15-19 February 2021

SEABIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME

Albatross Task Force (ATF)

Andrea Angel attended the annual 2-day South African Sustainable Seafood Initiatives networking partners meeting, where she exchanged information and discussed how the partner organisations can support each other in advancing ocean sustainability issues. Andrea met with Capricorn Marine Environmental (CapMarine) to coordinate plans for their support during the at-sea trials planned for later in the year as part of the Inshore Trawl Seabird Bycatch Mitigation Project, funded by the Marine Stewardship Council’s Ocean Stewardship Fund. Reason Nyengera visited the Ocean View Association for Persons with Disabilities (OVAPD) centre to supply bird-scaring line (BSL) manufacturing materials and met with the centre manager, Deborah Gonzalves, to catch-up on 2021 work plans and challenges related to COVID-19 restrictions. Reason worked on a business plan concerning self-sustainability of the OVAPD centre’s BSL manufacturing process. Reason engaged with the Global Fishing Watch organisation which is in the process of assisting the team with assessing data on vessel movements and activity, as part of the ATF’s ongoing seabird bycatch risk assessment work.

Mouse-Free Marion (MFM)

Anton Wolfaardt continued to work on the development and review of project documents and plans for the MFM Project. Anton progressed discussions and planning regarding the key issues that need to be resolved in respect of the bait for the project and drafted a background document to help support fund-raising efforts.  Anton started investigating the main elements of a Terms of Reference for advancing a communication strategy for the project.

Coastal Seabirds

Alistair McInnes went to the African Penguin colony at St Croix Island with colleagues from the University of Cape Town’s engineering department and the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) to install an Automated Penguin Monitoring (APM) system. This device reads the microchips that are implanted in the penguins as they walk over a scale. This APM system provides important information about the penguins’ foraging trip times and how successful each trip was. Christina Hagen went to the penguin colony site at the De Hoop Nature Reserve on a regular monitoring and infrastructure maintenance trip.

LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION PROGRAMME (LCP)

Melissa Whitecross completed the five-year programme strategy and the 2021 strategic framework for the LCP and finalised the programme’s staff performance appraisals for submission to the Head of Conservation. Melissa attended the organising committee meetings for the Virtual African Bird Fair, Flock 2021, Learn About Birds (LAB) Conference and the Kruger Challenge. Melissa attended the Ingula Partnership Steering Committee meeting where she presented on the threatened species work currently being carried out by BirdLife South Africa (BLSA). Melissa attended a meeting with Bronwyn Maree and Hanneline Smit-Robinson to discuss opportunities for European Roller monitoring in Kruger National Park with the South African National Parks (SANParks) Honorary Rangers (West Rand region). Melissa attended a meeting with the Buffelskloof Nature Reserve and Herbarium. Melissa presented the guest lecture at the virtual BirdLife Northern Gauteng (BLNG) AGM, providing an overview of BLSA’s raptor conservation work. Melissa also presented in the weekly webinar covering the Ingula Partnership’s work. Melissa was interviewed by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) radio team on Barn Swallows and their conservation ahead of the team’s trip to Ingula Nature Reserve. Kyrone Josiah developed a draft social media plan for the LAB Conference and conducted various administrative tasks for the LCP.

Protecting Species

Linda van den Heever presented a talk on the Vulture Safe Zone Project to the Witwatersrand Bird Club. Linda met with Professor Vinny Naidoo from the University of Pretoria, to discuss progress on her lead isotope research. Linda developed a presentation for an upcoming Conservation Conversations webinar on the link between vultures and disease. Linda attended a meeting of the LAB Organising Committee and dealt with various administrative matters related to the BLSA Animal Research Ethics Committee.

Christiaan Brink met with potential funder, Laetitia Steynberg from BLNG, to discuss her interest in contributing towards the Secretarybird Project. Christiaan assisted in making slides and presenting during the Ingula Partnership Steering Committee meeting. Christiaan wrote a project proposal for the 2021 financial year for funding from Eskom for the Southern Banded Snake Eagle Transformer Box Study. He also wrote a funding request to Chamberlain’s Hardware to sponsor equipment for this study. Christiaan reviewed and reassessed the transformer boxes chosen for this study. Christiaan responded to queries from provincial environmental permit offices regarding his applications to track Secretarybirds. He also wrote an article for the BLSA e-newsletter and contributed to the Board of Directors’ report for 2021.

Kyle Lloyd conducted fieldwork for most of the week which involved servicing camera traps, measuring environmental variables, and deploying acoustic devices for the White-winged Flufftail Conservation Project. Kyle reported on the 2020 achievements of the project. Kyle met with Ernst Retief to discuss the Blue Swallow Habitat Suitability Model.

