10-15 February 2020

SEABIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME

Albatross Task Force

Andrea Angel participated in the Large Pelagic Management Working Group meeting which resulted in the adoption of the new pelagic longline bird-scaring line and inclusion in the 2020-21 Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries permit conditions. Reason Nyengera analysed data from temperature-depth loggers, which he had deployed during the previous sea trip, aimed at investigating sinking rates of Demersal longline fishing gear to gather information on the exposure of baited hook to seabird during setting.

Mouse Free Marion

Alistair McInnes worked on the position charter for the Project Manager position for the Mouse Free Marion project.

Gough Island Restoration Project

Nini van der Merwe was involved with boat and cargo preparations for the 2nd voyage to Gough Island.

Coastal Seabirds

Andrew de Blocq, Julie Bayley and Christina Hagen met with representatives from the Two Oceans Aquarium about a “Penguin Waddle” event being planned for African Penguin Awareness Day in October. Christina and Alistair met with the advisory committee set up to assist with the De Hoop penguin colony project to evaluate the status of the project and plan the next steps. Christina also managed to fit in a quick trip to the De Hoop colony site for monitoring and maintenance. Andrew helped with the launch across our social media platforms of the South Africa Listers’ Club, an online platform for country listers in South Africa to publish their totals, and assisted Ernst Retief with some of the background admin. Andrew has been attending to various logistical and substantive arrangements for the two African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) meetings coming up in March, namely the Forage Fish Workshop and the 1st Meeting of the International Working Group on the International Multi-species Action Plan for Benguela Current Coastal Seabirds. Andrew also updated the taxonomy for the Atlas of Seabirds At Sea project in light of revisions by the taxonomic authority, the International Ornithological Committee.

LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION PROGRAMME

Saving Species

Melissa Howes-Whitecross and Elelwani Makhuvha coordinated the Annual Flufftail Festival at the Johannesburg Zoo. Melissa met with Kishaylin Chetty (Eskom Biodiversity) and Kaajial Durgapersad (Eskom Research & Technical Division) to discuss several species research projects which Eskom is funding. Melissa met with the two new staff members who will join BirdLife South Africa as the Rockjumper Fellow of White-winged Flufftail Conservation and the Raptor & Large Terrestrial Bird Project Manager. Melissa reviewed several agreements with conservation partners and drafted a position statement on Zoos and Aquaria. Melissa will be on annual leave for the next two weeks. Carina Coetzer conducted a rapid assessment for the presence of White-winged Flufftail at Seekoeivlei Nature Reserve, Memel, and is currently busy analysing the results. Carina spent time monitoring the Ingula Nature Reserve and assisting with guiding of avitourists. She also monitored the Secretarybird, Houdini, who has recently been fitted with a tracking device in the Ingula region and commenced with setting up a framework for monitoring the biodiversity impacts of the Ingula Pumped Storage Scheme through the Biodiversity Disclosure Project. Linda van den Heever travelled to the Northern Cape to collect environmental samples for the lead isotope study. Elelwani continued work on the Keeping Common Birds Common project concept notes, integrated a publication list to be uploaded to the BirdLife South Africa website and captured electronic records for Avitourism guides. She took care of various tasks for the BirdLife South Africa National Rarities Committee and submitted the rodenticide use position statement for inputs. Elelwani also participated on multiple internship weekly meetings with Hanneline Smit-Robinson, Melissa and Isabel Human.

Protecting Habitats

Giselle Murison visited farmers at the Berg River estuary this week. She met with landowners of properties in the developing Melck Protected Environment to finalise documentation around the ‘Intention to Declare’ Public Participation Process. Giselle visited properties with significant erosion issues, to photograph and catalogue areas with substantial riverbank loss and estuarine habitat degradation for potential inclusion as sites in BirdLife South Africa’s new estuarine habitat rehabilitation pilot project at the Berg. She also spent time finalising a presentation for this weekend’s WaderBash 2020 at the West Coast National Park.  Steve McKean continued with Blue Swallow monitoring and attended several meetings this week.

