habitat INFO

Dec 132018

Habitat Info together with Savage & Gray Designers produced an eye-catching poster summarising the principal outputs of the African Vulture Hotspot Mapping Project. Design costs were covered by The Peregrine Fund and Wangeningen University. The poster provides a practical tool for conservationists seeking to locate their interventions to be of maximum benefit to vultures and it helps promote awareness of the threats vultures face with the wider public.

Dec 132018

The functionality of the African Raptor Observation Mobile Apps on both iOS and Android have been extended and enhanced globally on behalf The Peregrine Fund and their Global Raptor Impact Network or GRIN. The Apps are built on the new full raptor species list and they work to sub-species level. You can select raptor lists from the biological realms in which you work. The Apps have also been extended to serve professional raptor biologists carrying out nest surveys but retain the intuitive simplicity of the ARO apps. The apps now feed directly to data tables entirely maintained on Amazon web services which offers a fantastic future for the project but we are sad to relocate from the trusty server under the stairs at Habitat Info which has served the ARDB so well over the last five years.

Dec 132018

Habitat Info have been contracted by OneWorld Sustainable Investments to do the mapping for a climate risk & vulnerability assessment of the City of Cape Town. Working with OneWorld and the CSIR, habitat Info will work at a very high spatial resolution to help improve the City’s pro-active adaptation strategies. The work will focus on fire risk and temporal probability spans for exhaustion of water supplies (Day Zero forecasts).

Dec 132018

Birdlife International and the Biodiversity Consultancy accessed data on vulture sightings from the African Raptor Databank and then commissioned Habitat Info to assist them in the analysis of vulture movement patterns from satellite and GPS tracking data across Kenya. Results of distance travelled, mean travel speed, time spent and frequency of tracks were computed for each pentad matching the Kenya bird atlas data.

Dec 132018

Habitat Info reviewed recent sightings data of porpoises and other cetceans recorded off Strumble Head near Fishguard. This vantage point overlooks a prime site for Harbour Porpoise as they forage in the tidal races. We spent a really enjoyable day watching the sights and were lucky enough to have a rare sighting of the larger Risso’s Dolphin offshore. We conducted various tests of the raptor mobile app to position sightings and estimate distance offshore and bearing which were found to be reliable with errors of 9-11% in the distance estimate. This means that a simple app development could help enormously to improve the accuracy of the placement of sightings which will enable the team to conduct useful assessments of habitat especially relevant with the proposals for underwater tidal generators.

Dec 132018

Nature Kenya contracted Habitat Info to extract the latest information from the poisoning incident database maintained by The Peregrine Fund and the Endangered Wildlife Trust to compose a map of the country highlighting areas that are more exposed to the risk of poisoning.

Dec 132018

Built on the success of the African Raptor Databank, the Peregrine Fund contracted Habitat Info to go global with the database. In consultation with numerous raptor biologists Habitat Info expanded the schema of the ARDB into a truly relational database with multiple data tables to cater for the varied information collected by biologists as well as citizen scientists. In particular we focused first on nest sites and the ability to record productivity of breeding pairs of raptors.

Dec 132018

Claire Spottiswoode of Cambridge and Cape Town Universities has been conducting fascinating work looking at honey hunters in Niassaland (northern Mozambique) and their use of the Honeyguide bird in finding honey sources. Claire and her team commissioned Habitat Info to design a logical app which could survey the movements of the honey hunters and record their successes, failures, and impact on the environment for download to desktop computers back at camp. Andrew Rayner has designed various editions to meet the requirements of this interesting project.

