Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Millenium Park, Abuja, Nigeria

I started the afternoon angry and impatient after another run-in with hotel security in Nigeria. This time at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja.
They had given me the run around about bird watching in the gardens of the hotel again and wasted an hour of my time before I gave up and crossed the road to Millennium Park instead (Google ref; 09 04’18N 07 24’50E).
In the early morning, the park would have been my first choice, but rain stopped play. As the day progresses, the park becomes busier and interested spectators increase exponentially. I accepted this as inevitable and the lesser of two irritants.
The main attractions of the park are two small rivers that converge here. I started to follow the northern of the two which flowed from the WNW. On the first bend was a substantial Village Weaver colony with a number of nests still in the approval stages.
Male weavers build the nests, but will often abandon their efforts if a female does not show enough interest. His materials may be recycled into his subsequent attempts until female approval is granted and rewarded in time honoured fashion. The males of the local race of Village Weavers have a chestnut nape.
Already I had attracted inquisitive onlookers and was feeling slightly exposed. A young man called Marvelox was becoming very persistent and eventually I accepted his company and his offers of help. The first thing he did was set me a quandary. The bird below had me puzzled for some time.
I eventually plumped for Northern Black Flycatcher, but the bill seemed very fine and the bird did not sit as upright as I would expect it to. Only after seeing the rictal bristles on super digital zoom did I accept it as the only real likelihood.
A pair of wonderful Bearded Barbets flew over and a young Grey-headed Kingfisher flew up into a tree nearby. One of his parents was in the adjacent tree wearing the red bill and chestnut waistcoat attained through seniority.
Another young man, Manuel joined us and both became keen spotters. Though obviously non-birders, they showed an interest and “watched my back” which was comforting though ironic since I had abandoned birding at the hotel after their insistence that I be accompanied.
A young Splendid Sunbird was feeding on small insects that used to call a banana flower home.
I almost dismissed a Senegal Batis as the Chinspot version until I checked my field guide for confirmation.
The stream harbours some fantastic insect life as well as the birds, including beautiful butterflies and extraordinary locust/hopper things. 
 A Yellow-bill and a Senegal Coucal showed briefly on the other side of the river.
My dragonfly blog has not been getting enough traffic to warrant it’s distinct identity so will return to being part of the bird posts. The “blogger floggers” who want me to “stick to the birds” will have to suck it up. Whose blog is it anyway?
As dusk approached, we returned downstream. Some Bar-breasted Firefinches waited until I had stowed the camera before emerging and then disappeared again as soon as I unshipped it. A sunbird gave me cause for thought right at the end. It was silhouetted against the fading sky and I can only hazard a guess at Copper Sunbird. All thoughts welcome as it would be a red crayon bird for me..
Warnings of personal security risks in Nigeria can discourage people from experiencing life beyond the coffee shop and gym. Young men such as Marvelox and Manuel show that Nigerians can be as welcoming as anyone else in the world. If an escort would give you more confidence to go further a-field, I can put you in contact with them.

Bird species; 29

Cattle Egret 50, Striated Heron 1, Yellow-billed Kite 15, Red-eyed Dove 8, Western Grey Plantain-eater 12, Yellowbill 1, Senegal Coucal 1, African Palm Swift 4, Grey-headed Kingfisher 6, Bearded Barbet 4, Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike 4, Common Bulbul 40, Yellow-throated Greenbul 2, African Thrush 12, Snowy-crowned Robin-chat 2, Northern Crombec 1, Northern Black Flycatcher 1, Brown-throated Wattle-eye 1, Senegal Batis 1, Splendid Sunbird 1, Yellow-billed Shrike 6, Northern Puffback 1, Fork-tailed Drongo 2, Piapiac 2, Pied Crow 1, Village Weaver 40, Bar-breasted Firefinch 2, Red-cheeked Cordonbleu 2, Bronze Manikin 1,

Other birds seen en-route and during my aborted walk at the hotel are included below to give a fuller picture of what might be found in a municipal park in Abuja and generally around the area on a May afternoon. Additional species brought my list total to 40.

Additional species;

Cattle Egret 25, Common Kestrel 6, Laughing Dove 3, Western Grey Plantain-eaters 8, Senegal Coucal 1, African Palm Swift 6, Little Swift 300, Yellow-fronted Tinker-barbet 1, Bearded Barbet 2, Common Bulbul 20, African Thrush 8, Brown Babbler 1, Yellow-billed Shrike 8, Northern Puffback 1, Fork-tailed Drongo3, Piapiac 7, Purple Glossy Starling 1, Grey-headed Sparrow 2, Village Weaver 20