Do lots of Citizen Science in 2019

15 Citizen Science ideas for 2019

  1. Keep your favourite camera handy! Grab all the opportunities which present themselves to take photos for the Virtual Museum.

    My camera was on my lap when I drove past this holiday house in Bettys Bay. This baboon was on the roof, snacking the red lentils it had found inside. This observation is curated at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=MammalMAP-26870
  2. Don’t be shy to post a bad picture to the Virtual Museum. As long as we can work out what species it is, it counts as a record.
  3. Don’t hesitate to post a picture of something which you don’t know what it is called – that’s why we have experts helping us.
  4. Embrace the reality that contributing to the Virtual Museum is not only for serious photographers or scientifically-minded people, but for the ordinary everyday person too. Everyone can play an important role in citizen science projects.
  5. Remember that even your backyard and the places where you work contain interesting records. So do shopping malls and airports.

    This Speckled Pigeon was inside the departure lounge at Addis Ababa airport. This cell phone photo became record 46416 in BirdPix! (http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-46416)
  6. Grab the opportunities that travel offers, whether you are going on holiday or on business.
  7. If you think of yourself as only an occasional photographer, post the handful of photos which you have. They are important records and may fill serious gaps in distribution maps, in developing our knowledge of where species are found.
  8. Hope that you discover a new species.

    This is a probably a new species of lacewing in the family Mantispidae! Zenobia van Dyk took the photo near Clanwilliam and uploaded it to LacewingMAP. Mervyn Mansell, who does the IDs, commented: “This is probably an undescribed species, so it is not possible it identify it further at this stage. Mantispids have a unique biology in that the larvae are parasitic on spider’s egg sacs where they feed on eggs and spiderlings. The eggs, laid in large batches, hatch into a triungulin larvae that seeks out a spider and is carried back to the nest. Once in the nest, the larva undergoes a hypermetamorphosis and cannot move elsewhere. Pupation takes place in a silken cocoon in the nest. Mantispidae are fairly rare in the Western Cape.” Wow. See http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=LacewingMAP-15500.
  9. Make citizen science an activity for the whole family, young and old. Each member, with their varying interests, can be involved. And fun too. Take pictures on your hikes, picnics, a stroll on the beach. Everywhere you go, look carefully, there are important nuggets of information which can be submitted to citizen science projects.
  10. Introduce someone to citizen science, by taking them with you, and showing them how easy it is to become a citizen scientist and to make a real contribution to biodiversity conservation. Recruit them and coach them into becoming active particpants in the Virtual Museum.
  11. Become an “Ambassador for Biodiversity” – talk to people about citizen science projects and how important they are for understanding the current distributions of species.
  12. If you see an interesting observation relating to biodiversity, please write it up for Biodiversity Observations (https://journals.uct.ac.za/index.php/BO/)
  13. Be a BioMAPper! Expand your horizons from being only a LepiMAPper or MammalMAPper or OdonataMAPper!
  14. Think of yourself as a PHunter, a photographic hunter.
  15. Work your way through your old photos, and upload all those that you think are interesting or important records to the Virtual Museum.

    John Paterson took this photo of a lion in 1985. He uploaded it to the MammalMAP section of the Virtual Museum in 2018! He writes in the comments section: “Unusual record of lion foraging on a dead whale. To my knowledge only record of this behaviour.” He observed this in the Skeleton Coast Park. This remarkable incident is now recorded for posterity! See http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=MammalMAP-26890. The whale is a separate record in MammalMAP: http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=MammalMAP-26893. It is a Southern Long-finned Pilot Whale.

Alien opportunities: 10 bird species with feral populations in South Africa

Research opportunities on alien birds

Although alien species are widely (and rightly) regarded as a “bad thing”, they offer special opportunities for research! In a nutshell, many of these opportunities can be summarized into two questions: “How has the species adapted to its new environment? What impact is it having on its environment?”

Currently, 10 bird species are recognised as aliens which have established self-sustaining breeding populations in South Africa. The “natural” ranges of all these species are in the northern hemisphere, so one research opportunity is the question: “How does the timing of the major events of the annual cycle between the introduced population compare with that of the source population? Are they simply shifted by six months, or is it more complex than that?”

This article provides a list of these 10 species, and describes briefly how they arrived in South Africa. It summarizes opportunities for research. Each species is illustrated with a photograph selected from the BirdPix section of the Virtual Museum at http://vmus.adu.org.za. A few have their distributions illustrated by maps produced from the data of the bird atlas project at http://sabap2.adu.org.za .

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos

The small black mark on the top of the bill indicates that these are hybrids between Mallard and Yellow-billed Duck. This photograph was taken by AP Labuschagne at Lamberts Bay, in the northwest corner of the Western Cape. See http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-40550 for more detail of this record. This is one of 44 records of Mallards and Mallard-hybrids in the BirdPix section of the Virtual Museum. Some of the hybrids are quite bizarre in appearance; see for example:  http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-47425

Mallards were not deliberately introduced, but were escapees from private collections of waterfowl. Sightings at wetlands started to be reported in bird club newsletters from around 1980, especially in Gauteng and the Western Cape. It was quickly discovered that they hybridize with the local ducks, and especially the Yellow-billed Duck Anas undulata. This poses a severe threat to the genetic integrity of the populations of indigenous ducks. Initial opposition to culling was largely overcome by good communication campaigns, for example this information brochure produced for Cape Town. Mallards and Mallard-hybrids are nowadays fairly consistently removed by the conservation authorities whenever they are reported. Of the 10 alien species, the Mallard is one of two which are actively and decisively controlled, and which are therefore not appropriate for observational research projects. The other species is the House Crow Corvus splendens, discussed below.

 

Chukar Partridge Alectoris chukar

These Chukar Partridges were in the village on Robben Island.  See http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-2108 for more detail of this record. This is one of 13 records of this species in the BirdPix section of the Virtual Museum. All are from Robben Island.

Six Chukar Partridges were confiscated in 1964 by the customs authorities at the port of Cape Town, and were released on Robben Island, Table Bay. In 2018, the population numbered in the hundreds. The size of the population has fluctuated widely; for example during the “cat-years” of the mid 2000s, the population seemed to have been down to tens of birds. They do not appear to have crossed the 7 km of ocean to reach the mainland. There is potential as a study species.

Common Peacock Pavo cristatus

This Common Peacock was photographed by Zenobia van Dyk on a farm in the Eastern Cape. From her description, this bird is probably semi-feral. See http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-54818. There are 29 records of Common Peacock in the BirdPix section of the Virtual Museum

Like the Mallard, the Common Peacock is an ornamental bird, with domestic populations on many estates and around farm houses. Out in the countryside, it is often hard to classify an individual peacock as “domestic” or “feral”; in reality many are along a continuum between these two extremes, and should be classified as “semi-feral”. The distribution map below shows how widespread peacocks, feral  and semi-feral, have become. However, the peacocks on Robben Island are indisputably feral. It is thought to have been introduced there in 1968 and the population has maintained itself. Increasingly, we are grasping that there are more or more feral populations scattered across the whole of South Africa. Here are links to papers in the ejournal Biodiversity Observations which describe feral populations in Bloemfontein, Free State, and Amanzimtoti,  KwaZulu-Natal. There are wine farms in the Western Cape, where flocks of peacocks do substantial damage in vineyards. These are potential study sites for this species.

This is the SABAP2 distribution map for the Common Peacock on 23 December 2018. Many of the records would be of semi-feral peacocks, but it is nevertheless remarkable in how many “pentads” peacocks have been recorded by the bird atlas citizen scientists. There is a full description of the methods used by the Second Southern African Bird Atlas Project in this paper The fundamentals of the SABAP2 protocol, and an explanation of the interpretation of this map in a paper entitled Pentad scale distribution maps for bird atlas data.

Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri

There are 20 records of Rose-ringed Parakeet in the BirdPix section of the Virtual Museum. Four of these are from the area of Africa in which it occurs naturally: Sudan, Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal. There are 15 photographic records of alien parakeets in South Africa: 11 from Gauteng, four records from KwaZulu-Natal, and one from the Western Cape. These two birds were recorded by Anthony Paton in the Randburg-Roodepoort region of Johannesburg. See http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-43335.

The Rose-ringed Parakeet is a popular cage-bird, and escapes from captivity occur regularly. Small breeding populations seem to have been established in the main cities of South Africa multiple times, and then gone extinct. But there are now substantial populations, numbering hundreds, both in the Durban region, and in the suburbs of the cities of Gauteng. This was the study species of a recent BSc(Hons) project (Ivanova IM 2017. Spatial and temporal impacts of the alien species Psittacula krameria on the occurrence of avifauna in Gauteng. Honours thesis, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg). There are opportunities for further research projects. Indeed, Ielyzaveta Ivanova ends her discussion with the statement: “this study highlights the need for more research into the potential impacts of the species.”

Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon) Columba livia

There are 70 records of Rock Dove in the BirdPix section of the Virtual Museum. This bird was feeding close to a road at Mouille Point, Cape Town. http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-57236.

Wild Rock Doves in South Africa are derived from escaped domestic birds, a process that would have started in 1652 with the arrival of the first domestic Rock Doves with the Dutch settlers. Wild populations are continually supplemented by escapes from ornamental populations, resulting in a wide variety of colour morphs. Until about 1990 they were confined mainly to the urban and industrial areas of cities, towns and villages. They have subsequently spread into agricultural landscapes; for example, they have largely replaced Speckled Pigeons Columba guinea on dairy farms in the Swartland region of the Western Cape. There are multiple research opportunities.

The bird atlas distribution map for the Rock Dove. The pentads shaded dark blue have the largest reporting rates. The clusters of dark blue pentads are concentrated on the cities of South Africa. Downloaded from the SABAP2 website on 23 December 2018.

House Crow Corvus splendens

There are 15 records of House Crow in the BirdPix section of the Virtual Museum. Most of them are from port cities and towns along the Indian Ocean coast of Africa: from  north to south, Lamu, Mombasa, Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam, Beira, Maputo and, finally, … Durban. The late Rob Dickinson, whose photo this is, was a remarkable citizen scientist, and this House Crow, welcoming Rob to Tanzania at Das es Salaam Airport was selected to celebrate his memory. He made contributions to the Virtual Museum from all over Africa. More details of this record are at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-21374.

The House Crow seems to be the only species of the 10 on this list that introduced itself. The ports of East Africa have large populations, and its arrival in the port cities of Durban (around 1970) and Cape Town (early 1990s) is likely to have been of birds that got themselves trapped inside the holds of cargo ships. In both cities there have been massive eradication campaigns. So it is no longer a feasible species to study!

Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris

There are 116 records of Common Starling in the BirdPix section of the Virtual Museum. This is the first and only record from Gauteng, taken by Kevin Lavery on 13 June 2015, near Vereeniging along the Vaal River. Details at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-65734.

18 Common Starlings were released by Cecil John Rhodes in Rondebosch, Cape Town, in 1887, about 130 years ago. The range expansion has been reasonably well documented, but it has not been properly reviewed for many decades. Until about 1910, it was confined to  the Greater Cape Town region, and then steadily expanded eastwards and, more slowly, northwards. The range expansion has continued into the 21st century. In the two decades between the first and second bird atlases in southern Africa, it has started occurring extensively in KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Gauteng and Lesotho. Common Starlings have also been introduced to North America, Australia and New Zealand. There has been quite extensive research on the starling in these regions, but all the studies in southern Africa have been descriptive. There are multiple research opportunities.

Common Myna Acridotheres tristis

This image was selected from the 96 Common Mynas available in the Virtual Museum because it is the only one beyond South Africa’s borders. Samantha Venter took this photo in Gaborone, Botswana. Full details at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-22063.

There were two centres of introduction of Common Mynas to South Africa and different subspecies were involved: the mynas introduced to Durban about 1900 were the subspecies tristoides from Myanmar and adjacent Assam, an Indian state. The mynas introduced to Johannesburg in 1930s were of the nominate subspecies tristis. Of the 10 species considered here, this is the one that is currently expanding its range the fastest. There are multiple resources to describe the range expansion of this species through time, but an authoritative review remains to be written. Apart from some short notes, there are no studies of the biology of Common Mynas in southern Africa. There are multiple research opportunities.

This is the “range-change” map for the Common Myna in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. It shows how the range of the species changed in the quarter century between the two bird atlas projects. There is a full description of the algorithm used to produce this map, and its interpretation, in a paper in the ejournal Biodiversity Observations called Displaying changes in bird distributions between SABAP1 and SABAP2. In summary, the grid cells for which there is enough data to take a decision are shaded in one of six colours: blue,  dark green, light green, yellow, orange or red. Blue and red are the extremes; under a set of assumptions, they mean that a three-fold increase/decrease respectively has occurred in the grid cell between the two projects. For the Common Myna there has clearly been a massive increase in abundance since SABAP1. In parts of KwaZulu-Natal, the core of the SABAP1 range, there appears to have been large decreases in abundance. This observation needs confirmation by fieldwork.

