Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Southern Banded Snake Eagle Sighted! In our garden!

It was a Monday morning and the start of another forest week. We had five new volunteers beginning on forest that spent the day training on species identification of primates, mammals and birds and also survey methodology before they could conduct research in the field.

The training took most of the day with the volunteers having to take in a lot of new information. By three o’ clock we were finished and everyone went outside for a well earned rest. Stellah, a new forest volunteer who gained her place on the expedition under the ‘National Scholarship Programme’, was relaxing in a hammock at the back of the house. After a few minutes she came back inside to tell us that she had noticed a bird of prey perched in the upper canopy of a nearby tree. The other newly trained forest volunteers took the opportunity to practise their recently learnt bird identification skills and ID the mystery bird.

-- The 'Helm Field Guide' photo used to aid volunteers' identification --

Everyone stood intently observing through binoculars, trying to gather as much information as possible regarding wing shape, colouration, beak and feet colour. Anything which could help identify the bird from the field guide. Using binoculars we were able to establish that the feet were yellow and that the beak was also yellow with a black tip. From the angle we were observing the bird to could see that its wings were solid brown in colour but weren’t able to see its back. The mystery bird of prey had a mottled brown head and chest although there was also slight barring across the chest. We suspected it was Southern Banded Snake Eagle but we couldn’t be sure until we saw it in flight. After about twenty minutes of waiting patiently under the tree, the bird took flight and in unison five volunteers and three staff members shouted, “It’s a Southern Banded Snake Eagle!”

-- The threatened and endemic Southern Banded Snake Eagle, in our garden! --

This is an exceptionally exciting discovery to have in our back garden and first day for the forest volunteers as it was only the eighth time GVI have had a confirmed sighting of the threatened and endemic Southern Banded Snake Eagle. That is was an immature bird, makes the sighting even more special as this means that there are a breeding pair present within Shimoni Forest which is great news for their conservation.

Hopefully, we will have another sighting of our new feathered friend soon and perhaps its parents.