Francolin distributions

Figure 1. Coqui francolin male, Gauteng Province. Photographer c I McCutcheon. Record 27539 in the BirdPix section of the ADU Virtual Museum. Full details available at http:// vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-27539

Lerm RE, Jansen R, and Underhill LG. 2019. Bird distribution dynamics – Indigenous francolins in South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland. Biodiversity Observations 10.5:1-31

Biodiversity Observations is an open access electronic journal published by the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town. This HTML version of this manuscript is hosted by the Biodiversity and Development Institute. Further details for this manuscript can be found at the journal page, and the manuscript page, along with the original PDF.


Bird distribution dynamics – Indigenous francolins in South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland

Rion E Lerm

South African Environmental Observation Network, Phalaborwa, South Africa

Raymond Jansen

Department of Environmental, Water and Earth Sciences, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa

Les G Underhill

Animal Demography Unit, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa

Introduction

The objective of this series of papers on bird distribution dynamics in Biodiversity Observations is to report on the ranges of bird species as revealed by the Second Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2, 2007 onwards) and to describe how their ranges have changed since the first bird atlas (SABAP1, mainly 1987-1991), about two decades apart.

This series of papers is also made feasible by the development of two new standards for the presentation of maps, firstly pentad-scale distribution maps derived from SABAP2 data, and secondly range-change maps showing how distributions have changed between SABAP1 and SABAP2 (Underhill & Brooks 2016a, b). Because the papers in this series use these two new interpretations in the form of maps, the rules for interpretation are not provided in detail in each of the “bird distribution dynamics” paper series.

Here, we deal with some of the economically important species of cursorial gamebirds belonging to the order Galliformes (family Phasianidae), that occur in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. For each species, four items of information are presented: the SABAP1 distribution map using quarter-degree grid cells, the SABAP2 distribution map, using pentads (five-minute grid cells; there are nine pentads per quarter-degree grid cell), the range-change map, showing estimated changes in relative abundance between SABAP1 and SABAP2, and a table which provides counts of the numbers of grid cells shaded each of the six colours in the range change map.

The six terrestrial gamebird species dealt with are divided under the genera: Peliperdix, Dendroperdix and Scleroptila. Unfortunately, most of these francolin species are cryptic and inconspicuous making field identification difficult however, since citizen scientists were the source of observers across both SABAPs, possible errors in reporting rates should be similar for both projects. We expect that at least the more important range-change maps depict accurate changes in bird distribution.

Additionally, and compared to previous papers in this series, the national land cover dataset (GeoTerraImage 2015), and biomes and bioregions according to Mucina and Rutherford (2006) were underlying the range-change data to get some insights into which habitats might have influenced decreases and increases in species distributions.

Introduction to the francolins

Of the global extant francolin species (n=14) belonging to the aforementioned genera, 21% (n=3) are in a global threat category: in this case all ‘Near-threatened’. These Red-listed species belong to the Scleroptila genus and occur mostly in East Africa with sub-populations of one species remaining in Cameroon {West Africa; BirdLife International (2018) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 14/02/2018}.

In South Africa, pressure from wing shooters and livestock grazing around the earlier 1900s caused certain populations of gamebirds in South Africa to survive where others did not, resulting in fragmented populations or local extinctions. However, species such as grey-winged francolin Scleroptila africanus, increased in the Eastern Cape grassland following the inland settlement by European farmers. Past introductions of foreign gamebirds have fortunately and, for some reason (possibly due to blood parasites) been unsuccessful (Little and Crowe 2011).

The assessment of changes in abundance for the species discussed here (from SABAP1 to SABAP2) is not further complicated by migratory habits, due to their mostly resident statuses. The species accounts are ordered in ascending Roberts number order as published by Hockey et al. (2005).

Coqui francolin Peliperdix coqui

The range-change map (Figure 4) of this highly localised gamebird raised concern due to very large and widespread decreases (57-60% of grid cells where it was recorded) across most of its core distribution range that falls broadly within South Africa’s Savanna Biome (Mucina & Rutherford 2006). Since SABAP1, this species’ distribution seemed to shift towards biomes containing habitats that are more diverse in vegetation structure and land-use compared to its favoured tall-grassed and open woodland habitats. Where this species historically avoided agricultural fields (Little 2005a), the GeoTerra Image (2015) land cover dataset of 2013-2014 showed Coqui francolin Peliperdix coqui (Figure 1) might prefer a mix of low intensity, cultivated commercial fields interspersed with grassland. This increase was especially noticeable around the intersections between North-West, Free State and Gauteng provincial boundaries.

Figure 1. Coqui francolin male, Gauteng Province. Photographer © I McCutcheon. Record 27539 in the BirdPix section of the ADU Virtual Museum. Full details available at http:// vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-27539
Figure 1. Coqui francolin male, Gauteng Province. Photographer © I McCutcheon. Record 27539 in the BirdPix section of the ADU Virtual Museum. Full details available at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-27539
Figure 2. SABAP1 distribution map for the Coqui francolin. Note that quarter degree grid cells shaded turquoise had no SABAP1 data or fewer than four cards submitted (Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, much of the Northern Cape Province and former Transkei). The colours represent reporting rates, and the cutpoints for the different colours are the same as used for SABAP2, see Figure 3.
Figure 2. SABAP1 distribution map for the Coqui francolin. Note that quarter degree grid cells shaded turquoise had no SABAP1 data or fewer than four cards submitted (Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, much of the Northern Cape Province and former Transkei). The colours represent reporting rates, and the cutpoints for the different colours are the same as used for SABAP2, see Figure 3.
Figure 3. SABAP2 distribution map for the Coqui francolin, downloaded 19 May 2017. The detailed interpretation of this map is provided by Underhill & Brooks (2016a). Pentads with four or more checklists are either shaded white, species not recorded, or in colour, with shades based on reporting rate: yellow 0-10.2%, orange 10.2-26.3%, light green 26.3-43.3%, dark green 43.3-63.2%, light blue 63.2-79.2% and dark blue 79.2-100%.
Figure 3. SABAP2 distribution map for the Coqui francolin, downloaded 19 May 2017. The detailed interpretation of this map is provided by Underhill & Brooks (2016a). Pentads with four or more checklists are either shaded white, species not recorded, or in colour, with shades based on reporting rate: yellow 0-10.2%, orange 10.2-26.3%, light green 26.3-43.3%, dark green 43.3-63.2%, light blue 63.2-79.2% and dark blue 79.2-100%.
Figure 4. Range-change map between SABAP1 and SABAP2 for the Coqui francolin downloaded 19 May 2017. Red, orange and yellow represent quarter-degree grid cells with very large, large, and small relative decreases and blue, dark green and light green represent grid cells with very large, large and small relative increases. A count of the number of grid cells in each category is provided in Table 1. Only grid cells with at least four checklists in both SABAP1 and SABAP2 are shown. More detailed information on the interpretation of this range-change map is provided in Underhill & Brooks (2016b). Inset map shows underlying land cover classes (GeoTerra Image 2015) of an area where widespread and large (greenbordered cells) to very large (blue-bordered cells) increases in Coqui francolin occurred. Sandcoloured areas are grassland, coral-coloured areas are low intensity, cultivated commercial fields, green areas are woodland and yellow is depicted as urban areas. The bright blue at the right of the inset map is the Vaal Dam with the Vredefort Dome visible immediately to the West.
Figure 4. Range-change map between SABAP1 and SABAP2 for the Coqui francolin downloaded 19 May 2017. Red, orange and yellow represent quarter-degree grid cells with very large, large, and small relative decreases and blue, dark green and light green represent grid cells with very large, large and small relative increases. A count of the number of grid cells in each category is provided in Table 1. Only grid cells with at least four checklists in both SABAP1 and SABAP2 are shown. More detailed information on the interpretation of this range-change map is provided in Underhill & Brooks (2016b). Inset map shows underlying land cover classes (GeoTerra Image 2015) of an area where widespread and large (greenbordered cells) to very large (blue-bordered cells) increases in Coqui francolin occurred. Sandcoloured areas are grassland, coral-coloured areas are low intensity, cultivated commercial fields, green areas are woodland and yellow is depicted as urban areas. The bright blue at the right of the inset map is the Vaal Dam with the Vredefort Dome visible immediately to the West.

Table 1. Range-change summary for the Coqui francolin between SABAP1 and SABAP2. Numbers (and percentages) in each colour category of Figure 4, for which there are at least four checklists per quarter degree grid cell in both SABAP1 and SABAP2. Also shown are the same summaries when the analysis is restricted to grid cells with at least 30 checklists for both SABAP1 and SABAP2.

4+ checklists 30+ checklists
Status Count % Count %
Red (very large decrease) 208 57 129 60
Orange (large decrease) 37 10 25 12
Yellow (small decrease) 29 8 15 7
Light green (small increase) 10 3 6 3
Dark green (large increase) 17 5 10 5
Blue (very large increase) 66 18 29 14
Total 367 100 214 100

Crested francolin Dendroperdix sephaena

This species showed approximately equal portions of increases and decreases in its distribution across the northern parts of South Africa (Table 2). Decreases could have been associated across crested francolin Dendroperdix sephaena (Figure 5) distribution to a multitude of land covers including plantations, orchards, thicket, urban areas and high intensity commercial agriculture. The northern half of the Gauteng Province showed increases mostly in urban areas, wooded habitats and low to medium intensity commercial agricultural fields interspersed with grassland (GeoTerra Image, 2015). As with the Coqui francolin, the crested francolin seemed to shift its distribution towards the Kalahari (Westerly) where low shrubland, subsistence and low intensity commercial agriculture and, open woodland form a heterogeneous landscape. This shared preference for habitats with the former species, has been reported before by Little (2005b).

