Balwyn meeting report, 27 September 2016
In early October, Birdlife Australia released its new and improved Birdata web portal, plus a free mobile app. Andrew Silcocks, Birdlife’s Atlas and Birdata Project Manager, came to showcase it to members. The first Atlas of Australian Birds collated data collected from 1977 to 1981, and established species distribution. The second atlas, which ran from 1998 to 2002, gave definition to point locations. Since 1998 bird survey data has been collected continuously and stored in the old Birdata. Currently approximately 3,000 surveys are submitted per month. A new portal was needed to streamline reporting, survey management and to make data available to registered users.
The underlying objective of the first Atlas was to map species distribution. The second Atlas shed light on changes in abundance and distribution. It is hoped that a new easy-to-use portal will engage the wider community in bird science and biodiversity. Most current atlassers live in the SW, SE and Tasmania; in Central Australia surveys mostly occur on roadsides. The new Birdata seeks to involve bird enthusiasts Australia-wide.
What kind of data does Birdata accept?
Andrew stressed the point that all data entries are checked. The following surveys are explained in detail in the portal:
- Incidental search or one-off sighting.
2. 2 hectare/20 minute survey – rated the most useful data. 3. Area search within 500m or 5km radius for longer than 20 minutes. 4. Fixed route search. 5. Embedded search – this comprises doing a 2 ha search for 20 min, and then recording birds noted outside the 2ha plot over a longer period.
‘Make the counts count’
That is, record not only species but the numbers of birds present. Estimates for a flock are acceptable. And the most value arises from repeat surveys at the same site; so you might want to visit regularly a site not too far from home. The portal allows you to set up a survey site with GPS readings, survey method etc. Or, ‘Shared Surveys’ are available; set up by Birdata and visible on a map, to which you can contribute.
Who uses information from Birdata?
Overwhelmingly it is environmental scientists conducting environmental impact assessments. Data on the endangered Painted Snipe was used in the assessment of the Abbot Point Coal Port expansion in Queensland. Users of Birdata are:
Environmental Scientists 49.3% Universities (Staff and Students) 14.2% Federal and State Government Agencies 13.8% Private Individuals 11.0%
Birdlife Australia uses Birdata to identify significant habitat for birds, especially that of endangered species, and thus protect that land from development. The status of threatened species may be monitored and inform their listing under the EPBC Act. Birdata is used in compiling the regular State of Australia’s Birds report, and the identification of Important Bird Sites.
All previous acceptable bird survey data has been entered into the new Birdata. That includes Atlas data 2006-15, original Birdata records, and data from eBird and Eremaea – although this data has not always been collected within strict survey guidelines.
Andrew then demonstrated the new portal. The Home page has a section on getting started plus articles of interest. A map of Australia shows where the most recent surveys have been conducted. To progress further one has to log in. If you already log in to Birdlife Australia, that login will get you into the new Birdata. If not, you will have to register. It is highly recommended that you pay Birdata a visit at http://birdata.birdlife.org.au and see for yourself the scope of the new portal. And the mobile app is available free for Apple or Android users from app stores.
Get out on surveys and join the current 7000 atlassers. Never has it been more important to record bird data.
Photo credit: Patrick Kavanagh, Australian Painted Snipe, Crusoe Reservoir, Kangaroo Flat Vic., 2013, https://www.flickr.com/photos/63175631@N02/8426819200