African Plains Beauties: Rosy-breasted Longclaw

Photo by Joe Aengwo

Longclaws are birds of African plains. They are easy to pick up when you are at the right location and habitat. Rosy-breasted (shown above) and Yellow-throated Longclaw are found in mid-altitude elevations. They are easily seen in Masai Mara game reserve and central Kenya grassland .

Pangani Longlaw is found in low altitude elevations and you have a great chance of seeing them in Nairobi, Amboseli and the Tsavos national park. However, it is important to note that I have seen on several occasion the Rosy-breasted, Yellow-throated and Pangani Longclaw in Amboseli national park.

Lastly the endemic Sharpe’s Longclaw is restricted to the high altitudes grassland of Kinangop.

The Fishing Flotillas of Lake Nakuru National Park

Great White Pelicans Pelecanus onocrotalus are floating fishnets.The sack of membrane slug between the rims of the lower jaw inflates to an enormous ten-litre capacity when dragged under water.How the bird can even swim with it distended and full of water is a mystery.But clearly the system works.Odd bills seem to run in the family:DNA affinity testing reveals that the pelican’s cousin is the Shoebill Stork.

Photo by Hans Aeschlimann

They fish in flotillas of up to 20 birds swim along in a oblique formation.That is the reason why you always see white pelicans in groups swimming at Lake Nakuru.

Photo by Hans Aeschlimann

Great Views of White-fronted Bee-eater at Hell’s Gate National Park.

Bee-eaters are known chiefly for their graceful aerial pursuit of large insect. They birds that inhabit warm,sunny lowland grassland, dry woodland or forest edges. Bee-eaters are closely related to kingfishers and motmot.

Hans Aeschlimann

Kenya’s impressive bird life offers plenty to interest both ornithologists and people who simply want to enjoy the diversity and colours, and for this alone, White-fronted Bee-eater is up there! The colored plumage is just a sight to behold!. These birds are also photogenic and very active and engaging mostly in the early hours of the morning or late afternoon.

Bee-eaters are social birds, occurring in pairs, small groups, or large foraging and breeding colonies.They forage from high vintage points including tree-tops,roadside wire, and telegraph poles,where they intently watch the area around and above them and dash out on swooping,gliding flights to grab passing insects.

In savannas where there are few high perches,several species, especially Carmine Bee-eater, sit on the backs of Kori Bustard (Ardeotis kori) and occasionally antelopes or larger animals, which also undoubtedly assist with flushing insects.

“The Crimson Winged”

The tall, pink flamingos are an instantly recognizable group of birds, which have been known from earliest times and often celebrated in popular stories. They belong to one of the bird families, dating back at least 30 millions years, when their range extended to North America and Australia.

Photo By Jan F.L Van Duinen

All species have a long, slender neck and tall, spindy legs, a fairly small body, and large, specially adopted, drooping bill. Their plumage varies between pale and deep rose-pink, with crimson and black wings.

Flamingos are extremely sociable and usually occur in large flocks. At times, they form the biggest concentration of non-passerine birds: on occasions, more than a million gather at feeding sites. The birds forage by wading knee-deep at the edges of alkaline or saline lakes and lagoons.

They turn their head upside down and sweep the bill through the water, sucking in mouthfuls. As they squeeze out excess water with their tongue, comb like structures called lamellae trap tiny particles of food.

Flamingos breed in large colonies at the edge of lakes or on island. In East Africa, the only reliable breeding site is Lake Natron in Northern Tanzania. The nest is circular mound of mud baked hard by the sun, into which the female lays on white egg. The chicks look like fluffy duck-lings on hatching, and are fed on a milky mash regurgitated by their parents.

After a few days, they join a large group of youngsters within the colony, but continue to be fed by their parents for about 10 weeks longer, until they can fly and become fully independent.

Golden-breasted Starling at Tsavo East National Park.

Photo@Joe Aengwo
Photo@Joe Aengwo

Named for its striking coloration, the golden-breasted starling has metallic blue wings, a yellow breast and belly, a violet throat and a vibrant green head. Found in savanna and dry-thorn bushes.

This is perhaps the most beautiful Starling you can encounter in any of your safari trips in Tsavo East, Tsavo West and Samburu game reserve. Its stunning appearance can attract attention for even non-birders.