Protecting Ecosystems

Giselle Murison participated in Estuary Advisory Forums along the West Coast, including the Berg River Estuary Advisory Forum, where she provided feedback on BLSA’s work in the area, detailing upcoming monitoring, training and research initiatives. She also provided an update on the organisation’s ongoing Bankside Habitat Rehabilitation and Erosion Control Project. Giselle commented on several funding applications, as well as drafting comments on an environmental management framework and a number of estuarine habitat management plans.

Carina Pienaar hosted the BBC News and Radio team on the Ingula Nature Reserve in their covering of the Barn Swallow Migration and the Ingula Partnership. Carina presented at the Ingula Partnership Conservation Conversations webinar, attended and presented at the Ingula Partnership Steering Committee meeting, and assisted in the compilation of the Annual Plan of Operation (APO) for the Ingula Nature Reserve. Steven Segang conducted the Bedford and Chatsworth surveys, completing all four avifaunal surveys for February. Interesting species seen included Lesser Kestrel and an African Snipe male displaying. Steven has started the analysis of data as part of his skill development process. Steve McKean met with Carina Pienaar and Jabulani Hlophe, the Eskom manager at Ingula Nature Reserve, to discuss and complete the APO for Ingula, whereby management tasks for 2021 were agreed upon. The APO is designed to assist managers to track their tasks and reports while minimising the administrative burden and this has been sent to both Jabulani and Carina for their use.

Steve continued Blue Swallow monitoring and survey work with Brent Coverdale from Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife (EKZNW), and also travelled to the Harding area in southern KZN, to locate Blue Swallow nests at Sunnyvale and nearby communal areas. Despite unfavourable weather conditions, a previously unknown active Blue Swallow nest was found on the Sunnyvale property. It is suggested that there are at least two Blue Swallow breeding pairs at Sunnyvale. Steve intends to re-initiate meetings with landowners in the Sunnyvale area to discuss the property’s possible declaration. Steve distributed over R10 000 worth of herbicide to Trewirgie Nature Reserve to assist them with alien plant eradication at this site, which contains breeding Blue Swallows.

Renewable Energy

Samantha Ralston-Paton drafted a discussion document and met with the South African Wind Energy Association Environmental (SAWEA) working group chairs to outline some problems and potential solutions with operational-phase monitoring and mitigation at wind energy facilities. Sam attended a webinar on an Africa-Europe Perspective on Wind Energy which was hosted by the African-European Union Energy Partnership. Sam contributed to BLSA’s comments on the draft Environmental Management Framework for Saldanha Bay.

EMPOWERING PEOPLE PROGRAMME

Andrew de Blocq hosted the virtual book launch of The Forgotten Scientist with author, Lorato Trok, in partnership with Jacana Media. Andrew also hosted this week’s Conservation Conversations webinar on the impressive work of the Ingula Partnership with Eskom and the Middelpunt Wetland Trust. Andrew presented on developments related to community bird guide training to the Ingula Partnership Steering Committee. Andrew and Hanneline met with the Peace Parks Foundation to discuss avitourism work in Mozambique. Andrew, Bronwyn, and Giselle met with representatives from a Department of Tourism task team to discuss developments for avitourism at the Orange River Mouth. Andrew also met with Johan Rothmann of Lens Tracks to discuss providing a videography service to our Birder Friendly Establishments.

REGIONAL CONSERVATION PROGRAMME

Regional and Global Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs)

Lindsey Smith worked on the KBA newsletter.

Biodiversity Assessment for Spatial Prioritisation in Africa (BASPA)

Simeon Bezeng participated in two of the 4 days of virtual freshwater KBA Training and Workshops from 15-18 February organised by the Ghana KBA National Coordination Group. This workshop took place to prepare a grant submission to the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, to identify freshwater KBAs in West Africa’s Guinean Forest.

East Atlantic Flyways Initiative (EAFI)

Bronwyn finalised and submitted a funding proposal to implement coastal and estuarine counts at selected sites in Angola, Namibia and South Africa and piloting habitat rehabilitation techniques at a chosen site in South Africa. Together with Hanneline and Melissa, Bronwyn met with South African National Parks (SANParks) Honorary Rangers to discuss piloting a bird monitoring programme with a flagship species in South Africa. Bronwyn drafted an East Atlantic Flyway Initiative (EAFI) report for 2020, together with other EAFI Task Force members. The report highlighting key activities conducted by partners along the flyway.

Other

RCP held its annual strategic planning workshop. This is the first time the entire team has met in person since the advent of COVID-19. The programme’s strategy has been firmed up, which includes a very concise and focused manifesto. This work has taken up much of the team’s focus recently. Daniel Marnewick and Lindsey prepared agendas and note templates for the strategic planning workshop. The RCP team prepared presentations for the strategic planning workshop. The RCP team worked on the action list derived from the strategic planning workshop. The RCP team prepared the Board of Directors’ report.

