Ever since IITA developed its headquarters in Ibadan in 1967 there have been staff and visitors with an interest in bird watching. Over time they compiled a checklist and eventually the Forest Reserve and environs were recognised by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area (IBA). This global designation is based on observations of ‘trigger species’ – birds that have a restricted range, or are in serious decline and of conservation concern. Thanks to varied habitats within the campus – forest, lakes and wetlands, gardens and farmland – over 270 different bird species have been recorded.
The main aim of the 3-year Ornithological Monitoring Project (2015-2017), funded by the Leventis Foundation, is to monitor the IBA more effectively by carrying out scientific surveys. These focused observations are carried out four times a year in five transects and two Constant Effort Sites (CES) as shown in the map below. Mist-nets are set up along forest trails to catch birds without harming them. This allows ornithologists to examine the birds, take biometrics, and either ring birds that have not been caught before or record ‘re-traps’.
Timed to coincide with quarterly monitoring, the project organises workshops to train young ornithologists and wildlife management students, and build capacity among professionals, such as rangers.
One activity supported by the Ornithological Monitoring Project is the Ibadan Bird Club. Launched on 5 March 2014 by the Nigerian Conservation Foundation in partnership with the Department of Wildlife and Ecotourism Management, University of Ibadan, and the IITA Forest Project. On 13 February 2016, the club was re-launched as an activity of the project. The club encourages ‘citizen science’, involving all ages and stages of interest in observing birds and recognising conservation issues. Meetings are organised by the IITA Forest Unit on the last Saturday of every month at 4 pm. Membership is free and binoculars are provided. There is also a Facebook Group Page where members interact and share ideas.
Another activity is Spring Alive, a joint initiative by the Nigerian Conservation Foundation and the IITA Forest Unit to engage their Schools Conservation Clubs in observing and protecting migratory birds. A highlight of the program is World Migratory Bird Day, a global event in May each year to raise awareness of the challenges facing birds as they cross oceans and continents.
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