Citizen Science Week #1 from 19 to 27 September 2020: BirdPix in South Africa

The first Citizen Science Week of the 2020/2021 season starts this Saturday 19 September 2020, and runs to the end of the following weekend, Sunday 27 September. It’s a nine-day week! The objective of the Citizen Science Weeks is to improve the quality of the distribution maps for all the species covered by the Virtual Museum, throughout Africa. There will be a Citizen Science Week every month.

This blog shows the “state of play” with BirdPix on 16 September 2020. This month, the focus is on South Africa. We are very keen to boost the coverage of BirdPix here; Karis Daniel is going to use this dataset to make maps which can be compared with the definitive distribution maps for bird species in South Africa, emerging from SABAP2.

BirdPix gives everyone in Africa the opportunity to contribute to the African Bird Atlas Project. In order to participate in the bird atlas along the “normal” route, you need to be pretty confident of your bird identification skills in your region. But if you lack that confidence, you can still make a valuable contribution to the atlas by taking photos of birds (even really poor ones), uploading them to BirdPix, and members of the expert panel will do their best to identify the bird in the photo.

Here are the BirdPix species richness maps for each of the provinces of South Africa. The number in each quarter degree grid cell is the number of species recorded in that grid cell so far. The grid cells with at least one species are shaded. The yellower the grid cell, the fewer species recorded in it. The aim is to first of all turn the grid cell from white to yellow, and then to shift it along the yellow-red axis until it turns bright red.

We will work through the provinces in alphabetical order, starting with the Eastern Cape and ending with the Western Cape. There is a single map for Gauteng and Mpumalanga, presented after the map for Limpopo.

BirdPix coverage in the Eastern Cape on 16 September 2020.
BirdPix coverage in the Free State on 16 September 2020.
BirdPix coverage in the KwaZulu-Natal on 16 September 2020.
BirdPix coverage in the Limpopo on 16 September 2020.
BirdPix coverage in the Gauteng and Mpumalanga on 16 September 2020.
BirdPix coverage in the Northern Cape on 16 September 2020.
BirdPix coverage in North West Province on 16 September 2020.
BirdPix coverage in the Western Cape on 16 September 2020.

Every province has quarter degree grid cells with a large species richness, and which are shaded red. do not yet have any data at all. The number of grid cells with no data at all is steadily decreasing.

Go to this blog to learn how to work out the six-character code for each grid cell: quarter-degree grid cells made simple. The grid cells have codes like 3420BB; the first two digits give the degrees south and the the last two digits give the degrees south and the two letters give the position of the quarter degree grid cell in the degree square. The blog makes it easier! If you want to see the location of a 3420BB and get the list of species recorded in this grid cell go to The grid cell here is called a locus (Latin for “place”!). If you want to see the map and list for any other grid cell, simply replace 3420BB with the code for the grid cell you are interested in. It might need a bit of trial and error to find the grid cell that covers the place you are able to visit.

The easiest strategy is simply to upload whatever bird pictures you have available. Load them up with their coordinates (or find the place on the Google map and click on the spot). Let the computer allocates them to their correct grid cell. It does not matter at all if the species is already recorded for a grid cell. We are always wanting to “refresh” old records with more recent ones. Please consider any old photo from the digital camera era as a candidate for the Virtual Museum. You need to know the date, and be able to find the place where you took the photo on the Google map.