Breakfast with birds

We got in a little late after our morning’s excursion, but the breakfast was still on. After decanting some carbohydrates, cholesterol, protein, and fibre into ourselves, we relaxed with some tea. It was time to turn our attention to our surroundings, and the birds that they contained. I learnt in Spain to pay close attention to sparrows; they are not always as mundane as you think they are. Here I was disappointed; they were only house sparrows (Passer domesticus). The featured photo shows one enjoying the sun.

There were many weavers around. I recognized one which I’d seen in Nairobi, the Reichenowi subspecies of the Baglafecht’s weaver (Ploceus baglafechti reichenowi). The dark bird behind it is another common resident of Africa, a sooty chat (Myrmecocichla nigra), which is found all across East Africa. The male would have had a patch of white on the wings, so this is a female.

What was this other bird sitting on another branch of the same tree? After a little hesitation, and a close look at the field guide, I think this is the Stuhlmanni subspecies of Baglafecht’s weaver (Ploceus baglafechti stuhlmanni). The difference is the olive crown this one wears. The Stuhlmanni subspecies is said to occur in north-western Tanzania. We were practically there. This must be one of the contact zones between the two subspecies, and since they can interbreed, they probably do so here. It would have been nice to spend some time here looking for the results of such interbreeding.

And finally there was a bird that I could almost recognize: this one was clearly a bulbul, chattering away in the usual querulous bulbulish tone. The yellow vent was new to me. This happens to be the commonest of African bulbuls, and has been saddled with the utterly un-inventive name common bulbul (Pycnonotus barbatus). It seems to be common enough to be reported from almost everywhere in Africa, including in parts of the Sahara. There were several of them flying around, keeping up quite a lively chatter. This was a lifer for us, and one whose identification fortunately we didn’t have to worry much about.

These were four common birds of Africa, but all rather new to us. I was happy to wander about the resort and get used to seeing these species.

Two more residents of Nairobi

Nursing a morning cuppa in MONT’s kitchen I heard much chattering outside the window. I would be a very bad naturalist, because I paid no attention to it. The Family looked out and was instantly excited. I ran for my camera and caught the featured photo. Finally with a field guide at hand I sat down to identify it. Perhaps an oriole? No, it didn’t fit. A field guide with almost 1400 entries is no good unless you have some idea of what you are looking at. I flipped through it looking for all black and yellow birds and finally landed up with the weavers. Could it be one of the five different subspecies of Baglafecht weaver? The males and females have different but equally bright colours, so I had to be careful. It was; a male Ploceus baglafecht reichenowi. That was my first successful field identification in Kenya.

In the meanwhile, another bird had arrived in the same palm tree outside MONT’s kitchen. I snapped off a couple of photos thinking it was a speckled mouse bird. But it wasn’t. The crest was much paler. I jumped to the conclusion that it was the rarer white headed mousebird. The Family was not slow to point out that this must be wrong, because it doesn’t have the long tail that mousebirds always do. Now it required a careful page by page look through the book. I couldn’t identify it. The Family tried a second trawl, and came up empty too. Now we are waiting for a kind reader to help us with an id.

[One possibility that more than one birder suggested is that this is a mousebird which lost its tail to a predator.]