Working for birds in Africa

Important Bird Areas

Wed, 01/23/2013 - 18:02 -- abc_admin
Waterlilies_and_Mytragyna_Niger

Waterlilies and Mytragyna, Kobadié, 40 km south-west of Niamey, Niger

Image Credit: 
Joost Brouwer
Lassouri_Niger

Lassouri, Niger

Image Credit: 
Wim Mullié

Lists of species and maximum counts found at each IBA mentioned below can be downloaded in a spreadsheet from Niger IBA checklist. Additional sites close to Niamey that are good for birding are mentioned in the section - Visiting.

See also Malimbus Niger for references to a number of articles on the birds of Niger and in particular An updated overview of the birds of W National Park, southwest Niger by T. Crisler, C. Jameson & J. Brouwer, Seasonal waterbird and raptor fluctuations on the Niger and Mékrou Rivers in Niger by J. Ambagis, J. Brouwer & C. Jameson and The birds of the northern Aïr, Niger by J. Newby, J. Grettenberger & J. Watkins.

Fifteen Important Bird Areas (IBAs) have been identified with assistance from BirdLife International. Occurrence of biome species in these IBAs is as follows:

Table 1. Sudan and Guinea Savanna biome species

1 = present

Species

 

IBA

     
   

001

002

007

014

Fox Kestrel

Falco alopex

 

1

1

1

Senegal Parrot

Poicephalus senegalus

1

1

   

Violet Turaco

Musophaga violacea

1

     

Red-throated Bee-eater

Merops bulocki

1

1

   

Blue-bellied Roller

Coracias cyanogaster

1

     

Bearded Barbet

Lybius dubius

1

1

   

Sun Lark

Galerida modesta

1

1

   

Pied-winged Swallow

Hirundo leucosoma

1

     

Yellow-billed Shrike

Corvinella corvina

1

1

   

White-crowned Robin-Chat

Cossypha albicapilla

1

     

White-fronted Black Chat

Myrmecocichla albifrons

1

     

Blackcap Babbler

Turdoides reinwardtii

 

1

   

Red-pate Cisticola

Cisticola ruficeps

       

Oriole Warbler

Hypergerus atriceps

1

     

Senegal Eremomela

Eremomela pusilla

1

1

   

Gambaga Flycatcher

Muscicapa gambagae

       

Red-winged Pytilia

Pytilia phoenicoptera

1

     

Black-faced Firefinch

Lagonosticta larvata

1

1

   

Lavender Waxbill

Estrilda caerulescens

1

1

   

Black-rumped Waxbill

Estrilda troglodytes

1

1

   

Bush Petronia

Petronia dentata

1

1

1

 

Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver

Plocepasser superciliosus

1

1

   

Heuglin's Masked Weaver

Ploceus heuglini

1

     

Purple Glossy Starling

Lamprotornis purpureus

1

1

   

Bronze-tailed Glossy Starling

Lamprotornis chalcurus

 

1

   

Piapiac

Ptilostomus afer

1

1

   
           
 

Totals (of 26)

21

16

2

1

Table 2. Sahel biome species

1 = present
? = possibly present

 

Species

 

IBA

         
   

001

002

005

007

014

015

Nubian Bustard

Neotis nuba

       

1

1

Arabian Bustard

Ardeotis arabs

1

1

   

1

 

Savile's Bustard

Eupodotis savilei

1

1

 

1

   

African Collared Dove

Streptopelia roseogrisea

1

1

 

1

1

1

Golden Nightjar

Caprimulgus eximius

       

1

 

Yellow-breasted Barbet

Trachyphonus margaritatus

     

1

1

1

Little Grey Woodpecker

Dendropicos elachus

       

1

1

Kordofan Lark

Mirafra cordofanica

           

Rusty Bush Lark

Mirafra rufa

           

Dunn's Lark

Eremalauda dunni

       

1

 

Black Scrub-Robin

Cercotrichas podobe

1

1

 

1

1

1

River Prinia

Prinia fluviatilis

?

 

?

     

Cricket Warbler

Spiloptila clamans

       

1

1

Sennar Penduline Tit

Anthoscopus punctifrons

 

1

       

Sudan Golden Sparrow

Passer luteus

1

1

 

1

1

1

Chestnut-bellied Starling

Lamprotornis pulcher

1

1

 

1

1

1

               
 

Totals (of 16)

6

7

 

6

11

8

Table 3. Sahara biome species

1 = present
(v) = vagrant

Species

 

IBA

 
 
   

007

014

015

Sooty Falcon

Falco concolor

 
 

(v)

Spotted Sandgrouse

Pterocles senegallus

 
 

1

Crowned Sandgrouse

Pterocles coronatus

 
 

1

Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse

Pterocles lichtensteinii

 
 

1

Pharaoh's Eagle Owl

Bubo ascalaphus

 

1

1

Bar-tailed Lark

Ammomanes cincturus

 
 

1

Desert Lark

Ammomanes deserti

1

 

1

Greater Hoopoe-lark

Alaemon alaudipes

 

1

1

White-crowned Black Wheatear

Oenanthe leucopyga

 
 

1

Blackstart

Cercomela melanura

1

 

1

Fulvous Babbler

Turdoides fulvus

 

1

1

Trumpeter Finch

Bucanetes githaginea

 
 

1

Desert Sparrow

Passer simplex

 

1

1

   
 
 
 
 

Totals (of 13)

2

4

12

NE001 'W' National Park, 220,000 ha, coordinates 12°20'N 02°25'E, altitude 170-310 m

Site description

The 'W' National Park lies 150 km south of Niamey, at the point where Niger, Burkina Faso and Bénin come together. Together with the contiguous parks of the same name in Burkina Faso and Bénin, it forms the largest tract of wholly protected savanna in West Africa. In the north-east the Park's boundary is formed by the Niger river. The river here makes several sharp turns which together form the 'W' from which the Park takes its name. In the south the boundary of the Park is formed by the Mékrou river (with Bénin on the other bank), in the west by the international border with Burkina Faso, and in the north by the Tapoa river. Average annual rainfall in the Park during 1961-1990 was approx. 700 mm.

Large parts of the Park are quite rocky, caused by the outcropping of metamorphic Precambrian rocks (e.g. quartzites, schists and gneisses). In certain areas these are overlaid by Tertiary sediments which give rise to the quite wide-spread laterite-capped plateaux in the Park. Along the three rivers there are Quaternary alluvial floodplains. The vegetation is predominantly wooded savanna and shrubland, transitional between the Sahelian and Sudanian savanna types, and a small amount of grassland. In addition to the floodplains along the Niger river, there are gallery forests along its main tributaries, and a number of ephemeral pools and wetlands in the upland areas.

The area which is now occupied by the Park was first identified as a future reserve in 1926. It was created as the first reserve in Niger in 1937, classified as a Total Fauna Reserve in 1953, and decreed a National Park in 1954. The villages still existing in the Park were relocated several years later. In 1962 two reserves adjoining the Park were created as buffer zones: across the Niger river to the north-east the Partial Reserve (PR) of Dosso (306,000 ha), and north of the Tapoa river the Total Fauna Reserve (TFR) of Tamou. The PR of Dosso lies between the Niger river to its south-west, the road from Kirtachi (12°48'N, 2°30'E) on the Niger river to Hilikoye Kouara (12°53'N, 3°10'E) on the Dosso-Gaya road to its north, and the Dosso-Gaya road to its east. This partial reserve is now heavily populated and part of the Man and Biosphere Reserve of 'W'. At the time of its creation the TFR of Tamou measured 143,000 ha, and settlement was prohibited. Recognition of the presence of significant settlements led to its size being reduced to 76,000 ha in 1976. Park personnel are meant to regulate agricultural land use in the Reserve.

