From dazzling sunbirds to graceful flamingos and colorful bee-eaters, Africa’s birds are so varied and numerous as to offer seemingly endless possibilities of discovery with every safari. Moreover, many of them are so vibrant compared to their drab North American cousins that they almost seem impossible – fanciful imaginations of an experimental god that were released by mistake into our realm.
At some point midway through our Kenya tour – when we had seen the big five several times over and the typical animals one sees on safari no longer held our interest, we got into birding. Or – more precisely – S developed a passing interest in the hobby while D fell head over heels in love with East Africa’s birdlife. Being assigned to Kigali, D could barely contain his excitement at the opportunity to spend two more years photographing the continent’s exotic winged inhabitants.
Even before we made it out on our first safari, we had seen dozens of beautiful birds right in our own back yard. Several different sunbirds, canaries, finches, and weavers frequent the tall hibiscus plants and leafy banana trees in our yard. Bulbuls, mousebirds, and cisticolas are common. Kites and swallows circle overhead, and white-browed robin-chats not infrequently serenade us in the early morning hours, ensuring that we rise with the sun. A tropical boubou has been known to stop by, and just this morning, a paradise flycatcher alighted on an exposed branch in our driveway as we were getting ready to leave for work.
Murchison Falls, where we spent several days last week, was our first trip out of Kigali since arriving in Rwanda two months ago, and it did not disappoint. Even though a variety of factors – from a sick toddler, to missing camera gear, and a sports injury – hampered D’s birding, we still saw dozens of species that were new to us.
Some, like the spectacular red-throated bee-eater, were content to sit and pose for us. In fact, we saw dozens of bee-eaters and kingfishers on our trips up and down the Nile. Others, like the almost equally colorful sulphur-breasted bush-shrike D saw a few minutes before we climbed into the car for the long drive back to Kampala, flitted furtively far away from our prying eyes.
In keeping with tradition, here are a couple of slide shows – the first of the new birds we saw on our last safari, and the second of the ones that have visited our garden in Kigali.
Murchison Falls, September 2016