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:

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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The Hornbill Spring edition – BirdLife Lowveld

Click here to read the spring edition of BirdLife Lowveld magazine. It makes interesting reading.

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TC Robertson NR Saturday 6 September

This outing was led by Barry Pullock.

There were 12 present and us locals were delighted that the Durbanites supported the outing.

The Mpanbonyoni river  that came down in flood  two years ago all but destroyed TC  but as time went by it turned out a blessing, we now have wide river banks and a lagoon that ends on Scottburgh beach. This has improved the variety of birdlife.

Birding began at the entrance to the reserve overlooking the Mpambanyoni river as we waited for everyone to arrive. The day started with an African Fish Eagle sighting and finished with excellent sightings of Black Cuckooshrikes (male and female) foraging on the ground in the area close to the bird hide (overlooking a dried out pan at present).

An Olive sunbird entertained us repeatedly hovering in mid air flapping its wings like mad – an unusual sight.

During the morning there were sightings of four of the kingfisher species – the African Pied had a couple of successful fishing expeditions. All in all, 67 different species were sighted and or the calls heard.

A most enjoyable morning’s birding.

Barry Pullock

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The Value of Bird Ringing

From: Andrew Pickles []

Sent: 11 September 2014 04:32 PM
To: Lesley Frescura; Crystelle Wilson
Subject: Fw: National Rarity

Hi Lesley and Crystelle

For your info, I have just received this from Rarities regarding a Eurasian Reed Warbler that was caught and ringed on the Umzumbe river Floodplain.


Andrew Pickles


From: BirdLife South Africa National Rarities Committee

Sent: Thursday, September 11, 2014 2:52 PM

To: ; Andrew Pickles

Subject: National Rarity

Dear Sandra and Andrew,

Thank you for your submission to the BirdLife South Africa Rarities Committee on 2013/12/15 of a Eurasian Reed-Warbler on the Umzumbe River floodplain.

The members of the committee have now had an opportunity to independently adjudicate your submission and we are pleased to inform you that your submission has been accepted by the committee.

To this end, your accepted record will be posted on the BirdLife South Africa website, and will also appear in the annual rarities report to be published in African Birdlife and Ornithological Observations.

Your effort in preparing this submission is appreciated and it adds to our understanding of the appearance of rarities in our country. We look forward to receiving further submissions from you in the future.

 Kind regards

Trevor Hardaker



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Get your 2015 BLPN Calendar now.

Your support is needed. All funds from the sale of these calendars is used for conservation.

BLPN Calendar 2015

BLPN Calendar 2015

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KZN Crane Foundation News

Click here to read the Winter News from the KZN Crane Foundation.

The Newsletter includes:

  • The history of the Foundation
  • The Management plan
  • How you can get involved – a need for volunteers. Join the Tweakers.
  • Info on the establishment of the rearing facility
  • Its education program
  • The beginnings of the Rosetta Nottingham Road Conservancy
  • The stories with pictures of the first 3 chicks – all hatched in July 2014
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Bird Ringing at SAPPI

Sally and I went to SAPPI (the saw mill close to Stanger, KZN) on Sunday to watch the bird ringing efforts of Garth Aiston and James Rawdon. The variety of the birds which were ringed included Cape White-eyes; African Paradise-Flycatcher; Sunbirds – Scarlet-chested and Olive; Dark-capped Yellow Warbler and numerous other warblers; Black-throated Wattleye; Weavers – including Southern Masked-Weaver; Malachite, Pygmy and Brown-hooded Kingfishers to name a few.

It is impressive to watch the way the birds are delicately handled and the records that are kept. It is a chance to see the birds up close and personal and to be shown how each bird is correctly identified by Garth and James. Their knowledge is immense.

The lasting impression you get when you see the birds so close is how small they actually are compared to when you see them in their natural habitat (especially through binoculars).

Whilest there we visited the bird hide and wandered around the ponds. This is an excellent place to see a wide variety of waterbirds including some of the more difficult species – like Snipes, Crakes and Rails. Only African Snipes made an appearance for us.

The hide overlooks a stretch of land protruding into the pond and provides an ideal place to practice bird photography. To show you what I mean by variety of birds to be seen I have attached the following photos. Amongst them is a photo of a mystery warbler – have a go at IDing it. Click on the bird to enlarge it then add your comment below it.

Paul & Sally Bartho

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Unidentified Raptors

Dear All,

Peter Steyn has asked me to share photos of a raptor taken on the Kafue River at Mayukuyuku Safari Camp on 13 August 2014 because he is not certain about it. The co-ordinates to the safari camp are: S 14 deg 57.2′ E 26 deg 02.4′.

Some points are:
  • It was buzzard-size, like a JB. I thought it was a buzzard but according to some maps there are no buzzards there. Peter has excluded buzzard.
  • It seemed to stick to the riverine area, as though that was its natural habitat.
  • The “feathering” on the legs is very fine and almost absent.
  • Some feathers on the nape and towards the crown have distinctive marks on.
  • I think there was barring on top of the tail. I did not detect a white rump.
  • The whitish feathers on the sides of the head and neck seem notable.
Please click on the photos below to enlarge them. Leave your comments beneath the photos at the end of the post. 
Unidentified Raptor

Unidentified Raptor

Unidentified Raptor

Unidentified Raptor

Unidentified Raptor

Unidentified Raptor

John Fincham
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Correction: Fiery-necked Nightjar behaving like an European Nightjar.

