On Tuesday morning of the 9th of February, our team of four set out on the journey to Tana Delta for the annual water bird count. We drove north from Watamu for about four and a half hours, reaching the end of the road mid-afternoon. There, we boarded a small boat that took us down the river to the lodge where we were to stay for our two nights, right on the mouth of the river. It was a really amazing experience, travelling by boat through beautiful mangroves and sand dunes to reach our destination. We were the only people staying at the lodge at that time and it felt very isolated and cut off from the rest of the world. On our arrival we quickly put our bags down, grabbed our binoculars and headed for the beach to see what birds we could count before sundown. This was my very first time conducting a bird count, and I quickly saw how knowledgeable and experienced Kirao, Juma, and Albert were, as I watched them identify and count the different species we saw with ease.
The next day was even more successful as we got up early and headed out to count water birds in the fresh water channels of the river. We had to go back and travel by car through thick bush and bumpy roads to where the boat would pick us up. We commenced day two of our counting in the morning, and we didn’t stop until past fourteen hours for snacks; just to refuel our system for the remaining portion. Never before had I seen such an abundance of birds in one area and in such a diverse range of species as well. Before we had been in the boat for long, we were already counting great and Cattle egrets, White-faced and Fulvous Whistling Ducks, Open-billed Storks, Black-crowned Night Herons, Pied Kingfishers and Water Thicknees in hundreds. Not to mention the endless number of Spur-winged Plovers! There seemed to be a pair or flock of them around every corner we turned. Other great sightings we had that day included Long-toed Lapwing, African Darter, Goliath Heron, Little Bittern, Glossy Ibis, Collared Pratincole, and African Skimmer.
We even came across a very large group of hippos, watching us curiously as we peered at some birds through our scope. So, after a very successful day we headed back to the lodge, tired from the long hours spent in the sun, for a well-earned rest.
On our last morning came with lots of high hopes as we wade through the mangrove channels of the salt water areas in the delta. This took us through more mangrove areas and even out onto some mudflats. Like the day before, there was no shortage of birds for us to count. Terek Sandpiper, Caspian Tern, Grey Plover and many more were seen in abundance over the course of the morning. We even managed to spot a Western Reef Egret, a very uncommon species at the coast! When we got to the mudflats, we couldn’t resist hoping out of the boat for a while to try and catch a better glimpse of a group of gulls. It really was a lot of fun trudging through deep mud with our scope and binoculars counting birds as we went! By then, I had had around thirty lifers as I had no more space on my personal list of birds! After washing our feet off in the river we rushed back to the lodge and grabbed our things before taking the long drive back down to Watamu, thus concluding an extremely successful trip to the Tana Delta.
Science & Conservation Volunteer.