Coming over all ‘Nerdy’ in Western Kenya: Birding by Boat and Boda Boda

Bird watchers or ‘twitchers’ as they’re commonly known are considered a fairly odd bunch by non-twitchers.  A little bit geeky, called ‘Colin’ or ‘Graham’ usually and never happier than when hidden in a bush, behind binoculars ticking off species whilst simultaneously ‘shhhh-ing’ anyone making non-bird noises around them.  Ok, so that’s a bit harsh (not least to my husband-to-be, Graham), but nonetheless, I was quite sure bird watching wasn’t for me,’ a fashionable urbanite’ (I prefer handbags). That is until Integritour showed me otherwise.

Ok, so check me out now. I could accompany you out on Lake Victoria and point out precisely 5 species of Lake Victoria birds:  We’d

Pied Kingfisher Lake Victoria

Pied Kingfisher, Lake Victoria

start with the mighty Fish Eagle, perched regally with partner in the highest tree- white head and shoulders above the rest of the lake bird life.  Next, the weavers – 100s strong, chattering away in their colonies of nests hanging precariously at the ends of flimsy branches (protects them from snakes, don’t you know).   Hamerkops – strangely stupid-looking and hammer-headed, they co-habit massive nests (like bird apartments) and love the fishing villages where they efficiently clean the laid-out nets of any remnants.  The pied Kingfisher – the second largest of the kingfisher family will undoubtedly crop up next, flitting around everywhere  and frequently found hovering 5 feet above the lake to fish (although landing only c 1 in 5).  Next, I’d point out his cousin, the tiny but beautiful Malachite Kingfisher, bright blue against his reed perch – much more cautious and patient in his fishing technique.  But these do-not-a-Twitcher make me as they’re the easy ones; anyone could point them out after only 5 minutes on the lake, as common as tits on a British high street on a Saturday night.

Bird Island off Rusinga Island

Bird Island off Rusinga Island

If Tom or Ibrahim (our ornithological experts) took you out– well, prepare to be bamboozled by dizzying encyclopaedic knowledge as they point out (by Latin and English name) the Papyrus Goleleck, Papyrus Sirin, Carathas Cisticala, White winged warbler, Painted Snipe, African Moorhen, Avacet, Water thick knee, Black Caucal, Purple Gallanuel, North brown-throated weaver and many, many more – 359 more to be exact.   (Or as I know them – the pretty white one with long neck and yellow feet, the black coot-like one or the rather non-descript brown duck-like one with the pretty song and purple flashes etc).    Even if their exact names don’t inspire you (pity the ‘thick knee’), the sheer volume and variety of them will.  Big, small, brightly coloured, solitary, flocking, calling, hunting, eating – the lake and countryside surrounding Kisumu is literally teaming.  Just stopping what you’re doing, switching your engine off and shutting your trap for a moment reveals a teaming, fluttering, flying landscape set to the soundtrack of a wonderful natural orchestra of bird calls.

As recent converts, we are of course evangelical about the promotion of bird watching in this region.  We tailor-make birding tours

Hamerkops helpfully cleaning fishing nets

to Twitcher preference but offer two introductory birding products for novices like me:  ‘Day Break on Lake Victoria’, which provides a perfect 4 hour introduction to the many lake species and can be tailored to birder preferences with more time spent drifting in the mangroves with binoculars, as preferred.   And – introducing our brand new product – ‘Birding by Boda-Boda’, a nature-community hybrid tour which sees guests taken by bicycle taxi on a guided tour of the villages and rice-fields south of Kisumu.  Here you’ll see a myriad of land and lake birds flocking around the rice fields and fishing villages – plus receive fascinating insights into rice-farming practices and daily life in the lakeside villages.  Contact us to find out more.

Conclusion:  Birds not boring. Birds bloody brilliant.

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