Figure 5. Crested francolin, North-West Province. Photographer © D Kennedy. Record 5159 in the BirdPix section of the ADU Virtual Museum. Full details available at http://vmus.adu. org.za/?vm=BirdPix-5159
Figure 5. Crested francolin, North-West Province. Photographer © D Kennedy. Record 5159 in the BirdPix section of the ADU Virtual Museum. Full details available at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-5159
Figure 6. SABAP1 distribution map for the crested francolin. Note that quarter degree grid cells shaded turquoise had no SABAP1 data or fewer than four cards submitted (Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, much of the Northern Cape Province and former Transkei). The colours represent reporting rates, and the cutpoints for the different colours are the same as used for SABAP2, see Figure 7.
Figure 6. SABAP1 distribution map for the crested francolin. Note that quarter degree grid cells shaded turquoise had no SABAP1 data or fewer than four cards submitted (Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, much of the Northern Cape Province and former Transkei). The colours represent reporting rates, and the cutpoints for the different colours are the same as used for SABAP2, see Figure 7.
Figure 7. SABAP2 distribution map for the crested francolin, downloaded 19 May 2017. The detailed interpretation of this map is provided by Underhill & Brooks (2016a). Pentads with four or more checklists are either shaded white, species not recorded, or in colour, with shades based on reporting rate: yellow 0-10.2%, orange 10.2-26.3%, light green 26.3-43.3%, dark green 43.3-63.2%, light blue 63.2-79.2% and dark blue 79.2-100%.
Figure 7. SABAP2 distribution map for the crested francolin, downloaded 19 May 2017. The detailed interpretation of this map is provided by Underhill & Brooks (2016a). Pentads with four or more checklists are either shaded white, species not recorded, or in colour, with shades based on reporting rate: yellow 0-10.2%, orange 10.2-26.3%, light green 26.3-43.3%, dark green 43.3-63.2%, light blue 63.2-79.2% and dark blue 79.2-100%.
Figure 8. Range-change map between SABAP1 and SABAP2 for the crested francolin downloaded 19 May 2017. Red, orange and yellow represent quarter-degree grid cells with very large, large, and small relative decreases and blue, dark green and light green represent grid cells with very large, large and small relative increases. A count of the number of grid cells in each category is provided in Table 2. Only grid cells with at least four checklists in both SABAP1 and SABAP2 are shown. More detailed information on the interpretation of this range-change map is provided in Underhill & Brooks (2016b). Inset map shows underlying land cover classes (GeoTerra Image 2015) of an area where widespread and large (greenbordered cells) to very large (blue-bordered cells) increases in crested francolin occurred. Sandcoloured areas are grassland, coral to brown-coloured areas are cultivated commercial fields, green areas are woodland and yellow and purple are depicted as urban areas.
Figure 8. Range-change map between SABAP1 and SABAP2 for the crested francolin downloaded 19 May 2017. Red, orange and yellow represent quarter-degree grid cells with very large, large, and small relative decreases and blue, dark green and light green represent grid cells with very large, large and small relative increases. A count of the number of grid cells in each category is provided in Table 2. Only grid cells with at least four checklists in both SABAP1 and SABAP2 are shown. More detailed information on the interpretation of this range-change map is provided in Underhill & Brooks (2016b). Inset map shows underlying land cover classes (GeoTerra Image 2015) of an area where widespread and large (greenbordered cells) to very large (blue-bordered cells) increases in crested francolin occurred. Sandcoloured areas are grassland, coral to brown-coloured areas are cultivated commercial fields, green areas are woodland and yellow and purple are depicted as urban areas.

Table 2. Range-change summary for the crested francolin between SABAP1 and SABAP2. Numbers (and percentages) in each colour category of Figure 8, for which there are at least four checklists per quarter degree grid cell in both SABAP1 and SABAP2. Also shown are the same summaries when the analysis is restricted to grid cells with at least 30 checklists for both SABAP1 and SABAP2.

4+ checklists 30+ checklists
Status Count % Count %
Red (very large decrease) 49 13 18 10
Orange (large decrease) 75 20 43 23
Yellow (small decrease) 61 16 35 19
Light green (small increase) 45 12 24 13
Dark green (large increase) 81 21 32 17
Blue (very large increase) 67 18 32 17
Total 378 100 184 100

Grey-winged francolin Scleroptila africanus

Very large decreases were visible across the ‘Cape provinces’ and KwaZulu-Natal (46-51% cells where the species was recorded; Figure 12; Table 3). In the Western Cape Province these areas were characterised by GeoTerra Image (2015) as high intensity cultivated commercial fields, vineyards and urbanisation with increases towards the North into the Karoo’s low shrubland and bare soils (Figure 12). The decreases elsewhere across the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal seemed to be in areas where sparse commercial cultivated fields of low intensity or plantations/woodland were present. The largest increases in distribution for grey-winged francolin Scleroptila africanus (Figure 9) was distributed across the boundaries of the Free State and Mpumalanga Provinces of South Africa. Here, high-density commercial cultivated fields of low to medium intensity, dominated the historically grassland landscape. What the GeoTerra Image remote sensing product could not tell us was whether domestic livestock grazing has impacted on changes in distribution of this species. We may only assume that remnant grasslands where decreases took place across the Mpumalanga Province are associated with livestock (Jansen et al. 1999).

Figure 9. Grey-winged francolin, Eastern Cape Province. Photographers © G and D Darling. Record 33282 in the BirdPix section of the ADU Virtual Museum. Full details available at http: //vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-33282
Figure 9. Grey-winged francolin, Eastern Cape Province. Photographers © G and D Darling. Record 33282 in the BirdPix section of the ADU Virtual Museum. Full details available at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-33282
Figure 10. SABAP1 distribution map for the grey-winged francolin. Note that quarter degree grid cells shaded turquoise had no SABAP1 data or fewer than four cards submitted (Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, much of the Northern Cape province and former Transkei). The colours represent reporting rates, and the cutpoints for the different colours are the same as used for SABAP2, see Figure 11.
Figure 10. SABAP1 distribution map for the grey-winged francolin. Note that quarter degree grid cells shaded turquoise had no SABAP1 data or fewer than four cards submitted (Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, much of the Northern Cape province and former Transkei). The colours represent reporting rates, and the cutpoints for the different colours are the same as used for SABAP2, see Figure 11.
Figure 11. SABAP2 distribution map for the grey-winged francolin, downloaded 19 May 2017. The detailed interpretation of this map is provided by Underhill & Brooks (2016a). Pentads with four or more checklists are either shaded white, species not recorded, or in colour, with shades based on reporting rate: yellow 0-10.2%, orange 10.2-26.3%, light green 26.3-43.3%, dark green 43.3-63.2%, light blue 63.2-79.2% and dark blue 79.2-100%.
Figure 11. SABAP2 distribution map for the grey-winged francolin, downloaded 19 May 2017. The detailed interpretation of this map is provided by Underhill & Brooks (2016a). Pentads with four or more checklists are either shaded white, species not recorded, or in colour, with shades based on reporting rate: yellow 0-10.2%, orange 10.2-26.3%, light green 26.3-43.3%, dark green 43.3-63.2%, light blue 63.2-79.2% and dark blue 79.2-100%.
Figure 12. Range-change map between SABAP1 and SABAP2 for the grey-winged francolin downloaded 19 May 2017. Red, orange and yellow represent quarter-degree grid cells with very large, large, and small relative decreases and blue, dark green and light green represent grid cells with very large, large and small relative increases. A count of the number of grid cells in each category is provided in Table 3. Only grid cells with at least four checklists in both SABAP1 and SABAP2 are shown. More detailed information on the interpretation of this range-change map is provided in Underhill & Brooks (2016b). Inset map shows underlying land cover classes (GeoTerra Image 2015) of an area where widespread and large (greenbordered cells) to very large (blue-bordered cells) increases in grey-winged francolin occurred. Sand-coloured areas are grassland, coral to brown-coloured areas are cultivated commercial fields, green areas are woodland and yellow and purple are depicted as urban areas.
Figure 12. Range-change map between SABAP1 and SABAP2 for the grey-winged francolin downloaded 19 May 2017. Red, orange and yellow represent quarter-degree grid cells with very large, large, and small relative decreases and blue, dark green and light green represent grid cells with very large, large and small relative increases. A count of the number of grid cells in each category is provided in Table 3. Only grid cells with at least four checklists in both SABAP1 and SABAP2 are shown. More detailed information on the interpretation of this range-change map is provided in Underhill & Brooks (2016b). Inset map shows underlying land cover classes (GeoTerra Image 2015) of an area where widespread and large (greenbordered cells) to very large (blue-bordered cells) increases in grey-winged francolin occurred. Sand-coloured areas are grassland, coral to brown-coloured areas are cultivated commercial fields, green areas are woodland and yellow and purple are depicted as urban areas.

Table 3. Range-change summary for the grey-winged francolin between SABAP1 and SABAP2. Numbers (and percentages) in each colour category of Figure 12, for which there are at least four checklists per quarter degree grid cell in both SABAP1 and SABAP2. Also shown are the same summaries when the analysis is restricted to grid cells with at least 30 checklists for both SABAP1 and SABAP2.

4+ checklists 30+ checklists
Status Count % Count %
Red (very large decrease) 263 46 141 51
Orange (large decrease) 76 13 50 18
Yellow (small decrease) 42 7 22 8
Light green (small increase) 29 5 13 5
Dark green (large increase) 34 6 10 4
Blue (very large increase) 128 22 43 15
Total 572 100 279 100

Shelley’s francolin Scleroptila shelleyi

Across this species’ distribution range, widespread and very large decreases were evident since the first SABAP (Figure 16). These contiguous areas of decreased reporting rates such as central to north-eastern Mpumalanga, contained massive areas under exotic plantations and dense woodland or thicket (GeoTerra Image 2015). Other land covers appearing within these quarter degree grid cells are grasslands interspersed with woodland, plantations and orchards. Northern Kruger National Park also showed widespread but, very large decreases since SABAP1 and these were characterised by contiguous patches of thicket or denser woodland with some very large increases where grassland was more dominant towards the central parts of the park. Western KwaZulu-Natal showed the largest contiguous area of very large increases since SABAP1 (Figure 16). Here, a mosaic of land cover classes was evident across the grid cells where grassland dominated but with some areas covered by urbanisation (formal and informal), villages, medium intensity agriculture and woodland. Across South Africa, areas containing at least some grassland patches among woodland showed to host more Shelley’s francolin Scleroptila shelleyi (Figure 13) than other areas, as reported before by Little (2005c).

Figure 13. Shelley’s francolin calling, KwaZulu-Natal Province. Photographer © M Booysen. Record 10358 in the BirdPix section of the ADU Virtual Museum. Full details available at http: //vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-10358
Figure 13. Shelley’s francolin calling, KwaZulu-Natal Province. Photographer © M Booysen. Record 10358 in the BirdPix section of the ADU Virtual Museum. Full details available at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-10358
Figure 14. SABAP1 distribution map for the Shelley’s francolin. Note that quarter degree grid cells shaded turquoise had no SABAP1 data or fewer than four cards submitted (Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, much of the Northern Cape Province and former Transkei). The colours represent reporting rates, and the cutpoints for the different colours are the same as used for SABAP2, see Figure 15.
Figure 14. SABAP1 distribution map for the Shelley’s francolin. Note that quarter degree grid cells shaded turquoise had no SABAP1 data or fewer than four cards submitted (Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, much of the Northern Cape Province and former Transkei). The colours represent reporting rates, and the cutpoints for the different colours are the same as used for SABAP2, see Figure 15.
Figure 15. SABAP2 distribution map for the Shelley’s francolin, downloaded 19 May 2017. The detailed interpretation of this map is provided by Underhill & Brooks (2016a). Pentads with four or more checklists are either shaded white, species not recorded, or in colour, with shades based on reporting rate: yellow 0-10.2%, orange 10.2-26.3%, light green 26.3-43.3%, dark green 43.3-63.2%, light blue 63.2-79.2% and dark blue 79.2-100%.
Figure 15. SABAP2 distribution map for the Shelley’s francolin, downloaded 19 May 2017. The detailed interpretation of this map is provided by Underhill & Brooks (2016a). Pentads with four or more checklists are either shaded white, species not recorded, or in colour, with shades based on reporting rate: yellow 0-10.2%, orange 10.2-26.3%, light green 26.3-43.3%, dark green 43.3-63.2%, light blue 63.2-79.2% and dark blue 79.2-100%.
Figure 16. Range-change map between SABAP1 and SABAP2 for the Shelley’s francolin downloaded 19 May 2017. Red, orange and yellow represent quarter-degree grid cells with very large, large, and small relative decreases and blue, dark green and light green represent grid cells with very large, large and small relative increases. A count of the number of grid cells in each category is provided in Table 4. Only grid cells with at least four checklists in both SABAP1 and SABAP2 are shown. More detailed information on the interpretation of this range-change map is provided in Underhill & Brooks (2016b). Inset map shows underlying complex mosaic of land cover classes (GeoTerra Image 2015) of an area where large (greenbordered cells) to very large (blue-bordered cells) increases in Shelley’s francolin occurred. Sand-coloured areas are grassland, coral to brown-coloured areas are cultivated commercial fields, green areas are woodland and yellow and purple are depicted as urban areas. Orange areas are exotic plantations and dull pink-purple are subsistence agriculture around urban villages (yellow).
Figure 16. Range-change map between SABAP1 and SABAP2 for the Shelley’s francolin downloaded 19 May 2017. Red, orange and yellow represent quarter-degree grid cells with very large, large, and small relative decreases and blue, dark green and light green represent grid cells with very large, large and small relative increases. A count of the number of grid cells in each category is provided in Table 4. Only grid cells with at least four checklists in both SABAP1 and SABAP2 are shown. More detailed information on the interpretation of this range-change map is provided in Underhill & Brooks (2016b). Inset map shows underlying complex mosaic of land cover classes (GeoTerra Image 2015) of an area where large (greenbordered cells) to very large (blue-bordered cells) increases in Shelley’s francolin occurred. Sand-coloured areas are grassland, coral to brown-coloured areas are cultivated commercial fields, green areas are woodland and yellow and purple are depicted as urban areas. Orange areas are exotic plantations and dull pink-purple are subsistence agriculture around urban villages (yellow).