House Sparrow Passer domesticus

This male House Sparrow was photographed by John Fincham near the village of Kliprant in the arid Knersvlakte of the Western Cape. See http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-18523 There are a total of 212 records of the species in the BirdPix section of the Virtual Museum.

The House Sparrows in South Africa are of the Indian subspecies indicus. It seems likely that some of the labourers transported from India in the 1880s and 1890s to work in the sugar-cane fields brought House Sparrows with them as pets. Those that escaped established the feral population. The history of the range expansion up to about 1950 is poorly documented, but it was still largely confined to KwaZulu-Natal. After that the range expansion was explosive over the remainder of South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The impact of the founder population has been enormous. There is a small number of papers on the biology of this introduced species in South Africa, and the opportunities for further studies are large.

The SABAP2 distribution map for the House Sparrow, 23 December 2018. It is recorded in most places in South Africa where there is human habitation, even in arid regions. For example, in the Kruger National Park in the northeast, the only human habitations are the tourist rest camps, and these are the places  with House Sparrows there. There is a full description of the methods used by the Second Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2) in this paper The fundamentals of the SABAP2 protocol, and an explanation of the interpretation of this map in a paper entitled Pentad scale distribution maps for bird atlas data.
This is the “range-change” map for the House Sparrow in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. It shows how the range of the species changed in the quarter century between the two bird atlas projects. There is a full description of the algorithm used to produce this map, and its interpretation, in a paper in the ejournal Biodiversity Observations called Displaying changes in bird distributions between SABAP1 and SABAP2. In summary, the grid cells for which there is enough data to take a decision are shaded in one of six colours: blue,  dark green, light green, yellow, orange or red. Blue and red are the extremes; under a set of assumptions, they mean that a three-fold increase/decrease respectively has occurred in the grid cell between the two projects. For the House Sparrow, in total contrast  to the Common Myna, above, there is almost a jumble of colours since SABAP1, with very little patterning. Within this region, there have been no new areas colonized since SABAP1, and at a local scale, there have been fluctuations in population size.

Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs

Marna Buys photographed this Common Chaffinch in the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, within a few kilometres of where the founder population was released. There are 12 records in the BirdPix section of the Virtual Museum. This one is curated at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-61052.

Common Chaffinches were one of many bird species introduced by Cecil John Rhodes in the 1890s. The place of introduction was Rondebosch in the Cape Peninsula. In sharp contrast to the Common Starling, it is still confined mainly to the eastern slopes of the mountain range between roughly Rhodes Memorial and Tokai, and the adjacent suburbs. It must be a rare example of a species which has been introduced, and which, after 120 years has neither gone extinct nor expanded its range. Because of the small population size, this is not an easy species to study, but it certainly presents unique opportunities.

Wrap up

Eight of the ten alien bird species in South Africa offer opportunities for interesting research projects.

Camera Trapping for BioMAPping!

If you enjoy wildlife documentaries or scientific articles, you’ve probably seen photos or video taken by “camera traps.” Remote cameras have been used for years by scientists studying or documenting wildlife numbers and behaviour in sometimes difficult or inaccessible terrain. A camera trap is just like an ordinary digital camera except that you don’t have to press a button for a photo to be take, instead the camera is triggered by movement or heat from animals.  Camera traps are super handy tools for mapping mammals, they are like little spies in the bush!

Camera trapping has proved to be a very effective way of finding out which elusive and, especially, nocturnal animals are in an area. It’s also an effective way to find out how animals are utilising an area.

Porcupines coming for a drink with a Kudu strolling on by

There is an Animal Demography Unit project for which camera traps play an absolutely crucial role and that is MammalMAP. MammalMAP is the Atlas of African Mammals. The aim of MammalMAP is to update the distribution records for all of Africa’s wild mammals — the small ones, the big ones, the dry ones and the wet ones.

“Surely we know the distributions of Africa’s mammals? These are flagships species for tourism in Africa.” Sadly, the answer is “no” —  the distributions are changing due to habitat destruction and climate change. Developing these 21st century distribution maps is filling a critical gap in conservation needs. To effectively manage and conserve wildlife we need to know where they are and we need to understand why they are there. But the reality is that across Africa, our knowledge of the whereabouts of many mammals is, at best – outdated, and, at worst – based on unverified anecdotes. Filling this crucial gap in our knowledge is the main aim of MammalMAP. If you are keen to help us map Africa’s wonderful mammals then setting up a few camera traps is a fun and effective way to do so.

A few tips on setting up camera traps:

  • It is very important to pick the right site for your camera trap. It helps to be quite sure that an animal will pass by the camera at some stage
  • Well-used game paths, hiking trails, quiet jeep tracks, dry watercourses and the bottom of ravines are all good places to set up your camera traps
  • For close shots, like on game paths, at watering holes or food sources set the camera up at no higher than waist height (if you are focusing on smaller animals it is better to set the camera up at a lower position)
  • If you are in an area where elephants, hyenas or large predators occur, make sure that your hands are free from any unusual or attractive odours e.g. food, perfumes etc. as this might tempt these animals to inspect the source of the odour — and they may just have a pull or a bite at the camera trap to see if its to their liking
  • Another important factor to keep in mind is the direction of the rising and setting sun. Occasionally when a subject triggers the camera when it is pointed towards the sun as the sun is rising or setting (typically heavy activity hours) this can lead to overexposed or ‘washed-out’ pictures
A leopard caught on camera mid hunt!

You can upload your camera trap photos to MammalMAP at http://vmus.adu.org.za — have fun!

Bushpig taking a stroll

Calvinia BioBash: Citizen Science in the Hantam

Calvinia BioBash: Citizen Science in the Hantam

The Hantam is the general area north of Calvinia in the Northern Cape province of South Africa. It’s an arid area, and poorly covered in biodiversity surveys. Citizen scientist Salome Willemse arranged a BioBash for the area, and found accommodation in a farm house called “’n Handvol Gruis”. The expression, “’n handvol gruis”, literally, a handful of grit”, comes from a poem by C Louis Leipoldt:

The last verse of “‘n handvol gruis” by C. Louis Leipoldt

For this poet, C. Louis Leipoldt, this area, the Hantam-wyk, was one of the most beautiful places he had experienced. I searched for an English version of this poem which captures the rich mood, but Wikipedia says that Leipoldt’s poetry doesn’t translate easily. In the last line, “arm” means “poor”, “eergister” is “the day before yesterday”, “en” is “and”, “nou” is “now”, and “skatryk” is “treasure rich”. Literally: “Poor the day before yesterday, and now treasure rich.”

Not everyone sees beauty here, but Leipoldt did!

The last line of the poem is about an emotional transformation from poverty to riches. The Calvinia BioBash aimed to make the same transformation, but in a somewhat more practical way. We aimed to transform the biodiversity database of the Hantam from poverty to riches. We certainly didn’t make it “skatryk”, but we enhanced the quality of the data dramatically.

Awesome accommodation for the BioBash. This farmhouse is called ‘n Handvol Gruis, perpetuating the memory of the poet. If you are looking for accommodation in this area, this is a great place to stay.

The main focus of the BioBash team was the bird atlas. The map below shows the coverage “before” and “after” the BioBash. Do a bit of visual exercise to see the difference between the two maps. You discover that a lot of pentads were atlased for the first time. Changes in colour between the two coverage maps show pentads which received additional checklists.

Our accommodation at ‘n Handvol Gruis was in the pentad with the blue star. Inspection of the “before” and “after” maps shows that a lot of pentads were atlased for the first time, and the changes in colour in the between the two coverage maps show pentads that received second, third or fourth checklists.

We also worked on enriching the Virtual Museum database (http://vmus.adu.org.za). Between us, with Zenobia van Dyk and myself being chief contributors, we added about 500 records to the various sections of the Virtual Museum. We highlight a few of the records.

This Puff Adder was a roadkill on a gravel road in the Hantam. It is record 168040 in ReptileMAP (http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=ReptileMAP-168040).

Roads are essential for the collection of biodiversity data. They make doing the BioBash feasible! However, their direct impact on biodiversity is generally negative. Especially snakes and mammals become road casualties. Taking a photo and uploading it to the Virtual Museum means that the wasted animal is not a total dead loss, unless of course it is the last representative of the species in the district. The largely dried out Puff Adder above became a valuable point in the distribution map for this species. Believe it or not, this is the first ever formal record of Puff Adder in the quarter degree grid cell 3119BC, which lies immediately west of Calvinia, and with good roads. So even the published reptile atlas does not have Puff Adder for this grid cell. In fact, this grid cell has only had five records of reptiles, representing four species since 1980. The Puff Adder is the fourth! To see the map of this grid cell, and a list of the four species, go to http://vmus.adu.org.za/vm_locus_map.php?vm=ReptileMAP&locus=3119BC! This illustrates how much fieldwork still needs to be done!

Taking a photo of this young Yellow Canary was greatly facilitated by the fence. It won’t win a prize for elegance, but the fence is a wonderful perch for BirdPix records. It is in the BirdPix section of the Virtual Museum at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-64300.

Overall, fences are not a positive for biodiversity. But they are a big plus for BirdPixers. We are not bothered by the aesthetics of an ugly barbed wire fence. All we need are images in which the bird is easily identified. Fences provide great perches where we can take photos of a whole bird rather than a partly obscured bird.

Poles are substitute trees, enabling crows to breed in places that would otherwise have very few nest sites. This pair of Cape Crows in in BirdPix at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-64432.

Across much of the arid Karoo, trees are rare. Poles, and the wires between them, provide elevated perches for many bird predators, creating hunting opportunities that never existed before. Predators have an unobstructed view of the ground below, a luxury unavailable in pristine conditions, when the best hunting perch might be a shrub. It is likely that a more serious problem with poles is that they provide substitute trees for the nests of crows. Poles have enabled crows to spread into arid areas of South Africa. Controlling crows is not going to make any long-term difference, because there are plenty of spare crows to take the places of any that are culled. Removing poles might have a long-term impact.

The Hantam River has carved itself a gorge, and a trickle of water was still flowing.  The gravel road winds down to the bottom, and the meeting of road and stream makes a fabulous spot to go dragon hunting.

Dragonflies are mostly associated with water. But the Hantam area is arid. So one would expect dragonflies to be as rare as rocking horse droppings. But there are isolated patches of water. There is a wonderful “watersplash” where the Hantam River crosses the gravel road in a remarkable gorge a few kilometres north of the farm Kaalplek. This was probably the best spot in quarter degree grid cell 3119BB for dragonflies. To see the map of this grid cell, and a list of the six species of dragonflies and damselflies recorded here, go to http://vmus.adu.org.za/vm_locus_map.php?vm=OdonataMAP&locus=3119BB!

Perhaps the prize record of the expedition for OdonataMAP was this Vagrant Emperor, photographed by Zenobia van Dyk. In the entire Northern Cape, this was the fifth quarter degree grid cell in which the species has been recorded.

Dragonflies of the family called the “emperors” are hard to shoot. They seldom stop for a rest! So we have to do our best to photograph them in flight. This is, without uncertainty, a Vagrant Emperor, because of the blue “saddle” at the back end of the thorax. Zenobia van Dyk shot this dragon at a small spring-fed lake near the farm house ‘n Handvol Gruis. This image is curated at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=OdonataMAP-59371.

 

This neat brown and white butterfly is a Namaqua Bar. It was photographed in the Hamtam River gorge. It is the first record of this species in this quarter degree grid cell. So it was not shown here in the butterfly atlas! It is curated here: http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=LepiMAP-662313.

At the start of the expedition, the number of butterfly species recorded in quarter degree grid cell 3919BB was seven. Four species were photographed and uploaded. Three were the extremely common and almost ubiquitous African Monarch, Painted Lady and Common Meadow White. The fourth, Namaqua Bar (in the photo above) was identified by Fanie Rautenbach, LepiMAP expert panel. Astonishingly, all four species were new to the grid cell! See the list below! You get the up-to-date list by clicking on http://vmus.adu.org.za/vm_locus_map.php?vm=LepiMAP&locus=3119BB, and you can see if any additional records have been added.

This is the list of LepiMAP species provided by the Virtual Museum for grid cell 3119BB.

All the columns are easy, but the last two need some explanation. The column headed “Last recorded” provides the most recent date on which a species was recorded in the Virtual Museum. This provides you with an insight into how urgently each species needs to be “refreshed”. Ideally, you should download this list before you go into the field, and choose a set of priority species for “refreshment”. A species which was last recorded 10 years or longer ago is definitely needing a new record to confirm that it is still present in the grid cell. Even a three-year old record needs refreshing. If you have a series of photos for a grid cell, upload them all. Don’t worry if some the “Last recorded” dates are recent. Any species which are not already on the list are especially valuable and important!

