The objective of CWAC is to monitor South Africa’s water bird populations and the conditions of the wetlands.

The Animal Demography Unit (ADU) launched the Coordinated Waterbird Counts (CWAC) project in 1992 as part South Africa’s commitment to International Waterbird Conservation. This is being done by means of a programme of regular mid-summer and mid-winter censuses at a large number of South African wetlands. Regular six-monthly counts are regarded as a minimum standard, however it is recommended that volunteers survey their wetlands on a more regular basis as this provides more accurate data. All the counts are conducted by volunteers; people and organisations with a passion for waterbird conservation. It is one of the largest and most successful citizen science programmes in Africa, providing much needed data for waterbird conservation around the world. Currently the project regularly monitors over 400 wetlands around the country, and furthermore curates waterbird data for over 600 sites.

The Wits Bird Club’s History with CWAC Survey’s

The Wits Bird Club organises and manages counts at a number of different CWAC sites, historically mainly at  Rolfe’s Pan , Elandsvlei,  Nysvley  and Vaalkop Dam. The first record of the Wits Bird Club involvement in CWAC was at Nylsvley in July 1998 when Boudewyn van der Lecq coordinated a team of volunteers.  Koos van Dyk then led  the clubs involvement in CWAC surveys in the summer of 2001.  It was his dedicated involvement over a decade that resulted in CWAC surveys becoming a core conservation effort of the club. Barbi Forsyth took over the reins of the clubs CWAC portfolio 2009, and Lance Robinson took these and the counts coordinated by the Satellite branches into the Main club conservation portfolio thereafter.

Currently the Rolfe’s Pan and Elandsvlei CWAC counts are organised and managed by the Wits Bird Club’s East Rand Satellite while the club champions the Vaalkop Dam CWAC survey. The West Rand Satellite monitor the De Pan waterbody near Carletonville.  In addition the Club have initiated CWAC surveys at Chrissiesmeer, (Mpumulanga) to assist BirdLife SA and the Endangered Wildlife Trust with the Chrissiesmeer Ramsar application (Ramsar is the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat).

What it Entails

CWAC summer survey counts are conducted on a pre-determined suitable date between mid-January to mid-February while winter survey counts are conducted anytime between mid-July to mid-August. During the survey any birds associated with water are counted, e.g. ducks, geese, flamingos, plovers, lapwings, herons, storks, egrets and some of the kingfishers. Depending on the site being surveyed the counting methods may vary as follows:

Rolfe’s Pan is counted from the balconies of the surrounding businesses built up around the pan.
Elandsvlei is counted from the pan’s bird hide and from the nearby road which circumnavigates the pan.
Nylsvley is mainly counted from the nature reserve’s various bird hides.
Vaalkop Dam from a boat and on foot.

Our Aims/Goals

The long-term goal of CWAC for the ADU is for the surveys “to act as an effective long-term water bird monitoring tool, benefitting conservation efforts worldwide.” All data collected from each CWAC survey is submitted to the ADU and the Club is proud to be a part of this conservation initiative.  The results are submitted to the ADU at UCT who are the custodians of the data which they analyse to plot any avian population trends which may be identified from the data.

If you would like to be involved with this project email: