Working for birds in Africa

Hotspots

Wed, 16/01/2013 - 14:29 -- abc_admin
TerraVilla_Gardens_Farm_Liberia

TerraVilla Gardens Farm, Liberia

Image Credit: 
Alan G. Johnston

All Liberian IBA sites hold many of the Upper Guinea Endemic Bird Area species. The best example is the small Zwedru IBA with a high amount of forest destruction but three years of research. 12 of the 15 EBA species and 160 of the 184 species of the Guinea Congo forest biome that occur in Liberia were found there. This is a high percentage of species when compared to the much more intact and huge Cestos-Senkwehn forest area where 8 of the 15 EBA species and 99 of the 184 Liberian Guinea-Congo forest biome species have been found but in only one week of research. In most of the IBAs, comparable numbers of forest bird species can be expected. In other parts of Liberia, comparable numbers of species can be found even outside protected areas.

Mount Nimba Despite the former mining activities that have reduced the height of this mountain and the consequent loss of forest, probably all restricted range and localized endemics published by Colston & Curry-Lindahl (1984) and Gatter (1997) still exist here. A new mining agreement has been negotiated with Mittal Steel by the Liberian government and which will increase activity over the next few years. As part of the agreement various national and international conservation groups will map the area and document species which are found there.

Sapo National Park As Liberia's first and only fully protected area, Sapo has been the focal point of conservation efforts in Liberia since its creation in 1983. Covering 107,300 ha, the Park consists of lowland rainforest including swampy areas, dry land and riparian forests. It represents one of, if not the most intact forest ecosystem in Liberia. The Park remains reasonably connected by forested corridors to several other forest areas to the north, west and south-east, extending into Côte d'Ivoire. It is thus at the heart of the largest remaining forest block of the Upper Guinean Forest ecosystem, providing habitat to species that need to range over large areas, such as forest elephants. A faunal monitoring program was established at the Park in 2001. It quickly became clear that the Park haboured some of the richest and least disturbed wildlife in West Africa's rainforests.

In 2005 and 2006 the UN has worked to clear excombatants out of the park with limited success. As long as markets exist for bush meat, gold and diamonds and neighboring villages remain poor and underemployed, the temptation will remain to utilise the park for all possible resources.

Other birding hotspots

In these times when travelling in Liberia is not easy, it is worth mentioning some birding hotspots which are easily accessible for visitors to the capital.

Mesurado River system is a huge mangrove river and tidal influenced swamp system. It holds many waders, herons and egrets. It is surrounded by the capital Monrovia and can be explored by canoe tours arranged with local fishermen.

Junk River system is between Robertsfield Airport and Duport, a Monrovian suburb. There is an extended swamp system extending over a length of about 50 km with many arms of Mangrove creeks and brackish as well as fresh water rivers and swamp forests, many of them cut down for firewood in recent years during the war. There are many places which allow access for canoe trips, enabling one to see a hundred species in a day.

Lagoons of Congotown and Paynesville From the eastern parts of Monrovia, there are several nice lagoons which can be reached easily within a km of the main road, which hold a rich avifauna and stretch from Paynesville junction all the way to Schiefflinsville.

Forest —Savanna mosaics Between Monrovia and Paynesville and Schiefflinsville along the road to Robertsfield International Airport or the rough road to Marshall (accessible only during dry season), there are many possibilities for relatively undisturbed observations.

Quarries in Monrovia at UN-Drive Not far from the American Embassy towards the suburb "Waterside" there are old quarries along the steep rocky beach with extended fresh water ponds, little forests and mangrove allowing the observation of many interesting birds.

Sea watching at Mamba Point In both migration seasons, Mamba point, a rocky coast east of the American Embassy in Monrovia allows observations of passing sea birds.

The following information was received on 30/01/07 following a weekend trip to Talla in Grand Cape Mount County near Lake Piso. Highlights of the trip included Woodland Halcyon senegalensis, Grey-headed H. leucocephala, Blue-Breasted H. malimbica, Pied Ceryle rudis and Malachite Kingfishers Alcedo cristata, Yellow-Rumped Pogoniulus bilineatus, Red-Rumped P.atroflavus, Yellow-Throated P. subsulphureus and Speckled Tinkerbirds P. scolopaceus, Vieillot's Barbet Lybius vieilloti, Red-shouldered Cuckoo-Shrike Campephaga phoenicea, Whinchat Saxicola rubetra, Johanna's Cinnyris johannae, Variable C. venustus, Brown Anthreptes gabonicus, Western Olive Cyanomitra obscura and Buff-Throated Sunbirds Chalcomitra adelberti, Capuchin Babbler Phyllanthus atripennis and Violet-backed Starling Cinnyricinclus leucogaster.

 

Additions:

Sapo National Park is Liberia’s oldest protected area, and contains a low estimate of 204 bird species (2019). The park headquarters also have available camping facilities provided at Liberia’s only conservation research institute, the Sapo Conservation Centre.

The Gola National Park borders the Sierra Leone National Park of the same name, and there can be found many rare and notable birds, such as Gola Malimbes and White-necked Picathartes.

The East Nimba Nature Reserve is a small protected area in the Nimba Mountains, bordering the World Heritage sites in Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire, which bear the same name. The East Nimba Nature Reserve is a popular camping destination, and there are guides available to take tourists into the reserve to see among others, Black and white Shrike-flycatcher, Black Bee-eater and Honeyguide Greenbuls.

Other relatively accessible hotspots and bird watching destinations:

  • Carrie Wetlands is a small agricultural project just outside the Cuttington University (2.5 hours from Monrovia), right on the main road. Many freshwater species can be observed there in the morning such as White-faced Whistling Duck, Cattle Egret, Reed Cormorant, Black Heron, Western Reef, and Intermediate Egrets, and grassland and forest edge species such as Yellow Wagtail, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Tawny Pipit, Moustached Grass Warbler, Lesser-striped Swallow and Booted Eagle.
  • Harbel (Firestone Rubber Plantations) is a nice site close to the airport. The site is good for waterbirds, with records such as Pygmy Goose, Bar-tailed Godwit, White-faced Whistling Ducks, Whiskered Tern, and various egret species. Nearly 5 species of swallows can also be seen here, and the rubber plantation hosts an interesting avian community as well.
  • Robertsport (and Lake Piso) the biggest westward city in Liberia. The area is sprawled along the beach and proximity to Robertsport provides many paths through forests and along the shore to easy shore bird and forest bird viewings, such as sandpipers and terns, flycatchers and bulbuls.  
  • Buchanan, capital of nearby Grand Bassa County provides many habitats for bird watching, depending on birder preference. Grasslands full of bee-eaters and pipits, swamps rich with plovers, herons, and jacanas, and small copses of forests with tinkerbirds and hornbills are easy to access from the city centre.
  • The Blue Lake in Tubmansburg, Bomi is a local attraction, and contains many interesting bird watching opportunities. Ducks, waders, swallows, and forest edge species can be seen along the walk down to the lake. 
  • Hotel Africa is an abandoned hotel complex on the coast in Brewerville on Bushrod Island. The area is mostly natural now, and swallows, cuckoos, hornbills, and bulbuls can be observed alongside thick-knees, herons, terns, and sandpipers.

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