Ornitho and NaturaList - OTOP

The Ornitho system is an internet platform for collection of data on the numbers and distribution of birds. It features a wide range of functions that can be used for data entry, management of the database and analysis. The Ornitho can be used on mobile devices with the NaturaList application.

Why do we need it?

Studying distribution and changes in bird numbers is of fundamental importance for their conservation. Knowledge on changes of bird populations and distribution of threatened species is crucial to protect them effectively. Collecting this data is one of the tasks of the Polish Society for the Protection of Birds. To accomplish this task we need to keep an internet database, which enables users to enter and search information on the numbers and distribution of observed birds.

Research on distribution and the monitoring of population size are usually conducted in carefully planned scientific projects, which apply standard data collection protocols, etc. OTOP has for years been successfully coordinating the Polish Bird Survey, commissioned by the Chief Inspectorate of Environmental Protection. However, recent years have shown that collecting and analysing large amounts of observations made by amateur bird watchers in an unplanned and random way can yield highly valuable data, which will supplement and extend data gathered in planned research. This is exactly what the Ornitho system offers.

Birds are observed on a daily basis, by thousands of observers who make accidental sightings. Internet portals that accumulate such accidental observations made by thousands of amateur bird watchers have been in use for several years in Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Sweden or Austria, as well as in the USA and Canada. This is what citizen science is about, providing a source of valuable scientific data thanks to cost-free participation of thousands of dedicated and highly qualified volunteers. The enormity of data collected with these systems, in combination with the very wide geographical coverage allows to detect and describe patterns that could be missed in standard research projects (e.g. migration routes of birds in the North America, or using winds by small birds migrating over the Central and South America).

Bird observations

The main source of information are accidental observations entered into the database, which are not made using standardised methods, e.g. observations during an ordinary bird watching trip or other activities (such as train travel). With a large amount of observations, this data has value comparable to that of observations recorded with standardised and planned techniques, which enables us to see the current patterns (distribution and population trends) of a larger number of species than in the case of systematic data collection. The system processes the entered data and yields maps of species occurrence for a specific time span, along with a number of other data visualisations. Apart from accidental observations, also data collected with a standardised method can be easily recorded and archived, e.g. as part of survey schemes or atlas projects. The Ornitho is a universal tool for easy gathering and processing data about distribution of all birds in Poland.

The first year of Ornitho.pl

The Ornitho.pl portal was launched on May 6, 2015, replacing the Awibaza. Since that time, it has accumulated 203,288 records from 732 active observers. The Ornitho is a new quality in recording observations. It has enabled users to enter more detailed information about observed birds, such as precise location of sighting or adding breeding criteria and observation lists. It also offers a novel feature whereby bird sightings can be recorded with a mobile device directly in the field. Currently, about 23.8% of all the observations are entered using our application.

International collaboration

The functioning of the Ornitho is enabled by the Swiss company Biolovision, which granted us a licence to use the software and which does hosting and daily back-up of the portal data. The power of the Ornitho is the support of large non-governmental organisations, which collaborate with one another and with Biolovision on the basis of a memorandum. A steering group was created, represented by one member from each member state, and meetings of the steering group are held regularly. On the basis of the signed memorandum, each country is given access to all the functionalities that are already available or will be implemented in the future. The concept of the system is that a member state can use ideas implemented and financed by any other member state, free of charge.

Polish partnership and contact:

All organisations and institutions interested in collaboration to develop and maintain the Ornitho.pl platform are invited to contact us (ornitho@otop.org.pl).

The Ornitho.pl portal is supported by:

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