BMCG’s Big Biodiversity Bash at Palmiet NR

Saturday 11 October 2014.

Palmiet NR Map

Palmiet NR Map

A group of eleven BMCG members gathered in the car park at 07h30 with the intention of walking the reserve and recording (including photographically) everything of a biodiversity nature. But first we read the rules – of interest was rule 9.

Forest birding is mostly done by identifying the calls and when lucky a bird will present itself. Today right at the start of the trail we were treated to excellent sightings of a Red-chested Cuckoo – flitting back and forth in the trees around the gazebo.

The trail followed the river upstream to start with – with sightings of several pairs of Mountain Wagtails, caterpillars, butterflies and damselflies and plants of interest.

Mountain Wagtail

Mountain Wagtail

At one point we came across a Village Weaver building its nest at the very top of the tallest tree in the area. We trust he doesn’t know something we don’t about the future water level!!

Village Weaver's Nest right at the very top of the tree - heavy flooding expected!!

Village Weaver’s Nest right at the very top of the tallest tree – heavy flooding expected!!

The trail went further up stream through the forest to a small burnt grassland area – sometimes crossing the river.

Wild roses and Yellow Weavers amongst others were seen.

On a number of occasions we noticed water mongoose spoor as well as its scat – bits of crab shell mostly.

Water Mongoose spoor

Water Mongoose spoor

Several butterflies and damselflies.

And to cap it all a sighting of 3 of the newest residents – Bushbuck – re-introduced this year. One male showing a red tag on its left ear.

Bushbuck with red tag - left ear.

Bushbuck with red tag – left ear.

After tea and a tally of what we had observed most of the party left. Four of us decided to investigate further downstream – picking up a number of other species which we had not recorded earlier, ending up with a total of 55 bird species for the morning, but very few butterflies, dragonflies or damselflies.

Steve Davis will prepare the spreadsheet of the sightings to start the records for the reserve. The object is for the reserve champions to maintain this list and to submit it for inclusion on this website as and when it is updated.

It is BMCG’s intention to get as many Champions of reserves and green areas in the eThekwini boundary to start preparing lists of all the biodiversity in each area. If you live close to a reserve or green area in eThekwini then please volunteer to keep these records – it really is something that needs to be done if we are to preserve our habitats and provide for our birds. It is not an onerous task.

The next BMCG biodiversity Big Bash is intended next month (second Saturday in December) at Kenneth Stainbank NR. Come and enjoy the outing. In the process you will be doing your bit to help with nature conservation. Details to follow.

 

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BirdLife South Africa Flock 2015.

Dear BirdLife South Africa member,

In 2015 BirdLife South Africa will be holding its annual Flock (AGM weekend) in Johannesburg. As there are more than 1 000 BirdLife South Africa members in Gauteng, and many others who can easily get to Gauteng, we hope to have a record attendance! Join us at Flock in Jozi where we will celebrate our country’s birds, and share BirdLife South Africa’s recent conservation successes. There will be an exciting programme of talks, birding outings to see the 400 or so bird species which have been recorded in Gauteng, and more. So please save the dates for Flock in Jozi 2015. More details to follow soon.

Regards

Mark D. Anderson

Chief Executive Officer

 

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Wakkerstroom Birding Event – January 2015.

Click here to see and book for the Wakkerstroom Birding Event for January 2015.

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Darvill Outing Sunday 5 October 2014

A group of about 12 of us met for the Midlands Bird Club outing to Darvill, just outside Pietermaritzburg – led by Gordon Bennett.

The morning started with a stroll along the road beside the sewerage canals. A Grey Duiker took us all completely by surprise. Not something you see here with all the poaching.

Grey Duiker

Grey Duiker

We ambled along a-ways when I decided to have a closer look to see if anything was hiding in the canals. And that is when it all happened – the biggest excitement for the day.

The scope came out when I noticed a wader in one of the canals – sleeping on a log. At first I thought it was a Common Sandpiper but it lacked the white patch up the shoulder. Then I noticed barring on the tail and a prominent white eyering (no eyebrow supercillium nor speckled back so not a Wood Sandpiper either, I thought). Then I got excited and called the rest of the group to come have a look. Meanwhile I went to get closer which meant crossing the fast flowing nearer canal. Fortunately there was a crossing further down and I managed to get up to about 30 metres from the bird – all the while stopping and taking photos. When it eventually flew we were able to see its rump which was white but not extending up its back and the end of the tail was barred.

