Birding – Bird Atlas Project

First published 2 February 2016

Birding. For an interesting view on birds in your area you could try This is the website for the Southern Africa Bird Atlas Project 2 whereby the region is divided up into pentads measuring 5 minutes of latitude by 5 minutes of longitude, very roughly 9x9km. Their database includes 140,000 lists and 7 million records. For each of these pentads they have a list of the species observed. The small size of the pentads means that the list of recorded birds for any one pentad represents an excellent picture of what one is likely to see there (together with the accompanying frequency record and seasonal variation). To view the details for the pentad of your home or area to be visited logon to the website or advise me of the applicable coordinates/location. The degree of detail is clear from the fact that the region includes over 30,000 pentads.  The count which I attended (‘participated in’ would be grossly misleading) a couple of months ago at the Korsman Conservancy recorded some 50 species which is only about one fifth of the birds recorded in the pentad, though some of the latter such as the secretary bird and fish eagle have only been recorded once as opposed to the nearly 1,000 times (ie on that number of reporting lists, not number of birds) for the more common species. One area of interest is the Strategic Environmental Assessment in the possible Karoo fracking area where there are no records for 1146 pentads and less than four lists for another 3973. Some information from the website:

The Second Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2) is the most important bird conservation project in the region. It holds this status because all other conservation initiatives depend on the results of the bird atlas, to a greater or lesser extent. You cannot determine the conservation status of a species unless you know its range and how this is changing. So red-listing depends on the results of this project. So does the selection of sites and habitats critical to bird conservation. SABAP2 is the follow-up project to the Southern African Bird Atlas Project (for which the acronym was SABAP, and which is now referred to as SABAP1). This first bird atlas project took place from 1987-1991. The second bird atlas project started on 1 July 2007 and plans to run indefinitely. The current project is a partnership between the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town, BirdLife South Africa and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). The project aims to map the distribution and relative abundance of birds in southern Africa and the atlas area includes South AfricaLesotho and Swaziland. SABAP2 was launched in Namibia in May 2012.

The field work for this project is done by more than one thousand eight hundred volunteers, known as citizen scientists – they are making a huge contribution to the conservation of birds and their habitats. The unit of data collection is the pentad, five minutes of latitude by five minutes of longitude, squares with sides of roughly 9 km. There are 17339 pentads in the original atlas area of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, and a further 10600 in Namibia, 4900 in Zimbabawe and 6817 in Kenya.

At the end of January 2016, the SABAP2 database contained more than 146,000 checklists. The milestone of seven million records of bird distribution in the SABAP2 database was reached on 22 August 2015, less than 10 months after the six million record milestone. It had taken two days less than a year to get from five million to six million, the fastest million records ever up to then. So doing a million in just less than 10 months is awesome. More than 74.0% of the original SABAP2 atlas area (ie South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland) has at least one checklist at this stage in the project’s development. More than 31% of pentads have four or more lists.

The most pressing data collection needs are to get coverage as complete as possible, and to try to build a foundation of four checklists per pentad. On top of this foundation the skyscraper of checklists can be built. Ideally, we would like checklists representing every month of the year. We would also like to have lots of checklists for each pentad in every year


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