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Opportunistic Birding in Kenya

Page history last edited by pinkhamc@... 11 years, 8 months ago

There are over 1000 birds in Kenya and Tanzania (pronounced Tan-ZAN-ia in Kenya).


My main reason for being in Kenya was to work on mission projects.  I was not here to bird watch.  However, there were moments of down time and I almost always had my camera with me, so if I could, I would opportunistically take pictures of birds I saw and then identify them later using Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania and for the one bird I saw at the Istanbul Airport, A Field Guide to Birds of Britain and Europe.  I have followed this procedure on other trips to exotic locales, even when my focus was bird watching.


The technique I have developed is worth describing.  I used my Sony digital camera with 9.1 megapixels, 15X optical zoom, and 4X digital zoom to take pictures of birds when I could.  I would always have it set on wide angle and the first picture I would take of a bird was just point and shoot, with the bird in the center of the frame so I could find it later.  The setting was on auto adjust (the green camera icon) so I could see the bird either in the LCD screen or through the view finder.  The latter was often the way of choice since bright lighting made the LCD screen hard to use.  One word of caution, you will need to make every effort to have nothing or very little in the view closer than the bird.  Auto adjust will put that in focus and the bird will be fuzzy.


Most of the time I stayed in one place as I zoomed in on the bird, but if I could move closer, I would always have the lens on maximum zoom (15x) and take a few steps, (not directly toward the bird, but at a 45 degree angle to the direct line as per "What the Robin Knows," by Jon Young) click, take a few more steps, click and so on until the bird flew away.  In any event, I especially made an attempt to be sure multiple pictures of the same bird would show the bird in different body positions by just waiting for the bird to change its position, even if that meant something as simple as moving its head to the side so I could have a better view of its head profile. This might mean that 10 or more pictures were taken of the same bird, but the more pictures I had for identification purposes, the better since more than one field mark was often necessary for positive identification.  Besides, duplicate or inferior pictures of the same view could always be deleted, saving the best ones for my permanent records.


Back at the house, I used the digital zoom to center the bird in the view finder and see details that could be used for initial identification. In many instances this was sufficient to nail the species, but on occasion, distribution maps were used to resolve the choice between two possibilities. 


The above procedures of course meant that many birds were missed altogether because I was busy doing my main task, or they were flying too fast or were present for a fleeting moment.  It would also mean that some were in photos that were insufficient for positive identification.  However, it may be surprising to some to note how many species can be identified using this technique.


Final identification was accomplished after I downloaded the pictures to my lap top and used the enlargement capability of Image Expert.  Right-clicking on each useful picture opened a window that had "rename image" as one of the options.  Selecting that option, I would rename the image under the bird's name.  E.g., the picture "DSC04205.JPG" would become "rufous sparrow a 4205.jpg" where the "4205" is retained from the original file name so that the order of the photos taken will be preserved and the "a" represents the first session of photos of this bird. Other photo sessions of the same species would become "rufous sparrow b xxxx.jpg" and so on.  Cutting and pasting the first part of the photo name (up to and including the letter) sped up the process.  This system puts all the pictures of the same species together at the beginning or end of the album (depending upon where the bird's name came in the alphabet.  They could then be shifted en masse to a separate folder.  This way, positive identification can be finalized using the maximum number of pictures (often taken on different days) and selection of the best photos to be saved for posting can be achieved.  I also was sure to record the plate number in the bird books showing each species for future reference. 


The best picture of each species (sometimes more than one if male and female were radically different) were selected by using ArcSof PhotoStudio and editing the image size until it was between 100 and 50 bits.  Practice will make this mostly automatic.


The following list is what I know I saw.  If a species was photographed on different days it was listed for those days it was photoed.  Otherwise, repeat sightings on different days were not recorded.


What I photographed and in one instance saw but didn't photograph:  OppBirdingKenya_12-1.xlsx


Key to the birding file: A, Anajali school; B, Bomas; H, future site of the high school; I, Istanbul Air Port; O, Oleopolis "Country Club"; W, Wellingtone's house


Here are best photos of the 28 birds photographed:


Abyssinian black wheatear

African citril

African pied wagtail

Augur Buzzard


Baglafect weaver


black kite


black-faced waxbill


bronze sunbird

common bulbul

glossy ibis

grassland pipit

great egret

hadada ibis

house bunting

house sparrow

olive thrush

pied crow

red-winged starling

rufous sparrow

speckled mousebird

speckled pigeon

tropical boubou

white-browed scrub robin

white-browed sparrow weaver

white-naped raven

yellow-rumped seedeater

brimstone canary (out of order)

hooded crow (Istanbul airport)


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