Every entry in the final column reads “Records”, in blue. Click on this and you will discover it is a link to all the records of the species in the grid cell (including any from before 1980!). But it won’t work here, because this is a photograph of the table! It is fascinating to be empowered to see when the records were made, and who the observer was.

The entrance to the farm Kaalplek

Kaalplek has been mentioned a couple of times above. To an English-speaking South African, with a modest grip on Afrikaans, this translates into “the place where you walk around naked”. This very literal translation does not capture the intended meaning: “the place which is barren and treeless.” The Hantam is a tough area to be a farmer, and the droughts of the past few years have resulted in many of the farms being totally abandoned.

Salome Willemse and Zenobia van Dyk did a reconnaissance trip to find the accommodation and test the roads for quality, and were part of the expedition, from 8 to 12 November 2018. Alan Collett and Tino Herselman traveled west from the Karoo to participate. Eric Hermann traveled north from Hopefield, and I came from Cape Town. We are all grateful to Salome for her coordination and leadership of the expedition. This was citizen science at its best.

OdonataMAP progress report

Loftie-Eaton M, Underhill LG, and Navarro R. 2018. OdonataMAP – Progress report on the Atlas of the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Africa – 2016/17 and 2017/18. Biodiversity Observations 9.13:1-10

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.


OdonataMAP – Progress report on the Atlas of the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Africa – 2016/17 and 2017/18

Megan Loftie-Eaton

Animal Demography Unit, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, 7701 South Africa; Biodiversity and Development Institute, 25 Old Farm Road, Rondebosch, 7700 South Africa

Les G Underhill

Animal Demography Unit, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, 7701 South Africa; Biodiversity and Development Institute, 25 Old Farm Road, Rondebosch, 7700 South Africa

Rene Navarro

Animal Demography Unit, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, 7701 South Africa; FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, 7701 South Africa

Abstract

This paper reports progress with OdonataMAP, the Atlas of Dragonflies and Damselflies of Africa, for the two-year period 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2018. During the two-year review period, the database for the project grew by 30,423 records to 52,257, starting from 22,809 records collected between 2010 and June 2016. Submissions were made from 25 African countries. In six of the nine provinces of South Africa, the number of OdonataMAP records for the province more than doubled. The provinces in which the number of records were not doubled were Gauteng (44% of records made during reporting period), Free State and North West (both 46%). Five observers contributed more than 1000 records over the two-year period, and a further 10 between 500 and 999 records. The total number of observers for the two-year period was 529, compared with 295 in the 2010-16 period. One of the important success of OdonataMAP during the review period was to increase the number of observers, and to reduce the project’s dependence on a small number of citizen scientists.


What is OdonataMAP?

OdonataMAP is the Atlas of Dragonflies and Damselflies of Africa. It was launched in 2010; the first record was uploaded into the OdonataMAP database on 22 September 2010. At the time, the project objectives were (1) “to map the current distribution of the insect Order Odonata, i.e. dragonflies and damselflies, occurring in Africa” and (2) “to serve as a repository of all existing distribution data for this group.”

OdonataMAP provides up-to-date distributions of the dragonflies and damselflies, a critical component of addressing their own conservation priorities, and also the conservation of freshwater ecosystems. The project will provide a valuable input to a revision of the Red List status of each species.

Besides the distribution maps, OdonataMAP aims to make a contribution to understanding the seasonal phenology of these species. Documenting and quantifying changes in seasonality are a critical component of understanding the impacts of climate change on biodiversity (Hassel et al. 2007, Bush et al. 2013).

Thus OdonataMAP aims not only to mainstream the conservation of the Odonata, but also the freshwater habitat on which they (and we) depend. Besides its own value for the conservation of Odonata, this atlas has the potential to influence government policy on the use of water resources, especially for the rural poor. There is no other taxon which has the potential to be so politically prominent in this way.

The report by Underhill et al. (2016) summarized what OdonataMAP had achieved during the period 22 September 2010 until 30 June 2016. The database then contained 22,809 records. The end of June is a natural splitting point for the Odonata year, because it is midwinter in the southern hemisphere and fieldwork is at its lowest ebb. This report focuses on the growth of the database for the two “years”, from 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017, and from 1July 2017 to 30 June 2018.

The Odonata Database of Africa (ODA) is an open access database developed by a JRS-funded project (Clausnitzer et al. 2012, Dijkstra 2016). This database contains 121,121 records of the distribution of dragonflies and damselflies across Africa and it includes most of the museum specimen records for the region.This database became available online during the last months of 2016, where it is known as African Dragonflies and Damselflies Online (ADDO) (http://addo.adu.org.za/). ADDO is a collaboration between the Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology (University of Stellenbosch) and the ADU (University of Cape Town). Although the two databases are separate, search queries made to the OdonataMAP database can include a search of the Odonata Database of Africa. This collaboration, completed during the two-year reporting period, represents a major consolidation of data resources.

How many records were submitted to OdonataMAP in the period July 2016 to June 2018, and where in Africa did they come from?

For the years July 2016 to June 2017 and from June 2017 to July 2018, OdonataMAP gained 11,091 and 18,357 records respectively, a total of 30,423 new records, bring the grand total since the start of the project in 2010 to 52,257 records (Table 1). This is an increase from 22,809 records in June 2016, thus 56.4% of the OdonataMAP database has been contributed in the two years under review (Table 1).

Table 1: Annual totals (1 July to 30 June of following calendar year) of submissions of dragonflies and dragonflies to OdonataMAP

Year (July to June) Number of submissions Cumulative totals Cumulative percentage
2010/11 349 349 0.7
2011/12 951 1300 2.5
2012/13 4000 5300 10.1
2013/14 5074 10374 19.9
2014/15 3997 14371 27.5
2015/16 8438 22809 43.6
2016/17 11091 33900 64.9
2017/18 18357 52257 100.0

The records submitted during the two year reporting period came from 25 African countries; the total number of countries for which records have been submitted is now 32 (Table 2). Outside of South Africa, most of the records for the reporting period came from Namibia (491) and more than 100 records from 11 other African countries (Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Nigeria, Malawi, Angola, Kenya, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, and Sudan). Two records were submitted from countries in the Middle East (Table 2).

Table 2: Numbers of submissions of dragonflies and damselflies to OdonataMAP from countries of Africa (and the Middle East) prior to and during the two-year reporting period

Country 2010-2016 2016/17 2017/18 Total
Angola 14 164 125 303
Benin 5 NA NA 5
Botswana 213 137 262 612
Democratic Republic of Congo 4 63 44 111
Iraq NA NA 1 1
Israel NA NA 1 1
Egypt 3 NA NA 3
Ethiopia 90 NA NA 90
Gambia 4 NA NA 4
Ghana 13 68 NA 81
Kenya 82 220 55 357
Lesotho 5 8 NA 13
Liberia 8 8 NA 16
Madagascar 44 NA NA 44
Malawi 441 144 201 786
Mauritius 1 NA NA 1
Mozambique 157 19 192 368
Namibia 145 132 359 636
Nigeria 75 320 35 430
Republic of the Congo 7 12 NA 19
Reunion NA NA 7 7
Rwanda 6 19 NA 25
Senegal 7 14 NA 21
Seychelles 6 NA 2 8
Sierra Leone 35 76 NA 111
Somalia 1 NA NA 1
South Africa 20339 9475 17347 47161
Sudan 13 NA 118 131
Swaziland 556 60 89 705
Tanzania 51 3 13 67
Togo 3 NA NA 3
Uganda 73 29 52 154
Zambia 259 26 334 619
Zimbabwe 144 77 94 315
Total 22804 11074 19331 53209

In six of the nine provinces of South Africa, more than 50% of the total number of records had been submitted in the two-year reporting period (Table 3). The largest percentage increase was for the Western Cape, for which 6,635 records were submitted, 74% of the of the total number of OdonataMAP records for the province. The provinces in which the number of records were not doubled were Gauteng (44% of records during reporting period), Free State and North West (both 46%) (Table 3). Overall, for South Africa as a whole, 57% of records were submitted during the reporting period (Table 3).

Table 3: Numbers of submissions of dragonflies and damselflies to OdonataMAP from the nine provinces of South Africa prior to and during the two-year reporting period. The percentage of records for each province during the reporting period is provided in the final column

Province 2010-2016 2016/17 2017/18 Total Percentage of records 2016-2018
Eastern Cape 1454 591 1730 3775 61.5
Free State 607 280 241 1128 46.2
Gauteng 1257 529 460 2246 44.0
KwaZulu-Natal 7597 3162 4755 15514 51.0
Limpopo 2845 988 2378 6211 54.2
Mpumalanga 2777 744 2601 6122 54.6
North West 788 266 413 1467 46.3
Northern Cape 566 429 412 1407 59.8
Western Cape 2275 2433 4202 8910 74.5
Total 20166 9422 17192 46780 56.9

What were the outcomes of the Shoot the Dragons Weeks of the past two summers?

OdonataMAP hosted a series of 10 “Shoot the Dragons Weeks” in the summers of the reporting period, three in 2016/17 and seven in 2017/18 (Table 4). They ran from the Saturday of one week to the Sunday of the following week, so that they included two weekends. Their purpose was to promote participation in OdonataMAP, and to maintain momentum in data collection and submission. There is a full description of the results of the very first week (Underhill et al. 2016a). The total number of records submitted during the Shoot the Dragons Weeks was 9,270, so that 30% of the records during the reporting period were submitted during the 10 Shoot the Dragons Weeks. To put this into context, the 90 days of the 10 Weeks represents about 20% of the period of the year when the Odonata are most active. This provides a coarse measure of their effectiveness. Shoot the Dragons Weeks will be repeated in the 2018/19 summer.

Table 4: Shoot the Dragons Weeks for the summers of 2016/17 and 2017/18

Week Start date End date Records Observers Countries Taxa
2016/17 2016/17
1 26 November 2016 4 December 2016 1200 61 8 116
2 21 January 2017 29 January 2017 1384 58 10 120
3 1 April 2017 9 April 2017 634 50 5 83
2017/18 2017/18
1 7 October 2017 15 October 2017 590 48 12 91
2 28 October 2017 5 November 2017 884 54 6 95
3 25 November 2017 3 December 2017 701 53 10 90
4 13 January 2018 21 January 2018 1234 66 9 117
5 10 February 2018 18 February 2018 1073 53 8 112
6 10 March 2018 18 March 2018 745 42 6 92
7 7 April 2018 15 April 2018 825 60 5 92

How is the number of OdonataMAP observers growing?

Five observers contributed more than 1000 records over the two-year period, and a further 10 between 500 and 999 records (Table 5). The most prolific observer contributed 6% to the total number of records; by contrast, in the 2010-16 report (Underhill et al. 2016b), the top two observers contributed 19% and 15% of the total number of records. The total number of observers for the two-year period was 529, compared with 295 in the 2010-16 period (Underhill et al. 2016b). One of the important success of OdonataMAP during the review period was to increase the number of observers, and to reduce the project’s dependence on a small number of citizen scientists.

Table 5: OdonataMAP observers who submitted more than 150 records for the reporting period (1 July 2016 to 30 June 2018)

Observer Records
Ryan M Tippett 2082
Jean Hirons 1683
Christopher Peter Small 1663
Corrie du Toit 1505
Richard Alan Johnstone 1233
Andries Petrus de Vries & Joey de Vries 895
Desire Darling & Gregg Darling 829
Alan Manson 797
Maritza Van Rensburg 742
Andre Marais 623
Sharon Stanton & Heleen Louw 609
Altha Liebenberg 606
Christopher Willis 575
Alf Taylor & Hilary Harrison 568
Alicia Culverwell 547
Niall Perrins 495
John H Wilkinson 493
Rob Dickinson 468
Bensch Gert & Juan-Pierre Antunes 458
Ilse Hulme 429
Dawie Kleynhans & Sarieta Kleynhans 415
Diana Russell 365
Juan-Pierre Antunes & Gert Bensch 313
Christopher JH Hines 290
Gary Brown 288
Phillip Nieuwoudt 264
Jacobus (Lappies) Labuschagne 262
Pieter La Grange 260
Wilna Steenkamp 255
Bensch Gert 247
Bernardine Alice Altenroxel 227
David Kennedy 209
Juan-Pierre Antunes 207
Zenobia van Dyk 205
Riëtte Griesel 197
Norman Barrett 193
Sharon Basel 192
Katharina Reddig 188
Herb Kageler 181
Sharon Stanton 176
Laban Njoroge 171
Waterberg Team 2017 (Andries Petrus de Vries & Joey de Vries) 167
Pieter Cronje 165

Growing numbers of records generated increased workloads for the expert panel. This is a group of volunteers who either undertake identifications from scratch or confirm the identifications made by the observers. Over the reporting period, the load has been shared mainly between John Wilkinson, Ryan Tippett, Sharon Stanton, Alan Manson, Bertie Brink and Lappies Labushagne. Warwick Tarboton remains the anchor to whom difficult records get referred, and the expert panel has also consulted K-D Dijkstra from time to time.

