Rockjumper Bird Conservation Fund
Since its formation, Rockjumper Birding Tours has been supporting the conservation of the birds that bring us many delightful hours of sheer bird-watching pleasure. In order to co-ordinate and effectively implement our conservation efforts, we launched the Rockjumper Bird Conservation Fund (RBCF) in 2006. A minimum of US$50 from each Rockjumper tour sign-up goes directly into the RBCF. This does not increase the cost of our tours as these projects incur no extra administrative expenses; therefore, the sponsoring of the various conservation projects we endeavour to support, does not make our tours more expensive. Ultimately, just by signing up, you are ensured that your contribution goes directly to bird conservation!
Our ultimate goal is to support bird conservation in multi-faceted ways. By means of carefully managing our available funds, we are able to support numerous bird conservation efforts and activities, including the sponsoring of bird monitoring and research work, hands-on bird conservation (which entails efforts such as captive breeding projects for endangered birds), and habitat protection. We are also actively involved in raising the awareness and knowledge of birdlife, by encouraging local communities to value their birds, by promoting the need for increased awareness and also training enthusiastic community members to become bird guides.
We are either solely responsible for a project’s funding or contribute to larger, more ambitious ventures. Our current Rockjumper Bird Conservation Fund projects and contributions are particularly exciting and are spread across the globe, including the following projects:
Creating the Next Generation of Conservationists
Rockjumper Birding Tours is always looking for new ways to support conservation efforts whether this involves working with local communities, donating to preservation-minded organizations, training local guides and giving them binoculars, and most recently, by speaking to students at Lake Travis High School in Texas. David Shackelford recently gave a well received series of presentations outlining the importance of conservation in the Texas Hill Country and how this affects the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler and other wildlife. This was coordinated with the school’s outdoor fieldtrips to a preserve where the Golden-cheeked Warbler as well as other endangered species are protected, allowing students to observe the importance of conservation first-hand. Rockjumper hopes by sharing our passion for the outdoors, conservation, and birding that we can help teach the importance of preserving the natural world for the future generations.
Rockjumper Trains Six Community Bird Guides on the South Coast
With spring now in full force and bird activity at an all time high we decided that this would be the perfect time to get involved with some community and conservation work in South Africa. During the 29th and 30th September 2009, Glen Valentine led an extremely successful bird guide training course for 6 local guides on the South Coast of KwaZulu Natal. The two day workshop was sponsored and run by Rockjumper Birding Tours through funds created by our conservation fund. Simulated guiding walks, bird identification training along with presentations and lectures on guiding made up the basis of the program. The training was focused around the Umtamvuna Nature Reserve, a lowland forest site on the border of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape that harbors several exciting species of birds and mammals such as endemic Knysna Woodpecker, Knysna Warbler and Chorister Robin-Chat and Blue Duiker. Not only was the workshop very informative and educational for the developing guides but it also amounted in a great deal of fun for all involved. We are happy to have been the force behind this project and through our conservation and development efforts we will continue to support, train and fund inspiring local guides throughout the world.
Oriental Bird Club
Under the auspices of the Oriental Bird Club, the RBCF is sponsoring a project that will run awareness campaigns, including birdwatching trips for school children in two districts of west Bengal. An additional outcome of the project will be the publication of a small, local language environmental book. This is truly an ambitious project that we believe will be the beginning of something exciting and a worthy conservation cause.
Middelpunt Wetland Trust
Rockjumper has been actively involved in the cause of the Middelpunt Wetland Trust by donating a generous amount of money towards their very worthy cause.
Established in 1994, the Middelpunt Wetland Trust has done exceptional and groundbreaking work on the critically endangered White-winged Flufftail. The trust’s main objective entails securing and rehabilitating the Middelpunt Wetland between Dullstroom and Belfast in Mpumalanga, South Africa.
The very mysterious White-winged Flufftail’s highly fragmented habitat is severely threatened by continued destruction and it is therefore of utmost importance that their extremely commendable efforts to conserve these specific areas are well supported.
The Middelpunt Wetland Trust is also actively involved in monitoring, conservation and awareness programs in Ethiopia, the only known breeding area for this enigmatic species. The Trust has also decided to proceed with a captive breeding program, and discussions with the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria are far-advanced. Furthermore, a school has already been built for a community that adjoins one of the breeding sites.
By enabling a wider circle of birders to be aware of the plight of the White-winged Flufftail and generating a greater sense of publicity of this secretive bird’s existence, the Middelpunt Wetlands Trust is playing a major role in its conservation. RBCF is proud to be assist them in this extraordinary cause.
African Bird Club
Rockjumper Birding Tours is also associated with the well-respected African Bird Club and through our affiliation with them, we are responsible for the funding of a very promising and interesting project in the forests of the Kikuyu Highlands region in Kenya.
The Kikuyu escarpment forest is listed as an important bird area due to its abundant and rich diversity of birds, the presence of range-restricted species and its population of the globally threatened Abbott’s Starling.
The specific project RBCF has sponsored entails designing and implementing a monitoring system, as well as building local capacity for conservation of this spectacular region through training programs. One of the main project goals is to determine the patterns and intensity of human disturbances in the forests, as well as the overall effect thereof on bird communities.
Under the auspices of the African Bird Club, Rockjumper Bird Conservation Fund is also responsible for funding an extremely interesting, and also important, survey of the spectacular Nahan’s Francolin in Uganda. The survey will mainly be conducted in the Kibale National Park, as well as in the Semliki Valley in western Uganda. Nahan’s Francolin is a locally distributed endemic in the Congo, and west and south central Uganda; the survey will be headed by Eric Sande, of Makerere University in Kampala.
Birds of Korea
Elsewhere in Asia, the RBCF is contributing to Birds Korea, an organisation which is actively involved in monitoring the impact of the development of a 33km long seawall on the shores of the Yellow Sea.
This highly controversial Saemangeum project will take 15 years to complete and is one of the biggest land reclamation projects in history, covering 400 square km, an area six times the size of Manhattan. The development affects vast tidal mudflats and is a looming potential environmental disaster that may dramatically affect migratory birds. Some of these species, including Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Nordmann’s Greenshank, are already endangered.
By contributing to a diverse range of conservation projects, Rockjumper strives to mitigate the heavy ecological footprint of Man. Our commitment to conservation in the developing world is incredibly strong, and we are proud of the positive impact that we have made in the world of bird conservation. Through birding we can all make a difference!
Birds and Climate Change Awareness Cycle
Rockjumper is supporting Dr Alan Lee on his 3 month bicycle survey. Most Fynbos endemic birds are reported considerably less now compared to previous atlas periods. Surprisingly, we know very little about 4 of the 6 species found only in the Fynbos. This survey is a first step to addressing the shortcomings in our knowledge of some of the birds that make our country so very special. From February to April 2012, Alan Lee will cycle through the Fynbos to study how well our Fynbos endemic birds will adapt to a drier climate. Over 3 months he will survey Fynbos bird communities in relation to various environmental variables. Sleeping in a tent in the wild or in guesthouses along the road, he will travel over 2300 km all around the Fynbos Biome by foot and bike to complete this intensive survey. Using the technique of Distance Sampling, Alan will travel along planned survey lines and stop every 500m. Then, using solar panel computer, GPS, binoculars and rangefinder he will record birds and collect specific information at each point: altitude, vegetation type, topographical situation, plant groups, wind and temperature…. Using this information Alan will be able to evaluate the number of birds of each species. So, in few words, this project aims to learn more in order to protect more! Fynbos is a fantastically rich environment not only for birds but also for plants and mammals. However, it needs to be protected. Follow the survey progress on www.bluehillescape.blogspot.com