Wednesday, 24 December 2003

Annotated garden bird list for Banchory, Kincardineshire



This is a list of the species seen in, and flying over, a small garden on Woodside Road, Banchory, Kincardineshire, Scotland (map). Banchory has about 5000 inhabitants and is situated in the Dee valley, about 20 miles from the coast. The garden is located not far from the edge of the town, about half a mile from surrounding conifer plantations and open countryside.

The percentage of weeks that the regular visitors were recorded during 1985-1987 is included in brackets following the species name as an indicative measure of each species abundance; species which were only seen overhead are marked with an asterisk *.

  1. Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) (6%) * - occasionally seen passing overhead, mainly in summer
  2. Pinkfoot (Anser brachyrhynchus) (5%) * - occasionally seen passing overhead on passage and rarely in winter
  3. Greylag Goose (Anser anser) (7%) * - occasionally seen passing overhead on passage and rarely in winter
  4. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) (3%) * - occasionally seen passing overhead
  5. Goosander (Mergus merganser) * - single record of a pair over in September 1988
  6. Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) * - occasionally seen passing overhead - numbers vary markedly from year to year
  7. Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) (11%) * - occasional spring/summer visitor
  8. Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) * - very scarce visitor
  9. Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) - single record of a bird in March 1986
  10. Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) (48%) * - observed (and heard) overhead daily throughout spring/summer (Feb-Aug)
  11. Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria) * - once heard passing overhead at night
  12. Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) * - observed passing overhead rarely
  13. Curlew (Numenius arquata) (2%) * - observed passing south overhead in post-breeding disperal
  14. Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus) (63%) - common spring/summer visitor rarely seen in autumn/winter
  15. Common Gull (Larus canus) (45%) - regular winter visitor, not seen in spring and early summer
  16. Lesser Blackback (Larus fuscus) - very rare summer visitor
  17. Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) (93%) - present throughout the year with hundreds or thousands passing overhead every day of the year to and from feeding grounds at local rubbish dump and roost lochs or the coast (18 miles E)
  18. Great Blackback (Larus marinus) (7%) - very small numbers regularly seen overhead with Herring Gulls which it accompanies to same feeding and roosting areas, mainly in winter
  19. Feral Pigeon (Columba livia) (81%) - common local resident
  20. Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus) (33%) - irregular visitor throughout the year
  21. Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) (38%) - irregular visitor throughout the year
  22. Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) - seen once in late June 1986
  23. Tawny Owl (Strix aluco) - heard at night very rarely
  24. Common Swift (Apus apus) (29%) - common summer visitor (May to August)
  25. Swallow (Hirundo rustica) (30%) - common summer visitor (mid-April to mid-October)
  26. House Martin (Delichon urbica) (25%) - common summer visitor (May to mid-October)
  27. Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) - regular overhead passage migrant in autumn
  28. Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrelli) (38%) - irregular visitor throughout the year, less common in mid-winter
  29. Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) (5%) - regular winter visitor, observed in small numbers nearly annually
  30. Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) (25%) - irregular visitor throughout the year, less common in summer
  31. Hedge Sparrow (Prunella modularis) (92%) - common resident, present in small numbers throughout the year
  32. Robin (Erithacus rubecula) (72%) - common resident, absent between early May and early August
  33. Blackbird (Turdus merula) (99%) - common resident present daily with numbers sometimes swelling to several dozen at end of breeding season
  34. Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) (10%) - uncommon winter visitor; observed coming to bread in hard weather
  35. Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) (45%) - regular visitor, but rarely observed in autumn and mid-winter numbers tend to be lower
  36. Redwing (Turdus iliacus) (1%) - uncommon winter visitor, normally only present during very hard weather, when has been seen coming to bread at bird table
  37. Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) (35%) - irregular visitor throughout the year, sometimes breeding
  38. Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis) (3%) - scarce post-breeding migrant
  39. Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (3%) - scarce winter visitor
  40. Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus) (19%) - uncommon summer visitor
  41. Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) (12%) - variable numbers occur from year to year, with breeding in 1987
  42. Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata) - very scarce migrant during autumn passage (e.g. September 1990)
  43. Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) (3%) - uncommon visitor during very hard weather
  44. Coal Tit (Parus ater) (72%) - regular visitor throughout the year, but lower numbers in some years
  45. Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus) (94%) - common visitor in small numbers throughout the year
  46. Great Tit (Parus major) (88%) - common visitor in small numbers throughout the year though does not always breed locally
  47. Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris) (8%) - irregular winter visitor
  48. Magpie (Pica pica) - formerly very rare visitor only observed in mid-winter, but now increasingly frequent in winter
  49. Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) (89%) - regularly observed, often passing overhead with Rooks, throughout the year
  50. Rook (Corvus frugilegus) (95%) - regular visitor throughout the year, also often observed passing overhead, sometimes in huge numbers (thousands) between feeding grounds and local roost sites
  51. Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) (29%) - uncommon visitor throughout the year, though somewhat irregular in winter
  52. Hooded Crow (Corvus corvix) - very rare mid-winter visitor, perhaps from nearby Crow's Nest amenity site
  53. Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) (88%) - common visitor throughout the year though normally absent in mid-summer
  54. House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) (100%) - common resident and local breeder observed daily in numbers of up to 20 by the end of the breeding season
  55. Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) (98%) - common resident observed throughout the year and breeding locally
  56. Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) - observed once in spring (March 1988)
  57. Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris) (85%) - regular visitor throughout the year though rather scarce in autumn; breeds locally
  58. Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) (9%) - uncommon breeding season visitor
  59. Siskin (Carduelis spinus) (85%) - common resident throughout the year, breeding locally
  60. Redpoll (Carduelis flammea) - uncommon visitor spring to autumn
  61. Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (11%) - uncommon visitor mainly in spring and mid-winter
  62. Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) - observed once in spring (May 1987)
  63. Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) - 3 birds present for a few days in March-April 1989

Sunday, 27 July 2003

Plain-backed Pipits and Long-legged Pipits (Anthus leucophrys/pallidiventris) in Nigeria



This page discusses identification of the Plain-backed and Long-legged Pipits in West Africa. Some video-grab images of birds at IITA, Ibadan, SW Nigeria in November 2002 are shown below, together with pictures from the Plain-backed Pipit skins examined at the Natural History Museum in Tring in July 2003. Please click on thumbnail images for larger versions! Short video clips follow at the foot of the page. NB - all of the field images or movies may be freely used for any non-commercial use, preferably with acknowledgement. All skins images Copyright (c) The Natural History Museum, London.

Description of Plain-backed Pipits (Anthus leucophrys) at IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria, November 2002

Leucophrys Bird 1:

1: 2:
3: 4:
5: 6:
7:

Leucophrys Bird 2:

1:

Leucophrys Bird 3:

1: 2:
3:

Leucophrys Bird 4:

1: 2:

I was initially puzzled by these pipits (particularly birds 1 and 3) as they did not very well resemble the illustration and description for Anthus leucophrys zenkrii (the "Cameroon Plain-backed Pipit") described in Borrow & Demey (2001) as the Plain-backed Pipit subspecies for "central" to "eastern" West Africa (i.e. south Mali to Ghana, east to CAR); on account of the apparently pale underparts, I suspected at the time that they were in fact more likely of the western races, gouldii (the "Upper Guinea Plain-backed Pipit", for which the distribution is given as "Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ivory Coast", and which is described as "much paler below", or ansorgei (no alternative English name found), which is found in "S Mauritania, Senegambia and Guinea-Bissau" and is "greyer above" relative to gouldii.

On the other hand, birds 1 and 3 were clearly associating with birds which matched the depiction of the zenkrii race quite well, with darker buff-coloured bellies tinged with cinnamon (i.e. Birds 2 and 4 above).

Leucophrys Bird 1
Looking more closely at the first set of images, these clearly show a noticeably pale-bellied bird with other interesting plumage features to note. Firstly, the bird seems to be an adult on account of the lack of narrow whitish fringes on the upperpart feathers and coverts. However, the buff fringe is quite light, with no trace of "cinnamon" - illustrated for example in image 5. Zenkrii race birds are supposed to show "blackish-brown feathers broadly tipped and edged cinnamon", whereas gouldii has "with less cinnamon on wings". Secondly, the moustachial and malar stripes are described as "rather indistinct" by Borrow & Demey but in the field the malar strip stood out to me as distinct, marked and dark (cf. Image 3), though the moustachial stripe was not so on any of the birds. Thirdly, the breast-streaking was not particularly distinct and marked - this is perhaps the main feature in support of a zenkeri ID as "indistinct streaking" is characteristic of this race, by contrast with the more definite markings of gouldii and ansorgei. This difference is particularly clear by comparison with these presumed ansorgei birds from The Gambia (which also have distinct malar stripes!):

[Pictures kindly supplied by John Ovenden and Jim Rose, respectively]

Leucophrys Bird 2
This individual was with Bird 1 but was significantly darker below. I assumed that this was a zenkeri race bird, though there was still some paleness about the underparts.

Leucophrys Bird 3
This bird was similar to Bird 1 and also puzzling. Unfortunately the images are not as good as for Bird 1 as it was obscured by some grasses. However, it again showed a distinct dark malar stripe (Image 1), a very uniformly plain back (Image 2), darker coverts (Image 3) and faint breast-spotting (Image 4). Again, the bird was consorting with an obvious zenkeri race bird (Bird 4).

Leucophrys Bird 4
This last bird was even darker than bird 2 and showed very marked cinnamon fringes on the median coverts. Since it appeared so different to birds 1 and 3, I concluded at the time that this was a definite zenkeri individual, implying that the former weren't. However, after visiting the skin collection at the Natural History Museum I've now revised this opinion, as explained below.

