The Great Migration Safari journey had all the elements necessary to be one of the most profound, surprising, beautiful, enjoyable and exciting trips I have ever taken. And it had birds.
My readers are aware of my new passion of birdwatching – founded during another spectacular hiking journey I took last year to Peru – you can read about that trip in the blog. Since then I look for new sightings wherever I am – and reading that East Africa has more species of birds (500+) than all of the United States, I knew that I was in for a treat – I just didn’t know how awesome it was going to be. Every park was chock full of brightly colored birds of all shapes and sizes. Honestly a good number escaped my camera – being of course too “flighty.” But thanks to our fantastic Tour Directors and Drivers, I was able to catch quite a few.
I have to give a shout out to these marvelous men – Maurice Oyamo, Phillip Koimere, Goodluck Mushi and Mate Akaranga not only amazed with their vast knowledge of all things Africa and the universe, but also their enthusiasm, sense of humor and kindness – adding to my birdwatching fun by even offering bird calls! Some were provided by apps but these men went beyond with mimicking the birds themselves! Asante sana!!
The most obvious and easy to see bird was of course the ostrich – both male and female. The males, as is common in the animal kingdom, have the brighter plumage – sumptuous black and white feathers, while the females are in muted brown tones.
Interesting fact: when the males are feeling amorous, their necks turn a bright pink – I guess it is the ostrich version of a passionate blush. The gentlemen above as you see is definitely thinking of the ladies.
Speaking of pink, there was another species that took the color to magnificent display but unfortunately these flamingoes were in a marshy area near the Ngorongoro Crater pretty far from where we were traveling, I was able to get a few pictures:
The pink color in the flamingoes is not a mating sign – it comes from the flamingoes’ food of crustaceans and other organisms that contain pigments called carotenoids.
These next large birds may not be as colorful, but they are nonetheless beautiful. We sighted a number of strikingly different storks:
Many birds, including the storks frequent the marshy areas of the national parks including:
Cranes – this one is a grey crowned crane:
(That’s an ibis in the foreground).
And those rather odd birdies which fall somewhere between the above species:
There are the regal Eagles – brown, bald and red-faced bateleur:
I do believe that all animals have beauty – but these next do push the concept to the extreme:
Vultures – this is the lapped=faced version:
This a Kori bustard, once of the largest bustards found in the Serengeti. The thick ruff around its throat is inflated when trying to attract females – I guess this is sexy to them.
The more I look at these rather strangely formed birds the more I understand the link between them and dinosaurs.
Then there are the comical birds – through no fault of their own I find them silly.
Guinea Fowl – Although they are quite plump, from the side they look as it they had gone through a press:
Secretary Birds – These are actually a fierce predators that hunt snakes, and even small mammals. In fact, it is the only terrestrial bird of prey as it hunts on foot and is sometimes called “Africa’s marching eagle:”
Nevertheless it looks as though it belongs in a cartoon – and upon some research I have discovered it has been featured in animated movies such as Disney’s “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” and “Mickey’s Christmas Carol:”
This fellow may look like a cockatoo – it is called white-bellied turaco, but its nickname is go-away bird:
Not sure it is anti-social – but its nickname comes from the sound of its call:
What really captures my fancy are the smaller birds, for what they lack in stature they more than compensate for by being simply brilliant.
I knew I was in for something quite special on my very first day. We had arrived in Nairobi a day before the safari began in order to acclimate to the higher elevation and stretch our legs after the long flight. Relaxing in the lush garden of the Fairmont, the Norfolk Hotel a flash of color caught my eye and of course I had my camera with me. It took a bit of stalking but this was my reward:
This is aptly named a superb sunbird. It is a nectar eater which hovers around the flower blossoms and uses its long tongue to collect the sugary liquid and is related to hummingbirds. He has a less flashy relative, the amethyst sunbird:
Pygmy Falcon – This tiny raptor is so small it is hard to believe it is a falcon – but so cute:
Interesting fact – the Pygmy falcon usually breeds in the white-headed buffalo weaver nests that I talked about in an earlier post:
The bird at the top of this post is named appropriately superb starling as its colors are magnificent. It is as common as our sparrow and they are quite bold and cheeky – catch the expression:
We also saw his cousin the blue-eared starling who is not as flamboyant:
It wasn’t hard to see this little barbet crossing the road in front of our jeep:
The trees were inundated with brightly colored birds:
Finally, there is what I believe to be one of the most stunning little birds I have ever seen. As I mentioned above, I had done research before leaving for Africa to get an idea of what animals I might encounter. One bird, which is known as “The Bird of Kenya” stood out and I hoped to catch a shot or two. Here they are:
Lilac breasted roller: