Great Blue Turaco (Corythaeola cristata)

Jan Van Duinen

Jan Van Duinen

Great Blue Turaco is the largest species of the Turaco family. The adult has turquoise-blue upperparts, including wings and tail. The tail is long and wide, and shows a broad, black subterminal band. Most birds have narrow blue tips. The outer rectrices are partially edged yellow. The wings lack the crimson primaries of other turacos.On the underparts, neck and upper breast are turquoise-blue. Lower breast and belly are greenish-yellow, as the undertail feathers. The tail has black subterminal band. Lower belly, undertail-coverts and tibial feathers are chestnut.
On the turquoise-blue head, there is a conspicuous blue-black raised crest on forecrown and crown. Chin, throat, cheeks and outer eye-ring are greyish. The large convex bill is bright yellow with red tip. The eyes are reddish-brown, surrounded by bare dark turquoise-blue eye-ring. Legs and feet are blackish. Sexes are similar.
Great Blue Turaco have territories which are maintained throughout the year. Like many of the turacos, Great blues are rather shy and seldom descend to the ground except for drinking and bathing. They are quite agile when climbing throughout the branches. Seldom alone, they may be in pairs, family or social groups of up to seven individuals, with several groups often gathering at a single large fruit tree. These turacos are not good fliers, flying short distances and soaring to lower levels of the forest. Courtship involves calling, chasing, feeding each other, raising the crest and the long tail. They call early in the morning and late in the afternoon. They best seen only in Kakamega forest in western Kenya and all the forest in Uganda.

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Noah Strycker, the Record Breaking Birder from Oregon went Birding in Kenya with Joseph Aengwo!

Noah Strycker is a keen birdwatcher who is out to set world record for bird species seen in one calendar year. Noah who lives in Eugene, Oregon, U.S.A. He was in Kenya from 6th – 16th August 2015 where I was privileged to host him. Growing up with a fascination of birds, Noah considered embarking on a yearlong trip to break the world record for most bird species seen in one calender year

photo by Joseph Aengwo

photo by Joseph Aengwo

The current world record is was set by British couple Ruth Miller and Alan Davies in 2008, of 4,341 species. There are an estimated 10,000 bird species worldwide.

Photo by Joseph Aengwo

Photo by Joseph Aengwo

Noah birding itinerary took him to Taita Hills, Tsavo East, Arabuko Sokoke forest along the coast, Mida Creek, Mt. Kenya, Lake Baringo and Kinangop grassland. He flew in to Kenya from Madagascar with a list of 3831 species and he left Kenya for Tanzania with 3996 species, which means he had 165 new species in his list and a country list of 393 in 11 days.  It was nice being part of this record breaking team and I wish him well in his quest to set a new world record.

Photo by Joseph Aengwo

Photo by Joseph Aengwo

Photo by Joseph Aengwo

Photo by Joseph Aengwo

Photo by Joseph Aengwo

Photo by Joseph Aengwo

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Birdwatching in Uganda

Birding Uganda, 22.07.2015 – 29.07.2015

 Joseph and I had been planning this for a while – it was time to get into the West Uganda forests of Budongo and Semliki to see some of the Guinea-Congo rainforest specials. Semliki is the only such forest in Uganda – and DRC is too dangerous (in spite of its enticing visa-free entry policy) – which made this trip even more special!
Places visited over the trip:

1. Budongo Forest (The “Royal Mile”)
2. Murchison Falls National Park
3. Semliki National Park
4. Kibale Forest
5. Bigodi Wetlands
6. Mabamba Swamp

Joseph and I both bagged many lifers – especially the Ugandan specials such as the bizarre Shoebill, Cassin’s Hawk-Eagle, Lemon-Bellied Crombec, Piping Hornbill, Gabon Woodpecker, Blue-Billed Malimbe, Red-Rumped Tinkerbird and the very rare Ituri Batis. It was also our first time to cross the Nile by ferry – which we both found quite fascinating with the amazing view of the Ugandan grasslands along the river. Uganda is truly a special country! We spotted 272 species overall, with notably great views of the Great Blue Turaco and the Red-Headed Malimbe.

Birds spotted over the entire trip:

Abyssinian Ground Hornbill

1. Reed Cormorant – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
2. African Darter – 1 at Murchison Falls NP
3. Pink-Backed Pelican – 1 at Mabamba Swamp
4. Cattle Egret – Many near cattle and buffalo
5. Great Egret – 3 at Murchison Falls NP
6. Purple Heron – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
7. Grey Heron – Several near all types of water bodies
8. Black-Headed Heron – 2 at Bigodi Wetlands
9. Goliath Heron – 1 flying along the Nile at Murchison Falls NP
10. Hamerkop – 3 at Mabamba Swamp
11. African Openbill – 2 at Lake Victoria
12. Woolly-Necked Stork – 2 flying over Lake Victoria
13. Saddle-Billed Stork – 2 flying around Murchison Falls NP
14. Marabou Stork – Common and unmistakeable in all urban areas
15. Shoebill – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
16. Glossy Ibis – 1 at Murchison Falls NP

African Dwarf Kingfisher

17. Hadada Ibis – Everywhere including the airport!
18. Egyptian Goose – 2 at Lake Victoria
19. Yellow-Billed Duck – 3 at Mabamba Swamp
20. Osprey – 1 at Murchison Falls NP
21. African Cuckoo-Hawk – 1 at a forest on the way from Budongo to Semliki
22. Black-Shouldered Kite – 1 on the way near Semliki
23. Black Kite – 4 near Entebbe
24. Palm-Nut Vulture – 3 at Semliki
25. Black-Chested Snake-Eagle – 1 at Kibale Forest
26. Short-Toed Snake Eagle – 1 at Semliki
27. Brown Snake-Eagle – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
28. Western Banded Snake-Eagle – 1 at Semliki
29. Bateleur – 3 at Murchison Falls NP
30. African Harrier-Hawk – 1 at Budongo Forest
31. Eastern Chanting Goshawk – 1 at Murchison Falls NP
32. African Goshawk (melanistic) – 1 at Murchison Falls NP

African Green Pigeon

33. Black Sparrowhawk (Great Sparrowhawk) – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
34. Lizard Buzzard – Several sitting on wires on the way from Budongo to Semliki
35. Tawny Eagle – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
36. Wahlberg’s Eagle – 1 in Budongo Forest
37. Long-Crested Eagle – Several all over Uganda
38. Cassin’s Hawk-Eagle – 2 in Budongo Forest
39. Martial Eagle – 1 flying in Murchison Falls NP
40. Grey Kestrel – 2 near Mabamba Swamp
41. Peregrine Falcon – 1 at Murchison Falls NP
42. Crested Guineafowl – Flock of 6 in Budongo Forest
43. Helmeted Guineafowl – Flocks in Budongo Forest and Murchison Falls NP
44. Crested Francolin – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
45. Heuglin’s Francolin – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
46. Black Crake – 3 in Mabamba Swamp
47. Grey Crowned Crane – 2 at Murchison Falls NP

African Openbill

48. Black-Bellied Bustard – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
49. African Jacana – 3 in Mabamba Swamp
50. Water Thick-knee – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
51. African Wattled Lapwing – 1 at Murchison Falls NP
52. Black-Headed Lapwing – 12 at Murchison Falls NP
53. Spur-Winged Lapwing – Many at Murchison Falls NP
54. Long-Toed Lapwing – 1 in Mabamba Swamp
55. Wood Sandpiper – 1 in Mabamba Swamp
56. African Green Pigeon – 3 in Bigodi Wetlands
57. Tambourine Dove – Many in Budongo and Semliki
58. Blue-Spotted Wood Dove – 1 in Bigodi Wetlands
59. Emerald-Spotted Wood Dove – 1 in Mabamba Swamp
60. Namaqua Dove – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
61. White-Naped Pigeon – 2 in Semliki
62. Rock Dove – Many in urban areas