Other field observations
It was noticeable that the birds were always seen as pairs - a characteristic of this species (Phil Hall, personal communication). In terms of behaviour, all of the birds shown wagged their tails very frequently. I thought that their typical calls might be transcribed as a fairly soft "chirrup" though I also noted a soft mono-syllabic "sweep" on occasion. Tail wagging is not much help in distinguishing between these and similar pipit species (see below), never mind subspecies, and neither is the call.

Other subspecies?
A total of nine Plain-backed Pipit subspecies are listed on Giles Mulholland's African species list. Another possibility considered earlier was that the pale birds were of the subspecies bohndorffi (the "Congo Plain-backed Pipit" or "Uganda Plain-backed Pipit", with alternative scientific name: A. l. prunus) described in Borrow & Demey as "similar (to zenkerii) but underparts paler". The range for this subspecies is suggested to be SE Gabon and Congo, within the West African region (clearly also including Uganda outside the region!). Neither the ansorgei or bohndorffi subspecies are illustrated in Borrow & Demey.

I was initially unable to find a single image of any of the above subspecies on the internet, though I've since noted one ansorgei race bird picture posted on the World Bird Gallery site. [Many thanks to John Ovenden for subsequently sending me the additional picture from Gambia and to Jim Rose who allowed me to use the image in his Gambia trip report of Jan 2003, source of the World Bird Gallery picture mentioned above.] The African Bird Image Database launched in August 2005 also included this this picture of a bird at Lekki in 1989 (photo by Ian Nason).

Other species?
The breast-spotting/plain back combination rules out Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris) which in any case is an unlikely possibility due to its more northerly distribution in the savannah belt. A further possibility is Long-legged Pipit (Anthus pallidiventris) apparently occurring as near to Nigeria as SW Cameroon but it seemed this species can be ruled out on account of structure. I also initially discounted it due to distribution, but this brings us to the next topic...

Description of presumed Long-legged Pipits (Anthus pallidiventris) at IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria, November 2002

Pallidiventris Bird 1:

1: 2:
Pallidiventris Bird 2:

1: 2:
3: 4:
5: 6:
7: 8:
9:

I was initially equally confused by these individuals as they appeared structurally different to the birds described above as Plain-backed Pipits yet were seen at the same location by the rice paddies as Birds 3 and 4. I considered an ID as Long-legged Pipit at the time but soon dismissed this due to that fact that the species was not mapped for Nigeria in Borrow & Demey, and also because of confusion with the other pale-bellied birds present - I felt it far more likely that there were all one species exhibiting some variation in plumage.

However, in July 2003 I revisited my video records and made a more detailed study. This revealed the presence of two different individuals (shown above as Pallidiventris Birds 1 and 2) at the same location, apparent as camera panned from one to the other, and also the distinctive harsh call, clearly matching that described for Long-legged Pipit (cf. the softer call of the Plain-backed Pipits).

Looking at the images shown above (Pallidiventris Birds 1 and 2), various other differences can be noted which are consistent with this being a different species. Overall, the plumage is very plain, with a very uniformly-coloured light brown back (see Pallidiventris Bird 1, Image 1, cf. Leucophrys Bird 4, Image 2 above) lacking the clearly contrasting greater coverts and secondaries of the Plain-backed Pipits. Also, the underparts are even paler without the buff on the flanks shown in the paler presumed zenkeri birds (i.e. Leucophrys Birds 1 & 3 above) and the breast spotting is yet fainter too. The eyestripe is very noticeable, being more prominent ahead of the eye than that in the sister species (e.g. Pallidiventris Bird 2, Image 8, cf. Leucophrys Bird 1, Image 3). The malar and moustachial stripes appeared quite similar to those of the Plain-backed Pipits, i.e. the former quite marked and the latter rather indistinct.

Moreover, structurally, the birds seemed to have quite a different jizz, giving the impression of being more lanky. Careful comparison with the Plain-backed Pipit images shows the neck to be distinctly longer and narrower with the beak appearing marginally longer and narrower too (though coloured similarly bright yellow on the lower mandible in both species). The legs also appear longer, particularly the tibia, and are perhaps more yellowish (see Bird 2, Image 5). In the normal stance the belly is clearly deeper giving the impression of a more tapering rear - though it should be noted that the Plain-backed Pipits occasionally puffed out their breast feathers, which could create a misleading impression in a single image (cf. Movie 3 below for Bird 1).

Other field observations
As was noted for the Plain-backed Pipits these birds were clearly a pair. In terms of tail wagging, if anything this was even more frequent than for the Plain-backed Pipits! The most interesting feature though was the distinctive call (which unfortunately did not transmit itself into the movie file - below, presumably due to frequency cut-off). This was a more vigorous "tzip", interspersed by "zip - zip - zip" very reminiscent of the song of Meadow Pipit - and presumed to be the bird's song.

On the basis of these observations, I've now concluded that these two individuals must indeed have been Long-legged Pipits. According to del Hoyo et al (2004) this species "has recently extended its range NW from Gabon to SW Cameroon and two possible sightings in SE Nigeria; expansion possibly a result of deforestation". Hence, if accepted, the above would be the first confirmed record from Nigeria, and notably a few hundred miles NNW of the Cameroon border. I have since heard that the species has also be recorded in 2004 in coastal Benin (via Bob Dowsett, personal communication) so it may be becoming more common in the region than the literature suggests (Postscript, have now prepared an co-authored account with observers of Benin bird, Marc Thibault and Pierre Defos Du Rau, for submission to ABC Bulletin).

Examination of Plain-backed Pipit skins at the Natural History Museum in Tring, July 2003

On 13 July 2003 I made my first visit the skins collections at Tring to research the racially-related plumage variation in Plain-backed Pipit. Access to the collections is free to those engaged in legitimate research, but an appointment must be made in advance. Thanks to Mark Adams for allowing me to visit and showing me round.

The Plain-backed Pipits collection was extensive, with perhaps 500+ specimens, including about 100 zenkeri race birds. The latter were from a range of countries, but most were from Nigeria collected by Dr. William Serle in the 1940s and 1950s. [A few notes on this great West African ornithologist are on this linked page.]

My first impression on looking at the trays for the zenkeri race was the apparent paleness of the underparts of nearly all specimens, for example the following (NB - all video-grab images obtained under natural, not artificial, lighting, and plumage tones not digitally edited):

These are all zenkeri birds, respectively:

  • females from southern Nigeria (image 1)
  • males from southern Nigeria (images 2 and 3)
  • males from northern Nigeria (image 4)
  • individuals from localities east to Sudan/Uganda (image 5)

Underpart colouration on most zenkeri birds seemed to differ little from that of the gouldii and ansorgei individuals and I thought I'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference in the field in most cases. More precise comparisons were made by selecting a zenkeri female and male pair which was as nearly typical as possible (shown in above overviews as the central bird on the left of image 1 and the central bird in image 3, respectively), together with single gouldii (female) and ansorgei (male) individuals which were also mid-range in terms of the paleness of the underparts:

Details of the birds shown are, from left to right:

  1. Zenkeri, female, Brit. Mus. Reg. 1955.59.750, collected by Dr. W. Serle at Enugu on 6/8/1954, "one of two together on the grass runway of the airport at Enugu; insects in stomach; ovary slightly enlarged" [Label front, Label back]
  2. Zenkeri, male, Brit. Mus. Reg. 1955.59.751, collected by Dr. W. Serle at Enugu on 6/12/1954, "a single bird in a tree in farmland in savannah; insects in stomach; testes slightly enlarged"
  3. Gouldii, female, Brit. Mus. Reg. 1923.11.12.287, collected by W.P. Lowes & H.R. Hardy at Beoumi, Ivory Coast on 12/12/1922
  4. Ansorgei, male, Brit. Mus. Reg. 1910.5.6.1245, collected by Dr. W.J. Ansorge at Gunnal, Portugese Guinea, on 15/12/1909

The first photo shows that the difference in underparts colouration is very marginal, though the zenkeri race birds are if anything the darker, as expected. The second photo, of the same birds, shows that the upperparts are also very similar in shade, though the zenkeri female is clearly slightly lighter. I could discern no difference between this particular zenkeri male and the gouldii and ansorgei birds.

Notwithstanding the above, there were a small number of zenkeri individuals which were as dark as Bird 4 observed at IITA (above), for instance the upper individual in image 3 of the trays overviews above (males from southern Nigeria). It seems that variability in underpart colouration amongst this subspecies is not insignificant (perhaps related to soil type?).

One final factor not considered is potential accumulated fade in the plumage due to exposure to the light - though this should be insignificant as the specimens are of course kept in closed cupboards (Mark Adams, personal communication).

Considering the appearance of the malar stripes on the specimens, these were typically quite distinct and continuous on the zenkeri birds, as can be seen for example in this closer view of the zenkeri male:

Finally, looking in more detail at the breast spotting, it was apparent that the zenkeri race birds generally have much more diffuse and less distinct spots. The spots on gouldii and ansorgei were even more distinct on some other individuals than the "typical" individuals shown above (cf. also Gambian picture above), e.g. the following depicting gouldii and ansorgei birds respectively:

Conclusions

  • The Plain-backed Pipits seen at IITA, SW Nigeria, were almost certainly all the expected zenkeri race individuals
  • The main initial confusion factor was the range of underpart darkness exhibited in the field, varying between very light buff and a dark cinnamon-tinged buff, with light and dark birds paired (and the presence of presumed Long-legged Pipits at the same locality!)
  • This variation was confirmed by the skins study, though most of the collected birds were at the light end of the scale
  • The underpart coloration variation may be related to soil type, but more study would be required to determine if there is also some distributional cline in this feature
  • All gouldii and ansorgei race skins were very pale below, but they had more distinct breast-spotting
  • The lack of distinct breast-spotting on the zenkeri race birds, including those seen at IITA, seems to be usually diagnostic amongst these races
  • All three races can often show quite distinct malar stripes, and sometimes also dark moustachial stripes
  • Amongst the three races, differences in the upperpart darkness in the skins was similarly marginal, being in some cases inseparable to the eye
  • The West African races can therefore appear very similar to each other and it can be quite misleading to attempt subspecific ID based on underpart darkness alone

References

1. Borrow, N. & Demey, R. (2001) "Birds of Western Africa", Helm Identification Guides, Christopher Helm, London, ISBN 0-7136-3959-8 [Amazon link]
2. Serle, W., Morel, G.J. & Hartwig, W. (1977) "A Field Guide to the Birds of West Africa", Collins Field Guide, Harper Collins Publishers, London, ISBN 0-00-219204-7 [Amazon link]
3. del Hoyo, J., Elliot, A. & Christie, D. (2004) "Handbook of Birds of the World. Volume 9: Cotingas to Pipits and Wagtails", Lynx Edicions. ISBN: 8487334695 [NHBS link]

Movies section

These are brief mpeg movies of the IITA birds. Respective file sizes are indicated.

