New pan-European bird sightings project


The EuroBirdPortal (EBP) project was launched last week in Brussels, and will link all the bird recording projects over the whole continent.

The EBP project and its demo viewer was launched last week in the Belgian capital as part of Green Week 2015, the annual conference on European environment policy organised by the European Commission.

EBP is a new initiative of the European Bird Census Council (EBCC) through which the Continent's online bird recording schemes will collaborate to research European-wide seasonal distributional changes, migratory patterns and timings, and to understand how these patterns are changing over time. EBP data for Britain and Ireland come from the BirdTrack project which allows birdwatchers to record their observations online and to contribute to conservation science.

Unlike more traditional monitoring projects which focus on structured data collection, online bird recording portals aim to obtain year-round data from the relatively unstructured but intensive and widespread activities of birdwatchers. However, the vast amount of data contained in these portals and the sheer scale of coverage offer great possibilities for research on the temporal and spatial distribution of birds across large geographical areas. To deliver the full potential of these possibilities, the objective of the EBP is to create a common data repository and to promote data sharing and analysis on a European scale.

The new project will allow users to watch visualisations of the migration patterns of species such as Barn Swallow (Photo: Tony Kinder)

The EBP already includes 29 partners running online bird recording schemes in 21 European countries. This partnership involves the key ornithological institutions, enabling the collection of high quality monitoring data from tens of thousands of volunteer birdwatchers, turning this information into sound science.

Dr Stephen Baillie, Senior Research Fellow at the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), commented: "The timing and patterns of bird migration across Europe are changing rapidly in relation to climate and other environmental factors. Thanks to [more than] 100,000 observers from 21 countries submitting in the region of 30 million bird records every year, this new project will allow us to study those changes and to identify improved conservation strategies.

"Bird migration is one of the great spectacles of the natural world. This new web portal provides novel visualisations of the patterns and speed of bird migration across Europe, which will be of interest to many people, from dedicated birdwatchers to those who simply look forward to the arrival of the first Swallows each spring. As the project develops we plan to add many more species and to provide migration maps in close to real time."

An EBP demo viewer will allow free and public access to thousands of amazing animated distribution maps that highlight the scope and potential of the EBP project and its future developments; there is a YouTube teaser here. The EBP demo viewer will initially depict animated weekly distribution maps of 15 different bird species for four years (2010-2013), but during the next six months it will progressively reach 50 species and include data from 2014. Users will be able to select two animated maps of any species; year and type can be selected to be shown simultaneously for direct comparison. Eventually more than 1.5 million different map combinations will be available to choose from by the end of the year.

Written by: BTO