Because of its floodplains along the Niger, Tapoa and Mékrou rivers, the 'W' National Park was in 1987 designated a Wetland of International Importance according to the Ramsar Convention. The Park is best know for its large mammals. A total of 82 species of mammal have been identified, including Elephant Loxodonta africana, Lion Panthera leo, Leopard Panthera pardus, Cheetah Acinonyx jubatus, Hippo Hippopotamus amphibius, Buffalo Syncerus caffer and eleven species of antelope. Of these the large grazers are most easily seen. Manatee Trichechus senegalensis occur there, too, as do Crocodiles Crocodylus niloticus, but you have to be extremely lucky to see them, or the big cats.

An initial long-term management plan drafted in 1982, sought to address the issues of poaching and disturbance, burning by poachers and pastoralists, illegal grazing (made possible by eradication of tsetse fly; up to 10 - 15,000 head of cattle are thought to be present illegally during the wet season), illegal cutting of trees and collection of other natural products, illegal fishing, construction of new roads and tourism in 'W' National Park. However, this management plan has not been followed up. Other threats include the mining of phosphate and the construction of dams. In January 1999, the Niger and Benin governments signed an agreement concerning the construction of the Dyodyonga Hydroelectric Facility in the gorge in the Mékrou River on the southern boundary of the park (c12°18'N 2°37'E). In addition to the generation of electricity, it is intended that the project will allow the development of small and medium-sized industries as well as the exploitation of mineral resources in the Mékrou area. The possible consequences of this on the park were unknown and had not, apparently, been addressed.

Birds

Full information on the birds of the 'W' National Park can be found in Crisler et al (2003), including estimates of abundance at different times of the year and breeding evidence. 352 species have been recorded of which at least 32 are intra-African wet season migrants (from further south in Africa), 68 intra-African dry season migrants (from nearer the Sahara or waterbirds dispersing after breeding elsewhere) and 64 dry-season migrants from Eurasia. The other species are of mixed or uncertain status with many showing seasonal differences in abundance. Per month most species were observed during November and December (234 and 239 respectively), fewest during September and October (174 and 183). In total, 82 species have been found breeding in the Park, with a clear peak in June-July-August and a secondary peak in December-January.

Of the 25 Sudano-Guinean species in Niger, 21 (84%) have been observed in the Park, which forms the main IBA for this biome in the country. Of these Blue-bellied Roller Coracias cyanogaster and Sun Lark Galerida modesta are dry season vagrants while Oriole Warbler Hypergerus atriceps is a rare dry season visitor. All 18 other species have been reported during both wet season and dry season and are proven or likely breeders in varying numbers. Of the 16 Sahelian species in Niger, 6 (38%) have been observed in the Park, mostly during the dry season and all only uncommonly to rarely. However, the Park and the Makalondi district IBA (002) are the only IBAs in the wintering range of some of the Sahelian species.

Within the 'W' National Park several species of conservation concern have also been observed. Although large numbers have not been seen, a systematic survey is likely to reveal that more than 30 Pallid Harriers Circus macrourus spend the Palearctic winter in the Park each year. Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni is a rare dry season visitor. There is a possible observation of River Prinia Prinia fluviatilis from January 1994, opposite Koro Goungou just north of the Park boundary, in a type of habitat that is also found inside the Park.

The various aquatic habitats in the Park are important for waterbirds. Waterbird counts were carried out from land in January 1993 at various points along the Niger, Mékrou and Tapoa rivers, as well as at some small inland wetlands. During January-February 1994-1997 the annual counts were made by boat along the Niger river from Koro Goungou to Boumba. In total 45 species of waterbird were observed during the survey. Of the individual birds the percentage of afrotropical origin varied between 22 and 100% (average 68%); the percentage of Palearctic origin varied between 0 and 78% (average 32%). The largest number of waterfowl counted during any one count was 10,337 in 1997 along the Niger river only. Further counts may well turn up more than 20,000 waterbirds.

Monthly counts of waterbirds were carried out by Peace Corps volunteers from 1995-1999. An initial analysis of the count results is presented in Ambagis et al (2003). In total 101 species of waterbirds and raptors were seen during these counts of which 73 more than once. Other significant observations of waterbirds include a group of 9 Black Storks Ciconia nigra at one of the small wetlands in January 1998. During the waterbird census in March 1997 1,412 Knob-billed Ducks Sarkidiornis melanotus, 7,979 White-faced Whistling Ducks Dendrocygna viduata and 325 Spur-winged Geese Plectropterus gambensis were counted on the river. The river is most important for Afro-tropical waterbirds towards the end of the dry season, i.e. April-May, but it may not be navigable then. There are also quite large populations of egrets etc. in the interior of the Park which have never been properly censused.

Logistics

'W' National Park can be reached by taking the sealed road on the right bank of the Niger River south to Say, and turning right onto a gravel road at a T-junction where the road into Say itself goes left. At Tamou, turn left onto the road to the Park proper. There is no public transport (bush taxi) beyond Tamou. The gravel roads can be rather corrugated during the dry and nearly impassable during the wet season when the Park is closed to visitors anyway. In the Park itself a 4WD is pretty much a necessity: almost all park roads have sections that an ordinary vehicle cannot negotiate at any time of year.

There is a large hotel and conference centre as well as a visitor centre at the entrance to the Park overlooking the Tapoa river. Within the Park there is, during the tourist season (November-May approximately), one site where tourists can spend the night in tents and be looked after fully. There are also some areas where tourists can camp privately. Bookings can be made from Niamey. For safety reasons tourists must be accompanied by a registered Park guide at all times when inside the Park. At least one of the guides, Abdou Burkinabé, was very good on birds during the 1990s. The telephone number at the park may still be (+227) 78 41 12 but it didn't always work.

A lovely guidebook to the Park has been produced by two Peace Corps volunteers (Jameson and Crisler 1996) and may still be available at the Park or in Niamey (tourist office or Niger Car). It includes short descriptions of the history, climate, geology and vegetation of the Park; a full list of birds and mammals (new species of birds have been added since!); and short descriptions and great drawings of the commoner species of plant, reptile, mammal and bird.

NE002 Makalondi District, 200,000 ha, coordinates 12°50'N 01°40'E, altitude 210-300 m

Site description

Makalondi district is the name used here for an area with a radius of approximately 25 km, centred on the border village of Makalondi, 100 km south-east of Niamey on the road to Burkina Faso. The area, which lies in the transition between the Sahel and Sudan zones, is relatively flat but there are a number of lateritic plateaux and flat-topped hills which rise 40 - 60 m above the surrounding land. The plateaux support a (degraded) tiger bush vegetation, while wooded savanna with dry thorn scrub as well as some large trees occurs in the lower-lying areas.

There are a number of temporary water courses which in places are lined by majestic Khaya senegalensis trees. During the dry season these water courses are reduced to a number of isolated wetlands that hold water for periods ranging from a few months to almost the whole year. They include the wetlands of the Goroubi River to the north and west, Balla Foulbé wetland 25 km to the north-east along the road to Tamou, and Koulbou wetlands 10 km south-east of Makalondi. The Koulbou wetlands are heavily vegetated with waterlilies, rushes and wild rice, as well as clumps of Mytragyna trees and some Khaya senegalensis.

A number of small villages occur throughout the district, mostly near the drainage lines. Subsistence farming is widespread with sorghum and millet the main crops. There are also numerous herds of cattle, sheep and goats. Average annual rainfall for the period 1961 - 1990 was approximately 600 mm. Main environmental threats in the district are the increasing pressure on natural resources including wetlands. This is caused by agricultural expansion due to demographic changes and possibly climatic changes as well.

