2017 marked the last official year of fieldwork for the second European Breeding Bird Atlas (EBBA2). Across Europe local fieldworkers, supported by observers from other countries, went out to collect as many data as possible.
For the countries supported by the grant from the MAVA Foundation intensifying fieldwork to leave as few gaps as possible was particularly important. After the countries had managed to increase the network of collaborators in the previous years the amount of data collected exceeded the level expected when the MAVA project was started. This was only possible thanks to additional funding from MAVA for the last of the three-year grant. Additional support from the MEOPTA optics company helped to promote a special “gap-filling challenge” to encourage birdwatchers to travel to other countries to collect data. With the help of specific web tools national coordinators were supported in data management. In December a workshop was held in Croatia to help national coordinators with the final data provision to the European coordinators and to evaluate the MAVA project as a whole. National coordinators stressed that not only was the MAVA support essential to cover expenses for fieldwork but it increased the technical skills of coordinators and in many cases strengthened the organisations behind them.
The end of the fieldwork period marked the start of the final data compilation at European level. In summer all national coordinators were provided with updated guidelines that took into account the lessons learnt from the pilot data collections in the previous years. By the end of the year about half the countries had provided the data sets of timed surveys. A special web database developed by the team at the Catalan Ornithological Institute (ICO) in Barcelona offers tools to automatically check data for potential errors, e.g. wrong locations, surveys that do not follow EBBA2 guidelines, species potentially out of their breeding range, etc. All these suspicious data are revised one by one by the ICO team and national coordinators are consulted when necessary. The final aim of these revisions is to build a high quality database for the modelled maps at the resolution of 10×10 km. In parallel, national coordinators worked also in the compilation of the data at 50×50 km level. Many of them used an on-line tool that allows to upload their data and visualise the resulting distribution maps. The provision of final 50×50 km data will be finalised in 2018.
The team at the Swiss Ornithological Institute (SOI) together with the Spatial Modelling Group (SMOG) tested different approaches to find the best procedures. SMOG met twice for workshops, in Sempach in March and in Barcelona in November. Several publications, in the proceedings of the 2016 EBCC conference in Halle and in Bird Census News, provided an insight into the type of analyses planned.
In 2017, EBBA2 was presented at the Conference of the European Ornithologists’ Union in Turku, Finland, and at several national conferences. These conferences also provided a platform to promote the Species Sponsorship initiative launched at the end of 2016 and managed by the Czech Society for Ornithology (CSO). By the end of 2017 almost 30000 Euro had been collected through that scheme, both from ornithological societies and from individual donors.
The EBBA2 website and social media (Facebook, Twitter) were also used to promote species sponsorship. With news from the coordination team, from national coordinators and from fieldworkers they provided a platform to strengthen the network and inform about the project.
The coordination team continued in the same composition with staff at SOI in Sempach, ICO in Barcelona and CSO in Prague. The Atlas Steering Committee (ASC) met in Copenhagen in spring, combined with a meeting of the EBCC board. It discussed and approved the data access policy and the concept for the final publication. This included the concept for the illustration of species accounts. Collaboration started with around 50 artists offering drawings or paintings of breeding bird species.
With the main fieldwork period completed EBBA2 has achieved another milestone. We thank all the coordinators and fieldworkers across Europe for their enthusiasm and their work in the last years. Our thanks also go to our donors. Without their support the project would not be possible. In 2018 only some fieldwork will be done to fill gaps and the focus will shift to the analysis of the huge amount of data. We look forward to seeing the first maps and to the preparation of the final outputs.
Sempach, 17 January 2018
Chair of the Atlas Steering Committee