River crossing by wildebeest or gnus in Mara river. Jully-September is a great time to visit Masai Mara, kenya to witness this spectacle.
One of my favourite animal, where I got an opportunity to be up close and personal….One of the endangered species on earth, mountain gorillas are mainly found in Uganda, Rwanada & Congo in the Virunga mountain range and Bwindi Impenetrable forest. Having a view of them is not easy. One has to trek the rain forest and then look for them.
The big five animals include lion, elephant, Rhino, Cape buffalo and the leopard. Let us read some interesting facts about these animals. Lion Known as the only truly social cats, lions live a nomadic lifestyle in groups called prides, with a pack mentality that is usually led by the females. Lions’ bodies are built for hunting: They are strong and compact, with strong forelimbs and jaws that help them bring down their prey. Females stay in their mother’s prides their entire lives, unless food shortage forces the pride to fracture. Males, however, are forced out of their pride when they are old enough to compete with the dominant males. Male lions will roam in groups, usually made up of related individuals, and search for prides to take over. Males typically only live in a pride for two to three years before being forced out by another group. A lion’s roar can be heard up to 5 miles away. Lions have no specific habitat preference so you could expect to see them anywhere during your bush trip. But they are territorial. When you spot these African animals resting in some shade, you will see them enjoying good fellowship with lots of – touching, head rubbing, licking and purring. Leopard The largest cat species that climbs trees regularly, leopards can drag prey weighing up to three times their own body weight up into trees over 20 feet (6 meters) tall and they can hunt from trees. Leopards are not only comfortable in water, they are in fact strong swimmers that sometimes eat fish and even crabs. This beautiful, elegant, and powerfully built African animal has a tawny coat, which is covered with dark, irregular circles called rosettes. This shrewdest of the large carnivores is a prize encounter on all game drives. Dense bush in rocky surroundings and riverine forest are their favorite habitats. The spotted coat provides almost perfect camouflage when they rest during the daytime in trees or thick bush. Both lions and hyenas will take away the kill if they can. To prevent this, leopards store their larger kills in trees where you can often see them feed on it in relative safety. Elephants Elephants can get sunburned and throw sand on their backs and heads to prevent sunburn and keep insects off their skin. Baby elephants are born blind and some individuals suck their trunks for comfort, similar to the way young humans suck their thumbs. When elephants approach you during a safari trip, switch off your car engine and give them space to pass. Take some time to see how these African wild animals use their trunks as a – hand, extra foot, communication device and observe how expertly elephants use it as a – tool for gathering food, siphoning of water, dust baths, and digging for food. The African elephant is the largest living land mammal with a prodigious appetite and you will see these hungry animals eat roots, grasses, fruit, and bark for most of the day. Rhinos Black rhinos can pick up small objects and even open gates and vehicle doors with their prehensile upper lips. Look out for white rhinos in grassland areas with trees and water. You will notice them spending most of their day grazing on grasses, walking with their enormous heads and squared lips lowered to the ground. To distinguish them from their black counterparts, notice the pointed, often tufted ears, flattish back and elongated head and look for a calf that usually runs ahead of the mother. Buffalo Buffalo are said to have killed more hunters in Africa than any other wild animal. Buffalos have good memories and are known to ambush hunters that have harmed them in the past. The only wild cattle species, females buffalos have strong bonds and if one individual is attacked the entire herd will defend the victim. You will often spot buffaloes on their way to water after their night feeding. They require large spaces and you will see them feeding on grasses of various length. Both male and female buffaloes have heavy, ridged horns that curve downward and then up. The hollow horns of these African animals are formidable weapons against predators.
Kenya, forming part of East Africa is a beautiful country, rich in wildlife and nature, with a topography of mountains, lakes, forests, wildlife and coast
Just 90 kms away from the bustling capital city Nairobi is the second largest freshwater lake in Kenya called Lake Naivasha. It is at 1880 metres above sea level and the highest of the Rift Valley lakes. Naivasha is part of Nakuru district. The word Naivasha means “rippling waters” in Masai. There are a number of campsites and hotels around the lake if one wants a relaxed weekend, spent with the birdlife too.
Adjacent to Lake Naivasha, is a saline volcanic crater lake named Lake Oloidien. Smaller and less touristed, this lake is a great destination for travellers wanting to get away from crowds. It was once part of Lake Naivasha but is now its own lake. Because of its salinity, it began to produce a bacteria called spirulina, which is the main food for lesser flamingos. This lake has become a haven for lesser flamingoes and for hippo safari!!! Lake Oloidien is Kenya’s little known secret for flamingoes.
It is an ideal place for a day’s excursion to do some bird watching in both the lakes. The charges for the boat rides are very reasonable for watching an action packed birdlife!!
