How to Pick a Garden Plant for wild birds

Having wild birds in your backyard garden is so magical that it makes you feel creative, satisfied, fulfilled and peaceful as a birder. Even with that in mind, sometimes it is not easy to choose a garden plant that is good and healthy enough to grow to beautiful flowers, herbs or shrubs to attract garden and wild birds such as sunbirds, mouse birds, Bee-eaters, Eastern grey-plantain eater among others. Bird twitcher and a gardener both starters and experts need to know how to select the best plants for their garden. Here are the few guidelines to getting the best plants for your backyard to attract those birds.

backyard bird flower

  1. Take into account the climate of your region because plants differ in tolerant to cold, heat and moisture and also the endemic to migratory bird species frequenting your backyard.
  2. Know the types of wild birds in your locality and the kind of flowers they are attracted too.
  3. Choose the best nectar producing flowers for garden birds
  4. Take clearly labeled plants so that you know exactly what you are buying and if it is what you want.
  5. Pick those plants that are sturdy with a full rounded, healthy look. Remember, a healthy plant doesn’t look dry and shriveled.
  6. Spurn any plant that’s yellow, wilting, spindly, struggling. Have damaged leaves, look gnawed around the edges, have greenfly or anything else on them.
  7. Shake the plant out of the plastic container that is concealing the root and take a good look at it. Choose a plant that has several small roots rather than one with one or two larger roots.
  8. Check containerized plants before paying for them. You do not want to buy plants with spiraled root system because it won’t grow well.
  9. If you are out to buy shrubs, try to get a decent shape and not thin or straggly. Some sellers will convince you to buy it so that you prune it yourself but remember getting it to good shape will take a long time and it will be easier for you to learn how to prune if you know what the thing ought to look like before you begin.
  10. In case you are buying trees, don’t buy tall ones because the roots will be left behind when they are moved so buy small young trees. Preferably pick a tree that is in the second year from seed.
  11. If you are buying bulbs, examine them for pests, fungus and rot but remembers some birds feed on these insect, the more it attracts insect the better for small garden birds
  12. If you are buying seeds, buy fresh ones not stale and check the date. Those that don’t have dates on the packet, buy only from reliable sources and keep them sealed till you are ready to plant them. Those that you are ordering by posts, always make sure you are buying them from reputable, well established sources.
  13. Never buy anonymous plants without a grower’s label from greengrocers or supermarkets because you can never be sure of quality.
  14. Never impulse buy in a nursery, make a list of what you want and confirm their availability. This prevents you from impulse buying and the seller convincing you to get alternative for what they do not claiming it’s equally good.
  15. Wild bird likes strong and attractive color; yellow and red sometimes is the best attractor of the backyard garden birds.
  16. Plants and shrub that grow tall and bushy will attract bird of prey, that will be predating on the small garden birds hence avoid plants that tend to grow tall.

Finally, check out the plants will like your soil, produce good scent and attract so many garden and wild birds. Then check if they mind any local problems you may have e.g. shade, pollution from motorways and factory fumes. And then find out how much space that the plants will eventually need.

Mentoring Youths in Bird Watching and Conservation

We’ve taken it upon ourselves to engage the youths in bird watching and related activities by starting a weekly bird watching exercise. The initiated by George of Bird Twitcher and Ibrahim Onyango is to identify and support our youths to contribute to the greater conservation of birds around Lake Kanyaboli. Already 30 youths have been identified to participate in our new weekly morning bird watching with which results and sighting shall be recording both in the Kenya Bird Map and here on Bird Twitcher.

To make this work from the beginning we’ve brought together all our essentials birding gears namely the binoculars, birding guidebooks and checklist, notebooks among other birding accessories. To make it effective and observed majority of birds, the team will be conducting weekly morning bird watching both in the swamp and on the dry land. The number of youths showing interest is growing by each day and this too poses a challenge to the few binoculars and guidebook that we have at our disposal. You can always join us with the youths to enjoy our weekly birding with the youths and for the youths.

