Northern Red Bishop, the scarlet beauty found on the shores of Lake Baringo.

Photo by Tony Crocetta

Baringo, a shallow freshwater Lake, lies 110 km north of Nakuru town.  500 species of birds are one of its biggest draws. Baringo’s bird population rises and falls with the seasons. The dry season is normally the leanest time for birders, but the lakeshore resounds with birdsong at most times of year.

The shoreline is bursting with birds and photography is prime here because the birds quite approachable. Egrets, Herons, Kingfishers and Bee-eaters are the stars here.

If you are in the area at the right time of the year when the male Northern Red Bishop is on its full breeding plumage, you have the privilege to witness its courtship flight. Photographic opportunities are immense as the polygamous male tries to impress the females.  

This species is sexually dimorphic and polygynous, with the males being particularly larger than the females. The genus Euplectes is notorious for sexually selected characteristics, including elaborate displays and elongated tail feathers. The bright orange-to-yellow plumage with a contrasting dark black pigment is for attracting mates.

Northern Red Bishop inhabits tall open or bushed grassland. It closely associated with giant grasses and a tall crop like millet and sorghum, but also occurs in open habitats with ranks weedy vegetation. At night it roost in thicket or tall grass. Enjoy your birding.

African Orange-bellied Parrot in Samburu National Reserve!

Photo by Jan F.L Van Duinen

Samburu national reserve is one of the most impressive site to go birding in Kenya. Its proximity to Buffalo springs and Shaba national reserve makes it a nice base to explore the entire area extensively.

Whats give this country side life is the Ewaso Nyiro river that flows through the park. In the mid-mornings and afternoons, driving along the river on either side of the park will yield remarkable results from the stunning Kirk’s Dik dik, elegant Grevy’s zebra, reserved leopard to the gigantic elephants quenching their thirst.

African Orange-bellied Parrot is a star in this ecosystem that is hard to ignore because its high pitch call betrays its presence. They like to feed on the fruits of Kigelea africana trees that grows a long the river. This species is diamorphic in nature, with the orange belly being restricted to the males only!, females tend to have a uniformly green colour on their bellies.

Other than Samburu game reserve, this species can also be seen in Meru, Amboseli, Tsavo West and Tsavo East national park.

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.

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.

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.

“The Leopard of the Sky”Crowned Hawk-eagle (Stephanoaetus coronatus)

African Crowned-Eagle gliding the African Skies. Photo by Juhani Vilpo

Although not the biggest eagle in Africa, the Crowned Eagle is considered the most powerful and ferocious eagle based on the size of its prey. Weighing in at 2.5 – 4.5 kg, it regularly kills prey heavier than itself. Forest mammals like Vervet monkeys and duiker (25kg) are never safe when this eagle is near. Africa’s biggest eagle is the Martial Eagle which can weigh over 6kg but prefers to prey on animals like Guineafowl and reptiles.

Also known as the Leopard of the Sky for its hunting abilities, the Crowned Eagle is well camouflaged with bars and blotches on the chest and a slate grey upper side. This colouring makes it disappear in a forest environment, especially because it tends to sit inside the tree canopy instead of on top like most other eagles.

A breeding pair of African Crowned Eagle at Kakamega forest. Photo by Juhani Vilpo

To adapt to the forest environment, the Crowned Eagle has a long tail and broad, rounded wings. The combination of these two makes it extremely agile and fast which is one of the main reasons why it is the only eagle that preys on monkeys actively. Monkeys are very alert and quick, making them difficult to hunt, especially in a group. The male and female Crowned Eagle often hunt as a pair, while one eagle distracts the monkeys, the other makes the kill. With powerful feet and massive talons it can kill a monkey in one blow. This is essential because monkeys have strong hands and can easily damage an eye or a wing of the eagle.

During breeding time crowned eagles become much more visible and vocal as they make undulating areal displays at heights of up to 1km. They can be noisy during these times with a loud ‘kewee kewee kewee’ call from the male. This ritual is normally associated with breeding, but could also be an act of territorial domination.

The nest of a Crowned Eagle is a huge structure of sticks which is repaired and enlarged every breeding season, making the nests grow bigger and bigger. Some nests grow to be about 2.3 metres across making them the biggest nests of all the eagle species.

You have a chance of seeing this species in Kenya if you are touring Mt.Kenya Forest Reser, Nairobi National Park, Aberdare National Park, Kakamega tropical rain forest and Mau Forest.