Dunga Bay – Kisumu

October 25, 2013

Kisumu Paddies

We headed down to Kisumu to visit a small NGO that is building its network as a resource center. It hopes to increase the capacity, risk-taking, and income generation of small-scale farmers. It was a short one-night excursion that did not focus on birding. However, before leaving we decided to see what the local papyrus swamps and waterfronts in the Dunga area held. This particular spot on Lake Victoria may be the most accessible and well-known for birders and we found it quite easy to navigate. Honestly, I have been working myself to the bone lately with multiple 80-90 hour work weeks this month. As much as I wanted to get out early to take my chances with the papyrus gonolek, my body refused to let me wake up before 8:00. We ate a leisurely breakfast and by about 10:30 make our way to the papyrus.

Bare-Faced Go-Away-Bird

There was a lot of activity but it was quickly calming down due to the rise in temperatures and relative humidity as thunderstorms approached. A bare faced go away bird was seen in a large tree on somebody’s property and we made our way over to see it. This was a lifer for both of us and brings us very close to completing the Kenyan turaco list. We only need the purple crested to finish it. After this we spotted a flock of seven or so little bee-eaters zipping to and from the power lines overhead. Finally reaching the papyrus, we walked along a 500 meter stretch of swamp covered in lilies and dense reeds. We found African jacanas with their young, swamp flycatchers, papyrus canaries, many egret species, black kites, open billed storks, and striped kingfishers. No amount of calls would get the papyrus gonoleks to cooperate but given the temperature, it was no surprise that they remained deep within the growth. We did manage a few call backs which is good enough for the record, but no sightings. Tired of the “mzungu” calls and flock of local children, we walked back to the Lakeview Apartments.

Broad Billed Roller

Upon hearing what I thought was more go away birds I turned around and found two broad billed rollers relaxing in a tree. It was fair distance from us deep on somebody’s land but this was another lifer for my wife so we spent a few minutes watching the pair. We had some nice head-on viewing in which we could clearly see its broad yellow bill. We later departed for Hippo Point. We parked the car, and explored the area with many of the some species being seen. The specialties were the Nyanza swift, Holub’s golden weaver, and a nice common cuckoo just as we were leaving. We actually ran into a local who was birding with a very nice pair of Nikon binoculars. Clearly, he was serious. Upon further discussion we found out that Titus is one of the best guides in the region and had finished with his morning clients. They had recorded 72 species in a three hour window but he wanted a few more. The man knows his stuff and if we return we’ll certainly connect with him for a morning session to the local mangroves for bee-eaters, the papyrus gonolek, and a few other niceties. Here’s his contacts if you’re interested: 0724946043.


Incomplete Bird List:

Cattle Egret
Little Egret
Intermediate Egret
Great Egret
Black Headed Heron
Black Kite
Hadada Ibis
Sacred Ibis
African Open Billed Stork
Helmeted Guineafowl
African Jacana
Grey Crowned Crane
Spur Winged Lapwing
Bare Faced Go Away Bird
Common Cuckoo
Blue Headed Coucal
Nyanza Swift
Speckled Mousebird
Pied Kingfisher
Striped Kingfisher
Little Bee-Eater
European Bee-Eater
Broad Billed Roller
Carruther’s Cisticola
Swamp Flycatcher
Red Chested Sunbird
Ruppel’s Starling
Lesser Masked Weaver
Slender Billed Weaver
Northern Brown Throated Weaver
Holub’s Golden Weaver
Red Cheeked Cordon Bleu
African Firefinch
Papyrus Canary


Hemprich’s Hornbill

Hemprich Hornbill

This is a seriously cool hornbill (please excuse the fanboy language). In all honesty, this a tough bird to see well. They are not particularly shy, they simply spend time in areas where people are not all that common. They prefer more arid environments (which are usually low in population density) but they also require rocky outcroppings and cliffs to roost and nest. This combination of ecological and environmental features is rather rare which is why their range in East Africa is restricted to certain parts of Kenya and eastern Uganda (near Mount Elgon). Perhaps the best viewing chance is at Lake Baringo but even there, you are not guaranteed a sighting. Your best bet is to wake up early and catch them leaving the cliffs as they descend to the lake when temperatures rise. If you miss this window the opposite is good: catching them when they return to the cliffs from the lake in the evening. This also makes for a great sundowner. A lake sighting is rare given that they don’t often perch on the trees at the water’s edge but are set back a bit.

The Hemprich’s hornbill is a rather large bird at about 23 inches and the deep chocolate coloring with the white rimmed tail is a pretty good give-away. If you see a large swooping hornbill in desertish locations with scattered rocky landscapes, you’ve probably spotted this beauty. Another giveaway is the dark maroon to burnt amber bill.

Download the call

Hemprich's Hornbill Distribution

*Call and map from xeno-canto.org