The beginning of the year could not go by without our annual trip to Tana River Delta to count water birds! This year’s trip was initially postponed by a few weeks because of flooding in the area, but we finally made it happen last week. A group of 5 excited birdwatchers set off on Wednesday morning on the road to Tana Delta. After multiple stops, some fruit for our trip, a few chapatis and many bumps and potholes along the way, we finally reached the river. As if we weren’t remote enough already after over an hour of driving in the bush, we then hopped on a boat that took us through beautiful mangrove endemic to this area, all the way to our lodge.
Delta Dunes Lodge is a hidden treasure of a place, with stunning views on the river, beautiful decorations and warm, friendly hospitality (mosquitoes were a bit too friendly though!). We arrived too late to do a count on our first date, so we had to hold our excitement until the morning…
Thursday was a great and full day! We explored many different sections of the river, counting hundreds and hundreds of birds along the way, mostly Ardeidae (Herons and Egrets), as well as storks (Yellow-billed and Open-billed mostly), and whistling ducks (both species present, fulvous winning the count). Among others, we also found lots of pelicans, a group of skimmers, and admired the numerous pied kingfishers flying around their nests!
The delta looked quite different to previous years, due to unusually high levels of rain. Water levels in the delta and river were higher than normal and the grass on the river banks was greener and taller, making it harder to spot small birds. There were also fewer beaches where waders would be expected to roost.
That’s probably why the usual suspects (Spur-winged Plovers, Cattle Egrets) were fewer in number, and others were surprisingly high (Fulvous Whistling Ducks and Yellow-billed Storks in the top 2). We were happy to find a Caspian Plover, Long-Toed Plover, and black morph Little Egret!
On our way back from this long day, Kirao discovered his talents as boat captain while others enjoyed a sugar cane treat in the boat. Back at the lodge, we admired a beautiful sunset and savoured some very tasty local fish.
On Friday, we waited for low tide to go count waders on the estuary. The nice surprise there was to find a Red-necked Phalarope sitting on the sand not that far from us! After which we headed out on our boat again to get muddy on the mudflats, trying to find more waders… sadly our quest wasn’t so successful, and apart from hippo tracks, a few plovers and a croc, we didn’t find much. Waders must have been roosting elsewhere, due to the high grass.
All in all a great trip, what a privilege to have been able to discover this rich, remote and intact wildlife hotspot!