Two birds in the bush

Kenya has about 1300 species of birds, probably slight in excess of the number of species of birds in India. I’d known about this for a while. During my preparation for the trip I tried to order a field guide but found it would be delivered long after our scheduled departure. As a result, we landed in Nairobi without any preparation, fearing that most birds we saw would be new and unidentifiable.

Standing in the kitchen of the Mother of Niece Tatu, I heard a chirping and twittering. I looked out and a nearby tree seemed to be full of motion. MONT said, “That tree is full of nests.” The Family went off to unpack her binoculars while I picked up my camera. The kitchen looked out on an open green space bounded by trees below several apartments, with a low house set in the middle of a clearing. Perfect terrain for urban bird-watching. One of the first birds I saw was a small sparrow sized bird on the roof of the house below us (featured photo). I’d never seen anything like this before.

We saw it in close association with a red bird of similar size. “Male and female”, was The Family’s guess. We saw a little brown on the back of the bird, and the noticeably white eyes. Later we would find that the two were indeed the male and female of the Red-billed firefinch (Lagonosticta senegala), also called the Somali firefinch. It is a rather common bird, whose habitat stretches east-west across sub-Saharan Africa and in a very wide band down the east coast of Africa all the way to South Africa. Although it is so common across Africa, and its call is part of the soundscape of the continent, this was a lifer for us, since it is not found outside of Africa.

The tree had a very large number of a noisy brown long-tailed bird with a very stylish brown crest. We could see them flitting through the leaves without settling into an exposed branch. I managed to take a few shots which could together give me a picture of the whole bird. Later I would find that it was another very common bird of Africa, the Speckled mousebird (Colius striatus). We were excited by these two lifers although they happen to be among the commonest birds of East Africa, and in larger parts of the continent.

But Father of Niece Tatu had broken out a pack of Tusker’s Malt, and we left the birding to go on to another lifer.

Author: I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.

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