26-30 August 2019

SEABIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME

Albatross Task Force

Andrea Angel and Reason Nyengera worked with Victor Ngcongo from Imvelo observer agency on the deployment of a bird-scaring line electronic monitoring device. The device is under development and will be able to record whether a bird-scaring line is deployed or not and assist with compliance in all fleets. Reason engaged WWF-SA with a proposal to collaborate on the electronic monitoring project consisting of on-board video imagery as an alternative or supplement to at-sea fisheries observer programmes in the offshore trawl fleet. The aim is to position cameras that focus on the trawl cables and record the presence or absence of seabird interaction with these, as well as the use of bird-scaring lines during trawl operations. Alistair McInnes attended a briefing meeting with Junaid Francis from the Responsible Fisheries Alliance (RFA) in preparation for the RFA Steering Committee meeting later in the month.

Coastal Seabirds

Alistair drafted a document summarising the status of and recommendations coming from the African Penguin island closure initiative which will be used in a ministerial briefing document.

Mouse Free Marion Project

Andrea worked with the new Mouse Free Marion website manager Jacques Scheepers on transferring the management of the site. She also liaised with UCT colleagues on the genetic analysis of Lesser Sheathbill samples that will look into comparing inter-island diversity and taxonomy in the Southern Ocean. This analysis will determine the level of endemism between Lesser Sheathbill populations.

Gough Island Restoration Project

Nini van der Merwe departed on the Agulhas II for the first voyage of this project to Gough Island where she will assist the Gough Island Restoration Project team.

TERRESTRIAL BIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME

Preventing extinctions

Melissa Howes-Whitecross held meetings with Candice Stevens (Wilderness Foundation Africa) and Laetitia Steynberg to discuss their involvement in some of BirdLife South Africa’s work. Melissa and Carina Coetzer spent much of the week preparing the Ingula avifaunal project tender. Elelwani Makhuvha and Melissa attended and assisted at the Atlas Educational Function with Toyota SA, Rand Water and the Rare Finch Conservation Group.

Ingula Partnership

Carina assisted the Ingula Nature Reserve management through marketing and responding to tourism requests. She had discussions with Ingula conservation staff regarding stray dogs on site.

Conservation Modelling Project

Robin Colyn continued work on the Conservation Modelling project, focusing on pipeline refinement with regards to data management and model validation. Close to 20 species-specific models have been created to date and the project aims to create models for 96 threatened and/or endemic species across South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Robin also commenced on the Liben Lark project this week. He is assisting the BirdLife International project with modelling aspects related to assessing the distribution and habitat suitability across the species range. These analyses aim to provide insight into the current status of habitat available for this species globally. Lastly, project planning commenced for the Taita Falcon project, whereby Robin and Nolumanyano Camagu will be assisting the project with a range of GIS and modelling analyses. Nolumanyano spent most of the week working on the Threatened & Endemic Species analyses as part of the Conservation Modelling Project

Vulture conservation

Linda van den Heever finalised the media campaign for International Vulture Awareness Day, which will take place on 7 September. Linda was interviewed by Steven Verwey, an MBA student from GIBS looking into performance measurements for stakeholder engagement in the conservation environment. She submitted a section 20 application for her upcoming research at Dronfield Nature Reserve, organised logistics for next week’s visit to Pietermaritzburg and Zululand with Marina Burger and Floris Burger. She met with Stephen Palos (chairman of CHASA) to discuss the future of lead ammunition in SA. Linda finalised and sent out the Vulture Project’s quarterly report and prepared for the next meeting of BirdLife South Africa’s Animal Ethics Committee.

Renewable Energy

Samantha Ralston-Paton visited the impressive Whitelee Wind Energy Facility near Glasgow, Scotland, a post-conference excursion arranged by the Conference on Wind Energy and Wildlife Impacts.

IBA PROGRAMME

Estuary IBA Conservation Project

Giselle Murison attended the Western Cape Estuaries Management Programme Task Team, meeting, which included an interesting presentation on fish monitoring at Western Cape estuaries by Stephen Lamberth and discussion on artificial breaching decisions and procedures at several key estuaries. Giselle also participated in the Provincial Coastal Erosion Task Team meeting, where she provided feedback on the project’s work at the Berg River estuary. She continued to take part in the series of wildflower camps underway on Kersefontein farm at the Berg River estuary. Giselle led participants on guided bird walks of the estuarine floodplain and spoke on the importance of the area for bird life, and BirdLife South Africa’s conservation work in the area.

IBA/KBAs and bird data and Spatial planning Project

Ernst Retief and Robin met with South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) to discuss the data layers to be used for the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries’ Site Screening Tool. The discussions focused on how the data layers should be created and what data should be contained in the attribute layers. Timeframes for the submission of data were also set. Ernst also continued to work on his proposal to create a spatial layer, using a combination of Southern African Bird Atlas Project 2 (SABAP2) and Species Distribution Model spatial layers, which can feed into conservation planning tools, such as Critical Biodiversity Areas (CBA) maps. He further tested a new R application which can be used to download data from the SABAP website. On Tuesday Ernst met with Dr Craig Whittington-Jones to discuss the draft text for the Abe Bailey Nature Reserve Annotated Checklist. This will be the first annotated checklist in a series that BirdLife South Africa will be publishing. The next steps are to create the maps for the publication and obtain the funding to cover the cost of editing and the layout of the document. Ernst continued to comment on various SABAP2 articles submitted for publication on the SABAP2 website. The first article was published this week. The final arrangements for the Citizen Science stand at the African Bird Fair were also put into place.

Supporting Biodiversity Stewardship

Daniel Marnewick reviewed the final draft of the Biodiversity Stewardship Guideline document which will be going to print soon.

