Naivasha Notes 2
Evan Buechley— 10 May 2010 — in East Africa Project ShareHaving become familiarized with the study area and with the biking legs warmed into prime shape, data is starting to pour in regarding the Augur buzzard presence around Lake Naivasha, Kenya. With 85 independent visuals on the buzzards in as many as 23 different territories over the past 16 days, a picture of the species’ presence in the area is starting to come into focus. So far, I feel highly confident about the existence of 7 different active breeding territories, while an additional 10 territories are very likely active, pending further observations. At least one territory documented by Munir Virani in the mid 90’s seems to have been abandoned by the buzzards. However, with so many territories still being observed, it is too early to draw any conclusions regarding the affects of habitat alterations on the population in the area.
Today I caught the morning matatu, a Nissan minivan crammed with sixteen sweating commuters, to the small village of Kongoni, about ten kilometers down the road. I wanted to cover one of the more distant stretches of the study area and decided to give the bike and the correlating muscles a rest and survey it by foot. And it turned out to be quite an instructive day, helping to clear up questions about a few territories that had been perplexing me. While the Augur buzzard is highly territorial, the proximity of some pairs can lead to difficulties differentiating neighbors at first passing (there is an approximate density of 0.5 pairs per km2 in the south Lake Naivasha area as documented by Munir). Close observations of behavior and plumage patterns of individual birds have been key in separating such pairs. Today, some of these plumage differences clicked, allowing for the satisfying delineation of a few new territories. So after several hours in the hot equatorial sun, kicking dust and staring at the sky, I returned to Kongoni to greedily stuff my face with bananas before hopping on a motorbike headed towards home.
While the Augur buzzard observations have been fascinating, there has been no shortage of other sightings to keep life exciting. I’m still surprised when I mistake a Vervet monkey high in a distant tree for a raptor, a tribe of baboons moseys past the nearby matatu stop looking for snacks left by their more upright cousins, or a rural Kenyan traffic jam is caused by a foraging troop of giraffes crossing the road- there were 32 causing the backup on one such occasion! In terms of birds of prey, watching a pair of Lanner falcons maneuver above the high cliffs of Hell’s Gate National Park, a colony of Ruppell’s vultures teeming with activity, giant Lappet-faced vultures and a Tawny eagle feeding on a zebra carcass, a stealthy African Harrier hawk swooping through dense lake-side Acacia forest, an elegant Black-shouldered kite hunting grasshoppers, and African fish eagles hitting water have been a few of the highlights so far. Further, after recent discussions about widespread declines of Secretary birds throughout Africa, near daily sightings of the species stalking amidst buffalo, zebra, and gazelle in nearby grasslands have been particularly rewarding.
In the coming weeks I hope to finish the census of the first half of the study area, so I’ll report on those results soon…
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