Birds

See the tables at the beginning of this section for key biome species. In total, some 310 bird species were recorded in Makalondi district by Pierre Souvairan who lived and worked in the area from 1968 to 1998. The avifauna includes a number of species not known from nearby 'W' National Park (NE001). Of the Sahel biome species, this is the only site from which Sennar Penduline Tit Anthoscopus punctifrons has been reported (and breeding at that). The site is also important for Black Scrub-Robin Cercotrichas podobe (probably breeds) and, with Dallol Boboye (NE007), for Savile's Bustard Eupodotis savilei. The latter is resident at a density of approximately 1 pair per km2 in good quality shrubland and tiger bush. Chestnut-bellied Starling Lamprotornis pulcher definitely breeds in Makalondi district but is an extremely common species through sahelian Niger.

For the other Sahel biome species that show seasonal movements, Makalondi district is mainly a wintering area. The only observations in Niger of the Sudan and Guinea Savanna biome species Blackcap Babbler Turdoides reinwardtii and Bronze-tailed Glossy Starling Lamprotornis chalcurus, together with two of the three known records of Sun Lark Galerida modesta, are from this IBA. Except for Fox Kestrel Falco alopex, Black-faced Firefinch Lagonosticta larvata and Piapiac Ptilostomus afer (single records only), the other Sudan and Guinea Savanna biome species observed are present all year and are presumed to breed. In addition, there is one observation of a male Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca in March 1987 and several records of Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus during the dry season.

Logistics

Makalondi is easily reached from Niamey by taking the sealed road to Ouagadougou via Torodi. It is the last village before the border, the Niger Customs office can be found at its southern edge. You can get to Makalondi itself by public transport. Off the main road you can generally go by conventional vehicle during the dry season. Distances are considerable and you can easily get lost so walking long stretches is probably not a good idea.

There is no tourist accommodation in and around Makalondi that I know of, there are just the usual village shops. People at the Catholic Church just off the main road on the south-east side of Makalondi, or other local people, may be able to help you find a place to stay overnight or put up your tent.

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NE003 Kokoro wetland, c2,100 ha, coordinates 14°12'N 00°54'E, altitude 250 m

Site description

Kokoro wetland lies 150 km north-west of Niamey and 30 km north-east of Téra next to the village of Kokoro and 10 km west of Namga wetland (NE004). It is a large, shallow (0.5 - 1.0 m) wetland occupying part of an ancient valley surrounded by sand dunes, some granite outcrops of Precambrian age and flat-topped hills carved from Tertiary sediments. It is a semi-permanent wetland, containing water 7 - 12 months of the year. At its greatest extent it is 13 km long and occupies 2,100 ha. When I first visited Kokoro wetland one April I was stunned: 4 by 2 km of lush, brilliant green flooded pasture, studded with waterbirds and surrounded by palm trees, large rounded rocks and orange sand dunes, as well as fields and bush vegetation. It still hurts that my camera failed on that trip.

Between 1961and 1990 annual rainfall at Kokoro averaged approximately 380 mm. However, total rainfall at Kokoro varies enormously from year to year which affects the size of the wetland (from 700 to 1,800 ha at the times of the waterbird censuses). Historically, the valley probably fed into the Niger River, from which it is now blocked at its eastern end by sand dunes. The water of the wetland has been characterised as brackish and of neutral pH with low levels of nitrogen and high levels of phosphorus in the very sandy sediment. The substrate at the southern end contains a lot clay and is vegetated mostly with Ludwigia adscendens. There is also some Typha sp. in the south-east. The northern end is quite sandy and covered by e.g. Echinochloa obtusifolia and Cyperus distans. The relatively small amounts of deeper, open water contain waterlilies Nymphaea lotus and N. caerulea. At the western end there is a tree-covered floodplain several kilometres in length in which Acacia nilotica is the most common species. Smaller areas of floodplain with trees are also found at the eastern end and fringing the southern margin.

Kokoro wetland is owned by the government but may be used by the local population under supervision. Towards the end of the dry season, if the rains and run-off to the wetland have been good enough, Kokoro wetland virtually becomes a flooded meadow used heavily by cattle. Livestock increase the nutrient loading of the wetland and the phosphorus content of the sediments is relatively high. There is little doubt that this increases the primary and secondary production of the wetland but whether this is leading to eutrophication is not clear. Livestock also affect the vegetation through grazing or overgrazing and trampling.

The wetland is fished using cast nets and fixed lines, but not too intensively. The lake was stocked with fish in 1986 but only Protopterus annectens remains. Expansion of agricultural activities along the borders may be a future threat but in 1997 there was little sign of this. Similarly, the limited amount of collection of natural products did not appear to be having much impact. Sand dunes threaten the wetland at its northern border and have been the target of a dune-fixation programme. Hunting of waterbirds could become a problem although, as at many wetlands, the local population discourages hunting by outsiders. Kokoro and Namga wetlands were designated Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance in June 2001.

Birds

Although there are no doubt Sahel biome species and some Sahara biome species in the vicinity of Kokoro wetland, no records have yet been submitted. Waterbird counts made in Jan-Feb 1994 - 1999, and April 1997, are the only known ornithological data. Coverage was usually only partial, except when the water level was very low. In total, 44 species of waterbird have been recorded. In January 1999 the total count was 50,191. Kokoro is especially notable for the large number of Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio. Up to 775 have been recorded during the dry season. Quite remarkable was the change in composition of the waterbird population from February to April 1997 from mainly Palearctic to mainly afro-tropical. Notable count totals include 1,000 Fulvous Whistling Ducks Dendrocygna bicolor in February 1996, 2,500 White-faced Whistling Ducks Dendrocygna viduata in February 1995, 889 Spur-winged Geese Plectropterus gambensis in February 1997, 251 Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus in February 1995, up to 440 Knob-Billed Ducks Sarkidiornis melanotos and 257 Black-winged Stilts Himantopus himantopus in February 1996. In addition, two Pallid Harriers Circus macrourus were seen in February 1997.

Logistics

Kokoro and Namga wetlands can be reached from Niamey by taking the road towards Tillabéri and crossing the Niger River after about 60 km by the Bac Farié ferry (the ferry is about 2 km from the Tillabri road). Continue north and west along the gravel road to Téra for another 100 km. Just before Téra turn right onto the road going north towards Bankilaré. After about 25 km, near Foneko, turn right onto the road going east to Kokoro. After about 20 km you will see Kokoro wetland on your right. Namga wetland is another 12 km further east along the same road. When road conditions are good a conventional vehicle, or the 'taxi brousse' (bush taxi) will get you to Kokoro. When not, a 4WD or a lot of patience is highly recommended.

There were no tourist facilities at either Kokoro or Namga when I was last there in 1997. However, Kokoro and Namga wetlands are presently (2004) the subjects of an integrated wetland management and development project as part of a GEF-financed migratory waterbird project for the African-Eurasian flyway so things may have changed. Basic supplies and accommodation can in any case be found in the town of Téra, about 50 km away.

NE004 Namga wetland, c. 600 ha, coordinates 14°11'N 01°02'E, altitude 250 m

Site description

Namga wetland lies 150 km north-west of Niamey and 40 km north-east of Téra, next to the village of Namga or Namaga and 10 km east of Kokoro wetland (NE003). Namga wetland is semi-permanent and up to several metres deep. During 1961 - 1990, annual rainfall averaged approximately 380 mm. However, total rainfall varies greatly from year to year, which affects the size of the wetland (from 400 to 500 ha at the times of the waterbird censuses). Historically, Namga wetland probably drained into the Niger River from which it is now blocked by sand dunes at its northern end. The water of the wetland has been characterised as somewhat brackish and of neutral pH, with average nitrogen and low phosphorus contents in the rather clayey sediment. The wetland has an abundant aquatic vegetation of Schoenoplectus subulatus and Cyperus distans along its margins, with Nymphaea lotus in deeper parts. Approximately 40% is open water. Along its eastern and southern edges and in the valleys that feed into it, there are areas of woodland which include Acacia nilotica, A. seyal, A. raddiana, Balanites aegyptiaca and Mitragyna inermis.