Plain-backed Pipit (Bird 1 and 2) (1, 2, 1, 2 MB)

Movie 1a, 1bc, 1d; 2

Long-legged Pipit (Birds 1 and 2) (0.4, 0.6, 1.6, 0.8 MB)

Movie 1; 2a, 2b, 2c

I'd welcome any further comments or advice on the identification of these birds - please send me a mail at lothianrecorder@the-soc.org.uk. In particular, there may be other literature which I'm not aware of (my references were confined to those listed above).

Rev. Dr. William Serle O.B.E. (1912-1992)



Images copyright (c) Natural History Museum, London

Dr. William Serle made a great contribution to ornithological knowledge, and that of West Africa in particular. Born in Duddingston Manse, Edinburgh on 29 July 1912 he attended George Watson's Boys College before studying medicine at Edinburgh University. His interest in birds followed that of his father who he accompanied on early ornithological trips.

From his father's literature, Dr. Serle realised the great potential for further ornithological research in West Africa. Following his graduation in 1936 he joined the Colonial Medical Service and sailed for Lagos, Nigeria, in 1937.

For the next 20 years, Serle made extensive collections in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, British Cameroon and parts of East Africa. He made 60 publications on status, distribution, breeding and taxonomy. He is credited with the descriptions of 18 new avian taxa, including the rare Mount Kupe Bush Shrike (Malaconotus kupeensios).

During the war he served with the West African Field Ambulance Corps, travelling to India and Burma. He was awarded the O.B.E. in 1946 for his outstanding army service.

Following his marriage in 1956 he felt called to train for the ministry and was ordained and inducted to Drumoak, near Banchory in Kincardineshire, Scotland in 1959, where he remained until his retirement in 1987.

Later he donated the bulk of his skins collections to the Natural History Museum in Tring and his egg collection to the National Museums of Scotland.

Reference

Obituary - Dr William Serle O.B.E, by R.Y McGowan, Department of Natural History, Royal Museum of Scotland, Scottish Birds (1993) vol. 17, pp. 66-67

Personal note

It was only when I obtained a copy of Collin's "A Field Guide to the Birds of West Africa" (1977), prior to our trip to Nigeria, that I realised that the author was one and the same as the Church of Scotland minister and naturalist of Drumoak just east of the town of Banchory where I grew up. My father knew him and I might even have seen him myself! So it was quite fascinating to go through the Plain-backed Pipits trays at the Natural History Museum in Tring seeing so many of his careful hand-written labels on the specimens, as illustrated above for a female Plain-backed Pipit collected on 6 August 1954 at Enugu! What a wonderful legacy...

Sunday, 1 June 2003

Garden list targets (Herts)

Hertfordshire

This is a list I made of the 40 target birds species to reach total of 100 for our Hertfordshire garden list, drawn up in June 2003. It's in what I estimated to be the approximate order of likelihood of occurence, based on local knowledge. Having said that, the last "probable" near our garden, Purple Heron (see log), would never have featured on any such hit list - neither the Serin which did occur here!

  1. (Common Buzzard - Reported recently from over Woodside and North Watford nearby) - seen over Leavesden Airfield, 13 September 2003
  2. (Red Kite - Reported over Woodside nearby & common from five or so miles west) - seen over Leavesden Airfield, 12 August 2003
  3. Yellow-legged Gull - Regular in Hilfield roost so must occur - a probable seen over 2003
  4. Mediterranean Gull - Regular in Hilfield roost so must occur
  5. Golden Plover - Must visit disused airfield with Lapwings - but none with flocks I've checked
  6. (Stock Dove - Common one mile west at Grove Mill) - single over W, 10 January 2004
  7. Common Whitethroat - Common in surrounding countryside
  8. Tawny Owl - Reported from Harebreaks 500m south - none found in a recce though
  9. Bullfinch - Present at Grove Mill one mile west
  10. Ring-necked Parakeet - Reported from Garston in 2002
  11. Waxwing - Reported from Garston in 2002
  12. Redpoll - Surely possible, perhaps with Siskins in autumn/winter
  13. Turtle Dove - Surely passes over
  14. Treecreeper - May pass through with tit flocks
  15. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - Mapped for our tetrad in London Atlas - presumably from Harebreaks*
  16. Spotted Flycatcher - Mapped for our tetrad in London Atlas - presumably from Harebreaks*
  17. Garden Warbler - Mapped for our tetrad in London Atlas - presumably from Harebreaks*
  18. Lesser Whitethroat - Mapped for our tetrad in London Atlas - possibly from Harebreaks*
  19. Reed Bunting - Possible in winter - occasional in gardens near canal to west
  20. Yellowhammer - Perhaps in winter
  21. Little Egret - Has been seen over a Garston garden near the River Colne
  22. Mute Swan - Must fly over from time to time (Near miss 10 February 2004 with a single SW over nearby A405 when I was not home - should have been visible from garden)
  23. Dunlin - Must fly over from time to time
  24. Common Snipe - Must pass over now and again
  25. Common Tern - Regular at Grove Mill one mile west
  26. Cuckoo - Possible over
  27. (Sand Martin - Must pass overhead) - single S directly over, 13 September 2003
  28. Wheatear - Perhaps on passage on playing fields
  29. Firecrest - Not impossible with crests or tit flocks
  30. Peregrine - Must pass overhead occasionally
  31. Monk Parakeet - Resident in Borehamwood five miles east
  32. Marsh Tit - Not impossible with passing tit flocks
  33. Raven - Has been seen over St Albans
  34. Knot - Seen over Watford
  35. Common Sandpiper - Possible over
  36. Whimbrel - Possible over
  37. Curlew - Possible over (Near miss 25 October 2003 with a single SW over nearby Leavesden Green when I was not home - should have been visible from garden)
  38. (Redshank - Possible over) - heard overhead at 2am on 10 July 2003
  39. Ringed Plover - Possible over
  40. Alpine Swift - Why not?!

* - Harebreaks is a small patch of mainly oak woodland 500m south of our house; London Atlas contains tetrad maps from 1988-1994 fieldwork

Friday, 31 January 2003

Trip report - SW Nigeria, 9-18 November 2002



Introduction

This is a report of my first visit to Nigeria, or indeed tropical Africa. The purpose of the trip was primarily to visit my wife’s family in Lagos, and birds were seen along the way, rather than vice versa! Nevertheless we did manage two trips to the Nigeria Conservation Foundation’s (http://www.ncf-nigeria.org/) Lekki Reserve immediately E of Lagos and one to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture site (http://www.iita.org/about/ibadan.htm) 120km N of Lagos in Ibadan. Since we had access to local knowledge and facilities (though no local bird knowledge beyond a couple of trip lists), I’m perhaps not best qualified to offer advice on the practicalities of such a trip for other Western birders. Also, as a complete novice on African birds, this was primarily a familiarisation trip and the bird list is rather limited, mainly due to my inability to ID birds on call in the forest. Nevertheless, I’ve found very little other useful web-based information on visiting Nigeria, from a birder’s perspective, so I thought I’d put together this report in case it’s of interest to anyone else travelling that way.

Flights and preparation

We flew from London on Virgin. Prices on Virgin and BA were very similar, and higher than some budget carriers (e.g. the relaunched Nigeria Airlines (http://www.nigeriaairlines.com)). Flight prices are much higher between June and October, and then very high again in December, so November is a good time to go in that respect. There is also a good variety of birds at this time of year, with Western Palaearctic migrants present, and it’s pretty dry out there which is a further advantage.

Flights both ways were about an hour late departing, mainly due to passengers arriving late. Otherwise, the flight was fine. We arrived at Murtalla Mohammad International Airport in Lagos and baggage claim took a while but we expected that. Upon emerging from the front entrance, about 6 noisy men surrounded us and took over our baggage trolleys. I thought: "That’s it – all our luggage for the trip, gone!". However, we clung onto our trolleys and it eventually transpired that these men were trying to "help us". Not only that, when we got to our vehicle, they expected us to "dash them some small money" – i.e. pay them! At that point an airport official drove them off, and we heard that they are actually quite strict about this now – it used to be worse there. After the official had collected his small payment (not a "bribe", since he did not demand it, but it is expected and just the way that things work there) we were on our way – with no more "wahala" = "trouble"! (try this site for a useful pidgin English dictionary: http://www.ngex.com/personalities/babawilly/dictionary/)

One other thing worth mentioning is the malaria vaccination. When we first planned to travel we were given paludrine/avoclor by our local travel vaccination centre (Hemel Hempstead, Herts, UK). However, when I had chance to research this on the web myself (a good site is http://www.cdc.gov/travel/diseases/malaria/ and http://www.cdc.gov/travel/regionalmalaria/wafrica.htm specifically for Nigeria), I found that this is no use for Nigeria as the P. falciparum is resistant to chloroquine. So we shelled out another £50 each for malarone, which was effective (i.e. I was bitten and it worked).

