Birding Itineraries

 

Birding in Kenya can be divided suitably into five major geographical areas: Highlands, Rift Valley, Western, Coastal, and the Northern Plains.

The Kenya Highlands consists of two major divisions on either side of the Rift Valley. This area has more plentiful rainfall and cooler temperatures than elsewhere and much of the major population centers are located there.

Nairobi is located on the eastern side of the Rift Valley, as is Mt. Kenya. The Mau Forest, (420,000 hectares) is largest water catchment tower in Kenya, is located in the highlands on the western side of the Rift Valley. The highlands are especially subjected to agricultural activity and human activity that greatly threatens forests and a number of bird species.

One of the gazetted forests Mau Eburu Forest is close to Nairobi 120kms.The Mau Eburu forest area covers 8715.3 hectares (87sqkm) of pristine indigenous forest, huddled in the folds of a 2,820 metres high active mountain overlooking Lake Naivasha to the South East, Lake Elementaita to the North and Lake Nakuru to the North West. It is a delicate miniature island of biodiversity and home to 12 of the fewer than 100 surviving wild population of critically endangered Eastern Mountain Bongo, a gorgeous and grandiose Antelope. There are different forest birds and huge indigenous tree species

 Some birding sites in the eastern highlands are Nairobi National Park (one of the oldest park and close to the capital city only 10 minutes drive) Mount Kenya Forests (Castle, Bantu &Irangi), and the Aberdares Ranges Forest, which includes the Gatamaiyu(most visited/preferred by Birders) Kinale, Kereita and Kijabe Forests, Birding sites on the western side include the Mau/Molo Grasslands, the Mau Narok region to the south, and the Kongelai Escarpment, Cherangani Hills and Ortum Hills to the northwest of Kitale.

The Great Rift Valley in Kenya encompasses the eastern half of the larger African Rift Valley. The valley extends southward from Lake Turkana of northern Kenya into northern Tanzania. This is where numerous freshwater and alkaline lakes are found. The alkaline lakes attract huge numbers of flamingos, especially at Lake Nakuru and Lake Bogoria but also in Lakes Elementaita and Oloidien

The major freshwater lakes are Lake Naivasha and Lake Baringo, which is actually slightly alkaline. These attract different aquatic birds than those found around the soda lakes. Much of the surrounding habitat is bushland and scrub.

The Rift Valley is also where the Serengeti Plains of Tanzania is located along with its northern extension into Kenya, Maasai Mara.

These dotted plains are home to vast herds of migratory Wildebeest(Gnus)  Zebras, Giraffes, many species of antelope such as the Impalas, Topis, Elands Gazelles (Thompson’s and Grant’s) , big cats such as; Lions, Leopards, Cheetahs and Hyenas plus other big mammals; huge herds of Buffalos and Elephants.

Additionally they are home to many species of birds. The savanna includes grassland but also bush, open woodland, scrub, rocky hillsides, ridges, valleys and riverine this diversity of habitats results in a great diversity of birds. For instance, over 500 bird species have been recorded within the boundaries of Maasai Mara alone.

The Western area is the region around Lake Victoria and lies between the eastern and western branches of the African Rift. This region is marked by numerous faults and escarpments with valleys in between. The last remaining rainforest in Kenya is located there, the Kakamega Forest. Some 80 species of birds in the Kakamega Forest are found nowhere else in the country. An altitudinal gradient coming down the Kongelai Escarpment onto the Western Plateau adds to the diversity of bird species. Habitat such as Papyrus swamps and other lakeshore vegetation around Lake Victoria is home to its own set of specialty birds, while Lake Victoria itself attracts numerous aquatic species. The Busia Grassland near the northeast shore of Lake Victoria is home to several localized bird species and is fast turning into agricultural fields

The Coastal area covers the entire eastern half of Kenya. This low-lying region is hot and largely featureless. It's characterized by several river floodplains and low plateaus and forests that gradually rise in elevation. Amboseli and Tsavo West National Parks near the border with Tanzania are found in this region.

North Coast we have Arabuko Sokoke Forest which is the largest stretch of coastal dry forest, 420km2 the ecosystem comprises of three forest types; mixed forest, Brachystegia woodland and Cynometra bush, each containing different rare species of Birds, Mammals, Butterflies, and Plants. There are 270 birds, 261 butterflies, 79 amphibians, 52 mammals and 600 plants species. The Clarke's Weaver an endemic bird breeds in the forest,  other unique and rare bird Sokoke Scops Owl, Sokoke Pipit, East coast AkalatAmani Sunbird and intra migrant Spotted Ground Thrush, Three mammals which are endemic species: - Aders duiker, Sokoke Bush Tailed Mongoose, and Golden rumped Elephant Shrew. Mida Creek, Dakatcha woodlands, Sabaki River Estuary and Tana River Primate Reserve, are also  close to Arabuko Sokoke Forest and are worthy visiting

South Coast is Shimba Hills National Reserve, (the second largest forest after  Arabuko Sokoke Forest) notable for Sable Antelope as well as several range-restricted bird species such as the Green- headed Oriole, Asian lesser Cuckoo, not found elsewhere in the country. The southern coast is rocky and ruled continuously with coral reefs.

The Northern Plains region is rather dry. It includes Lake Turkana, semi-desert savanna west of Lake Turkana, and the Chalbi Desert to the east and Marsabit National Park.

The region is only lightly populated. Samburu Game Reserve, Samburu Shaba and Samburu Buffalo Springs Reserve are located in the southern area of this region, these reserves are home to the Samburu people and features birds of semi-arid savanna, such as Vulturine Guineafowl, Somali Ostrich, Somali Bee-eater, Stone Patridge, as well as some interesting mammals such as Beisa Oryx, Reticulated Giraffe, Striped Hyena and the healthy population of the largest and rare Equid; Grevy's Zebra. 

Wildlife in the area depends hugely on Ewaso Nyiro  river which cuts through the three reserves it originates from Aberdares Ranges, provides the much needed water and the lush green vegetation,especially during the dry season