The wetland is owned by government but may be used by the local population under supervision. The wetland is used for grazing and watering of livestock. In addition there are some small gardens where gourds are grown. Some traditional hunting is also likely to take place. A number of dead vultures, mainly Lappet-faced Vulture Torgos tracheliotus, found in 1995, indicates that poisoning of jackals probably occurs in the area.

Livestock coming to drink increase the nutrient loading, and thus the primary and secondary production of the wetland. Whether this is leading to eutrophication is not clear. Livestock also affect the vegetation through grazing or overgrazing and trampling. Expansion of agricultural activities along the borders may be a future threat but there is, at present, little sign of this. Similarly, the limited amount of collection of natural products does not appear to be having much impact. Hunting could become a problem although, as at many wetlands, the local population discourages outsiders coming to hunt. Namga and Kokoro (IBA 003) wetlands will be the subjects of an integrated wetland management and development project, as part of a GEF-financed migratory waterbird project for the African-Eurasian flyway. Kokoro and Namga wetlands were designated Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance in June 2001.

Birds

Waterbird counts made in Jan-Feb 1995 - 1998, and April 1997 and February 2000, are the only known ornithological data. In total, 54 species of waterbird were counted. In February 1997, 13,190 waterbirds were counted on an estimated 70% of the wetland and it is probable that numbers exceed 20,000 at times. Notable counts include 245 Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus in February 1998, 7,155 White-faced Whistling Ducks Dendrocygna viduata and 749 Knob-billed Ducks Sarkidiornis melanotus in February 1997, 179 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, 241 Spur-winged Geese Plectropterus gambensis and 235 Little Grebes Tachybaptus ruficollis in April 1997 and 781 Black-winged Stilts Himantopus himantopus in February 2000.

Logistics

Kokoro and Namga wetlands can be reached from Niamey by taking the road towards Tillabéri and crossing the Niger River after about 60 km by the Bac Farié ferry (the ferry is about 2 km from the Tillabri road). Continue north and west along the gravel road to Téra for another 100 km. Just before Téra turn right onto the road going north towards Bankilaré. After about 25 km, near Foneko, turn right onto the road going east to Kokoro. After about 20 km you will see Kokoro wetland on your right. Namga wetland is another 12 km further east along the same road. When road conditions are good a conventional vehicle or the 'taxi brousse' (bush taxi) will get you to Kokoro. When not, a 4WD or a lot of patience is highly recommended. There were no tourist facilities at either Kokoro or Namga when I was last there in 1997. However, Kokoro and Namga wetlands are presently (2004) the subjects of an integrated wetland management and development project as part of a GEF-financed migratory waterbird project for the African-Eurasian flyway so things may have changed. Basic supplies and accommodation can in any case be found in the town of Téra, about 50 km away.

NE005 Ayorou, c10,000 ha, coordinates 14°40'N 0°55'E, altitude 210 m

Site description

That part of the Niger River often referred to as Ayorou lies south-west and south of the town of the same name, 220 km north-west of Niamey. The river here is relatively shallow, due to the presence at the surface of erosion-resistant Precambrian rocks, and up to 6 km wide, with numerous small islands as well as seasonally flooded areas. This local 'inner delta' covers about 10,000 ha. Its character varies greatly with the level of river water, which tends to be lowest just before the wet season from April to June and highest from December to January, since the inland delta of central Mali delays the arrival of maximum water levels by some four months. Vegetation on the islands consists mostly of grasses and herbs but also includes scattered trees such as Hyphaene thebaica. The riverine vegetation surrounding the islands includes Echinochloa, Cyperus and Sesbania spp. During the past twenty years, however, the river's regime has changed considerably due to the construction of dams and other off-takes upstream in Guinea and Mali. Average flows have decreased as have frequency and levels of flooding.

In addition to the influence of upstream dams and associated changes in hydrology, the Ayorou area is threatened by the proposed construction of a dam at Kandadji, immediately downstream. This proposal, for the generation of electricity and for water supply and irrigation purposes, has been under discussion since the 1960s. The various alternatives would result in a maximum water level of between 228 and 241 m above sea level effectively drowning the present area. There may, in future, also be detrimental effects from mining developments to the west, with a tarmac road and a permanent river crossing proposed just north of Ayorou. Increasing use of the area for cropping and for livestock production may also become a problem. Fishing is an important activity. The area is also used for watering and grazing of cattle. Grasses, some of them aquatic, are collected for cattle fodder. Agriculture takes place on a number of the islands. Hunting or poaching with shotguns is said to take place locally. The Ayorou area is best known for its Hippopotamus amphibius population which, together with the weekly market in the town of Ayorou, form a tourist attraction. Manatee Trichechus senegalensis also occur. Ayorou has been proposed as a protected area.

Birds

Although never systematically surveyed, Ayorou is believed to be of considerable importance for waterbirds. Very incomplete counts were undertaken in February 1995 and in April 1997 when 33 species of waterbird were recorded. The total number counted in February 1995 was 10,907, when only 5% of the area was censused. Noteworthy counts include 7,854 Knob-billed Ducks Sarkidiornis melanotos and 2,752 White-faced Whistling Ducks Dendrocygna viduata in February 1995, and 130 Black Crowned Cranes Balearica pavonina in February 1984. The little known River Prinia Prinia fluviatilis is likely to occur at Ayorou. The only large subpopulation of Black Crowned Crane Balearica pavonina between northern Cameroon and the Inner Delta in Mali breeds at isolated wetlands in north-west Niger and adjoining parts of Burkina Faso and Mali: Ayorou is likely to be important for this subpopulation during the dry season.

Logistics

Ayorou is an easy three-hour drive from Niamey following the sealed road along the Niger River to Tillabéri and then on to just short of the Mali border. There was a good hotel at Ayorou when I was last there in 1997: check in Niamey to make sure. Basic necessities can also be bought in Ayorou. You can barter to rent a local boat and boatman for one or more days. The boatman will make sure you don't get too close to the hippos.

NE006 Tillabéri roost, c8 ha, coordinates 14°11'N 01°29'E, altitude 200 m

Site description

The Tillabéri roost occupies a Eucalyptus woodlot in an area of irrigated rice on the floodplain of the Niger River near Daikaina, just east of Tillabéri. The woodlot is managed by the irrigation authority, ONAHA (Office National des Aménagements Hydro-Agricoles). In early 1997, felling of some of the trees commenced. As a result the birds appeared to have moved to an alternative wooded area 1-1.5 km to the south. In subsequent years the birds have moved back to the Eucalyptus woodlot. Both the original roost and the alternative roost should be given immediate protection. For unknown reasons, some species appeared to be declining in numbers even before the first roost site was disturbed. These include Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides and Little Egret Egretta garzetta. Because the site is so close to an urban centre, is sensitive to human activity and is important for, for example, the migratory Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus, its conservation could be made to have a significant impact in raising public awareness. The Département de la Faune, de la Pêche et de la Pisciculture was formulating a project proposal for this.

Birds

The first site was counted in February 1995 - 1998 while counts of the alternative roost, following its relocation as a result of human disturbance, took place in April 1997. In total, 35 species of waterbird have been observed at the roost and in immediately surrounding areas. Notable counts include 2,838 Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus, 5,581 Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis, 333 Black-crowned Night Herons Nycticorax nycticorax and 506 Sacred Ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus in February 1995 and 1,132 Long-tailed Cormorants Phalacrocorax africanus in February 1996. In March 1998 14 Little Bitterns Ixobrychus minutus were seen. Total numbers counted were 11,868, 10,762, 5,667, and 3,541 in February 1995 - 1998 respectively.

Logistics

Tillabéri is an easy one-and-a-half hour drive following the sealed road from Niamey north-west along the Niger River. Approximately 5 km before Tillabéri you pass through the village of Daikaina. There are various turn-offs to the left into the irrigation area along the river. Ask one of the local people where the birds come to rest at night, or check at the Ministry of the Environment and Hydraulics office in Tillabéri itself. It is advisable to check precisely where the roost is, and then go back to count about an hour or hour-and-a-half before sundown. Basic supplies and accommodation can be found in Tillabéri.

NE007 Dallol Boboye, c70,000 ha, coordinates 14°00'N 03°10'E, altitude 200-300 m

Site description

The Dallol Boboye is the central part of the Dallol Bosso, a 'graben' or rift valley running north - south through the relatively flat south-west part of Niger, approximately 100 km east of Niamey. The dallol was one of the main valleys that, historically, drained parts of the far north of Niger and extreme eastern Mali. The site defined here extends from Filingué in the north to approximately 15 km south of Baléyara. The dallol in this section is 5 - 20 km wide and is bounded in many places by Tertiary sandstone cliffs ranging from less than 10 m to almost 100 m in height. The valley floor is mostly under permanent millet cultivation or a millet - fallow rotation. On the hills on either side there is more fallow land, some natural wooded savanna and thorn scrub vegetation, and also a number of lateritic plateaux with tiger bush vegetation. Although degraded in parts, some of the tiger bush is in excellent condition. The water table in the dallol is quite near the surface and locally feeds several small wetlands. There are also a few small wetlands which depend on run-off and which are therefore more temporary. Average annual rainfall during the period 1961 - 1990 varied from 350 mm at Filingué to 450 mm at Baléyara. Main threats appear to be increasing pressure on natural resources caused by demographic and possibly climatic changes. Increased direct disturbance of birds is potentially also a problem, especially for cave- and ledge-nesting species. Main conservation efforts need to focus on the cliff areas, where most of the species of interest are found.

Birds

More than 100 species of bird have been recorded in Dallol Boboye during only a few visits in 1993 - 1994 and it is likely that many more remain to be discovered in addition to the six Sahel biome species, two Sahara-Sindian biome species and two Sudan and Guinea Savanna biome species which breed in the Dallol (see the biome species tables at the start of this section). For one of the Sudan and Guinea Savanna biome species, Fox Kestrel Falco alopex, the Dallol Boboye is the main known locality in Niger, with pairs breeding at regular intervals along the cliffs. Other observations of interest include two Barbary Falcons Falco pelegrinoides on cliffs at Damana (13°55'N 3°06'E) in August 1993. Unidentified swifts, possibly African Black Swifts Apus barbatus, appear to nest at several cliffs in the Dallol during the rainy season. There is also some evidence that the Dallol functions as a migration route for birds, with for instance some 200 White-throated Bee-eaters Merops albicollis in small groups passing over on their way north in 15 minutes following a rain storm in early June 1994. At the cliffs near Filingué Barn Owls Tyto alba and Spotted Eagle Owls Bubo africanus can be heard or seen roosting in recesses. Desert Larks Ammomanes deserti breed there during the first half of the dry season, and in the steep-faces of dry river beds White-throated Bee-eaters Merops albicollis and Yellow-breasted Barbets Trachyphonus margaritatus breed during the middle of the rains.

Logistics

The relevant section of the Dallol Boboye is easily reached from Niamey. Take the road to Baléyara (100 km) and Filigué (220 km), which is sealed all the way but do venture off the sealed road too. About 10 km before Baléyara there is a gravel road leading south to Yéni, with a few good cliffs on the right (west) in the first 10 km. There are lovely cliffs at Damana on the way to Filigué, and the plateau to the south-west of Filingué, along the bush road west to Daouda-Bangou and Ouallam just before you get to the town itself, is also worth getting on to. It is a well-known spot locally for picnics and watching the sunset. If you are considering following that bush road all the way to Daouoda-Bangou, be warned: it is a very rough road indeed which at times seems to disappear altogether. We ourselves decided it was not worth the effort and turned back after 40 km or so. A day trip from Niamey to watch birds in this area is very possible, but an overnight trip is even better. Basic supplies and accommodation can be found in both Baléyara and Filigué.

NE008 Dan Doutchi wetland, c1,780 ha, coordinates 14°14'N 04°39'E, altitude 270 m

Site description

Situated in a fossil valley dating from the last ice age or earlier, Dan Doutchi was, prior to July 1974, a small temporary wetland surrounded by millet and sorghum fields. When the 1973 - 74 drought broke with torrential rains, this very wide and shallow part of the valley filled to form a permanent wetland. The wetland, located some 80 km north-west of Birni N'Konni and 350 km due east of Niamey, extends from the village of Tawèy to the village of Dan Doutchi, 6 km to the west. At its maximum it occupies approximately 1,780 ha with an average depth of 1.8 m. Average annual rainfall in the Dan Doutchi area for the period 1961 - 1990 was 420 mm but yearly variation is considerable. During the waterbird censuses in January-February, the area of the run-off dependent wetland varied accordingly from 450 to 1,500 ha. The water of the wetland has been characterised as somewhat brackish and alkaline, with average levels of nitrogen and low levels of phosphorus in the fairly sandy sediment. Aquatic vegetation is absent. Woody species along the edges of the wetland include Acacia nilotica and the exotic Eucalyptus camaldulensis.

The wetland is owned by government but may be used by the local population under supervision. Fishing is an important activity that takes place all year round using nets and traps, from gourd floats and boats. Fish species include Bagrus bayad, Oreochromis niloticus, Tilapia zillii, T. monodii, Lates niloticus, Clarias anguillaris, Schilbe spp., Alestes spp., Achenoglanis spp., Synodontis schall and Chrysichthys auratus. In addition to being smoked and dried locally, refrigerated lorries take part of the catch to Niamey, a distance by road of some 600 km. Each year, an estimated 80% of the land is exposed as water levels recede and is cultivated with e.g. Dolichos lablab beans, maize and cassava. During the later part of the dry season the wetland is also an important watering point for large numbers of livestock. There is no management plan other than yearly programmes to improve fish production. The Service d'Arrondisement d'Environnement is considering introducing the aquatic grass Echinochloa stagnina in order to improve breeding conditions for the fish. Erosion and sedimentation, caused by human activity in the catchment, threaten the wetland. There are also signs of salinisation in fields where crops are grown on residual moisture. Dan Doutchi has been suggested as a potential Ramsar site.

Birds

During counts in January 1992 - 1998, 55 species of waterbird were recorded at Dan Doutchi. Numbers of birds are largest, according to local farmers, in April - May. Significant counts include 376 Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus in January 1992, 1,500 European White Storks Ciconia ciconia and 509 Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca in January 1993, and 470 Common Teal Anas crecca in January 1994. Also notable were the 10, 1411 and 450 African Swallow-tailed Kites Chelictinia riocourii observed at a roost in 1993 - 1995. One or two Pallid Harriers Circus macrourus were present each year and a single Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni was seen in January 1995. The largest number of waterbirds counted was 4,497 in January 1993.

