The Birds of the Dark Continent
The dark nights of the Dark Continent: Africa; are really horrifying, especially in central and Eastern parts of the continent, in countries like Kenya and Tanzania. These Grasslands are home to various dangerous and endangered species of wildlife. There must have been a lot you would have heard about the African Safaris like the Big Five of Kenya, the Lion hunt, the gigantic sizes of African carnivorous like the Wild Elephants, Hippopotamus and single-horned Rhinos, about the Masai and Reticulated Giraffes, the migration of animals from Kenya to Tanzania, etc. But my experience with African birds is not less stunning. This was my 1st visit outside India to especially do Bird watching. Though I am familiar with many Indian birds, African birds were strangers to me but still on our very 1st day of our 8 day trip to Kenya Wild Life Safaris, I pledged that I will try to spot at least 100 bird species. We visited many safaris like Sweet Water Lake, Nakuru Lake, The Amboseli safari and the Masai Mara Safari, but our Amboseli experience was very memorable and thrilling.
Ready with Binoculars and a book of African birds, we started spotting birds as soon as we boarded our safari van. The 1st bird we spotted was with fabulous beauty and it is found commonly in Africa – the Lilac-breasted Roller, a multicolour fascination with pintails at the end. Zebras and Giraffes are the most popular animals, but so are birds like Grey-crowned cranes which have a very graceful walk and migrating birds like Egyptian Geese which are very spectacular in water. The most exciting sight was of the Secretary birds, the inseparable duo, looking like two birds wearing tights.
The other common ground birds always poking on the ground to find insects and small reptiles are Black Smith Lapwings, Crowned Lapwings, Pale Chanting Goshawks, and Helmeted Guineafowls. The tall birds like Marabou Storks, Flamingos, Black-bellied Bustards and the Spoon-Bills can’t go unnoticed whereas the Fishing Eagles, Augur buzzards, etc are not easily traceable. Amboseli has an abundant variety of birds and you just don’t happen to see birds by luck, they are everywhere. One peculiar bird which I found unique is the Hadada Ibis, a dark black bulky bird with a shimmer on its body. Its also very noisy and can be found in an urban neighbourhood. Though the Ostrich population there is not as high as it is in South Africa, seeing the Masai ostrich was a visual delight!
Like the wild tribes and wildlife of this forest, there are also huge wild birds present here. The sight of the Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl on the leafy branch of a giant tree was something which can never be erased from my memory. The size of this bird was too enormous for an Owl. Huge sizes of many wild creatures are another uniqueness of these grasslands. Tourists and wildlife TV channels show many live hunts of animals, the focus always being on Lions, Tigers, Leopards but the live hunt of Tawny Eagle vibrantly jumping down a tall tree to grab a snake in its sharp claws in a fraction of seconds and disappearing into the thick branches of cluttered trees was a thrilling experience and I almost stopped breathing that moment. Seeing a team of Rűppell’s Griffon Vultures, Hooded Vultures and Lappet-Faced Vultures were waiting patiently for almost five hours for the two lion cubs to finish eating their freshly hunted Gazelle meat reconfirmed the fact that it’s not just humans who struggle to make their ends meet.
Few of my favourite birds that I spotted among the 100 different wild species of Kenya safari are Pigmy Kingfishers, pintail Whydahs and Rose Breasted Long Claws dancing across the park. Yes, this safari has, of course, a lot to offer to those who have come to see wild animals, but for avid Bird watchers, it is like a heaven full of flying beauties, a divine experience for all the bird lovers.
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