On Sunday Dave Rimmer and I saw what we believed to be a European Nightjar as we were playing golf at Cato Ridge Golf Club.

It was midday. The bird flew up from the ground into a nearby tree lying along a horizontal branch – Europen Nightjars style.

On Monday and Wednesday, Sally and I went to see if was still there. And there it was in exactly the same place both days.

However Faansie Peacock has corrected our ID – see his comments below the second photo after clicking on it.

Paul & Sally Bartho


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European Nightjar

On Sunday Dave Rimmer and I saw what we believe to be a European Nightjar as we were playing golf at Cato Ridge Golf Club.

It was midday. The bird flew up from the ground into a nearby tree lying along a horizontal branch.

Today, Sally and I went to see if was still there. And there it was in exactly the same place.

Paul & Sally Bartho


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Sunday Outing to Bisley Valley & Darvill.

Bisley Valley
Ten birders attended the outing. This bushveld reserve is very dry at the moment, which is to be expected at this time of the year, and it was rather cold to begin with.
Mention must be made of 10-year old Decklan, our “chief” photographer, who handled the camera with a very large lens like a pro and his birding skills weren’t bad either! Well done Decklan. We need youngsters like you in the Bird Club!
The birds were slow to show themselves at first but as we got close to the bottom dam, we had good views of Golden-breasted Bunting, Blue and Common Waxbills, African Firefinch, Common Scimitarbill and Black-crowned Tchagra as well as 2 “teenage” Red-knbobbed Coots with their parents.
Then we had a real slog up to the top bird hide. We were anticipating some good birding over the vlei from the hide, but unfortunately the entrance to the hide was overgrown so we decided to go and have our coffee and picnic back at the cars.
The bird count was 55. We need to go back to Bisley in summer to experience the excellent bushveld birding that it is known for!
Paul suggested that we move on to Darvill Sewerage Works and this proved to be a very good decision although it was very, very windy.
We were treated to two dancing Grey-crowned Cranes! Of special interest was a group of Ruff, one of which still had a partial ruff which none of us had ever seen before! We also had lovely views of an African Marsh-Harrier quartering over the reeds.All three species of teal were present (Cape, Red-billed and Hottentot). The bird count was about 37.
Photos by Paul except where noted.
Sandi du Preez
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The importance of not interfering with nature

Click on the link below and watch how re-introduction of wolves into their old habitat actually can change the course of rivers and restore a balance of nature.

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Mystery Raptor over Mount Moreland

Help please to try to identify the following raptor seen over Mount Moreland from the King Shaka airport – Durban. Photos taken from a mur of a long way a way.

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Save our Seabirds Raffle

It’s that time of the year again when we all try and drum together and raise some much needed funds for the conservation of our country’s seabirds. I have attached an advert giving the details of a raffle which will run in conjunction with the Celebrate our Seas Festival and we hope to be able to raise a worthwhile sum of money that we can hand over to the Seabird Division of BirdLife South Africa to continue the wonderful work that they do.

Save our Seabirds Raffle

Save our Seabirds Raffle

The entries are now officially open, so please consider taking part and purchasing a ticket (or, if finances allow, several of them…!). As you will see, there are some wonderful prizes to be won and, quite possibly, there may even still be further prizes being added to this. If we are able to secure further sponsored prizes, we will announce these a little later on. A very special thank you also to those sponsors that have already confirmed their donations in terms of the prizes!

Please spread this far and wide so that we can reach as many people as possible and let’s all work together to make a worthy contribution to seabird conservation…:)

Kind regards

Trevor Hardaker

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Every year Kloof Conservancy hosts a Back-to-Nature series of events that focuses on different aspects of our natural world and every year BirdLife Port Natal supports this initiative.

On 30 August 2014 Kloof Conservancy and BLPN will put birds in the spotlight with a day of “FUN WITH OUR FASCINATING FEATHERED FRIENDS”.

Date:     Saturday 30 August 2014

Time:    08h30 – 15h00

Venue: Krantzkloof Nature Reserve, Interpretive Centre


08h30    Guided bird walk with Dave Bishop

11h00    Talk on birds by Dave Bishop

13h30    “Urban ecology of the vervet monkey” – talk by Lindsay Patterson

10h00 – 15h00   Activities for children of all ages

Please come and enjoy this fun day with us. There will be something of interest for every member of the family. There are picnic facilities and safe parking and Krantzkloof Nature Reserve is one of eThekwini’s finest reserves.

Kids playing with their minder

Kids having fun with their minder.


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River Valley NR Weekend Outing

Friday 1st to Sunday 3rd August 2014.


The River Valley Nature Reserve is situated just inland from Margate, KZN.

This privately owned reserve has a variety of different habitats and one boundary abuts the Ivungu River. The bird life is varied and plentiful.