African Shrike-Flycatcher

63. Red-Eyed Dove – 2 in Bigodi Wetlands and several in Budongo
64. African Mourning Dove – Several all over Uganda
65. Ring-Necked Dove – Many at Murchison Falls NP
66. Grey Parrot – 2 in Kibale Forest
67. Meyer’s Parrot (Brown Parrot) – 2 on the way from Semliki to Entebbe
68. Great Blue Turaco – Several at a forest on the way from Budongo to Semliki
69. Black-Billed Turaco – 1 in Semliki
70. Ross’s Turaco – 2 in Kibale Forest
71. White-Crested Turaco – 1 in Budongo
72. Bare-Faced Go-away Bird – 1 on the way from Semliki to Entebbe
73. Eastern Grey Plantain-Eater – Common throughout Uganda
74. Jacobin Cuckoo – 1 in Budongo
75. Levaillant’s Cuckoo – 1 in Semliki
76. Red-Chested Cuckoo – 2 in Budongo and 1 in Kibale Forest
77. Dusky Long-Tailed Cuckoo – 1 in Budongo
78. African Emerald Cuckoo – 1 in Kibale Forest

African Wattled Lapwing

79. Yellowbill – 1 in Budongo, 1 in Semliki and 2 in Kibale Forest
80. White-Browed Coucal – 1 on the way from Budongo to Semliki
81. Spotted Eagle-Owl – 6 at Murchison Falls NP
82. Greyish Eagle-Owl – 3 at Murchison Falls NP
83. Pearl-Spotted Owlet – 1 in Budongo
84. African Wood Owl – 1 at Murchison Falls NP
85. Marsh Owl – 1 at Murchison Falls NP
86. Freckled Nightjar – 1 at Murchison Falls NP
87. Mottled Spinetail – 1 at Murchison Falls NP
88. African Palm Swift – Many at Murchison Falls NP
89. Alpine Swift – 2 in Kibale Forest
90. Blue-Naped Mousebird – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
91. Speckled Mousebird – Many in all forests
92. Narina Trogon – 1 in Budongo
93. Chocolate-Backed Kingfisher – 1 in Budongo

Black Bee-Eater

94. Blue-Breasted Kingfisher – 2 in Budongo
95. Grey-Headed Kingfisher – 1 at Murchison Falls NP
96. Woodland Kingfisher -1 in Budongo
97. Striped Kingfisher – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
98. African Dwarf Kingfisher – 2 in Budongo
99. African Pygmy Kingfisher – 3 in Budongo and 1 in Semliki
100. Malachite Kingfisher – 1 at Murchison Falls NP
101. Shining-blue Kingfisher – 1 at a lake on the way from Budongo to Semliki
102. Giant Kingfisher – 1 at a lake on the way from Budongo to Semliki
103. Pied Kingfisher – 2 in Semliki
104. Blue-Breasted Bee-Eater – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
105. Swallow-Tailed Bee-Eater – 4 at Murchison Falls NP
106. Red-Throated Bee-Eater – 3 at Murchison Falls NP
107. Madagascar Bee-Eater – 3 at Murchison Falls NP
108. Northern Carmine Bee-Eater – 6 at Murchison Falls NP
109. Blue-Throated Roller – 2 in Semliki

Black-and-white Casqued Hornbill

110. Broad-Billed Roller – Many at Murchison Falls NP
111. Abyssinian Ground Hornbill – 2 in Budongo and 4 at Murchison Falls NP
112. Red-Billed Hornbill – 1 on the way from Semliki to Entebbe
113. African Pied Hornbill – 2 in Budongo
114. African Grey Hornbill – 2 in Budongo, 1 in Kibale Forest
115. Piping Hornbill – 1 in Semliki
116. Black-and-white Casqued Hornbill – Several in Budongo, Semliki and Kibale Forest
117. White-Thighed Hornbill – 4 in Budongo
118. Speckled Tinkerbird – 2 in Semliki, 1 in Kibale Forest
119. Red-Rumped Tinkerbird – 1 in Semliki
120. Yellow-Throated Tinkerbird – 1 at Murchison Falls NP
121. Yellow-Rumped Tinkerbird – 2 in Semliki
122. Yellow-Spotted Barbet – 2 in Semliki
123. Hairy-Breasted Barbet – 2 in Kibale Forest
124. White-Headed Barbet – 1 at Murchison Falls NP
125. Black-Billed Barbet – 4 at Murchison Falls NP

