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Binoculars? Check…Telescope? Check… Notebook? Check… Hats? On… Get ready for birds, mud and fun at the Sabaki River Mouth and Mida Creek.

In order to conserve wildlife, it is critical to know how their populations are faring. Any decline can ring warning bells to catalyse research to properly inform decision-making to protect a species or site. Migrant waterbirds are suffering major declines worldwide. Regular counts at wetland sites help us understand how they’re doing.

29th March saw the birders in the ARK Science and Conservation department and guides from Mida Creek head to Sabaki River Mouth for a waterbird count.

At the Sabaki River Mouth: deep in the mud counting birds

The Sabaki River Mouth is one of Kenya’s 62 Important Bird Areas, qualifying due to its large number of waterbirds. It took the team over four hours to cover the river mouth and count all waterbirds they could find. A total of 39 species were identified with Curlew Sandpiper the most abundant (425 birds) closely followed by Lesser Crested Tern with 215.

Team work is greatly required especially when counting birds around the Sabaki River Mouth. The area is very muddy and the mud goes way up above the knees, so in order to move from one point to another the team has to form a chain to stop anyone getting stuck in the mud – and if they do, then they are able to able to be pulled out (though it is fun to get stuck once in a while!).

Lennox Kirao, research scientist at Mwamba, with his team counting from the Mida Creek bird hide

On 11th April the same team headed for Mida Creek another Important Bird Area near Mwamba, for a regular waterbird count. Four and a half hours counting birds is not an easy task for the uninitiated especially in the Watamu heat – it takes a lot of passion and patience. 26 species were identified at Mida with Greater Sand Plover taking the lead (619 birds) followed by the Crab-plover with 407.

DID YOU KNOW The Crab-plover occurs along the coastlines of Pakistan south to Mozambique. It inhabits sandy and muddy shores on mainland coasts and islands, as well as inter tidal sand flats and mudflats, estuaries, lagoons and exposed coral reefs. It is the only wader in the world to nest underground and in a colony (arkive.org).