Logistics

Dan Doutchi wetland is not easy to reach and a 4WD vehicle is a must. The best route is by taking the gravel road from Badeguicheri, halfway between Birni N'Konni and Tahoua, west via Illéla and Azao to Chanyassou (also marked on maps as Edir). Just past the village well there is an initially well defined track that leads south to Ambagoua at the northern end of Dan Doutchi wetland 20 km to the south. The track is extremely easy to lose and you are strongly advised to take a local boy from Illéla or Chanyassou as a guide. Agree on a price and other conditions such as food, water and lodging beforehand. Check with various people that the boy indeed knows the road, or talk to people at the SAE (Service d'Arrondissement d'Environnement) in Illéla. There are no facilities at Dan Doutchi wetland. Bring your supplies and equipment for an overnight stay with you. A visit for just the day means a lot of effort for relatively little return: you don't want to drive there or back in the dark and birding is of course best early and late in the day. When you arrive at the wetland introduce yourself in the local village so people will know why you are there.

NE009 Tchérassa Reservoir, c150 ha, coordinates 13°51'N 05°18'E, altitude 270 m

Site description

Tchérassa Reservoir, also known as Tyéra(s)sa, is a permanent reservoir which takes its name from the nearby village located 6 km north-east of the town of Birni N'Konni in southern Niger. Birni N'Konni lies about 450 km by sealed road to the east of Niamey. The Reservoir is filled by surface run-off and is used as a source of water for irrigation during the dry season. Average annual rainfall during the period 1961 - 1990 in the Birni N'Konni area was approximately 450 mm. However, rainfall totals differ considerably from year to year, which affects the size of the wetland: the surface area of the reservoir varied from 65 to 125 ha at the times of the waterbird censuses. The water of the wetland has been characterised as brackish and alkaline and low in nutrients.

The reservoir is owned by government but may be used by the local population under supervision. The local fishery produces an annual catch estimated at 25-30 tonnes; fish species include Clarias anguillaris, Oreochromis niloticus, Tilapia zillii, Protopterus annectens, Bagrus bayad, Auchenoglanis spp. and Schilbe mystus. Grazing and watering of livestock are also important as are market gardening, fruit growing and the cultivation of sugar cane. Given the lack of trees in the Birni N'Konni area, cutting of the adjoining Acacia nilotica riparian woodland seems a real possibility. At the very least there will be increased collection for firewood from there. The Direction Départemental de l'Environnement (DDE) would like to remove the dead trees from the reservoir itself to allow the easier movement of boats and the use of certain fishing equipment. Whether such removal would have any effect on the birds is unclear. The DDE would also like to increase fish production through the introduction of Lates niloticus and Heterotis sp. and wishes to combat invasion of the edges of the reservoir by sedges Cyperus spp.

Birds

The only thorough count of the Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis roost, which lies immediately downstream of the dam in a stand of Acacia nilotica, dates from 1994 when an estimated 15,000 were present. According to local inhabitants, the roost had then been in use for a number of years. The total number of waterbirds counted in 1994 was 18,025. In January 1995 2,100 White-faced Whistling Ducks Dendrocygna viduata were present. Two Pallid Harriers Circus macrourus were reported in February 1998. In total nearly 40 species of waterbird and 10 species of raptor have been reported from the Reservoir. It is not a top-of-the-bill place for birds, but it is quite pleasant for a morning or evening birding when you are spending the night in Birni N'Konni.

Logistics

Tchérassa Reservoir is easily reached from Birni N'Konni. Either drive to the village of Tchérassa, 6 km along the road to Maradi and Tahoua, or take a bush taxi there. Once there ask a local person how to get to nearby Tchérassa reservoir on the north side of the road. Make sure they don't send you to Nadabar or Mozagué Reservoirs, which are 10 km further out and on the south side of the road. In Birni N'Konni basic supplies and accommodation can be found.

NE010 Mozagué Reservoir, c1,300 ha, coordinates 13°54'N 05°27'E, altitude 275 m

Site description

Mozagué Reservoir is situated near the village of Mozagué or Mozagé, 20 km east of Birni N'Konni in an old river bed. The reservoir is filled by surface run-off during the rainy season and is used as a source of water for irrigation during the dry season. In the surrounding area there are outcrops of calcareous rocks. The maximum area of the reservoir is 1,300 ha but its extent is heavily dependent on recent rainfall; the reservoir is shallow (5 - 7 m) with gently sloping sides, such that levels fall quickly after the rains and water only lasts for about 8 months. Average annual rainfall in the Birni N'Konni area for the period 1961 - 1990 was approximately 450 mm with large yearly variation. At the times of the surveys in January-February, the water area of the reservoir measured only 10-50 hectares. The water of the reservoir has been characterised as brackish and alkaline, with low levels of nitrogen but very high levels of phosphorus in the quite clayey sediment. The reservoir supports no aquatic or woody vegetation and is entirely surrounded by farmland.

The reservoir is owned by government but may be used by the local population under supervision. The reservoir is heavily fished for Clarias anguillaris and Oreochromis niloticus using cast and set nets. Watering of livestock (cattle and sheep) is also important. There is a considerable amount of dry-season cultivation of e.g. Dolichos lablab beans and cassava utilising residual water in soil recently exposed ('culture de décrue'). Threats are poorly known but may include disturbance by the local population, both directly and through increasing use of the reservoir and its surroundings. The Direction Départemental de l'Environnement (DDE) wishes to plant Echinochloa stagnina along the reservoir edges as fodder for livestock and to introduce the fish Bagrus bayad.

Birds

Waterbirds have been counted at Mozagué in January 1993 - 1998 during which time 32 species were recorded. These include up to 1,000 Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus (in January 1995) and up to 2,350 Little Stints Calidris minuta (in January 1990). No doubt because of the large numbers of small fish present, five species of tern totalling 915 individuals were seen in January 1993, as well as Grey-headed Gulls Larus cirrocephalus (every visit) and Common Black-headed Gull L. ribidinus (once).

Logistics

Mozagué Reservoir is only a 25 km drive from Birni N'Konni, most of it along the sealed road to Maradi. About 6 or 8 km past the turn-off to Tahoua there should be a sign for Mozagué along a dirt road to the right, otherwise just ask a local person a bit past the Tahoua turn-off. The dirt road mentioned leads into Nigeria between the lower end of Mozagué Reservoir and the top end of Nadabar Reservoir (which is deeper, holds water for much longer, but usually has less birds). In Birni N'Konni basic supplies and accommodation can be found.

NE011 Lassouri-Karandi wetlands, c100 ha, coordinates 14°02'N 09°35'E, altitude 415 m

Site description

The Lassouri - Karandi wetlands are a complex of two semi-permanent wetlands, partly surrounded by a dune system, 8 km south-east of Damagaram-Taker and 70 km north-east of Zinder. Lassouri, also called Lassiri, is relatively deep and steep-sided with a maximum area of approximately 25 ha. Karandi, also called Galdimari, is very shallow and at its greatest extent occupies about 75 ha. They are filled by surface run-off but are probably also fed by groundwater originating in the surrounding dunes. Less than 1 km apart, Lassouri and Karandi are connected by open water when full but become isolated as water levels drop. According to local villagers the two wetlands dry out completely in most years. In 1997 they were almost dry by February. Average annual rainfall in the Lassouri area for the period 1961 - 1990 was approximately 300 mm but variation between years is large. The area of water during waterbird censuses in January-February varied from 11 to 20 ha for Lassouri and from 25 to 65 ha for Karandi.

