Updated: Oct 14, 2020
My father is a passionate birdwatcher, not the tick box kind, but the kind who have a deep love and interest in birds and who find peace and inspiration by watching them and learning the habitats they live in.
His passion for the natural world, particularly birds and trees, underpinned my childhood. That influence is most probably one of the reasons I now live and devote my energy to the El Karama eco system.
What we learnt from Dad is also that birding is a wonderful companion, which can become a lifelong passion. It connects you to new layers of knowledge, the beauty of the natural world and it helps to offer a deeper understanding of how living creatures intersect as well as what effect we humans have on the populations of birds and insects in the way we live, consume and manage the environment we share.
My sister and I were members of a little birding club, they sent us magazines in the post, badges for our back packs and checklists for birds to keep us enthralled. We learnt how to make nature lists and write up our observations, it kept us busy and occupied outdoors whatever the weather. Birding as children taught us to be aware, to look at things with focus, to use our senses and later powers of deduction and analysis.
But the birds I grew up with were largely brown, many many shades of brown. Occasionally they were grey or white, some had flashes of brilliant vermillion or blue, but mainly the birds I watched were brown...! They were not the exciting and vibrant display of colour and irridescence that we are so privileged to see in Kenya. They did not have the same variety and influence nor the number of migrations we are exposed to on this continent. We are so lucky to see the birds we see here; with the topography of this country, the absolute variety and diversity of its landscapes and altitudes, it's eco systems and indigenous forests remaining (albeit precariously!). Birding in Kenya is a paradise if you know the value of what you are seeing!
Our team at El Karama Lodge is passionate about introducing children to the natural world and indeed we dedicate a whole kids club programme "Bush School" to it when families visit this lodge. We include birding too, knowing that this is as relatable as it gets for little eyes and small legs that may not see the same things we see as adults. Beginning with chickens and then extending to casual observations of the bird tables in camp to colouring in our illustrated bird list and making outings to our rock hide with drop scones for company. For older children we include mini bird counts and e-mapping on smart technology so that they feel engaged directly with our monitoring processes. Fishing on the river also tangentially draws them in, with the calls of the Striped Kingfisher or the momenumental discovery of. Finfoot hopping along the bank in the quiet. The idea is to capture the imagination as they go about interacting with their environment: we engage all the senses as much as possible.
So with this idea of celebration and learning in mind, the El Karama Lodge team along with our colleagues at the El Karama Conservancy have entered THE BIG DAY, a global birding event held each year to honour and celebrate avifauna on a global level and to also raise awareness of the illegal bird trade in affiliation with Birdlife International.
Teams from all over Laikipia and Kenya will be involved and we will share some of our findings live from El Karama over the course of the event. The count runs from midnight midnight on October 17th 2020.
The BIG DAY is just one more way for us all to enjoy and appreciate the incredible wealth of bird species in Kenya. If you are interested in taking part or making this a part of your home schooling/remote learning experiences for your kids, just follow the links in our instagram post or visit www.ebird.org to find out more...you can come to us or you can post from where you are - just get outside and start looking!
Come and be a part of our bird count team : email@example.com. If you can bring a team of 4 or more for a minimum of 2 nights you can receive 10 percent off our full board rates!
In addition, we will be fortunate to have Washington Wachira with us, one of Kenya's most expert birding guides and teachers, who will take part in our count and record what we see. He will also share his experience on his Youtube Channel under the name The Safari Naturalist. We first met Washington through Anne Powys at the beautiful and restorative Suyian Soul in Laikipia during a bird guiding course he was teaching there. We gained a lot of new knowledge and the course increased our enthusiasm for show-casing El Karama's 432 bird species identified to date.
If you have been following our social media on instagram and facebook you will have seen Washington's first two episodes from The Safari Naturalist where he explores El Karama Conservancy with the Lodge team and finds a whole host of birds and mammals to share with his audience: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AaoIJAaH-hg
El Karama Conservancy recap:
El Karama Conservancy is a private living conservancy dedicated to wildlife and habitat conservation. It covers 14,000 acres of land with extremely varied topography and soil types making the birding exceptional. There are dams, wetlands, rocky escarpments, phonolite strewn plateaus, riverine habitat and marginal extensions into the afro-alpine ecosystem that mean Montane species travel down the river in certain months from Mount Kenya and can be seen here as well. Migrations to Africa are beginning this month and will continue into early next year.