Birdlife SA update 20-24 April 2020.

Here’s a brief update of some of our recent work:


Albatross Task Force

Andrea Angel submitted updated contingency work plans related to the Marine Stewardship Council research grant. She and Alistair McInnes met with the Responsible Fisheries Alliance (RFA) to discuss plans for the organisational restructuring of the RFA to enable more members to become part of the alliance and align with BirdLife South Africa’s objectives of expanding marine best practice and an ecosystem’s approach to fisheries management. The ATF also met internally with Alistair to discuss various ongoing projects related to work on the seabird risk assessment concerning fisheries.  Reason Nyengera continues to work on data management and analysis. 

Gough Island Restoration Programme

Nini van der Merwe had several meetings with her RSPB colleagues including a debrief on the repatriation of the aviculture team, as well as final arrangements for their onward travel from the UK to their respective home countries. She had a meeting with the project manager to discuss the recruitment process for the 2020/2021 overwintering team and decided on a timeline for the various interview stages and training that needs to happen.

Mouse Free Marion

Nini had a meeting with Alistair, in which they discussed a contingency plan for the project and identified several tasks that can be addressed in the coming months.

Coastal Seabirds

Christina Hagen presented a webinar on her work to establish new African Penguin colonies as part of the Conservation Conversations with BirdLife South Africa webinar series. For those who missed it the talk is available on YouTube: She also prepared for World Penguin Day on Saturday 25 April and worked on documents for a meeting to be held next week about the De Hoop penguin colony. Andrew de Blocq continued working with Alistair to ensure a smooth transition out at the end of the month. Andrew also spent time updating the Seabird Conservation Programme’s content on the webpage and organized social media outputs. Alistair completed quantifying all the island closure data for Algoa Bay which has been sent to collaborators at Upsala University for analysis.


Melissa Howes-Whitecross hosted two Conservation Conversations webinars this week with colleagues from BirdLife South Africa. Melissa updated all of the marketing material linked to the webinars and updated the new website. Melissa reviewed some of the new Bird of the Year material created by Caitlin Judge. Melissa attended Zoom meetings with the Dullstroom Trout Farm owners and Gareth Tate (Endangered Wildlife Trust, EWT). Melissa met with the Landscape Conservation Programme team and held several one-on-one discussions with team members via Zoom. Melissa reviewed several project proposals within the Landscape Conservation Programme and updated the White-winged Flufftail habitat management guidelines.

Protecting Species

Linda van den Heever was on study leave this week. Kyle Walker met with Melissa and Gareth Tate from EWT to discuss the current raptor projects, limit overlap and create synergy between the two portfolios. Kyle continued to write the FlockDown posts, completing day 28 in a row. He has started editing a proposed manuscript on the status of Black Storks in South Africa. He completed a budget for a concept note aimed at mitigating mast and raptor conflict. He has continued to respond to Pied Crow workshop delegates. Kyle added notes and made editing corrections on the Black Harrier WEF guidelines. He also responded to two questions about cell-mast impacts and Pied Crow impacts on birdlife. Kyle Lloyd participated in the biannual Middelpunt Wetland Trust (MWT) meeting and annual Dullstroom Trout Farm meeting. Prior to the MWT meeting, Kyle worked with Hanneline Smit-Robinson, Melissa, Robin Colyn and Carina Coetzer to present on fundraising options and White-winged Flufftail research conducted to date. He also took the minutes of the MWT meeting. Kyle continued compiling the White-winged Flufftail project proposal and edited his staff appraisal after being reviewed by Melissa. Elelwani Makhuvha continued working on concept notes for the Keeping Common Birds Common project and submitted her staff appraisal document. She also had a catch-up meeting with Hanneline.