The water of the wetlands has been characterised as somewhat brackish and alkaline with average levels of nitrogen and low levels of phosphorus in the very sandy sediment. Vegetation includes abundant Leptochloa flavescens and Cyperus alopecurioides with, at Karandi, also Nymphaea spp. and probably Echinochloa stagnina. Typha australis was introduced in 1995. The surrounding area, particularly north-east of Lassouri, supports some woodland consisting of Balanites aegyptiaca, Ziziphus mauritiana, Prosopis juliflora, Hyphaene thebaica and various fruit trees (lemon, guava, tamarind). Around Karandi there are fewer trees but those present include Acacia nilotica, Hyphaene thebaica and locally, Phoenix dactylifera.

The wetlands are owned by the government but may be used by the local population under supervision and the wetlands are much used for the grazing and watering of livestock. Other activities include crop growing on residual moisture and fishing for Clarias anguillaris and Protopterus annectens. There appear to be few immediate threats other than greater usage of the wetlands and / or their catchments due to increased demographic pressure.

Birds

Surveys were carried out at these wetlands in January and February 1993 - 1998, during which a total of 48 species of waterbird were recorded. Significant observations include 5 Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca, 1,600 Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata, 2,500 Northern Pintail A. acuta and 3,100 Garganey A. querquedula in January 1993, 200 Common Teal A. crecca in January 1995, and 1,600 Fulvous Whistling Ducks Dendrocygna bicolor in January 1996. Two Greater White-fronted Geese Anser albifrons were seen in January 1995. More than 7,000 waterbirds were counted at Lassouri - Karandi in three out of the six years including 1995 when coverage of Karandi, the largest wetland, was only 20%. What makes these two wetlands particularly interesting is their contrasting character, with dabbling ducks mostly present on Karandi and diving ducks, including rare species for Niger like Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis, Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope, Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula, and Common Pochard A. ferina, present on Lassouri.

Logistics

From Zinder drive north along the road to Tanout and after about 8 km turn right onto the gravel road to Damagaram-Taker. It is quite a pretty drive of about 60 km. In Damagaram-Taker ask for directions to Lassouri-Karandi which lie about 8 km to the south-east. A 4WD vehicle is recommended because of the sand on the last 8 km. A day trip from Zinder, where you can find accommodation and supplies, is certainly an option. You may also be able to find basic supplies and accommodation in Damagaram-Taker: we ourselves never tried.

NE012 Chiya wetland, c250 ha, coordinates 13°48'N 09°10'E, altitude 400 m

Site description

Chiya or Chia wetland lies 2 km north-east of the village of Chia-ta Inga, 10 km due north of the town of Miria or Mirriah and 15 km east of Zinder, in southern Niger. It is a rain-fed semi-permanent, shallow lake of up to 2 m in depth. Average annual rainfall in the Mirriah area for the period 1961 - 1990 was approximately 380 mm. However, there is enormous variation in rainfall between years which results in large annual differences in the size of the wetland. During our waterbird surveys the size of Chiya wetland ranged from 0 to 250 ha.

The water of the wetland has been characterised as somewhat brackish and alkaline, with average levels of nitrogen and low levels of phosphorus in the quite sandy sediment. Chiya supports an abundant vegetation of waterlilies Nymphaea lotus and wild rice Oryza longistaminata. Echinochloa spp., Neptunia oleracea and Ipomoea aquatica are also common. There are patches of water lettuce Pistia stratiotes. The woody vegetation surrounding the wetland consists of Acacia seyal, A. nilotica, A. albida, Adansonia digitata, Celtis diversifolia, Anogeissus leiocarpus, Piliostigma reticulatum, Hyphaene thebaica, Borassus aethiopum and Phoenix dactylifera.

Chiya wetland is owned by government but may be used by the local population under supervision. Cropping on residual moisture, watering of livestock and fishing for Protopterus annectens, Oreochromis niloticus and Clarias anguillaris are important activities. Potential further spread of Pistia stratiotes may affect the wetland. In addition, there are more general threats from increased utilisation of the wetland itself and of its catchment. This could lead to erosion and sedimentation problems. Trapping of European White Storks Ciconia ciconia, reported in the 1970s (see below) has apparently stopped.

Birds

Waterbird surveys have been undertaken at Chiya in January and February 1994 - 1998. A total of 36 species of waterbird was recorded. The number of waterbirds counted in January 1995, when only 50% of the wetland was surveyed, was 15,461, of which 11,600 were Northern Pintail Anas acuta. In addition 4,100 Garganey A. querquedula and 502 Northern Shoveler A. clypeata were counted in January 1994, 5 Common Pochard Aythya ferina and 3 Tufted Duck A. fuligula in January 1995 and a single Baillon's Crake Porzana pusilla in March 1998. Giraudoux et al. (1988) mention up to 600 European White Storks Ciconia ciconia being seen at Chiya during the dry seasons of 1977 - 1978 and 1978 - 1979, when many were trapped by local hunters. Of the rings so far recovered four were from storks from Spain, one from Morocco, and one from Estonia. Giraudoux et al. make no mention of large numbers of Palearctic duck at Chiya while no storks were seen during the more recent surveys. This may point to a change in character of the wetland, or of migration patterns. Of species of global conservation concern, 5 Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca were seen in January 1995, a single Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus in January 1996, and a single Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni in February 1997.

Logistics

Chiya wetland is best visited from Zinder. Take the sealed road from Zinder south-east to Diffa for 20 km until just before Miria where there is an un-sealed turn-off left (north) to Chia-ta Inga. Ask for directions locally, it is only 7 km to the village and a further 2 to the wetland. A 4WD vehicle is recommended but it is also possible that bush taxis go to Chia-ta Inga. You can also take the bush road from Zinder due east to Gafati (12 km) and then on to Zermou. In Gafati ask for directions to Chiya wetland which lies 5 km further east and then 4 km south. Continuing on the bush road to Zermou and Mazamni takes you to Atchi wetland (see the site description below). In Zinder you can find accommodation and supplies. You may also be able to find basic supplies and accommodation in Miria: we ourselves never tried.

NE013 Atchi wetland, c800 ha, coordinates 13°58'N 09°28'E, altitude 435 m

Site description

Atchi wetland is a large, shallow, (semi-?) permanent wetland surrounded by relatively dense woody vegetation. It is located 2 km south-east of the town of Mazamni, 30 km north-north-west of Guidimouni and 55 km east-north-east of Zinder in southern Niger. The wetland is said to have formed in the mid 1980s, possibly following the cessation of the 1983 - 1984 drought, in a way similar to that by which Dan Doutchi wetland (NE008) was formed after the end of the 1973 - 1974 drought. Atchi wetland is dependent on surface run-off following rain and its maximum known extent is an estimated 800 ha. Average annual rainfall in the Mazamni area for the period 1961 - 1990 was approximately 320 mm but there is considerable yearly variation.

The water of the wetland has been characterised as fairly fresh and alkaline with high levels of nitrogen but low levels of phosphorus in the quite clayey sediment. The wetland is heavily vegetated. In January 1995 there was about 50 ha of Leptochloa flavescens and Ludwigia adscendens diffusa as well as some wild rice Oryza sp. and waterlilies Nymphaea lotus. According to local villagers, water lettuce Pistia stratiotes reached Atchi in about 1993 and, by 1995, had already spread over a considerable area. Open water was estimated to cover 200 ha then, while a further 400 ha supported riparian forest made up of Acacia nilotica, A. raddiana, Balanites aegyptiaca, Mitragyna inermis and Ziziphus mauritiana.

Atchi wetland is owned by government but may be used by the local population under supervision. There is much grazing and watering of livestock and some fishing using set lines and set nets. Fish species include Clarias anguillaris and Protopterus annectens. There is little market gardening around the perimeter, probably because the surrounding woody vegetation makes that difficult. Further spread of Pistia stratiotes may affect the wetland. In addition, there are more general threats from increased utilisation of the wetland itself and of its catchment. The remains of some ducks were found in the camps of fishermen, but were thought to have been caught unintentionally in nets.

