Through My Lens – Lakes Bogoria and Baringo Waterbird Census (July 2018)

We conducted a waterbird census on Lake Borogia and Lake Baringo on the weekend of 7th and 8th July 2018 as part of the bi-annual Waterbird Census. This was coordinated by the Ornithology Section of the National Museums of Kenya, Nature Kenya (the East Africa Natural History Society) and the Baringo County Government. Here are some photographic highlights from the census:

Lake Bogoria

Water levels were high at Lake Bogoria and some of the roads alongside the lake were completely flooded, but flamingos still found the conditions favorable for feeding and the lake was covered with them!

We counted over a million flamingos on Lake Bogoria. Most of them were Lesser Flamingos, with a handful of Greaters among them


Nearly half of the flamingos were juveniles, clearly distinguished from the pink adults by their pale greyish plumage


There were plenty of immatures as well (whitish without red in the wings). The adults themselves made up a small proportion of the birds present


Greater Flamingo (taller with pink bill) among the Lessers


Motion


Feeding on the lake


Congregation


Dark Chanting Goshawk


Lesser Masked Weaver breeding colony


Verreaux’s Eagle Owl


Black-winged Stilts

Lake Baringo

The rise in water levels is even more pronounced at Lake Baringo and numerous camps, lodges and properties have been flooded. Extensive areas of flooded Acacia woodland have provided plenty of dead trees for darters, cormorants, herons, egrets and other birds to nest in. This lake however has no flamingos at the moment (only one Greater Flamingo was seen).

Flooded building near Soi Safari Lodge


Beautiful Sunbird (breeding male) near Soi Safari Lodge


Nile Crocodile


Dawn breaks over Lake Baringo


Looking like it will be a good day


Teams head out to begin the count


Cruising…


Each team has its own section of the lake to count


One of our first sightings at my team’s count site on the eastern shore – African Fish Eagle


Probably Africa’s most iconic and photographed bird of prey


Lousy image but a great sighting. African Fish Eagle being mobbed by an Osprey! The Osprey is a Palearctic migrant, which means it “shouldn’t” be in Kenya at this time of year. But a few non-breeding individuals always remain year-round. Other Palearctics seen were White-winged Tern, Gull-billed Tern and Barn Swallow (all at L Baringo). We also saw a few White Storks near the donkey slaughterhouse on our way back to Nairobi.


Large dead trees were scattered all over the area around the Mukutan River mouth


Skeletons of what was once Acacia woodland on dry land


A testament to the ever-changing and dynamic nature of the Great Rift Valley and nature overall


From a photographic perspective though, the dead trees on the lake under the wide open sky make for great landscape shots

Malachite Kingfisher


Colorful eggs in the nest of a Striated (or Green-backed) Heron


The owner of the nest – Striated Heron


Northern Masked Weaver. A scarce weaver in Kenya, only occurring in the northern Rift Valley, with Lake Baringo being the best place to see it.


Breeding colony of African Darters taking advantage of the dead trees. Reed Cormorants and Striated Herons were also breeding among them


African Darter on nest


African Fish Eagle nest


We saw one hippo but they are apparently common in the shallower parts of the lake


Reed (or Long-tailed) Cormorant in its element…


… and drying off after some successful fishing


Pied Kingfisher


Squacco Heron in breeding plumage. These, along with Striated Herons, were the most numerous herons our section. Although we didn’t see any Squacco Heron nests.


African Harrier-Hawk with a very red face – a sign of excitement. It had been busy raiding African Darter nests nearby.


More nesting darters


African Darter chicks in nest


One threat to Lake Baringo’s biodiversity is the invasive Water Hyacinth. Some parts of the lake are covered in it and it is reportedly impacting the lake’s fish populations


Rothschild’s Giraffe on an island that forms part of Ruko Conservancy


Great Cormorants – Ruko Conservancy


Pink-backed Pelican


Striated Heron near Soi Safari Lodge


Fan-tailed Ravens – Soi Safari Lodge


Northern Grey Tit at the Baringo Snake Park

In additional to waterbirds, I also recorded terrestrial birds opportunistically along the way to submit to the Kenya Bird Map project (using the BirdLasser app). I managed to record 125 bird species in total across 11 pentads – including 2 full protocols at L Bogoria and 2 at L Baringo. Some counters on the other teams also recorded BirdLasser lists, which made for some good coverage of the 2 lakes. I had 3 lifers on this trip: Northern Masked Weaver, Northern Grey Tit and Bristle-crowned Starling!

Screenshot of my BirdLasser trip card

Feel free to contact me directly on shotsbyshema@gmail.com if you would like to use any of my photos. Post any questions/comments in the comments section below.

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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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Simon chege
Simon chege
2 years ago

Nice job Sydney

Keep it up