Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas spreading their wings - the Plett region
Posted on the 21st July 2014
(This article first appeared in the July 2014 newsletter of BirdLife Plettenberg Bay and is posted with the permission of the Editor. - Ed.)
Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas spreading their wings
The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) Programme is one of BirdLife International and BirdLife South Africa’s flagship projects. There are 122 IBAs in South Africa, and I have been responsible for implementing the IBA Programme in the Western and parts of the Eastern Cape. The Garden Route area has three IBAs; the Wilderness-Sedgefield Lakes Complex, Outeniqua Mountains and the Tsitsikamma National Park IBA. One of the first tasks in my work has been a comprehensive assessment of each site, and a potential boundary and site revision in some instances. During my time in the Plettenberg Bay area it quickly became apparent that this beautiful spot has great birding potential, but is also a critical area for conserving bird species and habitats. This is where the IBA Programme becomes important. These sites have been designated around the world in order to conserve global bird diversity, thus although one can go birding at these areas, the primary focus is on conservation.
There are three main criteria upon which an IBA is based; namely the presence of threatened species, endemic species and high numbers of birds congregating at particular sites. The Plettenberg Bay area meets all three of these criteria adequately, and BirdLife South Africa is therefore partnering with BirdLife Plettenberg Bay in order to expand the Tsitsikamma IBA westwards to include additional sites worthy of this international conservation status.
The Keurbooms Estuary Kelp Gull breeding colony supports very high numbers of this species, and thus qualifies this site under the “congregatory birds” criteria, whilst the breeding of the threatened African Black Oystercatcher and Caspian Tern in the same area qualifies the site under the “threatened species” criteria. In addition the Robberg Peninsula hosts some of our Fynbos endemic species such as Cape Sugarbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird and Cape Siskin, whilst areas along the Keurbooms River have good forest habitat and hold certain Forest endemic birds including Knysna Warbler and Knysna Woodpecker.
The new IBA will therefore include the Tsitsikamma National Park, the Groot River Estuary and surrounding forests at Natures Valley, parts of the Keurbooms River Estuary and Keurbooms spit, the Bitou Wetlands and the Robberg Peninsula. BirdLife South Africa has begun drafting the necessary motivation for this expansion, which will be sent to BirdLife International for the final registration of the new, expanded Tsitsikamma-Plettenberg Bay IBA. It is hoped that this international status for the area will bolster the existing conservation efforts and give this beautiful area and the bird species it supports the recognition it deserves.
– Dale Wright