Birdnificent©: Backyard Birding – Nairobi (COVID-19 Edition)

What’s the difference between bird-watching and birding you may ask?

Well before I answer that, did you know that Nairobi boasts of over 400 bird species at any given season of the year?

Yeah. I only came to know about this when I was first introduced to the beauty and mystery of birds a few years ago. This was when a colleague out on safari suddenly pulled out a thick book from his backpack filled with pictures and illustrations of our winged friends.

Needles to say, I was at first wary, finding nothing of interest from the pages filled with feathers and beaks of all colours and shapes. But my interest grew as he started explaining the different birds we came across in detail. He could even identify a bird from its sound, something I found magical and intriguing.

Back from the trip, my interest was piqued and I started to seriously look at birds and trying to identify them, and the terms associated with this exclusive club of watching birds. I always thought that we dream about seeing lions and the rest of the Big 5 in the wild, but it seems we’ve got some pretty amazing stuff flying above us most of the time..or hopping around us!

A few weeks into the COVID-19 lockdown, a strange coloured bird perched near my window while I was walking around the compound. It’s plumage and sounds were unique, something outside the usual species I see.  

I have to admit that I’m more of a bird-watcher than a birder when it comes to bird identification.

Bird-watchers can be described as amateurs, while birders are more hardcore; people who rush off whenever a rare or unusual species is reported, so they can say they’ve seen it and tick it off their ‘checklist’. They go out in all weathers, sometimes see very little, and from time to time, have one of those rewarding moments, which make it all worthwhile.

Reaching for my bird guide (I had to get one), it occurred that I had to pick up where I’d left since that eye opening safari. Of course the camera came in handy, as the guidebook could be referred to later.

Red-billed Firefinch (Lagonosticta senegala)

The red bill of the Firefinch is  the most unique feature apart  for its fiery red plumage.

The female are a more camouflaged olive yellow.

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Abyssinian Thrush (Turdus abyssinicus)

This orange-billed beauty caught my eye due to its unique plumage. Information on it is scarce.

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Baglafecht Weaver (Ploceus baglafecht)

Both male and female of this species have bright colours, something unique in the bird world where the females are usually dull coloured.

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

These are the resident birds. We have three families nesting in our building.

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Speckled Mousebird (Colius striatus)

These noisy fellows enjoy feeding in groups and preening together. What caught my attention was how they fly…rather clumsily as if their wings are too small for the long stiff tail feathers.

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Black Kite (Milvus migrans)

This medium sized raptor (or bird of prey) is the crown of this month! Black kites hunt for food, but more often act as scavengers. This migrant species is able to fly up 4,900 meters.

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Common Bulbul (Pycnonotus barbatus)

Very active and noisy, but very hard to see… shows up mostly in the evenings

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The world of birds is so much more vibrant and active than I’d ever realized once I started paying attention. The rediscovery of this simple joy is one of those proverbial silver linings in this time when social distancing is the new normal.

Birds are interesting and they fly. Bird watching is an easy hobby to pick up during COVID-19, and after a while, most people will be able to identify birds for themselves.

One of the beauties of bird watching is that anyone can do it if they’re attentive to their natural surrounding. It’s an easy hobby to pick up during COVID-19, and after a while, most people will be able to identify birds for themselves.

A sense of adventure is the most important need for bird watching, and a set of binoculars or DSLR camera and possibly a field guide will help round out the experience.

Whether a bird watcher or a birder, you can take it to any level you wish…. that’s the beauty of enjoying birds!

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