Renewable energy

Samantha Ralston-Paton provided recommendations towards South Africa’s position on proposed decisions and amendments related to renewable energy and powerlines to be tabled at the Convention on Migratory Species 13th Conference of the Parties. Megan Murgatroyd (FitzPatrick Institute) is developing a model to predict collision risk for Verreaux’s Eagle. Samantha assisted Megan to obtain data to vet the model, and also provided advice on how to ensure that the model output is made available to decision-makers, and how to present the results of the model in a way that would be useful to developers, environmental assessment practitioners and decision-makers.

REGIONAL CONSERVATION PROGRAMME

Biodiversity Assessment for Spatial Prioritisation in Africa (BASPA)

Simeon Bezeng reviewed all amphibian and reptile Red List assessments and provided edits and comments on the Red List working sets in Species Information Service (SIS) to the technical leads. Simeon also provided edits and comments on a funding proposal to Franklinia Foundation to conserve the Critically Endangered and endemic tree species (Microberlinia bisulcata A.Chev. (Fabaceae-Detarioideae)) in Cameroon.

Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures

Daniel Marnewick organised and chaired the inaugural OECM Steering Committee meeting for Phase Two of the OECM Project. The current members include BirdLife South Africa, South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Wilderness Foundation Africa and Kruger2Canyons. Additional members will also be invited.  He also took part in a planning meeting for the upcoming OECM short films.

Convention on Biological Diversity Post 2020

Daniel attended the BirdLife International Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) Committee Zoom meeting.

East Atlantic Flyway Initiative

Daniel joined (remotely) the East Atlantic Flyway Initiative (EAFI) meeting taking place in Dakar, Senegal. The meeting discussed the EAFI strategy and future project planning and fundraising.

Other

Hiral Naik spent time this week collating contributions for the BirdLife South Africa Annual Report 2019.

POLICY & ADVOCACY PROGRAMME

Advocacy

Samantha Ralston-Paton sent a letter to the Department of Mineral Resources to request that they investigate potentially unauthorised listed activities near Middelpunt Wetland, Dullstroom. Hiral Naik drafted a letter regarding aerial spraying of toxic pyrethroids over farms in the Melmoth area after the eruption of Achaea lienardi, the Wattle semi-looper. An unexpected and urgent deadline has been imposed to finalise the Best Practice Species Guidelines for Environmental Impact Assessments for stakeholder comment. BirdLife South Africa has been working closely with SANBI and the appointed consultants to meet this deadline.

SCIENCE AND INNOVATION PROGRAMME

Robin Colyn spent the majority of the week working on finalising and testing the mesic highland grassland habitat quality metrics and indices. These monitoring toolsets have been designed to allow for the assessment of grassland habitat quality over large spatial and temporal scales. Robin also made significant progress synthesising a scientific manuscript describing the application of these monitoring tools and the conservation significance thereof. Furthermore, Robin spent time finalising the Conservation Modelling Project framework and pipeline, which will be implemented for additional threatened species habitat delineation in the following week.

Ernst assisted with a number of tasks during the week, namely the implementation of the new South Africa Listers’ Club, assisted atlasers at the AGM of BirdLife Northern Gauteng, drafted and published a guideline document to create pentad groups on the SABAP2 website. Ernst assisted staff to resolve several IT related issues and recruited atlasers for a SABAP2 atlas bash in the Waterberg. He also attended meetings about the guideline documents which will accompany the Site Screening Tool and drafted supporting tables and documents. Ernst attended the Birding Big Day event arranged by Dawie Chamberlain – money raised through this event is donated to BirdLife South Africa. Nolumanyano Camagu continued to work on the Conservation Modelling Project and took part on a Skype meeting with Ernst and Robin to finalise the framework and pipeline for the project.

