Digital Conservation is not only transforming the work of Conservation Managers, Scientists and Conservation Organizations but also complimenting it.
We live in the “information age”. It has become easier and more time effective for everyone who has a passion for nature to contribute to Biodiversity Conservation through Citizen Science digital application based projects.
The fact that we can go on a birding trip, mobile device in hand, capturing bird sightings on the go and in real time has increased the biodiversity data flow to projects of critical importance.
The Overberg Crane Group(OCG), the Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust(ORCT) as well as the Nuwejaars Wetland Special Management Area (Nuwejaars SMA) alongside BirdLife South Africa have created an Overberg 150km birding challenge through BirdLasser.
The main objectives of the Overberg 150km challenge are to provide monitoring and occurrence data for threatened bird species in the Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA’s) within a 150km radius from the town of Agulhas.
What is an IBA? The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) program is one of the most important conservation projects of Birdlife International that is headed up in our beautiful country by BirdLife South Africa. The IBA program addresses the preservation needs of areas of importance to the conservation of bird species that are globally threatened, are habitat specialists and occur in a restricted range.
The Overberg 150km Challenge incorporates the following IBA’s – Agulhas Plains-Heuningsnes Estuary, Dyer Island, De Hoop Nature Reserve, Cape Whale Coast, Overberg Wheatbelt, Langeberg and the Boland Mountains.
This challenge affords interested parties the opportunity to build up a database of presence for threatened bird species throughout the area that can be used by the Overberg Crane Group and the Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust when they are commenting on Development Applications.
It also collects data for the Habitat Specialist Project that is run by the Overberg Crane Group, the Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust and the Nuwejaars Wetland Special Management Area – respective to their area of operations.
Although all three of these organizations collects data during their day to day operations it was decided to create a challenge that would incentivise the public to partake in this project, and the best platform to create such a challenge was BirdLasser.
BirdLasser is a data capturing platform that functions on an App that you download onto your mobile device. It is atlassing made easy, the BirdLasser App plots your position and sightings with GPS precision, and it also updates your life list (and any other challenge lists you partake in). It then offers you the opportunity to choose whether or not you want to contribute your sightings to conservation bodies by submitting your full protocol or ad-hoc sightings cards (this is all electronically) to the various citizen science platforms. It is easy to use, and is a lot of fun!
The Overberg 150km Challenge was piloted amongst a select group of birders in 2017, and the totals for the year ended on 325 species sighted, and 11,638 records submitted! The top five birders were Keir Lynch in the first place, Frans-Hendrik Joubert in second place, Andrew De Blocq in third, Mike Buckham in fourth and Trevor Hardaker in fifth place.
In 2018 the Overberg 150km Challenge was opened to the public, and in just 2 months the total is standing on 249 species, and the top 5 birders to date is Keir Lynch in first place, Chris Cheetham in second place, Pieter and Janelle in third, Frans-Hendrik Joubert in fourth and John Carter in fifth place.
The challenge is open to anyone that wants to take part in this project – it is never too late to start, you can peruse all the challenges at this link (www.birdlasser.com/challenges) or alternatively join the Overberg 150km Challenge by registering at this link (www.birdlasser.com/challenges/overberg150k2018/overview)
When you take part in the Overberg 150km Challenge you are not only contributing to crucial conservation work, but if you log the most sightings or the most threatened bird sightings, you also stand a chance of winning one of two really awesome prizes – BirdLife South Africa has kindly sponsored this challenge with a year’s subscription to the BirdLife Magazine, and the Nuwejaars Wetland SMA donated a sunset Wetlands Guided Tour for 4 people.