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.

What dangers do birds face on their migration?

During bird’s migration, there are hurdles that some types of birds undergo resulting into either injuries or eventually death. There are numerous problems and threat during the movement across the globe. This period provide the opportune time for bird watchers and twiitcher record as many new bird species arriving from other destination into their neighborhoods. But before you finally set your birding camera on a particular bird remember that these birds undergo many challenges. Below is a list of dangers experienced by migrating birds.

1. Hostile weather condition – during movements birds are faced with extreme or strong winds. When this happens birds are forced to reduce flying speed and also makes migrants to drift from their known pathway. With adverse weather birds are forced to use extra energy. When strong storm occurs over water bodies such as seas and oceans palaearctic migrants birds are forced into water resulting into drowning. When weather is unfavorable birds takes long to reach their destination sometimes having difficulty in feed.

2. Predators – vulnerability to predators is very high and many small birds are mostly affected. Eleonera’s Falcon have field day during migration of birds when this happens many birds drift from their route due to fear or when being chased by predators. With predators very few migrating birds eventually reach their destination. Birds are predated on when feeding, on flight or when drinking water. Predators prey on the birds, the young ones and the eggs which make it very difficult for birds to care for young ones. Predators are not only birds of prey but wild animals, humans among others.

3. Collision with objects, flying birds faces numerous hurdles in busy airspaces colliding with airplanes leading to death. Tall building collisions happen where large migrant concentration is very high and this has been observed in Israel. Other obstacle to flight includes window panes, power lines, and geothermal turbines which has been a concern in Kenya to the future existence of vultures. Construction of tall buildings and structures done by the government and private sectors or business entities are the most contributors on the collision factor

4. Habitat destruction, with human activity clearing vegetation for farming and other activities causing migrant birds to find new habitats, this dislocate the birds from their known habitat. The major activities leading to loss of habitats and food includes large scale farming in wetlands forests and grasslands, desertification, deforestation among others. Climate change is a concern too many conservationists as this alter habitat situation of a particular breeding locality. Turning of grassland into farm will affect birds such as Sharp long claw that depends entirely on grass to survive. Bush fire in government forest is rising causing damages to migrant birds.

5. Human activities, migrating birds are persecuted by man. In some places birds offers delicates increasing hunting and trappings activities, large migrating water birds such as African open-billed stork is hunted and sold in the markets. The most affected region is the Busia grassland in Kenya known to host the open-billed stork during the rainy seasons in the month of April. Here locals use various chemicals to poison the birds in the Bunyala rice irrigation scheme. Waders are persecuted in Egypt, while Honey Buzzard faces the same fate in Liberia.

6. Water pollution is one of the challenges forcing birds to change their destination to other unknown areas. In Kenya Lake Nakuru known to host Flamingoes were greatly affected causing flamingoes to move to safe water bodies. The number one contributors to water pollution are the industrial companies discharging waste products into the Lake or water bodies. These not only affect birds but human contract water borne disease resulting to death

The above mentioned causes are a few, to help protect the migrating birds you can take part in bird watching and conservation in your area. Be part of the bird ringing team to known new arrival in the locality and help conserve their habitats. Check also our article on why birds migrate? And a list of birds that migrates, also check on how to conduct a success World bird migratory day to create awareness of moving birds around you. By holding this event your are helping the community understand the importance of birds conservation