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Local bird guides go 'bashing in Giyani' (Local News)
 
Paul Nkhumane, Christopher Netonzhe, Charles Hardy, Lucas Namanyane and Joe Grosel at a traditional 'turquoise' Tsonga homestead during the recent Giyani atlas bashIn late 2013 prof les Underhill and his team at the Animal Demography Unit (ADU) identified 12 glaring gaps in South African Bird Atlas Project's (SABAP2) coverage map. A subsequent request went out to atlassers to fill or reduce these gaps appreciably by the end of 2014. The so-called 'Giyani Gap' centred on the town of Giyani in the far north-east of Limpopo Province posted a particularly challenging and appealing area to cover. The regional atlas committee decided to call in the assistance of several Limpopo bird guides to form part of a Giyani 'atlas bash' team. These Birdlife SA affiliated guides based in the Limpopo Province are continuously mentored through programs run by the Greater Limpopo Birding Routes and it was decided to combine a mentoring session with this very important atlassing initiative. So on the 13th of January 2014 bird guides Christopher Netonzhe, Paul Nkhumane and Lucas Namanyane joined atlassers Joe Grosel and Charles Hardy on an intensive three-day atlassing challenge to fill the gap between the Kruger National Park and Giyani. This region is remote with only a handful of roads linking several small villages so several targeted pentads demanded a good deal of 'bundu bashing' by foot. The strategy of atlassing the inaccessible pentads involved guides being dropped off at pre determined points and walking into the interior of the pentad in order to cover as many habitats as possible in two hours, thus completing a full protocol atlassing session.

Dusky Larks were recorded in a number of pentads during the recent 'Giyani Atlas Bash' - Image credit: Derek EngelbrechtA total of 23 virgin pentads were atlassed during the three-day bash of which five included portions of the Kruger National Park. A combined total of 223 species were recorded and as expected a bunch of out of range forms was recieved fro many uncommon species including Dusky lark, Lesser-Spotted Eagle, Booted Eagle, Woolly-necked Stork, Harlequin Quail, Olive-tree Warbler and White-headed Vulture. The atlassing session unfortunately also revealed further expansion of the Common Myna's invasion of the Limpopo Province and significant easterly range extension of two 'western' species namely Cape Sparrow and White-browed Sparrow-Weaver. These two species were recorded in villages and fallow agricultural fields in at least seven pentads near Kruger's western boundry.

Large numbers of European Rollers were recorded during the 'Giyani Atlas Bash' (photo Joe Grosel)Directly after this atlassing survey another bash initiated by Anthony Paton dealt the 'Giyani gap' an additional blow as he and fellow atlasser Barry Fourie managed to cover a further 17 virgin pentads. Jointly these two atlassing initiatives covered 40 virgin pentads and took the Limpopo province's SABAP2 coverage over the 80% mark on 26 January 2014.

The Limpopo Regional atlas Committee wishes to thank Lisa Martus from the Greater Limpopo Birding Routes for liaising with the guides and making necessary logistical arrangements, to Mr Charles Hardy who volunteered his services and provided the 4x4 ferry vehicle and to Hanneline Smit-Robinson from Birdlife SA who made much-needed funding available to cover some of the accommodation and travel expenses.
 
 
Compiled by: Joe Grosel  
Published on: 2014-02-04  
 
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