White-chinned Prinia also kown as White-chinned Warbler (Schistolais leucopogon)

Photo By Juhani Vilpo

White-chinned Prinia is one of the two species found in Kakamega tropical rain forest,the other one frequently recorded there is Banded Prinia.Both species are found in thick understory of forest,overgrown cultivation,and edge habitats.This species has unusual broad-tailed with a white throat,it is also important to note the black cheek and white in the outer rectrices.

Usually the species is found in small very actives groups always continuously moving inside the vegetation cover exposing themselves once in a while.When the birds are singing,they clearly line-up on an exposed horizontally lying branches proving excellent opportunities for photography.

In Kenya the species is only found the remnant patches of tropical rain forest of Kakamega and South Nandi,both in Western Kenya.

Blue-headed Bee-eater(Merops muelleri).

Photo By Mario Liebshner

Bee-eaters are beautiful birds to observe in the field, but the exhilaration among birders on sighting of a Blue-headed bee-eater is remarkable .Really attractive Bee-eater. This species is strictly restricted only to Kakamega and South Nandi Forest in Kenya. However, other isolated populations of this species are found in West Africa as well.

This brilliantly colored Bee-eater can be encountered on any birding walks around Kakamega forest with some efforts, local guides will be of great help, although you can really run into it with some luck.

Usually Bee-eaters are gregarious, but not Blue-headed Bee-eater, I have not recorded more than three individuals at a go. They are arboreal birds that perch on exposed branches.

The Gregarious Helmetshrikes!.

Retz’s Helmetshrike.Photo by Frans Buiter

Nothing is more rewarding like encountering a group helmet’s shrikes on any birding trip in Kenya,they are beautiful birds with their unique crest signature mark.In Kenya ,you can find four species of group;White-crested,Grey-crested,Chestnut-fronted and Retz’s Helmetshrike. Most of this species are gregarious and fly around in a group of 6 to around 50 individuals.

Grey-crested Helmetshrike.Photo by Joe Aengwo

White-crested Helmetshrike is widespread and can easily be seen in any habitat in Kenya ranging from the Tsavos,Samburu,Baringo and Kongolai escarpment in West Pokot.Grey-crested  Helmetshrike is and East African endemic and found areas around Crater Lake and Hell’s National park in Naivasha area,Masai Mara and the Serengeti national park.They are strictly restricted to acacia and leleswa bush habitat.

White-crested Helmetshrike.Photo by Joe Aengwo.

Retz’s Helmetshrike  is quite stunning to watch with its bright red bill and eye wattles and yellow eyes contrasting with is darker body appearances , this is common but rarely seen along the Kenyan and Tanzania coastline and extending upcountry to areas around Kibwezi, Makindu and Chyulu Hills.Chestnut-fronted Helmetshrike is mostly restricted to coastal areas and easily picked up in Arabuko Sokoke forest.

Papyrus Gonolek,the thunderous fellow in the reeds.

Papyrus Gonolek,photo@Joe Aengwo

A medium-size Bush-shrike that inhabit the papyrus vegetation around Lake Victoria and the extensive Yala swamp in Western Kenya.The sexes are similar; the crown is dull yellow, the head, upper parts, wings and tail are black apart from a broad white bar on the wings.The breast and upper belly are vivid orange-crimson, and the lower belly whitish.

Photo@Joe Aengwo

This species can difficult to observe as prefers lurking among the vegetation and only flying occasionally, usually a short distance over water to another patch of papyrus. Its presence can often be detected by its calls, which consist of brief whistles and grating tearing sounds.

The photo above was taken in June at shores of Kisumu town ,the Kenyan part of Lake Victoria.Gorgeous bird to watch!.

Encountering the Globally-endangered Sokoke Pipit is the highlight of any Birding Trip to Arabuko Sokoke Forest.

Photo@Joe Aengwo

I went back to Arabuko Sokoke forest last week again and it was the first time we explored the forest without the guidance of David Ngala.Like they say good teachers leave good students behind,we were guided by David colleague Willy Gombe who I must admit did exceptionally well in helping us track and photograph the Sokoke pipit and other highly sort after species like the Sokoke Scops Owl,East Coast Akalat,Gorgeous Bush-shrike,Little-yellow Flycatcher,Red-capped Robin-chat, Bat Hawk, Chesnut-fronted Helmet-shrike,Forest Batis, Plain-backed and Amani Sun Sunbird.

Photo@Joe Aengwo

The Arabuko-Sokoke forest is the largest relic of a formerly larger contiguous East African coastal forest. It forms part of the Eastern Arc Mountains and Coastal forest ecoregion which is a global biodiversity hotspot with considerable species endemism. Despite such conservation significance, the forest is undergoing rapid modification and habitat loss mainly from anthropogenic pressures, with negative impacts on sensitive species such as the Sokoke Pipit ( Anthus sokokensis ), one of the globally-endangered birds

Photo@Joe Aengwo

The weather at the coast when we were there was not very friendly to birding,it was really cloudy and rainy, though we kept on with our birding taking break here and there to shelter from the rain when it gets heavy. Overall, I think we did well considering the small challenges we faced that was not within our control.

Photo@Joe Aengwo

Photo@Joe Aengwo

Mourning a Conservation champion and an Exceptional Ornithology Guide David Ngala

David Ngala at Sabaki River Estuary,Malindi.

I learned with a lot of sorrow the passing on of my friend, colleague and a mentor  David Ngala on Wednesday Morning 8th June,2022.It was very difficult for me to comprehend as I was with him on Monday morning of 6 June,2022 in my brief visit to Arabuko Sokoke forest,his home ground.

David Doing what he does best

He did his work diligently like he always does and within one hour he had shown my clients two pairs of Sokoke Scops Owl,both grey-brown and rufous  morph,before we were interrupted by some rains .It was like he was saying goodbye to me.

Our group birding Arabuko-sokoke forest with David Ngala just a day before I got the sad news

His knowledge of the forest is incomparable …he literally knew each and every sound emanating  from that forest .He was a great teacher and I was privileged to have attended his classes for over 9 years.  For a person of his stature he was a very humbled man and a great human being.

Photo Credit:Friends of Arabuko-sokoke forest

The global birding community will indeed miss his intoxicating smile and enthusiasm that David brought in every tour he guided. He was always willing to push further and he never stopped trying for a new species of birds that his clients had in their wish list. David’s patience with birders was extraordinary…..I am sure most birders who have had the opportunity to be guided by him will agree with me on this.

David Ngala treated us to this beautiful creatures on every visit to the forest.Impressive.

I cherish the good time that I shared with David and I will dearly miss him as a great friend and colleague.David Ngala good work for conservation of Arabuko Sokoke forest and disseminating knowledge to global scientists and nature lovers will forever be remembered.

Sokoke Scops-Owl.I doubt if would have seen them with David help!

Fare thee well David! You have fought a good fight,you have finished the race and kept the faith.Your memory will live on and sure enough we will be joining you soon when our time is up…..I hope that it will be a great reunion God willing.

Kwaheri Mzee David Ngala.Safiri Salama Rafiki.

Little Weaver(Ploceus luteolus)

Photo by Joseph Aengwo

Kenya is known for its rich diversity in weavers species in East Africa with over 60 species already described.Little weaver is one of the smallest weavers and is found in arid and semi-arid areas of North-western park of Kenya.Breeding little weaver plumage has a black forecrowned,face and throat surrounded by bright yellow,with out any of the saffron wash typical of larger weavers.The only species which is very similar to it is the Slender-billed weaver ,but can easily be separated by the longer and slender billed and its habitat is restricted to areas adjacent to Lake Victoria.

The breeding behaviour of Little weaver is pretty unique compared to other weavers who are majorly colonial breeders.Little Weaver is monogamous and solitary nester and often prefers reusing its nesting site over and over again.

Best birding sites to see them in Kenya includes;Samburu,Buffalo spring and Shaba game reserve,Lake Turkana,Kongelai,Kerio Valley,Lake Bogoria and Baringo.

Golden-breasted Bunting,a Stunningly-colored Seed-eater!

Photo by Jan L.F Van Duinen

African Golden-breasted Bunting is a stunningly-colored seed-eater  with a brilliant golden breast, a yellow throat, a boldly black-and-white striped head, a chestnut back, and white wingbars. When flushed, it shows white outer tail feathers. The female is duller. Pairs and small flocks are resident, but make local movements in arid savanna and broadleaf woodland, where they forage on the ground and fly up into trees when flushed or singing.

The similar Brown-rumped and Somali buntings differ from Golden-breasted Bunting by having gray (not chestnut) shoulders and back of the neck. This species is found in a variety of open woodlands. Flavigaster favours acacia steppe and savanna, with the other subspecies occurring in a wider range of lightly wooded country including gardens.It feeds on the ground on seeds and insects.

You are likely to see Golden-breasted Bunting if you are birding areas like; Nairobi national park,Karura Forest,Lake Nakuru national park,Lake Naivasha and generally  in any Central highlands birding area.

Birding in Kenya is fun and fantastic but it’s always better with an experienced local guide. Whether taking a birding tour in Kenya or birding on your own, an experienced local guide may have knowledge of roosting owls, sites for various rare birds, local logistics, and other useful information that an active local birder is much more likely to know.

Green-winged Pytilia, A Semi-arid Savanna Striking Waxbill.

Whenever you out birding in any arid and semi-arid habitat in Kenya,there is one species that will take your breath away on sight,a Green-winged Pytilia.Most of the time,it forages on the ground and prefer grassland habitat with plenty supply of seeds. You can hear it, though, if you’re careful: the high-pitched cheeps in the foreground will always betray their presence.

Photo by Joseph Aengwo

The species also known as Melba finch are always seen in pairs or with a feeding party combined with Purple Granadier,Red-billed Firefinch together with several species of weavers.

Photo by Joseph Aengwo

In Kenya, this species is common in Samburu,Buffalo Springs national park,Amboseli national park,Lake Baringo and Tsavos national park.

Welcome to Wattle-eyes World,where Females Decides your Name.

Wattle-eyes are grouped in two distinct genera;Platysteira are medium-sized,flycatcher like and resembles batises,while Dyaphorophyia are much smaller,dumpy and short-tailed.Both genera have broad strong bills and conspicuous fleshy,colorful wattles above their eyes.

Photo By Juhani Vilpo

Now most of this family species are named after the females plumage, like the widespread Brown-throated Wattle-eye appearing above is named for the throat colour of the female.They are found in pairs,family groups or with mixed-species flock,usually in forest.

In Kenya,five species occurs, with three of them restricted to the tropical rain forest remnant of Kakamega.Brown-throated and Black-throated Wattle-eye are frequently encountered at the right habitat,but Jameson’s, Chestnut and Yellow-bellied Wattle-eye are a hard nut to crack in Kakakmega forest.

Watching Wattle-eyes for the first time foraging in the thick undergrowth of Africa tropical rain forest is an extraordinary experience.It will thoroughly blow your mind away.