Accommodation

We arranged our own accommodation in Festac Town (Chelsea Suites hotel) which was cheap by UK standards (c. 3000 naira (<£15) each per day for a large a/c double room with fridge, TV etc.). This was not near any known birding sites though.

We also stayed at IITA in Ibadan (http://www.iita.org/about/ibadan.htm), which is a great birding site, but not marketed as such (I’m not aware of anywhere in SW Nigeria marketed as a birding site - awareness of the needs of visiting birders is generally extremely low). I feel sure that it was formerly mentioned on the above IITA web page that guest rooms are available at this site subject to prior booking, but apparently no longer so and the Fatbirder account by Peter Turner (http://www.fatbirder.com/links_geo/africa/nigeria.html) implies that an invitation is required to gain access to the campus. We sent an enquiry email in advance of our visit but never received a reply. We also attempted to reach IITA by telephone from the time we arrived in Lagos but could never get through (perhaps because we were calling from GSM mobiles to a landline number?). Upon arrival at the institute we were informed that it is impossible to book a room upon arrival. When we asked if we could book for the following day we were informed that it was only possible to book accommodation "in advance", i.e. by phone or email and that an "invitation" is indeed normally necessary. The reception staff were not familiar with the concept of a visit "for ornithology" and the site is a research institute and in no way tourist-orientated, so this was perhaps not surprising, but no less frustrating at the time! But in the end we did get in by virtue of the fact that I knew the name of the (RSPB-sponsored) Nigerian PhD Student studying the Ibadan Malimbe formerly mentioned on the RSPB’s International section webpage (detailed info recently deleted in their webpage upgrade). Once we were able to talk to a member of the research staff (a helpful Danish lady) we were granted access and she very kindly showed us around. Accommodation turned out to be expensive at 8000 naira (c. £40) each, but the standard was OK and facilities provided for guests excellent (access to tennis courts, golf course, swimming pool etc.) – though as a birder you’re unlikely to have time to use them! We also obtained, on loan, a recently updated complete species list for the site from the I-House reception. This included brief status information for all c. 300 species recorded.

Other accommodation can of course be found in Lagos – there are plenty of hotels on Lagos Island and Victoria Island (VI). However, I cannot recommend any in particular.

Getting around

The way to travel is by hiring a car, driver inclusive, preferably from the hotel you’re staying at, or on other recommendation. We paid about 6000 naira per day (c. £30), which was apparently double the going rate for locals. Mileage is nominally unlimited, but you might expect to have to add something for long journeys. If you cannot get one at a hotel, private taxis can be found at many transport hubs along the main roads. However, as an expat you might by overcharged for such a service and it is fraught with dangers. The hotel-based drivers are likely to be much more reliable, since whilst essentially independent, they are accountable to the hotels.

An alternative for longer journeys is an express bus, though the security would be less than in a private vehicle. An alternative for shorter journeys would be a "commercial vehicle" – i.e. a private taxi or minibus which can be identified by its orange colour and Christian message displayed on the back (often in Yoruba or pidgin-English in Lagos). However, if you’re carrying birding gear, this would be an even less safe option and is not recommended.

In fact, the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office site (http://www.fco.gov.uk) issues fairly serious warnings about travel in Nigeria and recommends against using any form of public transport. However, we found no problems whatsoever even on some of the roads specifically mentioned as notorious (e.g. the Ibadan expressway from Lagos) and it seems that the real danger is in travelling at night, when armed robbers operate. So as long as you can avoid night travel, you’ll probably be OK.

Another issue that worried us before going was the "police checkpoints". We passed about 30 of these on major and minor roads, where police generally request papers and collect small payments from locals, but upon seeing me, an ex-pat, we were waved through every single one of these (these officials are apparently concerned about their international reputation, despite what one may think!).

General road safety is not an issue to be taken lightly either – accidents are fairly common and we saw several. Most vehicles are in poor condition and wearing of seat-belts is not practiced; for example, there was no seatbelt fitted in the car in which we travelled from Lagos to Ibadan (at break-neck speed) and in others it was carefully tied up out of the way as it is never used! On the other hand, the drivers are well-adapted to the conditions and highly skilful at their trade – another example was when our driver managed to slipstream a police vehicle through a "go-slow" - we cleared a serious traffic hold-up that might have delayed us for half an hour or so in just a couple of minutes!

Travel across Lagos is very much stop-go, with some nice stretches of road free of traffic and some very serious bottlenecks in places, often associated with poor road surface. The worst we experienced was a 2 hour delay trying to access the bridge from Victoria Island to Lagos Island. Furthermore, at any bottleneck hawkers and beggars abound and you need to keep your valuables out of sight. However, they are useful places for getting stuff you need – cold water, phone cards, snacks. Our best find was a much-needed Lagos Street map atlas which we bought for about 500 naira (c. £2.50) on the bridge between Lagos Island and Victoria Island. We were unable to obtain any detailed maps from abroad (it seems that the one we got there, published by West African Book Publishers (http://www.academypress-plc.com/westafricanpub.htm), cannot be obtained abroad), and we found that Nigerians in general do not tend to use maps to get around - so this is quite a prize!

Finally, note if you are a (white) Westerner, you will attract attention wherever you go, though less so on Lagos Island and Victoria Island, the main commercial centres. In fact, outside Lagos, any child seeing you will cry "oyinbo!" meaning "white person". If you’re in a stationary/slow-moving vehicle, touts and hawkers will try to sell you anything and everything (as they do in fact with the occupant of any vehicle!) and you may be a particular target for beggars who inhabit thick traffic (many blind or disabled – this is the social security system). However, if you don’t look interested, most quickly go away and will not pressure you – we had no trouble.

Bird information

Tina Macdonald’s "Birding hotspots" site (http://www.camacdonald.com/birding/) has information about Nigeria’s birds at http://www.camacdonald.com/birding/africanigeria.htm and the Fat Birder information is at http://www.fatbirder.com/links_geo/africa/nigeria.html. There are couple of relevant articles on the African Bird Club website (http://www.africanbirdclub.org/feature/bushrike.html, http://www.africanbirdclub.org/feature/fishowls.html) However, I found only one trip report per se, from Marietta Deming posted on the Parrotdata website (http://www.parrotdata.com/articlesny/artikler.asp?aid=112).

Since returning, several more Nigeria trip reports have appeared, all dripping with wonderful photos:

I tried to contact in advance the birding guides listed for Nigeria on the Birding Pal website (http://www.birdingpal.org), but never received any replies.

I also contacted a couple of people whose birding experiences in Nigeria were mentioned on internet sites (Birdchat and the Birding-Aus Mail Archive) (http://birdingonthe.net/chat/2_May_2001_to_3_May_2001.html#12, http://menura.cse.unsw.edu.au:1080/2002/02/msg00177.html) and received from them very useful recommendations on sites to visit, including species lists. Much thanks to them! The mail on the former site contains useful info about field guides.

Phil Hall is listed as the bird recorder for Nigeria on the African Bird Club website http://www.africanbirdclub.org (details here: http://www.africanbirdclub.org/resources/recorders.html).

The only other bird contacts/information that I came across were a couple from the British International School who had a report pinned to the wall in the Lekki reserve visitor centre. This gave a monthly breakdown of the frequency of observation of 80 species for the first half of 2002 so they are clearly frequent visitors, but according to the information there, they were away doing research in another part of Nigeria.

The Fatbirder website lists bird books. Some time in advance of my trip I obtained a copy of "A Field Guide to the Birds of West Africa" by William Serle, Gerard J. Morel, Wolfgang Hartwig, a Collins field guide (http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0002192047/ref=pd_sim_b_dp/026-9277891-5826003). Remarkably, I discovered that this Dr. Serle was one and the same as the former Church of Scotland minister and naturalist resident of the village of Drumoak just east of Banchory where I grew up! I later prepared these notes about him. I was also fortunate that the new Helm Identification Guide "Birds of Western Africa" by Borrow & Demey (2002) was out just in time for my trip. This is a truly excellent book, though I found it rather heavy in the field and had to dispense with it from my bag by the end of our stay. It is currently obtainable in the UK from the Birdguides estore http://www.birdguides.com/estore and from Amazon at the same price http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0713639598/ref=ase_fatbirder/026-9277891-5826003.

Due to lack of time, I did not get myself a copy of Claude Chappuis’ (2000) 15 CD’s of African bird sounds referenced in Borrow & Demey but this would have been an invaluable aid (c.f. http://www.bl.uk/collections/sound-archive/wildpublication.html#boa).

A list of articles, short notes, research grant reports and reviews about birds of Nigeria is maintained on the Malimbus website (http://malimbus.free.fr/Country%20pages/Nigeria.htm).

Bird records

I’ve written a full chronological account including pretty much everything we saw for the benefit of other first time visitors who don’t know what to expect. The systematic list follows at the end of this document and a few images are on a linked page http://www.geocities.com/steve_extra/Nigeria_bird_images.html. Individual birds shown on the images page are asterisked (*). There’s also linked page on birds seen in my wife’s family home "compound" (= "garden" – UK, or "yard" - US) at http://www.geocities.com/steve_extra/glist_festac2.html.

Saturday 9 November

We landed at Murtalla Mohammed International Airport at 5.30am when it was still dark; it became light remarkably quickly (to UK eyes) at about 6.30am and we came out of the building at 7.30am. The first birds identified were Pied Crows around the control tower, a Laughing Dove and African Pied Wagtail in the car park, whilst a swift flock proved a little more elusive (both Little and African Palm Swifts were identified here on our return trip).

