Making Avian Tourism Count to Communities, Ecosystem and Business in Kenya.

With around 10,000 bird species to look at, it should come as no surprise that birdwatching (or ‘birding’) has become one of the more popular nature-related hobbies.Bird watchers, ornithologists and wildlife photographers spend millions of dollars every year travelling around the globe searching for this incredible swimming, walking and flying beauties. It is however, important to note that bird watching, or birding is the fastest-growing recreational activity in the United States, and that the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds alone boasts one million members. It’s a specialist outdoor activity that enjoys a huge global following.

Piero Aberti

Piero Aberti

Kenya is one of those destination where any self respecting birder must visit at least once in their life time. Well don’t get me wrong, I’m not in any way suggesting that we can compare Kenya important bird areas to Manu national park in Peru or Pantanal in the lowland of Brazil!. First, let’s look at the product; there is no doubt about it: when it comes to Landscape, we’re right up there. We have sweeping savannas that makes the heart sing, picture-perfect beaches that cleanse the mind and soaring mountains that pacify the soul on its upward journey. We have hidden universe of creatures in our deep oceans and most importantly, the second-largest collection of bird species on the planet. Now, that is an exceptional fact that put us forward as significant destination to the ornithological community globally. Ken.vogels.bew. - 419
Which brings me to this question, are birders good for birds? Birding and nature tourism are compatible with environmental preservation. Kenya communities living close to important bird’s habitat must take advantage of natural scenic areas by promoting ecotourism. In Promoting bird watching and those areas natural assets will in turn promote a greater awareness of for species conservation and habitat protection and rehabilitation. However, we need to be careful not to over utilize significant habitat which are home to critically endangered and endangered species. Research shows that, the number of visitors increases when more birds are present, but as the number of visitors increases, the number of birds decreases and their minimum distance from the visitors increases, this clearly demonstrate that we must strike a balance between the two.
Birdwatching and twitching tourism has been particularly significant in opening up more remote places including deserts and wetlands, but particularly offshore islands, where more unusual and rare species are to be found. It has contributed to the economic development and environmental management of rural and remote areas, while also being one of the most ecologically sound and sustainable of versions of wildlife tourism. Birding therefore, creates economic value for conservation, and this has been true for different conservation initiative in various part of Kenya, and of important to note is Kakamega Environmental Education Programme (KEEP), Kijabe Environmental Volunteers, Lake Victoria Sunset Birders, Guides of Arabuko Sokoke forest and Lake Baringo Biodiversity Conservation Group._84Y4922001

There is potential of considerable expansion on benefit from avian tourism in Kenya. For example, incomes earned by local workers working in establishment developed to cater for birdwatching interest group and improved fees paid to local bird guides for their priceless services which most of the time contribute notably to client’s satisfaction. By raising local income and developing skills at the destination site, it adds to sustainable local development and community based conservation. At the same time, involvement of the local communities in the avian-tourism, improve the product (birdlife) and enhances popular support for the industry.
Lastly, this extract from an interesting book LIFE LIST, by Olivia Gentile. This is a story about Phoebe Snetsinger, an outstanding birder of our time. ‘ The group drove a van with a pop-up top all over the country, and everywhere there were birds and mammals in plain view, against a backdrop of green-gold grass and occasional lonely acacia tree. Some of the common birds in Kenya –or the ones you see day after day, and after a while, even when you close your eyes-are among the most spectacular. The common Ostrich is eight feet tall and bathes by rolling around furiously in dry dirt.The African Jacana’s back shines like a newly polished copper. TheLittle Bee-eater wears a different shade of green on each feather,or it seem in the four o’clock sun. The Gray Crowned-Crane stands tall and still, with a “crown” that looks like freshly picked wheat.Lichestein's Sandgouse
In a Nature Notes pieces, Phoebe couldn’t say which birds had been her favorites, because pretty much all of them had left her “ecstatic”. “One really has to include the Lilac-breasted Roller, ubiquitous though it is. And how can you compare an Emerald Cuckoo (unbelievable shades of green and yellow) to a group of Madagascar Bee-eater –or a paradise Flycatcher –or a Hoopoe –or an Orange-bellied Parrot (Unlikely combination of bright orange and green –or a majestic Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl –or that jewel of a Kingfisher, the Malachite ?……..I feel like the man in the children’s story ‘Millions of Cats’ who chose them all because they were all the most beautiful.”
Phoebe Snetsinger died in 23rd November 1999 while on birding tour in Madagascar. By the time of her death, she had seen 8398 species! Amazing. Asked of her favorite birding locale in the world, this is what she said “ Kenya, for its “spectacular” and “easily seen” birds.

Posted in Conservation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill (Bycanistes subcylindricus)

J.F.L Van Duinen

This species is commonly seen in Kenya especially around Tugen Hills, Kakamega Forest and Cherangani Hills. It is an easy species to identify and birders will have less difficulty spotting this species even in primary forest habitat as its flight betray his presence.These birds are mostly frugivorous, with the fruits of Ficus trees composing more than half of their diet. Overall, they are known to eat the fruits of over 41 plant genera, which they forage by hopping from branch to branch in the rainforest canopy and reaching for fruit with the tip of the bill, which they then swallow whole. They also consume birds, eggs, insects, bats, snails, lizards, molluscs, other small animal prey, mosses, lichens, and fungi. Sexual dimorphism is exhibited by these species, and male tend to be slightly bigger than their female counter parts.