Much discussion and book searching followed. There was mention of it possibly being a Solitary Sandpiper which a number of us had never heard of. The features are similar. (At home I looked it up and found that Solitary Sandpipers breed in woodlands across Alaska and Canada. It is a migratory bird, wintering in Central and South America, especially in the Amazon River basin, and the Caribbean).

That aside, it was felt at the time that this could be a Green Sandpiper – all the pointers seemed right but we were nervous about making a bad call and decided to wait and see the photos. Once home, the call for confirmation of ID went out on Facebook etc and Green Sandpiper it was.

The amble continued along the side of the canals to the river then up to the ponds. Along the way a swarm of Swifts and Swallows passed overhead. There were many different species of Swift seen amongst them – African Black, African Palm-, Alpine (special), Little, and White-rumped.

The paths are clear so the view of the ponds was good. Numerous water birds were on the ponds. Some of the highlights included a group of 6 African Snipes, a Squacco Heron, Little Stints, all 3 Teals etc.

Both Klaas’s and Dideric Cuckoos were heard and the Klaas’s seen. African Marsh Harrier was seen quartering one area and Kites and a Jackal Buzzard flew above us. Altogether Sally and I recorded 81 different species. Click here to see our list. This excludes a number of other birds seen by other members of the group. To conclude we had the pleasure of seeing a pair of Grey-crowned Cranes in the fields above the ponds.

Excitedly we returned home to check our photos of the Sandpiper.

Great morning.

Paul & Sally Bartho

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Clairwood Racecourse to become a logistics park.

Prepared by Arnia van Vuuren, BirdLife Port Natal committee member.

This includes background as well as comments and challenges on the amended EIA.

Background:

Clairwood Racecourse (CRC) has been sold to Capital Property Fund who intends to develop it into a logistics park with warehouses where goods imported / exported through Durban will be unpacked and repacked. The Environmental Impact Assessment was done in 2013 and BLPN registered as an Interested and Affected Party (I&AP). We submitted comments on the original EI Report. This EIR was rejected by the Dept. of Environmental Affairs because of several inadequacies and major objections raised by eThekwini Municipality’s EPCPD. Some of these issues have been addressed but not all.

Clairwood Racecourse (CRC) is the only site left for the Racecourse Lily (Kniphofia pauciflora) and it does not occur in the wetland but in the main soggy, grassy area in the middle. According to the new Environmental Management Programme they will move all specimens of the lily to the wetland area.

Dr Jeanne Tarrant will determine now (October 2014) whether Pickersgill’s Reed Frog occurs at the CRC. If they do, the developer wants them removed to an off-set area further down the South Coast.

The CRC is also home to a resident pair of Grey Crowned Cranes and a resident pair of Black Storks, among a host of other birds including a big heronry. The developer will donate money to the KZN Crane Foundation for buying extra land at their property in the Midlands as off-set for the loss of the Grey Crowned Cranes at the CRC. The cranes cannot be relocated as that has proved unsuccessful elsewhere so they will have to move. It is unclear whether the Black Storks will remain with all the disturbance. The developer has agreed to set aside about 7ha in the north-east corner of the site as a wetland area plus a buffer zone to contain all species which will lose habitat when the entire rest of the area is paved over for trucks, containers and warehouses.

The Amended EIR was released in September 2014 and BLPN has again submitted comments on this. Although there are improvements there are still several issues outstanding. For example, the Environmental Management Programme states that solid waste and grease in the stormwater (which will increase because everything is now paved over) will be dealt with through traps in the pipes, but then adds that the stormwater drains into the Amanzimnyama canal anyway which drains into Durban Bay so that will solve the problem. The issue around the frogs are not settled yet and in Dr Tarrant’s initial estimates she has had to propose the off-set/alternative that will be the cheapest for the developer. The developer has proposed to spend two million rand on education in the surround communities but this includes the development of the wetland area.

In our comments we focused on the major issues.

COMMENTS ON THE AMENDED ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT REPORT

INTRODUCTION:

Thank you for the opportunity to peruse the Amended Environmental Impact Report and to comment.