The first day was spent mainly in Festac Town and a garden on 21 road extension. The town is a suburb of Lagos at the SW of the city just N of the Badagry expressway that takes you out west towards Ogun state and then on to the Benin Republic. It originated the FESTival of Arts and Crafts 1977 and the population is now said to be around the 100k mark. The perimeter of the town is clearly bounded on all four sides: on the south by the main expressway W out of Lagos, on the east by a wide stretch of open water - a branch of the main Lagos lagoon network which wends its way, in diminishing size, as far north as the airport (to the NW of Lagos) and on the north and west a further branch of the lagoon and scrub-type bush with marshy areas. Apparently, none of the surrounding "bush" is accessed by local people, due presumably to inhabitation by snakes, crocodiles etc and general inaccessibility due to marshes and open water. Thus the prospects for seeing some good waterbirds around the town initially looked good. However, there are no natural viewing points or access roads and the bridges over the lagoon branch in particular are not areas where one would want to loiter due to security issues, so in practice I was not able to see any birds from the perimeter roads and most species recorded at Festac were seen in flight overhead.

As we arrived, an African Openbill was seen flying E over the river - a very ungainly sight and the more so because of the peculiarly shaped beak and head. Dark herons and ducks overhead were not specifically identified, but the latter were probably White-faced Whistling Ducks, whilst Cattle Egrets and Black Kites were both common sights. Very familiar to a European were the Common Kestrels and Barn Swallows, though the identity of each still required more than a second glance due to the array of similar species present in West Africa.

Garden birds were the main focus for the rest of the day and these are described in more detail in the linked document (http://www.geocities.com/steve_extra/glist_festac2.html). Besides the resident flamboyant male Variable Sunbird* the main interest on the first day was that the resident weavers, discovered lurking in the top of the garden's mango tree, were Black-necked Weavers* (Ploceus nigricollis) of the brachypterus subspecies. Borrow & Demey described this species as a common resident in forest and savannah zones throughout West Africa. However, unlike its abundant compatriot, the Village Weaver, it is not usually associated with human habitation and the "habits" entry simply states "In pairs within forest clearings and edges, gallery forest and wooded savannah". Later in the week, another garden in Festac produced another surprise on this front with its own resident weaver species (see below).

Sunday 10 November

Following church, we set out along the coast road to Badagry, a site of great historical interest. The road is in fact some distance inland and is punctuated by many pockets of activity, with roadside markets and small settlements. Appropriately, some of the most obvious birds are the scavengers, with abundant Black Kites and Cattle Egrets filling the place of the scavenging gulls we have back in Britain. The egret in particular was most frequently observed near any human habitation, and especially on roadside rubbish dumps, whilst individuals or small flocks of kites were seen hanging in the sky nearly everywhere we went.

The role of insect-eater was also filled by a rather unexpected species - the Woodland Kingfisher! This large and noisy bird with azure-blue back and bright red bill could be seen hunting from roadside wire perches, and 10 individuals were logged along the route: 1 E of Lagos State University, 3 at Okokomaiko, 1 west of Abara, 2 at Imeke-Badagry and finally 3 very vocal individuals on wires above the entrance gate to the historic "First Storey Building" in Badagry itself.

More mundane were the small groups of doves and pigeons on roadside wires - Laughing Dove being the most common, in groups of up to 10, but Feral Pigeons occupied their usual niche in urban areas with for example a small group at the "Methodist shopping complex" in Badagry.

Large and noisy colonies of weavers were seen in roadside trees but not specifically identified at this stage (most would have been Village or Vieillot’s Black Weaver (Ploceus nigerrimus)). Similarly, sparrowhawk, starling and ibis species over Okokomaiko and Okoka evaded specific ID.

Upon arrival in Badagry we went first to the First Storey Building on the waterfront. In the grounds were Variable Sunbird, Bronze Mannikin and 6 Grey-headed Sparrows with a further 6 of the latter along the shore road west. Along this road also the usual Common Bulbul, African Pied Wagtail and Feral Pigeon were seen and a Black-and-white Mannikin was perched on wires.

A total of over 50 swallows, all of which were apparently Barn Swallows, were hunting over the shore road, together with a House Martin and at least 5 African Palm Swifts. Surprisingly, no waterbirds could be seen on or around the lagoon itself, unless you count Black Kite.

Moving back inland there were more of the same swifts, swallows, pigeons, doves, kites and bulbul. We retraced our steps eastwards until doubling-back towards the coast down the road to the Whispering Palms resort. This produced a further 30 Barn Swallows together with the usual swifts, kites, doves, bulbul and an unidentified falcon species. Three more noisy weaver colonies were seen at Mosafejo Town and Ilado before we came across a fourth within the resort compound itself which turned out to consist of the abundant Village Weaver. These noisy birds with harsh chattering calls attended dangling nests which are approximately spherical but with short entrance funnels (nest shape is diagnostic amongst the weaver family).

Entry to the Whispering Palms compound cost 200 naira (c. £1) and gave us access to a large resort area with picnic tables under coconut trees. The advantage over public beaches was in the lack of touts and hawkers – in fact the place was nearly deserted so we were free to roam around. The waterfront afforded a clear view over a vast stretch of lagoon to the forested coastal strip. Here, as elsewhere, the water was deserted, but 3 Grey Herons passed west and 5 Black Kites hung overhead. A female sunbird at the main building was probably a Splendid Sunbird, a common species, but a second very drab sunbird perched on a branch at a volleyball court sported bold white markings above and below the eye making it a Brown Sunbird (Anthreptes gabonicus). This was confirmed by the call, a sharp high-pitched "spinck" followed by a gentler descending "djwee" or "tchay" type call. This species is mapped by Borrow & Demey for S Nigeria southward and other places from Ghana W but not for SW Nigeria. The "habits" description was a good match though in the statement "singly or in pairs in mangroves and forested riverbanks".

Few new birds were seen on the homeward trip, but there were two more Woodland Kingfishers and the first Western Grey Plantain-eater of the trip at Mosafejo Town, and 5 presumed Hadada Ibis in flight over the expressway just east of the "22km" bus turning point.

Monday 11 November

We went into Lagos town and got a taste of urban birding. Perhaps not surprisingly, the same species attending human habitations in other areas were the most prominent, i.e. Cattle Egret and Black Kite. Nevertheless, it did look odd to Western eyes to see Cattle Egrets hopping around the main road on Lagos Island which was otherwise just as busy, noisy and "urban" as any city centre street in the UK; similarly, 13 Black Kites hanging on the updrafts around a 15-storey corporate HQ – what a sight that would have been in central London!

The above were complemented by more urban birds, a bunch of Pied Crows, 15 Feral Pigeons, Laughing Doves and Common Bulbuls with the odd Barn Swallow and African Palm Swift overhead. At this time of the morning (9am) a general movement of Cattle Egrets was also apparent with 40 W along the south shore of the island in a 20 minutes period (i.e. the time taken to clear the "go-slow").

We then headed off out of Lagos E on the Epe expressway to the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (http://www.ncf-nigeria.org/) Lekki reserve, opposite the Chevron oil company. This is easy to find and there is a large open building housing visitor displays at the entrance (pictured on the front page of their website – under development). There is a small cafĂ© and toilets at the rear.

We headed out onto the reserve which had an excellent infrastructure in the form of a raised board walk through the whole of the forested area and a track through an open savannah area, constituting a trail with a figure of eight plan. The first area is pretty wet and is punctuated by viewing areas and hides over small ponds, but there seemed to be no large water bodies visible from the reserve. A tree house on the initial anticlockwise branch affords good views over the forest.

Setting off clockwise, species of bulbul/greenbul, barbet and monkey in the first forested area went down as unidentified, but we soon had fantastic views of White-throated Bee-eaters hawking over the marsh to the left. In addition to the ubiquitous Common Bulbuls there was a group of Palm Swamp Bulbuls here. This species was very easy to pick up with a distinctive call like a tape-recorded conversation played too fast. There were also a group of Fanti Sawwings (an all-dark swallow species) and then a fine male Fire-bellied Woodpecker which landed high on a tall dead tree.

At a covered swamp hide we had more of the same and a pair of beautiful Violet-backed Starlings paused briefly in a tree. A Green-backed Heron flew in and gave fantastic views low in a tree above the pools. Monitor Lizards could be seen moving under the board walk in the swamp, but we did not catch sight of any of the crocodiles which were said to be present.

Just outside the swamp hide, a male Tiny Sunbird was perched high in an overhanging tree, unusually remaining stationary for about a minute, enabling me to separate it with certainty from the more expected, and almost identical, Olive-bellied Sunbird.

In the savannah area we saw a much larger group of monkeys high in the canopy. It was much easier to see birds here, and there was a flock of Rufous-chested Swallows perched in a tree near the path and a Collared Sunbird in a small copse. There were the usual Bronze Mannikins and Common Bulbul, with Black Kites and African Palm Swift overhead. Towards the eastern end of the area, 3 African Pied Hornbills and a Western Grey Plantain-eater flew over, all remarkably large (c. 50cm) and conspicuous birds. Finally, a small group of Red-vented Malimbes were foraging in trees at the entrance to the forest area.

On our way out, further Greenbul species were seen but only the Little Greenbul was positively identified due to its distinctive song (ending abruptly on a rising note).

It was interesting to note that the entire reserve was deserted - the only people we saw were a couple of the local guards from the entrance hut, but we found that they knew little about the bird-life.

As we travelled back we saw a Pied Kingfisher hunting over the Five Cowrie Creek from the Maroko Road on VI. We went down to the "Bar beach", the SE end of VI to have a look for sea birds and were surprised that there was not a single bird in sight on the visible sandy beaches or over the sea.

We took the third mainland bridge back west affording views over Lagos Lagoon. A couple of Long-tailed Cormorants and a Great White Egret were at the southern end whilst a larger group of smaller presumed Little Egrets were on a northern island.

