(This article first appeared in the BirdLife South Africa E-newsletter in May 2014. - Ed.)
The Bitou Local Conservation Group (LCG) was the first LCG formed by BirdLife South Africa following a fruitful meeting with Dale Wright, BirdLife South Africa Regional Conservation Manager: Western Cape, in March 2013. The concept behind LCGs is to utilise local BirdLife South Africa clubs to draw ground level conservation efforts together under a focal point, providing focus and facilitating new projects.
The BirdLife South Africa Western Cape Regional Conservation Programme is aiming to establish LCGs with a number of interested bird clubs across the province. These volunteer-driven groups will assist the regional programme with specific conservation and data collection projects regarding their local Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas (IBAs).
Highlights from the first year are numerous. Through the partner organisations, we ran several initiatives, among them citizen science training workshops; a successful ‘Big Birding Experience’ in five schools, which included a series of lessons and talks, and outings for two of the schools; outdoor classrooms for Grade 5 learners set up in the Bitou Wetlands; top-notch field studies on breeding colonies of African Black Oystercatchers and Kelp Gulls; a public awareness campaign, which featured new beach information signs (sponsored by BirdLife South Africa) and two public open days; a long-term ringing study initiated on coastal and fynbos birds; local guide training and avitourism plans investigated for the region.
The Bitou LCG is going from strength to strength and is showing that together we can do more for bird conservation. The aim of increasing the IBA in our area is ongoing, and we should have enough data by mid-2014 to initiate an application to have it expanded. We are grateful to all the organisations that comprise our Bitou LCG, including BirdLife Plettenberg Bay, the Bitou Valley Foundation, and the Nature’s Valley Trust, for making 2013 so successful, and to Dale Wright for all his encouragement and support.
Mark Brown , firstname.lastname@example.org