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.
Pastoral Center in Machakos Town Best for Urban Bird Watching for birders on the move.
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.
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.
Yala Swamp is known as a birders paradise with arrays of varieties of bird species, and its one of the best bird watching destination site in Kenya. It’s one site with unique ecological characteristics inhabiting several plant and aquatic animal species. The Swamp is found both in Siaya and Busia county surrounded with many satellite and an Ox-bow lake called Lake Kanyaboli and covers over 200 square-kilometer along Lake Victoria. Its one of the Important Bird Area, as designated by BirdLife International with it being an Important Bird Area many would love to see what the swamp offers for bird watchers and travelers.
When planning a visit to the swamp, one has to consider the available accommodation facilities within the region, we have some excellent hotels both in Bondo and Kisumu this to help have an adequate time in the swamp as a one day tour might not provide a better opportunity to watch as many birds as possible. When organizing for a trip to Yala Swamp for birding one is encouraged to carry with them the necessary birding tools such as bird watching binoculars and guides. With the binoculars you’ll be able to observe birds from areas submerged in water and with dense Papyrus habitation. Also carry with your lighter clothes as it might get hotter as the day progress. Before heading for bird watching in the swamp, birders are encouraged to carry packed lunch as walking back and forth in the dense papyrus may prove just difficult
It host water bird species some of which are migratory birds traveling as far as North America, with migratory of birds to the swamp its offer an opportunity for bird ringing and observing already ringed ones. As a bird be prepared to watch the bee eater and notably the most common being the blue breasted, the most endemic birds are also found and a walk around the swamp will give you a chance to watch the papyrus gonolek, papyrus yellow wabler. Papyrus yellow wabler is one of the rare birds and in most cases isn’t easy to observe but in the vast Yala Swamp you’ll be able to watch them. The swamp flycatcher a bird not scared by the presence of people and will freely move from one papyrus stem to the other in search of flies as the name suggest. The papyrus canary has got a home within the swamp and is found where other the swamp places other unique birds found includes the baillor’s crane, white winged warbler, great snapper among others and provide a place for students study ornithology.
If you want to carryout the bird count on water birds then you’ll have a number of bird to record in your birding list, its also a conducive environment for the waterfall bird counts that happens annually. The wetland International in the recent years decided to celebrate the 50th International Water Bird Census on March 21 that brought participants from various countries in Africa in recognition on the importance of the swamp as a home for birds
About Hells Gate
Hell’s Gate is one of the National Park found in Kenya situated around Lake Naivasha with an area cover of 68.25 square km with an outstanding sceneries characterized by the towering cliffs and the water gouges. The venue is suited for bird lovers, rock climbers, mountain biking, picnics, horse riding, game drives, nature walk and team building activities. The park is accessible by a well maintained tarmac road 90km from Nairobi and also from the naivasha air strip
The park’s topography is a combination of a rugged terrain and breathtaking scenery.it is mainly made up of grasslands and shrublands composed of acacia and euphorbia trees. The park has two entrances: the main Elsa gate and the olkaria gate. There are two towers in the park; Fischer tower and the central tower which are good for rock climbing. The park has a beautiful collection of wildlife i.e. the Thompson gazelle and a total of 103 species of birds i.e. the rare lammergeyer vulture.
The national park has got unique features such as the FISCHER TOWER which is a 75ft consisting of rocky tower formed due melting of rocks, its best for rock climbers, bird watchers among other scenic views
Birds at Hells Gate
There are a number of bird species found at hell’s gate from eagles and buzzard, if a birder wants to have a glimpse at some of the rare birds’ species such as Verreaux’s eagle and the Lammergeyer, the Ruppel’s griffon and hooded vultures. The caves and gorges provide one of the safest site for roosting and nesting keeping predators at bay. To have a better sighting birders advice to carry with the birding binoculars and book guide, and the best time to sight the birds includes the morning and evening hours.
At Hells Gate you’ll have a spectacular time watching the Ruppel’s griffon and hooded vultures feeding on the carcasses and one thing to observed among the vultures is the pecking order, the older well build vulture are given priority and when they arrive all the others have to stay aside and way. In some cases the older vultures have stronger beaks to penetrate through the hard skin of the dead animals all these time the other birds have to wait patiently for the arrival of the older bird. Birds of prey are plenty to watch over the cliffs and gorges with a very spectacular view. Then the moment comes when the vulture returns for roosting it’s a memorable time and for bird twitcher to have a view you must wait till evening for the arrival of these vultures
Sometimes weather can be unpredictable and one have to be prepared for the hot sun and it’s advisable to carry with you drinking water to quench your thirst when the need arises. With the many wildlife grazing in the park as a birder you’ll have a glimpse at the ox-pecker, the cattle egrets among other beautiful birds but not forget the swallows flying over the cliffs. Carry with you a note, a camera and a sharp binoculars and if a companied by your child never forget the kid’s binocular to help them have a wonderful birding time. When at the park be cautious of the noisy hyenas which moving from one end of the park to the other chasing away the vulture.
It’s a vulture’s paradise due to the ability to provide them with plenty of food, roosting safe sites and the favorable weather condition and other than the vultures hells gate hosts Augur buzzard, common fiscal, Northern anteater chat, secretary bird and other bird species