Among A Rocha Kenya’s score of ongoing projects, work at Sabaki River Mouth continues! Like many projects, the forces opposing conservation continue to threaten Kenya’s biodiversity (see previous posts to read about illegal land-grabbing which is occurring in the Sabaki area) – but fortunately, the research aimed at conserving this Important Bird Area moves ahead with enthusiasm and rigour.
ARK with members of the Sabaki River Estuary Youth Group (the Sabaki Skimmers), Nature Kenya, and a Master’s student conducting research in conservation at Sabaki (your narrator for the moment) were busy last week on the tidal flats. On 23 September, a group of nine of us braved the threat of grazing Hippos to count more than 70’000 terns during the full moon at Sabaki. An incredible sight at 70’000, other tern counts at Sabaki by ARK have reached the order of a half million. These ongoing censuses continue to highlight the importance of conserving this beautiful area for the thousands (or millions) of birds which are resident, come here to winter, or stock up on much-needed energy reserves for migration.
We returned to the estuary again on 25 September to conduct one of the regular counts for diurnal waterbirds in the lower estuary. Among the thousands of birds counted were the regular Greater and Lesser Flamingos, some late-passing Madagscar Pratincoles, a flock of more than 30 Broad-billed Sandpipers, and 10 of the always affable-looking African Spoonbill. The globally threatened African Skimmer has also made its visits to the estuary this week, resting on the banks of the Sabaki at low tide.
In honour of the BirdLife International’s World Bird Festival (http://www.birdlife.org/action/awareness/world_bird_festival/index.html), on 2 October, members of the Sabaki Skimmers and others from ARK and NatureKenya went out for some birding and the second waterbird census of the week. Among those counted were more than 3000 terns roosting, feeding, and preening throughout mid-morning, more than 2000 Curlew Sandpipers, hundreds of plovers, and good numbers of Sooty Gulls and Wood Sandpipers.
Aside from the ever-exciting bird life at Sabaki, efforts to develop sustainable ecotourism are gearing up as the high season for tourism begins. The Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology has joined up with ARK to conduct research aimed at prioritizing areas for bird conservation in the estuary and to the identify economic and social factors which will govern a management plan for Sabaki River Mouth. Kate England (that’s me) from the FitzPatrick is working alongside ARK, community members, and the Sabaki Skimmers to conduct surveys on visitors to the estuary, estuary users, and quantify disturbance impacts on waterbirds. If you’ve ever visited Sabaki, we’d love to gain insight on your experience there! An online version of the survey will be available next week, so stay tuned.