We’ve taken it upon ourselves to engage the youths in bird watching and related activities by starting a weekly bird watching exercise. The initiated by George of Bird Twitcher and Ibrahim Onyango is to identify and support our youths to contribute to the greater conservation of birds around Lake Kanyaboli. Already 30 youths have been identified to participate in our new weekly morning bird watching with which results and sighting shall be recording both in the Kenya Bird Map and here on Bird Twitcher. To make this work from the beginning we’ve brought together all our essentials birding gears namely the binoculars, birding guidebooks and checklist, notebooks among other birding accessories. To make it effective and observed majority of birds, the team will be conducting weekly morning bird watching both in the swamp and on the dry land. The number of youths showing interest is growing by each day and this too poses a challenge to the few binoculars and guidebook that we have at our disposal. You can always join us with the youths to enjoy our weekly birding with the youths and for the youths.

We’ve developed a simple recording tool for the youths, an exercise book divided into two sections to record English name on the left side and a vernacular name against the record bird species. To our surprise majority of the young stars can’t name most common bird species such as common Bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus in their mother tongue. The reason being no interests have been developed towards birds by these youths. In our day one youths bird watching a total of 22 bird species recorded and these includes the Black-Headed Heron Ardea melanocephala, Hamerkop Scopus u. umbretta, Streaky Seedeater Serinus burtoni, Gabar Gosh hawk Micronisus gabar aequatorius, Common Bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus, Black-headed gonolek among others. For the full list of bird species watched together with the youths you can always check on Kenya Bird Map.
The youths have a long way to go but as volunteers we’re determined to assist them to learn basic birding skills and bird conservation. With youths in bird watching activities we’re hopeful to create more awareness to the community at large.

A Memorable Birding in Machakos County Over 200 Birds Species Recorded In 5 Days

A dedicated team of birders gathered for a national Site Support Group (SSG) workshop organized by Nature Kenya to review group’s activities progress. With the SGG or Nature Kenya meetings, it’s a norm to carryout morning bird watching within the locality of the workshop. Participants were divided into three groups with a team leader knowledgeable in birds’ identification and a note taker to record bird species and timing.

Birding binoculars and guides were distributed to the teams to assist in bird identification and viewing. Some bird twitchers had both their pair of different binocular models and Birds of KENYA & Northern Tanzania guide books. The Birds of KENYA & Northern Tanzania birding book is an essential reference book for both novice and experience birders having bird watching in Kenya and Northern Tanzania, divided into two sections, one having bird plates with the species photographs/plates and the other section describing the distribution and features of the bird species.

Day one morning bird watching was characterized by poor turnout due fatigue experienced by participants as a result of travelling long journey to the venue. The teams gathered separately at 6.00am Kenya time for a short briefing by the team leaders which lasted for 10 minutes. On this day, the three teams recorded a total of 25 species within a distance of 1km in less than an hour. Even birder’s present were not able to do much birding and saved their energy for the following morning nature walk and bird watching. Sacred ibis Threskiornis a. aethiopicus was all over the dumping site of the facility in what looks like a residential bird of the centre. Another observable feature was the nesting pair of Hadada ibis Bostrychia hagedash brevirostris waking up everybody at the facility with their loud calling tune and not to forget the pied crow competing for food with the sacred ibis at the dumping site. It was such a memorable moment as they kept on chasing each other from the dumping site with the pied crow doing the run escaping the ibis.

Our birding expedition continues in day two covering the lower part of the pastoral centre, and on this day we had some interesting sighting such as African Citril Serinus citrinelloides the Black headed oriole Oriolus larvatus rolleti among other species. It was in day two that a group of 7 bird twitchers decided to have both morning and evening bird in Machakos to record and observe as many birds as possible during their staying in Eastern Kenya. Our morning and evening bird watching continues for the next three days enabling the team to record over 100 birds’ species which has been recorded to the Kenyan Bird Map project to assist in mapping out birds’ distribution in Kenya. One of the evening birding took us to the town sewerage plant; at the plant we spotted common sand piper Actitis hypoleucos, d’Arnaud’s barbet Trachyphonus darnaudii and on this evening we had a record 53 bird species in just 30 minutes of birding.

Our last day of birding took place at the Iveti Forest; we arrived at the forest for bird watching at around noon which was quite odd for effective birding exercise. At the forest the group divided into two teams heading to different directions. Our team enjoyed the forest temperature, sceneries and the plants though most of the habitat plantation is the exotic species of Eucalyptus species. At the Forest our team recorded 10 bird species namely yellow-Whiskered Greenbul Andropadus l. latrirostris, a shy forest bird hiding most of the time but calling from the thickets, Eurasian bee-eaters Merops apiaster these bee-eaters are Palearctic migrants in autumn and March – April and were spotted flying over the forest, it was a good time to record the migrant species in a forested area. We also had the Grey-backed Camaroptera Camaroptera brachyura, African paradise flycatcher Terpsiphone viridis a Tropical Boubou was calling from a distance.