SCIENCE AND INNOVATION PROGRAMME

Ernst worked on the Management Plan for the Rooifontein property owned by Ekapa Mining. Ernst focused explicitly on the background and developed a co-ordinated policy and strategic management framework,  completed the property zonation and defined permissible and non-permissible activities. Ernst carried out remote sensing analyses for several rehabilitation projects on Ekapa properties. Using remote sensing, specifically the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), Ernst could indicate which sites improved after rehabilitation was done. The data-sharing agreement to be used for the sharing of habitat suitability models was completed. The final arrangements were put into place for a workshop with specialists in the wind farm industry,  where Ernst and Sam will explain how the models were developed and how these models should be interpreted.

POLICY & ADVOCACY PROGRAMME

Policy

Melissa Lewis continued to engage with the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) and the Secretariat and Technical Committee of the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) on a variety of issues surrounding this Agreement’s implementation, interpretation and guiding documents. Melissa additionally drafted and submitted comments on Strategic Environmental Management Plans for the uMhkanyakude, Waterberg, and John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipalities. Melissa also provided input on the Seabird and Landscape Conservation Programmes’ comments on a draft Environmental Management Framework for the Greater Saldanha Area.

Advocacy

Melissa worked on documentation regarding several of BLSA’s ongoing advocacy cases. Lindsey monitored the advocacy inbox and screened matters for the potential need for comments.

HEAD OF CONSERVATION

Hanneline Smit-Robinson attended the organising committee meetings for Flock 2021, Learn About Birds (LAB) Conference and the Kruger Challenge 2022. Hanneline, with other BLSA staff, attended the Ingula Partnership Steering Committee meeting. Hanneline joined other BLSA staff at a variety of  meetings, including the Buffelskloof Nature Reserve and Herbarium, the SANParks Honorary Rangers (West Rand Region) and the Peace Parks Foundation. Hanneline worked on several funding proposals and met with the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust to discuss the Trust’s current support to BLSA. Hanneline edited the annual Strategic Framework contributions from the six conservation programmes. These will be submitted to the CEO and Board of Directors. Hanneline joined the Regional Conservation Programme for its annual strategic planning workshop.

CONSERVATION CONVERSATIONS

Andrew de Blocq hosted the Ingula Partnership as they showcased the conservation success and research that has been achieved since the inception of this collaboration. Kishaylin Chetty (representing Eskom), Carina and Melissa Whitecross presented an overview of the partnership and its historic and current work. Melissa met with Jayesh Hargovan from Vodacom, to discuss funding opportunities for BLSA’s webinar series.

WAKKERSTROOM TOURISM & EDUCATION CENTRE

The Wakkerstroom Centre’s staff have had a fairly busy week.  Lucky Ngwenya spent most of the week attending to a range of maintenance tasks as well as attending to the grounds, i.e. brush cutting and gardening.  Kristi Garland attended a host of meetings – a videography webinar hosted by the Young Reporters of the Environment (Foundation for Environmental Education – FEE) on Tuesday, a Wakkerstroom Tourism Association (WTA) catch-up meeting on Wednesday, the World Heritage UK webinar on Centre’s now and into the future on Thursday, along with meeting a community project leader in the afternoon and attending the Wakkerstroom Bird Club Committee meeting in the evening. Lastly, on Friday, she presented feedback at the provincial Working on Fire Wetlands Day celebration webinar on wetlands and birds as well as attending the upcoming mountain bike eXplore Wakkerstroom organisers meeting to be held from 5 to 7 March.  Our Working on Fire team returned at 50% capacity on Monday.  They spent most of this week attending to the upcoming recruitment of two additional staff for our base: receiving CVs and preparing our 2.4 km running trail for next week.  Kristi also spent time attending to a range of email enquiries for both accommodation and bird guides.  This weekend seemed to be highly popular with booking, not only for Lucky but also all three freelance bird guides.  Lucky reports the following sightings: Little Bittern, African Fish Eagle and South African Shelduck at the wetland, Red-throated Wryneck, Common Starling and Bokmakierie in the village, and White-bellied Bustard, Yellow-breasted Pipit and Secretarybird out on the Paulpietersburg road.  Kristi received news late in the week that the BirdLife South Africa submission to the Spring Alive African Action of the Year competition won first place with the Chasing migration Board Game.

CORE

Mark Anderson attended a range of meetings in the week: The Virtual African Bird Fair Organising Committee, Mouse-Free Marion NPC Board Operational Sub-committee, Ingula Partnership, Flock 2021 Organising Committee, Senior Management Committee, Membership Committee, 2021 Raffle, and Buffelskloof Education and Research Centre. He also met with a number of staff and BirdLife South Africa Chairman, Philip Calinikos. Mark had his monthly meeting with the RSPB’s Ian Barber.