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If you enjoy counting birds, get into your car and join CAR. We monitor trends in populations and habitat use of over 30 species of birds.




ADU page in African Birdlife, September–October 2014

by Les Underhill,(2014-09-17)

This topic was chosen because Citizen Science Week is from 20–28 September. We would be delighted if atlasers atlased irresponsibly.

This page is from the September-October issue of African Birdlife, the magazine of BirdLife South Africa. The pdf of this page is available here.

Listen to Sally Hofmeyr's interview with Tim Neary

by Les Underhill,(2013-09-28)

Sally Hofmyer was interviewed by Tim Neary on the Sappi Nature Journal in 60 Minutes on Radio Today. If you missed the interview when it was broadcast, you can listen to it through this link.

Sally described some of the results of her research for her PhD at the ADU. Her analysis of trends in abundance of species such as the Blue Crane made use of the data collected by our Citizen Scientists. She also talked about her MSc project and her postdoc, and in general about her experiences of being a postgraduate student.



2000 up on Facebook

by Les Underhill,(2013-08-21)

The "page" for the Animal Demography Unit on Facebook now has 2000 "friends" who have "liked" it.

It is the best place to keep up to date with the goings on in the ADU and beyond. It is where the news breaks first!

You don't need to have a Facebook log-in to see the page, which is at

Report on the winter 2013 count, done on Saturday 27 July

by Les Underhill,(2013-08-09)

The winter CAR count was completed on Saturday 27 July. Donella Young writes: "Many thanks to the 800 CAR counters who rose early in the dark to count about 350 CAR routes this last Saturday! I know it was certainly a wet, winter count for some in the Overberg and Humansdorp precincts and there were muddy roads to contend with. In the Swartland the weather was better than predicted and the rain held off most of the time, but two routes were incomplete due to flooding of a bridge and a drift.


"Throughout the rest of the country the weather was dry, but cold and in some areas like the Northeastern and Southern Free State, northeastern Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga it was windy, but fortunately visibility was good. But as Saroné van Niekerk remarked the 'strong wind shook us to make counts difficult!

"It was amazing to see that 10 counts had already been captured by the Saturday evening of the count and by Tuesday evening there were 40 and by the following Friday there are 84! There are five completed precincts and many more Free State counts than usual. From MyBirdPatch and emails or phone calls it is evident that a number of you are capturing your counts for the first time, which is fantastic ? as this makes the tasks of Precinct Organisers or volunteer data capturers so much easier. Thank you very much for all your efforts, please do not hesitate to phone or email if you are struggling – particularly with obtaining a password as this seems to be the most tricky step.

"This was the first count that a few representative raptor species and the three crow species were included in CAR counts nationally, due to concern about raptors declining and crows increasing. I was surprised to see that Peter and Jenny Swift, George Branford and Ian Field who counted EB03 in the Eastern Cape Border area recorded 153 Cape Crows, Saroné van Niekerk and her family counted 130 on EE08 in the northeastern Eastern Cape and Gayle and John Ellison, Aldo and Sharon Berruti saw 123 on KU01 in the Underberg area. Altogether 14 species were recorded on KU01, the highest species total so far. Game birds are counted in KZN which helps increase the totals there! Keith and Michele Moodie, who count OV08 in the Overberg had the most records or lines of data so far, they counted 943 Blue Cranes on their route! Their route regularly has close to or just over a thousand Blue Cranes for the winter count, there are many small dams or wetlands in this area. The highlight for Irmgard Kaiser and Leoné du Preez on FN39 was 5 Wattled Cranes with two Grey Crowned Cranes at a dam. I have just checked the database and this is not only the first time this species has been seen on this route, but it is the biggest group of Wattled Cranes in the Free State since counts began in 1997! Yvonne Bosman has sent a comprehensive report in which she writes about EH06: 'On our last winter count, before wind farm construction and wheat fields appearing, there were 86 bustards and this time only 24 so it just goes to show how the changing landscape has affected this species. Let’s hope that once construction is over that the birds will again make their appearance in this area or at least find another place of refuge.'