Cattle Egrets were apparently attract by fires at roadside rubbish dumps with a group of 6 at one in Ijora, together with 6 Feral Pigeon and a Black Kite and 3 more west of Oshodi Market. Again, an African Openbill circled high over the Festac Town eastern lagoon.

In the late afternoon, c. 10 House Martin and a Little Swift circled above the garden in Festac. Bronze Mannikins and an African Pied Wagtail passed overhead, with a Pied Crow at dusk – just like in Britain where the crow is one of the first to rise and last to retire!

Tuesday 12 November

This was a mainly non-birding day spent in and around Lagos.

6 African Openbills were circling over Ijora (Ijora Causeway/Eko Bridge junction) with 6 Black Kites and a Common Kestrel nearby.

On the pools by the national theatre, Ijora, there was a good array of wetland species, including a flock of c. 10 Black-winged Stilts and plenty of egrets and herons. Wooly-necked Stork and Hadada Ibis were new.

Long-tailed Cormorants and egrets were again seen at the south end of the Third Mainland Bridge.

Wednesday 13 November

First thing in the morning in the yard, the skulking female Variable Sunbird was sighted confirming presence of a pair.

We set off back to Lekki and were happy to see a couple of Senegal Parrots high in a tree over Liverpool Road, Apapa. At the Ijora flyover, African Openbills were again soaring but 2 Western Reef Egrets in flight near the road onto the Eko bridge were new.

At the S end of Lagos Island, plenty of Cattle Egrets were moving again, with 40 NW and 21 SE over Lagos Harbour. 2 Western Grey Plantain-eaters were seen here with a couple more over the NW end of VI. Nothing new on VI with the usual Cattle Egrets (10 at a pavement rubbish dump, others on the Five Cowrie Creek), Black Kites (10+), Feral Pigeon (6), African Palms Swifts (6) and Laughing Dove, plus 2 Common Kestrels over Ozumba Mbadiwe Avenue.

As we set out east on the New Epe Expressway a probable Purple Heron flew over north. Victoria Garden City held the usual suspects - 15 Laughing Dove and Common Kestrel, a few Barn Swallows at a petrol station not far beyond, and probable Sand Martins and Little Swift nearby. We followed the expressway past Chevron towards Eleko beach (about 20km east, turning right down towards the coast at Ibeju for the last couple of miles).

A probable Shikra was perched on roadside wires and there was a weaver colony and 2 buzzard sp. over at the turn. 10 Bronze Mannikin frequented the Eleko beach checkpoint.

The Eleko beach itself was very beautiful, but deserted save for a few touts looking after beach-huts. The beach and sea were equally devoid of bird life, with the only species seen out over the sea being Black Kites – a total of 20, and several migrant egrets in the far distance.

Back at the NCF Lekki reserve we again saw the Palm Swamp Bulbuls and heard the Blue-spotted Wood Dove in song. Fewer species were apparent in the forest area this time, probably because it was later in the day (nearer midday) than the first visit.

Palm Swamp Bulbuls were also seen in the savannah, along with the same species as the earlier visit. A cisticola species in song seemed to be a Winding Cisticola (not seen on first visit).

Back near the entrance lodge, we recorded further African Pied Hornbill, White-throated Bee-eater, a flock of 6 Bronze Mannikins and a Collared Sunbird, together with 2 Red-eyed Doves and several unidentified bulbul species (mainly heard).

On the journey back, a group of 20 Black Kites were seen over water to the NW of the British International School to the north of Lekki Expressway. 10 more were near the VI-Lagos Island bridge and 6 and the Ijora bridge. There we also saw 2 Pied Crow over the power station.

Near the National Theatre we saw 2 beautiful Spur-winged Plovers at a small pool.

As we came back into Festac over the Badagry expressway bridge we saw 2 Pied Kingfishers perched on wires.

Thursday 14 November

We set out for Ibadan first thing in the morning, going to "Mile 2" to find a car that would take us. In Festac at the Badagry expressway entrance there were c. 10 Ethiopian Swallows and 2 Village Weavers on wires, and 10 Cattle Egret scavenging.

As we travelled north, the usual suspects could be seen from the car - 15 Feral Pigeon at the roadside north of Bagada within the urban area and beyond that, 6 more Black Kite, 3 Pied Crow, 2 Western Grey Plantain-eaters and a weaver colony in a palm by the time we reached the Benin City turn. Thereafter, there was no sign of any human habitation for many miles and the area adjacent to the road consisted entirely of scrub and more developed forest. Very few birds were seen in this zone – the only noticeable groups were 20+ Black Kite and 5 Pied Crows soaring over a presumed rubbish dump east of expressway. A Long-crested Eagle was spotted soaring high over bush to the east of expressway about 30 km S of Ibadan.

Arriving at a market towards the east of Ibadan, not far from the University, groups of Feral Pigeons totaling 26 individuals were logged, together with 5 more Black Kites and a probable Red-footed Falcon.

Entering the IITA grounds (see above under "Accommodation") the first birds seen were Western Grey Plantain-eater, and, appropriately, the "African" versions of Thrush, Pied Hornbill and Pied Wagtail.

We went down to the lake area and saw the expected waterbirds – the 4 white egret species, Squacco* (6), Purple (2) and Grey Herons and at least 20 African Jacanas*.

I walked through the forest from the end of the Old Road and heard many birds which I was unable to identify! However, I did get definite Splendid Sunbird, Common Bulbul, Red-eyed Dove and many Tambourine Doves in song (and probably Blue-spotted Wood Dove), with Laughing Dove and African Grey Hornbill on the fringe near the lake. Also on the forest fringe were probable Shikra, Broad-billed Roller and Woodland Kingfisher.

At the north end of the lake was a gathering of Spur-winged Plovers* (12+), White-headed Lapwings* (2 pairs) and 2 Senegal Thick-knees*. Young African Jacanas were running along the water’s edge.

Heading back past the east of the lake, a Double-spurred Francolin was calling and a Whinchat was feeding in the maize; a Plain-backed Pipit was spied near the road, apparently of the expected zenkeri race. At least 6 Western Grey Plantain-eaters frequented the gardens areas to the west of the campus.

Near the International House (I-house) there were 25+ African Thrush on the lawns together with 5 Yellow Wagtail and African Pied Wagtail and Grey-headed Sparrow. At dusk, 10+ Splendid Glossy Starlings gathered for roost on the south side of I-house, Pied Crows passed over to their own roost and c. 500-1000 large fruit bats were seen moving over SE, having presumably spent the day in forested areas to the NW.

Friday 15 November

Setting out at 6.15am, the first species seen were the African Thrushes on the lawns (6.20am) and an African Hobby flew over calling.

A Splendid Sunbird frequented the bushes at the fuel compound and two Plain-backed Pipits* were again at the roadside. These were of strikingly different appearance - one with buff-underparts and the other with very pale-underparts leading me to suspect that the latter was of one of the paler-bellied western races (i.e. gouldii or ansorgei; video footage was taken, included on the linked Plain-backed Pipits page (http://www.geocities.com/steve_extra/plain-backed_pipit.html).

10 Senegal Thick-knee* and 10 Spur-winged Plovers were gathered at the promontory with a small building. An Intermediate Egret* was filmed; there was a general southwards passage of egret species high over the lake, and Grey Herons crossed back and forth at lower levels.

At the rice paddies area a mixed flock of waders in flight included snipes (presumed Common Snipe) and 20-30 small waders (mainly Common and Wood Sandpipers) and 3 Greenshank. Common Sandpiper and Wood Sandpipers were also seen foraging in the paddies.

Returning to the campus, at the tree patch by the entry road, there were 5+ Red-eyed Doves, 5 Pied Crows, 3+ Western Grey Plantain-eaters, 2 Common Bulbul, a Splendid Sunbird and another African Pied Hornbill. A Yellow-throated Longclaw flitted around over the grassland to the south of the road whilst 2 Whinchat were now found in the maize on the north side.

Setting out again after breakfast, there were the same species as previously near I-house, but also Common Kestrels and 8 Little Swift. A pair of Grey Kestrels and a Woodland Kingfisher were in the gardens on the west of the campus.

Down towards the lake, new birds at a small patch of trees to the north of the road were 3 Levaillant's Cuckoos* and a singing Willow Warbler!

Back at the rice paddies (10am) I was able to scrutinise the wader flock more carefully. Most birds were Wood Sandpipers* (19) but there were also 4 Greenshank*, 2 Common Sandpipers and three presumed Common Snipe overhead. 2 Black Crake* were seen lurking between the paddies. 2 more Plain-backed Pipits* were again filmed (one of each race) together with two more lanky birds which were subsequently determined to be Long-legged Pipits* (a species which has recently expanded its range N towards Nigeria). Yellow Wagtail* and Yellow-throated Longclaw were also present. 13 White-faced Whistling Ducks * were resting on the bank of a small pond to the east of the paddies, and took to the water on seeing me.

A bird I took to be an Anhinga was seen flying off north up the lake; I've subsequently learnt that this species is very scarce in SW Nigeria (Phil Hall, personal communication), so I would not want to claim a definite sighting. More Grey Herons (ad. and juv.) were fishing on the shore. At the south end of lake, 21 Common Sandpiper* were perched on the rail over the outflow with a single Green Sandpiper and an African Pied Wagtail. 2 Greenshank there may have overlapped with those seen in the rice paddies. A further Woodland Kingfisher* was lurking in a bush.

Along the west shore of lake, a Black-headed Heron* was perched high in a lakeside tree, another Grey Kestrel was logged and many Tambourine Doves (and other doves?) were in song.

