"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Kenya Journals, Ch. Guilt-free Birding on the Masai Mara

Guilt-Free Birding on the Masai Mara

There is an unreasonable joy to be had from the observation of small birds going about their bright, oblivious business.―Grant Hutchison, The Complete Lachlan

We’re having a picnic breakfast under the shade of large tree on the Masai Mara.   Usually, safari guests return to camp for breakfast at 9 o'clock.

At Greg’s suggestion, we opt to stay out on the Mara and eat breakfast there mid-morning.   Often we are far from camp, and driving back, eating breakfast, and getting back onto the Mara would consume (that's a  pun) a large amount of time.

(These photos are from picnics on different days.)


Might be a fig tree, but I really don't know.   It's bushy.   A medium-sized bushy tree.

Where to begin?   Yogurt?   Half an orange, apple, hard-boiled egg, baggie with sausage and bacon, juice box, chips, panini
 with something in between that might have been cheese, a bottle of water under the sandwich, and a muffin in the center.

Bet you didn't know that Land Rovers make excellent picnic tables.

Mary, Marg, and Greg.

A picnic on another day.    This might be an acacia.  "I really don't know clouds trees at all...."   [Dennis, our most excellent guide, contacted me and says this is a Desert Date tree.]

Our most excellent guide Jay.
Our most excellent guide Dennis.

So, we’re having a picnic.   An immense picnic.   There is far too much food for any one person to consume (it’s not a pun this time), but apparently the picnic-packers want to provide many options for us to choose from.

I hope it isn’t that they believe we North Americans NEED and REALLY eat that much.

Our guides assure us the extra food does not go to waste.

When we finish eating, Charlie and I get in Dennis’s vehicle and the other four go with Jay to a nearby girl’s school that Greg has “adopted” and to which he takes much-needed school supplies every time he comes to Africa.    Marg, Mary, and Barbara go with him, also taking supplies.

How our guides kept their shirts white and sharp all day is beyond me.

This is Charlie’s first trip to Africa, my first to Kenya, so we opt for a game drive instead, knowing we might never be back.

That means Charlie, who loves to photograph birds, and I are free to stop at every single bird we come across, without feeling twinges of guilt for our fellow travelers.  Thus far, they have humored us and even taken photos, but we know—veteran Africa travelers that they are—they would rather be pointing their cameras at things with four legs. 

Except for lilac-breasted rollers, or LBRs.   Everyone wants to photograph LBRs.   And secretary birds.

After all, this trip is called “The Big Cats of the Masai Mara,” not “Kites, Eagles, Bee Catchers, and Other Birds of the Masai Mara.”

So off we go, chasing birds.   Guilt-free.   Not all these bird photos were taken when Charlie and I went galavanting across the Mara in search of birds.   I include them here because I can't think of any story lines in which they would fit.

And we DID take photos of four-legged creatures, too.

The cheetah known as Rani, with her catch.   Rani might be pregnant.

Black-headed heron.

Sacred ibis.

Ground hornbill

Abdim's stork

Male sand grouse

Three-banded plover

Egyptian goose

Kori bustard
A kori bustard display


Cape buffalo with red-billed oxpecker


Secretary bird

Sandpiper and plover

Little bee eater

Little bee eater

Hammerkopf catching a meal

Black-crowned plover

Secretary bird

Secretary bird.   Note that long tail.

Secretary bird and topi.  For size comparison, the topi is 39 to 51inches at the shoulder.

Maribou stork

Black-headed heron that didn't like photos taken.

I had to hide to get photos.

As long as I was walking, it was okay.

The second I stopped, it took off.

But I finally caught it in flight.

I intentionally didn't crop this photo to get a close-up of the heron in flight.   Why?   Look at the hippo upper right.

Ah, the beautiful Lilac-breasted roller.

Yellow-billed stork


The storks are now in the hammerkopf's favorite fishing spot.

The stork chases the hammerkopf away.

Note the feathers on the back of the hammerkopf's head that give the bird its name.

Woodland kingfisher? 

An Hadada ibis in front; African scared ibis in back.

Saddle-billed stork with fresh catch of the day.

Saddle-billed stork with catfish.

Wattled plover

Grasslands pipit

Female sand grouse

Tropical bou bou

Gray-headed kingfisher.

Black-crowned night heron

Juvenile black-crowned night heron.   Very shy.   Photographed through a lot of vegetation.

Steppe eagle, a long way away

Black-chested snake eagle.

Immature fish eagle coming in to steal the saddle-billed stork's catfish


  1. Great pictures, Jeanne.

  2. Glad you had a compatriot in Charlie so that the two of you got to venture off to this bird photographing adventure. What a variety. My favorites though were the most colorful ones, the lilac-breasted roller, the little bee eater, the woodland kingfisher and the gray-headed kingfisher ... AND the secretary bird (which made me smile with its head feathers sticking out, making it look like some human secretaries when they are stressed with deadlines!). Nice of your fellow travelers who took supplies to the school, and nice that you two got to do the bird pictures. Cap just took a picture of a Mallard here in Flagstaff, Arizona ... not exactly anything new to you! Smiles and hugs. Patti and Cap

  3. What to add but this .. Another, in a never ending sequence of phenomenal Posts. Smiles from Cap and more Hugs from Patti ..