Kenya has always attracted avid bird watchers due to the sheer number of species in the country. The very first bird atlas conducted in Kenya was completed in the 1970s with over 200 birders involved in the data collection for the project which was finalised in 1984. This work led to the publication of the renowned book A Bird Atlas of Kenya by Lewis & Pomeroy (1989). Scientists and conservationists alike used half degree cells defined by 30 minutes by 30 minutes, or 54 Km by 54 Km in order to conduct the census which then resulted in the collation of data that has and continues to be used to inform conservation and scientific research. A Bird Atlas gave a great representation of the bird distribution in Kenya at the time, and was used in many publications thereafter including numerous regional bird guide books.
Bird species distribution has changed considerably since the first atlas was published; with some species increasing their flight range such as the House Sparrow, while others continue to be limited in range such as the Egyptian Vulture. There is no clear documentation of how much the species distributions has changed over the years and so there is an imminent need for a new bird atlas to be produced.
The Kenya Bird Map (http://kenyabirdmap.adu.org.za) is an internet-based bird distribution database that employs citizen science to map the location of birds and describe their distribution in real time. The Kenya Bird Map uses a finer grid scale of 5 minutes by 5 minutes ( c. 9 km by 9 km) referred to as a “pentad”. The pentads are overlaid on the map of Kenya, so that more areas in the country are located in a given pentad. The proposed data collection that will go into the new atlas will also be conducted by citizen scientists (volunteer birders who visit sites / pentads of their choice anywhere in Kenya to map birds). The birds will be recorded in the order that they are seen or heard, making note of how many birds are seen every hour. There are basically two mapping protocols:
- Full protocol- a bird mapping session that lasts two hours or more
- Ad hoc protocol- a bird mapping session that lasts less than two hours
The Kenya Bird Map team together with Laikipia’s Citizen Scientist Initiative, invites all passionate birders in Kenya, both beginners and professionals, to take part in this very important project. In order to conserve and protect Kenya’s bird species, knowledge of their distribution is crucial. Once it is known where the different species occur, the bird mapping team will be able to monitor the health of the populations as well as the dangers they face in those respective ranges. By pooling the effort of citizens scientists, the Kenya Bird Map will tell the public about the distribution of Kenya bird population and in so doing provide a powerful tool for conservation. This will in turn contribute greatly to avian tourism and thus boost the economy of Counties across the country.
Laikipia, and the greater Ewaso landscape have embarked on a mission to be Kenya’s very own Citizen Science destination and will be supporting this bird mapping initiative. The launch pad for this was the Great Grevy’s Rally (GGR) that took place from the 29th to 31st January 2016. Residents of Laikipia and visitors alike participated in the collation and sharing of data that will direct future efforts, both for scientific investigation and management of key, unique territories and their resources. The essence of Citizen Science is that volunteers collect and share information that can be analysed by scientists and citizen participants.
For more information on how you can participate e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org