And another 10-year anniversary–

22 November 2004

The Avian Demography Unit (ADU) has notched up several milestones in the area of bird monitoring, supported by the enthusiasm amateur birders have for collecting data.

The Coordinated Waterbird Counts (CWAC), the Coordinated Avifaunal Roadcounts (CAR), Birds in Reserves Project (Birp) and the Nest Record Card Scheme (Nercs) have all reached or surpassed the 10-year mark in spite of chronic shortages of funds and understaffing over the years.

  • CWAC (Coordinated Waterbird Counts) started in January 1992. Its aims are to monitor fresh waterbird populations at wetlands throughout South Africa and to identify and document threats facing wetlands and the birds they support. Forty-eight sites were first covered in 1992 and currently 486 wetlands are registered with the project, of which 338 are counted on a regular basis, including all viable Ramsar sites. More than 2 500 people have participated in CWAC over the past 10 years and currently about 870 people count waterbirds each summer and winter. Now into its thirteenth year, CWAC has the longest-running time series of wetland bird data in South Africa - thanks to the ongoing support of committed volunteers.

  • CAR (Coordinated Avifaunal Roadcounts) was initiated in July 1993 to monitor trends in two threatened species, namely the Blue Crane and Denham's Bustard. CAR participants now monitor the populations of over 20 species of large terrestrial birds in agricultural lands, as well as their use of habitats. Fourteen of these are Red Data species. Currently, about 340 fixed CAR routes in seven provinces are covered by about 780 enthusiastic observers, covering about 19 000km of road. About half the observers are farmers, many are bird club members, and others are nature conservationists, school learners and members of the public. CAR observers have covered about 244 400km in the past 11 years.

  • Birp (Birds in Reserves Project) was launched in 1992. Its aim is to document the occurrence of birds in the country's protected areas throughout the country. This information is used to assess the conservation status of species. To date, 737 observers have accumulated in excess of 23 000 checklists for 857 protected areas. This ongoing monitoring of species occurrence in protected areas will also help to show change over time - very relevant in a time of climate change.

  • Nercs (Nest Record Card Scheme) had its beginnings in the 1950s under the Southern African Ornithological Society. The nest record cards have long been housed in the bird ringing unit (Safring) which now forms part of the ADU. Nercs was revamped in 1995 with a new set of aims, instructions and reporting forms, including a separate method for recording colonially nesting birds. Since that time, 128 observers have submitted 2 749 nest record cards for 274 species.

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