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Wetlands are South Africa’s most threatened habitats. An exciting sponsorship opportunity for corporates

3 Oct

The concept of Rod puppets are used to help promote the importance of Wetlands amongst young children in South Africa. Alastair Findlay, who made all the puppets, holds Waxi the Hero and Raymond Ramolokeng, who founded the first bird guiding business in Soweto named Bay of Grace Tours, holds Fluffy the White-winged Flufftail which is the rarest bird in South Africa . Photo Prelena Soma Owen

The highly acclaimed Waxi the Hero puppet show was launched at this years Flufftail Festival held at the Moponya Mall in Soweto. Johannesburg

Your brand could be part of something BIG.

Waxi the Hero (small is BIG) Puppet Show is looking for sponsors to tour South Africa.

“The puppet show is brilliant. Every child in the country should see it ” Yvonne Pennington

With less than 250 White Winged Flufftails left in the world – this educational puppet show is set to entertain young children across South Africa.  Beautifully hand crafted rod puppets designed by top South African cartoonist Alastair Findlay tell the story of Waxi the waxbill searching for the elusive FLUFFY with help of his bird friends. Set amongst South Africa’s Wetland habitats, the show highlights how threatened habitats are placing enormous pressure on our endangered species. Most importantly, it engages children in ways to participate and understand how they can participate.

Proudly presented by BirdLife South Africa and the Rare Finch Conservation GroupWaxi the Hero (small is BIG) Puppet Show needs corporate sponsorship to ensure every child in our country is given an opportunity to see this highly acclaimed, fun filled and educational puppet show production.

Both BirdLife South Africa and the Rare Finch Conservation Group are registered non-profit organisations.

For more information please contact Eelco Meyjes from the Rare Finch Conservation Group at editor@avitalk.co.za or Dr.Hanneline Smit-Robinson from BirdLife South Africa at conservation@birdlife.org.za

The Rare Finch Conservation Group is registered in South Africa as a non-profit organisation and is totally dependent on donors and sponsors to carry out its conservation work on finches. All donations will be publicly acknowledged , unless otherwise requested, on the RFCG website. Donations can be made to the following account. Rare Finch Conservation Group, Nedbank. Account number 1933 198885 Branch : Sandown 193 305 South Africa ( For international donors please add ) SWIFT NEDSZAJJ.

 For more info visit http://www.rarefinch.org or write to the secretary at editor@avitalk.co.za

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New book on ALL the Australian finch species is making excellent progress

29 Sep

Australian Longtail grassfinches and a Masked Finch . Photo Col Roberts

 

Rare Finch Conservation Group member Col Roberts is making excellent progress on what promises to be the world’s definitive photographic book on ALL the Australian grassfinch species and their subspecies. Col is hoping to publish the book by mid next year.

Col Roberts The master at work. Col by profession is a magistrate based in Perth, Western Australia

It is going to be superb with page after page of stunning photographic images – the likes which have never been seen before. The book has already been more than three years in the making . It is primarily a bird photography book with interesting personal observations. There will be not only portrait images, but  behavioral images, feeding, nesting, quirky and plain never been photographed before. It was originally going to be 250 pages but it looks like it is now going to be 440 pages. At this stage prices are not yet available.

The Rare Finch Conservation Group is registered in South Africa as a non-profit organisation and is totally dependent on donors and sponsors to carry out its conservation work on finches. All donations will be publicly acknowledged , unless otherwise requested, on the RFCG website. Donations can be made to the following account. Rare Finch Conservation Group, Nedbank. Account number 1933 198885 Branch : Sandown 193 305 South Africa ( For international donors please add ) SWIFT NEDSZAJJ.

 For more info visit http://www.rarefinch.org or write to the secretary at editor@avitalk.co.za

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A VERY PROUD MOMENT

25 Jul

BirdLife South Africa awards 12 Owl awards a year. ( Nine Owl awards  Two Eagle-Owl awards and one Owlet award which is given to a person under the age of 18 years ) 

 

A VERY PROUD DAY.Thank you to everyone who has so generously supported the small is BIG, Save Africa’s smallest finch, the Orange-breasted waxbill conservation project. The project is a proud collaboration between BirdLife South Africa and the Rare Finch Conservation Group.

Below is the citation that was read at the awards ceremony :

An agreement was reached between BirdLife South Africa and the Rare Finch Conservation Group in 2014 to initiate a conservation project focused on the Orange-breasted Waxbill as part of the BirdLife International Keeping Common Birds Common project. Eelco Meyjes is a director of the Rare Finch Conservation Group and has since devoted his time to this collaboration.

