13-17 May 2019

SEABIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME

The Seabird Conservation team enjoyed catching up with the rest of the BirdLife South Africa staff at our annual staff meeting, hearing updates from the other programmes, and undergoing training given by RMB.

Gough Island Restoration Project

Nini van der Merwe worked with two colleagues from the RSPB who were in Cape Town this week to meet with various stakeholders for the Gough Restoration project. They met with multiple government officials and service providers, and also inspected the condition of the trial shipment of bait currently in Cape Town.

Coastal Seabirds

Andrew de Blocq met over Skype with colleagues at the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Secretariat of the African Eurasian Waterbird Agreement about the formation of the International Working Group for the Multi-species Action Plan on Benguela coastal seabirds. The meeting was very productive and spawned further ideas on how to capitalize on this meeting and find ways to impact seabird conservation both in Southern Africa and more broadly. Christina Hagen met with the finance team at Isdell House to discuss some outstanding issues and gave a presentation on her work to establish new African Penguin colonies to the Rand Barbet Bird Club.

Albatross Task Force

Andrea Angel worked on the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds financial report and work objectives for the 2019-2020 contract, expected to be finalised early next week. She also met with Andrew Callender (from the RSPB) to discuss avian husbandry relating to the Mouse Free Marion project. Reason Nyengera worked on a report on the Inshore trawl fleet from his recent visit to Port Elizabeth and Mossel Bay. He is beginning work on characterizing the fleet, to understand better the issues around implementing seabird bycatch mitigation measures for these very small vessels.

TERRESTRIAL BIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME

Preventing extinctions

All Terrestrial Bird Conservation Programme staff attended the BirdLife South Africa staff meeting. Hanneline spent time working on several internal documents and participated in a Skype meeting with the SESYNC Vulture Conservation group. Robin attended donor meetings in Kimberley and finalised logistics for the completion of the 2018/2019 White-winged Flufftail survey in KwaZulu-Natal. The modelling pipeline for the national species modelling project was further refined this week, with planned implementation in June 2018. Linda continued work on the vultures and disease review, and drafted the content of an infographic that will illustrate lead poisoning in vultures. Carina continued with monthly avifaunal surveys on Ingula Nature Reserve, and made arrangements for the quarterly power line surveys. She also extracted, packed and stored all camera trapping equipment from Ingula before the commencement of the fire season.

Renewable energy

BirdLife South Africa will be convening the first BirdLife Africa Energy Forum at the end of this month. The aim of the Forum is to enhance the capacity of BirdLife Africa Partnership to engage in the energy sector to stop or minimize/mitigate the negative impacts of the sector development on birds. A questionnaire was sent to BirdLife International Partners in Africa to guide the direction and content of future Forum meetings and Sam summarised the results of the survey and worked on her presentations for the meeting.

WAKKERSTROOM CENTRE

General Centre operations: The past week slowed down a bit at the Centre.  Kristi Garland and Lucky Ngwenya attended the annual BirdLife South Africa staff meeting in Johannesburg on Monday and Tuesday whilst Daphne Pyott held down the fort back in Wakkerstroom.  Although we had no bookings for accommodation, we did receive two walk-in guests for a couple of nights stay at the Centre.  Kristi was on sick leave the remainder of the week whilst Lucky attended to odd maintenance jobs around the Centre.    Kristi and Lucky also met this week to discuss both their upcoming leave applications.

Guiding operations: No tours were booked for this week.  Temperatures are starting to fall in Wakkerstroom with -5 degrees already being experienced during the night.

Environmental Education: As Kristi was on sick leave, no schools or junior bird clubs were visiting this week.  Although Kristi did spend some time on Friday with preliminary arrangements for the biannual Spring Alive Steering Committee meeting to be held in October, for the first time in Africa.

Working on Fire Team:  The Fire team was out and about this week, assisting the Wakkerstroom Tourism Association and local community members in preparing the landmark Ossewa and Scottish Knot on Ossewa Kop for painting.  They sent a day with representative clearing bush encroachment around these designs – cutting back ouhout and slashing grass as well as spraying herbicide to reduce the regrowth around these iconic features.  Painting will begin once the herbicide has taken effect.

POLICY & ADVOCACY PROGRAMME

National

Candice Stevens attended the annual BirdLife South Africa staff meeting for the last time. Candice has resigned from BirdLife South Africa as Policy & Advocacy (P&A) Programme Manager and will be taking up a new role as head of Innovative Conservation Finance at Wilderness Foundation Africa as of 1 June. Candice has begun the final stages of her handover period and will be focusing on wrapping up the last remaining items as P&A Manager in the next two weeks.

Advocacy

In the first half of this week Jonathan Booth joined all other BirdLife South Africa staff at the annual staff meeting which provided an excellent platform for exploring overlap/potential synergies between the different programmes and projects. Jonathan spent the bulk of the remainder of the week attending to the SANBI/BirdLife South Africa Best Practice Guidelines for Species Impact Assessment project. The external review of the draft document has been completed and the document is being updated before public consultation begins. Jonathan also finalized the financial and narrative report for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), his Programme sponsor.

Tax Extension

Ellane van Wyk finalised and sent off two Legal Tax Opinions this week. She also drafted two more opinions which are due to be sent to the taxpayers on 17 May or 20 May. Ellane and Candice also finalised two anonymous Model Tax Opinions which will be sent to the South African Revenue Service (SARS). These will assist greatly in SARS’ processing of upcoming section 37D Legal Tax Opinions in the tax returns of private and communal landowners. Additionally, Ellane received the Landowner Information for a KwaZulu-Natal Tax Site owned by a Communal Trust. The Formal Engagement Letter is expected to be received on 17 May.

Administration

Hiral Naik attended the annual BirdLife South Africa staff meeting on Monday and Tuesday and the Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) team meeting on Wednesday.

Other

The IBA team joined all other BirdLife South Africa staff at the annual staff meeting on Monday and Tuesday. The meeting provided an excellent platform for exploring overlap/potential synergies between the different programmes and projects. Additionally, The IBA team attended a team meeting on Wednesday to discuss challenges and solutions for the rest of the year.

AVITOURISM & SPECIAL PROJECTS PROGRAMME

Martin Taylor spent the majority of the week in Gauteng attending a BirdLife South Africa staff meeting. The remainder of the week was spent attending to administrative requirements, as well as finalising logistics for an upcoming regional partner workshop to be held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Martin travelled to Harare on the Friday where he met with Ian Barber (RSPB) and Julia Pierini (BirdLife Zimbabwe) and joined a BirdLife Zimbabwe youth outing to Lake Chivero, an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area on the outskirts of Harare.

MEMBERSHIP PROGRAMME

The membership team attended the annual BirdLife South Africa Staff meeting held on 13 & 14 May.  Shireen Gould attended BirdLife Port Natal’s 70th Anniversary function on 18of May which was held in the Krantzkloof Nature Reserve.

Core

The entire Core team attended the annual staff meeting on Monday and Tuesday. Several meetings were held during  the rest of the week, including the bi-annual BirdLife National Trust meeting on Wednesday. Mark Anderson held a planning meeting with Philip Calinikos, BirdLife South Africa’s new Chairman. Mark also had a meeting with National Geographic for a podcast being developed about the Mouse Free Marion project.

Congratulations to Dr Hanneline Smit-Robinson on her appointment to the position of Head of Conservation at BirdLife South Africa, and congratulations to Dr Melissa Whitecross and Caroline Howes for tying the knot on Saturday.