The third quarter Arewa Atlas Team (AAT) outing was planned for the 23rd to 28th of September 2020. I was part of the Jos Atlas Team that travelled from Jos to Ningi to meet with AAT for the atlasing bash around the Ningi-Darazo axis in Bauchi State, the northeastern region of Nigeria. Below is a brief overview of my four-day experience atlasing with the AAT.
Day 1: 24/09/2020
On the first day, the entire atlas team was divided into groups and my group was made up of six atlasers who set out to atlas nine pentads. Unfortunately, the route that we took ended up in an inaccessible river. We quickly re-strategized and identified other pentads around the Miya axis and were able to cover six pentads that day.
Day 2: 25/09/2020
On the second day, we atlased through Gwaram, Kila, and Jigawa axis. Luckily, on this day, we were able to cover nine pentads in our group with each sub-group (2 per group) atlasing three pentads each. My teammate and I came across a sand excavation site that had formed an artificial pond. At this particular pond, we recorded over ten Pied Kingfishers (Ceryle rudis) – I have never seen a lot of Kingfishers at the same time and in the same place. We termed the pond “Kingfisher Lake”. Also, on this same day, I sighted and recorded my first Green-winged Pytilia (Pytilia melba).
As we passed through the boundary of Bauchi and Jigawa, we had an encounter with a military officer at a checkpoint. The conversation went thus;
Officer: Good morning, where are you heading to? (…which was said in Nigerian pidgin)
Atlas Team: From Bauchi to Jigawa
Officer: What are you guys up to?
Atlas Team: We are on a project, surveying birds across Nigeria.
Officer: What??? (…he laughed with a sarcastic expression on his face). With all the problems in Nigeria, you guys are watching birds?
The summary of the dialogue above shows to some extent the level at which bird watching is still viewed as a foreign, “waste of time” venture in most areas in Nigeria.
Day 3: 26/09/2020
After the effort around Ningi and Jigawa axis, the whole atlas team moved towards the Darazo-Bauchi axis on the third day. My group, now made up of four atlasers moved towards Zakara. After a long search, two pentads had to be submitted as Adhoc records due to inaccessible roads and suspicious attention by the local people who seem to have never experienced such “August” visitation.
We, however, managed to submit two full protocols after a long twist in our search for accessible pentads that led us to areas around Alkaleri. In one of these pentads, I and my teammate came across an old farmer who insisted that his photo be taken. You see, this old man thought we were from the government, and by taking his picture, he hoped that somehow the government would notice the plight of an old farmer.
Day 4: 27/09/2020
The group set out from Bauchi towards Liman Katagum on the fourth day. We were able to cover four pentads around Guin, Bununu, and Mun axis. On this particular outing, I sighted and recorded the Eastern Olivaceous Warbler (Hippolais opaca), and the Wood Warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix), both of which are migrant species. It was during our atlasing time in the second pentad that we came across a vast land of felled trees. Hence, I nicknamed the area – “Trees Graveyard”. I also observed, that unless our tree-planting campaigns are rugged enough to reach such remote areas, we will only be preaching to a minimal fraction of the population.
Of all the struggles and sometimes long tiring trips to access pentads, there were so many exciting things to explore in nature; from the sightings of beautiful, melodious birds to the amazing rocky views, giant Boabab trees, Insects, Reptiles, water bodies covered with water lilies, to different kinds of people, the list goes on and on. But all these are not without the eye-soring scenes of the negative impacts that humans are exerting on the environment. These include the felling of trees and the indiscriminate dumping of trash and so on.
In total, the AAT September atlas bash resulted in 100 pentads added to the Nigeria coverage map. I have learned a lot on this trip and I’m excited to be a part of a dedicated team.
Written by Nanchin Winifred Kazeh