In January 2021 Nature Conservation Egypt (NCE, BirdLife Partner) has started the winter bird census in 2021. The census was open to all bird watchers and nature lovers across Egypt in order to collect as much data as possible on the country’s waterfowl. Another aim of the census was to involve the public in bird protection: the initiative attracted a total of 38 volunteer participants from 11 governorates. The NCE team was also on site and carried out bird counts at 25 sewage treatment plants from Aswan in the south of the country to Cairo in the north, in addition to Lakes Qaaron and Rayan, two protected areas and Ramsar wetlands of international importance.
“The water bird census is a crucial way of assessing the effectiveness of conservation measures in key bird and biodiversity areas and important biodiversity areas. It is also a valuable opportunity for the NCE to foster public participation and citizen science inclusion in bird conservation, ”said Khaled El Noby, Executive Coordinator of the NCE.
More than 80,000 birds from 100 species were recorded during the census. The most important highlights included the first observation of the red phalarope Phalaropus fulicarius in Upper Egypt, 1,000 Black Kite Milvus migrants in a place away from their regular trajectory along the Red Sea and species of ducks such as the pochard Netta rufina. In addition, 20,000 scooped ducks Anas clypeata were counted, which turned out to be the most sighted species.
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After this successful count, NCE shared its experience online through social media posts, video content and two webinars, one of which was by Ahmedd Waheed, a photographer and bird identification and counting expert who reached more than 7,500 people. The second webinar on the results of the census was hosted by the Chairman of the NCE, Dr. Sherif Bahaa El-Din, and Dr. Basma Sheta, lecturer in ornithology at Damietta University, directed and reached more than 1400 people. In total, more than 50,000 people with more than 6500 engagements were reached via NCE’s online platforms.
“NCE is pleased with the participation in the winter census initiative. Social media was the main communication channel for most of our participants. Only through the NCE Facebook page could we have encouraged the participation of cities more than 1,000 kilometers from our office, ”says El Noby.
“The Winter Census is an essential surveillance activity of global concern. We are always interested in participating as it provides our students with an excellent opportunity to understand the value of collective conservation volunteering. In addition, such activities help our students work closely with them experienced ornithologists and learn from them, ”added Dr. Sheta.
Following this count, NCE received an invitation from the Egyptian Wildlife Service to celebrate World Wildlife Day on March 3, 2021. Activities on the day included an opening speech by the Egyptian Vice Minister for Agriculture highlighting the value of protecting wildlife for the well-being and health of economic development, followed by outdoor awareness-raising activities by various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in which all participants are involved. During the celebrations, NCE was recognized for its role in promoting conservation in the country and was awarded a certificate for outstanding conservation efforts during the pandemic.
“The certificate, which comes from peer NGOs, gives us motivation and strength to continue our work with a lot of optimism. NCE believes in the need for public participation in conservation work. The Winter Count Initiative seems like an excellent opportunity to partner with enthusiastic people and attract more in the future. And we are sure that next winter we will celebrate greater public participation, cover larger areas and count more birds, ”El Noby concludes.