We acknowledge the attempts regarding the wetland conservation area in the north-east corner of the proposed development. However, developing the existing green area as a logistics park and just setting aside a small corner for natural habitat does not constitute sustainable development. In the same way herding inconvenient species into a corner so as not to interfere with a development does not make for a biodiversity hotspot.

COMMENTS:

  1. Traffic Impact Assessment (TIA):

1.1 Pedestrian traffic

In our initial comments we raised the issue of the high number of school children at the interchanges where Basil February Road enters the Clairwood Racecourse. We note that the Traffic Specialist did additional counts and included pedestrian traffic. However, the pedestrian count was done on Monday 2 December 2013 and according to the tables in Appendix 8, pp149-156 very few school children were encountered on that date. This is not surprising since it was after the end-of-year exams and two days before the start of a major school holiday when very few children still go to school.

The Traffic Impact Assessment evaluated the morning and afternoon peak hour traffic only, but the tables show, even without the scholars on the road, that Basil February Road and the interchanges carry high numbers of pedestrians all day.

The traffic specialists contend that by widening the pedestrian sidewalks and extending the greening time for pedestrians on the traffic lights would be sufficient to ensure the safety of all road users.

It is our contention that the developer has chosen Basil February Road as main entrance to the logistics park as it is the most convenient and cheapest for the developer and his tenants due to its proximity to the M4 despite the fact that it is in a residential area with high pedestrian and other traffic volumes. As the tragic accident on Fields Hill, Durban on 6 September 2013 illustrated dramatically – trucks do not belong in residential areas.

1.2 Other developments and traffic flow:

The report mentions the planned extension of Grimsby Road/Higginson Highway over the R102, through Clairwood Racecourse to connect with the M4 but the specialist decided not to consider it in the TIA as the timeframe for the extension is unknown (App. 8, TIA, p3).

In the same manner the specialist decided to exclude the impact of increased (heavy vehicle) traffic generated by the proposed dig-out port at the old Durban International Airport (DIA) site from their assessment and ten year forecast for the Traffic Impact Assessment as the port has not been approved yet (App. 8, TIA, p3).

We consider the decisions to exclude these two developments from the TIA of serious concern. While there are unknowns regarding these two developments, both will have major impacts on traffic flow, air quality, noise pollution and general living conditions for residents in the area surrounding Clairwood Racecourse and they would be left with little recourse to do anything about the situation after the fact.

In the words of the TIA specialist (p30): “It has been assumed that the distribution of this additional traffic generated by the proposed development will be approximately in a similar distribution to existing traffic flows on the M4 to and from the north and south except that there will be slight bias to the south due to the proposed new dug out port which will eventually be a major trip attractor.” (our emphasis)

As in the assessment of the environmental impacts, the potential long-term economic and financial benefits of wider developments like the dig-out port and Grimsby Road extension for the current applicant have been considered, but the specialists rigidly consider only the immediate impacts of the logistics park on the natural and social environment.

  1. Environmental Impact Assessment:

2.1 Loss of Clairwood Racecourse as green space

Regarding the visual impact and loss of visual aesthetics of the proposed development the Final Environmental Management Programme, Impacts Table states: “There will be a loss of open space previously associated with the racetrack. 44% of the respondents in the SIA stated that they personally benefit from the open space provided by the Racecourse. Visual aesthetics is a subjective impact however 7 460m2 of open space has been allocated to wetland habitat conservation, which will be aesthetically pleasing. This area will be accessible to the public. The architect has also provided design concepts of what the proposed infrastructure will look like (Figure 1C and 1D), with the buildings appearing more aesthetically pleasing compared to surrounding land uses, “Green ideas” will also be incorporated into the buildings with indigenous trees and vegetation improving the aesthetics across the remainder of the site.” (p40)

To state that “visual impact is a subjective impact” would imply that there are people who enjoy the sight of a logistics park filled with trucks, containers and warehouses opposite their homes. The statement also smacks of an arrogant dismissal of the opinions of the 44% of the residents who stated that they personally benefit from the current open space.

Further, to state that the proposed warehouses will be more aesthetically pleasing compared to surrounding land uses” is true, but in comparison with the existing green space the statement is palpably untrue and shows a worrying attitude by the environmental consultant to the community – their area is degraded but they should be grateful for what they will lose because they will now get nice buildings to look at.