Table 4. Range-change summary for the Shelley’s francolin between SABAP1 and SABAP2. Numbers (and percentages) in each colour category of Figure 16, for which there are at least four checklists per quarter degree grid cell in both SABAP1 and SABAP2. Also shown are the same summaries when the analysis is restricted to grid cells with at least 30 checklists for both SABAP1 and SABAP2.

4+ checklists 30+ checklists
Status Count % Count %
Red (very large decrease) 179 59 122 59
Orange (large decrease) 34 11 27 13
Yellow (small decrease) 18 6 12 6
Light green (small increase) 15 5 10 5
Dark green (large increase) 15 5 12 6
Blue (very large increase) 42 14 25 12
Total 303 100 208 100

Red-winged francolin Scleroptila levaillantii

A species sensitive to overgrazing and frequent burning, the effects of these land-use practices result in local population collapses due to changes in habitat quality and quantity (Jansen et al. 1999; Jansen et al. 2000; Jansen et al. 2001). Where the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, KwaZulu-Natal Province used to be a South African stronghold for red-winged francolin Scleroptila levaillantii (Figure 17, 18; Little 2005), SABAP range-change data showed that large to very large decreases took place since 1991. However, very large decreases in grid cells were widespread and clustered across the species’ relatively small South African distribution (Table 5). Generally, land covers such as dense commercial agriculture of various intensity and bare mines among grasslands were areas that showed the largest decreases (Figure 20). Along the eastern to southern coast of South Africa and down to the Western Cape, thicket, woodland, exotic plantations, high intensity commercial agriculture and urbanisation seemed to drive lowered reporting rates. Across central Mpumalanga, large to very large increases in distribution seemed to be associated with the same land covers where large decreases (Free State, South-Western Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape) took place except for the lowered agricultural intensity that dominated this area of increased reports. A possibility for this anomaly might be increased livestock grazing in provinces where very large decreases were seen. As mentioned before, grazing intensity on grassland systems could not be identified using GeoTerra Image (2015) remote sensing product and may well be a confounding factor in some of the grassland-covered areas. The land cover dataset also does not show burnt areas hence, these two important components driving red-winged francolin populations might well have been the cause of country-wide declines, especially across the interior of South Africa where livestock grazing is prominent.

Figure 17. Red-winged francolin, Malawi. Photographers © G, C and F Brown. Record 2949 in the BirdPix section of the ADU Virtual Museum. Full details available at http://vmus.adu. org.za/?vm=BirdPix-2949
Figure 17. Red-winged francolin, Malawi. Photographers © G, C and F Brown. Record 2949 in the BirdPix section of the ADU Virtual Museum. Full details available at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-2949
Figure 18. SABAP1 distribution map for the red-winged francolin. Note that quarter degree grid cells shaded turquoise had no SABAP1 data or fewer than four cards submitted (Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, much of the Northern Cape Province and former Transkei). The colours represent reporting rates, and the cutpoints for the different colours are the same as used for SABAP2, see Figure 19.
Figure 18. SABAP1 distribution map for the red-winged francolin. Note that quarter degree grid cells shaded turquoise had no SABAP1 data or fewer than four cards submitted (Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, much of the Northern Cape Province and former Transkei). The colours represent reporting rates, and the cutpoints for the different colours are the same as used for SABAP2, see Figure 19.
Figure 19. SABAP2 distribution map for the red-winged francolin, downloaded 19 May 2017. The detailed interpretation of this map is provided by Underhill & Brooks (2016a). Pentads with four or more checklists are either shaded white, species not recorded, or in colour, with shades based on reporting rate: yellow 0-10.2%, orange 10.2-26.3%, light green 26.3-43.3%, dark green 43.3-63.2%, light blue 63.2-79.2% and dark blue 79.2-100%.
Figure 19. SABAP2 distribution map for the red-winged francolin, downloaded 19 May 2017. The detailed interpretation of this map is provided by Underhill & Brooks (2016a). Pentads with four or more checklists are either shaded white, species not recorded, or in colour, with shades based on reporting rate: yellow 0-10.2%, orange 10.2-26.3%, light green 26.3-43.3%, dark green 43.3-63.2%, light blue 63.2-79.2% and dark blue 79.2-100%.
Figure 20. Range-change map between SABAP1 and SABAP2 for the red-winged francolin downloaded 19 May 2017. Red, orange and yellow represent quarter-degree grid cells with very large, large, and small relative decreases and blue, dark green and light green represent grid cells with very large, large and small relative increases. A count of the number of grid cells in each category is provided in Table 5. Only grid cells with at least four checklists in both SABAP1 and SABAP2 are shown. More detailed information on the interpretation of this range-change map is provided in Underhill & Brooks (2016b). Inset map shows underlying land cover classes (GeoTerra Image 2015) of an area where large (green-bordered cells) to very large (blue-bordered cells) increases in red-winged francolin occurred. Coral-coloured areas are low intensity commercial agriculture and sand-coloured areas are grassland. Orange areas are depicted as plantations, red being bare mines and darker brown colours higher intensity commercial agriculture to the West of the map.
Figure 20. Range-change map between SABAP1 and SABAP2 for the red-winged francolin downloaded 19 May 2017. Red, orange and yellow represent quarter-degree grid cells with very large, large, and small relative decreases and blue, dark green and light green represent grid cells with very large, large and small relative increases. A count of the number of grid cells in each category is provided in Table 5. Only grid cells with at least four checklists in both SABAP1 and SABAP2 are shown. More detailed information on the interpretation of this range-change map is provided in Underhill & Brooks (2016b). Inset map shows underlying land cover classes (GeoTerra Image 2015) of an area where large (green-bordered cells) to very large (blue-bordered cells) increases in red-winged francolin occurred. Coral-coloured areas are low intensity commercial agriculture and sand-coloured areas are grassland. Orange areas are depicted as plantations, red being bare mines and darker brown colours higher intensity commercial agriculture to the West of the map.

Table 5. Range-change summary for the red-winged francolin between SABAP1 and SABAP2. Numbers (and percentages) in each colour category of Figure 20, for which there are at least four checklists per quarter degree grid cell in both SABAP1 and SABAP2. Also shown are the same summaries when the analysis is restricted to grid cells with at least 30 checklists for both SABAP1 and SABAP2.

4+ checklists 30+ checklists
Status Count % Count %
Red (very large decrease) 172 50 111 46
Orange (large decrease) 43 12 36 15
Yellow (small decrease) 21 6 16 7
Light green (small increase) 13 4 10 4
Dark green (large increase) 27 8 22 9
Blue (very large increase) 70 20 44 18
Total 346 100 239 100

Orange River francolin Scleroptila levaillantoides

Found predominantly across central South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, the Orange River francolin Scleroptila levaillantoides (Figure 21) prefers grassland habitats in certain parts of its range or the presence of woody plants and cultivated fields in other areas (Little and Crowe 2011). Although this is the only species discussed here that showed large to very large increases across ~50% of its distribution (Table 6), there were few, clustered large to very large decreases across its South African range. It was not clear why these decreases were centred around the Eastern Kalahari Bushveld Bioregion (Mucina and Rutherford 2006) as low shrubland, grassland, and the presence of woody plants seemed to be associated with these drastic changes. Towards the East of the country, commercial agriculture was dominant across grid cells that showed very large decreases as well as very large increases. One possible explanation for this unique pattern across South Africa could be that livestock grazing (not evident from the remote sensing products used here) determined the presence of this species in an area where high intensity grazing could have resulted in modifying grassland structure to such a degree rendering certain areas unfavourable for Orange River francolin. Contrary to the above pattern, this species’ north-eastern distribution across the Mpumalanga, Free State, Gauteng and North-West Provinces seemed to be a large contiguous area of large to very large increases (Figure 24). This area was characterised by low to medium intensity commercial agriculture, a multitude of wetlands and grassland habitat, all in approximately equal proportions across the landscape. Another area near the boundaries of the Free State and Northern Cape Provinces showed very large increases in distribution of this species. Here, low shrubland dominated but was interspersed with the Orange River francolin’s favoured habitat across its range: grassland.

Figure 21. Orange River francolin, North-West Province. Photographer © SW Evans. Record 652 in the BirdPix section of the ADU Virtual Museum. Full details available at http://vmus. adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-652
Figure 21. Orange River francolin, North-West Province. Photographer © SW Evans. Record 652 in the BirdPix section of the ADU Virtual Museum. Full details available at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-652
Figure 22. SABAP1 distribution map for the Orange River francolin. Note that quarter degree grid cells shaded turquoise had no SABAP1 data or fewer than four cards submitted (Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, much of the Northern Cape Province and former Transkei). The colours represent reporting rates, and the cutpoints for the different colours are the same as used for SABAP2, see Figure 23.
Figure 22. SABAP1 distribution map for the Orange River francolin. Note that quarter degree grid cells shaded turquoise had no SABAP1 data or fewer than four cards submitted (Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, much of the Northern Cape Province and former Transkei). The colours represent reporting rates, and the cutpoints for the different colours are the same as used for SABAP2, see Figure 23.
Figure 23. SABAP2 distribution map for the Orange River francolin, downloaded 19 May 2017. The detailed interpretation of this map is provided by Underhill & Brooks (2016a). Pentads with four or more checklists are either shaded white, species not recorded, or in colour, with shades based on reporting rate: yellow 0-10.2%, orange 10.2-26.3%, light green 26.3-43.3%, dark green 43.3-63.2%, light blue 63.2-79.2% and dark blue 79.2-100%.
Figure 23. SABAP2 distribution map for the Orange River francolin, downloaded 19 May 2017. The detailed interpretation of this map is provided by Underhill & Brooks (2016a). Pentads with four or more checklists are either shaded white, species not recorded, or in colour, with shades based on reporting rate: yellow 0-10.2%, orange 10.2-26.3%, light green 26.3-43.3%, dark green 43.3-63.2%, light blue 63.2-79.2% and dark blue 79.2-100%.
Figure 24. Range-change map between SABAP1 and SABAP2 for the Orange River francolin downloaded 19 May 2017. Red, orange and yellow represent quarter-degree grid cells with very large, large, and small relative decreases and blue, dark green and light green represent grid cells with very large, large and small relative increases. A count of the number of grid cells in each category is provided in Table 6. Only grid cells with at least four checklists in both SABAP1 and SABAP2 are shown. More detailed information on the interpretation of this range-change map is provided in Underhill & Brooks (2016b). Inset map shows underlying land cover classes (GeoTerra Image 2015) of an area where large (green-bordered cells) to very large (blue-bordered cells) increases in
Figure 24. Range-change map between SABAP1 and SABAP2 for the Orange River francolin downloaded 19 May 2017. Red, orange and yellow represent quarter-degree grid cells with very large, large, and small relative decreases and blue, dark green and light green represent grid cells with very large, large and small relative increases. A count of the number of grid cells in each category is provided in Table 6. Only grid cells with at least four checklists in both SABAP1 and SABAP2 are shown. More detailed information on the interpretation of this range-change map is provided in Underhill & Brooks (2016b). Inset map shows underlying land cover classes (GeoTerra Image 2015) of an area where very large (blue-bordered cells) increases in Orange River francolin occurred. Coral and brown-coloured areas depict low to high intensity cultivated commercial fields, respectively. Sand-coloured areas are grassland.

