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dirty birding

There is one respect in which Kigali compares quite poorly to the other places we’ve served. It should come as no surprise that land would be at a premium in the most densely populated country on the continent, yet we still find the utter dearth of green public spaces in the capital remarkably disappointing.


The one oasis of green space is the Nyarutarama Lake, D’s go-to birding spot in the city, which apparently is being eyed for development. It’s not the most scenic of places, and there is quite a bit of trash that has accumulated in some of the reedbeds, but it does provide a bit of respite from the dusty, smoggy, crowded city streets.


After half a dozen trips with Emmie at his side, D continues to find new birds at the lakeshore. In fact, it’s remarkable how much the lake’s avian inhabitants change from week to week. Before setting out on our first safari game drive in Kenya, our guide told us, “Let’s go see what nature has to offer today.”


That seems to be the exact right approach – every day D has been to the lake has been different, even when he goes on back-to-back afternoons, as he did this weekend. Sometimes there are a lot of kingfishers and mousebirds, other times bee-eaters and shrikes dominate the landscape. There are always weavers and cisticolas singing from the reedbeds, but on various occasions D has also spotted flycatchers, waxbills, widowbirds, and various waterfowl, in addition to a few rarer and more exotic finds.


This weekend, D spent the bulk of his time on the lake’s far shore, where the lake waters filter into nearby plots of land. It isn’t the easiest terrain to navigate in the rainy season – one has to jump from one elevated shamba to the next. Emmie misjudged the distance a couple of times and found herself floundering chin-deep in the muddy water on more than one occasion on Saturday. On Sunday, she refused to follow D as he hopped from one plot of land to the next, preferring to wait for him in a cow patch.


In terms of birdlife, the lake’s far side proved to be extremely rewarding. On Saturday, D saw a handful of Ross’s turacos, resplendent in flight, but sadly difficult to capture without a tripod. He also managed to photograph a couple of shy birds, including two different warblers and a painted-snipe. The weekend’s most exciting find was an African scops-owl, half-asleep and fully camouflaged under the tree canopy. The slideshow below has a few other birds that are new additions to D’s ever-expanding bird list.

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The birds in the post above — common waxbill, little bee-eater, malachite kingfisher, pin-tailed whydah — are some of our favorites in East Africa. 

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