Sep 062018

  • 2,406 records received 25th April- 24th July
  • Total records to date are 201,620
  • Continued excellent coverage in South Africa, Namibia and Senegambia

















The most dominant country in terms of observations for the period was South Africa, accounting for almost half the total number of records (48%), whilst the next best coverage was provided for Namibia with thirteen percent of total records. Prolific contributors included Andre Botha (South Africa & Mozambique), Dirk van Stuyvenberg (South Africa) and Dirk Heinrich (Namibia).   Miguel Lecoq provided observations of a Barn Owl and a Eurasian Kestrel for Cabo Verde and a variety of species including the Palm-nut Vulture for Senegal, whilst continued good coverage was provided by Clive Barlow for the Gambia. Records for Kenya included a Crowned Eagle in the south west region during June provided by Sidney Shema Kamanzi and mainly Black or yellow-billed Kite throughout the period by Brian Waswala. Jose Tavares was active in Europe providing a total of 199 observations from Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Turkey and Cyprus which included records of Booted Eagle, Eurasian Hobby and Cinereous Vulture.

It’s wonderful to see the fruits of everyone’s continued commitment to African raptors in the field- keep up the good work!

I look forward to reporting the next suite of observations…

All the very best


Jun 262018

Last week we welcomed Luke Sutton to the team on a part-time summer internship. Supported by the Peregrine Fund, Luke will be working to build the Global Raptor Information Network’s (GRIN) database of global raptor observations by incorporating data from online databases, museum specimens, and printed atlases.  He will then begin building a GIS including habitat layers and use these layers to build distribution models for raptor species. Luke comes to us fresh from gaining his honours degree in Conservation Biology from Plymouth University; his recent work focused on foraging behaviour, population ecology and dispersal of coastal peregrine falcons. 





With the wonderful summer weather continuing the sea has been particularly calm and we’ve been spending a lot of time out along the coast and in the water. Lou has been putting her water housing to good use. All underwater images were captured on a single breath snorkelling in natural light and are available to buy as fine art prints from louluddington.com.  Long may these conditions continue…

Jun 122018

It’s wonderful to experience the changing seasons in Rookwood. The mixed collection of sycamore, oak and ash trees sprout a thick canopy of leaves high above that throws the understorey in to deep, cool shade, whilst their trunks disappear beneath a rising undergrowth of spring flowers. The soundtrack is that of rooks calling to each other; raucous chicks tucked in to twiggy nests constructed in the upper-most branches beg for food, brought to them by weary parents. Jackdaws offer softer notes, lesser spotted woodpeckers drum on the hollow bark of dead trees, blackbirds and thrushes sing long melodious tunes from sentinel posts and the silky, liquid refrain of blackcaps drift through the vegetation. It fills my heart to spend even a few moments strolling through the Rookwood…

All images by Lou Luddington Photography

Apr 262018

  • 14,169 records received 1st January- 24th April
  • A major update from Tanzanian Bird Atlas
  • A fantastic contribution of records from the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project
  • Other highlights include more data from Angola, Mauritania, Malawi and Uganda
  • Total records to date are 199,214




To name a few, highlights from the last few months included records from Malawi from Andre Botha, with observations of African Goshawk and Lizard Buzzard. Also Bernard Madden provided observations of various raptors from Uganda that included Palm-nut Vulture, Black-breasted and Brown Snake-eagles and Long-crested Eagle.  Large data sets also came in for Tanzania courtesy of Tanzania Bird Atlas (n=4357!  Thank you so much Neil!) and Angola and the Okavango via John Hilton of the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project (a generous open source open science initiative) and John Mendelsohn.  This is from John M’s email: A National Geographic project has been surveying parts of the Okavango Basin over the last few years, and have collected a wealth of data. I have their generous agreement to pass on all their raptor data, as attached. This amounts to over 1,400 records, most of them  from areas seldom visited by biologists…. If you want more information please contact Götz Neef who manages all these data for the NG project.  All credit for data should go to the “”National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project – www.natgeo.org/okavango ”  All the best – John

p.s. John M did a lot of the digitising into the spreadsheet for us.





Mar 142018

We’ve had some unusually harsh winter weather recently caused by Storm Emma and the Beast from the East. The Pembrokeshire coast was swathed in snow and froze solid for several days. For the human residence it was mostly inconvenient with roads impassable as well as power cuts and frozen pipes for some. For local bird populations food and water was buried by snow and the ground was frozen solid by sub-zero temperatures. This brought them in to gardens and places they wouldn’t normally be seen. We saw lots of snipe, lapwings and redwings foraging wherever the ground was still soft enough.

