Work on the second European Breeding Bird Atlas has made significant progress in 2014.
Thanks to the financial contribution by a Swiss foundation the central coordination was secured financially, in addition to small grants and in-kind contributions by partner organisations. Spreading the coordination over the three pillars Swiss Ornithological Institute in Sempach (SOI), Czech Society for Ornithology in Prague (CSO) and Catalan Ornithological Institute in Barcelona (ICO) continued to be an effective way of bringing the project forward. In Sempach, Verena Keller, chair of the Atlas Steering Committee (ASC) manages the project and leads the coordination team. In Prague, Petr Vorisek is responsible for the general coordination, the EBBA2 network consisting of national coordinators and other partners, and information. In August 2014 Martin Kupka joined him as network and communication officer. In Barcelona, Sergi Herrando coordinates data collection, storage and analysis. In 2014 he was supported by other staff of ICO (mainly Marc Anton) and of the Catalan Forestry Centre (Dani Villero). The coordination team met in Prague in July. Otherwise it communicated mainly by e-mail and Skype.
The Atlas Steering Committee (ASC) met twice back-to-back with EBCC board meetings to evaluate progress and decide on work priorities. The first meeting was held in Istanbul, Turkey, in March. It was preceded by a workshop organised jointly by EBCC and the national atlas coordinator, Kerem Boyla, which brought together representatives from different institutions in Turkey to discuss the possibilities for a Turkish atlas. Several EBCC board members had arrived earlier to introduce Turkish volunteers to atlas surveys during a two-day training course (see report and video http://www.ebcc.info/index.php?ID=539). The location of the October ASC and board meetings, Evora in Portugal, was again chosen to combine it with a meeting of representatives of the ornithological community, brought together by João Rabaça, University of Evora, to discuss the planned Portuguese atlas.
Data collection is well under way in many parts of Europe but organising atlas work and collecting data remains a big challenge in particular in east and southeast Europe where progress in some countries is slow. The methodology for data collection was finalised and published in Bird Census News, as part of a volume dedicated to EBBA2 and national atlas projects (http://bigfiles.birdlife.cz/ebcc/BCN/BCN_26(1-2).pdf). Specific assistance to around a dozen countries (Armenia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Russia, Slovakia, Turkey, Ukraine in particular) was given by supplying or adapting national grids or advising on methodology and implementation of national atlas projects. In September national coordinators were asked to provide pilot data on five species.
This approach was chosen with the aim to start and test data exchange, to establish and strengthen the working relationships with national coordinators and to create pilot maps for interim reporting on progress and for promotion. By January 2015 some data for the five test species had been received from all but two countries and maps were sent out to the network at the end of the month.
Contacts were intensified with the developers of the three main European on-line portals for collection of bird data, Ornitho.xx, Birdtrack.net and Observations.org to discuss adaptations needed for their use for EBBA2 and data exchange. A first test in autumn showed the potential of these portals, which can be used by travelling birdwatchers outside their country of origin. So far, few “foreign observers” have specifically been recording data for EBBA2. In order to promote the European atlas among birdwatchers, guidelines and Excel recording sheets have been finalised and made available on the EBCC website (http://www.ebcc.info/index.php?ID=545). Reports from selected expeditions by foreign birdwatchers were published at the web site too (http://www.ebcc.info/index.php?ID=567, http://www.ebcc.info/index.php?ID=555, http://www.ebcc.info/index.php?ID=548).
The EBCC website (www.ebcc.info ) remains the main information hub on EBBA2. In autumn, work started to develop a specific EBBA2 website which would be more flexible. In September, a facebook page (www.facebook.com/EBBA2.info) was launched, providing up-to-date information from across Europe. The EBCC network was informed via the EBCC newsletter sent out to delegates and via e-mail project updates to the EBBA2 network. The project was presented by members of the coordination team and of the ASC at several international and national conferences.
Fundraising initiatives focused on the whole project, with contacts to optics companies (discussions ongoing) but mostly on funding to support regions and countries with the biggest challenges for data collection. A proposal to the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs for collaboration between CSO and the Ukrainian partners failed, as did the one to the Central European Initiative to support Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Moldova and Ukraine to participate at the EBBA2 workshop in 2015. In December, a project concept submitted to the MAVA foundation in Switzerland, passed the first round and the full proposal is currently developed.
This report focuses on the activities within the overall EBBA2 project. This project is only possible thanks to the network of national coordinators and the institutions supporting their work and the thousands of volunteers collecting data. They all deserve our sincere thanks.
Sempach, 3 February 2015
Chair of the Atlas Steering Committee