Protecting Ecosystems

Carina completed her review of a manuscript on threatened species breeding on Ingula Nature Reserve and commenced with reviewing and updating the Ingula Nature Reserve Species Action Plans: starting on the Wattled Crane. She also analysed acoustic data following a successful rapid assessment for the presence of White-winged Flufftails in a Free State wetland where the last record of the species was in 2015. Giselle Murison met with Bergrivier Municipality this week to discuss the next steps in tackling bankside erosion at the estuary. She also finalised an article on the estuarine habitat rehabilitation pilot project at the Berg for a local community e-newsletter.  Giselle reviewed project proposals from Marine Science Advanced Diploma students at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and held follow-up Zoom meetings with them on Tuesday and Wednesday. She prepared for a webinar with the Cape Bird Club on her work at estuaries in the Western Cape, held on Thursday evening. Giselle also spent time working on a project progress report and funding application, as well as drafting comments on estuary management plans. Steve McKean spent time compiling a draft veld condition analysis report for Tillietudlem Nature Reserve and sorting out landowner agreements.

Renewable Energy

Samantha Ralston-Paton met with Alex Ngari and Harvey Rich (BirdLife International) to discuss the 3rd BirdLife Africa Energy Forum meeting that will be held the following week. Samantha had a meeting with Robin, Ernst Retief, Fanie du Plessis and Hanneline to discuss making habitat suitability models available to developers. Samantha also met with Hanneline and Hiral Naik to discuss various policy and advocacy issues. She spent the rest of the week preparing for her upcoming webinar on renewable energy.



Andrew de Blocq oversaw payment to a further nine guides this week from the Community Bird Guide Relief Fund. Andrew wrote a guest blog for Birding Ecotours on the project, had it written about by two major news outlets (Saturday Star and Daily Maverick), and did a live interview over Instagram for Expedition Birding’s birding series.


Regional and Global Key Biodiversity Areas

Daniel Marnewick, along with co-authors, finalised a concept for the IUCN on developing an integrated knowledge framework for area-based conservation. Daniel also provided edits to a ToR for assessing two national parks in Mozambique as KBAs. Additionally, Daniel attended an online meeting with various global KBA partners to discuss developing an online webinar series on KBAs. Daniel is a member of the KBA Partnership post-2020 working group, and he provided input to the KBA Partnerships comments on the targets and indicators for the CBD Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework.

Biodiversity Assessment for Spatial Prioritisation in Africa (BASPA)

Simeon Bezeng completed reviews of freshwater fish assessments from Kenya and submitted comments to assessors. He also completed BASPA content for BirdLife South Africa and Species Survival Commission (SSC) webpages.

Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECM)

Daniel continued to edit the global OECM methodology, and write the OECM country report. He attended the International Land Conservation Network/European Land Conservation Network Earth Day Online Plenary webinar.

Convention on Biological Diversity Post 2020

Daniel, Hanneline Smit-Robinson and Simeon attended the IUCN National Committee meeting.


Hiral finalised marketing material for the Phil Liggett Bush Cycle which will take place later this year. She also finalised and updated the webpages for Regional Conservation Programme on the BirdLife South Africa website.


Robin finalised habitat requirement analyses for Rudd’s Lark this week, which forms part of the Mesic Highland Grassland project. The study assessed both the macro- and micro-habitat features required in order to promote the occurrence of the species in a given area. He also finalised a Lesser Flamingo proposal, as well as the submission of website content for the new Science and Innovation Programme webpage. Work on the conservation modelling project continued this week, with a further two species habitat models created and numerous others validated. Robin also worked on the resubmission of a White-winged Flufftail manuscript, which synthesises results related to the breeding and acoustic status of the species. He assisted Carina with processing acoustic data collected as part of a rapid acoustic survey. Significantly, the rapid assessment technique proved successful and yielded a presence record of the Critically Endangered White-winged Flufftail. Robin commenced making reviewer amendments to two mesic highland grassland manuscripts highlighting the conservation status of the habitat and associated specialist species restricted to the region. Ernst continued developing spatial layers which will feed into the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) site screening tool and various conservation planning tools. Layers were for example developed for Taita Falcon, Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Lanner Falcon, Orange Ground Thrush and Spotted Ground Thrush. This brings the number of species completed to nine. Ernst and Sanjo met with the Regional Atlas Committees of the Northern Cape, the Free State as well as Eswatini. The purpose of the meetings was to discuss the vetting of SABAP2 data and marketing of the project. On Thursday afternoon Ernst did an interview on RSG about garden birds. He also started setting up the necessary forms and documentation for Birding Big Day 2020. Nolumanyano Camagu continued creating models for the Conservation Modelling Project.