"Thank you so much for driving and stopping safely every 2 km! I am most grateful that there have been no accidents on a CAR route while people have been counting in the last sixteen years that I have been coordinating CAR. All the best for all the capturing and checking and huge thanks to all the Precinct Organisers for all their help with ensuring a successful count. You all form a wonderful team, I will let you know when the interim website report is up."

Sadly, this is the last count for which Donella will be coordinator of CAR. I know that you will all join me in wishing her well into the future. Donella has made the most amazing contribution to this project over many years. We all need to do our bit to keep the project running as smoothly as we can into the future.

Twenty years of CWACing the Bot River Estuary

by Doug Harebottle,(2013-06-27)

The 25th of July1993 marked the first Coordinated Waterbird Count (CWAC) for the Bot River Estuary, one of the largest estuarine systems in the Western Cape. It was one of the first wetland sites to be counted soon after the CWAC programme was launched in 1992. The 6th of July 2013 will mark the 20th anniversary of these counts which have been coordinated by Mariana Delport of the Tygerberg Bird Club.  Counts and observers have undergone various changes through the years. Says Mariana, "The first count was originally scheduled for 17 July 1993, but due to bad weather conditions it was postponed to 25 July 1993.  Initially we only counted the Bot River Estuary (known locally as the Botriviervlei), but from 1995 we included the nearby Kleinmond Estuary as the two systems are closely linked."

The CWAC pioneers, made up of four teams, included Mariana Delport, Willie D’Hondt, Colin Jones, Jurie and Adele Fourie, Anton Nel, Mossie Smit, John and Debbie Philogene, Margaret McCall, Talitha le Seur, Brian Vanderwalt, Ann Rickets, Libby Kerr, Brenda Anderson and Beverley Patterson. From this group Mariana and Beverly remain as active counters! Additional counters from Kleinmond, Hermanus, Somerset West and Cape Town have given of their time to assist with the counts over the last 20 years. 

Most counts have taken place twice a year (February and July), but from January 2003 until December 2006, all sections were counted to monitor the changes within a full breaching cycle of the estuary. The results were included as a chapter in Doug Harebottle's PhD thesis and which had important conservation outcomes for the estuary's waterbirds. Quarterly counts were then done for another three years. Mariana comments, "This called for some dedication, especially for us driving all the way from Cape Town, sometimes in adverse weather conditions!"

This is an incredible data set and probably one of the longest running series of waterbird counts for a South African estuary. Mariana says, "Looking at the results of the past 20 years, not much has changed since 1993. Numbers of Red-knobbed Coot, Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Shoveler, Red-billed Teal, grebes, flamingos, terns, shorebirds, have varied seasonally as well as based on the breaching regime of the sand bar at Meerensee". But she adds, "...some species, such as Red-knobbed Coot and Great Crested Grebe have seen gradual declines in  numbers and in more recent years we have seen an increase in the number of Blue Crane along the upper reaches of the lagoon, which is great.  Occasionally some rarities make their appearance, like Osprey, Black Harrier, Common Black-headed Gull and African Openbill."


The ADU salutes Mariana, her team and the Tygerberg Bird Club for taking ownership of this important wetland as a CWAC site over the past twenty years. It takes dedication and commitment to sustain monitoring at these levels. Like Stan Madden and the Blesbokspruit wetlands, Mariana has been the stalwart and champion for the Bot estuary CWACs.

We are also extremely grateful to all the citizen scientists who have given up their time, petrol and effort to help with these counts. Ensuring continuity for these counts is vital to understand the long-term dynamics of waterbird populations and everyone's contributions makes a difference; in Mariana's words "Let’s continue for another 20 years!"


Save the date: 20-21 July 2013, SABAP2 workshop, Port Elizabeth

by Doug Harebottle,(2013-06-10)

BirdLife Eastern Cape will be hosting a winter atlasing workshop during the weekend of 20-21 July.

