A Nairobi bookstore

On our way back to Nairobi I asked about bookstores. MONT recommended a local chain called Textbook Center, not a very promising name. After breakfast I checked out its web site, and was impressed by the search engine and the fact that it stocked not only the particular field guide for East African birds that I was interested in, but also several others. So The Family and I paid the nearest one a visit. The staff was knowledgeable, and directed us immediately to the right section. After we’d compared the different guides and picked up a copy of the book by Stevenson and Fanshawe, we decided to take a look at the other books on display.

It is always nice to walk into a bookstore in a different country and see what the locals are reading. It is much more informative than looking at recommendations on the web, which are often dominated by foreigners. We’ve picked up some really interesting books this way. This time was no exception. The Family and I wandered through the maze of shelves looking at the enormous variety of Africa-centric, and Kenya-centric, literature and picked up enough to last us a year. You don’t really have to go to Nairobi to find these books, but it helps you to choose.

A lazy Monday on dusty plains

Anthony brought our car to a halt. This was my favourite way to view Amboseli National Park: standing up in a parked car, with my head poking up out of the roof line, but still shaded by the raised canopy. On my left was a scene out of a thousand movies and TV shows. I’m often lazy about images. So the sight of a perfectly flat and dusty plain stretching to the horizon, a few zebras standing in the shade of an Acacia tree, brought out the competitive copy cat in me. “Quintessential Africa,” I thought. The Family looked totally bored, and started looking around.

On our right was jumbled bush. On top of it was a shrike. Anthony was pretty good at birds, but not accurate down to the species. He agreed with me and added “Butcher bird.” Many species of shrikes create a larder of insects they catch by impaling the carcass on thorns, so this phrase is sometimes used to denote all shrikes. Mother of Niece Tatu was a budding birder, so I thought it was nice that Anthony gave this explanation. Later, when I got a copy of the field guide to the birds of East Africa by Terry Stevenson and John Fanshawe, I found that the photo catches a lifer, the Lesser Grey Shrike (Lamius minor), in full breeding plumage. The field guide shows this as being spread across Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi. Strangely, the IUCN red list excludes this part of Africa from its recorded range. A cross check on the HBW site shows reports of sightings from across Europe, East Africa, and down to southern Africa. That makes me fairly confident about this identification.