What are a few of the most remarkable records submitted to OdonataMAP during the past two years?

On 29 April 2018, what is likely to prove to be a new species of dragonfly, from Angola, was added to OdonataMAP by Christopher Hines (Figure 1). It generated a lot of excitement (see for example https://www.facebook.com/animal.demography.unit/photos/a.264976170247321.61084.263839507027654/1675195419225382/?type=3&theater )

Figure 1: OdonataMAP record 50330 submitted to OdonataMAP by Christopher Hines from
Angola. This is, in all likelihood, a new species. (http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=OdonataMAP50330)
Figure 1: OdonataMAP record 50330 submitted to OdonataMAP by Christopher Hines from
Angola. This is, in all likelihood, a new species. (http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=OdonataMAP50330)

Commenting on the original posting of the photo in the Facebook group called Dragonflies and Damselflies of Southern Africa, Jens Kipping, authority on the Odonata of Angola, wrote: “Holy moly, Christopher Hines! First, I thought that somebody from the South American or Asian group sent a picture accidentally. I cannot believe that this is from Angola. I do not have any clue what this libellulid is! It looks a bit like Rhyothemis but also, from the body, a bit like a Palpopleura. This might even be a new genus.” KD Dijkstra, taxonomic authority on African Odonata, subsequently analysed the images, and considered it likely that this might prove to be a new species in the genus Trithemis.

An unexpected and dramatic range expansion occurred during the reporting period. The Ceres Streamjack (also known as Spesbona) Spesbona angusta was described in 1863, but was thought for several decades to be extinct, having not been recorded since 1920. The streams in the area near Ceres, Western Cape, where it had been observed in 1920, had been radically transformed and many no longer flowed due to over-extraction of water for the fruit industry. It was rediscovered in November 2003, when a population was found along the Dutoitsrivier, which flows into the Theewaterskloof Dam, near Villiersdorp, Western Cape, South Africa. This locality is 60 km distant from the original Ceres locality. There are multiple sightings in this immediate Theewaterskloof Dam area (OdonataMAP database), and the IUCN-defined Area of Occupancy is 24 km2 (Samways 2018). For more than a decade, this was thought that this was the only locality where the species occurred. Then, on 10 October 2017, citizen scientist Jean Hirons caused a massive surprise when she photographed the species at a locality near Sedgefield, 330 km due east of the Theewaterskloof site (Figure 2). This raises the obvious question: does it occur at a series of intermediate localities, in suitable habitats along the mountain ranges that link these two isolated sites? The likely answer is yes, because an inspection of Figure 3 of Underhill et al. (2018) reveals that, while fieldwork in the areas of the two known localities of the Ceres Streamjack have been reasonably intensive, the intervening area has been poorly covered by fieldwork, and is regarded as a priority area for future expeditions.

Figure 2: This record, by Jean Hirons, of a Ceres Streamjack (Spesbona) Spesbona angusta in
Sedgefield, Western Cape, was 330 km east of the only known locality for the species. (http:
//vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=OdonataMAP-35883)
Figure 2: This record, by Jean Hirons, of a Ceres Streamjack (Spesbona) Spesbona angusta in
Sedgefield, Western Cape, was 330 km east of the only known locality for the species. (http:
//vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=OdonataMAP-35883)

What are the take-home messages?

In a nutshell, the OdonataMAP project grew rapidly in the two-year period under review. From a public-interest perspective, there can be no doubt that the Odonata have been transformed from being the taxon of focus for a minuscule group of enthusiasts, to becoming quite substantial. It is likely that the size of the dragonfly/damselfly community is in the process of overtaking that of the butterfly community, if it has not done so already. It is still far smaller than the bird community, but that is challenge that OdonataMAP is taking on.

Multiple factors have played a role in this growth. Emerging at roughly the same time, they have interacted with each other, and reinforced each other: (1) the publication of the superb fieldguide (Tarboton & Tarboton 2015); (2) the excellently managed Dragonflies and Damselflies of Southern Africa group on Facebook; and (3) the sturdy Virtual Museum platform for uploading images into a long-term database; (4) the award of funding to the Animal Demography Unit at UCT by the JRS Biodiversity Foundation, Seattle, USA.

Growing the broad civil society interest in the Odonata is part of the strategy for meeting the next challenge. This is in fact the challenge set by the JRS Biodiversity Foundation: “How do we get the data into use? How do we mainstream the dragonflies and damselflies so that the OdonataMAP data become serious components of conservation policy making, of environmental impact of assessments, and the thinking of politicians and civil servants?” Our report on the Odonata of the Kruger National Park was an experimental step in that direction (Underhill et al. 2018).

Acknowledgements

John Wilkinson, Alan Manson and Lappies Labuschagne and others made helpful suggestions. We acknowledge funding from the JRS Biodiversity Foundation, Seattle, USA. But above all, we celebrate the amazing contributions made by two teams of citizen scientists: the fieldworkers who contribute the records and the expert panel who undertake the identifications.

References

Clausnitzer V, Dijkstra K-DB, Koch R, Boudot J-P, Darwall WRT, Kipping J, Samraoui B, Samways MJ, Simaika JP, Suhling F 2012. Focus on African freshwaters: hotspots of dragonfly diversity and conservation concern. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 10: 129-134

Dijkstra, K-DB 2016. African Dragonflies and Damselflies Online. (Version 1 July 2016). Available online at http://addo.adu.org.za .

Samways MJ 2018. Spesbona angusta. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T13257A75519665. Available online at http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-1.RLTS.T13257A75519665.en. Downloaded on 5 September 2018.

Samways MJ, Tarboton W 2006. Rediscovery of Metacnemis angusta (Selys, 1863) in the Western Cape, South Africa (Zygoptera: Matycnemididae). Odonatologica 35: 375-378

Tarboton W, Tarboton M 2015. A Guide to Dragonflies and Damselflies of South Africa. Struik Nature, Cape Town.

Underhill LG, Manson AD, Labuschagne JP, Tippett JM 2016a. Shoot the Dragons Week, Round 1: OdonataMAP grows by 1,200 records. Biodiversity Observations 7.100: 1-14. Available online at https://journals.uct.ac.za/index.php/BO/article/view/393/434

Underhill LG, Navarro R, Manson AD, Labuschagne JP, Tarboton WR 2016b. OdonataMAP: progress report on the atlas of the dragonflies and damselflies of Africa, 2010-2016. Biodiversity Observations 7.47: 1-10. Available online at https://journals.uct.ac.za/index.php/BO/article/view/340

Underhill LG, Loftie-Eaton M, Navarro R 2018. Odonata of the Kruger National Park. Biodiversity Observations 9.11:1-16.

Sickle-winged Chat seasonality

de Swardt DH. 2018. Notes on the seasonal occurrence of Sickle-winged Chats Cercomela sinuata in the central Free State with notes on their seasonality. Biodiversity Observations 9.12:1-5

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.


Notes on the seasonal occurrence of Sickle-winged Chats Cercomela sinuata in the central Free State with notes on their seasonality

Dawid H de Swardt

Department of Ornithology, National Museum, P O Box 266, Bloemfontein 9300, South Africa


Dean (2005) described the status of the Sickle-winged Chat Cercomela sinuata as resident with some altitudinal movements from the Drakensberg escarpment to the lower Lesotho and KwaZulu-Natal areas. These represents mostly C. s. hypernephela (Dean 2005) and this species’ geographic variations are not discussed in Chittenden et al. (2012). Brown & Barnes (1984) first described these movements on the Alpine belt on the Drakensberg escarpment to adjacent lower altitudes. Harrison (1997) described their status (during SABAP1 surveys) with lower summer reporting rates and with winter increases in the central western parts of their distribution (Zone 3 on SABAP1 distribution map) which includes most of the central and western Free State. Harrison (1997) also suggested a seasonal movement into and out of the winter rainfall succulent Karoo areas.

During fieldwork for both the SABAP1 and current SABAP2 bird atlas projects (and BIRP projects), I observed winter seasonal influxes of Sickle-winged Chats in the central parts of the Free State. These winter increases were mostly observed during the April – August period when this species was observed in abundance in its preferred habitat. It is still uncertain from where these individuals originate, but the SABAP2 data will possibly support / explain the suggestion of seasonal influx into and out of the winter rainfall areas of the succulent Karoo to the central parts of their range (Harrison 1997).

The aim of this paper is to analyse the winter / summer seasonal distribution of the Sickle-winged Chat and to analyse its monthly occurrences in certain selected degree grid cells (DGCs). This paper will focus mainly on the central and western Free State and areas in the Western Cape and southern Eastern Cape where seasonality is also suspected to occur.

The distribution of Sickle-winged Chats is presented as winter (April – September) (Figure 1a) and summer (October – March) (Figure 1b) patterns and the higher reporting rates during winter in the central Free State are clearly noticeable (see explanations in Underhill & Brooks 2016). Also the map shows some differences in seasonal reporting rates in the Western Cape and southern Eastern Cape areas.

Figure 1: SABAP2 distribution maps for the winter (a) and summer (b) months for the Sickle-winged Chat, downloaded on 19 April 2017. The higher winter reporting rates (a) in the central parts of Free Sate differ noticeably from the lower reporting rates of the summer map (b). The detailed interpretation of this map is provided by Underhill & Brooks (2016) and see text. There are no data from pentads shaded turquoise. Pentads with white dots have fewer than four checklists but the species was not recorded. Pentads with four or more checklists are either shaded white, species not recorded, or in colour, with shades based on reporting rate: yellow 0-7.9%, orange 7.9-17.0%, light green 17.0-28.9%, dark green 28.9-44.8%, light blue 44.8-64.9% and dark blue 64.9-100%.
Figure 1: SABAP2 distribution maps for the winter (a) and summer (b) months for the Sickle-winged Chat, downloaded on 19 April 2017. The higher winter reporting rates (a) in the central parts of Free Sate differ noticeably from the lower reporting rates of the summer map (b). The detailed interpretation of this map is provided by Underhill & Brooks (2016) and see text. There are no data from pentads shaded turquoise. Pentads with white dots have fewer than four checklists but the species was not recorded. Pentads with four or more checklists are either shaded white, species not recorded, or in colour, with shades based on reporting rate: yellow 0-7.9%, orange 7.9-17.0%, light green 17.0-28.9%, dark green 28.9-44.8%, light blue 44.8-64.9% and dark blue 64.9-100%.

In the central and western parts of the Free State peak reporting rates were recorded in 6 DGCs mostly from April / May to August / September (Figure 2). Lower summer occurrences were also noted. In the more southern Free State (areas along the Gariep River) in DGCs 3024, 3025 and 3026 (not shown in Figure 2), Sickle-winged Chats were recorded in all months, with some summer peaks. During the Birds in Reserves Project (BIRP) which started in 1992 (after SABAP1), there was also a March / April – September peak in reporting rates recorded at Soetdoring and Willem Pretorius Nature Reserves (De Swardt 2000), which supports the SABAP2 data presented in Figure 1a & b. Also, BIRP data from Tussen-die-Riviere Game Reserve near Bethulie (which is along the Gariep River) show a summer peak from August – November.

Figure 2: Bar graphs of degree grid cells (DGCs) in the central and western Free State showing the monthly seasonal patterns of occurrence of Sickle-winged Chats. Note the absence or low reporting rates during the summer months (October - March).
Figure 2: Bar graphs of degree grid cells (DGCs) in the central and western Free State showing the monthly seasonal patterns of occurrence of Sickle-winged Chats. Note the absence or low reporting rates during the summer months (October – March).

In parts of the Western Cape (see Figure 1a & b) winter to early summer peaks were recorded during SABAP2 (Figure 3). In DGCs 3024, 3025 and 3026 low to high winter peaks were complimented by higher summer reporting rates to early summer reporting peaks during SABAP2 (not shown in Figure 3). In DGC 3324 (not shown in Figures 2 or 3), in the southern Eastern Cape, Sickle-winged Chats were recorded during all months of the year with an August peak, but the seasonal difference in Figure 1a & b is also noticeable. More distribution data are still needed in several DGCs in the Sickle-winged Chat distributional range, especially in low coverage areas.

Figure 3: Bar graphs of degree grid cells (DGCs) in the Western Cape areas showing the monthly seasonal patterns of occurrence of Sickle-winged Chats. Note the higher reporting rates during the summer months and also late winter peaks in some areas.
Figure 3: Bar graphs of degree grid cells (DGCs) in the Western Cape areas showing the monthly seasonal patterns of occurrence of Sickle-winged Chats. Note the higher reporting rates during the summer months and also late winter peaks in some areas.