Table 6. Range-change summary for the Orange River francolin between SABAP1 and SABAP2. Numbers (and percentages) in each colour category of Figure 24, for which there are at least four checklists per quarter degree grid cell in both SABAP1 and SABAP2. Also shown are the same summaries when the analysis is restricted to grid cells with at least 30 checklists for both SABAP1 and SABAP2.

4+ checklists 30+ checklists
Status Count % Count %
Red (very large decrease) 87 23 17 13
Orange (large decrease) 36 9 13 10
Yellow (small decrease) 28 7 10 8
Light green (small increase) 36 9 14 11
Dark green (large increase) 47 12 14 11
Blue (very large increase) 149 39 58 46
Total 383 100 126 100

Acknowledgements

This paper is part of a series, which celebrates the contributions of thousands of citizen scientists to the databases of the first and second bird atlas projects in Southern Africa (SABAP1 and SABAP2). From 2007 to March 2017, SABAP2 (Underhill 2016) was a partnership project of SANBI (South African National Biodiversity Institute), BirdLife South Africa and the Animal Demography Unit in the Department of Biological Science at the University of Cape Town.

References

Crowe TM, Harley EH, Jakutowicz MB, Komen J, Crowe AA 1992. Phylogenetic, Taxonomic and Biogeographical Implications of Genetic, Morphological, and Behavioral Variation in Francolins (Phasianidae: Francolinus). The Auk 109.1:24-42

GeoTerra Image 2015. 2013-2014 South African National Land-cover dataset. Pretoria

Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ, Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Roberts Birds of Southern Africa, VIIth edition. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town

Jansen R, Little RM, Crowe TM 1999. Implications of grazing and burning grasslands on the sustainable use of francolins (Francolinus spp.) and on overall bird conservation in the highlands of Mpumalanga Province, South Africa. Biodiversity and Conservation 8:587-602

Jansen R, Little RM, Crowe TM 2000. Habitat utilization and home range of the redwing francolin, Francolinus levaillantii, in highland grasslands, Mpumalanga Province, South Africa. African Journal of Ecology 38:329-338

Jansen R, Robinson ER, Little RM, Crowe TM 2001. Habitat constraints limit the distribution and population density of redwing francolin, Francolinus levaillantii, in the highland grasslands, Mpumalanga Province, South Africa. African Journal of Ecology 39:146-155

Little RM 2005a. Coqui Francolin Peliperdix coqui. In: Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ, Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Roberts Birds of Southern Africa, VIIth edition. pp. 79-80. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town

Little RM 2005b. Crested Francolin Dendroperdix sephaena. In: Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ, Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Roberts Birds of Southern Africa, VIIth edition. pp. 63-64. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town

Little RM 2005c. Shelley’s Francolin Scleroptila shelleyi. In: Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ, Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Roberts Birds of Southern Africa, VIIth edition. pp. 66-67. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town

Little RM 2005d. Red-winged Francolin Scleroptila levaillantii. In: Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ, Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Roberts Birds of Southern Africa, VIIth edition. pp. 65-66. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town

Little RM, Crowe TM 2011. Gamebirds of Southern Africa. Struik Nature, Cape Town

Mucina L, Rutherford MC 2006. The vegetation of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. South African National Biodiversity Institute.

Ratcliffe CS 2005. Chukar Partridge Alectoris chukar. In: Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ, Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Roberts Birds of Southern Africa, VIIth edition. pp. 61-62. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town

Underhill LG 2016. The fundamentals of the SABAP2 protocol. Biodiversity Observations 7.42:1-12. Available online at http://bo.adu.org.za/content.php?id=235

Underhill LG, Brooks M 2016a. Pentad-scale distribution maps for bird atlas data. Biodiversity Observations 7.52:1-8. Available online at http://bo.adu.org.za/content.php?id=245

Underhill LG, Brooks M 2016b. Displaying changes in bird distributions between SABAP1 and SABAP2. Biodiversity Observations 7.62:1-13. Available online at http://bo.adu.org.za/content.php?id=255

Viljoen PJ 2005. AGRED’s Gamebirds of South Africa: field identification and management. African Gamebird Research Education and Development Trust, Johannesburg

Predation of porcupine by honey badger

Figure 1. Two young porcupines outside of the den.

Arbon K. 2019. Predation of porcupine Hystrix africaeaustralis in the den by honey badger Mellivora capensis. Biodiversity Observations 10.4:1-3

Biodiversity Observations is an open access electronic journal published by the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town. This HTML version of this manuscript is hosted by the Biodiversity and Development Institute. Further details for this manuscript can be found at the journal page, and the manuscript page, along with the original PDF.


Predation of porcupine Hystrix africaeaustralis in the den by honey badger Mellivora capensis

Kate Arbon

Global Vision International, Limpopo

One morning in late November 2017, observers passing a known porcupine (Hystrix africaeaustralis) den witnessed an adult porcupine entering followed by a juvenile (‘porcupette’). We set a camera trap (Bushnell Trophy Cam Essential 119636) to observe the entrance of the den, and from this we learned there were in fact two resident porcupettes (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Two young porcupines outside of the den.
Figure 1. Two young porcupines outside of the den.

The camera trap recorded the coming and going of two adults several times over the following days. Then on the night of 6 December 2017 a male honey badger (Mellivora capensis) was seen visiting the den several times. It first entered the den at 23:20 and left again 18 minutes later. At 23:49 it returned and entered a second time, emerging again after only 1 minute. It re-entered the den a third time at 00:02, staying inside until 00:18, at which time it emerged and apparently left the area.

At 02:35 an adult porcupine approached the den and stood outside the entrance for 1 minute, appearing to sniff the ground and edges of the entrance hole. It is not clear whether the porcupine then entered the den or if it left the area as its movement was not captured by the camera trap, which was set to trigger every 60 seconds.

At 03:20 a male honey badger, presumably the same individual, returned to the den a fourth time, and at 03:34 was photographed leaving the den with a porcupette in its jaws (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Composite image showing the honey badger entering the den (left), and leaving the den carrying a young porcupine in its jaws (right).
Figure 2. Composite image showing the honey badger entering the den (left), and leaving the den carrying a young porcupine in its jaws (right).

The honey badger did not return to the den after this, and the second porcupette was never seen again. Begg et al. (2003) observed honey badgers often consuming large prey items (mammals >100 g) inside burrows, so it is possible this individual may have eaten one porcupette inside the den in any of the three extended periods it spent underground, before taking the second away with it.

The two adult porcupines continued to utilise the den despite the loss of definitely one, presumably both, of their young, for another ten days. The den received three more visitors of interest – an African civet (Civetticus civetta) on 7 December 2017; a lioness (Panthera leo) on 8 December 2017; and a female leopard (Panthera pardus) on 14 December 2017. All three were recorded briefly sniffing at the den entrance but none made any attempt to investigate further and no interaction with a porcupine was seen.

The camera trap was removed on 24 December 2017, the last photograph of a porcupine adult having been recorded on 17 December 2017. In May 2018 an adult porcupine was again seen by a passing observer at the den, with two new young.

References

Begg C, Begg K, Du Toit J, Mills M 2003. Sexual and seasonal variation in the diet and foraging behaviour of a sexually dimorphic carnivore, the honey badger (Mellivora capensis). Journal of Zoology, 260(3):301-316.

Oystercatcher distribution dynamics

Figure 1. African black oystercatcher pair, Western Cape Province, South Africa. Photographer © Robert Thomson. Record 22446 in the BirdPix section of the ADU Virtual Museum. Full details available at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-22446

Lerm RE, and Underhill LG. 2019. Bird distribution dynamics – African black oystercatcher in South Africa. Biodiversity Observations 10.3:1-7

Biodiversity Observations is an open access electronic journal published by the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town. This HTML version of this manuscript is hosted by the Biodiversity and Development Institute. Further details for this manuscript can be found at the journal page, and the manuscript page, along with the original PDF.


Bird distribution dynamics – African black oystercatcher in South Africa

Rion E Lerm*

South African Environmental Observation Network, Phalaborwa, South Africa

Les G Underhill

Animal Demography Unit, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa

Introduction

The objective of this series of papers on bird distribution dynamics in Biodiversity Observations is to report on the ranges of bird species as revealed by the Second Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2, 2007 onwards) and to describe how their ranges have changed since the first bird atlas (SABAP1, mainly 1987-1991), about two decades apart.

This series of papers is also made feasible by the development of two new standards for the presentation of maps, firstly pentad-scale distribution maps derived from SABAP2 data, and secondly range-change maps showing how distributions have changed between SABAP1 and SABAP2 (Underhill & Brooks 2016a, b). Because the papers in this series use these two new interpretations in the form of maps, the rules for interpretation are not provided in detail in each of the “bird distribution dynamics” paper series.

Introduction to the oystercatchers

Of the 9 extant oystercatcher species, two (22%) fall under Red list categories other than ‘Least Concern’. The Eurasian oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus is considered ‘Near-threatened’ globally. The Chatham oystercatcher Haematopus chathamensis however, is considered globally ‘Endangered’. The latter species has significantly increased over the last 20 years, possibly owing to intensive conservation efforts. However, even on islands free from mammalian predators, population sizes fluctuate, with numbers on one island undergoing a possible long-term decline (BirdLife International 2018a). A single oystercatcher species (Canarian oystercacther Haematopus meadewaldoi) that was endemic to the Canary Islands, is now considered ‘Extinct’. There, a last specimen collection took place in 1913 and thereafter was reported to be absent from the islands by the 1940s (BirdLife South Africa 2018b).

The African black oystercatcher Haemetopus moquini (Figure 1) is not considered a Red-listed species globally or regionally but this endemic and iconic bird was expected to decline due to a variety of anthropogenic and natural influences. It used to be considered ‘Near-threatened’ regionally. However, due to conservation efforts and the spread of the alien Mediterranean Mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis, the regional population increased (Taylor et al. 2015). These changes in distribution are evident in this paper and explained in more detail below.