The developer and environmental consultants are also placing an immense burden on the small wetland conservation area: it has to function as natural area and receptacle for all inconvenient species, assist with stormwater attenuation, placate environmentalists, satisfy the demands of NEMA and compensate local communities for all they will lose.

2.2 The logistics park development in relation to other developments in the area

While it is true that an EIA process is based on a specific activity/development developers tend to plan strategically in determining the economic benefit they will derive from their proposed activity. In the current instance Capital Property Fund has stated that a logistics park will give them the best return on their financial investment without the proposed dig-out port at the old DIA site, but they are fully aware of their increased profit should the proposed port developments be authorized.

It is when it comes to environmental impacts that consideration should always be limited to the immediate activity only and wider strategic thinking is discouraged. However, the consultants admit: “The various development proposals for the South Durban will have a positive impact on the KZN economy but a negative cumulative impact on the remaining ecology of this area.” (Reply of consultant to our comments on the Final EIR, dated 8 November 2013 and not included in the current document.)

The Amended EIR also states: “The best environmental option would be to retain and manage the entire wetland for conservation purposes and this is considered in the no go option. This is not, however, aligned with the aim of the proposed activity i.e. to develop the site for financial gain.” (Clairwood Summary Final Amended EIR, p1)

In the response from KSEMS to our comments to the Final EIR they mention that the Bluff Golf Course and Treasure Beach remain as green areas and potential habitat for species displaced by the Clairwood logistics park development together with “pristine [sic] coastal and dune forests” along the coast. Apart from the fact that forests do not constitute suitable habitat for red data species like Grey Crowned Crane and Black Stork, we would like to point out that Bluff Golf Course is now also under threat of being lost as a green space leaving no alternative habitat for the Clairwood Grey Crowned Cranes. It remains to be seen if the Black Storks will remain with all the projected disturbance and the reduced habitat.

CONCLUSION:

The south Durban-basin is under increasing pressure with development proposed for the expansion of various port activities in Durban Bay, the dig-out port at the old Durban International Airport site and Clairwood Racecourse which will all impact massively on the extent of green open space left in the south of Durban. The activities associated with these developments will result in bigger and more ships entering the port(s) and more trucks in the south of Durban all contributing to more air pollution at the same time as industries like Sapref and Engen are applying for postponement of their compliance with minimum emission standards.

Each developer claims that their development will bring economic benefit for the communities and each environmental consultant tries to placate environmentalists and local communities with a little mitigation and small off-sets elsewhere. The reality is that what remains of the green spaces, natural habitats and the biological diversity that has managed to survive in the South Durban Basin against all odds, together with the associated ecological goods and services are systematically wiped out. And the local communities are left to bear the environmental, health and ultimately social costs of this destruction of remaining natural ecosystems.

We therefore still cannot support the proposed development of Clairwood Racecourse into a logistics park.

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Shongweni Saturday 4 October

A short report back on Saturday’s outing to Shongweni.

We had an excellent turnout; we must have started out with about 27 members and then there were all the late comers!

Our bird count was in the region of 90 plus – not too shabby especially as Shongweni was very dry and a lot of the veld had recently been burnt.

The White-browed Scrub-Robins were in abundance, singing their hearts out from every tree and bush and hopping around on the ground like sparrows.

As there were too many cars to park at the top of the dam for our usual coffee break we went down to the camp site and sat there looking out over the water – this turned out to be a very good idea.

Across the dam on one of the spits we had Great White Egret, Cattle Egret, Black Crake, African Jacana, Common Moorhen, Red-knobbed Coots, Yellow-billed Ducks and a pair of Purple Herons flew across just before we left.  The African Fish-Eagles were heard calling and the pair was eventually spotted way up in one of the gorges. Note: Jenny Norman tells me that according to her records the Coots are quite rare for Shongweni – good sighting everyone!!

We then went down to the bottom picnic site where we met up with Jenny and Herman who had seen a juvenile African Crowned Eagle being harassed by a pair of White-necked Ravens and a pair of Lanner Falcons. The juvenile eagle had taken refuge on a rocky ledge and was still being harassed by the Ravens. This caused great excitement and must be the highlight of the morning’s birding.  We then walked down to the ‘giant’ steps and came back by way of the 4 x 4 trail.

Thanks to John Bremner for the pics and Sandi for the ‘fat’ skink.  Thanks must also go to Oscar for leading the one very large group.

Cheers

Elena Russell.