Annual Report for the ADU 2012

by Les Underhill,(2013-02-02)

What do these species have in common?

by Les Underhill,(2013-02-02)

CAR count on 26 January: 20 years of counting in the Overberg!

by Les Underhill,(2013-02-01)

You can throw rocks at bulldozers, or you can become a citizen scientist

by Les Underhill,(2012-12-05)

The Animal Demography Unit believes that we can influence biodiversity policy, locally, nationally and globally. We believe that the best way to achieve this is by enabling conservation decisions to be based on solid quantitative evidence. Through our expa

20000 downloads of pdfs of papers in our ejournal Ornithological Observations

by Les Underhill,(2012-11-15)

If you've not browsed any of the papers in Ornithological Observations yet, you have missed a treat. Ornithological Observations (OO for short, and you can choose to say ""oooooh"" or you can choose to say ""double oh"") contains some of the most interesting and readable articles on birds you will find anywhere.

Congratulations, Dr Sally Hofmeyr

by Les Underhill,(2012-10-25)

Congratulations, OO, on your second birthday today

by Les Underhill,(2012-08-31)

Happy birthday to OO
Happy birthday to OO
Happy birthday, dear Ornithological Observations
Happy birthday to OO

New booklet: Biodiversity early warning systems: South African citizen scientists monitoring change. Edited by Phoebe Barnard & Marienne de Villiers

by Les Underhill,(2012-08-21)

This booklet is the result of a collaboration between the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), the Animal Demography Unit (ADU) of the University of Cape Town and the South African Department of Environmental Affairs.

20 easy steps to submitting your first atlas card

by Doug Harebottle,(2012-08-17)

Underberg Primary School Eco-Group joins MyBirdPatch

by Doug Harebottle,(2012-08-15)

CAR count completed on Saturday 28 July

by Les Underhill,(2012-08-05)

Honouring Stan Madden - an ADU biodiversity ambassador

by Doug Harebottle,(2012-07-30)

Threat Thursday, focusing on the ""Vulnerable"" Blue Crane

by Les Underhill,(2012-07-12)

Of the 15 species of crane on the planet, only four are classified as ""Least Concern."" The other 11, including today's focus species, are threatened, making the cranes one of the families with the largest proportion of species in threat categories: one is ""Critically Endangered"", three are ""Endangered"" and

Cameras installed at Verreaux's Eagle nest

by Les Underhill,(2012-07-07)

The 5P anniversary challenge

by Doug Harebottle,(2012-07-06)

To mark five years of SABAP2, the 5P Celebratory Challenge kicks off tomorrow. This challenge will encompass 5Ps - Peaks, Ponds, Parks, People and Pentads. The 5P Celebratory Challenge aims to get atlasers to cover a whole set of attributes over a five week period from 7 July-12 August.

Shelley's Francolin seems to be in the downward spiral

by Les Underhill,(2012-06-20)

Science for Citizens: Penguins as Ocean Sentinels (August) – Avian Architects (Sep–Oct)

by Les Underhill,(2012-06-14)

For full details of these courses, go to the website of the UCT Centre for Open

Abdim's Stork abdicates

by Les Underhill,(2012-06-13)

Les Underhill receives Harry Oppenheimer Fellowship Award

by Doug Harebottle,(2012-06-01)

May is Africa Month, and 25 May is Africa Day

by Les Underhill,(2012-05-25)

Changes in the fortune of the Blue Crane between the first and second bird atlas projects

by Les Underhill,(2012-05-09)

One of the most charismatic of the species whose fortunes are surveyed by the CAR project is the Blue Crane. This range-change map depicts the mixed fortunes of this species between the first and second bird atlas projects, SABAP1 and SABAP2. (The

ADU 20th anniversary celebration in KZN

by Doug Harebottle,(2012-02-13)

REMINDER: ADU data processing shut down

by Michael Brooks,(2009-10-16)

Just a small note to say that no data processing or updates will be made over the weekend of the 17-18 October. The last update will be run at 06h00 on Saturday morning (17th), followed by the Monday 09h00 update.