Black-faced Sandgrouse (Pterocles decoratus)

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The sandgrouse are distributed across northern, southern and eastern Kenya, Specifically in desert and semi-arid areas of Samburu, Meru, Marsabit, Turkana,Lake Baringo,Tsavo west and east, and Amboseli

Sandgrouse have compact bodies, but small, pigeon-like heads and necks. The different species range in length from 24 – 40 cm and weigh from 150 – 500 g.

Males and females look alike, Some species are also polymorphic .

They have long pointed wings and short legs that are feathered down to the toes, and members of the genus Syrrhaptes also have feathered toes.

Sandgrouse mostly feed on seed and are often seen in large feeding flocks with up to 100 birds.

Sandgrouse are monogamous (form life-long pair bonds). They make their nest on a slight depression in the ground. The average clutch consists of 2 eggs, occasionally up to 4. The male and female share the incubation duties; with the male incubating during the night and early mornings, and the female taking over during the day.

The young hatch after about 20 – 25 days; and are able soon able to leave the nest.

They are able to feed themselves from the day they hatch, but have to learn foraging skills from their parents for several months.

December 30, 2011: Rufous-naped Lark (Mirafra africana)

 Rufous-naped Lark  (Mirafra Africana)

The Rufous-naped Lark’s head is coloured brown as well as the bill. The Mirafra Africana has a white coloured throat, pink legs and a brown coloured back. The eyes are brown.

The male Mirafra africana has physical features that are slightly different from the female bird. When the bird is excited it has a richly striped rufous crown. In most observatory incidence the bird tends to call from a raised platform or rather on top of a medium sized tree.

In Kenya, the bird is widely distributed in areas around central Kenya, Lake Naivasha, Maasai Mara and Amboseli National park.

Rufous-naped lark Rufous-naped lark song

I recently spotted this Rufous-naped lark in the Maasai Mara National Reserve and recorded it’s song.

– Joe

December 6, 2011: Eastern Paradise Whydah

The Eastern Paradise Whydah is a small, widely occurring bird of eastern Africa. It gathers in flocks but separates into pairs during the mating season.Easten Paradise Whydah is a species specific brood parasite with its target being the Green-winged pytilia.

This bird is both dichromatic and dimorphic during the breeding season. When in “breeding mode”, the male has black plumage along its back and tail, with a yellow nape and chestnut colored lower breast and belly. It also grows new long- tail feathers. During the non-breeding season, it loses its striking black and yellow coloration, becoming brownish in color with black streaks on its head. The female has grayish, black-streaked upper-parts with a brown-colored head. Its breast is pale gray and its belly is white.

Eastern Paradise Whydah

The Eastern Paradise Whydah feeds on grass seeds such as millet and wild oats, but will occasionally take termites and grubs.

It inhabits dry thorn scrub and open or woodland savannahs throughout eastern Africa. Fairly common after heavy rains both as a resident and a wonderer , appearing usually near watering areas. Well distributed in the  area of  Samburu, Meru, Lokichokio, Turkana, Tsavo and Amboseli National park.

Kenya’s Important Bird Areas

A few important resources about Kenya’s Important Bird Areas.

Kenya's Important Bird AreasA fantastic map of Kenya’s Important Bird Areas from Nature Kenya.

Also, from KenyaBirds, a listing table of the Important Bird Areas, Locations, Habitats, and threatened species.

Coming up soon, a Bird of the Week with a song I recorded while birding recently.

Joe

The African Fish Eagle: endangered by pesticide

Through my work with the Lake Baringo Biodiversity Conservation Group and growing up in the region, I have directly witnessed the decline and endangerment of the African Fish Eagle. This spectacular bird that feeds on fish is being poisoned by farmers and agricultural uses.

We at Lake Baringo Biodiversity Conservation Group were concerned about information received about a decline in the population of Fish Eagles for no clear reason and a huge increase in the water level in the lake. Whether this water level increase was good or bad for the general welfare of this vital wetland ecosystem, is a question that we cannot answer with precision without seeking the opinion of a biologist and receiving data to support our hypothesis .The researchers suggest that the decline of the Fish Eagle population in Lake Baringo is being driven by poisoning.

