Annual waterbird counts are undertaken in Sierra Leone by the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (CSSL). Every year in January, CSSL and other people from universities, ministries, non-governmental organisations and community representatives collaborate to carry out this event.
This event is called the Sierra Leone Waterbird Census (SLWC), which is part of the global waterbird monitoring programme, the International Waterbird Census (IWC), coordinated by Wetlands International. The census has three major objectives: (i) to obtain information on an annual basis of waterbird populations in the region during the non-breeding period of most species (January) as a basis for evaluation of sites and monitoring of populations, (ii) to monitor on an annual basis the status and condition of wetlands, and (iii) to encourage greater interest in waterbirds and wetlands amongst people, and thereby promote the conservation of wetlands and waterbirds in the region.
The most recent census, in January 2017 was very successful, with all major sites surveyed and over 90% of all the count units at these sites covered. These included Yawri Bay, Sherbro River, Sierra Leone River Estuary, Turtle Island and the Scarcies River. Waterbirds counted during the census included cormorants, pelicans, herons, egrets, storks, ibises, spoonbills and flamingoes, but particularly shorebirds and terns. In addition, raptors, kingfishers and other wetland-dependent birds were also seen and recorded. Yawri Bay is by far the most important wetland for coastal waterbirds in Sierra Leone. The vast mudflat areas hold very high numbers of shorebirds and herons, and it is the only site with substantial numbers of Red Knot, Oystercatcher, Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit and Little Stint. Apart from shorebirds, a large flock of Great White Pelican was present and it is also the only site of importance for African Spoonbill and Greater Flamingo.
In 2017, the SLWC formed part of the second coordinated census of the East Atlantic flyway (following the first in 2014), which was organised by Sovon on behalf of the Wadden Sea Flyway Initiative. The 2017 counts in Sierra Leone were also supported financially by WWT and the Wetland Bird Survey Partnership. This work is crucially important not just for assessing the status of waterbirds in the East Atlantic flyway, but also because wetlands in Sierra Leone face numerous challenges that affect birds and other marine species.
Thanks to Papanie Bai-Sesay (CSSL count coordinator) for this news item.