November 30, 2011: Northern Carmine Bee-eater

Nothern Carmine Bee-eater

November 30, 2012  bird is Northern Carmine Bee-eater  Merops nubicus                       (photo@ tony crocetta)

Carmine Bee-eaters are carmine in color, except for its greenish blue head and throat, and the bold black mask-like stripe across their eyes. Their eyes are red and they have a black pointed de-curved beak. Their central tail feathers are elongated. Their legs and feet are blackish brown. The sexes are similar in appearance. It is one of the largest species of Merops at 35cm  long. Young birds lack the elongated central tail feathers and are pinkish brown on the mantle, chest to belly, and flanks.

In Kenya they are passage migrant in the area and its distribution is found in the north western part of Kenya, extending  all the way to coast, in areas around Watamu, Tsavo east, Meru national park, Turkana, Nasolot, Kerio Valley and Lake Baringo.

Northern Carmine bee-eaters hunt mainly by keeping watch for flying insects from a perch. The insect is snapped up in the bill, then the bird returns to the perch, where it beats the prey against the perch until it is inactive. A stinging insect is held near the tip of its tail and rubbed on the perch to be relieved of the venom and sting before being swallowed whole. Besides branches, Carmine Bee-eaters use the backs of game or cattle and even large birds, such as Jacksons Bustard or Storks as animate perches, waiting to catch any insects that they disturb. Carmine Bee-eaters also fly freely to bush fires to prey upon fleeing insects.

For the last 10 years of my birding life, I have never came across any species of bee-eater which fails impress!!! Have a great birding week.

Joe

Lake Baringo Birding

Lake Baringo is a fantastic location for bird watching in Kenya. I grew up in Lake Baringo, where I developed my interest in birding and I never get tired of going out to observe all the species in my backyard. Yesterday, with my friend Wilson Tiren, down by the shore of the lake and at the rocky cliff we spotted some impressive species! There are approximately 500  bird species in and around the lake. We spent a full day birding and managed to come up with this list of species for those keen birders who are wondering what can be seen in this area of the Great Rift Valley.

  1. Cattle egret
  2. Intermediate Egret
  3. Hammerkop
  4. Green-backed heron

    Green backed Heron
  5. Hadada ibis
  6. Glossy ibis
  7. Sacred ibis
  8. Grey heron
  9. Egyptian goose
  10. Black-shouldered kite
  11. Imperial eagle
  12. Fish eagle

    African Fish Eagle
  13. Black-chested snake eagle
  14. Eurasian mash harrier
  15. Dark chanting goshawk
  16. Gabar gashawk
  17. Shikra
  18. African harrier-hawk
  19. Verreaux’s eagle
  20. Common kestrel
  21. Pygmy falcon
  22. Lanner falcon
  23. Crested francolin
  24. Black crake
  25. Purple swamphen
  26. African jacana
  27. Spotted thick-knee
  28. Heuglin’s courser
  29. Common sandpiper
  30. Emerald-spotted wood dove
  31. Namaqua dove
  32. Laughing dove
  33. African mourning dove
  34. Brown parrot
  35. White-bellied go-away-bird
  36. Black and white cuckoo
  37. Diedrik’s cuckoo
  38. White-browed coucal
  39. Pearl-spotted owlet
  40. Little swift
  41. Blue-naped mousebird
  42. Pied kingfisher
  43. Striped kingfisher
  44. Grey-headed kingfisher
  45. Woodland kingfisher
  46. Malachite kingfisher
  47. Little bee-eater
  48. Northern carmine bee-eater
  49. Lilac-breasted roller
  50. Rufous-crowned roller
  51. Green wood-hoopoe
  52. African hoopoe
  53. Eurasian hoopoe
  54. Jackson’s hornbill
  55. Red-billed hornbill
  56. Hemprich’s hornbill
  57. D’arnaud’s barbet
  58. Red and yellow barbet
  59. Black-throated barbet
  60.  Lesser honeyguide
  61. Greater honeyguide
  62. Scaly-throated honeyguide
  63. Nubian woodpecker
  64. Grey woodpecker
  65. Rock martin
  66. Red-rumped swallow
  67. Barn swallow
  68. Common bulbul
  69. Northern brownbul
  70. Cliff chat
  71. Isabelline wheatear
  72. White-browed scrub robin
  73. Spotted morning thrush
  74. Olivaceous warbler
  75. Northern crombec
  76. Yellow-bellied eromomela
  77. Red-fronted warbler
  78. Pale prinia
  79. Grey-wren warbler
  80. Yellow-breasted aplis
  81. African-grey flycatcher
  82. Pygmy batis
  83. African paradise flycatcher
  84. Brown-babbler
  85. Northern grey-tit
  86. Beautiful sunbird
  87. Hunter’s sunbird
  88. Eastern violet-backed sunbird
  89. Brubru
  90. Slate-coloured boubou
  91. Sulphur-breasted bush-shrike
  92. Grey-headed bush-shrike
  93. Northern white-crowned shrike
  94. Drongo
  95. Black-headed oriole
  96. Red-billed oxpecker
  97. Greater-blue-eared starling
  98. Superb starling
  99. Yellow-spotted petronia
  100. Grey-headed sparrow
  101. White-browed sparrow weaver
  102. White-headed buffalo weaver
  103. White-billed buffalo weaver
  104. Black-headed weaver
  105. Lesser-masked weaver
  106. Vitalline masked weaver
  107. Northern masked weaver
  108. Jackson’s golden-backed weaver

Protect the Lesser Flamingo – save Lake Natron!

With this week’s bird of the week being the Flamingo, it reminded me of an important environmental and conservation concern regarding this spectacular pink bird: SODA ASH (sodium carbonate). The Eastern Rift Valley is home to Lake Nakuru, Lake Bogoria, Lake Elementaita, Lake Magadi, and Lake Natron – all soda lakes, famous for providing the habitat of the near-threatened Lesser Flamingo.