There are not only Flamingoes to see, the Fish eagle is waiting for you as well as several hippo families and many other wetland species.
There are seagulls, kingfisher, cormorants, pelicans, Egyptian geese, and the African fish eagle preying for its meal in lake Naivasha.
Thousands of bright pink flamingoes are spread over the lake Oloidien, like a carpet, and the pink picture they paint is a natural spectacle. The families of hippos with their peculiar grunt and the majestic yawn is a moment to be captured.
Around 170 kms from Nairobi in the Rift valley, is another beautiful lake called lake Nakuru. This lake forms part of the Nakuru National Park (NNP). It is also a soda lake and home to millions of pink flamingoes who feed on the abundant algae, and line the shores of the lake.
The flamingoes are the poster birds for Lake Nakuru. Both the lesser and the greater flamingoes can be seen here. The greater flamingo characterized by a red bill with black tip and a deep pink plumage is less commonly seen than the lesser flamingo which is slightly smaller and has a pink bill and a white plumage. NNP is a home for around 400 bird species and the large fish eating birds like the white pelicans and cormorants. There are numerous migrating birds from other lakes in addition to weavers, plovers and vultures to name a few! Interesting to note is that, in the year 2011, Lake Nakuru National Park has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
NNP is an excellent place for spotting the endangered species – the rhinos black and white and the Rothschild giraffe. Huge herds of waterbuck, zebra, wild buffalo, the leopard and prides of lion can be seen. The lions in NNP can climb trees.
An outing to NNP is highly recommended for bird enthusiasts. One can enter the park after paying the park fees to Kenya Wildlife service (KWS) and watch the drama and action of both the birdlife and the wildlife.
Bird lovers, ornitholigists, bird enthusiasts or just nature lovers- be sure to visit Kenya’s beautiful lakes and be a part of the birdlife!
If you are planning for a visit to East Africa for its innumerable national parks, remember one thing, this is not only a land for a classic wildlife safari, but is a spectacular birding region as well- one of the best to any region in the world! Birding is one of the fastest growing hobbies in the world. East Africa’s birds are scattered in all sorts of habitats: mountain forest, lowland forest, seacoasts, deserts, savannah, lakes, marsh and swamps.
East Africa consists of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda & Burundi, which boasts of remarkable species of resident, migrant and vagrant birds. The region shelters an outstanding diversity of birds including many seriously threatened species with small and vulnerable ranges.
Birding is good throughout the year, but the prime season is Sept-April, when resident populations are boosted by the many Palearctic migrants that spend the northern hemisphere winter in Africa. The European winter also broadly coincides with East Africa’s rainy season, when several resident species undergo an ‘ugly duckling’ transformation from drab brown to bright breeding colours.
Birds of East Africa can be classified into the following:
- Large ground birds
- Large water birds
- Birds of prey
- Small-Medium, ground & water birds
Big birds capture the imagination and amaze the eye. Even non-birders tend to be impressed by the big, brightly coloured birds. Some of the large ground birds are Ostriches- Masai & Somalian Ostrich, Secretary Bird, Kori Bustard, Red & Yellow horn bills, Guinea fowls- Helmeted & Vuturine, and the crested crowned crane most commonly called as Ugandan crane!
Water birds delight birders, being easier to spot and photograph, as they tend to be larger and live more in the open. The common water birds that can be spotted are Great white & pink backed Pelicans, the huge flocks of lesser flamingos, the grey and black Greater cormorants, the tall & slim Goliath & Grey heron, the egrets, the Marabou stork with its distinguished beak, the saddle billed stork unique for its red beak, the Egyptian goose, the shoebills, spoonbills and sea gulls to name a few.
Raptors- Birds of prey are the princes of the bird world. They are charismatic and the most fascinating birds to watch. They are feared and despised by other birds and animals- particularly those they prey upon. They are not social and choose to migrate solo. It is a treat to watch them perched on top of a tree looking for a prey! The most noted among them in East Africa are the African fish eagle, Harrier hawk, Vultures, Tawny eagle, Verreaux’s eagle, palechanting Goshwak, Shrikes and the black kite.
Small birds form a constantly colourful, noisy and highly extroverted part of the landscape. They make the surroundings lively and engaging. East Africa has thousands of such birds filled with beautiful colours and patterns. The most common are Superb Starling, Flycatcher, Yellow necked Spurfowl, Fork tailed drongo, Common bulbul, Blacksmith plover, Spur wing plover, woodland Kingfishers, the laughing Doves, the little Bee eater, Barbets, Sunbirds, Weavers and the Lilac breasted roller- the national bird of Kenya and the list can go on and on…
Bird Watching is a science, a sport and an art but above all, it is one of the highly rated leisure travel activity. So friends, pack your bags and visit East Africa for an ultimate African Bird Watching safari! Do not forget your cameras!!!