This is the first time that the seasonal occurrence of Sickle-winged Chats has been analysed based on SABAP2 distributional data, and supports the suggestion that this species is not only resident in certain areas of its range, but that seasonal movements do occur (see Dean 2005, Harrison 1997). It is also the first attempt to analyse the winter influx of Sickle-winged Chats to the central and western Free State based on SABAP2 data, personal observations during the various atlas projects, and earlier published observations (see De Swardt 2000). This study also supports Harrison’s (1997) speculation that movement of this species does occur into and out of the winter rainfall succulent Karoo and the Western Cape areas. Oatley (2017) further recorded Sickle-winged Chats as breeding in the higher altitudes of Lesotho and recorded the species on rare occasions in the Drakensberg foothills in winter. Oatley (2017) further noted and suggested that this species’ migration is mostly westwards towards the Free State, which is supported by the SABAP2 data and personal observations in this study.

A total of 36 Sickle-winged Chats have been ringed so far, most of them in Lesotho, KwaZulu-Natal (Sani Pass areas) and in the Eastern Cape. There is only one ringing record from the Glen area in the central Free State. Also, only one recapture has been obtained with no movement recorded for the individual. A colour ringing study on this species is needed to unravel their seasonal occurrence in the central Free State and other parts of their range.

Acknowledgements

Thanks due to all the Citizen Scientists who submitted SABAP2 cards with Sickle-winged Chats on their lists, and to Les Underhill for producing the Sickle-winged Chat summer / winter maps for this manuscript.

References

Brown CJ, Barnes PR 1984. Birds of the Natal Alpine belt. Lammergeyer 33: 1-13.

Chittenden H, Allan DG, Weiersbye I 2012. Roberts geographic variation of southern African birds. John Voelcker Bird Book Fund: Cape Town.

De Swardt DH 2000. The birds of Soetdoring Nature Reserve and adjacent areas, central Free State. BirdLife South Africa guide pp. 1-40. BirdLife South Africa: Johannesburg.

Dean WRJ 2005. Sickle-winged Chat Cercomelia sinuata In: Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ, Ryan PG. (Eds). Roberts – Birds of Southern Africa (VIIth Ed) Cape Town: The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund. pp. 952-953.

Harrison JA 1997. Sickle-winged Chat. In: Harrison, J.A., Allan, D.G, Underhill, L.G., Herremans, M., Tree, A.J., Parker, V. & Brown, C.J. (Eds.). The atlas of southern African birds. Vol. 2, pp. 180-181. Johannesburg: BirdLife South Africa.

Oatley TB 2017. Altitudinal migration in south-eastern Africa. Biodiversity Observations 8.49: 1-21

Underhill LG, Brooks M 2016. Pentad-scale distribution maps for bird atlas data. Biodiversity Observations 7.52: 1-8.

Odonata of the Kruger National Park

Barbet Percher - Photo credit: Craig Peter

Underhill LG, Loftie-Eaton M and Navarro R. 2018. Odonata of the Kruger National Park. Biodiversity Observations 9.11:1-16

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.


Odonata of the Kruger National Park

Les G. Underhill

Animal Demography Unit, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, 7701 South Africa; Biodiversity and Development Institute, 25 Old Farm Road, Rondebosch, 7700 South Africa

Megan Loftie-Eaton

Animal Demography Unit, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, 7701 South Africa; Biodiversity and Development Institute, 25 Old Farm Road, Rondebosch, 7700 South Africa

Rene Navarro

Animal Demography Unit, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, 7701 South Africa; FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, 7701 South Africa

Abstract

The number of species of dragonflies and damselflies recorded in the Kruger National, South Africa, was 103 in April 2018. This figure was based on a database containing 2,817 records of Odonata, made since 1980, from the 52 quarter degree grid cells which intersect with the Kruger National Park. Records were available for 41 of the 52 grid cells. The most frequently recorded species were Red-veined Dropwing Trithemis arteriosa (167 records) and the Orange-veined Dropwing Trithemis kirbyi (144 records), both recorded in 33 grid cells, and Southern Banded Groundling Brachythemis leucosticta (175 records) and Broad Scarlet (141 records) both in 29 grid cells. Based on records up to April 2018, the median date of the most recent record for species was September 2017, so that half of the 103 species had been recorded during summer 2017/18. This report could be used to motivate the proclamation of the river and wetland systems of the Kruger National Park as a ‘Wetland of International Importance’ in terms of the Ramsar Convention. Two-thirds of the Odonata of South Africa, and one-eighth of the Odonata of Africa, have been recorded in the Kruger National Park.


Dragonflies and damselflies are important indicators of water quality and ecosystem health (Figure 1)

Barbet Percher - Photo credit: Craig Peter
Figure 1. A Barbet Percher Diplacodes luminans recorded by Craig Peter on the southern bank of the Luvuvhu River near Pafuri, Kruger National Park. OdonataMAP record 46300 http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=OdonataMAP-46300

Introduction

This document is experimental. It aims to provide a model for the presentation of biodiversity data that can be used by managers and policy makers, by researchers, and by citizen scientists. For these groups of people it aims (1) to provide a snapshot, at a point in time, of the quality and volume of data available for a locality, and (2) aims to provide links to the relevant databases, so they have access to useful summaries of the ongoing data collection effort. In this case the locality is the Kruger National Park, South Africa, and the component of biodiversity under consideration is the Odonata, the dragonflies and the damselflies.

We are looking for suggestions that will improve the usefulness of this product. We are primarily hoping that this review will be on value to managers and policy makers, so it is their information needs which we primarily want to meet.

Study area: Kruger National Park, South Africa

The Kruger National Park (KNP) is the flagship national park of South Africa. The KNP, located in the north-eastern corner of South Africa, was established as a government reserve in 1898 and became South Africa’s first national park in 1926. It was first established to control over-hunting and to protect the dwindling number of herbivores in the Lowveld (Stevenson-Hamilton 1993). The KNP is currently nearly two million hectares in size (19,485 km2). It is a national conservation icon of South Africa and considered to be a safe haven for many fauna and flora. KNP is home to approximately 2,000 species of plant, 53 fish, 34 amphibians, 118 reptiles, 517 birds and 147 mammal species (SANParks 2016).

KNP is about 360 km long from north to south, and about 65 km wide on average, from west to east. Its widest point is 90 km (Paynter & Nussey 1986). The park is bordered by the Limpopo River in the north and the Crocodile River in the south, forming natural park boundaries. Several other rivers run through the park from west to east, including the Sabie, Olifants, Letaba and Luvuvhu Rivers. The Lebombo Mountains lie on the eastern park boundary with Mozambique and to the west the KNP is fringed with many other private nature reserves (forming part of the Greater Kruger National Park) and local communities, villages and towns. The park’s altitude ranges from 200 m to 800 m. The highest point is Khandzalive Hill in the south-west of the park near the Berg-en-Dal rest camp (Paynter & Nussey 1986).

The Lowveld, and consequently the KNP, has a subtropical climate. Subtropical climates are characterised by warm, humid summers and mild, dry winters. Summer temperatures can rise above 38 °C. The rainy season starts around November and lasts until May. The driest period is September and October (SANParks 2016).

Data resources

This document provides information related to the Odonata for the Kruger National Park as well as a selection of species distribution maps. It makes use of the open access database developed by a project funded by the JRS Biodiversity Foundation which generated the Odonata Database of Africa (Clausnitzer et al. 2012, Dijkstra 2016, available online as African Dragonflies and Damselflies Online at http://addo.adu.org.za) and the citizen science database generated by the OdonataMAP project (Underhill et al. 2016, available online at http://vmus.adu.org.za). Both databases are open access. This report is based on species recorded in 52 quarter degree grid cells which fall entirely or partly within the KNP (Table 1, Figure 2). Search queries made to the OdonataMAP database can be extended to include a search of the Odonata Database of Africa, which includes almost all of the museum specimen records for the region. This has been done for this report.

Table 1. The codes for the Quarter Degree Grid Cells (QDGC) which fall fully or partly within the Kruger National Park (KNP). The column headed ‘% in KNP’ provides an estimate of the percentage of the QDGC which lies inside the KNP.

QDGC and name % in KNP
2230DB HAMAKUYA 17
2230DD KA-XIKUNDU 16
2231AC MABILIGWE 44
2231AD PAFURI 12
2231CA PUNDA MARIA 99
2231CB MACHAYIPAN 50
2231CC DZUNDWINI 100
2231CD SHINGOMENI 83
2231DC 0
2330BB SHANGONI 28
2330BD NSAMA 2
2331AA SHIGOMANE 100
2331AB SHINGWIDZI 100
2331AC NALATSI 91
2331AD DZOMBO 100
2331BA SHINGWIDZI (EAST) 16
2331BC KOSTINI 22
2331CA MAHLANGENI 50
2331CB NGODZI 100
2331CC PHALABORWA 35
2331CD MASORINI 100
2331DA SHILOWA 67
2331DC LETABA 97
2331DD GORGE 19
2431AA GRIETJIE 5
2431AB ROODEKRANS 53
2431AD ORPEN 37
2431BA BALULE 100
2431BB BANGU 62
2431BC MASALA 100
2431BD SATARA 96
2431CB MANYELETI 7
2431CC BOSBOKRAND 0
2431CD NEWINGTON 9
2431DA RIPAPE 77
2431DB LINDANDA 100
2431DC SKUKUZA 63
2431DD TSHOKWANA 100
2432AC 1
2432CA 1
2432CC TSHOKWANA 5
2531AA KIEPERSOL 14
2531AB PRETORIUSKOP 100
2531AC WITRIVIER 0
2531AD GUTSHWA 85
2531BA DUBE 100
2531BB ONDER-SABIE 100
2531BC HECTORSPRUIT 67
2531BD KOMATIPOORT 46
2531CB KAAPMUIDEN 3
2532AA ONDER-SABIE 12
2532AC KOMATIPOORT 4

Locations of the 52 Quarter Degree Grid Cells (QDGCs) which intersect with the Kruger National Park. These are listed in Table 1. The naming convention follows the tradition that has been used in South Africa for almost a century. There are 16 QDGCs in a one-degree grid cell. Each one-degree cell is numbered by the coordinates, latitude first, then longitude, of the northwest corner of the cell. The subdivisions of the one-degree grid cell have an alphabetic notation, as shown.
Figure 2. Locations of the 52 Quarter Degree Grid Cells (QDGCs) which intersect with the Kruger National Park. These are listed in Table 1. The naming convention follows the tradition that has been used in South Africa for almost a century. There are 16 QDGCs in a one-degree grid cell. Each one-degree cell is numbered by the coordinates, latitude first, then longitude, of the northwest corner of the cell. The subdivisions of the one-degree grid cell have an alphabetic notation, as shown.

OdonataMAP data for the Kruger National Park

On 23 April 2018, there were 2,817 records of Odonata in the combined database of OdonataMAP and the Odonata Data Base of Africa, recorded since 1980. Of these, 2663 had been identified to species level, and the remainder to genus level. The number of species recorded for the Kruger National Park was 103 species from eight families (Table 2). Within Table 2, the ordering is first alphabetically by family, and then by genus and species.

Table 2. Species of Odonata recorded in the 52 quarter degree grid cells (Table 1) which intersect with the Kruger National Park, South Africa. The cut-off date is 1980; i.e. records prior to this are not included in this analysis. The number of quarter degree grid cells in which each species has been recorded is given, and n refers to the number of records in joint ADDO-OdonataMAP database for the species. The table lists 103 species.