Munir Virani, who is director of Peregrine funds Africa programmes, has been carrying out research in this area, and has blamed this decline in the use of Furadan by farmers to poison crocodiles. Farmers occasionally lace the bodies of dead fish with a toxic pesticide called Furadan. This appears to be aimed at crocodiles that kill their livestock. Farmers use the fish to entice crocodiles into their death, however, not all poisonous fish are eaten by crocodiles, and some end up being eaten by Fish Eagles. If this is done rampantly it can easily wipe out the whole Fish Eagle population in Lake Baringo.

Additionally, the Fish Eagles in Lake Baringo have been trained to be eating dead fish by the local boat operators. They did this deliberately to allow tourists to have a closer view of this spectacular raptor picking up the fish. However, with farmers putting dead poisonous fish into the lake, Fish Eagles trained to eat dead fish subsequently consume these as well. Although the practice of enticing Fish Eagles with dead fish for tourism purposes has no direct detrimental effects on the species, due to the farmer’s practices this has become a serious concern. Unfortunately, no government institution mandated to protect wildlife has intervened to halt the practice of releasing dead poisonous fish into the lake.

Many members of LBBCG run boat excursion businesses for tourists, and have been trying to educate their clients of the risk that such practices pose to these birds of prey. We have subsequently, written to Nature Kenya and Kenya Wildlife Service informing them of the urgent need of an appropriate intervention.

African Fish Eagle Lake Baringo

Furadan, an insecticide, is an extremely toxic to mammals (including Humans!), invertebrates, fish and birds.

The plight of the African Fish Eagle and other wetland birds is being documented by Stop Wildlife Poisoning and WildLifeDirect.

In 2009, Dr. Richard Leakey at WildLifeDirect addressed the potential ban of Furadan in Kenya and FMC’s (Furadan manufacturer) withdrawal from the Kenyan market and its buy-back programme following the poisoning of lions in the Maasai Mara. Although in a follow-up article, the legality of the toxic insecticide in Kenya was still up for debate, and the death of wetland birds in Bunyala due to Furadan poisoning is still being observed in 2011.

Stop Wildlife Poisoning has geared up its awareness campaign and regularly posts about the use of pesticides in Kenya and the poisoning of birds due to Furadan. A video was produced for International Vulture Awareness day on September 2, 2011, and many other images and videos regarding the poisoning of Kenya’s birds can be viewed on Stop Widlife Poisoning’s website.

This disturbing and unacceptable use of pesticides needs to be addressed by the Government of Kenya and its East African neighbours.

– Joe

Important reading & resources:

Stop Wildlife Poisoning: Furadan in Kenya

Bird Life International: Furadan

Africa Conservation: Why the fish eagle is under threat

November 30, 2011: Northern Carmine Bee-eater

Nothern Carmine Bee-eater

November 30, 2012  bird is Northern Carmine Bee-eater  Merops nubicus                       (photo@ tony crocetta)

Carmine Bee-eaters are carmine in color, except for its greenish blue head and throat, and the bold black mask-like stripe across their eyes. Their eyes are red and they have a black pointed de-curved beak. Their central tail feathers are elongated. Their legs and feet are blackish brown. The sexes are similar in appearance. It is one of the largest species of Merops at 35cm  long. Young birds lack the elongated central tail feathers and are pinkish brown on the mantle, chest to belly, and flanks.

In Kenya they are passage migrant in the area and its distribution is found in the north western part of Kenya, extending  all the way to coast, in areas around Watamu, Tsavo east, Meru national park, Turkana, Nasolot, Kerio Valley and Lake Baringo.

Northern Carmine bee-eaters hunt mainly by keeping watch for flying insects from a perch. The insect is snapped up in the bill, then the bird returns to the perch, where it beats the prey against the perch until it is inactive. A stinging insect is held near the tip of its tail and rubbed on the perch to be relieved of the venom and sting before being swallowed whole. Besides branches, Carmine Bee-eaters use the backs of game or cattle and even large birds, such as Jacksons Bustard or Storks as animate perches, waiting to catch any insects that they disturb. Carmine Bee-eaters also fly freely to bush fires to prey upon fleeing insects.

For the last 10 years of my birding life, I have never came across any species of bee-eater which fails impress!!! Have a great birding week.

Joe

Lake Baringo Birding

Lake Baringo is a fantastic location for bird watching in Kenya. I grew up in Lake Baringo, where I developed my interest in birding and I never get tired of going out to observe all the species in my backyard. Yesterday, with my friend Wilson Tiren, down by the shore of the lake and at the rocky cliff we spotted some impressive species! There are approximately 500  bird species in and around the lake. We spent a full day birding and managed to come up with this list of species for those keen birders who are wondering what can be seen in this area of the Great Rift Valley.

