Thursday, 18 August 2011

Wings over Tsavo East

We continue our pre-trip reminiscing about previous safari experiences with a look at the bird-life of Tsavo East.  For bird-watchers and photographers alike, Tsavo East National Park is an absolute paradise!  There are over 450 species of bird which can be seen here, some as visitors but most as residents.  The sheer number and variety of birds which you may find in a short space of time is quite staggering.   The Crowned Plover above is just one of around eight different Plover species which can be seen here.  There are birds in all the shapes, sizes and colours you could imagine, from the tiny Fire-Finch to the enormous Somali Ostrich (identified by the blue legs and neck on the male instead of the pink seen on the Common, or Masai Ostrich)

We could put you to sleep with a full list of just the birds we have seen in Tsavo East but we're not that cruel; so instead, here are a few photographs of some of them to give you an idea of what you can find.
Yellow-Billed Hornbill

Long-Tailed Fiscal with Locust prey

Black-Headed Plover

Superb Starling

 Rosy-Patched Bush Shrike
Tawny Eagle

Yellow-Necked Spurfowl

Von Der Decken's Hornbill & Superb Starling

Lilac-Breasted Roller (beautiful bird with a raucous voice!)

We could go on and on but you probably get the idea by now and we don't want to bore you!  We would like to finish this post with one particular story that illustrates perfectly just how abundant and varied the bird-life in Tsavo East National Park is.

We stopped to photograph the Tawny Eagle in the photos above and ended up staying there for over an hour because we were treated to an incredible spectacle.  A flock of Red-Billed Quelea, numbering probably 50-100,000 arrived and filled the air with noise.
As they swooped around in formation and we stared in amazement, something whooshed past our ears at terrific speed, so close that we felt the vortex from its wings.  A rare Taita Falcon plunged into the flock of Quelea and snatched one to eat.

As we continued watching, astonished, the Tawny Eagle stole the Falcon's kill and the Falcon charged back into the flock of Quelea several more times as they swooped and whirled in a massive cloud.  Eventually he caught another one and a second Tawny Eagle arrived and stole his second kill.  Then a third Tawny Eagle arrived and started fighting the other two for their stolen kills, which gave the Falcon time to make a third kill and actually eat it!  While all this was going on, an African Fish Eagle caught another Quelea and an Augur Buzzard arrived and tried his luck unsuccessfully, watched by a Long-Crested Eagle. Meanwhile, high above, a Secretary Bird, a Lappet-Faced Vulture and a Yellow-Billed Stork flew over and on the ground a Yellow-Necked Spurfowl walked straight past us with her five chicks.  All of this happened within the space of one hour!

We will conclude our look at past experiences in Tsavo East in the next post.  In the meantime, we hope you enjoyed this entry and urge you to consider making a donation to Save The Elephants to help them continue their ground-breaking research, which has increased our understanding of elephant society and also to devise new ways of preventing human/elephant conflict that benefit, rather than penalise, the human populations who share land with elephants.


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