Sodium carbonate is used in many household and industrial products and is being harvested in Lake Magadi, Kenya by TATA Chemicals, who are also proposing to set up a new environmentally devastating plant at Lake Natron, Tanzania.

The introduction of a soda ash plant into Lake Natron would have catastrophic effects on the already near-threatened Lesser Flamingo. Not only would the plant lead to habitat degradation and species loss, but its development would also be detrimental to East African tourism, and the livelihood of the Maasai community living in the surrounding area.

Bird Life International highlighted these concerns in April 2011 with their article “Fresh concerns as President orders Lake Natron soda ash mining fast tracked

“Lake Natron is the only regular breeding site for Lesser Flamingos in Eastern Africa. The 1.5-2.5 million Lesser Flamingos – which represents three quarters of the world population – breed only at Lake Natron. ………Noise from the heavy equipment, the presence of people and a network of pipes will chase away the birds which are highly sensitive to disturbance while breeding”

Lessons learned in Lake Magadi highlight that little to no economic or development benefits have come from harvesting soda ash in the magical waters home to the flamingo.

“Soda ash mining at Lake Magadi has left local communities disillusioned with little to show for the 100 years of mining. The environment has been damaged and fresh water nearly depleted”

With the re-emergence of the issue recently, the Star published an environmental commentary, ‘Don’t Fund Lake Natron Mining’ advocating halting the development of a soda ash factory on Lake Natron.

Let this be a call to bird enthusiasts, ornithologists, conservationists, environmentalists, and tourism professionals to come together and advocate for the protection of Lake Natron, the rehabilitation of Lake Magadi and the security of our precious Lesser Flamingo.

Watch the amazing documentary The Crimson Wing and find inspiration to see these Flamingos continue their flight between the Rift Valley soda lakes.

The stunning movie trailer: The Crimson Wing

Other important articles and resources:

Bird Life International – Think Pink

RSPB: Lake Natron

Bird Life International – Serengeti Highway and Lake Natron

Stop the Serengeti Highway

Joe

Flamingos in Lake BogoriaFlamingos in Flight Lake Bogoria

November 21, 2011: Flamingo

Flamingo
Phoenicopterus, the latin name for flamingo, means “Crimson wing”, the flamingo is said to be the inspiration for the crimson-winged phoenix, the ancient symbol of transformation and re-birth. Flamingoes are characteristic species of soda lakes in the Rift Valley in Kenya and Tanzania, especially Nakuru, Bogoria, Elementaita and Turkana. Their breeding ground is Lake Natron, in northern Tanzania.
Two species occur in Africa: Greater flamingo  Phoenicopterus ruber and Lesser flamingo Phoeniconaias minor. They are long legged wading birds adopted to a unique method of filter feeding. The two species avoid direct competition by feeding on different food items at different depths, with major diet being spirulina and diatoms.
Flamingo Lake Bogoria Kenya
A flamingo landing on Lake Bogoria, Kenya.Photo@Jurg Hosang

November 16, 2011: Slender-tailed nightjar

Slender-tailed nightjar is a common and widespread species in dry areas below 2000 metres above the sea level. Very similar to Gabon (Square-tailed) nightjar, but the tail is often paler and greyer, with central rectrices extending beyond the others.

It has a habit of flying low and alights on bare ground, rock or stump, often flying only on a short distance after being flashed. Commonly hawks insects around lights. It sings from the ground or from a low tree. Roosts on ground under scrub cover.

The Slender-tailed nightjar is common and widespread resident in dry bush and ranges throughout the coastal lowland, Rift Valley, Meru and Tsavo National Park.

Slender-tailed nightjar

November 6, 2011: Heuglin’s Courser

Hello birders and twitters,
The bird of the week this Sunday is:
Heuglin’s Courser (Rhinoptilus cinctus)
Tree-banded Courser, as it is also referred to, is secretive and seldom kind of a bird. It is widespread and sometimes common in bush-land and bush grassland in low rainfall areas but sometimes extending into miambo woodland where it normally breeds during the dry season when the grasses are burned to give room for the  growth of the fresh ones.
When breeding, the pair always establish their nest in a bare ground, where most nests are partially buried and partially exposed, with their colour matching the ground perfectly.
This fairly large, cryptically patterned bird has a broad mottled brown breast band bordered below by narrow black, white and chestnut bands; chestnut stripes, one from each side of the neck, converge in a point on the white breast, and the rest of the belly is white. Long pale superciliary stripes contrast with scaly brown crown and buffy-brown face patch.
Heuglins courser is largely nocturnal and roosts under bushes during the day. Two types occur: the nominate and emini. The nominate race is widespread and generally uncommon in semi-arid bush and scrub. While emini is found in Nyanza and  the Maasai Mara National game reserve.
Despite the fact I have seen several, I have never had enough of this beautiful bird.
Enjoy your week.
Heuglin's Courser
Heuglin's Courser

Bird watching on the shores of Lake Baringo, Kenya

An early morning birding at the shore of Lake Baringo and the adjacent bushes nearby resulted in an impressive species list, and the most exciting one were:
Lake Baringo
Birding on the shores of Baringo
1.Yellow-crowned Bishop,  Euplectes afer
2.Northern Red Bishop,  Euplectes franciscanus
3.Northern Masked Weaver,  Ploceus taeniopterus
4.Brown Babbler,  Turdoides jardineii
5.Pale Prinia,  Prinia somalica
6.Grey Wren-Warbler,  Calamonastes simplex
7. Red-fronted Warbler, Heliolais erythroptera
and the bird of the day…..
Magpie Starling,  Speculipastor bicolor
– Joe