The results of bird surveys has become of one of the UK governments 15 headline indicators of sustainable development and the “Quality of Life”. Birds can be used to investigate the impact of environmental changes such as land-use change (e.g., Schulze et al. 2004). Previous work has demonstrated that in urban areas, bird assemblages can show marked changes, typically being dominated by a few highly abundant species that are well adapted to human affected landscapes, be they native or alien invasive species (Clergeau et al. 1998; McKinney 2006; Van Rensburg et al. 2009; Evans et al. 2011; de Lima et al. 2013). Large-bodied birds, typically raptors, often decline markedly in abundance with landscape transformation, especially outside of protected areas (Herremans and Herremans-Tonnoeyr 2000; Peres 2000; Devictor et al. 2007; Thiollay 2007).
Our own surveys can also become part of wider conservation efforts that are being conducted across southern Africa. “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 Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. SABAP2 was launched in Namibia in May 2012.”
Bird surveys need to be conducted within the first three hours of dawn, this is when birds are at the most active. Survey will be bird point counts at the designated ecological survey sites, each of the sites will have bird surveys repeated three times for each season (Winter and Summer). The survey sites are always within 100 metres from the road and 5 minutes are given after arrival to reduce the effects of disturbance, thereafter all birds seen and heard in 10 minutes are recoded. Once a month, we will also conduct bird surveys across the reserve for Southern African Bird Atlas Project. A description of which is above (http://sabap2.adu.org.za/).
If birds are monitored regularly, with long-term data any changes in fluctuations due to environmental, disturbance or climate change may be evaluated. Birds can be an indicator for biodiversity; so where there are high diversity of birds then one may assume that the ecosystem as a whole is healthy. Having a good population of a diverse range of species on the reserve can also offer many ecosystem services to the reserve including: pollination, control of pests and invertebrates, seed dispersal and nutrient recycling (Sekercioglu 2006; Whelan et al. 2008). If there are known charismatic species of bird found on the reserve, and their preferred locations are known from the results, this can be used for tourism and to attract avid birders to come to the reserve.
Clergeau, P., J. L. Savard, G. Mennechez, and G. Falardeau. 1998. Bird abundance and diversity along and urban-rural gradient: a comparative study between two cities on different continents. Condor 100:413–425.
de Lima, R. F., M. Dallimer, P. W. Atkinson, and J. Barlow. 2013. Biodiversity and land-use change: understanding the complex responses of an endemic-rich bird assemblage. Divers. Distrib. 19:411–422.
Devictor, V., R. Julliard, D. Couvet, et al. 2007. The functional homogenization effect of urbanization on bird communities. Conserv. Biol. 21:741–751.
Evans, K. L., D. E. Chamberlain, B. J. Hatchwell, R. D. Gregory, and K. J. Gaston. 2011. What makes an urban bird? Glob. Change Biol. 17:32–44.
Herremans, M., and D. Herremans-Tonnoeyr. 2000. Land-use and the conservation status of raptors in Botswana. Biol. Conserv. 94:31–41.