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Raptor Rescue Newsletter – September 2014

Please click here to read the latest Raptor Rescue newsletter.

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Green Sandpiper?

Need confirmation but we think that this is a Green sandpiper – seen this morning at the Darvill Sewerage Works outside Pietermaritzburg. Note the prominent eye-ring with no supercillium behind the eye (not a Wood Sandpiper); the barring on its tail; the lack of a white shoulder patch (thus not a Common Sandpiper); the dark back with white speckling faintly visible. When it took off the rump only was white (not up the back) and there was distinct barring on the end of its tail.

Green Sandpiper

Green Sandpiper

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BLSA Flock 2015

The next 2015 Flock will be in Johannesburg. Read all about it – click here.

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Newsletter of the Mabula Ground Hornbill Project

Click here to read the September 2014 newsletter titled “Boom in the Bushveld”.

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KZN Birds Magazine

Take Note:

There is now a new page titled “KZN Birds Magazine” on our website. This page has the July edition available and will have all future KZN Birds magazines posted here. Click on the appropriate issue you wish to read and it will appear in a new Tab.

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Umdoni Park – Sunday 21 September 2014.

The venue for the September Sunday outing was Umdoni Park down on the south coast. There are numerous trails to follow, and a nice new feature of the park is the clearly illustrated trail maps located at trail intersections.

Trail Map

Trail Map

It was an early morning start with great rewards for the early birders assembled at the Environmental Centre. The first treat for the morning was a very obliging Brown Scrub Robin that happily scratched around in the undergrowth just a few meters away from us.

The photogs among us were snapping away hoping for some good pics in the low light conditions when a call went out of a Narina Trogon calling from a short distance away. A beautiful male was soon located and stunning views were had by all (except a few latecomers) as he perched on a branch out in the open.

The group of seventeen avid birders then assembled on the fringe of the 17th green which is fronted by a few trees. One, a Weeping Boerbean was in full flower which attracted a number of birds including Grey, Collared and Amethyst Sunbirds, Cape White-eyes and a Red-faced Mousebird.

From there we proceeded towards the cottages, and down through the forest to Molly’s Road. En route we picked up Purple-crested and Knysna Turaco, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Black-bellied Starling, African Paradise Flycatcher, and Square-tailed Drongo.

We continued up Molly’s Road picking up numerous forest species along the way including Dark-backed Weaver, Red-capped Robin-Chat, Green-backed Camaroptera, White-eared and Black-collared Barbets. There were also several obliging Blue Duikers and a strange moth’s nest.

We followed the Panhandle trail down to the dam and were rewarded with a very productive bird party of Grey Waxbill, Orange-breasted Bush-shrike, Black-backed Puffback, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Yellow-bellied Greenbul and arguably the bird of the day – a Gorgeous Bushshrike. The views of the latter were somewhat fleeting and sadly seen by only a few – a great lifer for me but a photo of one will have to wait for another day.

Scaly-throated honeyguide 1

Scaly-throated Honeyguide

The water level in the dam was very low and few birds were seen. Birds on the wing included the majestic African Crowned Eagle, Yellow-billed Kite (Milvus parasitus), Little Swift and African Palm-swift.

The walk back to the Environmental centre along the road on the north side was fairly unproductive, and having been out for almost 4 hours, thoughts of food and beverages were probably uppermost on all our minds – and the loos!!!.

Chairs and picnic baskets were hauled out and everyone gathered around the picnic area – all the while keeping an eye out for more birds. The Flat Crown tree above us was decked out in its new summer finery, and was the scene for more excitement.

Flitting above us were a few Olive Bushshrikes, both the buff and olive morphs.

Whilst craning our already stiff necks a whirl of feathers crashed through the tree canopy which happened to be a Little Sparrowhawk – with the buff morph Olive Bushshrike firmly gripped in its talons. It swooped off into the undergrowth and out of sight to enjoy its meal!

After most people had left, those that stayed behind were rewarded with a somewhat late-season sighting of a Spotted Ground Thrush. The final tally for the day of all species either seen or heard was fifty-seven – not too shabby. Click here to see the list.

Yours in birding,

Dave Rimmer

PS Sighting of Common Whimbrels at the beach at River Valley Resort, Pennington.

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Drummond Conservancy – Walk on the Wild Side

Click here to see the invitation to Drummond Conservancy’s Walk on the Wild side.

