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The Animal Demography Unit (ADU) launched the Coordinated Waterbird Counts (CWAC) project in 1992 as part South Africa’s commitment to International waterbird conservation. This is being done by means of a programme of regular mid-summer and mid-winter censuses at a large number of South African wetlands. Regular six-monthly counts are regarded as a minimum standard; however, we do encourage counters to survey their wetlands on a more regular basis as this provides more accurate data. All the counts are conducted by volunteers; people and organisations with a passion for waterbird conservation. It is one of the largest and most successful citizen science programmes in Africa, providing much needed data for waterbird conservation around the world. Currently the project regularly monitors over 400 wetlands around the country, and furthermore curates waterbird data for over 600 sites.
A team from the University of Cape Town studying the Southern African population of Swift Terns Thalasseus bergii has recently put engraved color-rings and metal rings on ca. 300 chicks at Robben Island (location in the image below, left) in order to better understand changes in the population numbers of this species. With your help, we will be able to estimate survival, dispersal and movement patterns in this species. Any reports from inside and outside South Africa of color-ringed Swift Terns (dead or alive) are crucial to this program and to the conservation of seabirds.
If you see a tern with a ring and are willing to help, please report the sighting to our team at: email@example.com
In your report please note:
1) Location of birds as accurately as possible (GPS if possible).
2) Date and time of sighting.
3) Color of the ring.
4) Characters on the ring, e.g. A7 (majority of rings are top-down and all are on the right leg).
5) Age class (immature or adult).
6) Number of metal ring (if found dead).
Ring colors are: - Yellow with black text - White with black text - Green with white text - Blue with white text and the specific codes used can be found here.
Thank you for your help!
The Swift Tern TeamTweet
The bulk of the world's Black Storks breed across central Eurasia, and migrate south, but stay north of the equator. So the population in southern Africa is an isolated breeding population. This species is like the European Bee-eater – a northern migrant, which has an isolated breeding sub-population in the south. There is also a handful of White Storks that breed in South Africa – this little population has never taken off in the way that the Black Storks must have done some hundreds or maybe even a few thousands of years ago.
Sadly, the range-change map comparing SABAP1 with SABAP2 tells the unhappy story of the southern African population of the Black Stork being in a sharp decline. This is evidenced by all the grid cells which RED (disappeared) and ORANGE (decreased) on the map. This is one of the largest shrinkages in range recorded by SABAP2. This is one of the case studies which supports the assertion that SABAP2 is the most important conservation initiative in the region – if it were not for SABAP2, the Black Stork might have disappeared entirely before we became aware of its decline. It was SABAP2 that alerted us to this issue. SABAP2 provides a broad-brush monitoring of all species across the entire region, the fundamental data upon which all conservation interventions are based, and against which they need to be prioritized. Information about ranges of species and how they are changing is one of the imperatives on the list of things we need to know in conservation management decisions.
In the 2000 Red Data Book for South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, the Black Stork was classified as "Near-threatened." Keith Barnes wrote the species text: "Its montane breeding habitat is not under threat. It is, however, dependent on shallow waterbodies such as estuaries and rivers where it forages for fish, amphibians and a range of aquatic invertebrates. Wetland conversion in the form of degradation of estuaries and highland marshes, the afforestation of catchments which reduces water inflow and the damming of smaller rivers are causes for concern. The species is susceptible to poisoning and is highly prone to disturbance; it tends to avoid contact with people." And then, unfortunately prophetically, he wrote: "The Black Stork may suffer a decline in the near future and, owing to its small population, it requires monitoring." The monitoring was not done, and it has taken SABAP2 to alert us to the reality that this is a species which is now in real trouble.
The latest issue of Promerops, the magazine of the Cape Bird Club, contains an article by Francois van der Merwe in which he describes a nest he found in the Hantam Mountains north of Calvinia in the Northern Cape. The article highlights the sensitivity of this species to disturbance: "Although I tried to observe the parents at the nest, this proved impossible as they were extremely wary and would not come to the nest at all when I was in the area. ... I soon abandoned the idea of making direct observations."
In fact, one of the factors common to many of the species showing range reductions between SABAP1 and SABAP2 is a lack of tolerance to human disturbance.
This picture was taken by Alan Manson in Lesotho, and shows the Black Stork in its natural habitat context; it is Record 1199 in the BirdPix Virtual Museum. Please submit your photographs of birds to this Virtual Museum – they become part of the SABAP2 database.Tweet
It's time for another SNAKE SUNDAY!!!! And since it is National Water Week we are featuring a water loving snake – the Brown Water Snake Lycodonomorphus rufulus. The Brown Water Snake is restricted to areas with permanent water and hence occurs primarily in the wetter coastal and eastern parts of South Africa, as shown on the distribution map from the ReptileMAP Virtual Museum.
The Brown Water Snake is a slender snake with a small and indistinct head. The average size of adults is 50 cm (maximum 90 cm). The body is normally an olive brown to dark brown above and a pearly orange to yellowish colour below. The eye has a round pupil. This snake is always associated with water, e.g. streams, vleis and marshes. It is frequently found in the water or under water.
This snake prefers an aquatic diet of frogs, tadpoles and occasionally fish although they are known to take lizards too. It is an expert swimmer and hunts very capably underwater. It will also dive underwater to escape threats and remain under for several minutes. It may even shelter under rocks in flowing streams which may indicate that it is able to extract some oxygen from the water possibly through the skin.
Remember that you can submit your reptile photos to ReptileMAP at vmus.adu.org.za and help us to build up 21st century distribution maps for our reptiles. Many of the gaps in this distribution map, and many others, must be "false negatives" – places where this species occurs but from which we do not yet have any records. Please help us fill the gaps.
Reference: Marais, J. 2004. A Complete Guide to Snakes of Southern Africa. Struik Publishing, Cape Town.Tweet