By Mustafa Adamjee aka The Kenyan Birder*
Kenya is one of the most visited countries on the African Continent. Most visitors travel to Kenya for its spectacular Wildebeest migration and Luxurious beaches. But Kenya’s unique geographical range gives it a variety of climates and landscapes; hence it has the second highest number of species in Africa!
It is only recently that many people have started appreciating its birdlife; with over 1,100 recorded species, we even hold the African-record for ‘Most birds spotted in a single’ – with 342 species recorded! The annual Global Big day event hosted by eBird has been seeing Kenya come in the Top 10 list of the world, coming in at 6th place this year! So if you love seeing unique and fascinating birds, then surely Kenya has a lot to offer!
What do you need to follow this kind of a hobby?
Well it doesn’t take much to be a birdwatcher, you just need to have a genuine love for birds, a pair of binoculars/camera and the most important one is patience – birds are wild animals that are mostly wary of humans and they have an advantage of flying off whenever they want. But still it’s very rewarding when you get in tune with this hobby. Many people, including me, have evolved through the different groups/preferences of birdwatching, depending in what your focus is. Or even what kind of budget you have for your new hobby.
What group do you think you fall in?
The groups include:
- Birdwatchers: They are interested in finding and identifying different species of birds. It’s a casual hobby that you do alone or with some close friends. Most of them are beginners or are learning about the hobby.
- Bird photographers: They love the beauty of birds and try to get the absolute best image one possibly can, even if it’s the same species. The best photos are normally added to social media to try getting as many likes as they can.
- Bird lovers: They love looking at birds, their behaviour, seeing them sing, feed, and fly around. It gives them the peace of mind and relaxation nothing else can.
- The Twitcher: The most competitive bunch of all, these are a group of very proud people; normally having seen, photographed, and recorded birds from several countries. The more birds they see, the more invincible they become.
So as you can see, it’s a nice hobby to get into; if you’re not a birdwatcher yet then you’ll find to be a bit competitive just like any other hobby. But it makes you more adventurous, brings you closer to nature, makes your reflexes sharper and also directly helps in conserving these beautiful animals!
My Top 7 Spots to Birdwatch in Kenya
1. Nairobi National Park
Nairobi national park is one of the most unique parks in the world. It is the only wildlife park within the capital city and hosts a wide variety of wildlife including the Big 5, and over 500 species of birds. The park has a range of habitats including open grasslands, lightly wooded plains, rocky valleys, seasonal wetlands, dams, forest lined rivers and stream, and montane forests. So it is not uncommon to get a species list of more than 200 species in a day! Here is a Black-cheeked Waxbill seen in the park.
2. Mt Kenya National Park
Mt Kenya is the highest mount in Kenya, and arguably the most difficult to climb. Mt Kenya hosts a wide variety of montane forest and moorland species. The forests on the slopes of the mountain are most productive in birds, but the shy forest birds are sometimes more often heard than seen. Here is a stunning Bar-tailed Trogon seen in the montane forest
It is the largest remaining coastal forest in East Africa and famous for its diversity in mammals, butterflies, amphibians and birds, many of which are only found here. The near endemic Sokoke Scops Owl was first discovered in this forest, they’re one of the most threatened owl species because of habitat loss, and also one of the cutest!
4. Mida Creek
Mida Creek is a wonderful and important place for migrants’ seabirds and is a locally protected site. The creek floods during high tide, but when the tide goes out, all the waders and seabirds forage the beach to feed. The mangroves around the creek are important in sheltering the coast from harsh winds of sea. Many of the palearctic waders come here during the Eurasian winter (September–April). When the tide goes out, it’s the perfect opportunity for them to feed. Migrants like this Crab Plover visit here annually in flocks of hundreds.
5. Masai Mara National Reserve
This popular park probably needs no introduction and is definitely the most visited park in Kenya. The park is renowned for its Maasai people, the vast herds of migrating wildebeest and high density of carnivores. But it’s also a spectacular place for Birdwatching with over 450 species recorded.
6. Kakamega Forest
Kakamega forest is the only remnant of the Guineo-Congolese rainforest in western Kenya, which makes it a hotspot of unique biodiversity. Close to 400 species have been recorded here.
This forest is full of birds that will be difficult to find anywhere else in the country. Birds like this Yellow-billed Barbet are shy and not often seen anywhere else.
7. Samburu & Buffalo Springs National Reserve
The semi-arid areas of Samburu are well known for its Samburu warriors and diverse wildlife like the threatened Grevy’s Zebra, Reticulated Giraffes, and even Black Leopards!! But this area also hosts about 400 species of birds in its dry semi-arid environment. The riverine woodland of the EwasoNy’iro River is a refuge, especially, for big raptors like the Martial Eagle, the biggest and strongest raptor in Africa; they have been known to hunt small antelopes and even mongoose.
*Author is a passionate birdwatcher, born and raised in Kenya. His passion for wildlife was very strong since he was a child. Today he is a professional bird guide and photographer; he uses his tours to support conservation of important bird and wildlife habitats. His photos can be seen on Instagram: the_kenyan_birder