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Latest Wakkerstroom Newsletter

Click on Newsletter No 26 to read the latest Wakkerstroom Newsletter.

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Exhibition Opening

Exhibition Opening

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BIRD COURSE 11 OCTOBER 2014

PARADISE VALLEY

On Saturday 11 October 2014 Dave Bishop will be presenting a half-day course on “A Beginner’s Guide to Bird Identification”.  Dave is extremely well-known for his informative courses and outings, as well as a public speaker of note.  He is planning a lengthy trip away from the beginning of next year, so this is an opportunity to either improve your birding skills, or for those just starting out to get an excellent grounding with one of the top birders in the club. Bird Guide books will be available for sale at the workshop from the club shop.

Please distribute this information widely especially amongst people who will benefit from such a course.

On Sunday 12 October there will be a visit to Shongweni Dam (NB entrance fee by credit card – no cash) at 06h30.  This gives you an opportunity to try out your new skills in IDing the birds.  We will finish at 10h00 and end with a bring your own breakfast at the picnic site.

Venue :                   Paradise Valley Nature Reserve Conference Centre, Pinetown.

Directions :              From M13 westbound, take the Stapleton Road/New Germany turn-off.  (Exit 16).  Keep left into Eden Road.  Follow Eden Road past the Blood Bank, turn right into Oxford Road.  The reserve is at the end of the road.

Time:                     08h30 – registration.

09h00 – workshop begins

13h00 – workshop ends

Entrance fee :          R80 per BirdLife member;  R100 per non-member.

Materials :               Writing pad and pen or pencil, binoculars for afterwards. Brief notes will be provided but it is recommended that you use a guide book as well.

Tea, coffee and refreshments will be available on arrival and mid-morning.  If you would like to stay for lunch afterwards, do please bring your own picnic baskets.

Saturday 11 October

Bookings :  Lesley Frescura

galefra@mweb.co.za or 083 231 3408

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Great SOS Evening Talk in October

Save Our Seabirds will be celebrated this year on Tuesday, 7th October at uShaka Marine SeaWorld, 17h30 for 18h00. Snacks will be provided and a walk around the aquarium will follow the talk.  There is no charge other than the parking.

FLYING IN THE ANTARCTIC FREEZER

Judy and Bruce Mann

Join marine biologists Judy and Bruce Mann on the experience of a life time – to Ushuaia, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula. From majestic albatrosses to wallowing whales, this presentation will take you to this almost untouched wilderness. While the stunning scenery, fearless wildlife and dramatic geology are breath-taking, the sensitivity of this remote region to human activities in our own back yard becomes clear. It is here that Climate Change is real and the true Web of Life which connects everything on our amazing planet is revealed.

PLEASE NOTE that this takes the place of the Wednesday evening talk at Westville Methodist Church – there will be no talk there in October.  The evening is now Tuesday 7 October at uShaka and a wonderful opportunity to hear Judy and Bruce and see something of the aquarium.

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Vultures in Africa and Europe could face extinction within our lifetime warn conservationists

Vultures are facing new and massive threats across Europe and Africa (Joachim S. Müller).
By Nick Askew, Sat, 06/09/2014 – 03:44

BirdLife International – the world’s largest conservation partnership – has announced that vultures have rapidly become one of the most threatened families of birds on the planet. In a bid to stop this important family of birds slipping towards extinction in Europe and Africa, today we have launched a global campaign asking for public support to Stop Vulture Poisoning Now.

Following recent catastrophic declines of vultures in Asia that left landscapes littered with carcasses, vultures in Europe and Africa may be set to follow unless we act now – warn conservationists from BirdLife International.

Vultures are important and essential for our health: “Vultures play a fundamental role that no other birds do: they clean our landscapes”, said Iván Ramírez, Head of Conservation for BirdLife International in Europe and Central Asia.

Yet they are facing new and massive threats across Europe and Africa.

A veterinary drug that is lethally toxic to vultures has been discovered to be commercially available in at least two European countries. Used to treat inflammation in livestock, this is the same drug (diclofenac) that has wiped out 99% of vultures in India, Pakistan and Nepal.

At the same time, vultures in Africa are facing increasing threats from poisoning (deliberate and accidental), persecution for body parts to be used in traditional medicine, habitat loss, collision with power-lines, and more.

