African Barred Owlet Glaucidium capense
This is a major revision of an article by Keith Betton in which he gives his personal view of the best bird books for Africa.
Southern Masked Weaver Ploceus velatus
With nearly 2,300 species to be seen - of which about 1,500 are found nowhere else, Africa offers a lifetime of birding opportunities. So which books should you use? In this article, Keith Betton presents his views.
You can obtain your books and other media from Wildsounds, our book supplier by going to the Books and Sounds section of our SHOP. If you order, ABC will receive 5% of the cost, all of which will be put towards conservation projects in Africa - get a great deal AND benefit conservation!
You can find the full article on the Africa Books page.
Vultures, such as the Vulnerable Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres, have a higher risk of collision with wind turbines. Thus appropriate assessment of the collision risk to these species must inform the decision as to whether the site is suitable for development.
Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres, Drakensburg
BirdLife South Africa and BirdLife International are very concerned that the proposed development of a wind farm at Letseng in Lesotho could have severe impacts on the already declining populations of Cape Vulture and Lammergeiers. South Africa and Lesotho share the responsibility of safeguarding the populations of Lammergeiers and Cape Vulture in the Lesotho Highlands and the surrounding escarpment of South Africa.
PowerNET Developments (Pty) Ltd propose to erect 42 wind turbines (each with a capacity of 850 kW) near Letšeng-La-Terae, on the north-eastern escarpment of the Drakensberg. The environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the proposed Letseng Wind Farm is in its final stages of completion. The avifaunal specialist report, compiled by well-respected ornithologist Dr Andrew Jenkins, indicates that even with mitigation, the anticipated impacts of the project on highly unique and sensitive avifauna will be of high to very high negative significance, rendering the project unsustainable.
While wind energy is fairly new to southern Africa, poorly located wind turbines elsewhere in the world have had significant impacts on bird populations. Impacts include loss of habitat, disturbance and mortality through collisions with the turbine blades. In Smøla, Norway, for example, a poorly sited wind farm caused the number of White-tailed Eagles (also known as Sea Eagles) within the site development and a 500m buffer around it to decline from 13 pairs to five.
Such devastating impacts have not occurred at all wind farms. “The considered location of wind farms is the key to ensuring that impacts on birds are kept to a minimum”, says Samantha Ralston, Birds and Renewable Energy Manager for BirdLife South Africa. Among other things, turbines should be kept well away from areas frequently used by collision-prone birds such as large-bodied raptors.
Vultures play an important ecological, economic, cultural and aesthetic role. They are scavengers and by disposing of waste and carcasses they help control populations of other disease-carrying scavengers and pests. In this way they help protect human health, as well as that of domesticated animals and wildlife.
Unfortunately, vultures appear to be particularly prone to colliding with the turbine blades. High collision rates have been observed in Griffon Vultures at wind farms in Europe, most notably in Tarifa, Spain. The Griffon Vulture is a close relative of the Cape Vulture. A recent study in Tarifa, Spain, estimated that 0.22 vulture deaths occurred per turbine per year. This was reduced by approximately half with the introduction of mitigation, but even with mitigation one can expect that for every 10 turbines at least one vulture will be killed every year.
The proposed Letseng wind farm is located in habitat that is critical for both Lammergeier and Cape Vulture, both threatened species. Lammergeier is listed as regionally Endangered and Cape Vulture as Vulnerable in South Africa. Birds do not observe political boundaries and the populations of both species span South Africa and Lesotho. A further decline of birds in Lesotho will severely impact the viability and survival rates of the vultures in South Africa. Using population models, scientists have demonstrated that even a small increase in adult mortality could cause the rapid decline and even local extinction of these long-lived, slow-breeding birds. “BirdLife South Africa has learnt from its partners in Europe and North America that incorrectly located wind farms can cause massive mortalities of vultures and eagles”, says Mark Anderson, CEO of BirdLife South Africa. “For this reason, we will strongly oppose any wind farm developments which we believe will result in significant impacts on Lammergeier, Cape Vulture and other threatened South African birds”, he added.
We have already spent two weeks in the field. In particular, we were three days in the Aberdare National Park, one of the few protected areas where Sharpe's Longclaw Macronyx sharpei was reported in the past. Despite much searching we have not found any signs of Longclaw in the National Park. Either the species is very rare or even totally absent from there. What we found is that all the alpine moorland habitats in the National Parks are severely encroached by shrubs and dense grasses that make the habitat unsuitable for the Longclaw.
Sharpe's Longclaw Macronyx sharpei
Management actions might be urgently needed to restore the habitat, and we fear that very similar situations might occur even on Mt Kenya and Mt Elgon. What we might find is that no Sharpe's Longclaw (or very few) occur inside National Parks.
Outside of protected is areas also very bad. The current world food crisis is enhancing the pace of conversion of grassland to agriculture. At several sites we counted the birds in grasslands while they were being ploughed. We have plans to visit Mt Kenya NP and Eldoret area soon. Mt Elgon and Mau Narok zones will have to wait until tribal clashes will calm a little bit.
Dominic Kamau, one of my field assistants has elaborated a small project for school kid education in the primary schools of the Kinangop plateau. Teaching kids about the conservation importance of Kenya's grassland is a key conservation action in my opinion. We are now collaborating with 10000 Birds, a UK-based blog, to advertise Dominic's idea on the internet and raise funds for Dominic's project. Charlie Moores, the owner of the blog, has already produced an introduction posting on the blog.