Pentad quick find: 

Welcome to the Southern African Bird Atlas Project

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 nine 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.


Priorities for the remainder of 2015

SABAP2 is on track for another record year in 2015. If we maintain the present rate of data collection, we will reach 31 December 2015 with somewhere between 24000 and 25000 full protocol checklists submitted during the year. In 2014 the total was 20651, well ahead of the previous best, which had been 18364 checklists in 2010.

Here is an update on the current SABAP2 priorities.

(1) Please maintain “sustainable atlasing.” We cannot afford for you to suffer “burn-out.” Please keep on atlasing at the pace you enjoy doing it. We need you in 2016.

(2) Please recruit new atlasers, teach them the protocol and get them involved. We are NOT near the END of the project, we are near the BEGINNING. We need everyone on board. Atlasing is easier than it has ever been with Lynx Birdticks (Android) and BirdLasser (iPhone and Android). See their Facebook pages. Getting other people to help with the atlasing effort is the best way to get to 25000 checklists this year!

(3) There is no pentad for which we have “enough” data.

(4) Please treat any pentad with fewer than four full-protocol checklists as a top priority pentad.

(5) The top priority remains carefully produced full protocol checklists – a minimum of two hours of intensive birding within a pentad which aims to produce as comprehensive a list as feasible of the species present in the pentad.

(6) If you are able to travel, please help fill the major gaps in coverage. Try to participate in gap-filling expeditions. Even better, take courage, and organize an expedition yourself. There is a map showing where the current target areas are at this news item

(7) If you are in an area where data coverage is poor, and you have the opportunity to make even a short list of species for a few minutes, please submit the records as an ad hoc list.

(8) If you have seen a single species which you know is rare in a pentad (or might not yet have been observed), please submit it as an incidental record. If in doubt, submit.

(9) If a pentad has not yet been atlased in 2015, treat it as a priority. Try to get 2015 coverage up to four checklists in as many pentads as feasible.

(10) Please be careful. Please ask permission before you venture onto private land. Please don’t atlas and drive at the same time.

(11) If you have a collection of "Out of Range Forms" (ORFs) please make a resolution to deal with them.

(12) Please try to be an Ambassador for Biodiversity. How do you answer this question: “How does my participation SABAP2 make a difference for biodiversity conservation?”?

(13) Please try to recruit new atlasers. Mentoring is a powerful tool in bringing new atlasers on board. We need to share the workload out more broadly

(14) If you are able to atlas in the "fracking region" of the central Karoo, please make a special effort to atlas here. All data collected until about the middle of 2016 has the potential to make a difference

(15) Most importantly, your participation needs to be something that you enjoy doing.

Sensational September for SABAP2

The primary information need in deciding conservation priorities is up-to-date distribution maps. That is the primary goal of the Second Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2). Gosh, Team SABAP2, there is no holding you back in contributing the crucial data on which these maps are built. September broke all the data collection records. The daily submission rate of full protocol checklists was 77.3 (the previous record was in August, with 72.1). The number of checklists submitted in September was 2320 (compared with August, 2236; and remember that September is handicapped by being a day short!! This year it was further handicapped by awful weather over much of the country during the first weekend of the month!!!).

Four Degrees Blue 1 Oct 2015In the “Four Degrees” region centred on Gauteng, coverage reached 85% of the 576 pentads. The number of pentads visited increased by 17, from 473 to 490. That leaves 86 pentads left to be visited in the remaining three months of the year. Some targeted atlasing is going to be needed to achieve this. Jerome Ainsley is helping to lead the process. There is another challenge on the go in this region too, getting the entire Four Degrees to BLUE on the coverage map, that is 11 checklists per pentad since the start of the project. Today, 1 October, only 173 checklists are needed to achieve this. 52 pentads are on 10 checklists, and only need one more BirdMAPper visit to turn them BLUE.

October is the key month for the arrival of the migrants from Eurasia. Please try to atlas your favourite and most accessible pentad several times, so that we have good solid documentation of the arrival of the migrants this spring, and the pattern of build up. Please keep going on this till the end of the year!

If you are able to travel to atlas, please treat all pentads with 0, 1, 2 or 3 checklists as top priorities. The paradigm to which we are working is that four checklists form the foundation of coverage for a pentad. After that we build the skyscraper of coverage. During the course of September, we reached the point at which 30% of the pentads of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland had four or more checklists. We have a long, long way to go. Our mantra: “Make it GREEN in 20fifteen.”

