On the first week of December, 2018 we had planned a 8 days photographic trip to kakamega forest. My client opted to stay at Rondo Retreat Centre because of its location right inside the forest. Our target birds were many, but high on the list was the stunning White-spotted Flufftail.
After 3 days of continuous search of this elusive and secretive species, nature rewarded us with great views of both male and female. I guess they were on romantic walk enjoying each other company and failed to notice our presence.
Birding is first class at Kakamega forest, although the forest suffers from increasing fragmentation .
On any bird watching excursion disappointment and surprises happen all the time, so when my clients and I arrived at one of the forest block a long the lower slopes of Mt.Kenya, seeing a Bar-tailed Trogon was not really in our mind, I guess we had learned to manage our expectation.
On the main trail in the forest other things come by easily without much effort, Mountain Yellow and Brown Woodland Warbler, African Hill Babbler, Black-fronted Bush-Shrike, Yellow-crowned Canary, Abyssinian Crimsonwing, Hartlaub’s Turaco, African Crowned Eagle, Mountain Buzzard, Eastern Mountain and Slender-bill Greenbul, White-starred Robin, Ruppelle’s Robin-chat, Golden-winged and Tacazze Sunbird among others were some of our priced collection.
Then the big moment come and voila we had some fantastic views of Bar-tailed Trogon. It begun by it calling from a nearby forest thicket and its continuous calling betrayed its exact location and we had excellent photographic opportunities.
On such kind of trips, sometimes you lose and sometimes you win, but this time round we won in a big way.
Our bird of the week is the Grey Woodpecker, race rhodeogaster, which is sometimes considered conspecific with the Ethiopian spodocephalus and known as Grey-headed Woodpecker. This species species was photographed around central Kenya.
In Kenya we have 13 species of Woodpecker and they are amazingly beautiful to watch in the field. Most of the woodpeckers we have here are diamorphic, meaning male look different from the female.
Woodpeckers are known for tapping on tree trunks in order to find insects living in crevices in the bark and to excavate nest cavities. Woodpeckers also have, well, a head for pecking. For one, woodpeckers have tiny brains—just 0.07 ounce. The bigger the brain, the higher the mass and thus the higher the risk of brain injury according to biologist research work, hence the reason why woodpeckers don’t get a headache while pecking.
The woodpecker’s strong, pointed beak acts as both a chisel and a crowbar to remove bark and find hiding insects. It has a very long tongue, up to four inches in some species – with a glue-like substance on the tip for catching insects.
While most birds have one toe pointing back and three pointing forward on each foot, woodpeckers have two sharply clawed toes pointing in each direction to help them grasp the sides of trees and balance while they hammer – this formation is called zygodactal feet. Many woodpecker species also have stiffened tail feathers, which they press against a tree surface to help support their weight.
Woodpeckers live in wooded areas and forest where they tap on tree trunks in order to find insects living in crevices in the bark and to excavate nest cavities. Some species drum on trees to communicate to other woodpeckers and as a part of their courtship behavior. Woodpeckers tap an estimated 8,000-12,000 times per day.
During our brief two days stay at a pristine montane forest located in the southern part of Mt. Kenya, we came across this eye-catching forest robin. Observing it from the back might appear a little bit dull, but wait until it turns its back to you, and you will be amazed by its bright-yellow breast, its views will surely take your breath away .
On our way up there, we had early on passed through Wajee Nature Park located Mukurweini valley, which is arguably the best site in Kenya to see the endemic Hinde’s Babbler, we managed to steal few excellent views of this iconic species, but missed the African Wood Owl which our guide James as earlier on said it roots at the reserve.
Other than the White-starred Robin, we also managed to record species like; Rameron and Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, Red-fronted Parrot, Olive Ibis, Hartlaub’s Turaco, Ruppell’s Robin-chat, Hunter’s Cisticola, Black-throated, Chestnut-throated and Grey Apalis, Abbott’s and Waller’s Starling, Black-fronted Bush-shrike, Abyssinian Crimsonwing, Oriole Finch and several species of Sunbird.
Once again, birding Mt.Kenya forest reserve is always exciting and rewarding, I will never get enough of this forest .
Bristle-crowned Starling is an elegant looking bird appearing mostly in dry bush land habitat of Samburu, Marsabit and Lake Baringo. It is mostly found in cliffs, gouges and near water.
It is a very large starling with a very long graduating tail and a black forehead with a small cushion bristle forehead feathers. Its overall appprearences is black with reddish-brown primaries. Females have a short-tail and some grayish feathers around the eye and on ear-coverts.Juveniles are duller with only a faint gloss.
