Pentad quick find: 

The Southern African Bird Atlas Project - Monitoring into the future


Following the financial difficulties at the ADU in 2017, there has been concern about the future of SABAP2 and other important citizen science projects managed by the ADU. Fortunately, funding has been secured to maintain the core data capture and analysis processes for most ADU projects for the next two years through an agreement between SANBI and the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, thanks to support from the Department of Environment Affairs. This sees Michael Brooks and Rene Navarro move to the Fitz staff complement, although they will continue to work closely with the remaining ADU staff. We will use this breathing space to secure additional funding to ensure that SABAP continues indefinitely, because it plays a crucial role to assess changes to biodiversity across South Africa.

 A new SABAP2 steering committee has been set up to oversee the project, with representatives from the main stakeholders: SANBI (Andrew Skowno), BLSA (Mark Anderson, Ernst Retief and Hanneline Smit-Robinson), BirdLasser (Henk Nel) and the Fitztitute (Peter Ryan, Robert Thomson and Michael Brooks) as well as representatives from core data users (Res Altwegg, SEEC, and Chevonne Reynolds, Wits) and the Regional Atlassing Committees. Les Underhill is focusing his energies on growing bird atlases across the rest of Africa under the umbrella of BirdMAP. This is already seeing considerable progress, with atlas projects blossoming in Kenya and Nigeria.

 We want to assure everyone involved in SABAP2 that the project is in good hands. A new website and streamlined data engine will be launched in May 2018, making it even easier to access and upload your data, giving more options to view and interact with species distributions, and to extract data for use in research. Improved tools for Regional Atlas Committees will allow more efficient record vetting and data editing.

 With your ongoing support, SABAP2 will continue to grow. 2017 saw a record number of atlas cards being submitted, from the largest ever number of pentads – thanks in no small part due to the BirdLasser revolution. Please continue to support SABAP, particularly by contributing full protocol cards from poorly atlassed regions.

 The SABAP2 Steering Committee



New home, same project! During the later part of 2017 there were many changes made at the University of Cape Town effecting the Animal Demography Unit, and the projects that they have run for the last 25 years. The biggest change was the moving of projects to a new home, the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology. More information will be made available over the next few weeks about how we are going to take SABAP2 forward - bigger, better and more inclusive. 


The Second Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2) is the most important bird monitoring 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 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 two thousand one 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 June 2017, the SABAP2 database contained more than 189,000 checklists. The milestone of 10 million records of bird distribution in the SABAP2 database was less than 300,000 records away.  Nine million records was reached on 29 December 2016, eight months after reaching on 14 April 2016, which in turn was eight months after reaching seven million on 22 August 2015, and 10 months after the six million record milestone. Knocking of a million records in eight month periods is become an awesome norm. More than 78% 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 36% 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.


Progress with 2016 atlasing in Hessequa by Johan Van Rooyen

After the Stilbaai Bird Club’s special push during the Autumn Attack, it is a good time to report on the progress with atlasing in Hessequa in 2016. We set three goals for 2016:
• Atlas each of the 77 pentads in Hessequa at least once
• Push the total cards for two quarter degree squares (3421AB and 3421AD) from dark green to light blue (7 to 11 cards)
• Get a better distribution of cards throughout the year by atlasing pentads in “empty” months only
The first picture shows the effect of the 118 cards submitted for 2016 up to 7 May. About 40 of these were done by visitors, mainly in the tourist and popular birding areas of Stilbaai/Jongensfontein, Gouritsmond/Voelvlei, Witsand/Port Beaufort and Grootvadersbos. Members of the Stilbaai Bird Club had the pleasure of covering the rest of the area and becoming even more familiar with the wonderful diversity that Hessequa has to offer.
The difference between the second picture (situation on 1 January 2016) and the third picture (situation on 7 May) is an indication of our progress in terms of turning the two quarter degree squares light blue.
Our Autumn Attack was concluded with a talk on the identification of local raptors attended by 24 members, followed by a very enjoyable braai.

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

Pentads with highest single card total: November 2018
Pentad Date Observer Species

