Bird watchers delight

Bird watchers delight

BIRD enthusiasts are in for a treat, with more migratory birds, including some rare species, such as the blue-headed dove, bee-eater, hawk, weaver birds and willow warbler” flocking to Nigeria from Europe, especially barn Swallows.

The barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) are long-distance swift flying migratory birds.  They are small aerially insectivorous. birds that spend the autumn in Europe breeding, and winter in sub-Saharan Africa.  The barn swallows start arriving in Africa in September and return to Europe in April. They undergo a single annual molt, mostly during the African winter.

One of the places barn swallows spend their winter in Africa is a nocturnal roost in Ebakken (Boje) community in Boki Local Government Area of Cross River State, Nigeria.  Ebakken is an agrarian forested rural community, blessed with patches of hilly grassland which serve as a nocturnal swallow roost.

The roost is managed by the Ebakken community, and hosts millions of barn swallows each winter period (dry season in Nigeria). Available records show that most of the barn swallows are from western and central European countries. These birds have been coming to Boje for many years. They fly from the UK to South Africa and then back again with a stopover to rest and continue their journey in Ebakken-Boje, Boki Local Government Area of Cross River State.

The Italian Swallows, according to conservationists, come to Nigeria early and leave back to Italy, while the British Swallows come to Nigeria later, through South Africa and back to Britain. Their arrival in Britain from Africa heralds the end of the cold season and the British are always happy about it. In the past when the birds arrived, the natives would hunt them for meat until conservationists intervened and this intervention eventually produced the first-ever mist netting and ringing of barn swallows, by local communities at Ebakken-Boje, Cross River State.

The netting and ringing exercise includes four dawn and four dusk capture sessions at a nocturnal roost site at Ebakken-Boje, on the edge of Afi Mountain Wildlife sanctuary, Cross River State, Nigeria.  A total of 2,570 barn swallows were ringed.  Nine barn swallows previously ringed in six European countries (Italy, Spain, Holland, France, Croatia and UK) were recovered.  This was the first time that a swallow ringed in the UK has been recovered and released at this site.

The objective of the ringing and netting is to continue the swallow ringing activity with more training for local ringers within the Ebakken community and sample the swallow roost at a different period of the year (normally in January).

This tourist site attracts a large number of tourists and bird watchers during the holiday season. 

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