NAIROBI PARK DIARY

A rare visitor

African skimmers fly in lines over calm waters

In Summary

• Their beaks are amazingly created with a longer lower scissor-like mandible

African skimmer
African skimmer
Image: GARETH JONES

We arrived at the Hyena dam early on a Sunday afternoon, and parked our vehicle, as we often do when watching birds. Suddenly a movement on the edge of the dam caught my eye, wow!

A very rare sighting of a visiting species. I almost could not believe it. an African skimmer sat calmly very close to us. As we sat and observed, the skimmer took off on several occasions, and low swooped over the water and skimmed the surface.

Their beaks are amazingly created with a longer lower scissor-like mandible that is designed for sensing and catching mainly fish as it skims over the surface of water, mainly at dawn and dusk when fish are feeding. African skimmers fly in lines over calm waters, and dip their lower mandibles in the water to feed. When the mandible touches a fish, the skimmer snaps its mouth shut.

When watching birds it is always useful to have a good pair of binoculars, and if possible a good camera. A bird identification book for East African species is also useful to keep in the car when driving. The park has a great variety of birds, over 500 different species at certain times, and some of them like the bee-eaters have beautiful colours, birds like Kingfishers, Narina Trogon, Bush Shrikes, Grey Crowned Cranes, Saddle-billed storks, various ducks and many more.

I always find it a joy to see birds when driving in the park, God has created so such amazing diversity. So remember when we go on into the Nairobi National Park with the attitude of “bird watching”, all too often the larger species like Rhino, Buffalo, and even Lions, just “get in the way! “. Next time you visit the park, lookout for the unexpected, like the rarely seen African skimmer.

For more information you can link to the following website www.kws.go.ke