Amboseli – birding paradise – -part3

This is the third post on birds seen in my recent trip to Amboseli with WildEye. We did not specifically go out to photograph birds but there is a wide variety and the swamp areas in Amboseli are ideal for wetland loving avians.

“Taking an image, freezing a moment, reveals how rich reality truly is.” ~ Unknown

A yellow throated spurfowl declaring his presence early in the morning on a rock next to the side of the road. He was so intent on his calling that he ignored us completely. Francolin and spurfowl were previously all called francolin. Although the birds all look similar scientists have discovered that they are not even that closely related. As a generalisation, a francolin is smaller and has yellow legs. It also flushes when disturbed and has a musical call. By comparison, a spurfowl is larger and has orange, red or black legs. It sits tight or runs when disturbed (rather than flushing) and roosts in trees at night. It also has a harsh call.

A pair of White-backed pelican flying in to join the rest of the flock. They look bulky and heavy but are graceful fliers. Wings of pelicans flap efficiently when flying close to the surface of water. As it nears the water surface, the water partially blocks the trailing vortices of air off the wings and decreases the amount of downwash generated by the wing. This reduction in downwash results in more lift and less drag when flying.

A small flock of white-backed pelicans flew in to patrol a small open waterway in the swamp in front of us. They paddle in formation indicating they were hunting but the hunt never became serious.

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

In typical male weaver fashion, this Taveta Golden weaver was performing under his nest to attract females. In the time we watched he was not successful with the female weaver, but he certainty caught our attention. I think this is a Taveta golden weaver because of the range-chestnut colouration on his upper chest and top of his crown.

“Observation is the greatest source of wisdom”.~ Unknown

It must have been a wet night because this an immature martial eagle has his wings slightly open to dry them. This was already a big raptor but his partially open wings make him look every larger.

Water thick knee eating on his knees. The Water thick knee does not have the spotted colouration across its back and wings which is seen in the Spotted thick knee but has a grey panel on its wing feathers with a dark brown streak above and below it. This Water thick knee is usually also found close to water.

A White Browed coucal is also drying itself in the early morning sun. This character found a prominent position from which to call to its partner. This coucal has the characteristic red eye of the coucal but also has a noticeable white eye brow. Its white and brown streaking extending from its head down to its dark brown back is also a diagnostic feature.

A closer look at the head of a Greater flamingo. The unusually shaped beak is characteristic of this species. The Greater flamingo is much larger than its lesser cousin. It is also much whiter than the very pinker Lesser flamingo. The Greater flamingo has a pinkish bill with a black tip and it has bright pink legs. When it comes to the colour of their eyes, the Greater flamingo’s eyes are yellow, whilst the Lesser flamingo has red eyes.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

Flamingoes feed with their heads down and their beaks fully immersed in the water filter feeding. A flamingo’s beautiful colour comes from the algae, diatoms, and small crustaceans that they eat, which are rich in the carotene pigment. You can see from the wetness of the head and top part of the neck that this flamingo has been feeding with its head completely under the water. Flamingoes obviously hold their breath while feeding under water.

Red billed teal. We saw many of them at the edge of the swamp. This duck is not migratory, but will fly great distances to find suitable waters. We also found Hottentot teal in the swamps. They are smaller than the Red-billed species and have a blue bill. A teal is a dabbling duck, meaning it feeds on the lake bed by upending itself with its tail in the air. I am always impressed by how immaculately teal present themselves.

A male Painted snipe fully exposed in the sunshine. His colouring is exquisite but his larger female is even more beautiful. The sides of the female’s head, neck and throat are a rich chestnut brown, and she has a distinct black band across her breast; the male is paler and greyer.

“How important is a constant intercourse with nature and the contemplation of natural phenomena to the preservation of moral and intellectual health! The discipline of the schools or of business can never impart such serenity to the mind.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

A Marabou stork presents a strong contrast to the Painted snipe. The head and neck of these birds is mainly bald so that their feathers don’t get covered in blood when they are foraging and eating. Marabou storks have big, rounded air-sacs, one hanging from their throat and one on their upper back which help them to cool down.

A Kori bustard with unusual dark malar facial markings. This Kori bustard appeared to be looking at me from one eye. As surprising as it may be, birds can look straight ahead and to the side at the same time.  They have both monocular and binocular vision. This gives the bird an advantage of a large field of vision which helps detect predators.

A first for me, an Eastern Chanting goshawk. The name goshawk comes from the old English for “goose-hawk”. A piece of dead tree trunk was the only prominent perch in the area. Although at low vantage point this goshawk was on the look out for prey. You can see dark and eastern chanting goshawks in Kenya. The Chanting goshawk is so called because of its piping calls during breeding season. The Eastern Chanting goshawk has a yellow cere and yellow beak with a black tip, and orange legs. This large, long-winged, strongly patterned raptor is usually found in open country and forages on the ground, chiefly for lizards, but will also take small mammals, birds and large insects.

Hunting in the swamp below Observation Hill this Goliath heron had been standing dead still in the shallow swamp waters until it ruffled its feathers. Male and female Goliath herons have similar colouring but are dimorphic only regarding size with the male being larger. Birds ruffle their feathers when they are cold to trap more air in their feathers to give more insulation. They also ruffle their feathers after preening to realign the feathers.

This Yellow-throated spurfowl was declaring to the world that it had survived the night and that this was still its patch.

“I love nature partly because she is not man, but a retreat from him. None of his institutions control or pervade her. There a different kind of right prevails. In her midst I can be glad with an entire gladness. If this world were all man, I could not stretch myself, I should lose all hope. He is constraint, she is freedom to me. He makes me wish for another world. She makes me content with this.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

I hope the last three posts have given a smattering of the avian potential in Amboseli. This is truly a wonderful scenic park in which to see birds. The variety is vast and so are the quantities of birds especially the wetland species.

” The world is full of magical things waiting for our wits to grow sharper”. ~ Eden Phillports

Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its interconnectedness and let it be.

Have fun, Mike

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