  1. Cattle egret
  2. Intermediate Egret
  3. Hammerkop
  4. Green-backed heron

    Green backed Heron
  5. Hadada ibis
  6. Glossy ibis
  7. Sacred ibis
  8. Grey heron
  9. Egyptian goose
  10. Black-shouldered kite
  11. Imperial eagle
  12. Fish eagle

    African Fish Eagle
  13. Black-chested snake eagle
  14. Eurasian mash harrier
  15. Dark chanting goshawk
  16. Gabar gashawk
  17. Shikra
  18. African harrier-hawk
  19. Verreaux’s eagle
  20. Common kestrel
  21. Pygmy falcon
  22. Lanner falcon
  23. Crested francolin
  24. Black crake
  25. Purple swamphen
  26. African jacana
  27. Spotted thick-knee
  28. Heuglin’s courser
  29. Common sandpiper
  30. Emerald-spotted wood dove
  31. Namaqua dove
  32. Laughing dove
  33. African mourning dove
  34. Brown parrot
  35. White-bellied go-away-bird
  36. Black and white cuckoo
  37. Diedrik’s cuckoo
  38. White-browed coucal
  39. Pearl-spotted owlet
  40. Little swift
  41. Blue-naped mousebird
  42. Pied kingfisher
  43. Striped kingfisher
  44. Grey-headed kingfisher
  45. Woodland kingfisher
  46. Malachite kingfisher
  47. Little bee-eater
  48. Northern carmine bee-eater
  49. Lilac-breasted roller
  50. Rufous-crowned roller
  51. Green wood-hoopoe
  52. African hoopoe
  53. Eurasian hoopoe
  54. Jackson’s hornbill
  55. Red-billed hornbill
  56. Hemprich’s hornbill
  57. D’arnaud’s barbet
  58. Red and yellow barbet
  59. Black-throated barbet
  60.  Lesser honeyguide
  61. Greater honeyguide
  62. Scaly-throated honeyguide
  63. Nubian woodpecker
  64. Grey woodpecker
  65. Rock martin
  66. Red-rumped swallow
  67. Barn swallow
  68. Common bulbul
  69. Northern brownbul
  70. Cliff chat
  71. Isabelline wheatear
  72. White-browed scrub robin
  73. Spotted morning thrush
  74. Olivaceous warbler
  75. Northern crombec
  76. Yellow-bellied eromomela
  77. Red-fronted warbler
  78. Pale prinia
  79. Grey-wren warbler
  80. Yellow-breasted aplis
  81. African-grey flycatcher
  82. Pygmy batis
  83. African paradise flycatcher
  84. Brown-babbler
  85. Northern grey-tit
  86. Beautiful sunbird
  87. Hunter’s sunbird
  88. Eastern violet-backed sunbird
  89. Brubru
  90. Slate-coloured boubou
  91. Sulphur-breasted bush-shrike
  92. Grey-headed bush-shrike
  93. Northern white-crowned shrike
  94. Drongo
  95. Black-headed oriole
  96. Red-billed oxpecker
  97. Greater-blue-eared starling
  98. Superb starling
  99. Yellow-spotted petronia
  100. Grey-headed sparrow
  101. White-browed sparrow weaver
  102. White-headed buffalo weaver
  103. White-billed buffalo weaver
  104. Black-headed weaver
  105. Lesser-masked weaver
  106. Vitalline masked weaver
  107. Northern masked weaver
  108. Jackson’s golden-backed weaver

Bird watching on the shores of Lake Baringo, Kenya

An early morning birding at the shore of Lake Baringo and the adjacent bushes nearby resulted in an impressive species list, and the most exciting one were:
Lake Baringo
Birding on the shores of Baringo
1.Yellow-crowned Bishop,  Euplectes afer
2.Northern Red Bishop,  Euplectes franciscanus
3.Northern Masked Weaver,  Ploceus taeniopterus
4.Brown Babbler,  Turdoides jardineii
5.Pale Prinia,  Prinia somalica
6.Grey Wren-Warbler,  Calamonastes simplex
7. Red-fronted Warbler, Heliolais erythroptera
and the bird of the day…..
Magpie Starling,  Speculipastor bicolor
– Joe