SUMMARIES OF PRESENTATIONS TO THE WESTERN CAPE BIRDING FORUM MEETING ON 1 OCTOBER 2016Posted on the 24th October 2016
PRESENTATION SUMMARIES, CONSERVATION REPORTS AND BIRD CLUB REPORTS OF THE WESTERN CAPE BIRDING FORUM MEETING HELD ON 1 OCTOBER 2016
Samantha Ralston-Paton, from BirdLife SA Birds and Renewal Energy Program presented an update of minimising the impact of renewable energy on birds in South Africa.
Responsible development of renewable energy. (Summary)
BirdLife South Africa supports the responsible development of renewable energy in South Africa. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals emphasise the need for universal access to clean, affordable energy, and the importance of climate change action. Energy and climate change are also closely linked most of the other Sustainable Development Goals. BirdLife South Africa engages on a strategic level to help ensure that the negative effects of renewable energy on birds are understood and minimised. We do not have the capacity to engage in the details of each and every project, but we will get involved in specific projects when it is important and strategic. Bird Clubs can play a valuable role in collecting data, sharing local knowledge and can alert BirdLife South Africa to strategic issues that we can help address.
A map of the proposed renewable energy projects and their status can be downloaded from the following website: https://www.environment.gov.za/mapsgraphics#renewable
BirdLife South Africa and EWT’s Best Practice Guidelines for Birds and Wind Energy were introduced after some projects were already proposed, and the recommendations took some time to be fully implemented. This has resulted in inconsistencies with regards to monitoring and information sharing requirements. However, all wind farms to date have been monitoring their impacts on birds, and reports can be obtained through applications using the Promotion of Access to Information Act.
BirdLife South Africa is drafting a report, which summarises the results of post-construction monitoring at 8 wind farms in South Africa (data used spanned a minimum of one year and no more than two years at each site). There was no definite evidence of displacement or disturbance, but there are a number of confounding factors and a meta-analysis of raw data would be of value. The average estimated fatality rate at the wind farms (accounting for detection rates and scavenger removal) ranged from 2.06 to 8.95 birds per turbine per year. The mean fatality rate was 4.01 birds per turbine per year. This places South Africa within the range of fatality rates that have been reported for North America and Europe. Raptors accounted for the majority of fatalities recorded (33%), followed by songbirds (28%). Threatened species affected by collisions with wind turbines included Blue Crane (3), Verreauxs’ Eagle (5), Martial Eagle (1) and Black Harrier (3). A high number (24) of Jackal Buzzard fatalities were also reported. It is still too early to draw firm conclusions, especially with regards to priority species that have not been affected thus far. However, guidelines are being drafted to improve impact assessment and mitigation for Verreauxs’ Eagle, Black Harrier and Cape Vulture.
BirdLife South Africa is also engaging with the solar energy sector. Guidelines for solar energy have been drafted, and BirdLife has partnered with the University of Cape Town to study the impacts of solar energy on birds.
The question of blacklisting or otherwise controlling the quality of bird specialists has been raised a number of times. This would require objective criteria that are consistently applied to all projects, and the capacity to check and review all reports. It would also require a consistent response. BirdLife South Africa’s approach is to rather engage with specialists and the EIA process address concerns. There are existing mechanisms (e.g. SACNASP) which can be used if a specialists work or their ability is questionable.
Samantha invited interested parties to the 27 October Birds & renewable Energy Forum meeting. Those interested in attending can contact Samatha directly.
Verlorenvlei Protected Areas Project - Samantha Schroder, Project Manager, Verlorenvlei Protected Areas Project (Summary)
The aim of the Project is to assist landowners in the Moutonshoek valley and Verlorenvlei Estuary to create and maintain their vision of a productive, yet sustainable landscape. This is being achieved through the declaration of a Protected Environment in Moutonshoek and a conservancy around Verlorenvlei. The conservancy will allow for the inclusion of existing stewardship sites around the vlei.
Verlorenvlei is a waterbody of great beauty with over 180 bird species using it as their home and surrounded by a community of mostly intensive agriculture landowners. The landowners who live, breathe and farm these areas are at the centre of such projects, and if conservation is to succeed, we need to meet their needs, as well as our own. But what are these needs, and how can conservationists meet them? The Verlorenvlei Protected Areas Project was initiated to implement stewardship actions around Verlorenvlei Estuary, which is both a Ramsar site and Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA). Biodiversity stewardship is essentially about building trust with private landowners and working in partnership to protect important ecosystems.
The Krom Antonies River which runs through Moutonshoek supplies 60% of the water volume and 90% of the water quality to the Verlorenvlei Estuary, which is listed as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA SA 103) and a Ramsar site. This secretive river contains three threatened fish species, namely the endangered Verlorenvlei Red, which is genetically different from the Berg River Redfin and therefore a new species of its own. The Cape Galaxias and Cape Kurper are both classified as Near Threatened and also found within this river system.
PAARL BIRD SANCTUARY: COMBATING CRIME AND VANDALISM - John Fincham
Background: Paarl Bird Sanctuary (PBS) was proclaimed in 1994 at the instigation of Town Engineer Ben Heunis. He was encouraged by James Harrison and Dr Tony Williams of the ADU/UCT, Jan Hofmeyr of the Cape Bird Club (CBC) and local birders. Sustained support of the Municipal Engineering Department and the entire operational staff at the Waste-water Treatment Works (WWTW) has been fundamental and is ongoing. CBC inputs have been monthly CWAC counts for almost 22 years, as well as financial and material contributions towards some of the original bird hides. CBC member Yvonne Weiss has co-ordinated the counts and submitted the data throughout this long period.
Bird count data from a ten year period has been analysed and published (Harebottle DM et al., Ostrich 2008, 79(2): 147-163). The study concluded that PBS is the second most important wetland for water birds in the Cape Town area; and that it should be declared a Ramsar Site and an Important Bird Area. PBS also became known internationally and regionally as a top birding site.
Current Problems: During recent years PBS has been beset by vandalism and crime. International and local visitors have been threatened with knives and guns, and robbed. Bird hides have been destroyed, rebuilt and destroyed again. The Yvonne Weiss viewing platform has been severely damaged twice. Visitors have dwindled drastically as a result. The bird counts and ringing continue under costly security cover.
Searching for a Solution: PBS and the WWTW belong to all the residents of Paarl who pay the taxes that fund operation, maintenance and development. A project is underway to explain to adjacent communities why these facilities are unique assets for education about the environment and health, as well as for research, tourism and recreation. The primary objective is to convince local people that property belonging to them is being damaged, and to motivate them to support and use the facilities, which should help to combat crime and vandalism. A Business Plan for the project has been accepted by Senior Drakenstein Municipal Management.
The initial approach is through schools since it is likely that children and teachers can influence the communities they serve. Encouraging results from 7 schools have been summarised for this meeting by Jo Hobbs. In addition we are prepared to speak to a wider constituency, including business forums, commerce, the wine industry, agriculture, churches, technicons, universities and government departments.
For this WCBF meeting, slides will be used to convey our thesis for school teachers. Emphasis is placed on birds as crucial environmental and ecological indicators globally, regionally and locally. The biodiversity of the Berg River will be considered, as will birds in relation to public health. Tourism, job creation and recreation, will be mentioned briefly if time permits.
(Note: a positive new development is that the Municipality intends enclosing the entire perimeter of PBS with a high-grade security fence).