Among my hobbies and things that give me joy is travelling. Thus, participating in the Nigerian Bird Atlas Project (NiBAP), the first citizen science project in Nigeria has availed me the opportunity to travel to many parts of the country to collect data on bird abundance and distribution. On the 7th of December 2022, we set out to atlas Mubi in Adamawa State, Nigeria. The slogan for Adamawa is “The Land of Beauty” because of its incredibly beautiful landscapes and Mountainous topography. Although this was not the first time I have travelled for atlasing, as I have done it during the past two years, it is my first experience venturing very far into the northeast of the country around the Mountainous highlands. This motivates me to share my experience in the land of beauty.
The bird atlas expedition was organized under the Arewa Atlas Team (AAT), one of NiBAP’s regional atlas groups. As the name suggests, the AAT is dedicated to mapping bird distribution data in the north. As usual for every field trip, on the day we were departing for Mubi, I woke up very early and was anxious about the fact that it is a very long journey full of adventure from Dutse, Jigawa State to Adamawa State. A journey of more than 390 miles, crossing into Bauchi and Gombe, then Adamawa. By 6:00 am on the departure day from Dutse, my bag and all field gadgets were ready. By 7:00 am, my travel partners (other citizen scientists, Hafiz, and Ibrahim) travelling from Dutse called on me to meet them in the motor park. Before embarking on the long journey, we decided to have breakfast in one of the tea joints in the motor park. Around 8:43 am, we departed for Mubi, Adamawa.
As per our tradition during atlas trips, a great time was spent discussing bird and other conservation issues, as well as our life experiences, self-development, and achievements. More importantly, we paid attention to and were admiring the changing landscapes and any bird species that we saw perched on power lines, trees, or flying, wetlands (for waterbirds), as well as discussing any relevant topic on biodiversity conservation. This makes what seems like a very long journey, somewhat short and exciting. We arrived at Gombe a few minutes after the 15hrs, there we made a stopover for lunch, stretched our legs, and prayed. At around 15:40 hours, we continued our journey heading to Yola. Even though the road from Gombe to Yola is relatively good with few potholes, the journey begins to seem endless. At around 18: 00 hrs, we arrived in Yola and headed straight to the motor park, prayed, and boarded a vehicle from Yola to Mubi. This time already exhausted but we were determined to continue the journey to Mubi.
As we headed to Mubi, the driver sped up before the military gate is closed so we can pass to avoid sleeping over at the gate until the next morning. The gate closure was necessary due to the Boko Haram insurgency around the northeastern states. We were lucky, we passed the military gate a few minutes after 21:00 hrs, and we arrived at Mubi some minutes past 22:00 hours. Already another citizen scientist – Lucky Atabo who has arrived earlier and located our lodge was waiting to pick us up in the motor park and head to the hotel. On arriving at the hotel, we met the team leader and AAT assistant coordinator (Haruna Mohammed) who received us warmly. Without wasting much time, we join in planning the atlas exercise for the next morning, had Indomie noodles for dinner and headed to bed.
At 5:00 am the next morning, we were up preparing to head to the atlas expeditions. Hafiz, Atabo, Ibrahim, and Aliyu headed to areas around the Nigeria-Cameroon border. The road was terrible, but we were determined to atlas the areas. Because of the bad condition of the roads, the taxi could not take us to the atlas destination, so we then had to take bikes to reach on time. I reached my first pentad at about noon. However, it was worth the while, with exciting observations like White-crested Helmetshrike, Stone Partridge, Familiar Chat, Vieillot’s Barbet, Pied Crow, Pallid Harrier, African Wattle Lapwing, Fox Kestrel, and Grasshopper Buzzard among others.
Vieillot’s Barbet Lybius vieilloti observed during the atlas expedition (Photo by Abubakar S. Ringim)
After the first day’s experience, we got acclimatized to the terrain. We spent two exciting days atlasing in this area. It was the first time I recorded more than five eagle species in a single pentad: a Tawny Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Long-crested Eagle, and Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle. We spent the remaining two days of the atlas expedition birding around the Borno axis including Gulak, Lassa, Muba, and towards the Chibok and Biu roads. However, we were very careful and concerned about the security situations in these areas and had to make serious inquiries about the security situation from the local communities. We encountered many villages and the people were accommodating.
After the atlas expedition of the last day, we were exhausted but thrilled to see the results of the bird map coverage. We cherished the moments and experiences we shared as we look forward to departing to our various destinations the following day.
The following day in the early morning, we all moved to the motor park where everyone commutes to their destination. It is said that “the most beautiful things are not associated with money; they are memories and moments. If you don’t celebrate those, they can pass you by.” – Alek Wek
My sincere appreciation to my mentor Abubakar S. Ringim for inspiring me to join this project years ago. I acknowledge the guidance of Dr Sulaiman Inuwa Muhammad and Dr Talatu Tende. The Arewa Atlas Team is an amazing group of enthusiastic people. I am indebted to the Nigerian Bird Atlas Project for funding our atlas exercise.
Writen by Idris Muhammad Jalo
Edited by Kazeh Nanchin Winifred