The thrill of the June 2022 Atlasing weekend in Ekiti State had my heart pounding with anticipation. Ekiti was a treasure trove of avian wonders, and I experienced its magic during my first Atlasing expedition in January 2021 in Ikole-Ekiti. The promise of a new adventure in the captivating landscapes of Ikere-Ekiti fueled my excitement. Our journey commenced with a rendezvous at Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, where the Ekiti Forestry Commission Office awaited our exploration. Dr Babajide Agboola, our guide, ushered us into the intricate world of Ekiti’s diverse ecosystems. After this enlightening visit, we eagerly travelled down to Ikere-Ekiti, where the real birding magic was set to unfold.
As the team dispersed into sub-groups, each venturing into different corners of the town, I found myself immersed in the allure of Ekiti’s avian symphony. The sunlight painted a golden hue on the surroundings, setting the stage for a weekend of discovery. The nightfall saw the team reuniting at the lodge, sharing tales of the day’s encounters. Saturday morning brought a fresh wave of excitement as our Team Lead, Dr Bibitayo Owolabi, unfolded the day’s itinerary. With routes mapped out, we embarked on what promised to be a long and rewarding day.
Bamidele Olajuyigbe, my trusted companion and senior friend, joined me for our first Pentad. To maximize efficiency, we split at the edge of the Pentad, running two simultaneously. Nestled close to a quaint community, I discovered a serene hill where I could observe and record the avian inhabitants.
The Blue-billed Malimbe graced me with a spectacular aerial dance, but what stole the show was the familiar call echoing through the air. It was the African Emerald Cuckoo, a species I had first encountered during Atlasing at Ijebu-ode with Dr. Stella Egbe. The excitement surged, but the elusive bird remained hidden. Completing my Pentad, I descended towards Bamidele, only to notice commotion among the locals. Concerned for my safety, I hesitated but was drawn by the locals conversing in Yoruba about something called “Eye Aye.” Curiosity overpowering caution, I joined the gathering.
To my astonishment, a lifeless ostrich lay on a table, its juvenile form perplexing my senses. “Where did they get this?” I wondered aloud. The savanna species was out of place in the forested embrace of Ekiti. A local lady explained that a woman hunter had captured it near Erijiyan, another town in Ekiti. As the locals prepared to feast on the magnificent bird, I couldn’t shake off the mystery. An ostrich in a forest zone raised more questions than answers. My departure left me pondering, and when I reunited with Bamidele, we shared our bewilderment. Could there be an ostrich farm nearby, and had this adventurous bird strayed from its confines?
Ekiti, once again, had woven a tapestry of surprises, leaving me with not just new bird sightings but a lingering mystery that added a unique twist to my Atlasing adventure. The wonders of Ekiti never cease to amaze, each outing unfolding as a captivating chapter in the story of avian exploration.
Story by Nathaniel Owolawi
Edited by Nanchin Winifred Kazeh