Pictured: Bird ringing coordinator at the South African bird ringing unit (SAFRING) Dr Dieter Oschadleus demonstrates the ringing process at the opending of the bird ringing station at the Grootvaly Blesbokspruit Wetland Reserve in Springs.

“Imagine migrating birds, one year, arriving and finding an industrial area instead of this wetland?” This question was posed at the opening of the first permanent bird ringing centre in the country at the Grootvaly Blesbokspruit Wetland Reserve in Springs recently.

The most critical threat facing birds is the destruction and fragmentation of habitat, but not in Ekurhuleni. The Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality has prioritized the conservation of its water resources under its rehabilitation and beautification of lakes and dams flagship project.

Part of this project focuses on developing a bird watching route, and the opening of the bird ringing centre at the Grootvaly Blesbokspruit Wetland Reserve as a positive step towards this. The centre will complement the already established environmental education centre which has been visited by over 37 000 children since it was opened in 2000.

Since October 1986, the Blesbokspruit has been a recognized Ramsar site, which means that it belongs to a list of wetlands which are considered to be of international importance for the conservation of global biological diversity and for sustaining human life through the maintenance of their ecosystem components, processes and services.

“This area is under threat to be removed from the Ramsar list as it does not qualify anymore because of the lack of species. But we are keeping it because we believe that it has the potential to be rehabilitated,” said Ernest Retief from BirdLife South Africa. He added that the data collected at the ringing station will be used towards conservation.

The facility is expected to boost eco-tourism in the area as it will offer researchers and university students in a number of fields such as water quality, wetland vegetation and ornithologists an appropriate location to conduct their work. Those who specialize in bird ringing will enjoy their work made easier as they will have a facility to operate from. Community members are also set to benefit as they will be roped in and provided with training in order to become skilled bird ringers.

The opening of the bird ringing facility is part of phase one of the developments at the reserve, and included the construction of overnight facilities and additional ablutions for visitors, parking and landscaping. A new floating jetty was also installed to enable closer viewing birds. Phase two is expected to commence in the new financial year where attention will be turned to providing solar energy to the reserve.

All of this work is done in partnership with the Grootvaly Blesbokspruit Trust.

Meanwhile, planning and work for the establishment of a bird watching route continues for the Korsman’s Bird Sanctuary in Benoni, the Leeupan in Wattville and the Rondebult Bird Sanctuary in Germiston.