In the forest fringes, more sunbirds were flitting about, including Olive-bellied and Superb* and the impressive Senegal Couchal was glimpsed in flight. The African Grey Hornbill* was seen again. At least 40 Cattle Egrets attended a herd of cows, watched over by a cattle-hand.

Towards the north end of the lake, more sunbirds were seen, including Collared Sunbird, along with 3 Common Bulbuls. Waterbirds included Purple and Squacco Heron, and 5 Black Kites were overhead. A flock of about 10 White-throated Bee-eaters were hawking over the forest where more Tambourine Doves were calling.

A bulbul species audio-recorded (various calls) and glimpsed disappearing into cover was a probable Grey-headed Bristlebill.

At the north end of the lake, 20 Spur-winged Plovers were gathered but only two White-headed Lapwings.

On the east shore a Grey Kestrel was fly-catching over fringe of lake and feeding egrets included Intermediate and 2 Great Whites. Two Double-spurred Francolins were calling in the maize.

Sadly, we had to leave at this point, and headed back into Ibadan to take a look at the university. Similar species to those seen in the city on the previous day were logged, with the addition of Little Swifts and kestrels.

As we left Ibadan I spied 3 presumed Palm Nut Vultures distantly in a tree. Apart from that, the only species seen on the journey was Black Kite. The first Cattle Egrets were seen moving north along the expressway about 20km from Lagos.

Saturday 16 November

This day was spent in the garden in Festac. Similar species to those seen previously were recorded, though a Yellow White-eye foraging for insects in the lime bush was new.

Sunday 17 November

In the morning, 3 African Openbills moved east over church on 2nd avenue in Festac.

We spent the afternoon in a garden off 22 Rd. where the most interesting inhabitants were Slender-billed Weavers*. A pair of Bronze Mannikins* were accompanied by 5 young and there were the usual Common Bulbuls and Variable Sunbird. All of the above probably felt a little uncomfortable at the noises emanating from a vocal pair of Common Kestrels nearby. Overhead were mixed flocks of Barn Swallow, African Palm Swift and Little Swift. Finally, there was a roost flight of c. 20 Splendid Glossy Starlings passing over towards dusk.

Monday 18 November

We departed early for the airport. More Splendid Glossy Starlings were seen in the Awuwo Odofin Housing Estate. At least 20 Cattle Egrets frequented the Apapa – Badagry expressway junction rubbish dump.

At the airport, 15 swifts, including Little and Palm Swifts, circled the control tower and at least 5 Ethiopian Swallows were hunting around the "F" finger. The usual Black Kites, Laughing Doves and Pied Crows* were present, with Yellow Wagtail and Grey-headed Sparrow on the ground and a Village Weaver scavenging at a rubbish skip. So we left Nigeria, sad but happy.