In residence at the Rookwood Bird Hotel currently is a buzzard brought to us a few months ago with a broken wing. We are hopeful that once it moults the wing will regain full function. Here he is pictured in the snowy enclosure.

Jan 232018

  • 6,425 records received during December
  • Highlights include records from Mauritania, Angola and more than 4000 records from Tanzania
  • Total records end of December 2017 at 190,214


December was a great month for ARDB submissions  with more than 6,000 records logged; 70% of these records came from the Tanzania Bird Atlas team for 2015-2016 and show a wide geographical spread of incidental observations by car. Many thanks to Neil Baker for this wonderful set of data! Coming in from John Mendelson were incidental records from 2012-2018 spread throughout Angola- a country for which we have few records, so much appreciated. Birds observed included Palm-nut Vulture, African Scops-owl and 200 Red-footed falcon.

Another huge highlight came from Volker Salewski (pictured left) on Christmas day for Mauritania , not only proving the dedication of our contributors but providing valuable observations for an under-represented country. Two hundred and forty five incidental observations on foot were logged from between 2001 and 2004 which included sightings of Pharaoh Eagle-owl, Booted Eagle and large numbers of Black Kite. Volker is based at the German conservation charity NABU and is scientific assistant of the EU Life project Limosa. This project was established in 2013 to save the Black-tailed Godwit, considered to be the most endangered group of birds in Germany. Volker regularly contributes data for countries in west Africa- many thanks Volker!





















Continued contributions arrived for Namibia and western South Africa (Dirk Heinrich and Clare & Holger Kohlberg) as well as Zambia and Botswana (Karin Nelson) to name a few.Pictured above is an Amur falcon which was recorded in various countries this month including Zambia by Karin Nelson and South Africa by Andre Botha and Joseph Heymans.

It is truly marvellous to complete another year of ARDB recording on a high generated by the continued energy and support of all our contributors. Thank you all so much!

Happy New Year and keep up the great work in 2018!



Dec 132017

  • 1,242 records received during November
  • Highlights include records from Nigeria and Northern Botswana
  • Total records end of November 2017 at 183,789



We were delighted to receive an incidental observation from Nigeria where Michael Manja recorded a Hooded Vulture. The last time we received data from Nigeria was in March 2017 and is relatively under-represented on the database. Andre Botha also submitted valuable observations from a road survey in the Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, that included 4 vulture species – White-backed, White-headed, Lappet-faced and Hooded as well as other raptors. Notable records also came in for northern Botswana from Hartmut Kolb of various eagle species including Tawny and African Fish-eagle. Good coverage was also made by our regular contributors for Kenya, South Africa, Namibia and the Caprivi Strip and Senegambia.

We thought it was time we offered a profile of our most prolific ARDB contributor, and co-ordinator from inception for southern Africa.  Andre Botha , pictured below with a nestling Lappet-faced Vulture has been managing the Birds of Prey Programme of the Endangered Wildlife Trust (overseeing the amalgamation of the Raptor Conservation Group and the Vulture Study Group) until recently when he was appointed Overarching Coordinator of the Vulture Multi-species Action Plan in August 2016- a new and far-reaching global plan that has been put in place to protect 15 species of Old World vultures in 128 countries. This has been developed through close working with the CMS Raptors MoU, BirdLife International, the Vulture Conservation Foundation, and members of the Vulture Specialist Group of the IUCN.  Andre has many years of experience working with birds of prey and other wildlife in the field and enjoys a wide connection of colleagues across Africa and beyond.  He has been integral to the important training of field conservationists in recording the increasing incidents of wildlife poisoning and developing protocols for this.  Andre, together with Lizanne Roxburgh and Darcy Ogada have established the new vital African Wildlife Poisoning database on these incidents which is proving so useful in understanding where across Africa vultures and other wildlife are most at risk to this threat.  Latest records count from Andre is 41,909 which represents one whole quarter of our recent records in the ARDB!  Andre continues to use the app while on trips and has contributed our first records for Egypt and the Arabian peninsular.  Thank you Andre for being such a stalwart for our project!