Posted in Bird of the Week | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Birdwatching In Ethiopia

Bird watching in Ethiopia is not easy as I had came to experience, but despite all those, I managed to add over 40 lifers to my life list, considering that I am a seasoned birder in Kenya. I had previously plan to travel from Nairobi to Addis Ababa by road, but charged my mind after the security situation in northern part of become very unpredictable especially the section of Isiolo-Marsabit-Moyale.

My flight from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport took off 23:30 pm and touched down in Bole International Airport at 1:30 a.m. A woke up in addis Ababa and travelled south of Ethiopia through the western escarpment route of Butajira-Hossana where I spend two nights. After I proceeded to Sodo-Shashemene all the way to Dinsho, the HQ of Bale Mountain National Park. Ethiopia 015

Bale Mountains National Park is a national park in Ethiopia with one of the highest incidences of animal endemicity of any terrestrial habitat in the world. It is home to Mountain Nyala and Ethiopian Wolf.Ethiopia 047
I stayed in Bale Mountain for 2 days after which I back tracked to Shashemenne and I drove south to Dilla Town, a nice high altitude town which was full of life. The next day I started early going south to Hagere Maryam then connected to Yabello town, a small town located is arid and semi arid area, but famous for its ornithological richness.

Photo by Joseph Aengwo

Photo by Joseph Aengwo

After a day there, I started my trip back to Hawassa, a beautiful lake side town where I spent three nights there before going back to Addis Ababa for my flight back to Nairobi. While in Ethiopia I enjoyed their avian richness, unique culture and food and I was treated to some of the most sensational landscapes in southern part of that vast country. I will publish my full trip report once I am done in this blog.Ethiopia 077

Posted in Bird watching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Spotted thick-knee (Burhinus capensis)

Spotted Thick-knee is also referred to as Stone Curlew or Cape Thick-knee. Although it has isolated populations in the Arabian Peninsula, the bulk of its population is in sub-Saharan Africa. In Kenya it is common across much of the region, largely excluding , Mt.Kenya, Aberdare, Kakmega forest , Mt Elgon. It generally prefers open habitats, Baringo special 010Baringo special 015Baringo special 022especially savanna and grassland but also woodland fringes, low stony hills and urban habitats, such as parks, playing fields and parks. This bird is largely resident in our region
It mainly eats insects, doing most of its foraging in a plover-like manner, repeatedly running forward, stopping then jabbing prey with its bill. The following food items have been recorded in its diet; Beetles, crickets ,ear bugs, butterflies and termites and ants.
This species is monogamous, usually territorial solitary nester, although it occasionally forms loose colonies. It often rears two or even three broods in a single breeding season.The nest is a shallow scrape in the ground, sometimes unlined but usually with a lining of a few twigs, animal droppings, leaves or stone chips. It is usually located in grassland, either out in the open or partially concealed beneath a bush.

Posted in Bird of the Week | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Papyrus Gonolek (Laniarius mufumbiri)

Photo@Moses Kandie

Photo@Moses Kandie

When we started our journey at the shore of Lake Victoria in such for the seldom Papyrus Gonolek with Titus who was our boat man, we didn’t expect to have such a luck!!we were all surprised after a few minute of calling back its call, the bird made an impressive show off for a cool 1 minute. This is how such a photo was taken. In Kenya, this bird is mostly seen in the extensive shores of Lake Victoria. For this one, we were at hippo point side. But you have an equal chances of seeing it in Sio port too.
The Papyrus Gonolek is similar to the black headed Gonolek but with a bright-yellow cap complementing her crimson breast, and white bar on the black wing.The bird has specialized habitat requirements, being restricted to papyrus swamps.Papyrus Gonolek is not yet a threatened spicies but she has become rare due to habitat loss and pollution.

Posted in Bird of the Week | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Striped kingfisher (Halcyon chelicuti)

photo@Joseph Aengwo

photo@Joseph Aengwo

Striped Kingfisher is one of the most brilliantly coloured bird, even though it the smallest and least colourful of the non-aquatic Kingfishers. It has strident voice and dramatic courtship display. This species has some blue plumage on scapulars, brown head with streaky lining. The breast is white with some little strikes black upper and red lower mandible. This species is adapted to wooded habitat of dry country side.

Posted in Bird of the Week | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Amani sunbird (Anthreptes pallidigaster)

FullSizeRender

Photo@Moses Kandie

 

The Amani Sunbird is classified as Endangered (EN), considered to be facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild. This elusive bird if found in Coastal subtropical moist lowland forest especially in Arabuko Sokoke in north coast of Kenya and Eastern Usambara mountains in Tanzania.
Adult male has glossy blue-green head, throat and upper breast. Upperparts are iridescent dark purplish blue-green on upper back, scapulars and upperwing coverts. Lower back and rump are blackish. Short tail and uppertail coverts are glossy purplish-blue. Underparts are greyish-white, with orange-red feathers on upper flanks. Underwings are white. The black bill is down-curved. Eyes are dark brown
You have a high chance of watching this species which is confined to a few remnant Brachystegia woodlands. They prefer the high canopy trees and a lot of patience is advised before you enjoy a great view of this beautiful bird.

Posted in Bird of the Week | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment