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

Ross’s Turaco (Musophaga rossae)

Photo@Jan F.L Van Duinen
Photo@Jan F.L Van Duinen

Ross’s or Lady Ross as it sometime called is a medium-sized bird, with a long tail and broad, round wings. They have three toes on each foot that point forward, while the fourth toe can be rotated forward or backwards. Males and females differ in that females may have a greenish beak. This Beautiful Turaco is seen in mostly on the western side of Kenya Great Rift Valley mostly in areas around Tugen Hills and El geyo escarpment. Ross’s Turaco is a very social bird, seen mostly moving is a small noisy flock of 2 to 7 birds. They spent most of their time among trees in search for fruits until evening when they nest solitary on a plat form of twigs.It is an easy bird to Identify because nothing else in our region is like it.

Madagascar Pond Heron (Ardeola idae)

Madagascar Pond Heron (Ardeola idae)

Photo@Raymond Galea

The Malagasy Pond Heron is a buff brown streaked small heron, and when breeding is snow white with a blue bill and red legs.In nonbreeding plumage the crown and back of head are buff, broadly streaked black. The bill is green grey with a black tip. The irises are yellow and the lores are green. The sides of the head and throat are yellow buff streaked narrowly with blackish-brown. The upper and lower back is brown with white or buff streaks. The rump and tail are white. Upper wings are brown with white or buff streaks. The flight feathers, in contrast, are white and are conspicuous in flight. Underparts are heavily streaked black and buff brown, contrasting with the lower belly and under tail coverts. The legs are green yellow or green grey.

In the breeding season the Malagasy Pond Heron becomes entirely snow white. The crown has a dense crest. Dense plumes also occur on the back of the neck, back, fore neck and breast. These give the bird a characteristic fluffy appearance. The bill is a deep azure blue with a black tip. The irises are yellow and the lores are green with some red on the orbital skin. The legs are rose pink, with green toes. The intermediate plumage is a mixture of new brown feathers, starting on the back.
In Kenya, this species can be seen in May-October in birding spot like Lake Baringo, Musiara Swamp, Masai Mara National Reserve, Lake Naivasha , Limuru Oxygenated pond and the seasonal Lake Amboseli and the swamp found in mid-centre of the park.

Vitelline Masked Weaver ( Ploceus vitellinus)

Vitelline Masked Weaver ( Ploceus vitellinus)

Photo@Tony Crocetta

Vitelline Masked Weaver is a common wevar that is at home in and around habitat in the dry acacia belt. It is a species that is similar to large Black-headed Weaver, but can be easily separated given a good view. Although both species have red-eyes and warm-chestnut border to their black faced-mask, the black on the male Vitelline’s head does not extend onto the crown or down onto the breast, and it’s back does not have strong black “tramline” as in Black-headed Weaver.
The female Vitalline shows a pale narrow bill compared to the dark, heavy bill of the female Black-headed weaver, and the breast and flanks are generally a warm buff contrasting with a white belly.
In Kenya huge concentration of this species can be recorded in dry areas a round Lake Bogoria and Baringo, Kerio Valley, Samburu National reserve, Meru National Park and Tsavo West and East Parks.

Spotted Eagle-Owl (Bubo africanus)

Spotted Eagle-Owl (Bubo africanus)

Photo@Michael Sammut

Spotted Eagle-Owl is medium to large owl with prominent ear tufts. Upper-parts dusky brown with pale spots, under-parts whitish and finely barred. Facial disk whitish to pale ochre. A more rufous morph exists in more arid areas.It very similar to Greyish Eagle-Owl, only that has bright-yellow eyes, and in Kenya is mostly found in the southern part of the equator. It prefers Savannah, rocky outcrops, scrub, open and semi-open woodland, semi-deserts.

Birding hotspot where this species can be recorded include;Amboseli, Tsavo West and East National Park, Meru, Kitui, Maasai Mara and the greater area of Lake Victoria.

Grey Crowned Crane (Balearica regulorum)

Grey Crowned Crane (Balearica regulorum)Photo@Tony Crocetta

Grey Crowned Crane has a breeding display involving dancing, bowing, and jumping. It has a booming call which involves inflation of the red gular sac. It also makes a honking sound quite different from the trumpeting of other crane species. Both sexes dance, and immature birds join the adults. Dancing is an integral part of courtship, but also may be done at any time of the year.Its body plumage is mainly grey. The wings are also predominantly white, but contain feathers with a range of colours. The head has a crown of stiff golden feathers. The sides of the face are white, and there is a bright red inflatable throat pouch. The bill is relatively short and grey, and the legs are black. The have long legs for wading through the grasses. The feet are large, yet slender, adapted for balance rather than defense or grasping. The sexes are similar, although males tend to be slightly larger. Young birds are greyer than adults, with a feathered buff face.

In Kenya they are widespread in all wetlands and grassland field. They however, prefer breeding in Saiwa sawmp National Park in western Kenya and other high altitude wetland in Kenya.

Greater Crested Tern (Thalasseus bergii)

Greater Crested Tern (Thalasseus bergii)
Michael Sammut

Greater Crested Tern is a prominently crested coastal bird, which appears slightly smaller than Caspian Tern.At rest it appears elongated, with long wings  and large pale yellow billed which drops at the tip.On flight the tail appear very forked. A breeding adult has a black cap separated from the bill by a narrow white band. In Kenya it commonly seen a long the coast especially in areas around Sabaki delta,  Mida-Creek and Diani Beach.