Across Europe, we are facing an unprecedented and challenging situation brought upon us by Covid-19, and the restrictions imposed upon normal life in response to the pandemic. At this time we, the European Bird Census Council, want to express our support to our community of birdwatchers, ornithologists, scientists and conservationists across the continent.
First, we hope this finds you and your families, friends and colleagues safe and well. Of course, we offer our condolences to all those who have lost relatives or friends, and our gratitude to all heroic individuals who are at the forefront of combating this crisis.
As both an ornithological, scientific and conservation-orientated organisation, and a grass-roots movement, we cannot feel disconnected from the current scenario. Our top priority is the safety and well-being of our vast network of volunteers and supporters. We remain available to each other as a family and we are already sharing guidance and support to ensure we are all even more connected than before.
We are beginning to catalogue the impact that restrictions imposed in response to the virus are having, contacting those involved in bird monitoring projects across Europe, and we would be grateful if, when asked, you are able to respond to our questions. We are already aware of a number of problems being experienced across our network, and where possible will seek to offer help and advice. Issues include:
The ability to conduct fieldwork – in some countries fieldwork by both volunteers and professional biologists has stopped entirely, and in other cases, there are partial restrictions. Additionally, the motivation and ability of volunteers to partake in monitoring programmes may be impacted.
The consequential impacts upon networks – loss of contact with volunteer fieldworkers, cancelled training and reduced field activity which might lead to reduced motivation and subsequent falls in participation.
Governmental engagement – with, understandably, priorities lying elsewhere there may be reduced engagement and commitment to work programmes regarding biodiversity and conservation.
Partly as a result of the above, compounding by the high likelihood of an economic downturn, there may be increased problems in achieving funding to support our work.
The board of the EBCC, and those leading our projects, continue to work as well as possible to support bird monitoring projects. We held our spring board meeting by videoconference this week, and have just published the latest issue of our journal Bird Census News. The Pan-European Bird Monitoring Scheme team are busy helping those running national breeding bird surveys cope with the impact of Coronavirus, progress towards the publication of the New European Breeding Bird Atlas later this year continues at full speed, and EuroBirdPortal continues to map the arrival of spring migrants across Europe even if the ability to report sightings is impacted in some countries. In addition, we are looking beyond the current crisis to plan our next conference, in Switzerland in April 2022.
Once we emerge from the shadow of this pandemic, the pressures and threats upon our natural world will remain, and the work of the EBCC network to inform the conservation response will be as vital as ever.
But let’s not forget to look for the small positives that can be found in the current situation. Across Europe, EBCC partners have promoted initiatives to record birds and other wildlife around the house. Birdwatching can be done everywhere! And don’t forget: all records of birds are valuable. We encourage coordinators of monitoring schemes to collect information even if there may be gaps in coverage or number of surveys. Every bird counts – the EBCC motto is also valid also in our current situation.
The EBCC board and observers
Walk for birding
Our colleagues in the UK are not allowed to do fieldwork during 'lockdown'. Fortunately, daily walks are permitted and birding can go on! Photo by Dawn Balmer
The new generation doesn´t wait
Many waterfowl species already have their young, such as these Egyptian Geese in Czechia.