Home > Uncategorized > Thirtieth year of Waterbird Counts

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

Counts at Sabaki Estuary

Counts at Sabaki Estuary

The yearly waterbird counts are coordinated by the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) in collaboration with the Kenya Wildlife Service and Nature Kenya (EANHS). A Rocha Kenya in partnership with NMK  is tasked with organizing the counts in the coast region. This is usually open to the public. This year was not an exception! The Watamu-Malindi Coastal sites were visited between the 18 and 19th of Jan covering with Tana Delta sections happening between 10-12th February with the possibility of covering South Coast areas before the end of the month.

Mustafa one keen birder takes us on a  journey of the two days. “On the first day, we left  Mwamba Conservation Centre at about 6 am for Mikimba Dam and got there at 8 am. We got off the turtle bay van at the nearest village and trekked down about 2 kms to the Dam(while atlassing). Counts started at about 9 am with our first water bird being the Open bill stork(which was probably the majority of what we counted). The water level seemed to have been at least 1m higher than what it was last year, and the reeds and vegetation on the edge of the Dam had grown quite abit too making it difficult to see birds along the shore. But we were able to climb on a couple of hills surrounding the Dam which gave us a good view of the water body. A few small open patches amongst the reeds had waterlilies, and we were able to see a few Fulvous whistling ducks, African jacana, black crakes and Allen’s gallinules. A Eurasian marsh harrier and Great cormorants were new for this time. There was no cloud cover and it quickly got very hot as the sun got higher. We finished at 11:30am and  made our way back to the van, then headed to the next site( Kensalt). We had lunch on the go, got to Kensalt at 1 pm.  The greater flamingos, great white and pink-backed pelicans were present in good numbers, a few lesser flamingos in between. A great record were 4 red-necked phalaropes in the middle of a salt pan floating on the water. Also good to have seen lots of small waders, corporate, Caspian terns, a few spoonbills, an African fish eagle and an osprey. We finished the counts at about 4 pm and headed back to Mwamba Conservation Centre.

On the second day we left equally early, got to Malindi harbour and started counts at 6:30 am.  The majority of the birds being gulls and terns that were waiting to get a free meal from fishermen that were returning from a long night at sea.  By 7:30am we were done and we made our way to Sabaki Estuary, we started counts around 8:15am as we made our way through the thick mud and reached the river bank, starting off with about 200 white faced whistling ducks scattered in large groups. Many other small waders, herons, egrets and spoonbills were seen, along with the resident hippos. And on the edge of the bank a new born hippo was found dead, probably stuck in the mud during the night.

Then we proceeded to count the area closer to the sea. We counted some yellow-billed storks, a good number of flamingos, Caspian, gull-billed and swift terns and finding even more sooty gulls on a sand bank off the shore. It was a rather cloudy day in the beginning but slowly started get hot later on. We finishing the day with white-fronted plovers, a lone pink-backed pelican, Eurasian marsh harrier, an osprey and palm-nut vulture. Finishing the count 11:15pm and headed back to Mwamba doing some atlassing on our way back. Hot and adventurous… but the experience on both days was worthwhile”.