Monitoring Kenya’s wildlife through Birds
It is widely acknowledged that birds are very useful indicators of biodiversity and the environment, and have been used as such in biological, cultural and social contexts across the world. This is for several reasons. Birds occur in nearly all habitats, often reflect trends in other animals and plants, and are sensitive to environmental change. A great deal of high quality data exists on birds, and new data are realistic and relatively inexpensive to collect. Importantly, birds have a real connection with people and their lives. Indicators based upon common bird populations can communicate vital information on habitat changes, driven by both direct anthropogenic habitat loss and modification, and indirect effects, including the impact of climate change. Environmental degradation of this kind may have profound consequences for the lives of people by reducing natural resources and the ecosystem services upon which they depend.
Common bird indicators are especially useful in showing change in the overall condition of ecosystems, which is difficult and expensive to measure directly. More so, we may be facing declines of common bird populations without our knowledge, yet such declines would indicate a fundamental flaw in the way we treat our environment and thus influence the way we behave.
A new study of birds, the Bird Population Monitoring (BPM) scheme refers to a broad monitoring approach covering a wide suite of common and widespread species. This can be used to produce an aggregated population trend as an indicator of the general condition of the habitat in which they are found. It is intended to be launched in the country by August 2010.
The main aims of BPM:
The scheme surveys are quick, simple and, most importantly, enjoyable bird watching exercises. In order to be representative of the entire landscape in Kenya, survey locations will be selected randomly, according to major habitat types. Surveys of many species, especially those that are common and widespread, cannot hope to count all individuals of a population, but instead should aim to survey a sample of them. If this sample is chosen correctly, counts can be taken to represent the population as a whole. The basic principle of Bird Population Monitoring schemes is for the same sites, spread throughout the area of interest, to be surveyed each year. The survey should cover all species present (or at least all common species) and use a standardised methodology, preferably executed by the same observers between years.
Each site should be surveyed twice a year, once in February (to coincide with the period when there are migrant birds in Kenya), with a second visit in August. Each count should last about three hours. The first point count should ideally start around 07h00 and the last finished before 11h00. Observers will make just two visits each year to specifically selected sites to record all birds that are seen or heard at 11 selected points along a 2km route. In point counts, the observer(s) stands still at a pre-determined point (census station), and record all birds heard or seen from there. A point count is often preferable when counting less mobile species, and in closed habitats (e.g. forests), where observer mobility is limited.Trends in numbers of each species may then be calculated by looking at the between-year changes in counts at each site.
The Bird Population Monitoring Scheme is being organised and coordinated by Nature Kenya and the National Museums of Kenya with the support of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Kenya Forest Service, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), BirdLife International and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
Anyone wishing to take part in this new, exciting and above all, enjoyable scheme should contact Fred Barasa at Nature Kenya (firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel +254 20 3537568, 3746090). Once you have expressed a wish to be involved in the scheme, you will be allocated a point count transect within a randomly selected grid square as well as details of the location of your site.
The scheme aims at having participants to be able to take part, wherever they live, whatever their abilities and whatever access to transport (or not) they may have.
You should receive the following information and forms either by email or post (with one set of forms for each transect you have agreed to monitor):
All completed forms will be returned to the Project Officer at Nature Kenya by the end of March for February visits and by the end of September for the August visit (either soft copies or hard copies). Registered users can also input data directly into Kenya BirdFinder via the purpose built CBM Survey data entry facility. If you are interested in submitting your data electronically and are not already registered with Kenya BirdFinder, please go to the Kenya BirdFinder website at http://www.worldbirds.org/v3/kenya.php and follow the link for new users (“Are you a new user?”), where you can enter your details and submit your registration.