Species code Family Scientific name Common name Grid cells n Most recent record
664070 Aeshnidae Anaciaeschna triangulifera Evening Hawker 1 1 2017/09/01
664120 Aeshnidae Anax ephippiger Vagrant Emperor 6 7 2014/03/29
664140 Aeshnidae Anax imperator Blue Emperor 20 41 2016/10/06
664170 Aeshnidae Anax speratus (Eastern) Orange Emperor 6 9 2012/12/06
664180 Aeshnidae Anax tristis Black Emperor 4 5 2012/12/06
664320 Aeshnidae Gynacantha manderica Little Duskhawker 1 1 2002/01/01
664470 Aeshnidae Pinheyschna subpupillata Stream Hawker 1 1 2001/01/01
660580 Calopterygidae Phaon iridipennis Glistening Demoiselle 14 34 2018/01/28
661180 Chlorocyphidae Platycypha caligata Dancing Jewel 10 28 2018/01/27
662330 Coenagrionidae Africallagma glaucum Swamp Bluet 5 8 2013/02/18
662460 Coenagrionidae Agriocnemis exilis Little Wisp 1 1 2001/01/01
662470 Coenagrionidae Agriocnemis falcifera White-masked Wisp 1 1 2013/02/18
662630 Coenagrionidae Azuragrion nigridorsum Sailing Bluet 11 22 2018/02/03
662720 Coenagrionidae Ceriagrion glabrum Common Citril 21 68 2018/03/16
662790 Coenagrionidae Ceriagrion suave Suave Citril 1 2 2014/03/29
663100 Coenagrionidae Ischnura senegalensis Tropical Bluetail 18 56 2018/03/16
663670 Coenagrionidae Pseudagrion acaciae Acacia Sprite 18 52 2017/08/07
663710 Coenagrionidae Pseudagrion coeleste Catshead Sprite 2 2 2015/10/13
663720 Coenagrionidae Pseudagrion commoniae Black Sprite 18 43 2014/05/04
663360 Coenagrionidae Pseudagrion gamblesi Great Sprite 7 15 2016/07/12
663410 Coenagrionidae Pseudagrion hageni Painted Sprite 4 10 2017/01/27
663780 Coenagrionidae Pseudagrion hamoni Swarthy Sprite 23 91 2018/03/16
663460 Coenagrionidae Pseudagrion kersteni Powder-faced Sprite 16 35 2017/01/23
663820 Coenagrionidae Pseudagrion massaicum Masai Sprite 17 72 2017/12/01
663560 Coenagrionidae Pseudagrion salisburyense Slate Sprite 7 10 2015/11/23
663870 Coenagrionidae Pseudagrion sjoestedti Variable Sprite 6 11 2014/03/28
663880 Coenagrionidae Pseudagrion sublacteum Cherry-eye Sprite 19 58 2018/01/27
663890 Coenagrionidae Pseudagrion sudanicum Blue-sided Sprite 5 17 2017/10/07
664550 Gomphidae Cerato-gomphus pictus Common Thorntail 1 1 2006/12/12
664640 Gomphidae Creni-gomphus hartmanni Clubbed Talontail 9 16 2016/05/17
664770 Gomphidae Gomphidia quarrei Southern Fingertail 3 6 2016/12/27
664830 Gomphidae Ictino-gomphus ferox Common Tigertail 16 51 2018/01/28
664880 Gomphidae Lestino-gomphus angustus Spined Fairytail 4 5 2012/11/24
665300 Gomphidae Neuro-gomphus zambeziensis Zambezi Siphontail 4 10 2017/12/08
665480 Gomphidae Notogomphus praetorius Yellowjack Longleg 1 1 2013/01/25
665640 Gomphidae Onycho-gomphus supinus Lined Claspertail 1 1 2002/01/01
665740 Gomphidae Paragomphus cognatus Rock Hooktail 4 6 2017/01/23
665780 Gomphidae Paragomphus elpidius Corkscrew Hooktail 10 15 2018/01/27
665790 Gomphidae Paragomphus genei Common Hooktail 17 36 2017/11/18
665840 Gomphidae Paragomphus magnus Great Hooktail 5 6 2017/03/20
665890 Gomphidae Paragomphus sabicus Flapper Hooktail 5 9 2018/01/14
666070 Gomphidae Phyllogom-phus selysi Bold Leaftail 3 4 2018/02/20
660410 Lestidae Lestes pallidus Pallid Spreadwing 7 8 2017/11/21
660360 Lestidae Lestes plagiatus Highland Spreadwing 5 10 2018/01/30
660330 Lestidae Lestes tridens Spotted Spreadwing 2 2 2002/01/01
660370 Lestidae Lestes uncifer Sickle Spreadwing 5 5 2018/03/23
660300 Lestidae Lestes virgatus Smoky Spreadwing 1 2 2013/02/18
666750 Libellulidae Acisoma inflatum Stout Pintail 3 3 2017/01/20
666770 Libellulidae Acisoma variegatum Slender Pintail 4 12 2018/03/16
666920 Libellulidae Aethriamanta rezia Pygmy Basker 1 1 1992/01/01
667020 Libellulidae Brachythemis lacustris Red Groundling 16 50 2018/01/27
667030 Libellulidae Brachythemis leucosticta Southern Banded Groundling 29 175 2018/03/22
667060 Libellulidae Bradinopyga cornuta Horned Rockdweller 10 15 2018/03/16
667090 Libellulidae Chalcostephia flavifrons Inspector 2 32 2018/02/04
667130 Libellulidae Crocothemis erythraea Broad Scarlet 29 143 2018/03/16
667140 Libellulidae Crocothemis sanguinolenta Little Scarlet 7 12 2015/10/09
667200 Libellulidae Diplacodes lefebvrii Black Percher 15 42 2018/03/22
667210 Libellulidae Diplacodes luminans Barbet Percher 14 22 2018/03/22
667380 Libellulidae Hemistigma albipunctum African Piedspot 5 11 2017/09/01
667690 Libellulidae Nesciothemis farinosa Eastern Blacktail 21 105 2018/02/04
667730 Libellulidae Notiothemis jonesi Eastern Forest-watcher 3 4 2012/12/06
667760 Libellulidae Olpogastra lugubris Bottletail 4 5 2017/11/29
667780 Libellulidae Orthetrum abbotti Little Skimmer 2 2 2012/12/06
667830 Libellulidae Orthetrum brachiale Banded Skimmer 1 1 2014/03/29
667860 Libellulidae Orthetrum caffrum Two-striped Skimmer 1 1 2007/01/27
667900 Libellulidae Orthetrum chrysostigma Epaulet Skimmer 24 91 2018/01/28
667930 Libellulidae Orthetrum hintzi Dark-shouldered Skimmer 3 4 2017/11/01
667940 Libellulidae Orthetrum icteromelas Spectacled Skimmer 1 1 2011/03/07
667950 Libellulidae Orthetrum julia Julia Skimmer 13 45 2018/02/04
668000 Libellulidae Orthetrum machadoi Highland Skimmer 3 27 2018/02/20
668110 Libellulidae Orthetrum stemmale Bold Skimmer 9 36 2018/02/20
668120 Libellulidae Orthetrum trinacria Long Skimmer 19 43 2018/01/30
668180 Libellulidae Palpopleura deceptor Deceptive Widow 4 16 2014/05/04
668190 Libellulidae Palpopleura jucunda Yellow-veined Widow 5 7 2014/05/02
668200 Libellulidae Palpopleura lucia Lucia Widow 22 68 2018/02/20
668210 Libellulidae Palpopleura portia Portia Widow 10 21 2017/11/26
668230 Libellulidae Pantala flavescens Wandering Glider 22 61 2018/01/28
668370 Libellulidae Rhyothemis semihyalina Phantom Flutterer 8 15 2016/04/11
668420 Libellulidae Sympetrum fonscolombii Red-veined Darter or Nomad 4 4 2014/04/27
668540 Libellulidae Tetrathemis polleni Black-splashed Elf 8 15 2018/02/03
668600 Libellulidae Tholymis tillarga Twister 1 1 2012/02/10
668620 Libellulidae Tramea basilaris Keyhole Glider 13 17 2018/01/31
668630 Libellulidae Tramea limbata Ferruginous Glider 10 13 2014/11/18
668740 Libellulidae Trithemis aconita Halfshade Dropwing 6 10 2018/01/30
668660 Libellulidae Trithemis annulata Violet Dropwing 16 114 2018/03/23
668670 Libellulidae Trithemis arteriosa Red-veined Dropwing 33 167 2018/01/30
668800 Libellulidae Trithemis donaldsoni Denim Dropwing 7 8 2017/01/23
668870 Libellulidae Trithemis dorsalis Highland Dropwing 2 2 2016/02/02
668890 Libellulidae Trithemis furva Navy Dropwing 3 6 2017/01/27
669120 Libellulidae Trithemis kirbyi Orange-winged Dropwing 33 144 2018/03/17
668900 Libellulidae Trithemis pluvialis Russet Dropwing 3 9 2016/06/07
669080 Libellulidae Trithemis stictica Jaunty Dropwing 5 5 2015/03/14
669130 Libellulidae Trithemis werneri Elegant Dropwing 7 26 2018/03/15
669180 Libellulidae Urothemis assignata Red Basker 10 22 2016/05/18
669190 Libellulidae Urothemis edwardsii Blue Basker 8 13 2016/04/11
669250 Libellulidae Zygonoides fuelleborni Southern Riverking 9 13 2016/12/27
669390 Libellulidae Zygonyx natalensis Blue Cascader 7 12 2017/11/29
669420 Libellulidae Zygonyx torridus Ringed Cascader 16 24 2014/05/04
666420 Macromiidae Phyllomacro-mia contumax Two-banded Cruiser 7 9 2014/05/01
666620 Macromiidae Phyllomacro-mia picta Darting Cruiser 8 10 2017/12/01
661480 Platycnemididae Allocnemis leucosticta Goldtail 2 3 2015/03/14
661810 Platycnemididae Elattoneura glauca Common Threadtail 13 37 2018/01/30
661640 Platycnemididae Mesocnemis singularis Common (Forest/ Savanna) Riverjack 9 13 2017/01/23

The Red-veined Dropwing Trithemis arteriosa (167 records) and the Orange-veined Dropwing Trithemis kirbyi (144 records) were both recorded in 33 of the quarter degree grid cells of the Kruger National Park, and Southern Banded Groundling Brachythemis leucosticta (175 records) and Broad Scarlet (141 records) in 29 grid cells (Table 2). These four dragonflies were the most widely distributed species.

The dataset is commendably “young” (final column of Table 2). Based on records up to April 2018, the median date of the most recent record for species was September 2017. In other words, half of the 103 species had been recorded during the most recent eight-month period, i.e. in summer 2017/18. The lower quartile was in March 2015, indicating that three-quarters of the species have been recorded in the most recent three years.

Special attention needs to be focused on “refreshing” the records of the species in oldest quartile; in this case, it is species not recorded since 2015. Of species recorded since 1980, nine have not been recorded for more than 10 years, i.e. prior to 2008 (Table 2). Common Thorntail Ceratogomphus pictus was last recorded on 12 December 2006, Two-striped Skimmer Orthetrum caffrum was last recorded on 27 January 2007, and Spectacled Skimmer Orthetrum icteromelas was last recorded on 7 March 2011 (Table 2). For a further six species, only the year of the last record is available: Pygmy Basker Aethriamanta rezia (1992), Steam Hawker Pinheyschna subpupillata and Little Wisp Agriocnemis exilis (2001), and Spotted Spreadwing Lestes tridens, Lined Claspertail Onychogomphus supinus and Little Duskhawker Gynacantha maderica (2002). Eight of these nine species have been recorded only once in the Kruger National Park since 1980, and the Spotted Spreadwing twice (Table 2). The presence of these species needs careful evaluation. Six species were last recorded in 2012, four in 2013, and 11 in 2014.

Of the species in the “oldest” quartile, three had been recorded in more than 10 grid cells: Black Sprite Pseudagrion commoniae (18 grid cells, 43 records), Ringed Cascader Zygonyx torridus (16 grid cells, 24 records) and Ferruginous Glider Tramea limbata (10 grid cells, 13 records) (Table 2). The current status of these three species should be investigated. They were last recorded in 2014 (Table 2).

The maximum number of species of Odonata in any of the 52 quarter degree grid cells of the Kruger National Park was 60 (Figure 3). The median was 12 species. Eleven grid cells had no records of Odonata. Most of these grid cells have only a small percentage of their area within the Kruger National Park, and those on the eastern edge of the park are mostly in Mozambique and are virtually inaccessible even from within that country (Peter Lawson pers. comm.). If these grid cells are excluded from the calculation, the median number of species per grid cell is 21.

Figure 3. Species richness of the Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) in the Quarter Degree Grid Cells (QDGC) which intersect with the Kruger National Park. Refer to Figure 2 and Table 1 for the naming conventions of each QDGC.
Figure 3. Species richness of the Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) in the Quarter Degree Grid Cells (QDGC) which intersect with the Kruger National Park. Refer to Figure 2 and Table 1 for the naming conventions of each QDGC.

Table 3. The number of species recorded in each of the 41 quarter degree grid cells intersecting with the Kruger National Park which have Odonata data. The quarter degree grid cell code is provided, the number of species recorded, and the number of records of these species. Because of the difficulty of making identifications of species with certainty from photographs, some records are identified to genus or family. The final column gives the total number of records for the grid cell in the database.

