Thursday, 24 January 2013

Lagos, Nigeria, Jan 2013


“Beer makes everything better”.
I have lived by this philosophy for many years, but now find that there is a notable exception; Star Beer from Nigeria. While the alcohol offers a temporary relief from back pain, it also leaves the erstwhile sufferer open to suggestion. Well, I don’t actually remember swinging from the chandeliers in an attempt to straighten out my spine, but in the morning……

Thus it was that the golden hours of early morning and the heat of midday were lost to hangover and an inability to stand upright. Eventually, I managed to drag myself around the small gardens at the hotel in Lagos, Nigeria. The chain link fence that used to lead down to the garden is no more.
Where once there were vines and creepers climbing through the fence and creating a haven for manikins and fire-finches, there is now an ugly wire-topped wall. The Agama Lizards are the lucky ones here, finding superb protection from the Yellow-billed Kites, Common Kestrel and Shikra, that are commonly seen here.
Red-eyed Doves could be heard above the sound of the generator sheds, but from the Laughing Doves there was no sound, not even a chuckle. I have entered a year list for 10,000 Birds that depends on birds being identified by sound. The Laughing Doves should have been a gimme, but for the first time that I recall, they were silent.
The specialty bird in the gardens is the Western Plantain-eater. It is a common bird of West Africa and its call is familiar to anyone who spends any time there, but this is the only place that I visit that I am likely to get a chance to see one, so I was pleased to hear their resonant, warbling call. They lean forward to deliver the call and inflate the neck to give each syllable of sound. Since I will be concentrating more on sound this year, I will also be embedding the calls as links in the text.  These recordings are very kindly shared by  www.xeno-canto.org. Click this link to hear the Western Plantain-eater chuckling.
Another call, reminiscent of the Downy Woodpecker from North America, started with a hard note and rattled down the scale (if you took the time to listen to the Red-eyed Dove recording linked above, you will recognise it in the background). I thought this to be a Woodland Kingfisher, but could not find the bird. One of the conditions of qualification for the 10,000 Birds Year List is that the bird should also be seen. My aural powers are weak so the bird must be first identified by sound and then confirmed by sight. Failing to see the bird, or using the sighting to aid identification, means that the bird will not count, but using new found skills to identify a subsequent bird later in the day is OK. Oh, and a lucky guess counts just as well as a hard learned hit. The Woodland Kingfisher was eventually found and seen calling to confirm my initial thoughts.
Splendid Glossy-starlings were as common today as I have seen them here and Mottled Spinetails flew in a small flock overhead. The lucky sighting of the day was a Barn Owl that flew over the bus on our way to the airport for the homebound sector.
Birds seen; 16
Cattle Egret 6, Yellow-billed Kite 20, Shikra 1, Common Kestrel 1, Red-eyed Dove 10, Laughing Dove 6, Rose-ringed Parakeet 1, Western Plantain-eater 3, Barn Owl 1, Mottled Spinetail 5, Woodland Kingfisher 1, Little Bee-eater 1, Pied Crow 1, Common Bulbul 15, African Thrush 3, Splendid Glossy-starling 12.