Birds

The wetland was surveyed in January and February 1995 - 1998 during which time 26 species of waterbird were observed. In January 1995 14,216 waterbirds were counted on only 5% of the total area. Of these, 5,000 were Northern Pintail Anas acuta, 2,000 Garganey A. querquedula and 7,000 were unidentified ducks, probably also of Palearctic origin. As with many other wetlands in the region, Atchi's importance to birds varies greatly from year to year according to local and regional rainfall patterns.

Logistics

Atchi wetland is best visited from Zinder. Take the bush road from Zinder due east to Gafati and then on to Zermou and north-east to Mazamni and ask for directions in Mazamni. A 4WD vehicle is recommended but a bush taxi may also get you to Mazamni from where you can walk the 2 km to Atchi wetland. On the way you will pass close to Chiya wetland (site NE012 above) which lies about 6 km to the south-east of Gafati. A good option is a day trip to Atchi from Zinder where there is food and accommodation. I do not know what facilities there may be in Mazamni but there will not be much.

NE014 Dilia de Lagané, c100,000 ha, coordinates 15°10'N 12°10'E, altitude 300-380 m

Site description

The Dilia or Dillia de Lagané is a linear depression stretching some 200 km from the southern end of the Termit Massif south-east to Nguigmi - at the edge of the former extent of Lake Chad 1,500 km to the east of Niamey. The depression is probably a graben or structural depression, which carried water to Lake Chad during the last ice age when the climate was much wetter. The Dilia lies in a very sparsely populated area of low rainfall (annual average <200 mm for the period 1961 - 1990). Vegetation is sparse; much of the Dilia de Lagané lies in the northern Sahelian semi-desert grassland and shrubland zone, while the southern quarter falls within the Sahelian Acacia wooded grassland and deciduous woodland zone. Land use is probably restricted to nomadic and / or transhumance livestock rearing. With the legal resumption of hunting in Niger in 1996, it is likely that bustards are being hunted again. Even before 1996, foreign officials were reported to have visited the country for the express purpose of hunting bustards among other target species including with falcons.

Birds

What information there is on the birds of the Dilia de Lagané dates from a visit by Peter Jones in August 1975, whose observations were included in Giraudoux et al. (1988). Of the 16 Sahel biome species known from Niger, 11 were reported from the Dilia by Jones (see the table at the start of this section). Among other species three nests with eggs of the Nubian Bustard Neotis nuba were found. Arabian Bustards Ardeotis arabs were recorded on numerous occasions while a Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus was seen once. Of the other Sahel biome species, Golden Nightjar Caprimulgus eximius has been reported only from this IBA though the species is known to occur in a number of other places in Niger as well. Two Sahara-Sindian biome and one Sudan and Guinea Savanna biome species also occur in the Dilia (see the tables).

Logistics

Nguigmi is the most logical place from which to visit the Dilia de Lagané and basic accommodation and supplies should be available there. A 4WD vehicle is a must. In the Dilia itself you will probably not even find a vendor with candies or cigarettes, much less a shop, petrol station or garage. For the even more adventurous it is also possible to drive from Zinder or Tanout 400 or 300 km north-east to the Termit Massif, and from there 300 km south-east through the Dilia to Nguigmi. Either way, make sure you check about the security situation before setting off and while on the road.

NE015 Reserve Naturel National Aïr-Ténéré, c17,736,000 ha (Strict Nature Reserve 1,280,500 ha), coordinates 19°12'N 09°30'E, altitude 400-1988 m

Site description

The National Nature Reserve of the Aïr and the Ténéré covers the eastern half of the Aïr Massif and the western part of the Ténéré Desert. The Aïr massif reaches 2,022 m (1,988 m within the reserve). It was called the 'Switzerland' of Africa by the explorer Barth in 1850 and may be regarded as a Sahelian outpost in the Sahara. The Aïr-Ténéré forms a complex mosaic of arid and hyper-arid environments with truly stunning landscapes. Five principle habitats are recognised: mountains; plateaux; large wadis (dry water courses); small-scale irrigated horticultural areas; and stony or sandy desert. Standing water may occur for longer or shorter periods in all five habitats.

The National Nature Reserve of the Aïr and the Teneré was proclaimed in 1988. A Strict National Reserve, also called the Addax Sanctuary, was established within the boundaries of the Nature Reserve at the same time. The reserve also contains important archaeological and palaeontological sites. The two reserves were declared a World Heritage Site in 1991. The reserve belongs to the state which appoints the team responsible for its participatory management. The Niger Government, WWF and IUCN used to run a large development project in the reserve which sought the sustainable use of resources for the benefit of the inhabitants of the reserve and the preservation of their traditional activities of livestock raising, market gardening and transport by camel caravans. In addition, the project tried to develop new forms of sustainable utilisation of natural resources including tourism. The project had to be discontinued in 1990 because of armed rebellion. Moves to re-open the project began in 1997.

The reserve is one of the few places in the world where wild olive Olea laperrinei still occurs. Mammals of global conservation concern in the Aïr and Teneré include Cheetah Acinonyx jubatus (Vulnerable), Dorcas Gazelle Gazella dorcas (Vu), Dama Gazelle G. dama (Endangered) and Barbary Sheep Ammotragus lervia (Vu). Scimitar Oryx Oryx gazella dammah (EW) and Addax Addax nasomaculatus (Critical) used to occur but are presumed to do so no longer. Although little information is available, larger wildlife in particular is likely to have suffered from shooting and poaching during the period of rebellion, as well as at other times, including by the armed forces. The local population is much involved in the management project, and tries to maintain earlier achievements. There was, however, no formal management plan for the reserve; instead, two- or three-year programmes were formulated on a rolling basis. Other threats include tourist vehicles pursuing wildlife to obtain photographs, overgrazing, competition / disturbance by livestock, over- exploitation of firewood (near centres of population), the illegal commercial collection of wood and the failure of reserve authorities to obtain the full recognition of the reserve by other government departments.

Birds

See the tables at the start of this section for the 13 Sahara biome species and the 8 Sahel biome species found in the Aïr. Information on birds of the Aïr and Ténéré derives mainly from Newby et al. (1987) and Newby and Canney (1989?). The latter list 164 species for the Reserve. Of these, 41% are resident, 12% are intra-Africa migrants (mostly present only during the rains) with the remaining 46% wintering or passage migrants from the Palearctic. Nubian Bustard Neotis nuba is likely to breed and is present all year. Given the size of the reserve, the population is likely to be important; in 1989 there were 38 observations of at least 47 birds. The (northern) Aïr appears to be on a migration route of Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus among many other passerines and non-passerines with several observations from March and June. Other notable species include Ostrich Struthio camelus.

All 14 Sahara-Sindian biome species known from Niger have been reported (see the tables at the start of this section). Of these, 12 are resident breeders, Crowned Sandgrouse Pterocles coronatus is either resident or a breeding migrant while Sooty Falcon Falco concolor is merely a vagrant. Of the eight Sahelian biome species reported from the reserve, seven are breeding residents while Cricket Warbler Spiloptila clamans was only observed once. Arabian Bustard Ardeotis arabs, Golden Nightjar Caprimulgus eximius and Sennar Penduline Tit Anthoscopus punctifrons may also occur but have so far only been reported from nearby areas.

Logistics

Tourist tours mostly start from Agadez, to which there are direct flights from France. If you want to go on your own you will need a 4WD vehicle and a guide. Bookings can be made locally from Niamey and from Europe. Basic supplies and accommodation are available in Agadez.

For further details, download the country IBAs from BirdLife International.

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