Figure 1. African black oystercatcher pair, Western Cape Province, South Africa. Photographer © Robert Thomson. Record 22446 in the BirdPix section of the ADU Virtual Museum. Full details available at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-22446
Figure 1. African black oystercatcher pair, Western Cape Province, South Africa. Photographer © Robert Thomson. Record 22446 in the BirdPix section of the ADU Virtual Museum. Full details available at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-22446

The assessment of changes in abundance for this species from SABAP1 (Figure 2) to SABAP2 (Figure 3) is somewhat complicated by intra-African migratory habits as well as more localised dispersion of juvenile birds (Hockey et al. 2003).

Figure 2. SABAP1 distribution map for the African black oystercatcher. Note that quarter degree grid cells shaded turquoise had no SABAP1 data or fewer than four cards submitted (Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, much of the Northern Cape Province and former Transkei). The colours represent reporting rates, and the cutpoints for the different colours are the same as used for SABAP2 (see Figure 3).
Figure 2. SABAP1 distribution map for the African black oystercatcher. Note that quarter degree grid cells shaded turquoise had no SABAP1 data or fewer than four cards submitted (Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, much of the Northern Cape Province and former Transkei). The colours represent reporting rates, and the cutpoints for the different colours are the same as used for SABAP2 (see Figure 3).
Figure 3. SABAP2 distribution map for the African black oystercatcher, downloaded 21 May 2018. The detailed interpretation of this map is provided by Underhill & Brooks (2016a). Pentads with four or more checklists are either shaded white, species not recorded, or in colour, with shades based on reporting rate: yellow 0-10.2%, orange 10.2-26.3%, light green 26.3-43.3%, dark green 43.3-63.2%, light blue 63.2-79.2% and dark blue 79.2-100%.
Figure 3. SABAP2 distribution map for the African black oystercatcher, downloaded 21 May 2018. The detailed interpretation of this map is provided by Underhill & Brooks (2016a). Pentads with four or more checklists are either shaded white, species not recorded, or in colour, with shades based on reporting rate: yellow 0-10.2%, orange 10.2-26.3%, light green 26.3-43.3%, dark green 43.3-63.2%, light blue 63.2-79.2% and dark blue 79.2-100%.

African black oystercatcher Haematopus moquini

A true coastal bird, Summers and Cooper (1977) showed that this species inhabits mostly coastal islands and to a lesser degree sandy shores and wetlands. The African black oystercatcher has received much attention from the scientific community before and after the start of the 21st century on all aspects of its ecology, and SABAP data paint a picture similar to what was found to be a western and eastern population of migratory and dispersing juvenile birds, respectively.

These ‘western birds’ were calculated to make up 36-46% of all juveniles born in South Africa. The western population’s migratory individuals travel to nurseries in Namibia and Angola whereas the eastern population ‘diffusion dispersers’ travel within the South African breeding range (Hockey et al. 2003). Recent and obvious range expansion into KwaZulu-Natal Province, has been well documented by Brown and Hockey (2007) and can now be backed by the range-change map displayed here calculated from more than 100 citizen scientist contributions (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Range-change map between SABAP1 and SABAP2 for the African black oystercatcher downloaded 21 May 2018. Red, orange and yellow represent quarter-degree grid cells with very large, large, and small relative decreases and blue, dark green and light green represent grid cells with very large, large and small relative increases. A count of the number of grid cells in each category is provided in Table 1. Only grid cells with at least four checklists in both SABAP1 and SABAP2 are shown. More detailed information on the interpretation of this range-change map is provided in Underhill & Brooks (2016b).
Figure 4. Range-change map between SABAP1 and SABAP2 for the African black oystercatcher downloaded 21 May 2018. Red, orange and yellow represent quarter-degree grid cells with very large, large, and small relative decreases and blue, dark green and light green represent grid cells with very large, large and small relative increases. A count of the number of grid cells in each category is provided in Table 1. Only grid cells with at least four checklists in both SABAP1 and SABAP2 are shown. More detailed information on the interpretation of this range-change map is provided in Underhill & Brooks (2016b).

Whereas the western range-changes show as a mix of decreases and increases in distribution, the eastern range of this species shows mostly clear and large to very large increases starting from approximately 32° South latitude and 29° East longitude (Figure 4 and Table 1). Apart from the ‘recent’ increases in distribution northward along the eastern South African coastline, Figure 3 also shows a contiguous distribution of small SABAP2 reporting rates from this juncture northwards. This area of the coastline with smaller reporting rates contrasts with the generally larger reporting rates along the remainder of the South African coastline.

Table 1. Range-change summary for the African black oystercatcher between SABAP1 and SABAP2. Numbers (and percentages) in each colour category of Figure 4, for which there are at least four checklists per quarter degree grid cell in both SABAP1 and SABAP2. Also shown are the same summaries when the analysis is restricted to grid cells with at least 30 checklists for both SABAP1 and SABAP2.

4+ checklists 30+ checklists
Status Count % Count %
Red (very large decrease) 20 14 10 10
Orange (large decrease) 19 14 18 18
Yellow (small decrease) 17 12 16 16
Light green (small increase) 17 12 15 15
Dark green (large increase) 25 18 18 18
Blue (very large increase) 41 29 25 25
Total 139 100 102 100

Possible reasons for this relatively recent and northern presence could be due to southern populations experiencing food shortages during the breeding season that result in seasonal dispersion (Kohler et al. 2011). Another possibility for the dispersion could be that carrying capacity on the mainland has been reached (Du Toit et al. 2003) inside the breeding areas where largest reporting rates are evident (Figure 3). Also inside the oystercatcher’s breeding range, the alien Mediterranean mussel (Branch and Steffani 2004, Taylor et al. 2015, Zardi et al. 2018) serves as an additional, abundant and prolific food source (Hockey and Schurink 1992). This probably explains the largest reporting rates along the South to South-western region of the coastline that coincide with the mussel’s distribution range (Zardi et al. 2018).

Acknowledgements

This paper is part of a series, which celebrates the contributions of thousands of citizen scientists to the databases of the first and second bird atlas projects in Southern Africa (SABAP1 and SABAP2). From 2007 to March 2017, SABAP2 (Underhill 2016) was a partnership project of SANBI (South African National Biodiversity Institute), BirdLife South Africa and the Animal Demography Unit in the Department of Biological Science at the University of Cape Town.

References

BirdLife International 2018a. Species factsheet: Haematopus chathamensis. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 21/05/2018.

BirdLife International 2018b. Species factsheet: Haematopus meadewaldoi. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 21/05/2018.

Branch GM, Steffani CN 2004. Can we predict the effects of alien species? A case-history of the invasion of South Africa by Mytilus galloprovincialis (Lamarck). Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 300.1-2: 189-215.

Brown M, Hockey PA 2007. The status and distribution of African black oystercatchers Haematopus moquini in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. Ostrich 78.1: 93-96.

Du Toit M, Boere GC, Cooper J, De Villiers MS, Kemper J, Lenten B, Petersen SL, Simmons RE, Underhill LG, Whittington PA, Byers OP 2003. Conservation assessment and management plan for southern African coastal seabirds. Avian Demography Unit & Conservation Breeding Specialist group. Cape Town, South Africa.

Hockey PAR, Leseberg A, Loewenthal D 2003. Dispersal and migration of juvenile African Black Oystercatchers Haematopus moquini. Ibis 145.3.

Hockey PAR, van Erkom Schurink C 1992. The invasive biology of the mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis on the southern African coast. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 48.1: 123-139.

Kohler SA, Connan M, Hill JM, Mablouké C, Bonnevie B, Ludynia K, Kemper J, Huisamen J, Underhill LG, Cherel Y, McQuaid CD 2011. Geographic variation in the trophic ecology of an avian rocky shore predator, the African black oystercatcher, along the southern African coastline. Marine Ecology Progress Series 435: 235-249.

Summers RW, Cooper J 1977. The population, ecology and conservation of the Black Oystercatcher Haematopus moquini. Ostrich 48.1-2: 28-40.

Taylor MR, Peacock F, Wanless RW (eds) 2015. The Eskom Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. BirdLife South Africa. Johannesburg, South Africa.

Underhill LG 2016. The fundamentals of the SABAP2 protocol. Biodiversity Observations 7.42: 1-12. Available online at http://bo.adu.org.za/content.php?id=235.

Underhill LG, Brooks M 2016a. Pentad-scale distribution maps for bird atlas data. Biodiversity Observations 7.52: 1-8. Available online at http://bo.adu.org.za/content.php?id=245.

Underhill LG, Brooks M 2016b. Displaying changes in bird distributions between SABAP1 and SABAP2. Biodiversity Observations 7.62: 1-13. Available online at http://bo.adu.org.za/content.php?id=255.

Zardi GI, McQuaid CD, Jacinto R, Lourenço CR, Serrão EA, Nicastro KR 2018. Re-assessing the origins of the invasive mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis in southern Africa. Marine and Freshwater Research 69.4: 607-613.

Pintado petrels breeding at Marion Island

Figure 1: A pair of Pintado petrels nesting on a Crassula covered ledge on Marion Island.

Masotla MJ, Snyman A, Makhado AB, and Dyer BM. 2019. First breeding record of Pintado petrel (Daption capensis) at Marion Island. Biodiversity Observations 10.2:1-5

Biodiversity Observations is an open access electronic journal published by the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town. This HTML version of this manuscript is hosted by the Biodiversity and Development Institute. Further details for this manuscript can be found at the journal page, and the manuscript page, along with the original PDF.


First breeding record of Pintado petrel (Daption capensis) at Marion Island

Makhudu J Masotla

Department of Environmental Affairs, Oceans and Coasts Branch, Private Bag X4390, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa

Albert Snyman

Department of Environmental Affairs, Oceans and Coasts Branch, Private Bag X4390, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa

Azwianewi B Makhado

Department of Environmental Affairs, Oceans and Coasts Branch, Private Bag X4390, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa

Bruce M Dyer*

Department of Environmental Affairs, Oceans and Coasts Branch, Private Bag X4390, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa

March 20, 2019


Pintado or Cape petrels Daption capense have a circumpolar distribution and have been recorded breeding at 23 localities in the Southern Ocean (Marchant and Higgins 1990). The sub-species, Daption c. australe breeds only at five islands off New Zealand (Marchant and Higgins 1990). After breeding, many of the nominate sub-species disperse northwards towards southern Africa, while D. c. australe disperses mostly eastwards, although one was observed in the Prince Edward Island Exclusive Economic Zone (PEI-EEZ) in 1996.

Marion Island (46° 54’ S, 37° 45’ E) is the larger of the two islands comprising South Africa’s Prince Edward Islands (PEIs) in the southwest Indian Ocean. The islands are volcanic with rugged coastlines and few beaches. A Base was established on Marion Island in 1950 and is still in use to date.

Pintado petrels have been recorded as vagrants to Marion Island since 1951 (Crawford 1952; Burger et al. 1980; Cooper 1984; Gartshore 1987; Oosthuizen et al. 2009). On 29 November 2016, whilst conducting a coastal seabird census, a Pintado petrel was noted ashore on a narrow ledge covered with Crassula sp. near cliffs at Cape Hooker (Fig. 1). On closer investigation it was noted that the bird was incubating an egg. The nest, a shallow scrape against a rock (Fig. 2), was similar to nests of the species observed at Bouvet Island in 1996 by Bruce M Dyer. Its discovery led to a more careful search along the adjacent coastline and four more active nests were found in similar habitat. Two of the nests subsequently produced a downy chick, one of which was photographed on 30 January 2017 (Fig. 3). This is the first record of the species breeding at the PEIs and brings the number of seabird species, including the lesser sheathbill, reported breeding there to 31 (Crawford and Cooper 2003; Ryan et al. 2009).

