Gabar Goshawk (Micronisus gabar)

Gabar Goshawk (Micronisus gabar)

Photo@Michael Sammut

Gabar Goshawk is smaller than other Goshawks. We can observe two morphs, one grey and one almost black. This melanistic form represents about 6 to 25 % of population. The photo shown above is of a juvenile bird.

In typical grey morph, adult has plain grey upperparts and white rump. Tail is grey, barred with black.Underparts are plain grey on chest. Belly is white, barred with grey. Vent is white. Flight feathers are sooty-grey with very pale grey bars. Tail is white with broad dark grey bars.
Head is grey. Bill is black, with red cere and gape. Eyes are deep dark red. Long bare legs and stocky toes are bright red.

Gabar Goshawk lives in savannahs and semi-arid scrub with scattered trees. It avoids too dense forests and driest deserts. It is rather found in drier thorn savannah, and also along watercourses.In Kenya it is commonly seen in Lake Baringo and Bogoria, Tsavo West and East National and Samburu National Reserve.

Protect the Lesser Flamingo – save Lake Natron!

With this week’s bird of the week being the Flamingo, it reminded me of an important environmental and conservation concern regarding this spectacular pink bird: SODA ASH (sodium carbonate). The Eastern Rift Valley is home to Lake Nakuru, Lake Bogoria, Lake Elementaita, Lake Magadi, and Lake Natron – all soda lakes, famous for providing the habitat of the near-threatened Lesser Flamingo.

Sodium carbonate is used in many household and industrial products and is being harvested in Lake Magadi, Kenya by TATA Chemicals, who are also proposing to set up a new environmentally devastating plant at Lake Natron, Tanzania.

The introduction of a soda ash plant into Lake Natron would have catastrophic effects on the already near-threatened Lesser Flamingo. Not only would the plant lead to habitat degradation and species loss, but its development would also be detrimental to East African tourism, and the livelihood of the Maasai community living in the surrounding area.

Bird Life International highlighted these concerns in April 2011 with their article “Fresh concerns as President orders Lake Natron soda ash mining fast tracked

“Lake Natron is the only regular breeding site for Lesser Flamingos in Eastern Africa. The 1.5-2.5 million Lesser Flamingos – which represents three quarters of the world population – breed only at Lake Natron. ………Noise from the heavy equipment, the presence of people and a network of pipes will chase away the birds which are highly sensitive to disturbance while breeding”

Lessons learned in Lake Magadi highlight that little to no economic or development benefits have come from harvesting soda ash in the magical waters home to the flamingo.

“Soda ash mining at Lake Magadi has left local communities disillusioned with little to show for the 100 years of mining. The environment has been damaged and fresh water nearly depleted”

With the re-emergence of the issue recently, the Star published an environmental commentary, ‘Don’t Fund Lake Natron Mining’ advocating halting the development of a soda ash factory on Lake Natron.

Let this be a call to bird enthusiasts, ornithologists, conservationists, environmentalists, and tourism professionals to come together and advocate for the protection of Lake Natron, the rehabilitation of Lake Magadi and the security of our precious Lesser Flamingo.

Watch the amazing documentary The Crimson Wing and find inspiration to see these Flamingos continue their flight between the Rift Valley soda lakes.

The stunning movie trailer: The Crimson Wing

Other important articles and resources:

Bird Life International – Think Pink

RSPB: Lake Natron

Bird Life International – Serengeti Highway and Lake Natron

Stop the Serengeti Highway

Joe

Flamingos in Lake BogoriaFlamingos in Flight Lake Bogoria

November 21, 2011: Flamingo

Flamingo
Phoenicopterus, the latin name for flamingo, means “Crimson wing”, the flamingo is said to be the inspiration for the crimson-winged phoenix, the ancient symbol of transformation and re-birth. Flamingoes are characteristic species of soda lakes in the Rift Valley in Kenya and Tanzania, especially Nakuru, Bogoria, Elementaita and Turkana. Their breeding ground is Lake Natron, in northern Tanzania.
Two species occur in Africa: Greater flamingo  Phoenicopterus ruber and Lesser flamingo Phoeniconaias minor. They are long legged wading birds adopted to a unique method of filter feeding. The two species avoid direct competition by feeding on different food items at different depths, with major diet being spirulina and diatoms.
Flamingo Lake Bogoria Kenya
A flamingo landing on Lake Bogoria, Kenya.Photo@Jurg Hosang

November 16, 2011: Slender-tailed nightjar

Slender-tailed nightjar is a common and widespread species in dry areas below 2000 metres above the sea level. Very similar to Gabon (Square-tailed) nightjar, but the tail is often paler and greyer, with central rectrices extending beyond the others.

It has a habit of flying low and alights on bare ground, rock or stump, often flying only on a short distance after being flashed. Commonly hawks insects around lights. It sings from the ground or from a low tree. Roosts on ground under scrub cover.

The Slender-tailed nightjar is common and widespread resident in dry bush and ranges throughout the coastal lowland, Rift Valley, Meru and Tsavo National Park.

Slender-tailed nightjar