QDGC No. of species Records identified to species level Number of taxa Total number of records
2230DB HAMAKUYA 36 58 37 59
2231AC MABILIGWE 42 69 46 75
2231AD PAFURI 48 122 48 122
2231CA PUNDA MARIA 30 77 31 78
2231CC DZUNDWINI 20 46 21 48
2231CD SHINGOMENI 15 20 16 21
2331AB SHINGWIDZI 28 77 30 79
2331AD DZOMBO 3 7 4 8
2331BA SHINGWIDZI (OOS) 9 11 12 15
2331BC KOSTINI 11 18 12 19
2331CA MAHLANGENI 8 8 8 8
2331CB NGODZI 25 112 27 117
2331CC PHALABORWA 8 16 9 17
2331CD MASORINI 7 10 8 12
2331DA SHILOWA 4 5 5 6
2331DC LETABA 45 194 48 197
2331DD GORGE 4 9 4 9
2431AA GRIETJIE 42 258 48 291
2431AB ROODEKRANS 3 3 3 3
2431AD ORPEN 3 3 5 5
2431BA BALULE 29 88 33 95
2431BB BANGU 21 27 22 29
2431BC MASALA 13 16 13 16
2431BD SATARA 25 52 27 54
2431CB MANYELETI 20 35 24 40
2431CC BOSBOKRAND 9 10 10 11
2431CD NEWINGTON 47 154 53 167
2431DA RIPAPE 5 6 5 6
2431DB LINDANDA 4 4 4 4
2431DC SKUKUZA 60 244 66 253
2431DD TSHOKWANA 55 133 58 138
2531AA KIEPERSOL 59 211 64 218
2531AB PRETORIUSKOP 8 13 9 14
2531AC WITRIVIER 25 49 28 54
2531AD GUTSHWA 21 37 24 47
2531BA DUBE 12 16 12 16
2531BB ONDER-SABIE 44 101 48 105
2531BC HECTORSPRUIT 54 152 58 158
2531BD KOMATIPOORT 50 370 57 394
2531CB KAAPMUIDEN 51 114 51 114
2532AA ONDER-SABIE 1 1 1 1

What is immediately clear from Figure 3 is that the species richness within the park appears to be spatially uneven, with no strong geographical pattern (such as a decrease from north to south, or east to west). Figure 3 is the result of two confounded processes: the fieldwork behaviour of the observers (technically, the observer process) and the truth on the ground (the biological process). Although there is likely to be variation in the number of species per grid cell, due to the uneven distribution of suitable wetland habitat for Odonata, the true variation is unlikely to be as large as depicted in Figure 3. The challenge for fieldwork in the Kruger National Park is that the dragonflies and damselflies share their habitat with Nile Crocodiles Crocodylus niloticus, Common Hippopotamuses Hippopotamus amphibious and other life-threatening animals. As a result, and in accordance with the SANParks code of conduct for visitors to the Kruger National Park, most river systems and wetlands are out of bounds; this makes consistent recording of especially the damselflies difficult, and introduces a bias into the data.

In spite of this, it is probably feasible, now that the unevenness of the observer effort is displayed (Figure 3), that the citizen scientists who are the primary contributors of data to OdonataMAP will find a way to reduce as much of the bias introduced by the observer process as feasible.

Distribution maps, generated in May 2018, are provided for a sample of four species, selected to illustrate various levels of occurrence in the Kruger National Park (Figures 4 and 5). Up-to-date distribution maps (i.e. for use in the future) for all species can be obtained from the following link:

http://vmus.adu.org.za/vm_map_afr.php?spp=668670&database=odonata&grid=1&key=1&map=24&cell_m=15&outline=1

Figure 4. Distribution maps for the Red-veined Dropwing *Trithemis arteriosa* and the Epaulet Skimmer *Orthretrum chrysostigma* in the Kruger National Park and surrounding areas. The Red-veined Dropwing has been recorded in 33 of the 52 QDGCs which intersect with the Kruger National Park, the most widespread species, and the Epaulet Skimmer in 24. The distribution beyond the Kruger National Park is displayed on these maps.
Figure 4. Distribution maps for the Red-veined Dropwing *Trithemis arteriosa* and the Epaulet Skimmer *Orthretrum chrysostigma* in the Kruger National Park and surrounding areas. The Red-veined Dropwing has been recorded in 33 of the 52 QDGCs which intersect with the Kruger National Park, the most widespread species, and the Epaulet Skimmer in 24. The distribution beyond the Kruger National Park is displayed on these maps.

This gives the map for the species with species code number 668670, the Red-veined Dropwing (Figure 4). The species codes are provided in the first column of Table 2.

Figure 5. Distribution maps for the Violet Dropwing *Trithemis annulata* and the Darting Cruiser *Phyllomacromia picta* in the Kruger National Park and surrounding areas. The Violet Dropwing has been recorded in 16 of the 52 QDGCs which intersect with the Kruger National Park and the Darting Cruiser in eight. The distribution beyond the Kruger National Park is displayed in these maps.
Figure 5. Distribution maps for the Violet Dropwing *Trithemis annulata* and the Darting Cruiser *Phyllomacromia picta* in the Kruger National Park and surrounding areas. The Violet Dropwing has been recorded in 16 of the 52 QDGCs which intersect with the Kruger National Park and the Darting Cruiser in eight. The distribution beyond the Kruger National Park is displayed in these maps.

Up-to-date lists of the species recorded in a quarter degree grid cell can be obtained from the following link. The list of grid cell codes is provided in Table 1. In the link below, replace the “locus” with the code for the QDGC required (consult also Figure 2):

http://vmus.adu.org.za/vm_locus_map.php?vm=OdonataMAP&locus=2230DB

These lists are constructed to the same format as that of Table 2, including the provision of the most recent record of each species in the grid cell. The list can be copied and pasted to Excel, where they can be sorted and manipulated as needed. These list include numbers of records for which the expert panel was unable to make an identification to “species” level.

Earlier studies of the Odonata of the Kruger National Park

Three key papers have been written which focus on the Odonata of the Kruger National Park (Table 4). The first was a list of 21 species recorded by Balinsky (1965). Three decades late, Clark & Samways (1994) generated a list of 80 species, based on three sources: the 21 species by Balinsky (1965), their own list of 59 species from along the Sabie River, and a list of 61 species generated by “other collectors” in the period between Balinsky’s fieldwork and their own. Clark & Samways (1994) noted that there were three species which had only been recorded by Balinsky (1965); these are included in the list of Table 2; i.e. their presence has been confirmed. They also noted that there were 11 species which were only on the list made by “other collectors”. All except one of these species is included in Table 2; the exception is Cryptic Syphontail Neurogomphus vicinus, a species which has only been recorded from its type locality in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Schouteden 1934); so this species represents an error.

Table 4. Papers which focus on reviews of the Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) of the Kruger National Park.

Reference Summary
Balinsky BI 1965. A preliminary list of the dragonflies (Odonata) of the Kruger National Park. Koedoe 8: 95-96 Based on a total of 84 specimens collected in the Kruger National Park, this paper provided a list of 21 species. At the end of this Balinsky provides reasons why ‘the present list includes only a small fraction of the dragonfly species occurring in the Park.’
Clark TE, Samways MJ 1994. An inventory of the damselflies and dragonflies (Odonata) of the Kruger National Park, with three new South African records. African Entomology 2: 61-64 Using the list by Balinsky (1065) as baseline, made three decades previously, records made by other researchers, and their own data from a study of the Odonata along the Sabie River, the authors extended the list to 81.
Clark TE, Samways MJ 1996. Dragonflies (Odonata) as indicators of biotope quality in the Kruger National Park, South Africa. Journal of Applied Ecology 33: 1001-1012 This paper demonstrated how the Odonata can be used to undertake biomonitoring of the Sabie River. Ten ‘biotopes’ (waterbody types) were identified, and the Odonata species characteristic of each were identified using multivariate statistical methods.

It is remarkable how the list of Odonata species has grown in the past five decades, from 21 to 80 and currently 103 (Tables 2 and 4). It is even more remarkable that two-thirds of South Africa’s species of Odonata (Tarboton & Tarboton 2015) have been recorded in the quarter degree grid cells which intersect with the Kruger National Park.

Conclusions and recommendations

This paper has aimed to highlight the contents of the OdonataMAP database, in relation to the Kruger National Park, providing a snapshot from April-May 2018. But it also provides the tools to enable users (1) to obtain up-to-date species distribution maps for the dragonflies and damselflies of the Kruger National Park, and (2) to obtain up-to-date species lists on the scale of the quarter degree grid cell. These maps and lists are extracted “on the fly” from the live database for the project when the queries are made.

These distribution maps and species lists can only be comprehensive if the OdonataMAP database contains the entire knowledge base. One of the concerns of the second decade of the 21st century is the proliferation of a variety of biodiversity data collection initiatives. This serves to split (and confuse) the citizen scientist community, which is in any event small, and to generate a diversity of databases which do not communicate with each other, and ultimately result in products such as those produced within this system being incomplete. The OdonataMAP database (supplemented by the Odonata Data Base of Africa (Clausnitzer et al. 2012, Dijkstra 2016) which contains the overwhelming majority of specimen records in museum collections, and the observations of taxon specialists), is currently the most reliable and up to date database of the Odonata in Africa, and growing rapidly (Underhill et al. 2016).

We are seeking suggestions for additional resources which would be perceived valuable. For example, both managers and citizen scientists might be interested in a species map which shows the time elapsed, in appropriate units, since the species was recorded in each grid cell. From a management perspective, if a pattern emerges, it is a warning that a species is becoming hard to locate in an area, and that it might be going extinct there. From the citizen scientist perspective, this knowledge provides an incentive of which species need to be “refreshed” in each grid cell. Another example might be a table which shows the median date of the records from each quarter degree grid cell. From both management and citizen scientist perspective, this provides guidance as to where observer effort should be focused.

How can these data be used for annual monitoring of Odonata in the Kruger National Park? Because the bulk of the records are made by citizen scientists it is difficult to impose a strict protocol on data collection. However, with some ingenuity, it ought to be feasible to encourage citizen scientists, cumulatively, to visit as many grid cells as they are able, and to use these data some form of occupancy modelling to estimate changes in distribution and seasonality through time. There is a natural annual pattern to the occurrence of adult dragonflies and damselflies, with a winter lull. This annual cycle can be used to plan citizen scientist data collection strategies for the upcoming summer.

Given the hazards of doing fieldwork in the presence of dangerous wild animals (and in fact the understandable prohibition on this by SANParks for citizen scientists), it is not going to be feasible to undertake a complete survey of the distribution of dragonflies and damselflies of the Kruger National Park. It is therefore sensible to think in terms of using species distribution models to achieve this (Elith & Leathwick 2009, Franklin 2009, Guisan et al. 2013). Although in this paper, the data have been summarized in terms of quarter degree grid cells, the overwhelming majority of the individual records are georeferenced. This means that it is possible to use a species distribution model system such as MaxEnt to generate plausible distributions of species (Elith et al. 2011).

Finally, this paper ends up effectively being a motivation for the proclamation of the Kruger National Park, or at least its river and wetland systems, as a “Wetland of International Importance” in terms of the Ramsar Convention (Ramsar Convention on Wetlands 2016). About two-thirds of the Odonata ever recorded in South Africa have been recorded here. About one-eighth of the Odonata of the continent of Africa have been recorded in the Kruger National Park.

Acknowledgements

The primary acknowledgement needs to be attributed to the people who collected the data, both professional entomologists and citizen scientists. We acknowledge funding support from the JRS Biodiversity Foundation. Many people commented on earlier drafts.

References

Balinsky BI 1965. A preliminary list of the dragonflies (Odonata) of the Kruger National Park. Koedoe 8: 95-96.

Clark TE, Samways MJ 1994. An inventory of the damselflies and dragonflies (Odonata) of the Kruger National Park, with three new South African records. African Entomology 2: 61-64.

Clark TE, Samways MJ 1996. Dragonflies (Odonata) as indicators of biotope quality in the Kruger National Park, South Africa. Journal of Applied Ecology 33: 1001-1012.

Clausnitzer V, Dijkstra K-DB, Koch R, Boudot J-P, Darwall WRT, Kipping J, Samraoui B, Samways MJ, Simaika JP, Suhling F 2012. Focus on African freshwaters: hotspots of dragonfly diversity and conservation concern. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 10: 129-134

Dijkstra, K-DB 2016. African Dragonflies and Damselflies Online. (Version 1 July 2016). Available online at http://addo.adu.org.za .

Elith J, Leathwick JR 2009. Species distribution models: ecological explanation and prediction across space and time. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 40: 677-697.

Elith J, Phillips SJ, Hastie T, Dud KM, Chee YE, Yates CJ 2011. A statistical explanation of MaxEnt for ecologists. Diversity and Distributions 17: 43-57.

Franklin J 2009. Mapping Species Distributions: Spatial Inference and Prediction. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Guisan A, Tingley R, Baumgartner JB, Naujokaitis-Lewis I, Sutcliffe PR, Tulloch AIT, Regan TJ, Brotons L, McDonald-Madden E, Mantyka-Pringle C, Martin TG, Rhodes JR, Maggini R, Setterfield SA, Elith J, Schwartz MW, Wintle BA, Broennimann O, Austin M, Ferrier S, Kearney MR, Possingham HP, Buckley, YM 2013. Predicting species distributions for conservation decisions. Ecological Letters 16:1424-1435.

Paynter D, Nussey W 1986. Die Krugerwildtuin in Woord en Beeld. Macmillan Suid-Afrika, Johannesburg.

