The participants of the EBBA2 training in Belarus had the opportunity to test several methods in the field and provide immediate feedback to the national coordinator as well as to EBBA2 coordination team. Although further effort to cover the country with monitoring data is needed, we are convinced that the data from Belarus will positively contribute to the European Breeding Bird Atlas 2.
A need for fieldwork training
With its numerous 111 squares sized 50×50 km (incl. those at borders with neighbouring countries), Belarus is very important country from the perspective of the whole European atlas. Furthermore, Belarus hosts species and habitats important from the continental point of view.
Training in fieldwork methods has been identified as one of the activities which can substantially improve the collection of data for EBBA2 in eastern European countries. In close cooperation with national atlas coordinator and with the support from the Mava Foundation, we have decided to organise a training workshop in Belarus.
Real fieldwork was combined with discussion sessions
The workshop was held from April 15 to 17 in Berezinski Reserve. The format of the training workshop copied an already tested successful format used in similar events in other countries, but was also tailored to specific needs of the atlas in Belarus.
The workshop started on Friday evening in the reserve educational centre. After a short introduction by Alexandre Vintchevski and Nastya Kuzmiankova from APB, we presented EBBA2, its goals and methods to the participants. We had an opportunity to clarify details of the methods during vital discussion which followed up. Splitting up to the groups for morning fieldwork closed the first busy evening.
In the morning, three groups, each consisting of Belarussian/Ukrainian participants and one or more international experts, went to different parts of the 50×50 km square to do timed survey.
In the afternoon, the groups went to different parts of the 50×50 km square with aim to detect as much species as possible and to record breeding codes. This non-standardised part of the survey was aimed to contribute to make a list of the species with their breeding codes complete for a given square as much as possible. Therefore, we visited different habitat types in the square.
The participants discussed their experience at the evening session
The evening session started with short presentation by Tatiana Kuzmenko from Ukraine. Tatiana presented the experience with atlasing in Ukraine, the country with difficult conditions for bird monitoring. The team of atlas coordinators and atlas co-workers in Ukraine had made big progress since April 2015, when we held similar workshop in Kyiv.
Then, the discussion of field experience followed: timed species lists were accepted very well, the participants did not have any problem using this field method in their practice. Some misunderstandings about the role of each type of data and their contribution to different atlas outputs appeared and were clarified. A need to tailor the field methods to different groups of birdwatchers according to the level of their fieldwork expertise and identification skills was one of the concerns raised during the discussion. Abundance estimates, required in later phases of EBBA2 for 50×50 km squares, were another concern, especially for common and widespread species. Some participants had previous experience with counting birds on line transect, therefore we decided to try this field method the next day.
We tried line transect counts on Sunday
On Sunday morning, three groups accompanied by guides from the reserve started their fieldwork again.
The transect was 2 km walk in total, where all the birds heard or seen at the transect were recorded within three distance bands. Some more experienced participants did not have major problems to do the count, on the other hand, it appeared that this method can be more difficult for less experienced birdwatchers. Mostly because it requires not only bird identification, but also registering their numbers and estimating their distance.
Every bird counts, everyone can contribute
Two days of fieldwork training have shown good potential of ornithologists in Belarus for making the breeding bird atlas happen. There is a lot of knowledge, field expertise and experience among the birdwatchers’ community as well as a lot of enthusiasm. Obviously, the country has limited capacities and relatively few birdwatchers. Therefore, the methods have to be flexible enough to allow all fieldworkers, from those who can recognise properly a single species, to those who can perform species timed surveys or even counts, to contribute.
Foreign birdwatchers can contribute too
In order to contribute to the breeding bird atlas in Belarus and to test how a foreigner can do it, we allocated three more days of our stay in Belarus to cover one square 50×50 km and to get as much field data as possible.
We were able to do several timed surveys, recorded species with their breeding codes and enjoyed wonderful landscape, birds and people.
11.5.2016, Petr Voříšek