Systematic list

  • Anhinga (Anhinga rufa) - single N up IITA lake, probably this species, 15/11
  • Long-tailed Cormorant (Phalacrocorax africanus) - 2, S end of 3rd mainland bridge, Lagos, 11/11, 12/11
  • Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) - 3 E over lagoon, Badagry, 10/11; 3+, IITA lake, 14-15/11
  • Black-headed Heron* (Ardea melanocephala) - single (juv.), IITA lake, 15/11
  • Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) - probable N over New Epe Expressway, 13/11; 2+, IITA lake, 14-15/11
  • Squacco Heron* (Ardeola ralloides) - 6+, IITA lake, 14-15/11
  • Western Reef Egret (Egretta gularis) - 2 in flight over Ijora Causeway/Eko Bridge junction, 13/11
  • Cattle Egret* (Bubulcus ibis) - very common in all areas except forested zone; frequently seen on roadsides, even in town centres and particularly around rubbish dumps, otherwise near water e.g. 10, Okokomaiko, Badagry Expressway, 10/11; 40 W along S of Lagos Island in 20 mins, c. 20 Tin Can Island 11/11; 40 SW up river, 21 NE S of Lagos Island in c.30 mins, 10 at rubbish dump off Ozumba Mbadiwe Ave. below Akin Adesola St. flyover, VI, 13/11; c. 10, Badagry Expressway at Festac Town, 14/11; 40+ around cattle by IITA lake, 15/11; 20 at Apapa – Badagry expressway junction rubbish dump, 18/11
  • Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - c. 12, N end of third mainland bridge, 11/11
  • Intermediate Egret* (Egretta intermedius) - 2+, IITA lake, 14-15/11
  • Great White Egret (Egretta alba) - S end of 3rd mainland bridge, 11/11; pools at National Theatre, Ijora, 12/11, 2+, IITA lake, 14-15/11
  • Green-backed Heron (Butorides striatus) - single, NCF Lekki Reserve, 11/11
  • African Open-billed Stork (Anastomus lamelligerus) - frequent over water bodies around Lagos, one Festac (9/11, 11/11), 6 circling over Ijora Causeway/Eko Bridge junction, 12/11, 2 over on 13/11; 3 W over S of Festac Town and 1 N over N of Festac Town, 17/11
  • Wooly-necked Stork (Cicinia episcopus) - at least one on pools by National Theatre, Ijora, 12/11
  • Hadada Ibis (Bostrychia hagedash) - group of five ibis over Badagry Expressway at 22km bus turning point presumed this species, 10/11; more than one on pools by National Theatre, Ijora, 12/11
  • White-faced Whistling Duck* (Dendrocygna viduata) - 13 adults, pond east of rice paddies, IITA, 15/11
  • Palm Nut Vulture (Gypohierax angolensis) - 3 perched in tree to east of Ibadan Expressway, S of Ibadan, 15/11
  • Black Kite (Milvus migrans) - widespread, seen almost everywhere we went in small numbers; large concentrations near open water or rubbish dumps, e.g. 5 regular over Festac Town, 5 Whispering Palms, Badagry, 10/11; 13 around Union Bank building, Lagos Island, 11/11; 6 Eko bridge, Ijora, 12/11; 10, Ahmadu Bello Road, W end of VI + 6 over bridge at Ijora, 20 over water to NW of British International School, Lekki, 20 over sea (some far out > 1 mile) off Elekon-Lekki, 13/11; 20+ over presumed rubbish dump to E of Lagos Expressway c. 50km S of Ibadan 14/11; 5+ IITA lake, 14-15/11
  • Shikra (Accipiter badius) - probable, New Epe Expressway to Eleko beach, 13/11; probable over 21 road extension, Festac Town, 17/11
  • Long-crested Eagle (Lophaetus occipitalis) - single soaring high Ibadan-Lagos expressway, c. 30 km S of Ibadan, 14/11
  • Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) - frequent over Festac Town, where a pair around a house off 22 road (12,17/11), also at "Mile 2" on Lagos-Badagry expressway west out of Lagos (10/11); Eko bridge, Ijora, 12/11; 2 over Ozumba Mbadiwe Ave, Victoria Island, 13/11; single, Victoria Garden City, 13/11; 2 near I-house, IITA, 15/11
  • Grey Kestrel (Falco ardosiaceus) - pr. in tree to west of I-house, IITA campus; single perched in tree at SW of IITA lake and single fly-catching over E shore of IITA lake, 15/11
  • African Hobby (Falco cuvierii) - single over IITA campus, 6.30am, 15/11
  • Red-footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus) - probable, Ibadan, 14/11
  • Double-spurred Francolin (Francolinus bicalcaratur) - two or more in crops at NE end of IITA lake, 14-15/11
  • Black Crake* (Amaurornis flavirostris) - 2, rice paddies, IITA, 15/11
  • African Jacana* (Actophilomis Africana) - c. 20, plus 3 juv., IITA lake, 14-15/11
  • Senegal Thick-knee* (Burhinus senegalensis) - at least 16, IITA lake, 14-15/11
  • Black-winged Stilt (Haematopus moquini) - c. 10 on pools by National Theatre, Ijora, 12/11
  • Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) - 3 rice paddies area – flew off over lake, IITA (probably this species; Great Snipe not excluded), 15/11
  • White-headed Lapwing* (Vanellus albicops) - 2 pr, west shore of IITA lake, 14-15/11
  • Spur-winged Plover* (Vanellus spinosus) - 2 at pools by National Theatre, Ijora, 13/11; 20-30, IITA lake, 14-15/11
  • Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochiopus) - single, exit weir, IITA lake, 15/11
  • Wood Sandpiper* (Tringa glareola) - 19, rice paddies, IITA, 15/11
  • Common Sandpiper* (Actitis hypoleucos) - 2+, rice paddies and 21, exit weir, IITA lake, 15/11
  • Greenshank* (Tringa nebularia) - 4-6, rice paddies area and S end of IITA lake, 15/11
  • Feral Pigeon (Columba livia) - common in urban areas, e.g. 12 Badagry, 10/11; 15 Tin Can Island, 11/11; 7, Akin Adesola St, VI, 11/11; 15 – Ibadan expressway N of Bagada, 14/11; 26+ at market to SE of IITA, Ibadan, 14-15/11
  • Red-eyed Dove* (Streptopelia semitorquata) - 2, NCF Lekki Reserve, 13/11; 5+ by IITA lake, 14-15/11
  • Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis) - very common in towns and open countryside, e.g. 10 Imeke-Badagry on Badagry expressway (10/11); 15 on wires, Victoria Garden City, 13/11
  • Tambourine Dove (Turtur tympanistria)/Blue-headed Wood Dove (Turtur brehmeri) - in song at NCF Lekki Reserve, 13/11; several in song, IITA "forest", 14-15/11 – including at least one definite tympanistria not brehmeri (audio-recorded)
  • Blue-spotted Wood Dove (Turtur afer) - surely amongst those calling at both NCF Lekki Reserve, 13/11 and in IITA "forest", 14-15/11 but I did not distinguish carefully from Tambourine Dove in the field
  • Senegal Parrot (Poicephalus senegalensis) - 2 over Liverpool Rd, Apapa, 13/11
  • Western Grey Plantain-eater(Crinifer piscator) - Single, NCF Lekki Reserve, 11/11; 2, Lagos Island Ring Road near Victoria Island bridge, +2 over NW end of Victoria Island, 13/11; 6+ IITA campus + near lake, 14-15/11
  • Levaillant’s Cuckoo* (Oxylophus levaillantii) - 3 in patch of trees to north of road to lake, IITA, 15/11
  • Senegal Couchal (Centropus senegalensis) - single at forest fringe on W of IITA lake, 15/11
  • Little Swift (Apus affinis) - small numbers with other swifts and hirundines over Festac Town (9/11-17/11); single with other hirundines, I-house, IITA, 15/11; single over Ibadan University campus, 15/11; several around control tower, Murtalla Mohammad International Airport, 18/11
  • African Palm Swift (Cypsiurus parvus) - common, e.g. 15-30, Badagry area, 10/11, 6, Bishop Aboyade Cole Street, Victoria Island, 13/11; 3+ over 22 Road, Festac Town, 17/11, some around control tower, Murtalla Mohammad International Airport, 18/11
  • Woodland Kingfisher* (Halcyon senegalensis) - common resident along roadsides often hunting from telephone wires (e.g. 12 between Festac and Badagry, including 2 Mosafejo Town, 10/11); single in garden at west end of IITA campus and single at S end of IITA lake, 15/11
  • Pied Kingfisher (Ceryke rudis) - single, Five Cowrie Creek at Maroko Road, VI, 11/11; two, Badagry Expressway bridge to Festac, 13/11
  • White-throated Bee-eater (Menops albicollis) - 3+ NCF Lekki Reserve, 11/11, 13/11; c. 10 over forest west of IITA lake, 15/11
  • Broad-billed Roller (Eurystomus glaucurus) - single, near IITA lake, 14/11
  • African Grey Hornbill* (Tockus nasutus) - single, west shore of IITA lake, 14-15/11
  • African Pied Hornbill (Tockus fasciatus) - 3 over savannah NCF Lekki Reserve, 11/11, 1 near entrance on 13/11; single, IITA campus, 14/11; single by lake, IITA, 15/11
  • Fire-bellied Woodpecker (Dendropicos pyrrhogaster) - male W over NCF Lekki Reserve, 11/11
  • Common Sand Martin (Riparia riparia) - probables, New Epe Expressway to Eleko beach, 13/11
  • Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) - common and widespread, with most seen near coast at Badagry (50+) and further 30 nearby at Mosafejo Town, 10/11, 20 probables off N of Lagos Island, 11/11; 3, Total Station on New Epe Expressway, 13/11; single over 22 Road, Festac Town, 17/11
  • Ethiopian Swallow (Hirundo aethiopica) - c. 10, Badagry Expressway at Festac Town, 14/11; 5 around "F" finger, Murtalla Mohammad International Airport, 18/11
  • Rufous-chested Swallow (Hirundo semirufa) - 5 perched in trees in savannah area, NCF Lekki Reserve, 11/11
  • House Martin (Delichion urbana) - single with other hirundines, Badagry, 10/11; c. 10 over Festac Town, 11/11
  • Fanti Sawwing (Psalidoprocne obscura) - 3, NCF Lekki Reserve, 11/11
  • Plain-backed Pipit* (Anthus leucophrys) - single with dark buff underparts, tinged cinnamon, in crops to north of road to IITA lake, 14/11; at least 2 (one being relatively dark-bellied and the other being apparently pale-bellied) filmed to north of road down to lake and a similar pair at the rice paddies, IITA, 15/11
  • Long-legged Pipit* (Anthus pallidiventris) - two individuals at the rice paddies together with Plain-backed Pipits, IITA, 15/11; the main range of this species lies to the SE of Nigeria but it has recently been spreading north, perhaps to do with the opening up of the forests
  • African Pied Wagtail* (Motacilla aguimp) - common in a variety of open habitats – roadsides, towns and lawns (similar habitat to UK Pied Wagtail); pair by C-block, IITA campus, 14-15/11 and one at weir at south end of IITA lake, 15/11
  • Yellow Wagtail* (Motacilla flava) - 5 on lawns near I-house, IITA, 14/11; single, rice paddies, IITA, 15/11; single, Murtalla Mohammad International Airport, 18/11
  • Yellow-throated Longclaw (Macronyx croceus) - single on agricultural area to south of road near IITA lake and another calling at rice paddies, 15/11
  • Little Greenbul (Andropadus virens) - single in song near entrance, NCF Lekki Reserve, 11/11
  • Common Bulbul* (Pycnonotus barbatus) - common throughout; common garden resident in Festac Town, 3 Lekki Reserve 11/11; several, IITA, 14-15/11
  • Palm Swamp Bulbul (Thesulocichla leucopleura) - 5+ – NCF Lekki Reserve, 11/11, 13/11
  • Grey-headed Bristlebill (Bleda canicapilla) - single audio recorded – glimpsed disappearing into cover, IITA lake, 15/11
  • African Thrush (Turdus pelios) - 25+ on lawns, IITA campus, 14/11; active on IITA campus, 6.20am, 15/11
  • Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra) - 2+ in crops to north of road near IITA lake, 14-15/11
  • Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus) - single in song in patch of trees to north of road to lake, IITA, 15/11
  • Winding Cisticola (Cisticola galactotes) - single in song, NCF Lekki Reserve, 13/11
  • Yellow White-eye (Zosterops senegalensis) - single in garden on 21 road extension, Festac Town, 16/11
  • Brown Sunbird (Anthreptes gabonicus) - single seen perching in tree - call a high-pitched sharp "spinck" followed by a gentler descending "djwee" or "tchay" type call, Whispering Palms, Badagry, 10/11)
  • Collared Sunbird (Hedyclipna collaris) - single, NCF Lekki Reserve, 11/11, 2 on 13/11; single, IITA lake, 15/11
  • Variable Sunbird (Cinnyris venusta) - common garden resident in Festac Town; also at "First Storey House", Badagry, 10/11
  • Tiny Sunbird (Cinnyris minullus) - single male, NCF Lekki Reserve, 11/11
  • Olive-bellied Sunbird (Cinnyris chloropygius) - single in forest edge at W of IITA lake, 15/11
  • Copper Sunbird (Cinnyris cupreus) - probable in trees to south of road near IITA lake, 15/11
  • Splendid Sunbird (Cinnyris coccinigaster) - probable female, Whispering Palms, 10/11; single, IITA lake, 14/11; single filmed at fuel storage area, IITA, 15/11
  • Superb Sunbird* (Cinnyris superbus) - single in forest fringe on W of IITA lake, 15/11
  • Pied Crow* (Corvus albus) - commonly observed in urban areas, e.g. 4 around control tower at Murtalla Mohammad International Airport, 9,18/11; 5, bridge to VI 11/11; 2 at power station, Ijora, 13/11; c. 5 with kites over presumed rubbish dump E of expressway c. 50 km S of Ibadan (videoed), plus 3 more at toll and immediately beyond, 14/11; 5 in trees to south of road near IITA lake, 15/11
  • Splendid Glossy Starling (Lamprotornis splendidus) - 10+ gathering for roost on south side of I-house, IITA at dusk, 14/11; a roost flight of 20 over 22 Road, Festac Town, 17/11; 2 Awuwo Odofin Housing Estate, 18/11
  • Violet-backed Starling (Cinnyricinclus leucogaster) - pair, NCF Lekki Reserve, 11/11
  • Northern Grey-headed Sparrow (Passer griseus) - common in urban and open habitats, e.g. 9+ Badagry, 10/11; single near I-house, IITA, 14/11; single at fuel compound, IITA, 15/11; single at roadside to east of Festac Town, 15/11; single, Murtalla Mohammad International Airport, 18/11
  • Slender-billed Weaver*(Ploceus pelzelni) - single in garden on 22 Road, Festac Town, 17/11
  • Village Weaver (Ploceus cucullatus) - colony of c. 50 nests, Whispering Palms, Badagry, 10/11; 2 Badagry Expressway at Festac Town, 14/11; single at rubbish skip, Murtalla Mohammad International Airport, 18/11
  • Black-necked Weaver* (Ploceus nigricollis brachypterus) - pair or more garden residents in Festac Town
  • Red-vented Malimbe (Malimbus scutatus) - 3+ NCF Lekki Reserve, 11/11
  • Bronze Mannikin* (Lonchura cucullata) - 6+ NCF Lekki Reserve, 11/11 & 13/11; 5 over 21 Rd Extension, Festac Town, 11/11; 10, Eleko beach checkpoint, 13/11; pr + 5 juv, garden on 22 road, Festac Town, 17/11
  • Black-and-white Mannikin (Lonchura bicolor) - single on waterfront at Badagry, 10/11

Other animals

  • c. 500-1000 large bats SE over to SW of I-house at dusk, 14/11
  • Troop of monkeys - Mona Guenon (Cercopithecus mona) - in trees at NCF Lekki Reserve, 11/11
  • 2 Monitor Lizards (Varanus niloticus), NCF Lekki Reserve, 11/11, 13/11
  • Maxwell's Duiker (Cephalophus maxwelli), NCF Lekki Reserve, 11/11
  • Giant millipede sp., IITA forest, 14/11

Travellers’ tips

As a complete novice, if I were to do the whole thing again, apart from reading Borrow & Demey more carefully, and getting the Chappuis CD, I would have concentrated on two things:

  • learning dove/pigeon songs – the forests are full of them and some are very similar
  • learning the hirundine plumages – these are commonly seen but often from a moving vehicle or only briefly so you need to know the key ID features in advance to stand any hope of separating similar species

Linked pages

Report by Stephen Welch, UK, completed February 2003; updated July 2003, January 2006, May 2010