The Broad-billed roller is a beautiful bird to watch during your nature travel in Kenya, and its strikingly yellow billed catches your attention instantly .It is found in areas around Lake Nakuru national park, Mt.Kenya, Kakamega extending south to Masai Mara game reserve.
Here it is fairly common in savanna, as well as clearings in woodlands. It is a specialist predator, mainly eating swarming termite and ants, as well as beetles and bugs. It mainly nests in unlined cavities in trees 5-15 m above ground. It also nests in holes of barns . It lays 2-4 eggs, timing laying to coincide with the emergence of insects after rain.
Intra-African breeding migrant, mainly breeding in southern Africa before moving north in the non-breeding season. Flocks start to arrive in southern Africa in September, leaving in the period from December to April.
It mainly nests in unlined cavities about 5-15 m above ground, usually in a tree but occasionally in a barn.
Hartlaub’s Turaco is a beautiful bird to watch!!! it will surely take your breath away if at all you are seeing it for first time. Hartlaub’s Turaco dominates the montane forest of Kenya with its range slightly extending to Northern Tanzania and Western Uganda in East Africa.
Hartlaub’s turaco is a spectacularly patterned, medium-sized bird with a strong, curved bill, short, rounded wings and a rather long tail. The vivid plumage of Hartlaub’s turaco, is a product of two unique copper pigments, unknown in any other bird family, or indeed in any other animal group. The adult has a bushy, blue-black crest and a conspicuous red eye-ring, with a distinctive white patch immediately in front of the eye and a white line beneath the eye. Much of the upper body, including the neck, mantle, throat and breast is silky green, while the lower back, folded wings, and tail are an iridescent violet-blue, Visible only in flight, the flight feathers are a striking crimson. Like all Turacos, the feet of Hartlaub’s turaco have a special joint that allows the outer toe to move either forward or backward, an attribute that enables these birds to move acutely through vegetation.
Best location to look for this species in Kenya includes, Mt. Kenya forest reserve, Aberdare National Park, Nairobi National Park, Taita and Tugen Hills. In Kenya , other than the Hartlaub’s Turaco, we have have Great Blue and Black-billed Turaco restricted to Kakamega tropical rain forest. Others are Ross’s, Purple-crested, Schalow’s, and Fisher’s Turaco.
Northern Crombec is a species of African Warbler. This species is listed on IUCN red list as a near threatened species, but is evaluated as least concern. This species as an incredible short tailed, that sometimes you might tempted to assume that is has no tail. This crombec construct deep pocket shaped nests suspended from a branch and is mostly made of cob web materials .
This is commonly seen alone or in a small group of upto 5 species, but they also found feeding in a mixed flock of species. In Kenya it can easily be seen in arid and semi-arid areas of Samburu national reserve, Lake Baringo, Lake Bogoria, Tsavo East and West national park.
Also know as Sulphur-breasted Bush shrike is an easy specie to pick in the field especially if you are birding the dry country side of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia. It prefers the canopy of acacia tortilis, but its presence is always betrayed by its unmistakable call. This Bush shrike main diet is invertebrates.
Another interesting natural history fact about this specie is that it is monogamous, it will only seek a new breeding mate in the event that his partner dies. The bird lays eggs which are green in colour and number between 1-3. A real beauty in the field.
The Violet-backed Starling belongs to the family of birds classified as Sturnidae. This species, also known as the Plum-coloured Starling or Amethyst Starling, is the smallest of Kenya starlings, reaching only about 18cm in length. It is a successful breeder, and is fortunately not listed as a threatened species.
The sexes are strongly sexually dimorphic, meaning that there is a distinct difference in the appearance of the male and female. The breeding male is brilliantly coloured, with feathers an iridescent shining plum violet colour along the length of is back, wings, face and throat, contrasting with bright white on the rest of the body. Females (and juveniles) are a streaky brown and buff colour, and can easily be mistaken for a thrush.
Less noisy than other starlings, this bird is a monogamous species, and will remain so unless its mate dies. Under those circumstances it will seek a new mate in replacement. These starlings are normally seen in small flocks in summer, just before the breeding season when they will break off into pairs to nest.
Violet-backed starlings will nest in cavities such as tree holes high off the ground, holes in river banks, even in old hollow fence posts, lining the nests with dung, leaves and other plant material. They have been known to reuse nests in successive breeding seasons
In Kenya, they are found a long riverine vegetation in big dead tree trunks in Machakos, the low areas of Tugen hills, Lake Nakuru and Nairobi national park.