Regional and Global Key Biodiversity Areas

Daniel wrote the necessary reports he will be presenting at the KBA Committee meeting from 18-20 September and prepared his presentation for the KBA Review workshop on 17 September. Daniel and Hiral Naik had a meeting with Andy Plumptre to finalise preparations for the KBA Committee meeting including the agenda for the week.

Conservation Areas (Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures)

Daniel and Hiral began drafting the report from the OECM Case Study Close Out meeting, hosted in Hoedspruit. Daniel also had a good meeting with SANParks where he presented on OECMs.

Advocacy

Jonathan Booth was on leave for part of the week. While in the office, he worked on BirdLife South Africa’s Habitat Clearance Position Statement and on a proposal to develop best practice guidelines for implementing the mitigation hierarchy. Jonathan also met with the National Business Initiative with regards to a potential watershed-based project and met with Hanneline Smit-Robinson to discuss project proposals and general programme progress.

TAX INCENTIVE WORK

Candice Stevens worked on a number of documents related to the BirdLife South Africa Eskom Tender for the Ingula Partnership which is one of the original tax pilot sites for the Fiscal Benefits Project. Ellane van Wyk continued working on the legal tax opinions for KZN Tax Site #6, which contains at least 26  landowners, of which most will qualify for the tax benefit.

AVITOURISM & SPECIAL PROJECTS PROGRAMME

Martin Taylor completed work on a regional birding tourism feasibility study and submitted an interim draft report to the Peace Parks Foundation. Preparations were completed for the African Bird Fair. Lungile Mteyane was accompanied to an interview for a position at a lodge in the Lowveld at which she will complete her internship. All students with the exception of Lungile will be sitting their FGASA Level 2 exams in October with Lungile sitting in February 2020. Several staff meetings were attended during the course of the week. Various administrative tasks were dealt with.

HEAD OF CONSERVATION

Hanneline attended several internal meetings including a catch-up with all Programme Managers and chaired the monthly Conservation Division meeting. Hanneline submitted the Conservation report to the Board of Directors and edited several reports including the Airports Company South Africa annual report and the scope of work for the Ingula tender. She participated in a Skype call with Sergey Dereliev regarding the hosting of the 3rd AEWA (African Eurasian Waterbird Agreement) International Working Group meeting in Dullstroom, South Africa. She finalised the planning matrix and budget for an AEWA European Commission funding agreement for a scoping project to ensure that the habitat of Berg wetland is sustainably managed through a community-based initiative. Hanneline attended a meeting with Mark Anderson, Melissa and Laetitia Steynberg. Hanneline and Ernst met with William George, Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB), to discuss species reporting and the possible use of an online programme similar to that used internally by RSPB.

WAKKERSTROOM CENTRE

Centre Activities and guiding

The Centre has started to fill our remaining six open weekends for the rest of the year with regards to accommodation in the guest suites, dormitory rooms and campsite.  Lucky Ngwenya and Kristi Garland spent some time this week attending to lighting around the Centre –  a quick check up and replacement of globes.  Daphne Pyott keeps us all on the straight and narrow – ensuring bookings and guide requests are attended to.  Thanks Daphne for all you do at the Centre!  Kristi attended the Wakkerstroom Bird Club committee meeting on Monday morning and finalising the Wakkerstroom /Natural Heritage Associations 4th Newsflash newsletter of 2019.  Kristi also attended a Wakkerstroom Tourism Association Hiking Trail meeting on Tuesday.  A green-star hike is being developed and funding sought.  The Centre will act as a base camp for accommodation.  Although much has is already in place, final adjustments to contracts and agreements still need to be attended to.  Lucky Ngwenya has been out this week on tours and reports the following sightings: Black-winged Lapwing, Rudd’s Lark and Pied Avocet in the Fickland Pan area.

Environmental Education Projects

Kristi spent time this week attending to various aspects of the Spring Alive Project.  This includes the printing of the latest European Bee-eater story which was launched in a combined event with the Wakkerstroom Bird Club on Saturday.  Ten learners from the Clay Edu-Centre Bird Club attended.  We were able to add a further eleven species to their monitoring list with assistance from the WBC members.  We all enjoyed breakfast rolls and hot chocolate on a rather cold morning.  Kristi also quoted on a school trip to Wakkerstroom for Tourism month to be held later this month.  This trip includes a guided bird tour, presentation by Kristi and the Wakkerstroom Tourism Association as well as a tourism and village study.  A final date still needs to be set with the Gert Sibande Municipality.

Working on Fire

The team continues to be on standby this week.  The area experienced one runaway fire this week which was set on the inside of fire breaks previously put in place. Thankfully there was no damage to any buildings and with local support and the municipal fire brigade, we were able to extinguish the fire.  Sibusiso Mfusi started his 42-day type 2 crew leader course in Nelspruit this week.  Eight of our team members are currently being considered to join a team of 240 firefighters heading off to Canada soon.  They completed their fitness test and will hear in the next two weeks whether they will be heading to Canadian soil.

MEMBERSHIP PROGRAMME

Shireen Gould completed the Membership Report for the upcoming board meeting.  The membership team joined in the short staff meeting on Wednesday in the Boardroom.  August month end processing was completed and the October invoices are being emailed to the relevant members.  The Conservation League Donor competition closed on Friday 6 September.

CORE

Many meetings took place at Isdell House during the past week, including the Senior Management Meeting. Mark Anderson also met with Rachel Gartner (BirdLife International) and Letitia Steynberg. Mark participated in a number of BirdLife International Zoom meetings, including the Council For Africa Task Force meeting and a meeting at which the nominated Treasurer introduced himself.