Ramsar Convention on Wetlands 2016. An Introduction to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Ramsar Convention Secretariat, Gland, Switzerland.

SANParks 2016. South African National Parks. Kruger National Park: Introduction. Retrieved from https://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/ on 5 October 2016.

Schouteden H 1934. Les Odonata des Congo Belge. Annales Musée Congo Belge. Zoologie Serie 3 Section 2. Catalogue Raisonnés de la Fauna Entomolgique du Congo Belge Tome 3, Fascicule 1: 1-84.

Stevenson-Hamilton J 1993. South African Eden: The Kruger National Park 1902-1946. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.

Tarboton W, Tarboton M 2015. A Guide to Dragonflies and Damselflies of South Africa. Struik Nature, Cape Town.

Underhill LG, Navarro R, Manson AD, Labuschagne JP, Tarboton WR 2016. OdonataMAP: progress report on the atlas of the dragonflies and damselflies of Africa, 2010-2016. Biodiversity Observations 7.47: 1-10. Available online at http://bo.adu.org.za/content.php?id=240

Elith J, Leathwick JR 2009a. Species distribution models: ecological explanation and prediction across space and time. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 40: 677-697.

Franklin J 2009. Mapping Species Distributions: Spatial Inference and Prediction. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

What’s the value of a photo?

How frequently can the species in the photograph be identified?

We asked this question of seven of the taxa in the Virtual Museum (http://vmus.adu.org.za). We looked at scorpions, lacewings, birds, frogs, reptiles, butterflies, and dragonflies and damselflies.

What happens is this. Citizen scientists upload their photographs into the Virtual Museum. A record can consist of one to three photographs. The second and third photographs are usually used to show different angles on the animal. They will know that the record is butterfly, and that it ought to be submitted to LepiMAP, and that the scorpions go to ScorpionMAP, etc. But they don’t need to know what species they are uploading (although they can submit their identification, or even tentative identification). For each of these groups of species, there is an expert panel consisting of specialists, often citizen scientists themselves. These experts do their best to make an identification to species (or even subspecies level for some butterflies and reptiles). But they are careful, and if the identification cannot be made with certainty to species level, they allocate a genus, and sometimes even a family. This mostly happens when the photo is a bit blurred, or if the critical ID feature is not shown. And some species can only be identified when the species is captured, and the critical diagnostic features, often the genitals, are examined with a magnifying glass! The identifications are displayed for all to  see and examine on the Virtual Museum website; as a result, the members of the expert panels tend to err on the side of caution.

Let’s work our way through the seven groups. For each group of species, we will count the number of records submitted, and calculate the percentage which have been identified to species level. Each group is illustrated with a recently uploaded record from the Virtual Museum.

This is Opistophthalmus gigas. At this stage the scorpions only have scientific names. There is a great need to make them more accessible to everyone by allocating English common names! The photograph was taken by Luke Kemp in Namibia. The ScorpionMAP details are available at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=ScorpionMAP-3490

Scorpions. We expected the scorpions to be tricky. But of the first 3,259 scorpions to be submitted to ScorpionMAP, 3,259 have been identified to species. That is an incredible 98.6%.

This is one of the “green lacewings”. It is identified to family Chrysopidae. To see more detail, go to LacewingMAP and look at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=LacewingMAP-15501. This photograph was uploaded from Swaziland by Kate Braun. Mervyn  Mansell comments: “Unfortunately it is not possible to identify any closer. It is quite difficult to distinguish between the various green lacewing species without a close examination of the wing venation and the male genitalia. The females of the different species are difficult to separate even if wing venation is clear. Some species are, however, characteristic and can be distinguished from photos, This is is possibly one of the members of the genus Chrysoperla

Lacewings. We knew the lacewings would be really really difficult. For the “green lacewings”, the Chrysopidae, many species need to be dissected to identify them! In spite of the problems, Mervyn Mansell, the lacewing specialist, has identified 1,556 of the 2,380 records uploaded to LacewingMAP to species. That is a commendable 65.4%. Even for the green lacewings, the ID-to-species rate is 35%. That is far higher than Mervyn anticipated when LacewingMAP started.

The beautiful Common Moorhen was photographed today, 2 November 2018, and the photo immediately uploaded by Adriette Benade from near Alexander Bay in the Northern Cape, South Africa. The BirdPix record is permanently curated at
http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-63485

Birds. 61,657 bird records have been submitted to BirdPix. 61,518 have been identified to species. That is 99.8%. That is the highest rate of all. BirdPix has the potential to make a huge contribution to the African Bird Atlas. Wherever you are in Africa, take photos of birds and upload them. The chances of the species being identified are overwhelming!

Norman Barrett uploaded this Southern Foam Nest Frog from Zambia. Details are at
http:// http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=FrogMAP-9077

Frogs. The frogs are potentially difficult to identify from photographs. Sometimes the key ID features can only be seen if there is a series of photos from different angles. The number of records submitted is 8,221, of which 7,898 have been identified to species. That is 96.1%. Given the difficulties, that is remarkably high.

This is a Common Flap-neck Chameleon. It was uploaded to ReptileMAP by Bernard Altenroxel, one of our leading citizen scientists. Full details of this record are at 
http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=ReptileMAP-167772

Reptiles. The number of sets of reptile photos uploaded to ReptileMAP is 19,980. Many species of reptile are cryptic, and identification involves counting scales, etc. So it is not self-evident that the rate of identification from photos will be large. But the success rate in the Virtual Museum is an astonishing 98.8%. 19,736 of the records have been have identified to species or subspecies level.

Ryan Tippett uploaded this exquisite Eastern Sorrel Copper. He took the photo  in the Clocolan District of the Free State. It was the fourth record of this species from this grid cell. That sounds pretty boring. Until you grasp that it “refreshed” the most recent previous record, made in December 1995. That’s 23 years ago. Refreshing old records is incredibly important, because it provides evidence that a species still occurs at a site. Details of this record are at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=LepiMAP-661549

Butterflies. The butterflies constitute the largest component of the Virtual Museum. There are 88,892 sets of up to three photographs. 95.3% have been identified to species or sub-species level. There are six families of butterflies, and four are unproblematic! 88% of the butterflies identified to family or genus level come from two families: the Lycaenidae (the blues and the coppers) and the Hesperiidae (the skippers). These are the two tricky families with lots of lookalike species.

Citizen Scientist Alan Manson has made a massive contribution to OdonataMAP, especially from KwaZulu-Natal. Once upon a time, he was a birder, but then he saw the light, and got hooked on the dragonflies and damselflies. He took this photograph of a Violet Dropwing near Komatipoort in Mpumalanga. Full details are at http:// http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=OdonataMAP-58739

Dragonflies and Damselflies (the Odonata). The OdonataMAP database is growing fast. It now consists of 56,039 records. This is another tricky group, in which identification depends on subtle features. In spite of this, the expert panel has identified 51,291 records to species level. That’s an amazing 91.5%.

Take home message. 95.6% success rate in identifying to species!

The take home message. The question we asked at the start was “How frequently can the species in the photograph be identified?” Across the seven groups of species considered here, a total of 240,428 records have been submitted to the Virtual Museum. That is almost  a quarter of  a million records. Of these, 229,927 have been identified by one of the expert panels to species (or subspecies) level. That is an impressive 95.6%. For six of the seven groups, the identification-to-species rate exceeds 90%. The lacewings get dragged down by the “green lacewings”. The take home message has to be that the value of photographic records to biodiversity mapping at the species level, as done by the Virtual Museum, is massive.

Industrial biodiversity 1

BDI took occupation of its unit in Epping Industria I on Monday this past week. Director Pete Laver is doing some spectacular innovations. Watch this space.

Meanwhile we are exploring our new neighbourhood. It’s a mix of industrial warehouses and factories. Lots of hard surfaces: roads, roofs and paving. But the sheer number of birds is impressive.

The most common species is House Sparrow. This is the male of a pair with a nest behind the fire alarm. What happens when the alarm goes off?

House Sparrows everywhere. This rust inspector is on the job.

Most razor wire never actually gets to serve its function of keeping intruders out. Here is an alternative use for razor wire. Providing this House Sparrow with a perch in the early morning sun.
 

Although Factory Sparrows (sorry, House Sparrows) are abundant, they do not manage to totally exclude Cape Sparrows.

Rock Doves (feral pigeons) are also almost ubiquitous. This concentration must be finding something special on the stones!
 

You need to remove the speck of dirt from your beautiful sheen.

A comfortable spot for a preen.

The Rock Doves share this space with three other members of the pigeon-dove family. This industrial Laughing Dove is closing its eyes while the southeaster ruffles its feathers.

The Red-eyed Dove has found a daytime use for street-lighting.
 

There IS a little bit of green in this picture. This Speckled Pigeon was finding food on the tar.

The third most abundant species is, like the House Sparrow and Feral Pigeon, an alien. The only green in this picture is the sheen on wing of the Common Starling.
 

There’s an indigenous starling too. This Red-winged Starling has found a little snack.
 
 

Even in this environment there are people who care for their biodiversity. People, who in their own way, are “connected to nature.” Here are three containers of water. They have rocks in them so that the birds can perch and drink (and so that the southeaster doesn’t blow them away).

Epping Industria I, established in the 1940s, is what is known as a novel ecosystem. A space so utterly transformed that it cannot serve any conservation function. Is that really true? If the biodiversity can be used to “connect to nature” the thousands of people who work here, then it can serve a purpose. We live in the “Anthropocene”, the period in which human activity is the dominant influence on the environment and on biodiversity. Ultimately, the only way we are going to achieve biodiversity conservation is by ranking up the concept of “connectedness to nature.” And BDI will try, in its way, to achieve this in Epping Industria I.

Here are two species in Epping which don’t have to compete with alien “cousins.” This Cape Wagtail is hiding in the shadow of a security fence …

.. and this, with its grey collar, is a Cape Canary …

By the time we get to write Industrial Biodiversity 2, the BDI logo will be in the frame above the door of Unit 4.
 

Shoot the Dragons Week – Spring 2018

Dragons do exist, and they’ve been around for over 300 million years! They might not breathe fire, but they do have six legs, four wings, and extremely keen eyesight. These mini dragons are carnivorous insects known as dragonflies (Anisoptera) and damselflies (Zygoptera), belonging to the insect Order Odonata. OdonataMAP, the Atlas of African Odonata, funded by the JRS Biodiversity Foundation is a project in the Animal Demography Unit’s Virtual Museum aiming to: (1) map the current distribution of the dragonflies and damselflies occurring in Africa; and (2) to serve as a repository of all existing distribution data for this group in the geographic extent of the project so that we can better understand their conservation priorities.  

The first Shoot the Dragons Week for the 2018 Spring/Summer season kicked off on 22 September 2018. OdonataMAPpers were out and about, armed with their cameras, smiles and enthusiasm, to see how many dragonflies and damselflies they could snap and map. These beautiful insects are important monitors of water quality. They are sensitive to environmental change and play key roles in both terrestrial and aquatic habitats. They are predators as both nymphs and adults, feeding on a variety of prey including nuisance species such as mosquitoes and biting flies. Spending most of their lives underwater in rivers, streams, ponds, and lakes, their presence in aquatic environments is an excellent measure of water quality as they require clean water to thrive.

Blue Emperor Anax imperator – OdonataMAP record 57384 submitted by Gert Bensch and Juan-Pierre Antunes – http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=OdonataMAP-57384 

For the Week (which ran from 22 to 30 September 2018) a total 724 dragons were snapped, mapped and uploaded to the OdonataMAP database at http://vmus.adu.org.za. Records came in from Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe! For South Africa, most of the records came from KwaZulu-Natal Province (173). 

Diana Russell mapped the most dragons for the Shoot the Dragons Week with 80 records, followed by Norman Barrett (76) and Richard Johnstone (41). This is amazing! A massive thank you also goes to each and everyone that contributed records during the week. Every single record counts. Of the 724 records that were submitted (which covers 73 different taxa), 78,5% have been identified already, thanks to the super OdonataMAP expert panel. 

Jaunty Dropwing Trithemis stictica – OdonataMAP record 57447 submitted by Gregg and Desiré Darling – http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=OdonataMAP-57447

The dragon that was snapped and mapped most commonly during the Week was the Red-veined Darter Sympetrum fonscolombii, with 81 records, followed by the Tropical Bluetail Ischnura senegalensis (52) and Black Percher Diplacodes lefebvrii (34). There were 15 species for which more than 10 records were submitted during the Shoot the Dragons Week. 

If you would like to contribute to OdonataMAP you can do so by uploading your photos, along with the locality details, to the ADU Virtual Museum at http://vmus.adu.org.za. For some handy tips on how to “shoot your dragon”, take a look at this slideshare: https://www.slideshare.net/Animal_Demography_Unit/how-to-shoot-your-dragon

Happy mapping!