Manguo Swamp Refills!

Unlike last year July when I was held up with work, this year I had free time. I was determined to go for all the Waterfowl Census exercises in/ around Nairobi. Also, this year’s July census was actually going to happen unlike last year which flopped. And so on the appointed day to visit Manguo Swamp, I arrived at the Museum early. It was a chilly day yet we were going to Limuru, which is always colder than Nairobi. Would we make it?

Misty road in Limuru, Kenya.
Look at how the cars disappear! :-O

As I mentioned in the previous post, I don’t like extreme cold. But I wanted to see how the swamp was doing this year. After a short briefing we boarded the vehicles and left the Museum. The ride was very long due to ongoing road construction on A104. The air got colder and colder as we went along.

Manguo Swamp location along A104 (Nairobi-Naivasha Highway)
Manguo Swamp location along A104 (Nairobi-Naivasha Highway) Source: maps.google.com

When we finally arrived and opened the car doors, we felt like going back in. A slight drizzle and biting cold welcomed us. Not to mention the thick mist! In such weather I feared we might not see the birds we’d come all the way for. Despite that, a Common Stonechat hopped on a nearby bush.

Hamerkop busy foraging.
Hamerkop busy foraging at the shore.

We were glad to see the swamp had refilled. A year ago it was so dry, people walked right across it as on normal dry ground. Only a small pond remained at the centre. The waterfowl celebrated this by coming out in surprisingly large numbers. Some Yellow- billed Ducks were diving, oblivious to the cold. How could they be having a good time yet we were freezing?

Manguo Swamp, Kenya.
People walking across the dry swamp last year.

The drizzle presented a challenge by depositing rain water on our binoculars and cameras. Even taking photos was hard small. You should have seen us struggling. Passers- by probably wondered what we were up to. Anyway, the sight of Whiskered Terns hovering over the swamp made for an amazing sight. These are migrants from Europe and they seemed to be nesting here. Intermediate Egrets, Hadada Ibis, African Spoonbills, Purple Swamphens, Blacksmith Plovers and many more species were out and about.

Whiskered Tern and Intermediate Egrets.
Whiskered Tern (foreground) and Intermediate Egrets (Background).

After about an hour we moved to the other side of the swamp and the number of Red- knobbed Coot nests was incredible. Clearly the birds were happy with Manguo as a breeding site. We, however, had to wait for when the mist would occasionally lift for us to see the birds. The cold wasn’t playing either. We spent only a few minutes here then went toΒ Β some ponds near Limuru town.

Red- knobbed Coot on its nest.
Red- knobbed Coot on its nest.
Manguo Swamp, Kenya.
Side 2 of the swamp looking lush.

Just as with the swamp, these ponds had refilled. The mist was so thick though, we doubted if we would see anything. Still, we decided to wait a while. When the mist lifted we were rewarded with a heartwarming sight. A pair of Grey Crowned Cranes were feeding, accompanied by their young ones. I had never seen this crane species’ chicks before! Also considering this bird is facing extinction due to habitat loss, it was good to see they had successfully bred. There were a few other species which we counted and recorded.

Bird watching group in Limuru, Kenya.
Trying to look for birds at the small ponds.

Immediately we finished we entered the vehicles and headed back. By this time my fingers and toes were numb. I longed for a hot cup of chai. The ride back was equally long but I was glad to see Manguo looking healthy again. This year’s rains have been beneficial. One annoying thing though is the trash thrown around the swamp. It seems people use it as a household waste disposal site. How sad, yet this is a vital wetland for the survival of local and migrant bird species. Speaking of which, is there an organisation that manages Manguo Swamp? If you know please tell me.

Red- knobbed Coot swimming.
Swimming away…
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