by Penny de Vries
5 May 2021
I was very excited to hear about the Colour Me Green project at our first bird club meeting of 2021.
I thought I knew how to atlas as I’ve been doing it since Birdlasser was first released to iPhone, in about 2016. Nicky took us through the protocols and processes to be followed and I realised there was one big gap in my atlassing method. I had never tried to atlas a whole pentad before. I always simply atlassed where I was. Sometimes this is fine; if one is travelling in reserves, one is not always able to do this. However, in one’s home pentad, or any chosen pentad really, it can be done.
My home pentad is 2950_3055. I live in Glenwood, round the corner from Pigeon Valley. I decided to investigate the boundaries of this pentad; can you believe, I hadn’t even realised that Kenneth Stainbank is also in my home pentad. I had always atlassed them separately. In the beginning, I battled to find the specific roads that marked the boundaries because when zooming out you lose detail. I couldn’t find my physical Durban map book and I was keen to get started now that I had this new information.
I decided to sketch it out on a piece of paper; very roughly as you can see from the pic. I took this with me so that I had a broad idea of where I was going. On 27th January, I started at home, determined to cover as much of the area as possible in my 5 days.
I devoted the Saturday to Pigeon Valley and popped past Umbilo Ponds (don’t worry, there was a policeman in police car; he was about to leave but I asked him to please watch over me for 20 minutes, and he did). I also tried Msinsi Nature Reserve at KZN but it was still closed.
I drove up and down roads in the suburbs, that I’d never travelled on before and found a little spot behind UKZN where Little Bee-eaters hang out. I know this because I’ve been back since and they are always there.
Sunday was for Kenneth Stainbank; Cecily and Mark joined me, also keen to get atlassing. This was great because they introduced me to an area of Kenneth Stainbank that I do not usually visit, the Top Picnic Site. It was pouring with rain, but we sat and sipped coffee until it abated. After that I drove past Roosfontein Nature Reserve but I didn’t feel too comfortable there on my own so continued towards the prison. There I found a few extra birds in the rubbish area before the prison. Interesting how litter often attracts certain birds.
I was delighted to have atlassed 68 birds after this exercise. As you can see by the 2021 Cards submitted to date, this is a decent total.
I am happy to report that with the effort of all, 2950_3055 is green already with 11 FTP cards.
Nicky also reminded us to check on the species list per pentad. This means we can see if there are birds that occur in our pentad of which we may not have been aware. I have sorted the excerpt below on Full Protocol Reporting Rate %. Surprise, surprise the Hadeda Ibis is the most reported species and has been recorded on 96.3% of all FP cards submitted. I’m more surprised regarding the 3.7% of cards it did not make.
Reporting rate is also useful to detect which birds are very unlikely in your pentad. So, I will not hold my breath waiting for a Marsh Sandpiper, Cape Rock-thrush or Common Whimbrel.
This has given my atlassing a whole new perspective; I’ve been on one of the club Atlas Bashes and am looking forward to the next one.
[Editorial comment: what a great effort Penny de Vries and thank you for sharing your experience with us – a card of 68 species is the highest total yet for that pentad in 2021 so well done you!]
To read more about this club challenge go to http://www.blpn.org/cmg21