Figure 1: A pair of Pintado petrels nesting on a Crassula covered ledge on Marion Island.
Figure 1: A pair of Pintado petrels nesting on a Crassula covered ledge on Marion Island.
Figure 2: An incubating Pintado petrel at a typical nest site
Figure 2: An incubating Pintado petrel at a typical nest site
Figure 3: A Pintado petrel chick showing a tuft of downy feathers.
Figure 3: A Pintado petrel chick showing a tuft of downy feathers.

Pintado petrels have previously been recorded at Marion Island since 1951 (Crawford 1952) and were regarded by Oosthuizen et al. (2009) as occurring too frequently for the species to be regarded as a vagrant. They have been reported from two regions of Marion Island. There were 19 observations between King Penguin Bay and Archway from 1952-2015 (Table 1). In this area numbers of birds seen ranged from 1-6 individuals and occurred from April to December, with no records from January to March. There were 16 observations at Kildalkey Bay from 1986 until January 2017 (Table 1). At this locality birds were seen from June to December and numbers were usually from 1-13 individuals. However, 20 birds were observed in August 1986, 25 in September 1986 and c. 200 in July 1991.

Table 1: All documented records of Pintado petrels observed at Marion Island from 1952-2017. Information for 1952-2015 is from Crawford 1952, Burger et al. 1980, Cooper 1984, Gartshore 1987, Oosthuizen et al. 2009 and several unpublished records from 1988-2007.

Date Numbers seen Location
1952 1 Base
1971 2 Base
11 May 1975 1 Base
29 August -31 December 6 Base
1976 1 Base
October 1981 1 Base
November1981 1 Archway
December 1981 5 Offshore of Base
20 April 1982 1 between Marion and PEI
7-8 September 1982 1 between Marion and PEI
7-8 May 1983 2 Kildalkey
26 June1986 2 Kildalkey
29 July 1986 20 Kildalkey
8-10 August 1986 25 Kildalkey
23-24 September 1986 1 Duiker’s Point
30 November 1986 1 Trypot
1 December 1986 1 Macaroni Bay
20 December 1986 2 Duiker’s Point
20 December 1986 c. 200 Kildalkey
21 July 1991 2 Kildalkey
16 August 1993 5 Transvaal Cove
16 November 1994 2 Kildalkey
22 November 1994 1 Kildalkey
23 November 1994 1 Kildalkey
November 2001 1 Trypot
November 2001 1 King Penguin Bay
14 July 2005 1 Base
13 May 2010 3 Cape Hooker
3 August 2011 > 7 Kildalkey
9 October 2011 1 Kildalkey
2 November 2011 1 Kill Point
19 November 2013 6 Kildalkey
1 December 2013 1 Kill Point
2 December 2013 1 Base
5 May 2015 13 Kildalkey
November 2016 7 Hooker Cove
November 2016 4 Hooker Cove
December 2016 2 Hooker Cove
January 2017 2 Hooker Cove

Pintado petrels breed at the nearest archipelagos to the west (Bouvet Island) and east (Crozet Islands) from October to March (Bakken 1991; Marchant and Higgins 1990). It is possible that previous breeding by the species at Marion Island was overlooked. The coastline from Kildalkey Bay around Cape Hooker to Puisie is difficult terrain and is thus seldom visited. However, there have been sustained ornithological studies at the Marion Island since the 1970’s (Cooper and Brown 1990) that included two dedicated summer surveys of widely-distributed species (Crawford and Cooper 2003; Ryan et al. 2009). Therefore, it is also possible that breeding by Pintado petrels at Marion Island was recently initiated. At Kildalkey Bay, in their summer breeding season they have fed on scraps of food generated from kills of penguins made by Antarctic fur seal Arctocephalus gazelle (Bruce M Dyer & Azwianewi B Makhado, pers. obs.).

References

Bakken V 1991. Fugle og selundersokelser pa Bouvetoya I Desember/Januar 1989/90. Norsk Polarinstitutt Meddelelser 115: 30pp.

Burger AE, Williams AJ, Sinclair JC 1980. Vagrants and the paucity of land bird species at the Prince Edward Islands. Journal of Biogeography 7:305-310.

Cooper J 1984. Rarely reported seabirds at the Prince Edward Islands, June 1981-November 1983. Cormorant 12:49-54.

Cooper J, Brown CR 1990. Ornithological research at the sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands: a review of achievements. South. African Journal of Antarctic Research 20:40-57.

Crawford AB 1952. The birds of Marion Island, South Indian Ocean. Emu 52:73-85.

Crawford RJM, Cooper J 2003. Conserving surface-nesting seabirds at the Prince Edward Islands: the roles of research, monitoring and legislation. African Journal of Marine Science 25:415-426.

Gartshore N 1987. Rare bird sightings at the Prince Edward Islands, December 1983 – May 1987. Cormorant 15:48-58.

Marchant S, Higgins PJ (eds.) 1990. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume 1. Ratites to Ducks. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Oosthuizen WC, Dyer BM, de Bruyn PJN 2009. Vagrant birds ashore at the Prince Edwards Island, southern Indian Ocean, from 1987 to 2009. African Journal of Marine Science 31:446-460.

Ryan PG, Jones MGW, Dyer BM, Upfold L, Crawford RJM 2009. Recent population estimates and trends in numbers of albatrosses and giant petrels breeding at the sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands. African Journal of Marine Science 31:409-417.

Violet woodhoopoe feathers

Fig.1. Iridescence of a Violet Woodhoopoe *Phoeniculus d. damarensis* captured through a light microscope (left) and central distribution (centre) and peripheral distribution (right) through a transmission electron microscope.

Cooper MI, Sewell BT and Jaffer MA. 2019. Iridescence of violet
woodhoopoe mantle feathers. Biodiversity Observations 10.1:1-2

Biodiversity Observations is an open access electronic journal published by the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town. This HTML version of this manuscript is hosted by the Biodiversity and Development Institute. Further details for this manuscript can be found at the journal page, and the manuscript page, along with the original PDF.


Iridescence of violet woodhoopoe mantle feathers

Mark I Cooper*

University of Cape Town, South Africa

Bryan T Sewell

University of Cape Town, South Africa

Mohamed A Jaffer

University of Cape Town, South Africa

March 20, 2019


Abstract

Mantle feathers of Namibian Violet Woodhoopoe Phoeniculus damarensis were examined by light and transmission electron microscopy. Iridescence of violet barbules and their biological basis were figured and discussed.

Introduction

The Violet Woodhoopoe P. damarensis has distinct coppery and violet mantle feathers (Cooper et al. 2017). The observation was arrived at independently and supports the observations of “Violet Woodhoopoes can be distinguished from Green Woodhoopoes by the colour of the mantle, which is dull to coppery in the former, but an iridescent green in the latter” (du Plessis in Hockey et al. 2005 loc. cit. du Plessis 2007). Here we provide some resolution for the biological basis of the Violet Woodhoopoe mantle feathers by examination showing microscopic details of some feathers.

Materials and Methods

Mantle feathers were sampled from netted live Violet Woodhoopoe (Namibia: Hobatere and Omaruru; n = 9) in 1999. Mantle feathers were soaked for 30 min in 0.25 M NaOH, followed by 2 hours in formic acid: EtOH (2:3 v/v) and 3 days in 15 % (v/v) Spurr’s resin in propylene oxide. They were then embedded in Spurr’s resin. Both transverse and longitudinal sections of the barbules were cut, revealing that the iridophores of the species were hollow prolate cylinders. Iridophores cylinders were figured as tagged image file formats and compressed and converted into joint photographic experts group files.

Results

Mantle feather melanosomes from Namibian Violet Woodhoopoe P. damarensis are shown (Figure 1).

Fig.1. Iridescence of a Violet Woodhoopoe *Phoeniculus d. damarensis* captured through a light microscope (left) and central distribution (centre) and peripheral distribution (right) through a transmission electron microscope.
Fig.1. Iridescence of a Violet Woodhoopoe *Phoeniculus d. damarensis* captured through a light microscope (left) and central distribution (centre) and peripheral distribution (right) through a transmission electron microscope.

Discussion

The melanosome surfaces of both the violet and green woodhoopoe mantle feathers appear to gradually change colour as the angle of view or the angle of illumination changes. The structures which interfere with the light are well known from the peacock (Zi et al. 2003). The type of melanosome appears to be randomly distributed within the feather barbule although there were layers at barbule surfaces. As Cooper et al. (2017) has shown it is the size of these structures themselves and the variation in sizes are hypothesized to cause the differences in iridescence which is to some extent present in the violet mantle feathers observed here. Although little sampling has taken place since Jarvis and Robertson (1997) in the last 20 years we support the idea the green and violet taxa should be considered separate and they are hybridising.

References

Cooper MI, Sewell BT, Jaffer MA 2017. Differences between Violet and Green Woodhoopoe mantle feathers. Biodiversity Observations Vol 8.46: 1-2.

Du Plessis MA, Simmons RE, Radford AN 2007. Behavioural ecology of the Namibian Violet Woodhoopoe Phoeniculus damarensis. Ostrich 78(1): 1-5.

Jarvis A and Robertson T 1997. Endemic birds of Namibia: evaluating their status and mapping biodiversity hotspots. DEA Research Discussion Paper No. 14, Windhoek, Namibia.

Zi J, Yu X, Li Y, Hu X, Xu C, Wang X, Liu X, Fu R 2003. Colouration strategies in peacock feathers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100(22): 12576-12578

Establishing a long-term bird ringing site. Part 2: some birds

Part 1 of this series described the bird ringing site at Fynbos Estate. This property, partly wine farm and partly nature reserve, is in the northwestern corner of the Paardeberg. The closest town is Malmesbury, in the Swartland region of the Western Cape, north of Cape Town.

The bird atlas grid cell into which Fynbos Estate falls is called pentad 3330_1845. 14 checklists have been made for this pentad and a total of 134 species have been recorded, between 2008 and 2019. If you go to http://sabap2.adu.org.za/coverage/pentad/3330_1845 you get a map of the area with the pentad highlighted. To see the full list of species, click on “Species list” below the map. The 14th bird atlas checklist was compiled during the pioneering expedition and listed 79 species. Four of the overall list of 134 species are only recorded because they were mistnetted and included in the 14th checklist! These species had evaded the previous 13 atlasers.

One of the characteristics of bird ringing is that there is usually a small number of species that constitute about two-thirds of the sample, and then there is a long list of species that are mistnetted in small numbers. The ones featured below are an arbitrary selection of a handful of the 27 species which were ringed on the pioneering expedition (19–28 February 2019). The list starts with two of the common species, and after that the choice is fairly idiosyncratic,  but includes the four that were not in the bird atlas!

This Cape Weaver Ploceus capensis has been ringed and is ready for release. The biscuit-coloured eye is diagnostic of a male. This was the most ringed species at Fynbos Estate, so it is a key study species. The late Sir Clive Elliott did his PhD on the Cape Weaver in 1973 and a couple of the chapters in Dr Dieter Oschadleus’s PhD deal with its primary moult patterns. There is rather little else of substance published about the Cape Weaver! But there are lots of research ideas from the two theses to follow up on. For example, Dieter’s PhD showed variability in the annual timing of moult, and how this related to the local timing of rainfall. This has a climate change theme.

