If you’ve been reading my recent posts, you know I’ve been talking about Waterfowl Census. This exercise is important as it helps to track the changes in water bird species numbers, which in turn aids in monitoring the health of wetlands. It’s also important for travel enthusiasts like me since we get to take trips for free. In this post we explore the last of this year’s January census.
Having missed the Nairobi National Park census a few weeks before, I was determined to join the one at Kenyatta University. It’s close to home so that gave me even more motivation. It would be so easy to get there since I know the place- or so I thought. I inquired the night before about the exact location but only got blue ticks. I hoped to meet those going along the way and get a lift.
The next morning I asked again, and it turned out to be KU sewerage teaching farms, not within the university. Unbelievable. So it’s easier for me to go all the way to Magadi than next door? I was dressed and ready to leave. But not having clear directions discouraged me. The other option was Brookside Dairies but I wasn’t excited since I’d gone last year.
Eventually I decided to go ahead with Brookside since I had planned my day for the census. I was to meet the team going there at the gate then get a lift inside. That would be a tricky affair since I didn’t know who was in that team. Public transport can be unreliable with timing- I hoped to arrive before them so they could find me already there. Upon arriving I called a friend from Nature Kenya but he didn’t pick up. This wasn’t good. Being a restricted area, hanging around the entrance is prohibited. I gathered courage and approached the security officers…
I explained that I was to join guys coming from the National Museum for a bird census. Apart from conservationists, few people know what a bird census is. They have this amused expression as they ask, “You’re going to count birds? But why?” The first officer directed me to the second checkpoint where again I had to explain my mission. He asked more questions. I called another friend who- to my relief- answered the call and happened to be in the Brookside team. I thought the officer would ‘harass’ me with too many inquiries but he was actually quite welcoming. He even offered me a seat!
He was curious about the census, eager to understand what it’s about. Shortly the other guys arrived and I squeezed at the back (the car was full). We headed to the parking only to realise the team that arrived before us had parked a bit further away. We decided to walk the distance. The calls of Grey Crowned Cranes and African Fish Eagles at a distance welcomed us. We passed through dry grass and bushes- this was just the beginning.
We found the others already engaged in the exercise. The sun was blazing as if on a revenge mission. We joined in and found birds right away: Glossy Ibis, Red-knobbed Coots and a pair of African Fish Eagles. African Jacanas moved amongst the reeds. As we moved along we had to pass through dry, prickly vegetation that reminded me of my experience at Elementaita. The ponds are unbelievably beautiful to look at, the smell- not so much.
At one pond we came across a congregation of more than 100 Black-winged Stilts. Maybe they were holding an AGM? Moving forward we spotted some herons and pelicans. I never imagined I would see pelicans in Kiambu County! I associate them more with lakes. A Monitor Lizard scared us when it suddenly dived from a tree into the water. What a day it was turning out to be! Last year we saw a Glossy Ibis with leukism- a skin anomaly caused by genetic factors. It’s wings were white yet Glossy Ibis are usually all black with hints of brown.
From the main pond we went to the smaller settling ponds. Here waste water from the dairy factory is cleaned. Hadada Ibis, Sacred Ibis, a Black-headed Heron, Egyptian Geese, various Sandpipers and many more were hanging out in this section. In one pond the water is so thick that it looks like a solid surface. You could unknowingly step in and drown. Yikes! There are signs at each pond though, so don’t worry.
By the time we finished hunger was biting and the sun had turned its thermostat all the way up. The heat early this year was out of this world. We returned slowly to the vehicles. I was glad I decided to attend the census despite how the day had begun. I managed to get some photos- cautiously though because of the affiliation of this place to Kenya’s First Family (don’t snitch on me guys).
I was dropped off at the gate then crossed the road to board a matatu. As had happened all through January, I paid the fare with my last coins. Unlike after the Thika census when I remained with 2/-, this time I had ZERO shillings left. You don’t even want to know how I got home. I was broke but happy- I’d learnt a lot that day and of course being in nature is therapeutic. Hopefully next time I’ll make it to the sewerage teaching farms for a different experience.