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
To have a generation that cares for birds and their habitats we must encourage our kids to take part in various bird watching activities in their early ages. One way to get children interested in birding is by introducing kids binoculars as young ones love playing with gadgets. Many parents might not be comfortable with their kids handling birding binoculars fearing breakages due to carelessness but you may consider introducing toy binoculars to enable your child get to know how to handle the binoculars.
Kid’s binoculars are no different from other binoculars save for the size.
It’s a birder equipment helping in observation and identification of birds during birding sessions such as morning bird watching, waterfall birds, world migratory bird day celebration among others. It aids their ability to observe, watch and observe features that necked eyes aren’t able to identify.
There are simple safety precautions measures for our kids to adhere to while handling the binoculars as discussed below.
1. Teach your kids the basic parts of the binocular, as this will ensure the kid master various parts and their functions. Knowing functions of various parts help them have a better focusing in the field.
2. Let your child know where the objective lense is found which refers to the front part of the binocular through which light enters for magnification. It’s very important for the child to be aware of the risks associated with touching the objective and magnifications lenses. This part is the easiest and most attractive area for the young ones. Many a times even adult birders are tempted to wipe or clean the lenses using non recommended materials as this will reduce the power of magnification and interference.
3. Binocular trap, is the loose piece of handle embended on the binocular for its safety usage. The first precaution is for your child to put on around the neck to help prevent it from falling off to the ground. Any thing can happen during nature walk events and without wearing the trap you’re risking the binocular.
4. Children should always handle the binocular with their two hands. Never let your child handle it with one hand during birding or at any time using the bino
5. Always use binocular case before, during and after usage as the case prevent it from gathering dust
6. Teach your child how to adjust the binocular. This helps them know where to touch while birding on their own.
7. When not using the binocular, let your child lay them flat instead of having them stand. They are stable while laid and unstable when standing resulting into easy breakages.
8. Don’t run with them while in the field, always be calm as much as possible.
9. Children like throwing objects while passing on to someone. It should be avoided with these equipment.
It’s always a dream for any birder to get a glimpse of as many birds as possible during birding time. World Migratory bird Day is a day set aside to mark the importance of birds migrating from one place to the other, these birds don’t just fly but do so for a reason.
Birds are also known as environment bio indicators assisting researchers, scientists and others detect changes that are about to or happening within a locality. We’ll look at why birds migrate later but let’s get back to the main center of discussion. Conducting WMBD sometimes isn’t easy and many twitchers don’t take part in this important event. How do you I then get involved:
1. Get yourself involved with a bird watching community around you.
This the most easiest way to take part in the celebration, scan around for community coming together to celebrate as this will take you little effort in organizing the event but will join the already planned activity. These communities includes individuals, community based organizations, faith based organization and other civil societies, these groups have what it’s take interm of resources to hold an amazing event.
It’s always amazing to be a team of birders going out looking for birds, the team learn a lot from one another and you will get to count and observed many bird species and be ready for a lifer. The other benefit being in an organized group you are able to access other bird watching cameras for great photo taking, best binoculars and other aiding equipment.
In a group you’ll always have a resourceful birder with years of skills, as a newbie or someone gaining knowledge it’s in your best interest to have these birders mentor you even just for a day as you may not get such an opportunity to meet these great people, always maximise when an opportunity presents itself. As a birder you need some skills to take great snapshots you may be lucky to have a skillful photographer guide you on basic in using camera, different cameras will be at your disposal as this will help you decide on which photographing camera and binoculars to go for.
Birding without knowing where to spot certain bird species is very frustrating, in a group you’ll get a guide from among the birders familiar with the area, this will enable the team to spot as many bird species as possible within a short time. I remember during our bird watching session looking for a papyrus gonolek only to move roound and spot the bird on the starting point.
2. Organize WMBD as an individual or group and invite people
This the most tasking and time consuming way to celebrate the event, you take the lead ensuring everything goes as planned.
Below is a list of things to do
a. Decide on the right date – WMBD is always celebrated on 12/5/ every year, if you find this day okay then it’s better to have it on 12th but at times it’s fall on a day that the invited people aren’t able to attend, with this as an organizer you decide on the best date. It always recommended to either have it a few days like two days before the event or 2 days after the designated dates.
b. Identify the venue
Once you’ve known the day and date it’s now time to look for a venue, consideration should be on accessibility, are invited people able to reach your venue without major challenges, is there a site where visitors can go birding in the morning or at any time
c. List all potential guest to invite.
Potential guest to invite are birders willing to take part, community members who are to be sensitive about the importance of birds, government representative especially wildlife and tourism department to promote avotourism among other stakeholders
d. Do a budget for the event
Any event requires some resources be it financial or materials and WMBD is no exception. You’ll need both book guides, watching gears such as binoculars, cameras among other things. These items can be donated by interested parties willing to support the event. Some basic bird watching materials must be available to help newbie interested in birds.
Financial assistance will help do publicity of the event to create more awareness, we have various ways to publicize an activity but the best and most effective is the use word of mouth. You can also use other means such as community forums, radios among others but these are costly at times.
e. Draft an invitation letter and a resource support request
Your invitation letter should briefly explain the purpose of the invite and why you think they should attend. Here you have to explain about more about WMBD and the importance of birds, in your letter remember to include itinerary of activities.
Your financial request should be seperate from the invite and should contain breakdown of the budget and where you need assistance, be specific with each potential sponsor on what you want them to contribute.Also include other sources of funding to help them know other partners already onboard and their support.
f. Constitute a team
An event to be successful there has to be a team of people working together, have a small team with specific tasks. Some of the tasks your team members can be responsible include distribution of flyers and materials, invitation and follow to visitors, request for financial and item support, birding team leader responsible for birding equipment and guiding guest during bird watching time
g. Draft Itinerary program with your team.
An event program must be done and attached to the invite and resources request letter. A sample program should have time, activity and responsibility section. You can use this sample as a guide when drafting your program.
Time. Activity. Responsible
0600-01000 Morning birding James
1030-12000 Introduction remarks. Organizers team leader
12000-01000-Migration history community elder or any person
02000-03000 Entertainment Various performance groups
04000-05000 Speeches from guest invited guests
05000-06000- Speech from Chief guest
07000 Vote of thanks. organizers team leader
Modify the program to suit your audience and invited persons