Birds and water bodies share an enduring love story, a narrative that transcends generations and ecosystems. They are inextricably intertwined as if the avian world has an unspoken pact with the shimmering, life-giving waters. This narrative, one that I’ve come to believe in, takes me to the heart of springs, streams, riverbanks, and lakes – places where breathtaking and diverse bird species spread their wings. The magic of these environments lies in their ability to host a rich tapestry of life, from the tiniest insects to the most majestic of plants.
My very first experience in water birdwatching unfolded along the Eniong River in the serene Itu Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. I embarked on this journey as a part of the Biodiversity Preservation Center’s noble mission to the Obio Usiere community in Cross River State. It was a crisp Saturday morning, the 8th of October, 2022. I donned my gear with a sense of purpose, joining the BPC team in their campaign to protect Nigeria’s endangered species. We embarked on this adventure by hopping into a vehicle that would take us to our destination. As we arrived at the riverside, our excitement grew. We donned our life jackets, graciously provided by the BPC team, and prepared for the boat trip. The boat pilot, experienced in the art of water journeys, assisted us in loading our luggage and arranging our seating to ensure the boat’s stability.
As our journey commenced, I felt a rush of anticipation. The morning sun shimmered on the water’s surface, and a sense of tranquillity enveloped us. I reached for my binoculars, field guide, and my trusty Android device, armed with the Birdlasser app for recording the bird species we encountered.
The first avian wonder I spotted on the riverbank was the pied kingfisher, a master hunter, displaying its acrobatics in a splendid performance. The vivid colours and captivating behaviours left me in awe. I tried to capture the moment with my phone but couldn’t quite do justice to the experience with its limited camera capabilities. Frustrated by the missed opportunity, I couldn’t help but wish for a more advanced camera to document these precious moments. However, the disappointment was short-lived as we continued our journey, encountering a variety of birds I had never seen on land before. From the graceful African Jacana and the regal Great White Egret to the mysterious Reed Cormorant, each new sighting filled me with wonder.
My father, Professor Eniang, who accompanied me on this journey, shared his knowledge and insights about the polygamous nature of African Jacanas, the struggles faced by endangered aquatic creatures like the African Manatee, the fascinating behaviours of tilapia fishes, and the intricate methods of harvesting fish breeding beneath the aquatic weeds. This journey lasted 1 hour, 26 minutes, and 46 seconds, but the memories it created will last a lifetime. After we reached our destination, I catalogued our adventure, closed my fieldwork, and submitted my findings to the NiBAP portal, contributing to the greater cause of conservation.
The day ended with a sense of fulfilment and gratitude. This first experience in water birdwatching not only connected me with the diverse and awe-inspiring world of avian life but also deepened my appreciation for the importance of conserving these fragile ecosystems. As I reflected on the day’s adventures, I made a promise to myself: I would seek out more opportunities like this to witness the majesty of nature and play my part in preserving it for generations to come.
Written by Eniang Happiness
Edited by Nanchin Winifred Kazeh