Well that’s how we spend 5 days our staying in Machakos County attending a workshop on annual SSG meeting organized by Nature Kenya. Birding is fun and Machakos County offers some of the amazing bird species restricted to its weather pattern and climatic condition. Birding in teams with a knowledge bird guide or birder adds value to the whole exercise of bird identification, recording and learning.
Our team also had a tripod stand for telescope mounting, this help in identifications of birds out of reach for our binoculars, even though we had some of the best binoculars the telescope was very handy and thanks to Mr. Kafulo for providing one.

Are You Looking for a Place to Conduct Residential Urban Bird Watching In Kenya With Over 100 Bird Species

Pastoral Center in Machakos Town Best for Urban Bird Watching for birders on the move.

Birding in Machakos

Watching many bird species is very difficult in Urban settings and it would be a birder’s dream to find as many bird Species as possible in a short time.
In Kenya, and particularly Machakos town, a travelling bird twitcher should set camp at the St Joseph Pastoral Centre, located less than 1 km from town Centre. The centre is modest with adequate accommodation facilities.

At the centre, birders are able to conduct both indoor and outdoor bird watching. The compound has both Urban and rural setting attracting so many bird species ordinarily present in rural areas.
With the accacia and gravelia plantation within the compound help attract bird species such red headed Weaver, White browed Sparrow Weaver, Black headed Oriole, Little Bee eater, superb starling, among others.

garden wild bird

From the accacia plantation to the valley’s near by you’re able to spot the Fisher’s love birds, African grey fly catcher, slate colored boubou Purple granadier, Red-billed firefinch, variable sunbird among others. If you want to watch the Sacred ibis, move to the center dumping pit just next after the kitchen here you’ll have a chance to spot the Spotted Thick-kness.

While at the centre you’re able to get water birds at the town sewerage plant, although the sewerage plant produce bad smell but offers refugee for reed commorants, pied King Fisher’s among other Species.

All you require are your essetial bird watching gears such as binoculars, guide books, notebook,a pen and a camera.

7 Seven Bird Twitcher Recorded 53 Bird SPecies in 30 Minutes During Evening Birding at Pastoral Centre, Machakos

Wow, what a lovely birding evening, a team of 7 bird twitchers led by Johnson Kafulo of GEDE, MALINDI and JOHN GITIRI, KINANGOP PLATEAU had an objective to find as many bird as possible.  After touring Iveti Forest in Machakos, we set out as usual to the shrubs and open fields around Pastoral Centre.

We were equiped with essential birding equipments including binoculars, notebooks, telescope. It was amazing evening bird watching time with 53 species recorded. As we get out to the shrubs, our first species was Spotted-thick knees, this bird is facing great threat, the environment is being destroyed and soon it will nolonger be at Pastoral Centre, moving in pairs, it keep on moving around not going more 10 meters due to open field being created.

As we move towards the sewerage plant, the Eurasian bee-eaters we’re flying over head in large numbers, this confirmed that migration is on high peak, another migrant spotted was the yellow-billed kite/black kite.

We arrived at the sewerage plant when the sun was almost going down, we set up the the telescope to have a clear view of the species feeding there.

It was time to differentiate the teal swimming in the pool, with our able guide’s, the team were taken through the different features of the teal, and as Gitiri explained the Red-billed teal has a cape like feature as oppose to cape teal, the cape teal also lacked the black color on the head. Reed commorant were also flying over heading to their roosting site. To contribute to the conservation initiative in Kenya the species have been recorded in Kenya Bird Map. These were the bird species recorded.

1. African paradise Flycatcher, pied crow, speckled mousebird, little bee eater, singing cisticola, white headed barbet, Red-headed weaver, Black couco shrike, yellow rumped seed eater, three streaked Tchagra, Willow wabler among others. You can check on the Kenya bird on the other species observed.

 

African open-billed stork
African open-billed stork

Thanks to the team of 7 bird twitchers.

Johnson Kafulo – Gedee, malindi

Jonathan Mukaija – Kakamega

Benson Furaha –

Alex Mwangi – mount kenya

Kibwana -meda creek

John Gitiri- Kinangop Plateau