This wonderful image of a Lappet-faced Vulture observed this month in Mozambique by Andre Botha was captured by Roland Bischoff

 Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!

Lou and ARDB Team





Nov 152017

  • 5,369 records received during October
  • Highlights include records from Cape Verde islands and historical data from Volker Salewski for Senegal
  • Total records end of October 2017 at 182,547


October was a great month for contributions with more than half of these (3053) coming from road surveys in Ethiopia carried out by Evan Buechley, Andre de la Cruz, Gabriel Gaucal, Juan Ramirez and Monte Neate-Klegg. Evan Buechley (pictured left) is one ARDB’s most prolific contributors and together with colleagues submitted a large amount of data this month. He holds a postdoc position co-hosted by HawkWatch International and the University of Utah, where he coordinates raptor and vulture ecology and conservation projects in Ethiopia and Djibouti.

Heading to West Africa, records of a Barn Owl and Common Kestrel were submitted for the Cape Verde islands by Miguel Lecoq who also logged incidental observations for the Dakar area of Senegal. Volker Salewski also submitted historical data for Senegal by spreadsheet. Completing the picture for Senegambia, Clive Barlow and Kevin Walters logged incidental observations for the Gambia. Jose Tavares provided all observations for Europe this month, covering France, Spain and Portugal and contributing incidental observations for Turkey west of the capital city of Ankara which included Long-legged Buzzard, Cinereous Vulture and Golden Eagle.




This beautiful Barn owl was captured by the Wildlife Photographic College of South Africa and was recorded on the Cape Verde islands this month.


We have some very sad news this month that Liz Baker has passed away.  Liz and Neil Baker have been a major pillar to the ARDB from the outset.  The Tanzanian Bird Atlas project that they run has contributed an amazing 23,488 records to our database, on Tanzanian raptors and we have a further 4,359 records just in from Neil.  We want to send Neil our sincere condolences and wish him lots of strength during this sad time.  Liz has been a fabulous help to us from inception of the ARDB at the PAOC, October 2012, in Arusha where she played a pivotal role in organising all us birders in such a warm, friendly and capable way.  She has been a driving force in ornithology and conservation for East Africa and we draw these words from the Southern Tanzanian Elephant Program Facebook page:

“We are deeply sad to share the news of the passing of Liz Baker, a remarkable ornithologist, conservationist, and friend. Liz is best known for her life’s work on birds and phenomenal knowledge of Tanzania’s wildlife and ecology. In 1985, Liz and her husband Neil began the Tanzania Bird Atlas, an ambitious effort to collect geo-referenced records of birds from volunteer observers all over the country. This incredible project greatly advanced scientific understanding of the distribution, behaviour, and conservation needs of birds in Tanzania. During her lifetime, Liz trained and inspired countless Tanzanian researchers and wildlife lovers, many of whom are passionate scientists, conservationists, and politicians today.

Liz also made a monumental contribution to elephant conservation. In the 1980s, Liz and Neil worked with Tanzania’s Director of Wildlife, Mr. Costa Mlay, and elephant scientists to develop Tanzania’s seminal proposal to CITES to ban all international trade in elephant ivory. The proposal passed at the CITES conference in 1989, and the trade ban came into effect in 1990. This amazing effort led to the recovery of elephant populations in Africa for the next 15 years. Liz (pictured here with her youngest daughter, Katie, doing aerial surveys of the Usangu wetlands) carried these and other achievements quietly and humbly. Despite having more specialist knowledge than most, she would always remind us how many questions remain unexplored, and how many delightful puzzles and mysteries the natural world still has to offer. She also welcomed everyone into her world, sharing her knowledge, enthusiasm, and enjoyment of nature. She taught us the names of birds, butterflies and trees, she taught us how to observe, and she showed us how much richer a human life is when lived in connection with the natural world.

We send our love and support to her family and friends who, like us, are missing a matriarch.

Keep up the great work everyone…

All the best

Lou and ARDB Team