The bird atlas map shows that the Cape Weaver is endemic to South Africa and Lesotho. The areas shaded dark blue, where the reporting rate is highest, are in the two major agricultural areas of the Western Cape, the Overberg (east of Cape Town) and the Swartland (to the north). Fynbos Estate lies within the core of the distribution in the Swartland. Cape Weavers breed in large colonies, in trees or reeds over water. In the non-breeding season, they roost in large numbers in reed beds. Most mistnetting of Cape Weavers at Fynbos Estate is done at sunrise near these roosts.

Another species that has obvious potential as a study species at Fynbos Estate is the Cape Robin-Chat. It is trapped (and retrapped) regularly. It is a candidate species for intensive colour-ringing study of the home ranges of individual birds and of seasonal survival rates. A comprehensive literature review of the species is quick and easy. There are two papers, one by Bunty Rowan published in 1969, and one by Digby Cyrus in 1989. Terry Oatley wrote a comprehensive essay on the species in his 1998 book “Robins of Africa.” That is just about it! A common species, but nevertheless poorly studied.

The Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica which migrate to South Africa for the southern summer breed in Europe and Asia. They breed all the way from Ireland across Britain and continental Europe to a long way east of the Ural Mountains in Asia. The “composition” across South Africa varies. Swallows in the Western Cape are a mix from the entire breeding area. So when this Barn Swallow sets off in migration, it could be heading for Ireland, or Siberia, or anywhere in between. In contrast, the vast majority of swallows in Gauteng go to the eastern half of Europe. Swallows in KwaZulu-Natal are mainly from Asia and the eastern half of Europe. Barn Swallows do their primary moult in South Africa, and the timing of moult is slowly changing with the earlier arrival of spring in Europe. Long-term monitoring helps us discover whether the birds are keeping pace with climate change.

The Southern Boubou Laniarius ferrugineus has an uneven distribution in the northern arm of the Western Cape. Its preferred habitat is dense, tangled undergrowth, which becomes increasingly patchy. It is near the edge of its range at Fynbos Estate, and this was one of the species which mistnetting added to  bird atlas species list for the pentad. In fact, we ringed three at Fynbos Estate during the expedition. The wheatfields of the Swartland start a kilometre or two to the west, and from here to the sea there is little habitat suitable for Southern Boubous. From here, the distribution extends northwards in the increasingly isolated forest patches along the mountain chain, through the Cederberg to the mountains. The last of these patches is immediately east of Vanrhynsdorp, and that is the northern limit of the species.

An uncommon but attractive species at Fynbos Estate is the African Paradise-flycatcher Terpsiphone viridis. In the Western Cape it is a migrant, absent from May to September. It arrives quickly in September, and breeding activity peaks in November and December. Departure is dragged out, with individual birds leaving anytime between January and April. Where do they go? This bird, a female because of the short tail, might be the first from the Western Cape to be “recovered” and tell us exactly where they migrate to. We think the non-breeding range of the paradise-flycatchers of the Western Cape is mainly northern KwaZulu-Natal and Mozambique. But there are no ring recoveries to confirm this.

Before this expedition, neither Acacia Pied Barbets (top) Tricholaema leucomelas nor Lesser Honeyguide Indicator minor (bottom) had been recorded in the Fynbos Estate pentad. The honeyguide are brood parasites, laying their eggs in the nest of their barbet hosts. We mistnetted a Lesser Honeyguide on the first full day of ringing.  we had neither seen nor heard the barbet which hosts their eggs. If the parasite is present, the host surely cannot be far way. So it was no surprise when we mistnetted two Acacia Pied Barbets a few days later. The powerful bills of the barbets caused the bird ringers some pain! They use these sharp bills to excavate holes in dead trees and nest in them. The breeding system of the Lesser Honeyguide is complex. The two birds of the pair work together. The male honeyguide distracts the incubating barbet away from the nest, so that the female can sneak in and lay an egg in the barbet’s nest.

Cinderella bird! The Brimstone Canary Serinus sulphuratus has a range which extends from the southern tip of Africa to as far north as Kenya. But it is a totally neglected species. No one has done a PhD thesis on it. No one has done a paper in a journal. It gets even worse: no one has written a “short note” about any aspect of the biology of the Brimstone Canary! This Brimstone Canary, mistnetted at Fynbos Estate, was the first record of the species in the pentad!

That’s a selection of eight of the 27 species which we ringed at Fynbos Estate during the pioneering expedition in February 2019.  You will find a description of the ringing site here.  Our objective is firstly to turn this into a long-term bird ringing site and ultimately into a full-scale bird observatory. In fact, this could become a biodiversity observatory. We invite you to become part of the history of bird ringing in South Africa.

Details of how to get involved in future expeditions are on the website of the Biodiversity and Development Institute, in the section called African Ringing Expeditions. Up to date information will be on the Facebook page.

 

Establishing a long-term bird ringing site. Part 1: the place

Bird ringers in Europe and bird banders in North America will both be familiar with the concept of a “bird observatory”. The concept even has an article in Wikipedia; no bird observatories in Africa are listed. That is the gap that the Biodiversity and Development Institute aims to fill. But for the time being, we are just going to talk about a long-term bird ringing site.

The BDI bird ringing site is on the farm Fynbos Estate, an hour’s drive north of Cape Town. This “cottage”, called Black Eagle, is the base for action. It is hardly a cottage (see below). It provides comfortable accommodation for up to 10 people. On the pioneer expedition in February 2019 we were a group of five bird ringers. The setting is stunning, overlooking a valley of vineyards with a ridge of fynbos beyond. The pattern on the skyline above Black Eagle gives the mountain the name Dragon Ridge.

This first expedition established that the Black Eagle will provide superbly practical and comfortable accommodation for the BDI ringing expeditions. The front half is an enormous double-volume space which serves as kitchen, dining area, lounge and data-office. There are four bedrooms, each with two beds and three of them have en-suite bathrooms. One of the rooms can be turned into a dormitory with four beds. The accommodation is also eco-friendly – the electricity and the hot water are both solar (and there is lots of both!).

The Fynbos Estate property has two sections. The lower section is agricultural, mostly vineyards, and a small  grove of olives. The farm uses no pesticides or herbicides (and the birdlife is amazing). The accommodation at Black Eagle is the closest white roof on the right hand side. On the left is the track that leads to the top of the Paardeberg, to the upper section of the property,  known as …

… the Simson-Simons Nature Reserve. It consists of marvellous, and quite poorly studied, fynbos on the slopes and summit of the Paardeberg. There are lots of opportunities for cutting-edge biodiversity studies here. You can see what part of the summit looks like in this blogpost from last year: http://thebdi.org/blog/2018/04/11/paardeberg-site-report-2018-04-07/

Fynbos Estate produces wines under the label Dragonridge. The winery is artisanal, and the wines are made using time-honoured methods that are too slow and risky for most modern winemakers. The sparkling wine is made using the same methods that French winemakers used in 1700, and the target date for other wines is to use the methods of 1900. This means no sulphur is used. The sulphite content of the Dragonridge wines is below the limits of detection, but the authorities insist that there must be some, so label says “low sulphites”!

When they die, the skeletons of the old trees get left standing on Fynbos Estate. The trees decay slowly, develop cavities, and attract hole-nesting bird species, like woodpeckers and barbets. We have mistnetted Cardinal Woodpeckers and Acacia Pied Barbets here, and also Lesser Honeyguide, which is a brood parasite of the barbet.

From the perspective of the bird ringer, there is massive plus at Fynbos Estate. There are lots and lots of distinct ringing sites, in a variety of habitats, and we have not yet found them all. Here is the BDI team scouting out a new site for the next morning, where they planned to mistnet a sample of weavers and bishops. The mistnets were erected, and then “furled” so they could not catch birds. They were opened early in the morning, at first light.

The outcome. Four busy bird ringers on a misty morning at Fynbos Estate.

We don’t only ring at Fynbos Estate. During the pioneering expedition we teamed up twice with the ringers of the Tygerberg Ringing Group. On one of these joint events, we ringed at the confluence of the Diep and Mosselbank Rivers, on the farm Goedeontmoeting. We mistnetted excellent numbers of weavers and bishops, most of which were in moult. There were also four Malachite Kingfishers!

Bird ringing has been undertaken on the farm Goedeontmoeting since the 1990s, so there is a track history of records stretching back nearly 30 years. The level of intensity has varied. Several of the birds mistnetted here were retraps, and had originally been caught during previous ringing sessions over the years. The oldest of these was a Southern Masked Weaver, which had been ringed by the Tygerberg Ringing Group on 28 July 2010, which is 3,129 days before the date of retrap, on 20 February 2019. That is 8.6 years. Once we have a hundred or more retraps for a species, we can use the data to fit models which estimate the annual survival rate. For a Southern Masked Weaver, surviving 8.6 years is exceptional. This illustrates the value of having long-term bird ringing sites. Note the arrival of celebratory cake!

In total, the pioneering expedition processed a total of 375 birds of 27 species at Fynbos Estate itself. 136 birds were ringed at the two satellite ringing sites. We collected lots of valuable data on moult. This Southern Masked Weaver is a great example of a bird in quite an advanced stage of primary moult. Part 2 of this series describes eight of the 27 species ringed on this expedition.

The nearest small wetland to Fynbos Estate is about 3 km away, a farm dam at Welgemeend. We observed 12 waterbird species. Egyptian Goose – 400 of them, and smaller numbers of South African Shelduck, Red-billed Teal, Yellow-billed Duck, Spur-winged Goose, African Sacred Ibis, Red-knobbed Coot, Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Three-banded Plover, Blacksmith Lapwing and African Spoonbill.

A final photo of the awesome accommodation which we will use for our bird ringing expeditions to Fynbos Estate. The members of the pioneering team said: “We absolutely loved our stay here at Fynbos Estate.”

Details of how to get involved are on the website of the Biodiversity and Development Institute, in the section called African Ringing Expeditions. Help us achieve our dream of turning this first into a long-term bird ringing site and then into a bird observatory. In fact, this could become a biodiversity observatory. Become part of the history of bird ringing in South Africa. We will keep the Facebook page for the BDI African Ringing Expeditions up to date with news.

Dwarf Blue refreshed after 142 years

What are all these citizen scientists focused on? The temperature in the Robertson Valley is a warm 32°C. It is 1pm on 2 March 2019.

They are taking photographs of South Africa’s tiniest butterfly, the Dwarf Blue Oraidium barbera. It’s inside here, sitting on a little yellow flower! At the bottom of this blog, there is a hint if you can’t find it!

Here it is close up. The flower it is sitting on has a diameter of 10mm. This photo was taken by Fanie Rautenbach. In the LepiMAP section of the Virtual Museum you find this record at  http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=LepiMAP-673920.

Here is the distribution map from LepiMAP for the Dwarf Blue before the trip. The grid cells for which there are Virtual Museum records have turquoise circles. These are the records with photographs. The orange squares are specimen records dating back to the year dot, assembled with great love and care from museums and other collections during the Butterfly Atlas Project, SABCA. There is an orange square in grid cell 3319DD Robertson (in the centre of the red circle), the which one we visited. This means that the records here are based by one or more specimen records.

Checking the LepiMAP database shows that two specimens were collected in this grid cell. The details of one of them are shown above! They were collected in January 1876, and are curated by the Natural History Museum in London. The specimens are still there, carefully preserved by generations of museum staff! These are the only records ever made of Dwarf Blue in this grid cell! In the Virtual Museum, the information is stored electronically (and accessibly!) at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=LepiMAP-230827

And here is the new distribution map, updated to show the turquoise circle! Awesomely well done, citizen scientist Basil Boer, on finding the Dwarf Blue. This record is the ultimate “refreshment” of an almost prehistoric record, made 142 years ago.

The team also added two species to the list for the grid cell: Tinktinkie Blue Brephidium metophis and Dwarf Sandman Spialia nanus. The list of Lepidoptera recorded in grid cell 3319DD Robertson since 1980 now totals 36 species. For an up-to-date list, click on http://vmus.adu.org.za/vm_locus_map.php?vm=LepiMAP&locus=3319DD. At present the median date of the “Last recorded dates” lies in 2008. In words, what this statistic means is that half of the species in this grid cell have not been recorded for 10 or more years! They badly need to be “refreshed.” Do they still occur here? To achieve this will take a series of trips, to different habitats within the grid cell, and at different times of the year.

The citizen scientists who were part of the 2 March 2019 trip to the Robertson District (N1 to Worcester, then the R60 towards Robertson) were Fanie Rautenbach, Wilna Steenkamp, Corrie du Toit, Basil Boer and myself. Besides butterflies, we had a good selection of dragonflies and damselflies to submit to OdonataMAP and a carnivore scat full of hair for MammalMAP (http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=MammalMAP-27384).

 

The HINT follows!

HINT: Did you battle to  find the Dwarf Blue in this photo? Here is the hint. there are three minute yellow flowers a bit below the centre. They form a triangle. The Dwarf Blue is sitting on the flower at the top right of the triangle.

Did you find the butterfly? Here is a close up of the three yellow flowers. They form a triangle. The Dwarf Blue is sitting on the flower at the top right of the triangle, near the top edge of the picture.

 

How to submit records to the Virtual Museum

Do you love all things biodiversity? Do you love photography? Do you love exploring new places? And do you love nature and the great outdoors? Then you are a key candidate to become a BioMAPper (and a generally awesome person). So, how do you go about becoming a BioMAPper? In this blog I will explain step-by-step how you can make your photos count for biodiversity conservation in Africa.

Step 1: Register (or check if you are registered) as a BioMAPper at http://www.adu.org.za/register.php?project=vmus.

Step 1: register as a BioMAPper

Step 2: Once you are registered, you can login to the Virtual Museums website at http://vmus.adu.org.za/, click on the “LOGIN” tab on the left-hand side of your screen and login with the email that you registered with and the password that you created for yourself (if, after registration, you get a message on your screen that tells you to wait for an email, please ignore this, your registration is instant and you can login to the Virtual Museum right away).

Step 3: On the left-hand side of your screen click on “Data Upload” (see photo below), a form appears. It is a two page form. The first page collects the information, and the second page uploads the photos.

Step 3: click on “Data upload”

Step 4: Fill in data capture form (see photo below). All areas of the data capture that are marked with * are required fields. These are: Year, Month, Day, Country, Closest Town, Locality, Latitude, Longitude, and the Source of your GPS coordinates. If you do not have the GPS coordinates you can use the interactive Google Map provided and pinpoint the area where you took the photo(s) (i.e. find the general area, zoom in repeatedly, and click on the map to place a marker on the map, trying to be as accurate as possible). If you use the Google Map, the operation of clicking on the map will automatically provide the coordinates at the bottom of the data capture form. After completing this form click on “Save” at the bottom to save all the location information, and to move onto the second form. (Handy Tip: you can save locations that you visit often as a “Gazetteer”. You do this by filling in all the necessary location details as normal and then creating a name for your gazetteer in the field labeled “Gazetteer locality name” and then clicking on “Save”…..next time you upload photos you can just select the gazetteer locality name from your saved list)

Step 4: the data capture form
If you did not take the GPS coordinates while out in the field, you can use the interactive Google Map in the data capture form to pinpoint your record(s)

Step 5: Select the project to which you want to submit your photo/photos. Upload your photos and click on “Submit” at the bottom of the form. After your photo(s) have finished uploading to the database, you will receive a confirmation on screen of the submission. You can load up to three photos per record (please note that one species = one record). The form makes provision for three records at the site described on the first form (If you just have one record to submit then you just skip over the provision for records two and three right down to the bottom of the form, and click on “submit”). If you have more than three records to submit for the sam location then you can select the little block at the bottom of the form that says “add more”. Once your record is submitted, confirmation of its arrival in the Virtual Museum database is provided by the appearance of a thumbnail version of your photo, and the basic details of your record on screen.

Step 5: select the project you are submitting to and upload your photos

Well done! You’ve successfully submitted your first record to the Virtual Museum. You are now a qualified citizen scientist BioMAPper and an Ambassador for Biodiversity! The drill is the same for all the projects in the Virtual Museum.

You can view this step-by-step guide on SlideShare as well: https://www.slideshare.net/Animal_Demography_Unit/how-to-submit-records-to-the-virtual-museums/

Year of the Dragon – OdonataMAP records of note for 2018 – PART THREE

Blue Basker

John Wilkinson, one of the most hard working members on the OdonataMAP expert panel, has put together a terrific summary of the best OdonataMAP records for 2018 for each province of South Africa. It was a year that delivered many interesting and spectacular damselfly and dragonfly records. The records mentioned in part three of the below report are records that are either range extensions, new records of species that haven’t been recorded for several years, or new species for a province or for South Africa. Part one of the report is available here, followed by part two which can be viewed here

North West

North West Province

For the North West Province, there were eight species that were recorded only once during 2018, with the Clubbed Talontail Crenigomphus hartmanni being a first for the province

  • A Black Emperor Anax tristis was mapped by Lance Robinson on 07 November 2018 at Sediba Game Lodge near Brits (2527BC). It is the first ever record for the North West Province!
  • Dawie and Sarieta Kleynhans snapped and mapped a Sailing Bluet Azuragrion nigridorsum at Dikhololo Resort near Brits on 29 April 2018 VM. It was the second Virtual Museum record for the North West.
Sailing Bluet – photo by John Wilkinson
  • OdonataMAP record 44494 of a Common Thorntail Ceratogomphus pictus was the fifth Virtual Museum record for the province. It was mapped by Jaco Botes on 28 January 2018.
  • On the fourth of February 2018, Lance Robinson mapped a Horned Rockdweller Bradinopyga cornuta at Dikhololo near Brits. This was the third ever record for the North West!
  • A Portia Widow Palpopleura portia OdonataMAPped by Graham Barr on 24April 2018 was the only record for the North West for the year. He photographed this awesome dragonfly near Groot Marico (2526CB).
  • Jaco Botes recorded a Highland Dropwing Trithemis dorsalis, the fifth Virtual Museum record for the province, on 28 January 2018 at Boskopdam near Potchefstroom.
  • OdonataMAP record 46171 of a Ringed Cascader Zygonyx torridus was the second ever record for the North West. Niall Perrins snapped and mapped it on 18 February 2018 in Borakalalo National Park.
  • Niall Perrins OdonataMAPped a Clubbed Talontail Crenigomphus hartmanni, the first ever record for the province, on 19 February 2018 in Borakalalo National Park (2527BB).
Clubbed Talontail – photo by Niall Perrins

Northern Cape

Northern Cape Province

For the Northern Cape, five species were recorded only once during 2018 with one being recorded for the first time. All these records were submitted by none other than Altha Liebenberg

  • Altha recorded the third Northern Cape record of a Clubbed Talontail Crenigomphus hartmanni (photo below) on 04 January 2018. She OdonataMAPped it on the Vaal River near Douglas.
Clubbed Talontail – photo by Altha Liebenberg
  • A Phantom Flutterer Rhyothemis semihyalina was snapped and mapped on 04 January 2018 near Smitsdrif, this was the second record ever for the Northern Cape.
  • Altha recorded a Red Basker Urothemis assignata  on 26 December 2018 near Douglas (2923BB). This was the second record ever for the Northern Cape, with the only other record mapped in Hartswater in December 2017 by Dawie and Sarieta Kleynhans.
  • OdonataMAP record 62870 of a Blue Basker Urothemis edwardsii, was the third record for the Northern Cape, mapped on the banks of the Vaal River in Douglas on 26 December 2018.
  • Altha also mapped a Ferruginous Glider Tramea limbata, the very first record for the province, on 04 January 2018 in the Smitsdrif district (2824CA).
Ferruginous Glider – photo by Sharon Stanton

Western Cape

Western Cape Province

In the Western Cape, six species were recorded only once during 2018 with a Cherry-eye Sprite Pseudagrion sublacteum recorded for the first time. A Red Basker Urothemis assignata was recorded for the first time as well, with a number of records found thereafter

  • Andrew and Heather Hodgson recorded an Elusive Skimmer Orthetrum rubens in the Cederberg Wilderness Area near Citrusdal on 15 December 2018 (3219AC). It was the first Virtual Museum record and the first record since December 2015 for the Western Cape.
Elusive Skimmer – photo by Andrew & Heather Hodgson
  • Jean Hirons mapped a Dancing Jewel Platycypha caligata, the second Virtual Museum record and the first record since 2011 for the Western Cape, on 12 March 2018 at the Keurbooms River near Kammanassie Nature Reserve (3323CC).
  • OdonataMAP record 46263 of a Mahogany Presba Syncordulia venator was mapped by Andre Marais on 22 February 2018 at Jubilee Creek in Knysna (3322DD). It was the only record for the year for the Western Cape.
  • Amanda Walden snapped and mapped a Darting Cruiser Phyllomacromia picta in the Saasveld Forest near George on 20 December 2018. It was the third record for the province and the first record since 2009!
  • OdonataMAP record 48386 of a Black-splashed Elf Tetrathemis polleni was the first Virtual Museum record and the second ever record for the Western Cape. Jean Hirons recorded it on 01 April 2018 at the Hoogekraal River crossing in Sedgefield (3322DD).
Black-splashed Elf – photo by Desire Darling
  • Jean Hirons mapped a Red Basker Urothemis assignata on 06 February 2018, the first Virtual Museum record for the province, at the Karatara River crossing near Sedgefield (3322DD).
  • A Cherry-eye Sprite Pseudagrion sublacteum recorded by Pieter Le Grange on 04 May 2018 was the first ever record for the Western Cape! He mapped it in Nature’s Valley (3323DC).

John Wilkinson’s pick for 2018 RECORD OF THE YEAR is the Mastigogomphus exuviae found by Gerhard Diedericks. Mastigogomphus is a genus in the family Gomphidae and is represented by 3 species in Africa:

  1. M. chapini from Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon.
  2. M. pinheyi from Kenya
  3. M. dissimilis from Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe

The exuviae that Gerhard found is most likely that of M. dissimilis or it might even be a species new to science! Credit for information on Mastigogomphus: Dijkstra, K.-D.B (editor). African Dragonflies and Damselflies Online. http://addo.adu.org.za/ [2019-01-20].