In 2014, a citizen science project was launched to start mapping and recording the status of breeding sites of various colonial water birds such as African Sacred Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, Grey Heron, Black-headed Heron, Western Cattle Egret, African Spoonbill and Black-crowned Night Heron. The main reason behind the project stemmed from limited and often outdated information on these sites, which are the important ‘breeding factories’ for these species. Commonly referred to as ‘heronries’ (because they were usually dominated by herons), these sites are a hive of activity during the breeding season with species vying for space and mates and it is indeed a spectacle to watch the colony develop and the chicks grow and eventually fledge.
Some of the questions we are hoping to address in the project include aspects such as: how are species distributed through the landscape, how many sites are protected, how successful are the colonies, and what are the major threats to these sites? Often heronries come into conflict with man due to disturbance from noise and pungent smells, or in some cases bird strikes when located near to airports. In some cases colonies are persecuted through destruction of nests, killing chicks or cutting down ‘breeding trees’. By gathering all relevant information future conservation strategies can be formulated and mitigation measures employed to secure these sites into the future.
This summer, you can help make a contribution to HeronryMAP by submitting relevant information when you find a colony of breeding ibises, cormorants, herons, etc. Even if you submit data for a site that is already registered that is fine. In fact, the ideal situation would be to re-visit the site once a month so that we can track the progress of the colony but if this is not possible then just do what you can and what is feasible. The important information that is required is as follows:
- Date (you observed the colony)
- Time (hh:mm)
- Coordinates (GPS reading, or you can send a Google placemark)
- Species present
- Estimated no. of active nests for each species
- Colony location (trees on an island, trees on waters edge, trees on a road in a town, etc.)
- Is the site protected? (is it in a nature reserve or on private land)
- Have the birds used this site previously? (Y/N)
- Are you aware of any conflict issues (cutting down of trees, removal of nests/eggs/chicks, etc.). If so, please provide details.
Please send your heronry information to Dr Doug Harebottle, firstname.lastname@example.org or tel. 053 4910188.
If you use BirdLasser there is a HeronyMap ‘cause’ and once you activate this (Settings à Causes) you can add details from a heronry by logging any of the species present. When doing this you should get additional fields to complete. You can use the ‘Notes’ field to add any extra information (e.g. conflict issues etc.).I look forward to receiving your observations over the coming months.
Thank you in advance.
Yours in Heron conservation