BDInsight – November 2019

November has been a busy month! We have exciting news all the way from Liberia to the southern most tip of Africa. Read on to find out more….

Upcoming event: BDI Citizen Science Conference February 2020

Come and join the Biodiversity and Development Institute at New Holme Guest Farm (Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve) for our Citizen Science Conference. The core period is Friday evening, 14 February, to lunch time on Sunday, 16 February 2020. We encourage you to stay a few nights extra before and/or after the event too. The extra nights will also be at a discount rate. The theme for the conference is “Citizen Scientists: Ambassadors for Awareness”

For more information see:

PanGoPod goes to the Expo!

Yip, we are very excited to announce that the BDI will be attending the Cape OutdoorX expo this weekend (7 and 8 December 2019) at the Meerendal Wine Estate, Vissershok Road, Durbanville. Expo times: Saturday 09:00 – 20:00 and Sunday 09:00 – 18:00.

OdonataMAP – The Atlas of African Dragonflies and Damselflies

For the November Shoot The Dragons Week, OdonataMAPpers managed to snap and map 909 dragonflies and damselflies from 5 African countries (Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia). Most of the South African records came from KwaZulu-Natal Province.  The recent good rains in the province definitely benefited these amazing little freshwater dragons.

Corrie du Toit took top honours as Dragon Queen once again with an amazing total 210 records submitted for the Week! Well done Corrie, you are a star. Diana Russell did very well too, with 137 records submitted, followed by Andries de Vries on 123. A massive thank you goes to each and every one of you that took the time to snap and map odonata during the Shoot The Dragons Week. Each record is valuable and contributes to our understanding of odonata distributions in Africa. Keep your eyes peeled for the next event, but remember that you can upload records to the Virtual Museum at any time of the year, day or night.

The African Bird Atlas Project is launched in Liberia

The team of atlasers at the launch if the Liberian Bird AtlasThe first question that gets asked when you need to take decisions about the conservation of a species is this: “Where does it occur now?” So it is awesome news that Liberia has launched their own bird atlas. They are working towards answering the critical species conservation question, at least for birds. They are not starting from a blank map. Already, 31 of the 1114 pentads in Liberia have full protocol checklists. That is 3.1% . The first 10% of coverage is the hardest to achieve. After that, people see that the project is feasible, and start to believe in it. Liberia already has 88 checklists and 2,780 records of bird distribution. That is a great platform on which to launch. Awesomely well done! This is great news for birds in Africa.

Clara Cassell led a BirdLasser workshop for atlasers in Liberia
… and after the workshop there was an opportunity to do some fieldwork for the Liberian Bird Atlas

So the African Bird Atlas is now live in Liberia! Following in the successful footsteps of the bird atlas projects in Nigeria and Kenya, it is great to welcome Team Liberia. The Liberian Bird Atlas is being led by Clara Cassell, with support from SNCL (Society for Nature Conservation Liberia), the BirdLife partner there, and Flora and Fauna International.

LepiMAP – The Atlas of African Butterflies and Moths

Why do we celebrate Black Friday? Here’s another colour event that we ought not to be celebrating: White Cabbage. It is now 25 years since the first Cabbage Whites Pieris brassicae were spotted in South Africa, at Sea Point, Cape Town, August 1994. This is South Africa’s only invasive butterfly.

Until the end of 1999, it had been recorded in eight quarter degree grid cells, all close to Cape Town, with green bars in the distribution map (see map above). Between 2000 and 2009, it was recorded in 24 grid cells (shaded with orange bars), and from 2010 up to now it was recorded in 38 grid cells (red bars). There are now records from the Northern Cape and Eastern Cape. How far has it really expanded its range? You can help us answer this  important question.

Cabbage White Pieris brassicae – LepiMAP record submitted by Basil Boer

Please upload all your photos of butterflies (and moths) to the LepiMAP section of the Virtual Museum. This is a long-term database, and there are long term patterns of range-changes emerging – – The instructions on how to upload records to the VM are here:

Monitoring the breeding of the African Black Oystercatchers on Robben Island

Intensive monitoring of the African Black Oystercatchers on Robben Island started in the breeding season of 2001/02 and has continued in most years. Each year the objective has been to find all the nests. Bukola Braimoh has done the fieldwork for the past three summers as her PhD research project. She is busy writing up, and the data are starting to show long-term changes in the timing of breeding. Not long to wait to learn about her results; she is planning to submit in February.

This year Rio Button is leading the monitoring. Here she is at the first nest of the summer:

Nest N001 contains three eggs! Can you spot them?
Here is Rio in her office for the summer. The office is about 10 metres wide, just above the spring high tide mark, and 10 kilometres long, and roughly circular.

This was the 10th of the 11 nests found on 28 November 2019. The anticipated total for the summer is around 150 nests!




Megan Loftie-Eaton
Megan Loftie-Eaton
Megan is our communications, social media and citizen science coordinator. Prior to her work for the BDI, she coordinated OdonataMAP, the Atlas of African Odonata. A citizen science project run by the Animal Demography Unit, University of Cape Town and funded by the JRS Biodiversity Foundation. She also coordinated LepiMAP, which is the Atlas on African Lepidoptera. Megan is passionate about biodiversity conservation. She is a firm believer in the power of citizen science and getting the public involved in nature conservation.