly between November and March. More exciting have been Black-bellied Storm Petrels, recorded as probable passage migrants in May and again between August and November. But best of all in the storm-petrel department was the single White-faced Storm Petrel seen while we were still steaming out to our chum spot in May 2014, followed by an unbelievable two birds at the chum in June 2016.

Although our chumming is aimed primarily at the smaller species, we’ve also had three memorable albatross attendants. The first was a fully adult Wandering Albatross in June 2015 and the next a mind-blowing juvenile Sooty Albatross the following year, also in June. Over the years we’ve also occasionally seen albatrosses looking more like the Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross than our run-of-the-mill local Indian counterpart. But it was in November 2016 that we finally had a totally convincing adult Atlantic at close range, with the distinctive features – grey hood and mantle contrasting with the white rump and dark ‘mascara-like’ markings around the eyes – clearly to be seen.

These advances mean that pelagic trips from Durban have progressed way beyond just being the best southern African chance at Flesh-footed Shearwater. If you’d like to come on one of these trips, please see the website for more details or contact either Niall Perrins (; 083 657 5511) or David Allan (; 082 361 0261) directly.

Photo Credit: David Allan

Using Birdlasser to help the IBA Programme

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) Programme needs population data for the trigger species (usually a threatened species such as Blue Crane) of each IBA – and there are 112 IBAs in South Africa. Data relating to bird populations and distributions are very important in justifying and supporting the declaration and protection of IBAs, but it can be challenging to obtain them. We hope that with this new addition to the BirdLasser app we will receive valuable data that will help the IBA team to conserve these areas.

To support this initiative, please download the latest version of the app from the Playstore or iStore, then under ‘Settings and Causes’ select the IBA Cause (and all the others). Also tick the box next to ‘Quick’. (You can also tick the box next to ‘Advanced’ if you want to). Click on the little map icon and select from the list of IBAs near you.

BirdLasser Screenshot 1Under ‘Settings and Causes’ select the IBA Cause.

Once this is done, you will be able to see the boundaries of the selected IBAs on the map view on the app. You can then easily see if you are birding within an IBA. In the image below, the boundary of the Magaliesberg IBA is shown.BirdLasser Screenshot 2

The boundaries of IBAs will be displayed on the map view of the app.

When you log an IBA trigger species, a screen will pop up to ask you to enter the number of birds seen and if it is an estimate or an exact count. Please note, you will be asked this question whether you are within an IBA or not.BirdLasser Screenshot 3

When you log a sighting of a trigger species, a screen will pop up to request the number of birds sighted.

All the information you collect will automatically be sent to Ernst Retief and the IBA team, who will then analyse it. To enter the number of birds seen takes only a few seconds and you will be making a valuable contribution. BirdLife South Africa and BirdLasser also hope to roll out this initiative to the rest of Africa, where our BirdLife partners struggle to obtain regular count data within IBAs.

Join the Fast & Featherless team

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 Biodiversity Areas (IBA) Programme, which works to conserve important bird habitats across South Africa. Join us for a day of fun in the name of conservation.

For more information about how to register to ride with the BirdLife Team, contact Romy at

94.7 Cyclists new shirts

BirdLife South Africa e-Newsletter: June 2017

BirdLife South Africa Staff Meeting 2017

BLSA staff meeting Pringle Bay May 2017

BirdLife South Africa staff visited Harold Porter National Botanical Garden during the three-day staff meeting.
Credit: Mark D. Anderson

In May the BirdLife South Africa staff and interns travelled to the Western Cape for the annual staff meeting. The team presented on their achievements over the past year, and many valuable discussions were held on how to continue ‘giving conservation wings’. Read more.

Goodbye and thank you

CaptureWhen Elaine Cherrington joined BirdLife South Africa, African Birdlife was a fairly new publication and as the magazine’s subscription administrator she has watched it grow from strength to strength. A valued team member in the Membership Programme, she has always been willing to help wherever needed, assisting at various expos that the programme champions, The African Bird Fair and events held at Isdell House, as well as visits to schools. She has always taken the work in her stride and even assisted with the membership administration when Ntombi took ill.
Elaine won’t be leaving BirdLife South Africa completely, as she has offered to volunteer in the library with Eleanor-Mary Cadell, our volunteer librarian, and at upcoming events and expos. We wish her well in her retirement and know that John is looking forward to having her at home more.

Thank you Elaine for all you have done at BirdLife South Africa and for your patience, friendliness and willingness. You will be missed!

Flock on the West Coast 2018

If you enjoyed Flock at Sea earlier this year, don’t miss BirdLife South Africa’s next AGM, which will feature the Learn About Birds Symposium! Block out 7–11 March 2018 in your calendars and join us on the West Coast for outstanding birding and interesting talks. Read more.

African BLack OystercatcherAfrican Black Oystercatcher is Bird of the Year 2018 and occurs all along the West Coast.

Credit: Melissa Whitecross

ACSA-sponsored guide training course

ACSA guides

Having completed six months of their course, 12 would-be bird guides have finally landed in the Lowveld to begin their final month of training. They flew into Phalaborwa as part of the experience organised and sponsored by Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) and the next few weeks will see them exposed to more than 300 bird species as well as various animals, including the Big 5. In two groups of six, they will spend the month improving their theory and practical knowledge before undergoing the FGASA assessments to become qualified field guides. Read more.

WhatsApp Image 2017 06 09 at 15.03.371

Shop For the Birds!

At Shop For the Birds! we have books, T-shirts, bird feeders, pin badges, posters and cards. The T-shirts are 100% quality cotton and the pattern is printed Direct to Garment so it won’t fade or peel. A variety of designs are available, ranging in price from R140 to R300 (excluding postage).WhatsApp Image 2017 06 09 at 15.03.37

Just arrived!

We have just received stock of the must-have 2017 Bird of the Year T-shirts, which are grey with an image of a Lappet-faced Vulture printed on the front – and only R300 each (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

The unsung heroes of seabird conservation

The men and women of the Ocean View Association for Persons with Disabilities are the unsung heroes of seabird conservation. They turn rope and hose pipe into bird-scaring lines, which have contributed to a 97 per cent reduction in the deaths of albatrosses in the demersal hake trawl fishery and saved the lives of thousands of seabirds in southern African waters. Some of them attended Flock at Sea AGAIN! 2017 to see for the first time the birds they are helping to protect. Read more.

Unsung heroes

Ten happy OVAPD members, including Merle and Ronald Stevens who looked after the team,

with Andrea Angel and Bokamoso Lebepe of the Albatross Task Force aboard the MSC Sinfonia.

On the road with Ross

On the road with Ross 2

Tommy Melo (blue shirt) and the crew of Biosfera’s boat take shelter after a long, wind-tossed day at sea.

As regular readers of this blog can attest, field work for me usually involves meetings in exciting locations and squeezing in a day or so on the side for birding. Not so for this trip, as I headed off to Cape Verde… Read more.

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.