“Three of every four old-world vulture species are already globally threatened with extinction or Near Threatened according the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species”, said Kariuki Ndanganga, BirdLife Africa’s Species Programme Manager. “Unless threats are identified and tackled quickly and effectively, vultures in Africa and Europe could face extinction within our lifetime.”

The decline of vultures in Asia was shockingly fast – quicker than any other wild bird, including the Dodo.  Within a decade – almost overnight in ecological timescales – species such as White-rumped Vulture fell by 99.9% as a result of diclofenac in India alone. “Where a thousand birds once flew, on average only a single bird survived the carnage,” added Ramírez.

Despite the tragic experience in Asia and the availability of safe and inexpensive drug alternatives, BirdLife has confirmed that, worryingly, veterinary diclofenac is now commercially available in Spain and Italy. Both these countries are strongholds for vultures in Europe.

As well as the impending threat of diclofenac, a multitude of other complex threats need to be unravelled further in Africa, and investment needed to tackle them. Vultures have declined in West Africa on average by 95% in three decades alone. Across Africa, seven of the eleven vulture species are now listed as globally threatened, with species such as Hooded Vulture recently being up-listed to Endangered in 2011.

As a result, BirdLife International is calling for support towards a ‘Stop Vulture Poisoning Now’ conservation campaign: www.justgiving.com/stop-vulture-poisoning-now

With a Partnership of over 100 independent organisations worldwide, BirdLife has the power and the ability to save vultures, but we urgently need £20,000 to identify, and tackle the threats to these most beautiful and important of birds.

“We know what we need to do in Europe – ban veterinary diclofenac”, said Jim Lawrence, BirdLife’s Preventing Extinctions Programme Manager. “We also know what we need to do for Africa – quickly review the fast-changing threats so we can act quickly, with priority”.

“However you see them, please support the urgent work needed to save Africa and Europe’s threatened vultures by generously supporting our appeal”, concluded Lawrence. “Your support is vital to this work and will make a real difference to its success. So please, dig deep, donate generously now and help us keep vultures flying as high as they should be”.

To support the ‘Stop Vulture Poisoning Now’ campaign, please click here now.

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SAPPI HIDE – STANGER 14th September

After reading Paul’s recent postings about Sappi Hide we decided to drive up there and see if the Greater Flamingoes and Avocets were still present.

Well, we were not disappointed! We were treated to spectacular fly-pasts by both species and they remained on the spit and on the mud flats in front of the hide all day.

An African Marsh-Harrier made an appearance. There were numerous waders e.g. Little Stints, Curlew Sandpipers, Common Greenshanks, Black-winged Stilts,and Ruff – two of which were still in partial breeding plumage. Cape, Red-billed and Hottentot Teals were also present.

We went to the picnic site and drove on the roads between the ponds. Brown-throated weavers, Red-faced Mousebirds, Dark-capped Yellow Warblers, Wire-tailed Swallows were seen, as well as Scarlet-chested Sunbirds.

But the biggest treat was the stunning sighting of a pair of Black-throated Wattle-eyes. Also great sightings of a pair of Klaas’s Cuckoo.

Some Slender Mongooses crossed our path on several occasions. We recorded a list of about 73 species which didn’t include some unidentified warblers.

 Sandi du Preez and Gill Leisegang

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Palmiet NR

After the Palmiet BMCG (Bird Monitoring and Conservation Group) meeting 13h30 Saturday 13 September, we took a short stroll to the river’s edge.

We were delighted to have good sightings of Mountain Wagtails (see photos) at the lowest deck from the hide/lapa. One flew up into a crevice of the rock face (looking slightly upstream)  which we think is its nesting site (see picture).

In the 20 minutes we were there we recorded:
Southern Black Tit
Olive Sunbird
White-eared Barbet
Mountain Wagtail (2) at nest
Purple-crested Turaco
Grey-headed Bushshrike (heard)
Southern Boubou (heard)
Cape White-eye
Yellow-billed Kite
Cape Batis
Dark-capped Bulbul
Green-backed Cameroptera
African Paradise-Flycatcher
African Dusky Flycatcher

This excludes the birds heard at the lapa during the BMCG meeting: Hadeda Ibis, Sombre Greenbul,  Bar-throated Apalis,  Purple-crested Turaco, and Yellow-billed Kite.

Paul & Sally Bartho

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