Latest cards submitted (in order of submission)
  Date Pentad Observers name Species
on card
(FP only)
f2018-11-133210_2330Theron, Stefan81244
f2018-11-143210_2355Theron, Stefan1826
f2018-11-143200_2400Theron, Stefan2017
f2018-11-133215_2335Theron, Stefan305
a2018-11-133210_2320Theron, Stefan158
f2018-11-102445_2825Van Niekerk, Marius9920
a2018-11-063355_2530Brown, Dave17391
a2018-11-013355_2530Brown, Dave15391
f2018-10-132420_3150Mitton, Karin4368
f2018-11-103355_1825Buckham, Michael61789
f2018-10-263355_1825Buckham, Michael81789
f2018-11-052600_2755Mitton, Karin45988
f2018-11-112220_3105Hawkins, Ross52160
f2018-11-122220_3100Hawkins, Ross7275
f2018-11-102220_3110Hawkins, Ross126294
a2018-11-113245_1755de Kock, Colin3031
f2018-11-113240_1755de Kock, Colin2241
f2018-02-211810_2140Gascoigne, Paul4874
f2018-02-201805_2135Gascoigne, Paul3635
a2018-11-102825_2135Arthur, Brad14
a2018-11-102825_2125Arthur, Brad24
a2018-11-092840_2050Arthur, Brad110
a2018-11-092835_2100Arthur, Brad16
a2018-11-092835_2105Arthur, Brad216
a2018-11-092840_2045Arthur, Brad74
a2018-11-092840_2040Arthur, Brad15
a2018-11-092830_2105Arthur, Brad27
a2018-11-092825_2110Arthur, Brad327
a2018-11-092825_2115Arthur, Brad231
a2018-11-092820_2110Arthur, Brad114
a2018-11-092820_2105Arthur, Brad154
a2018-11-092800_2100Arthur, Brad132
a2018-11-092755_2055Arthur, Brad26
a2018-11-092750_2055Arthur, Brad15
a2018-11-092740_2045Arthur, Brad39
a2018-11-092745_2050Arthur, Brad25
a2018-11-092735_2045Arthur, Brad36
a2018-11-092730_2045Arthur, Brad24
a2018-11-092725_2045Arthur, Brad25
a2018-11-092720_2045Arthur, Brad15
a2018-11-092715_2045Arthur, Brad34
a2018-11-092705_2045Arthur, Brad44
a2018-11-092710_2045Arthur, Brad26
f2018-02-181735_2415Gascoigne, Paul132
f2018-11-132600_2745WEIDEMAN, ALLAN JOHN69234
f2018-11-103305_1800Moll, Michiel and Beverley31432
f2018-11-073245_1805du Plessis, Eddie45692
f2018-11-092510_2805Cronje, Marc55266
f2018-11-112525_2705Cronje, Marc5231
f2018-11-132605_2750Cronje, Marc531432
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 735 23.08%
Pentad with 1 or more cards 2450 76.92%
Pentad with 2 or more cards 1654 51.93%
Pentad with 3 or more cards 1181 37.08%
Pentad with 4 or more cards 905 28.41%
Total cards submitted in SEA area 15651
GEM, Greening the Escarpment of Mpumlanga.
GEM is the follow-on project for BirdLife Lowveld at the conclusion of Turning Kruger Green. The GEM area contains 233 pentads. In the northwest corner is pentad 2450_3015 with 2700_3055 in the southeast corner. This is the Mpumalanga Escarpment. Many of these pentads contain Sappi forests. The challenge is to build up SABAP2 coverage so that every pentad has a minimum of four checklists, and hence the name: Greening the Escarpment of Mpumalanga, a GEM of a project..
For more detailed data, go to Challenge data
Pentad with 0 cards 1 0.43% 4 cards needed
Pentad with 1 card 24 10.30% 72 cards needed
Pentad with 2 cards 28 12.02% 56 cards needed
Pentad with 3 cards 25 10.73% 25 cards needed
Pentad with 4 or more cards 300 128.76% 0 cards needed
Total cards submitted 5680
Total cards needed 157
Greater Kruger National Park in 2018
Area East of 31°E and North of 26°S contains 446 pentads. The challenge for 2018 is to make 2000 checklists and submit 67 cards for 40 pentads.
For more detailed data, go to Challenge data
Pentad with 0 cards 210 52.50% 840 cards needed
Pentad with 1 card 55 13.75% 165 cards needed
Pentad with 2 cards 42 10.50% 84 cards needed
Pentad with 3 cards 23 5.75% 23 cards needed
Pentad with 4 or more cards 116 29.00% 0 cards needed
Total cards submitted 2032
Cards needed in the remaining 40 yellow and orange pentads to turn them green 1112
Total percentage submitted in 2018 101.60%
Gauteng 4DY and 3456 in 2018
Get all 576 pentads in the four degrees of 'Greater Gauteng' to YELLOW in 2018
Get 3456 checklists in total (average of 6 lists per pentad!)
Pentad with 0 cards 143 24.83%
Pentad with 1 or more cards 433 75.17%
Pentad with 2 or more cards 272 47.22%
Pentad with 3 or more cards 204 35.42%
Pentad with 4 or more cards 173 30.03%
Total cards submitted in 2018 5329
Total percentage submitted in 2018 154.20%
Western Cape challenge 2018
Get 700 pentads and 2500 cards in the Western Cape in 2018
Pentad with 1 or more cards 629 89.86%
Pentad with 2 or more cards 337 48.14%
Pentad with 3 or more cards 214 30.57%
Pentad with 4 or more cards 163 12.60%
Total cards submitted in 2018 2828
Percentage of target 113.12%
Free State challenge
Make the Free State Green!
Pentad with 1 or more cards 1850 99.41%
Pentad with 2 or more cards 1403 75.39%
Pentad with 3 or more cards 879 47.23%
Pentad with 4 or more cards 715 38.42%
Total cards submitted 15132
KwaZulu-Natal challenge
Make KwaZulu-Natal Green!
Pentad with 1 or more cards 1288 99.54%
Pentad with 2 or more cards 1160 89.64%
Pentad with 3 or more cards 953 73.65%
Pentad with 4 or more cards 847 65.46%
Total cards submitted 29083

Page served: 15 Nov 2018
design and systems by Michael Brooks
Animal Demography Unit
University of Cape Town