Bar-tailed Godwit. © Kasia Ganderska-Someya
This question is pretty hard to answer but digging deep we can shed light upon a few factors that might result in such a low-interest rate in Europe. My findings are based on feedback/excuses from birders and organisations in the past 5 years.
All time (2014–2018) counting locations in Europe (individual colours per years).
Counting efforts from the United Kingdom. Note that the Norfolk and Buckinghamshire counts were made by myself.
“I don’t use eBird”
This is the most common excuse for not participating in the Global Shorebird Counts. eBird is very popular in the Americas, and is clearly reflected in the amount of submissions and participation rate. In Europe there is no a single commonly used observation recording platform. Almost every major birding ‘kingdom’ uses their own developed software or app. Sovon, BTO and other local NGOs are encouraging their members and they unlikely start adding new data to another platform. The European eBird community is ever-growing but the connectivity between the eBird users is missing. This would make reaching out more eBird users possible and easy.
Sadly, the mission of this awareness program is not attractive enough for those who refuse to use eBird even only for this program.
Language issues and the lack of national/regional coordinators
The Europeans language is very diverse and while the number of English-speaking Europeans are increasing it is still limited. The official communication language of the World Shorebirds Day in English and despite having a basic introduction to many European languages, the day-to-day and social media communication don’t work without having a national coordinator.
The effects of coordination of the counts are clearly visible on the map I shared above. The enthusiastic Czech birders and waders researchers synchronised the counts in multiple years.
Lack of NGO support
It’s was a shocking experience a few years back when a leader of a large European NGO said, they were not interested in sharing the mission and programs of the World Shorebirds Day with their members. Same happened in the United Kingdom. I still believe that the mission of the World Shorebirds Day is valid and is very important. Raising awareness and education is always part of conservation efforts.
What to do?
One way is to look out for local supporters who can help to attract local birdwatchers in their language and to coordinate the national or regional counts.
It would be very important to find connections to national magazines and to publish related news and articles of our event as a part of the annual campaign.
Making eBird the ultimate eBird-FaceBook and let eBirders to connect with each other. It would be a tremendous boost in the participation rate of the Global Shorebird Counts.
Hopefully, the new World Shorebirds Day website will help in easier navigation and in a later phase, it can be translated into different languages as well.