Thank you, Team SABAP2

The power of citizen science: spinning dials in October

Power of citizen science

The power of Citizen Science is that we are able to collect data on scales otherwise unimaginable. During October SABAP2 reached an awesome six million records. This data, collected by atlasers, is conservation critical. The distribution maps we are generating show exactly where species actually occur, rather than where they are thought to occur, or even where the models produced by statisticians predicts them to occur.

Team SABAP2 continues to beaver away at unprecedented levels. The number of checklists submitted in October was a record 2213. Next best was the previous month, September, with 1879. Then to find the third best month you need to go all the back to November 2010, with 1833 checklists. To put the increase in perspective, the average from January to August this year was 1534 checklists per month and 1447 for the whole of last year. October was festival month for SABAP2!

November has started with a bang! Checklists continue to pour in. On the first three days of November, in spite of a bout of loadshedding, the rate of checklist submission continues at the October rate of 71 checklists per day.

There are three challenges on the go, and it is as well to review them with two months to. Top performer has been the Greater Gauteng challenge. We have already exceeded our target of 3456 checklists for the region. We should reset our aim higher, and go for 125% of target, 4320 checklists.

There are now only 82 pentads out of the 576 without a checklist. We have statistical analysis in view for which gaps in data is a showstopper. So we would be hugely grateful if the Greater Gauteng section of Team SABAP2 pulled out all the stops and got to every pentad this year. Second priority is to get a second checklist for the 194 pentads with only one checklist made in 2014.

The Greater Kruger National Park challenge has, at this stage, visited 349 different pentads in the region, just one short of the target of 350. 89% of the target of 1250 checklists has been made. No problems here.

The Western Cape is falling behind the clock. The targets here were set as reaching the same data volumes as in 2013. 84% of 2014 is behind us. 83% of the target of 700 pentads have had at least one visit. 82% of the target of 2500 checklists have been made, so 452 remain. So this is a gentle plea to atlasers in the Western Cape to roll up their sleeves and get this year’s contribution to SABAP2 up to 2013 levels! There is still time to get back on track.

During November, the arrival of Palearctic migrants continues. Let us continue to atlas as diligently this month as we did last month!

Thank you all for your amazing dedication and commitment to SABAP2.

Latest cards submitted (in order of submission)
  Date Pentad Observers name Species
on card
(FP only)
f2016-04-143350_1830Andrag, Deona66248
a2016-03-152415_3455Marais, Etienne21
f2016-03-172345_3530Marais, Etienne2416
f2014-01-212520_2820Marais, Etienne4374
f2016-04-253315_2630Hobson, Ian49262
a2016-04-122925_3010Galpin, Mark5146
a2016-04-092925_3015Galpin, Mark4783
a2016-04-122950_2925Galpin, Mark310
a2016-04-253355_2535Horn, Gerrie29305
f2016-04-291750_2315Kolb, Hartmut 2136
a2016-04-203405_2140Stenvert, Menno and Krysia155
f2016-04-233420_2110Stenvert, Menno and Krysia556
f2016-04-273150_2505Herselman, Tino763
f2016-04-273420_1915Cheetham, Christopher Graham Selby70137
f2016-04-292535_2820Fouche, Ben44484
f2016-04-293420_2045Rabie, Adrius8214
f2016-04-292550_2815Steen, Lia541084
f2016-04-251955_1600Brand, Danie54
f2016-04-222645_2750Kleynhans, Dawie60198
f2016-04-293115_1830Willemse, Salome133
f2016-04-293110_1825Willemse, Salome102
f2016-04-282635_2755Kleynhans, Dawie4819
f2016-04-253245_1805du Plessis, Linda61413
f2016-04-272855_2925Branfield, Andy5255
f2016-04-292655_2645Archer, Tony4423
a2016-04-292810_2900Branfield, Andy24
a2016-04-252615_2810Van Goethem, Werner Marc567
f2016-04-171835_2615Long, Stephen8145
a2016-04-282845_2930Branfield, Andy420
f2016-04-252610_2810Van Goethem, Werner Marc2849
a2016-04-292815_2905Branfield, Andy460
f2016-03-311840_2605Long, Stephen4812
f2016-03-251835_2615Long, Stephen10045
f2016-04-252605_2815Van Goethem, Werner Marc45145
a2016-04-282850_2930Branfield, Andy714
a2016-04-272855_2930Branfield, Andy615
f2016-04-272855_2920Branfield, Andy20
f2016-04-282900_2920Branfield, Andy4077
f2016-04-262900_2925Branfield, Andy76158
a2016-04-272000_1600Brand, Danie210
f2016-04-292650_2620Strauss, Wanda47
f2016-04-232525_3055McKenzie, Duncan Robert76392
a2016-03-122455_3135Smit-Robinson, Hanneline49263
a2016-04-072545_2815Hall, Arthur9636
a2016-04-072540_2815Hall, Arthur3928
a2016-04-102545_2820Hall, Arthur5105
a2016-04-102550_2820Hall, Arthur345
a2016-04-162545_2820Hall, Arthur5105
a2016-04-162550_2820Hall, Arthur445
Strategic Environmental Assessment

A "Strategic Environmental Assessment" (SEA) is being led by Professor Bob Scholes of the University of the Witwatersrand. The purpose of the SEA is to make informed decision about fracking, if the reserves of shale gas in the central Karoo prove viable. So the challenge to us, as citizen scientists, is to accumulate as much data as we can for all our ADU atlas projects, both for the birds and for all the groups of species in the Virtual Museum (see Data collected up to about the middle of next year will help influence decisions made about where fracking can take place, and about how it is done. The South African government has already taken the decision to go ahead. Other countries have simply gone ahead without doing a proper biodiversity baseline study. At least we have been given an opportunity to influence the where and the how.

For the bird atlas, the objective is going to be to get as much of this area to "foundational" coverage of four checklists per pentad. In other words, we don't only want to target the pentads which are not yet visited, we also want to target those with one, two or three pentads, and get them to a minimum of four checklists on the coverage map, and turn them GREEN. It is the SEA-GREEN challenge. But the more data we get for any pentad within this region the better; for those pentads for which we already havelots of checklists, we have a baseline against which to measure future change in species composition. This needs lots of checklists!

Study area data link
(Please note this is a large area, and as such will be slow to load)

Pentad with 0 cards 1080 33.91%
Pentad with 1 or more cards 2105 66.09%
Pentad with 2 or more cards 1273 39.97%
Pentad with 3 or more cards 820 25.75%
Pentad with 4 or more cards 603 18.93%
Total cards submitted in SEA area 10735
Greater Kruger National Park in 2016
Area East of 31°E and North of 26°S contains 446 pentads. The challenge for 2016 is to make 2000 checklists and submit 67 cards for 40 pentads.
For more detailed data, go to Challenge data
Pentad with 0 cards 1 0.25% 4 cards needed
Pentad with 1 card 2 0.50% 6 cards needed
Pentad with 2 cards 3 0.75% 6 cards needed
Pentad with 3 cards 6 1.50% 6 cards needed
Pentad with 4 or more cards 434 108.50% 0 cards needed
Total cards submitted 859
Cards needed in the remaining 40 yellow and orange pentads to turn them green 22
Total percentage submitted in 2016 42.95%
Gauteng 4DY and 3456 in 2016
Get all 576 pentads in the four degrees of 'Greater Gauteng' to YELLOW in 2016
Get 3456 checklists in total (average of 6 lists per pentad!)
Pentad with 0 cards 192 33.33%
Pentad with 1 or more cards 384 66.67%
Pentad with 2 or more cards 202 35.07%
Pentad with 3 or more cards 140 24.31%
Pentad with 4 or more cards 108 18.75%
Total cards submitted in 2016 2278
Total percentage submitted in 2016 65.91%
Western Cape challenge 2016
Get 700 pentads and 2500 cards in the Western Cape in 2016
Pentad with 1 or more cards 507 72.43%
Pentad with 2 or more cards 204 29.14%
Pentad with 3 or more cards 110 15.71%
Pentad with 4 or more cards 71 5.49%
Total cards submitted in 2016 1261
Percentage of target 50.44%
Free State challenge
Make the Free State Green!
Pentad with 1 or more cards 1793 96.35%
Pentad with 2 or more cards 1125 60.45%
Pentad with 3 or more cards 776 41.70%
Pentad with 4 or more cards 607 32.62%
Total cards submitted 11561
KwaZulu-Natal challenge
Make KwaZulu-Natal Green!
Pentad with 1 or more cards 1288 99.54%
Pentad with 2 or more cards 1124 86.86%
Pentad with 3 or more cards 924 71.41%
Pentad with 4 or more cards 802 61.98%
Total cards submitted 21891

Page served: 30 Apr 2016
design and systems by Michael Brooks
Animal Demography Unit
University of Cape Town