The field work period for the second European Breeding Bird Atlas (EBBA2) is scheduled for 2013 to 2017. The year 2015 was therefore the central year in this period, and the emphasis in the project was put on securing the data collection across Europe. Following the successful submission of a project concept to the MAVA foundation in 2014, a full proposal was developed early in 2015, which was accepted in March. The three-year grant from MAVA enables us to fund activities particularly in east and southeast European countries and provide support from the European coordination. Small grants to support fieldwork and/or the coordination at national level were given to 14 countries. In Ukraine and Serbia, training workshops were organised for local ornithologists. Furthermore, experienced foreign birdwatchers have trained local ones in Armenia and Georgia. We kept promoting atlas fieldwork among foreign birdwatchers via several promotional tools – presentations at meetings, poster, PowerPoint Presentation, video and social media. In addition, the adaptation of international online portals to record bird observations in a format that is compatible with the requirements of EBBA2 was supported. All countries thus supported did manage to increase data collection.
The pilot data collection launched in autumn 2014 helped to identify the main gaps and to target support within the MAVA project. The data collected for the five test species at the level of the 50×50 km squares were made available on the internet with a specially created tool: http://mapviewer.ebba2.info/. In September 2015 national coordinators were asked to provide pilot data from the “timed visits”, which will be used to model the distribution at a resolution of 10×10 km. By the end of the year all but 5 countries had provided data. First discussions on the best approaches to modelling started at a meeting of the EBCC spatial modelling group in September, a group of experts from the EBCC network across Europe.
The tasks defined within the MAVA project took up much of the time of the coordination team. Verena Keller managed the MAVA grant at the Swiss Ornithological Institute, in addition to her role as chair of the Atlas Steering Committee (ASC). The coordination team at the Czech Society for Ornithology in Prague (CSO) and the Catalan Ornithological Institute (ICO) in Barcelona could be strengthened. In Barcelona, Sergi Herrando, supported by Marc Anton, Marti Franch and other colleagues focused on data management and analysis. Tools were developed to improve data exchange between the national and European coordinators. In Prague, Petr Vorisek took over much of the coordination of the MAVA grants and organisation of meetings. Martin Kupka, who had been employed on a part-time basis in 2014 as network and communication officer, concentrated on the EBBA2 website and improved communication via Facebook. Martin left in July after the termination of his contract. In October, Marina Kipson replaced him on a full-time basis. The team in Prague organised a workshop for national coordinators in October in Mikulov, back-to-back with the workshop for the coordinators of the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme (PECBMS) and the EuroBirdPortal initiative (http://www.ebba2.info/2015/12/01/three-initiatives-of-ebcc-meet-for-the-first-time-in-mikulov-on-a-joint-workshop-of-ebba2-pecbms-and-ebp/ ).
The Atlas Steering Committee (ASC) met in April in Kiev, Ukraine, combined with a meeting of the EBCC board. The location was chosen to discuss the possibilities for atlas work in Ukraine. Several board members participated in a two-day training course organised within the MAVA project. Board members were also active in promoting EBBA2 in their respective countries, and motivated observers to provide data from their visits to foreign countries.
EBBA2 is only possible thanks to the work carried out at national level. 2015 saw a tremendous boost of activities across Europe. Thanks to the support by the MAVA foundation, data collection was intensified in many countries. The technical and financial support to national coordinators is often equally important. The challenges, however, remain great, in particular in countries suffering under deteriorating economic and political conditions. The professionals and volunteers contributing to EBBA2 and to their national atlas projects deserve our thanks.
Sempach, 26 January 2016
Chair of the Atlas Steering Committee