Hanneline, Samantha and Hiral met to discuss various policy and advocacy issues. Hiral spent time organising the advocacy inbox.


Hanneline Smit-Robinson joined in several internal meetings via the Zoom platform. Hanneline had a meeting with Robin, Ernst, Fanie and Samantha to discuss several funding ideas for the Science and Innovation Programme. Hanneline also led a Conservation Division Funding Task Team discussion. Hanneline, with Daniel and Simeon, represented BirdLife South Africa at the quarterly IUCN meeting. She attended several White-winged Flufftail related meetings, including the biannual Middelpunt Wetland Trust (MWT) meeting, a preparation meeting for the MWT meeting and hosted and chaired the annual Dullstroom Trout Farm (DTF) meeting. The DTF meeting is an open platform for discussion of White-winged Flufftail related matters between the Trustees of DTF and BirdLife South Africa and MWT, with specific focus on the management of Middelpunt Wetland, which is leased from the DTF. Hanneline further attended a meeting with Prof Leslie Brown, UNISA, and Hannes Marais, Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, as well as fellow BirdLife South Africa colleagues to discuss a study that will contribute towards our understanding of the microhabitat vegetation structure components of the preferred habitat of White-winged Flufftails.


The Wakkerstroom Centre is still standing, although we are much quieter than we should be at this point in the year.  Kristi Garland continues to address various small maintenance tasks on the property.  She has also been keeping in contact with all the staff, namely Lucky Ngwenya, Daphne Pyott and the cleaning ladies.  On the remote side of things, Kristi attended the weekly staff meeting on Monday as well as a catch up session with Fanie du Plessis on Tuesday.  Kristi spent the rest of the week finalising an application to Spring Alive for funding for the African season and working on developing the supporting resources.  At this time, Kristi is developing a ‘Catching migration’ boardgame based on a 13th century game.  She has called in the assistance of the Wakkerstroom Bird Club members for assistance in developing the game’s action cards.  Kristi has also been supporting the Wakkerstroom Bird Club with their Lockdown Garden Bird Challenge, receiving lists of sightings each day and compiling results.  To date across Wakkerstroom over 115 species have been seen.  The highlights include the first ever sighting of a Fiscal Flycatcher and the return of the Bush Blackcap, last seen in Wakkerstroom in 2014!  The Working on Fire team continues to check into work remotely. 


Julie Bayley attended to the following; weekly staff meeting on Monday where feedback regarding the Social Media Flockdown feedback was provided, continuing with the daily posts and additional social media posts related to African Birdlife magazine. She worked on supporting and communicating BirdLife International’s Earth Day campaign which was compiled into a mailer and social media. She finalised the minutes for the Marketing Meeting which she attended on 23 April where she provided feedback on several aspects. She compiled content required for Flume for additional media coverage for the Lockdown initiatives that BirdLife South Africa has been involved in.


It has been a very busy week of meetings, all of which are attended remotely. These included two Senior Management Committee meetings, an African Birdlife magazine  meeting, the bi-annual Middelpunt Wetland Trust meeting and the monthly Marketing Committee meeting. Mark Anderson attended a meeting with Dr Thommie Burger, CEO of WESSA.

Happy Freedom Day, and stay safe!



Mark D. Anderson

Chief Executive Officer

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