Tag Archives: Turtle Bay Beach Club


Our just concluded waterfowl counts for 2016 saw us record sixty one species. The 23rd and 24th January 2016 started on a high note when we started off with Malindi harbor, Gongoni, and Sabaki River Mouth. Day 2 covered counts in Lake Jilore, Lake Mbaratum and Lake Chemchem. We endured long moments of standing under the heat and on the tiresome but fun mud in Sabaki. Climbing up and down the steep mountains in Lake Mbaratum and Lake Chemchem did not make us stop at anything rather we diligently counted the birds, with a dedication that can only emanate from the heart. However, the difficulties were nothing compared to the electrifying moments that characterized the spotting of rare bird species, among them Green Sandpiper, Osprey and a very rare species at the coast, the Grey-headed Gull.


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With a crew of 12 people on day one and 7 people on the second day, 5 species with the largest numbers were counted. They were Curlew sandpiper-3751, Common ringed plover-921, Greater sand plover-540, lesser sand plover-773 and Crab plover-656.

A whole year has completely changed Lake Mbaratum and Lake Chemchem. It was sad to notice how population growth and effects of global warming have dried up the two lakes and chased away the birds. The communities have taken over by firing up the grass that was grown around the lakes with reasons of farming, and the too much hot weather has dried up the lakes. The places look like deserts now and it’s sad to say that not unless we experience very long and heavy rains in the near future, there is nothing that can be done to them.

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All in all, the exercise was completed on 24th evening and as we left Lake Chemchem very tired and worn out, we still were very happy that we recorded a good number of species. We thank the whole crew that joined us during the exercise, including Kenya Wildlife Service (Gede Station) Mida Creek Guides, Arabuko Sokoke Forest Guides Association and Turble Bay who supported us with means of transport and providing us with snacks and water.

Where was the Finnish Terek Sandpiper found in 2008??

In answer to Jimmy’s comment on it would be nice to know where the Finnish recovery was actually found, I had written this on my facebook profile at the time when we were informed about the recovery. I paste it here for your information:

I received an email from the Coordinator of the Ringing Scheme of eastern Africa saying:

“You’ll be glad to know, Colin, that your Terek Sandpiper, Ring no. “Nairobi A71968” was controlled, breeding, by Veli-Matti Pakanen at Kemi, Lappi, Finland (65.45N, 24.32E) on 21.06.08 (no biometrics supplied). Kemi is a small coastal town at the top end of the Gulf of Bothnia, just over 20 km from the Swedish border at Haparanda.

Apart from the intrinsic worth of this super control, the report also raises some important points. It is the first recovery/control of a Terek Sand affecting eastern Africa (as far as I know) and is also only the second recov/control from all the Kenya coastal ringing.”

This was indeed one of “my” birds but was in fact ringed by none other than my kid sister Bethan Harris when she volunteered with us on 20th November 2003 in Mida Creek. The distance in a straight line from Mida to Kemi is c.7,756km and it was 4 1/2 years later that it was found.

This is the FIRST recovery of ANY of my or our A Rocha Kenya birds since I started ringing in Kenya in 1994 other than c.10kms away! Very cool indeed.

This was THE night that the Terek was ringed at Mida – Beth is the one sitting in the door of the car.

The only other movement of a bird since then has been an African (or Eastern as it is now called) Golden Weaver which we caught at Turtle Bay Beach Club in July that had a ring on already which was put on it at our ARK centre, Mwamba, in 2008. It was an immature when we ringed it and now it is breeding in the Turtle Bay gardens, some 3km away along the beach.

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Bird Ringing at Turtle Bay

Today ARK had been asked to give demonstrations of bird ringing at the turtle bay holiday resort and to help alongside a local project studying avian flu by KEMRI (Kenya Medical Research Institute).

From 7am till 10am the team was busy ringing and inputting data for the birds such as height and weight, catching 27 birds in total, one which had already been caught back in 2007. Unfortunately the team did not manage to catch the sparrow hawk that was lurking around the resort on the hunt for food.

The two species of bird caught were the beautiful African Golden Weaver and the Golden
Palm Weaver. At around 11, groups of local scientists arrived and Colin talked about the lifestyle of the birds, such as its migratory pattern and showed a demonstration of the bird ringing process, including the catching, the measuring data, the ringing and of course, letting the birds back into the air.

The scientists were also given the chance to ask the team any questions about the birds. The groups were then shown the way in which these birds are tested for diseases through a demonstration of swabbing, collecting a sample from the bird that could be tested in the lab for any signs of disease.

National rarity is rarer than I’d thought – Greater Short-toed Lark

A week or so ago, volunteer Al posted a blog for me about the amazing discovery of what turned out to be a national rarity – the two Greater Short-toed Larks Calandrella brachydactyla just in behind Turtle Bay Beach Club in Watamu. From the books it seemed like it was the third record for Kenya (the others being in 1964 at Diani on the south coast and a much earlier record in 1899) but it turns out that the 1899 record was misidentified and has since been rejected thus making this one (if it is accepted by the rarities committee of East Africa) as only the second record. The species is one that I used to catch and ring quite often in Portugal when I worked there and certainly saw many of – though that was getting on for 18 years ago and my memory isn’t as good as some!

Rehema, Albert & Al watching a pair of Greater Short-toed Larks near the mangroves of Mida not far from Turtle Bay…

This blog is mostly to post some images more of the bird with some annotations… make your own judgement of what it is – comments welcome!

  The small but visible dark patch on the side of the neck can be seen in the right hand bird here
quite finely streaked head and back
Note the buffy / yellowish bill, clear supercilium with dark post-ocular stripe (behind the eye); also the somewhat ‘bland’ face
bland face again clear here; also long tertials
The very plain underparts are an important ID characteristic together with the slight blotches on the side of the lower neck
The dark centres of the median coverts forming a dark wing bar are also a feature of the species
Here you can see the white outer tail feathers – just…
Clearly unmarked underparts

This one is a rather cool shot of it looking like a torpedo…


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