Sunday 12th September Atlas test run with Etienne Marais

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11 years 4 months ago #2794 by gordon
gordon created the topic: Sunday 12th September Atlas test run with Etienne Marais

The following is posted with permission from Etienne:

Introduction to Atlassing – 10 September

Feedback and summary.

Participants were 12 people, 5 members of the WBC, 3 members of BLNG and 2 members of President Ridge Bird Club, 2 participants are not members of BirdLife.

After an initial briefing, the group was divided into 2 and 6 people did grid 4 and 6 did grid 1. After 2 and half hours, everyone met up in grid 4, and those not leaving early (10 people) proceeded to cover grid 6. We thus covered 3 Pentad blocks within the QDS, (bearing in mind that the aim was to learn about grid-bashing)

I am still awaiting more feedback on the day from participants, but the attached document (Feedback on Pentad Atlassing) is an initial summary of things that came up.

Here follows some analysis of what we did, and some sort of comparison with the data from SABAP 1 for the QDS we worked in (2528DA)

During SABAP1 QDS 2528DA received moderate coverage – 40 lists. 259 species were recorded in this grid square. The average number of species on each atlas list is 55.


124 species were recorded, of which only 9 were recorded in all three grid squares. This reflects the varied habitat in the three squares.


Species “common” in the area which were not recorded (The RR in percent is given next to the bird species. Of course a number of these are migrants, and in most cases either have not returned, or are only present in very low densities, or migratory congregations at this point. As a case in point, Lesser Striped Swallow not seen in any of the grid squares was present in a large flock (200+) just outside the area.

For a list you can download this pdf:

For a Grid bashing analysis download:


12 Species were recorded which were not recorded at all for 2528DA during SABAP 1 (40 Checklists). Many of these occupy specialized habitat, which may not have been covered during SABAP 1 (marked **) (Buffy Pipit is the only species (in my opinion) which requires vetting, as it is rare in this area and very often confused with the much more common Plain-backed Pipit)

Birds not recorded during SABAP1:

For the Pentads download:

Grid Outing – 10 September – Feedback (Draft)

This outing raised a lot of issues. This summary of some feedback does not capture them all.

    Pentad is a nice size to bird for several hours. Participants think about 3 hours would normally be sufficient to cover reasonably. [/list:u]
    Navigation easier than with triads because 3 times table not involved and Surveyer-General sheets show the 5 degree marks. [/list:u]
    Because there are only 9 blocks in a QDS, this seems more manageable in terms of getting coverage in a few outings as opposed to triads (25) [/list:u]
    People enjoyed the outing, and felt that a pentad provided plenty of good birding. 2 hours is clearly too little for most pentads. [/list:u]
    Name – seems to confuse people (don’t get “Penta”) [/list:u]
    It is often much more difficult to access all habitat types (However compared with QDS) because roads do not pass through as many areas as with QDS.[/list:u]
    Nomenclature potentially very confusing and prone to errors, particularly since the numbers are not the same as those appearing on the standard map sheets (1:50 000 sheets). The 1- 9 naming is much simpler, but this assumes reliance on 1:50 000 map sheets, which not everyone will have. [/list:u]
    Errors in naming pentads may be significant, and it may be advisable to require two different names 2528DA(1) and 25302845 (for those using maps) and an actual GPS reading as well as the grid name for those using GPS. [/list:u]
    Typical grid-bashing days should aim to cover several pentads, but the second and third pentads are reached when many species are not calling, this skewing the data towards the more conspicuous birds. [/list:u]
    Most of the group were quite happy to pentad in an organized group, but only a few felt confident to go and do this on their own. [/list:u]

Initial Recommendations and Impressions regarding “fine-scale” atlassing:
    With smaller grids, maps are going to be essential for planned and thus systematic coverage. [/list:u]
    Training and an intensive and well-planned campaign of public education will be essential to get significant buy-in. [/list:u]
    Role for bird clubs in organizing “grid-bashing” days is going to be essential. [/list:u]
    Some sort of accreditation of “atlasers” in terms of map reading training, understanding of the rules and hazards would be a great help. [/list:u]
    Because of the massive challenge for getting big coverage, It is essential that BEST PRACTISE guidelines are compiled in such a way as to encourage (persuade?) participants to cover several grids a day as thoroughly as possible. [/list:u]

    Etienne Marais
    12 September 2006

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