Travel
Friends in My Yard (Part Three)
April 28, 2017
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Hey peeps! I’m taking a brief break from my usual travel chronicles. But not to worry, they’ll be back in no time. If you have been around this blog for a while you know by now that I’m an avid birder. These feathered creatures of all sizes are so interesting. There’s so much to be learnt from them. In case you missed the previous posts on this, catch up on Part 1 and Part 2. If you’re already up to date, dig in for Part 3! 

Grosbeak Weaver nest.
Grosbeak Weaver nest.

First for a little update: at the beginning of this year I moved to a new neighbourhood. Everyone else in the family was excited apart from me. I knew I would miss the environment and of course the birds. My old hood was relatively high altitude and there were lots of forest birds, some right outside my window! Contrast that with the new place that has few trees and thus less bird action. Apart from the omnipresent Pied Crow as you shall read later on… Still, all is not grim. There are some birds in this place, though I have to be extra vigilant to see them.

African Citril

This is a small, yellow bird with black around the eyes. It can be quite difficult to see when it’s in the trees due to its size. But the high-pitched whistle-like call will let you know when one is around.

African Citril in shrubs.
One of the few times I’ve seen it in the open…

Grosbeak Weaver

Is different from the ‘common’ black and yellow weavers, which fall under Ploceus species. The Grosbeak has a thick beak, is black in colour (male) and the white under the wings is visible when in flight. Of all the weavers, the Grosbeak is said to make the neatest nest.

Grosbeak Weaver.
Grosbeak Weaver chillout spot.
Village/ Black-headed Weaver.
One of the members of Ploceus species: the Village/ Black-headed Weaver.

Grey Crowned Crane

It’s a very beautiful and graceful bird with a rather strange call. It is found in dry savannah but prefers wetter areas for nesting. I usually hear their calls at dawn as they fly across a nearby wetland. Did you know? i) The Grey Crowned Crane is the national bird of Uganda ii) It is considered an endangered species due to habitat loss?

Grey Crowned Cranes in swamp.
Such beautiful birds.

Singing Cisticola

A tiny bird that’s not easily seen because it likes hiding in foliage. Though when it’s busy feeding on insects you may just spot it as it’s slightly less alert. In my previous hood I saw it a few times, but these days I only have the ‘pretty! pretty!’ call to inform me of their presence. Seriously, this bird’s call sounds like the word pretty. Look it up and see.

Singing cisticola in shrubs.
Singing cisticola looking sweet.

Grey-headed Kingfisher

I love the resplendent colours on this one. And as a bonus, he perches right outside our window! And remains there for upto 15 minutes at a go. This gives me plenty of time for various shots. Did you know that unlike other kingfishers, this one is not aquatic? It feeds on insects and small reptiles. They have been known to dive-bomb monitor lizards that try to invade their nests.

Grey-headed Kingfisher perching.
What’s there?

Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater

Another cute one. It’s one of the few birds that eat stinging insects like bees and wasps. They catch prey in flight, perch then tap the insects on a hard surface to remove the sting before swallowing. Pretty cool, right? I wonder who came up with the term bird-brain. Birds are more intelligent than you think! Fun fact: These bee-eaters nest in holes on the ground near river banks.

Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater on electricity wire.
Posing sweetly…

Black Kite

The common bird of prey in Nairobi, that people mistakenly call hawk. Yes guys, now you know. It’s a Kite, not Hawk. It’s usually seen gliding around wedding venues/ wherever there’s meat being served. I once saw a lady lose a smokie she’d just bought to this bird. So be careful next time you’re at a wedding, a Black Kite might just swoop your chicken away…

Black Kite in tree.
Hey you!

Pied Crow

Another common bird. Very noisy and such bullies. They normally mob other birds like Black Kites and Augur Buzzards in an attempt to chase them from their territory. So common are they that nobody pays them much attention during birdwalks. A thought crossed my mind recently that sometimes one can feel like a Pied Crow: people look at you as common and having nothing special to offer. But just look at the images below, how unique and cute does that crow look!

Pied Crow in tree.
All fluffed up.

By the way, ‘pied’ means having two or more colours, often black and white. So going by that, shouldn’t zebras actually be called Pied Donkeys?

Pied Crow in tree.
Hello human…

Black-headed Heron

I just love the extent to which herons can extend and retract their necks. This particular heron is a wading bird that eats fish, frogs, rodents, and even small birds! They build large stick nests in which 2-4 eggs are laid.  This heron’s standing height can reach up to 85cm, and wingspan 150cm.

Black-headed Heron.
Black-headed Heron stalking prey.

Augur Buzzard

It’s one bird of prey that people get so excited about during birdwalks. I particularly love it because of its wing shape in flight and the beauty of its gliding. It occurs in two forms: White Morph (white underparts) and Black Morph (black underparts). Diet is mostly small ground mammals, but they also take reptiles and small birds.

Augur Buzzard in tree.
Mug face. Black Morphs like this one are also identified by their chestnut tails.

Common Fiscal

Also known as butcherbird. Once it catches prey, it impales them on thorns or barbed wire spikes until when it’s hungry then eats. Consider it wild mshikaki (kebab) if you will. You can’t tell this by looking at them, what with their innocent appearance while perching!

Common fiscal on branches.
Don’t be fooled by that cute face! It’s actually a butcherbird.

Cats

Had to throw in a surprise like last time. A neighbourhood cat and her young ones decided to move in with us earlier this year. It was so interesting watching kittens grow up…I say was because their mother moved them to a different location after some weeks. Their photogenic faces just begged for photos, which were duly taken. And videos to document their interesting behaviour. The mum is still here, taking over our house slowly.

Cat with her days-old kittens.
Funny how young kittens look like their prey (rodents).

There are so many birds here I’m yet to shoot like Lesser Striped Swallow, African Palm Swift, Cattle Egret, Pigeons, Owls, and a certain mysterious bird that I always hear but never see. Given that there are over 1000 bird species in Kenya, the work has just begun. Here’s to more learning and shooting!

3 kittens feeding.
Tres amigos, all grown up. ?
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About author

Michelle Ajema

Michelle Ajema is an artlover who is deeply fascinated by the exciting world of DSLR photography. She loves shooting nature, and can often be found stalking monkeys and birds in her backyard.

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