Black-Billed Barbet

126. Double-Toothed Barbet – 2 on the way from Semliki to Entebbe
127. Yellow-Billed Barbet – 1 in Budongo and 1 in Kibale Forest
128. Cassin’s Honeybird – 1 in Kibale Forest
129. Scaly-Throated Honeyguide – 1 in Kibale Forest
130. Lesser Honeyguide – 1 at a lake between Budongo and Semliki
131. Pallid Honeyguide – 1 at Murchison Falls NP
132. Nubian Woodpecker – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
133. Brown-Eared Woodpecker – 1 in Kibale Forest
134. Yellow-Crested Woodpecker – 2 in Budongo
135. White-Headed Saw-wing – 2 in Kibale Forest
136. Red-Breasted Swallow – 1 on the way from Semliki to Entebbe
137. Lesser Striped Swallow – Several on wires across Uganda
138. Wire-Tailed Swallow – 3 at Murchison Falls NP
139. Angola Swallow – 4 on the way from Semliki to Entebbe

Black-Headed Lapwing

140. African Pied Wagtail – Common near all water bodies
141. Cape Wagtail – 1 in Mabamba Swamp
142. African Pipit (Grassland Pipit) – 1 in Bigodi Wetlands
143. Petit’s Cuckoo-Shrike – 1 in Kibale Forest
144. Little Greenbul – Many in Budongo, Semliki and Kibale Forest
145. Little Grey Greenbul – 2 in Budongo and 1 in Kibale forest
146. Plain Greenbul (Cameroon Sombre Greenbul) – Many in Budongo and Kibale Forest
147. Slender-Billed Greenbul – Few in Budongo, Semliki and Kibale Forest
148. Yellow-Whiskered Greenbul – 3 in Semliki
149. Honeyguide Greenbul – 3 in Kibale Forest
150. Spotted Greenbul – 4 in Budongo
151. Leaf-love – 2 in Semliki
152. Toro Olive Greenbul – 1 in Budongo
153. White-Throated Greenbul – 2 in Semliki
154. Red-Tailed Bristlebill – 2 in Kibale Forest

Black-Headed Weaver (Village Weaver)

155. Green-Tailed Bristlebill – 2 in Kibale Forest
156. Red-Tailed Greenbul – 1 in Budongo
157. Common Bulbul – Abundant in open areas
158. Western Nicator – 1 in Budongo and 2 in Semliki
159. Forest RObin – 2 in Semliki
160. Lowland Akalat – 3 in Semliki
161. Cape Robin-Chat – 1 in Kibale Forest
162. Blue-Shouldered Robin-Chat – 1 in Semliki
163. White-Browed Robin-Chat – 3 at Murchison Falls NP
164. Red-Capped Robin-Chat – 1 in Budongo
165. Snowy-Crowned Robin-Chat – 2 in Bigodi Wetlands
166. Sooty Chat – 3 at Murchison Falls NP
167. Fire-Crested Alethe – 1 in Semliki
168. Red-Tailed Ant-Thrush – 3 in Semliki and 1 in Kibale Forest
169. White-Tailed Ant-Thrush – 2 in Kibale Forest
170. Rufous Flycatcher-Thrush – 1 in Budongo, 1 in Semliki and 2 in Kibale Forest
171. African Thrush – 1 at Murchison Falls NP

Blue-Breasted Kingfisher

172. White-Winged Warbler – 1 in Bigodi Wetlands
173. Rufous-Crowned Eremomela – 3 in Budongo
174. Green Crombec – 2 in Semliki
175. Lemon-Bellied Crombec – 2 in Budongo
176. Yellow-Bellied Hyliota – 1 at Murchison Falls NP
177. Green Hylia – 1 in Semliki
178. Red-Faced Cisticola – 1 in Budongo
179. Winding Cisticola – 3 in Mabamba Swamp
180. Tawny-Flanked Prinia – 3 at Murchison Falls NP
181. White-Chinned Prinia – 2 in Budongo and 5 in Kibale Forest
182. Black-Capped Apalis – 1 in Budongo
183. Buff-THroated Apalis – 2 in Budongo and 1 in Kibale Forest
184. Green-Backed Camaroptera – Many in Budongo, Semliki and Kibale Forest
185. Olive-Green Camaroptera – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
186. Grey-Capped Warbler – 1 on the way from Semliki to Entebbe
187. Northern Black Flycatcher – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
188. Pale Flycatcher – 1 at Murchison Falls NP

Blue-Throated Roller

189. Silverbird – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
190. Ashy Flycatcher – 2 in Budongo and 3 in Semliki
191. Swamp Flycatcher – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
192. Grey-Throated Tit-Flycatcher – 2 in Bigodi Wetlands
193. Grey Tit-Flycatcher – 1 in Bigodi Wetlands
194. African Blue Flycatcher – 2 in Bigodi Wetlands
195. African Paradise Flycatcher – 4 in Budongo and 3 at Murchison Falls NP
196. Red-Bellied Paradise Flycatcher – Many in Budongo, Semliki and Kibale Forest
197. African Shrike-Flycatcher – 2 in Budongo
198. Black-and-white Shrike Flycatcher – 2 in Bigodi Wetlands
199. Chestnut Wattle-Eye – 2 in Budongo and 2 in Kibale Forest
200. Brown-Throated Wattle-Eye – 2 in Semliki
201. Chinspot Batis – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
202. Ituri Batis – 2 in Budongo
203. Dusky Tit – 6 in Budongo

Broad-Billed Roller

204. Green Sunbird – 4 in Budongo and 2 in Kibale Forest
205. Little Green Sunbird – 2 in Budongo
206. Blue-Throated Brown Sunbird – 4 in Budongo and 2 in Kibale Forest
207. Blue-Headed Sunbird – 1 in Semliki
208. Western Olive Sunbird – Several in Budongo, Semliki and Kibale Forest
209, Green-Throated Sunbird – 1 in Bigodi Wetlands
210. Scarlet-Chested Sunbird – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
211. Bronzy Sunbird – 1 in Bigodi Wetlands
212. Collared Sunbird – 5 in Kibale Forest
213. Olive-Bellied Sunbird – 1 in Budongo and 2 in Kibale Forest
214. Beautiful Sunbird – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
215. Marico Sunbird – 2 in Budongo
216. Red-Chested Sunbird – 1 on the way from Semliki to Entebbe
217. Purple-Banded Sunbird – 1 in Kibale Forest
218. Variable Sunbird – 1 at a lake between Budongo and Semliki
219. African Yellow White-Eye – 2 in Bigodi Wetlands
220. Common Fiscal – 2 in Kibale Forest

Double-Toothed Barbet

221. Grey-Backed Fiscal – 1 at Murchison Falls NP
222. Brown-Crowned Tchagra – 4 at Murchison Falls NP
223. Black-Headed Gonolek – 1 at Murchison Falls NP
224. White-Crested Helmet-Shrike – 4 at Murchison Falls NP
225. Western Black-Headed Oriole – 1 in Budongo and 1 in Kibale Forest
226. Eastern Black-Headed Oriole – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
227. Fork-Tailed Drongo – 2 in Kibale Forest
228. Velvet-Mantled Drongo – 6 at Murchison Falls NP
229. Pied Crow – Common crow in urban areas
230. Piapiac – 15 at Murchison Falls NP
231. Waller’s Starling – 2 in Kibale Forest
232. Purple-Headed Starling – 2 in Budongo
233. Greater Blue-Eared Starling – 2 in Semliki
234. Splendid Starling – 1 in Bigodi Wetlands
235. Ruppell’s Long-Tailed Starling – 4 at Murchison Falls NP

Eastern Chanting Goshawk (immature)

236. Violet-Backed Starling – 2 at Murchison Falls NP and 1 in Kibale Forest
237. Yellow-Billed Oxecker – Many in Murchison Falls NP
238. Red-Billed Oxpecker – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
239. Grey-Headed Sparrow – Many in rural areas
240. Sheley’s Rufous Sparrow (Kenya Rufous Sparrow) – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
241. Chestnut-Crowned Sparrow-Weaver – 1 at Murchison Falls NP
242. Speckle-Fronted Weaver – 4 at Murchison Falls NP
243. Crested Malimbe – 1 in Budongo
244. Red-Headed Malimbe – 2 in Budongo and 1 in Kibale Forest
245. Blue-Billed Malimbe – 1 in Semliki
246. Slender-Billed Weaver – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
247. Black-Necked Weaver – 4 in Bigodi Wetlands
248. Lesser Masked Weaver – 1 in Fort Portal
249. Vieillot’s Black Weaver – Abundant throughout Uganda
250. Village Weaver (Black-Headed Weaver) – Abundant throughout Uganda
251. Yellow-Backed Weaver – 3 in Budongo

Eastern Grey Plantain-Eater

252. Yellow-Mantled Weaver – 2 in Budongo
253. Maxwell’s Black Weaver – 7 in Semliki
254. Grosbeak Weaver – 2 in Budongo and 3 in Bigodi Wetlands
255. Red-Billed Quelea – Large flock at Murchison Falls NP
256. Northern Red Bishop – 6 at Murchison Falls NP
257. Black Bishop – Common in all open areas with reeds or tall grass
258. Yellow-Mantled Widowbird – 3 at Murchison Falls NP
259. Fan-Tailed Widowbird – 2 in Bigodi Wetlands and 1 in Mabamba Swamp
260. Grey-Headed Negrofinch – 1 on the way from Budongo to Semliki
261, White-Breasted Negrofinch – 1 in Budongo
262. Fawn-Breasted Waxbill – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
263. Black-Crowned Waxbill – 6 at Murchison Falls NP
264. Red-Headed Bluebill – 2 in Budongo
265. Red-Cheeked Cordon-bleu – 12 at Murchison Falls NP
266. Black-Bellied Firefinch – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
267. Bronze Mannikin – 2 in Semliki and 3 in Kibale Forest
268. Black-and-white Mannikin – 4 at Murchison Falls NP
269. African Silverbill – 2 at Murchison Falls NP
270. Pin-Tailed Whydah – Several in all open areas and Murhcison Falls NP
271. Yellow-Fronted Canary – 2 at Murchison Falls NP and 1 in Kibale Forest
272. Brimstone Canary – 2 in Budongo

Giant Kingfisher
Great Blue Turaco
Grey Crowned Crane
Grey-Headed Kingfisher
Grey-Headed Sparrow
Hairy-Breasted Barbet
Levaillant’s Cuckoo
Lizard Buzzard
Pale Flycatcher
Palm-Nut Vulture
Pin-Tailed Whydah
Red-Bellied Paradise Flycatcher
Red-Tailed Ant-Thrush
Rufous Flycatcher-Thrush
Shining-Blue Kingfisher
Swallow-Tailed Bee-Eater
Tawny Eagle
Violet-Backed Starling
Water Thick-Knee
Our last day at Mabamba swamp got washed out due to heavy rain, else we were hoping to give 300 species a shot! Joseph and I were quite satisfied with 272 species which included 3 days of forest birding and 2 days of long-distance driving with intermittent birding. We were lucky with many specials on the trip but also missed out on some Semliki specials like White-Crested Hornbill, Red-Billed and Black Dwarf Hornbills, Yellow-Throated Nicator, Fiery-Breasted Bush-Shrike, Brown-Throated Parrot and Red-Bellied Malimbe. It just means we have to visit Uganda again :)

We also discussed implementing some of the tools developed at AviPulse for education and bird conservation in the Baringo region of Kenya, where Joseph is from. I’m really excited to see how this proceeds and to expand the global reach of AviPulse for bird conservation!

We have covered most of the East African species with the Kenya and Uganda birding trips. The next plan is to bird Western Africa starting with Gabon. Can’t wait to get back to amazing Africa!
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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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