Through this partnership, the diminutive Orange-breasted Waxbill has become a superhero and contributing to the conservation of eight threatened bird species and another 84 common birds that utilise similar grassland and wetland habitats. In November 2016, an educational puppet show “Waxi the Hero” was performed for the first time and hundreds of children have now been reached through this entertaining environmental production.

In May 2017, Eelco completed a 3,600 km unsupported solo ride to raise awareness and funds for this project. His cycle ride started in Cape Town from where he continued to Namibia, across certain parts of the Namib Desert, through the Caprivi Strip and then onto northern Botswana and ended at the mighty Victoria Falls.

End of Citation .

The Rare Finch Conservation Group is registered in South Africa as a non-profit organisation and is totally dependent on donors and sponsors to carry out its conservation work on finches. All donations will be publicly acknowledged , unless otherwise requested, on the RFCG website. Donations can be made to the following account. Rare Finch Conservation Group, Nedbank. Account number 1933 198885 Branch : Sandown 193 305 South Africa ( For international donors please add ) SWIFT NEDSZAJJ.

 For more info visit http://www.rarefinch.org or write to the secretary at editor@avitalk.co.za

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small is BIG Cape to Vic Falls fundraising cycle ride successfully completed

20 Jun

 

 

Eelco Meyjes successfully completed the 3628km small is BIG, Riding for a Purpose, fundraising solo cycle ride from Cape Town to Victoria Falls on 6 May 2017. The end of ride photo was taken at Vic Falls on the bridge between Zimbabwe and Zambia. Courtesy Tom Varley

 

The ride which started from Nobel Square at the Waterfront in Cape Town on 19 February included crossing the Namib Desert in Namibia.The ride took a total of 77 days of which 49 were ride days and 28 were non ride days. Of the 28 non ride days 23 were rest days and 5 were waiting for rain, wind to stop or to meet with important people. Carrying a kit of 37 kg an average of 74 km was achieved on ride days.

To help add some fun to the journey a series of entertaining cartoons were created and donated by Alastair Findlay to use on the regular Eelco Meyjes Facebook updates.






   The Rare Finch Conservation Group is extremely proud to announce that the Cape Town to Vic Falls unsupported solo cycle ride via Namibia was a success. The small is BIG Riding for a Purpose was done to help raise awareness and funds for Africa’s smallest finch, the Orange-breasted Waxbill which now needs conservation help.

Why small is BIG ? Africa’s smallest finch is a small bird with a big responsibility that is destined to make it a BIG HERO.

Photo Chris Krog

Photo Chris Krog

 

 

Recent unexpected declines in the Orange-breasted Waxbill (Amandava subflava) has resulted in the urgent need for the species to be researched. Research has already commenced to find out why the bird has become so scarce in certain parts of its natural habitat. The species has also been selected by BirdLife South Africa as a key sentinel (watchdog) bird for South African wetland bird species’ including eight threatened and 84 common bird species. This conservation project is a proud collaboration between BirdLife South Africa and the Rare Finch Conservation Group.The eight Red-listed species, ranging from Near Threatened to Critically Endangered, plus all 84 common species will all benefit from this important conservation project.

The 8 threatened species as listed in the updated 2016 Eskom Red Data book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland are as follows :OBW news-12-2014f 8 THREATENED SPECIES

The Rare Finch Conservation Group and BirdLife South Africa would sincerely like to thank all the facilities that kindly sponsored accommodation to help make the Cape to Vic Falls small is BIG Riding for a Purpose fundraising ride a success.

Riviera Hotel, Veldrif, West Coast. Cape Province

Highlander Rest Camp, Trawal. Northern Cape

Van Rhyns Guest House, Van Rhynsdorp. Northern Cape

Kroon Lodge, Kamieskroon. Northern Cape

Springbok Lodge and Restaurant, Springbok. Northern Cape

Grunau Hotel, Granau. Southern Namibia

Savanna Guest House, Southern Namibia

Alte Kalkoffen Lodge, Southern Namibia

Klein-Aus Vista Lodge, Aus, Southern Namibia

Tiras Campsite, Namib. Namibia

Aubres Campsite, Namib. Namibia

Betta Campsite, Namib. Namibia

Keerwerder Wardens, Namib. Namibia

Namib Sky Balloon Safaris, Namib. Namibia ( As an incentive sponsored a free flight over Sossusvlei )

Rostock Ritz Mountain Desert Lodge, Namib. Namibia

Okahandja Country Hotel, Central Namibia.

Outenique Jagd+Guestfarm, Central Namibia.

Khoi Khoi Lodge, Central Namibia

Roy’s Rest Camp, Northern Namibia

Mururani Campsite, Northern Namibia

Ngandu Safari Lodge, Rundu, Northern Namibia

Shamvura Camp, Rundu, Northern Namibia.

Divundu Guest House, Caprivi, Northern Namibia,

Muchenje Campsite and Cottage, Northern Botswana

Kasane Self Catering, Northern Botswana.

Tom Varley Photography. Victoria Falls. Zimbabwe

Pumusha Lodge, Victoria Falls. Zimbabwe

The Rare Finch Conservation Group is registered in South Africa as a non-profit organisation and is totally dependent on donors and sponsors to carry out its conservation work on finches in the wild. All donations will be publicly acknowledged , unless otherwise requested, on the RFCG website. Donations can be made to the following account. Rare Finch Conservation Group, Nedbank. Account number 1933 198885 Branch : Sandown 193 305 South Africa ( For international donors please add ) SWIFT NEDSZAJJ.
For more info visit http://www.rarefinch.org or write to the secretary at editor@avitalk.co.za

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Danish researcher shares two new important Shelley’s Crimsonwing photos with the RFCG!

4 Aug
 

Photo 1: Side view of a male Shelley’s Crimsonwing photographed in 1996 (courtesy Morten Dehn).

Photo 1: Side view of a male Shelley’s Crimsonwing photographed in 1996 (courtesy Morten Dehn).

Photo 2: Ventral view of the same bird (courtesy Morten Dehn)

Photo 2: Ventral view of the same bird (courtesy Morten Dehn)

Eureka! The Rare Finch Conservation group (RFCG) has received two new photos of a Shelley’s Crimsonwing!  The photographs taken in 1996 by Morten Dehn from Denmark represent a valuable addition to the sparse visual evidence of Africa’s rarest finch.

Shelley’s Crimsonwing (Cryptospiza shelleyi) is a colourful and elusive bird. Only a few people have ever seen a Shelley’s Crimsonwing in the montane forests of the Albertine Rift Valley, where it is endemic and categorized as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, checked on July 2016.

Although scientifically described more than 100 years ago (Sharpe, 1902), what we know about this bird is minimal, to say the least. Almost nothing is known about its natural behaviour, diet and breeding ecology. While it probably never was a very common bird, there is some evidence that the population has dramatically decreased since the 1970s; possibly because of on-going habitat destruction, but the reasons are unclear and require further investigation.

In 2005, the RFCG adopted the Shelley’s Crimsonwing as the rarest African finch to champion conservation actions and raise awareness  for the Shelley’s Crimsonwing. At that time, not a single photo of a live Shelley’s Crimsonwing was known to the RFCG.

Shelley's crimsonwing. Photo courtesy www.gorilla.org

Shelley’s crimsonwing. Photo courtesy http://www.gorilla.org 2008

Simon Espley, one of the founding members, found the first known photograph of a Shelley’s Crimsonwing on the homepage of The Gorilla Foundation (www.gorilla.org). The Foundation reported that they had mist-netted and photographed a male bird in the Virunga National Park (DRC) in 2008. Subsequently during 2009 and 2010 the RFCG, with funding kindly received from the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust, started to do extensive fieldwork in search of Shelley’s Crimsonwing in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park (Uganda). Unfortunately, no Shelley’s were found.

However, the attention of the first known photo and the report the RFCG published and shared with various important conservation organisations helped to raise public awareness for this species, which had been flying under the radar of many ornithologists, birders and twitchers for a number of years.

As a result of this exposure, the RFCG was contacted in 2014 by Colin Jackson, from Kenya, who reported that he had mist-netted and photographed a male Shelley’s Crimsonwing in 1997 whilst on a museum field expedition primarily surveying gorillas in the Virunga National Park, DRC.Colin very kindly donated his photo of the Shelley’s to the RFCG

The world's second known photograph of a Shelley's crimsonwing cockbird. Photo Colin Jackson

Photo Colin Jackson taken in 1997

(http://africageographic.com/blog/the-only-two-known-photos-of-a-live-shelleys-crimsonwing/). Later, another photo of a Shelley’s Crimsonwing was uncovered by the RFCG at the renowned natural history museum, The Field Museum (Chicago, USA). Co-workers David Willard and Tom Gnoske of The Field Museum took the photo whilst on an expedition in the Rwenzori Mountains National Park in 1990 and 1991

The world's third known photograph of a Shelley's crimsonwing.Photo Chicago Field Museum. Co-workers David Willard and Tom Gnoske

Photo Chicago Field Museum. Co-workers David Willard and Tom Gnoske. 1990/1991

(https://rarefinch.com/2015/10/30/a-great-new-photo-of-a-shelleys-crimsonwing/).

The two latest photographs received , as seen above, were taken by Morten Dehn, together with his colleague Lars Christiansen, whilst doing their MSc work at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark performing a survey of the altitudinal distributions of montane forest birds in the Rwenzori Mountains National Park, Uganda. During surveys between July and the beginning of December 1996, Dehn and Christiansen mist-netted birds in the Mubuku/Mahoma/Bujuku River valleys at altitudes between 2100 and 3000 m. ( These overlapped  the regions surveyed by researchers of The Field Museum in 1990 and 1991.). A total of five male Shelley’s Crimsonwing were captured. One of them was photographed from two different angles ( photos 1 and 2 above). The two researchers stated that Shelley’s was by far the rarest of the four Crimsonwing species captured during their survey, which yielded only 5 out of the 76 Crimsonwing captured.( The four crimsonwing species are ; Red -Faced Crimsonwing cryptospiza reichenovii , Abyssinian Crimsonwing Cryptospiza salvadorii, Dusky Crimsonwing Cryptospiza jacksoni and the Shelley’s crimsonwing Cryptospiza shelleyi )

Like the other known photos, the bird was again hand-held when photographed. Photo 1 shows a side view, photo 2 a more unusual angle, allowing a ventral view that shows the under parts relatively well. This might be one perspective of the bird to be seen when encountered in the wild. Despite the colourful nature of the plumage, there is no doubt that the green, yellow ochre and black under parts provide good camouflage in the dense understory where the birds seem to linger most of the time. The red of the head and nape on this bird appears to be more even and continuous than what could be seen on the bird photographed by The Field Museum co-workers Willard and Gnoske in 1990 / 1991, suggesting that this may represent an older male. In particular on photo 2, the red of the head/nape really stands out and contrasts well with the greenish colour of the background. Therefore, if we were lucky enough to see a male  it would probably be the red colour that would catch our attention.

Although 20 years old, the photos kindly donated by Morten Dehn are a great find and confirm that awareness for this little-known species has grown and is reaching previously unknown people who have worked on Shelley’s Crimsonwing. They are able to add valuable data to our sparse knowledge.

Interestingly, all the known photographs were taken in the 1990’s, with the exception of the male Shelley’s Crimsonwing photo taken in 2008

During 1990, a total of 25 birds were mist-netted,  a number based on extensive research and publication consultation. Despite continuous efforts, the last 20 years have yielded only one male bird. Many experienced bird guides the RFCG talked to, who for many years have entered Shelley’s habitat every day, have never seen the species or say it’s extremely rare to see.

The estimated population size as stated in the IUCN Red List fact sheet for Shelley’s Crimsonwing is still 2,500 to 10,000. Conservatively, one may assume a population decline since the 1990s, based on the RFCG’s findings and conclusion after years of research and awareness campaigns.We urgently need more insights into the actual population size and distribution of Shelley’s Crimsonwing, its diet and its natural behavior to inform further conservation recommendations before this elusive and almost unknown species vanishes in silence.

Now that awareness is increasing, more people may try to take photos of a female bird, immature birds or perhaps even a nest. I cannot wait to see this.

For the RFCG: Prof. Sven Cichon, PhD (Basel, Switzerland)

Morten Dehn of Denmark, who together with Lars Christiansen did field work to survey the altitudinal distributions of montane forest birds in the Rwenzori Mountains National Park, Uganda, back in 1996 (courtesy Morten Dehn).

Morten Dehn of Denmark, who together with Lars Christiansen did field work to survey the altitudinal distributions of montane forest birds in the Rwenzori Mountains National Park, Uganda, back in 1996 (courtesy Morten Dehn).

Founded in 2005 The Rare Finch Conservation Group is registered in South Africa as a non-profit organisation and is totally dependent on donors and sponsors to carry out its conservation work on finches. All donations will be publicly acknowledged , unless otherwise requested, on the RFCG website. Donations can be made to the following account. Rare Finch Conservation Group, Nedbank. Account number 1933 198885 Branch : Sandown 193 305 South Africa ( For international donors please add ) SWIFT NEDSZAJJ.
For more info visit http://www.rarefinch.org or write to the secretary at editor@avitalk.co.za

 

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