Birding Big Day 2021 – the Biggest ever!

BirdLife South Africa’s 37th Birding Big Day took place on Saturday, 26 November. This event sees teams of birders from around the country attempting to log as many species as they can within a 24hour period. For the first time, more than 400 teams registered, representing more than 1 600 birders. In addition, many bird clubs, schools, and scout groups participated informally, bringing the estimated total participation to over 1 700 people. The day saw very challenging birding conditions, especially in the Western Cape, with strong winds and rain, yet 659 species were recorded by all teams combined. This year featured the inclusion of a new 5km radius category and it was well supported with 81 teams. Many of these teams targeted a Southern African Bird Atlas Project pentad or two, contributing valuable data to the SABAP2 project. We hope that many more teams will register for this category in the future. Several teams were introduced to the wonderful world of BirdLasser. People could follow progress of the teams using Birdlasser via their website. Species registered via BirdLasser can also contribute to conservation causes, and BBD is a fun way for people to learn how to use the app. We hope that many of these users will now regularly log birds and soon begin to submit data to citizen science projects. Support for the provincial challenges also continues to grow. Teams holding records went all out to defend their titles, while others aimed to become the new record holders. Due to the unfavourable weather, not as many provincial records were broken as last year. Two new records were set for Northern Cape and Eastern Cape by The Lebanese Smit Titz and Kei’d Pingfishers respectively and the record for Limpopo was equalled by team Wat-Kyk-Jy.The Gourikwa Swifts nobly did not record Common Ostrich, which would have enabled a tie with the Western Cape record (244). See the Table for the details of all the provincial winners and their results compared to 2019 and 2020 official records. The winning team of this year’s main event is team Wat-Kyk-Jy. They recorded an amazing 329 species! The team members are Jody de Bruyn, Richter, Rowan and Marcia van Tonder (a family event!). Congratulations to the team. They birded the wellknown BBD area east of Polokwane. The team dedicated the event to the memory of Joe Grosel. Joe passed away earlier in the year and the team recognised his contribution to BBD in general and to their team via social media. In second place, with 326 species, was E-birders (Derek Engelbrecht, Daniel Engelbrecht and Selwyn Rautenbach) and A Bowl-of-Corncrakes coming in third place. This means the top 3 teams nationally were all from Limpopo! However, it was Mpumalanga that recorded the most species: 522 across all teams, followed by Limpopo with 499. The BBD record set last year by The Raven Dikkops, with team members Bradley Arthur, Michael Mills, Marc Cronje and Callan Cohen, of 335 species, is still intact. Six teams recorded more than 300 species. The new 5km category winner is team Middelburg Storkers who recorded an amazing 179 species in one pentad to the north of Middelburg. Amazingly, 24 teams recorded more than 100 species for this category. This just shows again how privileged we are in South Africa to be able to record so many species in a relatively small area. Together, the teams recorded just over 46 000 sightings on BirdLasser. More than 800 records were received for species of conservation concern. Michael Brooks at the University of Cape Town reported that full and ad-hoc protocol cards were submitted for nearly 600 pentads, valuable data for the Southern African Bird Atlas Project. BirdLife South Africa would like to thank Henk Nel and his team at BirdLasser for their wonderful support. Also, thank you to Craig Nattrass for ensuring that the servers hosting the BBD data could manage the additional load. We would also like to thank Swarovski, who donated CL 8X30 binoculars to the retail value of R25 000 for the lucky draw.

Ernst Retief

Birding Big Day Organiser

BirdLife South Africa

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