The reserve and the walking trails which cut through the forest are well maintained. Apart from the forest, there is open grassland,  several dams, two lookout points over the river, the river itself and the cliffs opposite.

There were eleven of us on the outing. Six made use of the two upmarket cottages and the rest were camping close-by – all on the banks of the river with steep cliffs on its opposite side.

Three of us arrived a day early to make it an extended weekend. On the way along the  N2 near Ifafa a Yellow-billed Kite was seen.

Altogether 117 bird species were recorded. Click here if you wish to see the list.

Most of the birding was done inside the reserve following the trails and around the camp. About half the group also went to Mpenjati for a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon – which was where the Cape Vulture was seen.

There were a number of interesting happenings and sightings throughout the weekend.

To start with on arrival at the gate there was a Southern Bald Ibis. Just one, and we were told he had been present in the area for a couple of months.

Southern Bald Ibis

Southern Bald Ibis

African Crowned Eagles and Long-crested eagles flew up and down the river. The pair of African crowned Eagles nesting in the tall gum trees just up river from the camp.

The Black-headed Orioles, Olive Sunbirds and Brown Scrub-Robins sang to us throughout the weekend especially early in the mornings.

Many forest specials were seen on the forest walks including Lemon and Tambourine Doves; Spotted Ground-Thrush; Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatchers; Olive, Orange-breasted and Grey-headed Bushshrikes; Yellow-throated Woodland-Warblers.; Brown-backed and Scaly-throated Honeyguides.

River specials observed on walks along the river in front of the camp included Half-collared Kingfishers, African Black Ducks, and Mountain Wagtails. The Mountian Wagtails were up and down the river all day long.

The open grassland areas were equally as prolific. There were observations of Grey Waxbills; Purple-crested and Knysna Turacos – several times seen together; Red-throated Wryneck; Little Sparrowhawks – two together in a distant tree seemingly collecting nesting material – they were constantly in and out of the same tree.

At one of the dams in the open grassland area we were entertained for about an hour with many different species regularly popping in and out of the reeds and nearby trees and grassland. There were Bronze and Red-backed Mannikins; Broad-tailed and Little Rush-Warblers; Cape and Chinspot Batis; Orange-breasted and Grey-headed Bushshrikes; Weavers – Yellow, Cape, Village and Spectacled; Black-headed Orioles; Plain-backed Pipit; Neddicky; and the odd unidentified Cisticola.

In the camp area, the highlight was a Narina Trogon in one of the broad-leafed trees right beside one of the cottages.

Narina Trogon

Narina Trogon

But also present were African Firefinches, Kurrichane and Olive Thrushes, Olive Sunbirds to name a few. About 5 or 6 Red-backed Mannikins were seen building a nest together in a tree above one of the campsites – flying back and forth to the reeds to collect nesting material.

And of course at night out came the African wood-Owls and the magnificent Fiery-necked Nightjar – both hooting and singing to remind you of glorious African evenings in the bush.

At Mpenjati, the group there watched a Giant Kingfisher hovering like his cousin the African Pied Kingfisher when it goes a fishing.

Apart from the birds there were many animals seen in the reserve and the odd butterfly. Impala and Nyala roamed the open areas, Duiker in the forest, Leguaans around the water’s edges and the odd large terrapin in the dams.

A mystery Cisticola photographed and shown here for those of you interested in having a go at identifying it.

This is a special reserve and one to which we all want to return – especially to get another look at the Narina Trogon.

Narina Trogon

Narina Trogon

Paul Bartho

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Durban Botanical Gardens Saturday Outing

An excellent outing to the Durban Botanical Gardens – lovely weather and a good turnout – also a number of non-members joined us due to Virginia advertising our outings in the various newspapers.

 Liz Ellis, who used to be very involved with the Gardens when she lived across the road, was a wonderful source of info on the various trees etc. – she was concerned that the Egyptian Geese might have taken over the Black Sparrow-hawks nest but the Black Spars were very much in residence, with fresh greenery around the top of the nest and we saw one of the adults bringing in a kill.  There was also a dead Rock Dove under one of the trees with the breast and heart torn out!!

There were a number of Red-capped Robin-chats, Kurrichane Thrush and various weavers all going through the leaf litter under the trees – plus a White-browed Scrub Robin which I don’t think I have seen in the Gardens before.  Of course the White-eared Barbets are starting to make their presence felt but still a number of Black-Collared Barbets were seen, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbirds, Olive, Amethyst, White-bellied and Collared Sunbirds in abundance.

 At the pond we had Green-backed, Purple, Grey and a Black-headed Heron plus the Pink-backed Pelicans, Spoonbills and Sacred Ibis nesting in the Casuarians.   Our total bird count was about 50 plus.

After walking through the Orchid house we retired to the tea kiosk for some much needed refreshment.

 The excellent pics were taken by John Bremner and Dave Rimmer – thanks guys.



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Pipit for ID

I don’t know if it’s just me being not too good at pipits but I recently discovered that I had misidentified this bird. What do you think it is?

Penny de Vries

Mystery Pipit

Mystery Pipit

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