BioMAPping in Lockdown – Peter Small shares his experience

It has been more than 65 days since lockdown began here in South Africa, but that has not stopped citizen scientists from biomapping! We have been overwhelmed by the determination and enthusiasm shown by citizen scientists across the country and continent. Biodiversity data has poured into the Virtual Museum as biomappers refuse to let their love and passion for nature wane in the face of lockdown. Citizen scientists turned their mapping efforts to the confines of their homes and gardens (and even the blue skies up above!) and just kept on biomapping. We will be sharing some of their stories over the next while…

Please tell us a bit about yourself, a paragraph or two, and why do you love biomapping?

I am, or was, a wildlife ecologist academic, but retired during lockdown. I used BioMapping to get my students more interested in all aspects of nature, and got smitten by the bug. I find BioMapping to be an amazing channel of interest and enthusiasm in all aspects of biodiversity, with like-minded peers and authorities cheering you on all the way.

What has your experience been during lockdown and has biomapping helped you in any way to cope with these new challenges we face?

Lockdown initially sent me into withdrawals, but the big dragon in the sky, and especially the big butterfly in the sky kept sending me amazing messengers to keep my enthusiasm going. BioMapping helped keep me sane and got me into the garden to enable my long-suffering wife to survive my constant companionship. This activity, even on a small tract of land, helped to keep my mind fresh and my body semi-active.

Where have you been biomapping during lockdown and what has the experience been like for you?

I Biomapped in and around my garden in a lifestyle village near Scottburgh, KwaZulu-Natal. We are blessed to have an indigenous garden designed and developed by Dr Elsa Pooley, and as a result the biodiversity in our garden is outstanding. However, I do believe that the butterflies especially came out in their numbers to keep all of us with cameras at the ready. Without these critters the hole that was being dug in my back garden may have been filled by now.

Even the relaxation to allow exercise between 06h00 and 09h00 did not assist, as the small critters really only appear after 10h00 – more frustration.

Peter’s fantastic garden with lots of indigenous plants that provide habitat and food for wildlife

Have you learnt anything new?

I think this experience has reinforced the importance of having natural areas/green spaces, even if they are fragmented like in urban environments, for the survival of wildlife; as well as the importance of indigenous vegetation with varied flowering periods for the maintenance of biodiversity.

Anything interesting finds during your lockdown biomapping adventures?

I was lucky enough to have a Dune Soapberry Deinbollia oblongifolia, and a Lowveld Tree Vernonia Vernonia colorata flowering in the garden, and due to lack of gardeners also blackjacks Bidens pillosa which are all butterfly favourites. This attracted a great variety of butterflies with some days yielding sixty or more species.

My butterfly highlights were the Forest Leopard, and my favourite, a Forest Queen.

Forest Queen Charaxes wakefieldiLepiMAPped by Peter Small

Dragonflies were a bit more difficult to find as I have no water nearby, but the Big Dragon in the Sky sent a Little Duskhawker and a Smoky Spreadwing into my house to cheer me up, and I found a Black Percher in the garden. The highlight, however, was my first record of a Banded Skimmer on the path outside my house.

Banded Skimmer Orthetrum brachialeOdonataMAPped by Peter Small

Watch this space for some more Lockdown BioMAPping stories…..

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.