Your guide to bird watching in Nigeria
By Adedotun Ajibade
There is a birdwatcher in everyone. But it takes a conscious effort to grow or sustain it. Being an individual who loved the outdoors, I became an active bird watcher about seven years ago. Often alone, I observed birds in my neighbourhood and showed a keen interest in their daily routines. In those early days, I could not name the birds immediately or correctly, but their physical attributes – size, colour, forms, behaviour and different calls – wowed me.
How I became a birder
I recall seeing a pair of dull-coloured, medium-sized species roost in the citrus
tree at dusk. Also, there was a really small group of adorable birds that visited a pool of water to cool off on hot days. They looked fiery delicate. I loved to hear them chirp and I watched them splash around, from where I stood unnoticed. And then, the morning chorus of an early bird –which I later learnt to be the common bulbul – was a popular number. And of course, there were the more familiar cattle egret and pet parrot.
About three years later, a friend introduced me to group undergraduate students who organised occasional nature walks. Besides my personal explorations in green spaces, I went on a few big outings with them and it was on one of these walkabouts that my birding skills were developed. For the first time, I saw how binoculars and field guides were used to spot and identify unfamiliar birds. I was impressed by the ethics that guided the activity; these evidently were people who appreciated and respected nature. I admired their expertise and their knowledge, experience and enthusiasm soon rubbed off on me, so much so that I also began to care more about all the birds that I saw afterwards. I consciously started to put names to specific birds. And a birder was born.
Where to bird-watch in Nigeria
Bird watching happens anywhere birds can be seen. With a steadily increasing number of eco-conscious individuals, it is becoming more popular in Nigeria, both as a recreational activity and an environmental exercise.
As abundant and diverse as bird species are, so does great bird watching locations abound across the country. Nigeria has diverse geographical regions, each with its unique and rich biodiversity (fauna and flora). There are forest bird species, savannah birds, coastal birds, water birds and so many more. Avifauna is the naturalist lingo to describe the different kinds of birds that exist around the world.
National Parks, game reserves and forest reserves are some of the places to see the diverse avifauna in Nigeria. And there are special sites called Important Bird Areas (IBA), which prioritises the protection or conservation of indigenous, endangered or migratory bird populations. The black-crowned crane is Nigeria’s national bird.
Nature is a muse — an inspiration for science, art and living. The blue sky, the trees in green forest, colourful and amazing birds with their melody, waterfalls with gurgling springs, sailing butterflies, damselflies, flowering plants and all the critters in them, are all objects of fascination, wonder and learning. Being on earth to see all of these beauties are indeed an undeniable gift, which is to be cherished daily.
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