The golden-breasted starling lives in family groups of 3-12 individuals in the wild. Females lay their eggs in tree holes abandoned by woodpeckers, lining the nest with straw and leaves. Entire family groups cooperate in raising young by gathering food and nesting materials. Keep birding!

African Skimmer at Lake Bogoria

I recently visited Lake Bogoria National Reserve after the heavy rains of November and part of December and the lake appeared to be flooded! which is common occurrence in all the lakes at the moment. Literally, we could see the flamingos from the gate. The concentration of the Lesser Flamingos was amazing! A real sight to behold. However, the bird that made my day on this particular visit was the stylish African Skimmer!an attractive long-winged, short-tailed tern-like bird most noted for its laterally compressed red bill with a pale tip with the lower mandible longer than the upper.

Skimmers fly in lines over calm waters, and dip their lower mandibles in the water to feed. When the mandible touches a fish, the skimmer snaps its mouth shut. They feed mostly at dawn and dusk and have good night vision.

Photo@Joe Aengwo
Photo@Joe Aengwo

Why the excitement you may ask! the last time I saw this species in my area was in 2007 in Lake Baringo!. So it was kind off a sweet reunion of some sort!

Red-headed Weaver(Anaplectes rubriceps) breeding at the base of Tugen Hills.

Photo@joe.aengwo

The photo appearing above is an adult male red-headed weaver, Anaplectes rubriceps, also known as the red-headed Anaplectes or the red-winged weaver, photographed at the  bases of Tugen Hills, 14 kilometers from Lake Baringo.

The Red-headed Weaver Anaplectes rubriceps, a striking weaver bird with bright red head in the breeding plumage of males. In East Africa the male has a black mask (leuconotus); one race in East Africa has a red plumage (jubaensis). The female is yellowish or brownish. Both sexes have a distinctive thin pinkish orange bill. 

In Kenya it is easily seen in Amboseli national park, Tsavo west and East, Samburu national reserve, Lake Baringo and kerio Valley.

Blue-shouldered Robin-chat (Cossypha cyanocampter)

Photo by Juhani Vilpo.

In Kenya this species is redistricted to the remaining tropical rain forest patches in western kenya, mostly in Kakamega and South Nandi forests. It is not an easy catch, but with patience, this shy and difficult to observe bird can be seen.

Verreaux’s Eagle, also known as Black Eagle (Aquila verreaux’s).

Photo@Joe Aengwo

Verreaux’s Eagle is a large bird of prey that is highly specialised, with its life history and distribution revolving around its main prey of rock hyraxes and preferred habitat of hilly and mountainous terrain. It is wide spread throughout Kenya, especially around Samburu game reserve, Lake Baringo, Lake Magadi and Tsavo West national park. It feeds primarily on rock hyraxes but it also preys on other animals such as small mammals, birds and reptiles. Its populations are stable and have been less impacted by human encroachment due to the isolation and the inaccessible terrain of its habitat.

When perched or at rest adult Verreaux’s Eagles are entirely black in appearance, except for a white ‘V’ above the wings on the back and yellow feet (talons) and cere. In flight, the unfolded wings expose a white rump and whitish panels on the outer wings. The wings have a distinctive shape that is broad in the middle and tapering at the tips. Sexes are similar, but females are slightly larger than males. Juveniles have a yellow-brown plumage and the head and back of the neck have a distinctive reddish-brown colour. The face and throat are black. Juveniles achieve adult plumage in 4 years. The photos appearing here were all taken in western cliffs of Lake Baringo.

Photo@Joe Aengwo

The elegant Long-crested Eagle (Lophaetus occipitalis)

Photo@Jan F. Van Duinen

Widespread and locally common in higher rainfall areas up to 3000m, though generally uncommon above 2000m. Long-crested Eagle is an adaptable woodland and forest edge species which is especially common in areas partially cleared for agriculture, even when heavily settled. It takes large numbers of rodents and his generally considered beneficial to man.

Long-crested Eagle adult is dark brown or black. It has long white patches at the joint of the wings, visible when perched, forming white lines on each side of the breast. Underwing coverts are white, with black spots. It has broad dark tail strongly barred of white. Tarsi are whitish. Wings are long and broad.
Hooked bill is yellow with dark tip. Eyes are golden or reddish-brown. Feet are yellow with slender talons.