Through My Lens – January and February 2018

This is a selection of birds and wildlife that I’ve captured through my lens in 2018, so far. Enjoy!

Lake Nakuru National Park

My first highlight of the year was a sighting of one of the smallest owls in Kenya and a lifer for me – Pearl-spotted Owlet!

I always enjoy seeing Black Storks, but it was sad to see the state of this small stream that the stork was standing in. It is polluted with waste from Nakuru town and it flows directly into Lake Nakuru.

African Fish Eagle perched on a dead tree

Lake Nakuru at Dusk

Grey Heron on an overcast morning. Conditions were challenging for photography due to poor light conditions on this morning but I’m still happy with the photos I got.

Great White Pelican, juvenile

Feeling the chill

Grey-headed Kingfisher

Pair of Red-billed Teals

The photo itself is low quality, but this sighting will remain a major highlight of my whole year. A sub-adult Palm-nut Vulture at Lake Nakuru! This caught me completely by surprise!

Defassa Waterbuck

Gabar Goshawk, melanistic (dark morph)

Meyer’s Parrot (or Brown Parrot) at the WCK Camp

Nairobi National Park

Another lifer for me: Common Snipe! Funny enough, after this day I started seeing it everywhere! How I had never seen one in the three and a half years since I started birding, I have no idea.

Family Outing – Grey Crowned Crane pair with a recently-hatched chick.

This Leopard Tortoise has clearly had a tough life

A close-up in semi-monochrome

Spotted Thick-knees

Not a pretty picture, but the size of this rat is just mind-blowing! I placed my shoe next to it to give you an idea of how enormous it is. This is one of Africa’s largest rodents – the Giant Pouched Rat. We found it dead on the road, probably run over by a car, near the entrance of the KWS HQ early one morning.

Little Bee-eater, juvenile

(Get Hi-Res posters, iPhone cases and other prints of my photos here)


Masai Giraffe Portrait

Great White Egret fishing for breakfast

The ever-photogenic Malachite Kingfisher …

Looking out for the next meal

King of the sky on the African savanna – Martial Eagle

Red-billed Oxpecker and African Buffalo – constant companions


Crowned Plover (or Crowned Lapwing) – A noisy yet beautiful resident of east and southern African savannas

Kori Bustard taking shelter from the midday sun in the shade of a tree

Black-winged Plover

Northern Wheatear (female)

Staying close to mum

African Fish Eagle – the top avian predator of Africa’s rivers and lakes

Lake Ol’Bolossat

Purple Heron

Goliath Heron among a pod of ‘river horses’

Western (Eurasian) Marsh Harrier

Cattle Egrets showing where they got their name from

Ruai Oxygenation Ponds

Black-winged Stilt

Ruffs (center and left) and a Wood Sandpiper (right) – Two easily confused waders

Flock of White-winged Black Terns

Egyptian Geese

Annual waterbird census in progress. Thousands of swallows and martins flying all around us. It was a bit sad however to see how much the toxic invasive plant Parthenium is thriving here.

Black-winged Stilt, Wood Sandpiper and Glossy Ibis

Wire-tailed Swallow

Marsh Sandpiper (top right), two Wood Sandpipers and a Little Stint (bottom left)


The semi-desert landscape to the east of  Lake Turkana. This area has the lowest density of birds of anywhere I have ever been! But the good thing is that (for a birder like me who operates mostly in central and southern Kenya) when you do see a bird, there’s a good chance it’s either a lifer or a species that you’ve only seen very few times before.

Heuglin’s Bustard – a northern Kenya specialty

Greater Kestrel in flight

Taking off … Brown-tailed Rock Chat

Greater Kestrel

Definitely one of the most beautiful falcons that we get in Kenya – Greater Kestrel

A lifer and definitely my biggest highlight from our bird survey in Turkana – Egyptian Vulture! Poor quality photo but who cares.

Camels are very important to local livelihoods in the drylands of northern Kenya

Another highlight was this Thekla Lark! Also a lifer.

Thekla (or Short-crested) Lark

The Ndoto Mountains beautifully lit by the early morning sun. Photo taken using my phone through the window of a moving car (hence the reflection in the top left of the image!)

Kinangop Plateau and the Aberdare Moorlands

This was another great trip with several lifers, both for my clients and I. I was guiding a birding day trip for Cisticola Tours.

Augur Buzzard

Sharpe’s Longclaw – Critically Endangered species endemic to grassy plateaus in the Kenyan highlands. This was the main bird we came here to see.

Sharpe’s Longclaw

Black-chested Snake Eagle (sub-adult) hunting above the plateau


Long-tailed Widowbird, breeding male

Moorland Chat (or Alpine Chat) – Aberdare National Park

Pair of Common Stonechats

Close-up of the male Common Stonechat

Common Stonechat, female

Common Waxbill

Lesser Jacana – a highlight of the trip and lifer for me!

You can read the full trip report of how the day went on this link.

City Park – Nairobi

As part of a week-long herpetology course at the National Museums of Kenya, we went to City Park to collect reptile and amphibian specimens for the museum’s Herpetology Section. Here are a few of the species we found …

Striped Skink

Tropical House Gecko. These are the common geckos often seen in houses. They are great hunters of small insects like mosquitoes and are therefore useful to have in your home. Next time you see one, don’t kill it. Let it do its job.

Angola River Frog

Jackson’s Three-horned Chameleon (male). This species is endemic to the Eastern Afromontane Biodiversity Hotspot .. specifically the highland forests of south-central Kenya and northern Tanzania.

Jackson’s Three-horned Chameleon (female). The color of a chameleon changes based on its mood, the time of day and other environmental factors!

Jackson’s Forest Lizard. The central Kenya race of this lizard appears to be a separate species from the race that occurs in the western forests and the two may soon be split into unique species. The central species will be renamed the Kibonoto Forest Lizard while the western one will retain the ‘Jackson’s’ name.

Jackson’s Forest Lizard

On our way out of the forest, we spotted this African Goshawk feeding on a kill. After close observation for several minutes, it became apparent that the kill was in fact a Jackson’s Forest Lizard! Clearly we were not the only ones trying to catch lizards in City Park that morning!

African Goshawk after finishing its meal

I hope you enjoyed this selection of images! And feel free to share this post with someone who you know will like them as well ;).

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About Sidney Shema

Sidney is a Kenya-based ornithologist and photographer specializing in the birds of Africa, with an especially keen interest in the birds of prey (raptors) of Kenya.
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Traci Weekes
1 year ago

Hey, shotsbyshema! Don’t you wish you could be Instagram popular? If you are like me, you’ve scrolled through Instagram, thinking “how do so many darn people get so rich and famous”? Now, imagine that it is Friday and you have just woken up from a sound summer-time nap. You pull out your phone. Flipping to Instagram. Hmmm, you think, Over 561 likes on a single picture. Heading to the kitchen, you put the kettle on for some tea and glance at your Instagram while you wait. Presto! Another 20 likes. Here comes another one. This time it is not a… Read more »