birding in Laikipia
We were well into our second year in Kenya before we truly discovered the country’s amazing birdlife. Scrolling through the photos of our early safari trips, we’ll come across the occasional picture of an eagle or ostrich, but none of the dozens of other colorful birds that our guides must have pointed out only to be met with blank, vaguely uninterested stares.
Rosie, the manager at Sosian, told us about a couple that had visited the ranch recently. They had been on 54 safari trips, traveling to Africa for a week or two at a time twice a year for the better part of the last three decades to go on safari. They had pretty much seen it all as far as mammals go, but they continued to be fascinated by birds and would get as excited as young kids in a candy store whenever they spotted a species they had not seen before.
We are not quite there yet, but D’s interest in safaris is certainly trending in a similar direction. There are many more birds than mammals – Laikipia alone has several hundred different species – so the possibility of making new discoveries are greater. Also, photographing birds is much more challenging, as they are much smaller and flightier than mammals, and rarely sit still even when they do stick around long enough for a picture.
Some of the prettiest birds we saw at Sosian – marico sunbirds, firefinches, and an elusive Nubian woodpecker – were flitting around and chirping right outside our cottage. Others stayed deep in the bush, far away from human habitation. Noting our interest, our guides also got into the birding, pointing out unique species and helping D photograph Laikipia’s more impressive predatory birds.
At one point, we were tracking lions and our driver Peter got out of the car to make an augur buzzard, which had perched on a lone stump, fly in our direction. Peter flanked the stump and had just spooked the bird into flight when one of the lions we had been following unleashed a deep guttural growl from a bush that seemed close to where we had stopped the car. Peter assured us that the reason he ran as hard as he could back to the car was because he was excited that our lion tracking had been successful and was eager to show off Africa’s mightiest predator to us. Of course, we’ll never be sure if he was entirely truthful or if the extra wind in his sails was born of a desire to get back in the car lest the lion was closer than we thought.