HEAD OF CONSERVATION

Hanneline Smit-Robinson, with Melissa, met with Kyle Lloyd who has recently been appointed as the Rockjumper Fellow of White-winged Flufftail Conservation. Hanneline met with Albert Froneman (private consultant) to discuss BirdLife South Africa’s support to the Airports Company South Africa’s bird and wildlife training programme as well as with Prof. Ralph Clark, director of the Afromontane Research Unit, University of the Free State, to discuss a recently agreed upon Memorandum of Understanding between the two organisations. Hanneline further finalised and provided input into the Conservation Division’s programmes’ donor servicing schedules, edited Annual Report 2019 contributions and finalised the advertisements and position charters for three new positions at BirdLife South Africa that will be advertised soon. Hanneline also participated in several internal meetings.  Hanneline collated BirdLife South Africa’s recommendations towards South Africa’s position on proposed decisions and amendments for the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, to be tabled at the Convention on Migratory Species’ 13th Conference of the Parties (CMS CoP13) in India next week.

WAKKERSTROOM CENTRE

Centre Activities and guiding

This week has been a quite a busy one – a mixed bag of meetings and guests.  Monday saw Daphne Pyott attending to our administration tasks from the weekend.  It also saw most of the Bosveld Bird Club arriving at the Centre – six caravan/tents and both guest suites booked.  They stayed at the Centre till Friday.  Tuesday saw Kristi Garland attending the Pixley ka Isaka Seme Municipal meeting in Volksrust.  This meeting focussed on forming a Local Tourism Organisation (LTO) for the municipal area.  Although this should have been initiated a few years ago, there is still some resistance to the whole process.  Unfortunately, only two businesses or rather tourism services were represented from Wakkerstroom – BirdLife South Africa Wakkerstroom Centre and De Oude Stasie.  There is still some way to go before such an LTO is formed to feed into the regional tourism organisation, based in Ermelo.  Wednesday saw the Centre hosting the planning meeting for the upcoming Twin Treasures celebration in Wakkerstroom on 20 February.  DARDLEA is spear heading this event with various stakeholders further supporting it.  Kristi will be involved with Working on Fire, DARDLEA staff and the local catchment management authority in creating a round robin of activities, focussed on wetlands and grasslands, for 200 local learners.  Kristi will also be representing BirdLife South Africa at the provincial event in Chrissiesmeer on 28 February.  Most of Friday was spent on getting the Centre back on track and ready for new guests to arrive in the afternoon.

Environmental Education Projects

Wednesday afternoon saw Kristi attending the Country college Junior Bird Club meeting in Volksrust.  This week the learners focussed on the ‘geography’ of a bird, basic anatomy.  The learners always love putting together these puzzles.  They also worked on a memory game, again focussing on local birds in and around their school.  Thursday afternoon saw Kristi attending the Clay Edu-Centre’s Junior bird club with Carol Preston.  Whilst Carol worked with half the group on issues around water conservation, Kristi took the other learners on a journey through some wetland water – looking for and identifying all the organisms found in the various samples – miniSASS.  Kristi also assisted the Wakkerstroom Natural Heritage Association and Litter Lions in preparation for the upcoming Water Weekend at the end of the month.  Posters were put together and distributed in the community, marketing the Galela water play along with a short presentation by the Litter Lions themselves.

Working on Fire

The Fire team spent most of this week assisting landowners, including the Centre, with alien plant removal.  The team also assisted Kristi with various maintenance tasks and mowing around the Centre on Friday.

CORE

Several meetings were held at Isdell House, including the monthly Marketing Committee meeting and quarterly Fundraising Committee meeting. Mark Anderson attended meetings with a number of people, including Lindy van Hasselt (Lewis Foundation) and Richard Flack (wildlife photographer). Mark was the guest speaker at the AGMs of both BirdLife Northern Gauteng (Pretoria) and BirdLife Port Natal (Durban). The auditors continued to work on the 2019 audit.