The second European Breeding Bird Atlas (EBBA2) was officially launched by the European Bird Census Council (EBCC) in 2011 and publication is planned for 2020. Half way through the project, work in 2016 focused on continuing fieldwork but looking ahead by starting to prepare for analysis and publication.
The three-year grant from the MAVA Foundation had already meant a big step forward in 2015 but led to an even bigger increase in the amount of data collected in the supported countries in 2016. Several countries managed to increase the network of collaborators and strengthen the coordination at national level. The number of countries supported by small grants to improve fieldwork coverage and/or to strengthen the coordination increased from 14 in 2015 to 20 in 2016. Training workshops for local ornithologists were organised in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belarus, Moldova, Kosovo and Azerbaijan. The effect of previous workshops was positive: Ukraine and Serbia, where we organised training in 2015, improved their data quality and quantity in 2016. A specific workshop for national coordinators was organised for the five countries of the Caucasus region. Together with EuroNatur a data management workshop for coordinators of western Balkan countries was held in Germany. Bilateral support was provided during visits of national coordinators from Ukraine, Greece and Georgia to the data management team in Barcelona. Specific web tools were provided to some countries to improve visualisation and management of data at national level and additional technical support was provided via e-mail or Skype.
The EBCC conference “Bird Numbers 2016” held in Halle in September provided a platform to update the network on the project and to exchange experience. A plenary talk, oral and poster presentations as well as a workshop focused on atlas topics. EBBA2 was also presented at the Eurasian Ornithological Conference in Turkey and at several national conferences.
The second pilot data collection launched in autumn 2015 provided data from the “timed visits”, data which are either collected specifically for the atlas or extracted from monitoring projects. This pilot data set enabled the EBCC spatial modelling group to start with the process of preparing distribution models at a resolution of 10×10 km. In autumn national coordinators were asked to provide another set of data at the level of 50×50 km squares. All but one country provided data, which will be processed and shown as a new set of maps on the web tool: http://mapviewer.ebba2.info/.
Fundraising remains an important issue to secure funding until publication. In December a Species Sponsoring scheme was launched where individuals, bird conservation societies or companies can make donations via the EBBA2 website: https://www.ebba2.info/support-ebba2/ebba2-species-sponsorship/. The Swiss Federal Agency for the Environment provided a specific grant to support fieldwork. In-kind funding was provided by the Swiss Ornithological Institute and institutions hosting members of the Atlas Steering Committee and the Spatial Modelling Group. Several optic companies were approached with a request to support a campaign recruiting foreigners to do fieldwork in eastern and southern European countries. Such support is meant as a first step in establishing more intensive cooperation and support in forthcoming years.
The website has been maintained and new articles published, which were also promoted via social media (Facebook, Twitter). Social media were also used to raise awareness and to distribute news from individual countries.
The coordination continued to be secured by the teams at the Swiss Ornithological Institute (SOI) in Sempach, the Catalan Ornithological Institute (ICO) in Barcelona and the Czech Society for Ornithology (CSO) in Prague. In April, Pietro Milanesi was employed by SOI to work on the distribution models. The Atlas Steering Committee (ASC) met in Sarajevo in spring, combined with a meeting of the EBCC board. Several ASC and board members participated in training courses organised within the MAVA project and were active in promoting EBBA2 in their respective countries.
EBBA2 made a significant progress in 2016. We thank all the coordinators and fieldworkers across Europe for their enthusiasm and their work under often difficult circumstances. Our thanks also go to our donors. Without their support the project would not be possible. The challenges for the last field season in 2017 and the subsequent period of analysis remain great but by working together across borders the common goal can be achieved.
Sempach, 30 January 2017
Chair of the Atlas Steering Committee