Launch of the Kenya Women Birders (KWB)
On 29th March 2019 at 1400 hours, Fort Hall at the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) was filled to capacity; all the seats on the lower deck fully occupied, some participants opted to seat on the steps of the terrace as they eagerly waited for the launch of the Kenya Women Birders (KWB). Whispers and murmurs filled the room as participants from Kenya and Uganda interacted prior to the start of the meeting.
Birdwatching is a fast growing niche market, and is increasingly becoming popular amongst local South Americans and Africans. The Uganda delegation of over 20 participants had visited Nairobi National Park the previous day and had the opportunity to enjoy Nairobi’s jewel, the famed Nairobi National Park. The team was well prepared, each armed with a pair of binoculars, and khaki shirts with jungle green front pockets. They were pleasantly surprised by the high number of avian species close to the city centre.
Mr. Washington Wachira of Cisticola Tours welcomed participants to the event and highlighted that the idea was birthed and nurtured by Herbert Byaruhanga of Bird Uganda Safaris and himself at the 2nd African Birding Expo in Uganda last year. They planned on how to support the launch, oversee the election of officials and support the new leadership in the following program areas; trainings for members, resource mobilization, partnership with the Uganda Women Birders and Rwanda Women Birders and other projects that members might be interested in engaging.
Rupi Mangat– Wildlife Clubs of Kenya and Media Writer/ Editor
The talented and award winning writer, Rupi Mangat shared her birding journey and how it has helped her become a better writer and enabled her to travel to roads and destinations less visited. She urged more women and especially those in the newly launched Kenya Women Birders to start sharing by writing their experiences and join the travel writing space.
Jennifer Oduori – Professional Kenyan Birder
Jennifer Oduori is a top rated Professional Kenyan Birder shared how she started birdwatching with just a few birds and grew her birding list and became more and more knowledgeable in spotting and identifying birds.
48 years of public bird walks in Kenya
The event saw different speakers share their birding journey and experiences including the legendary Fleur Ngweno who has been leading birdwalks at Nature Kenya for the last 48 years (February 1971). The birdwalks are held every Wednesday morning from 8:45pm to 12:00pm at different venues within Nairobi and the third Saturday of every month outside Nairobi.
Fleur emphasized that being a birder is not just a guide; you can be many things, including; a teacher, hobby, or professional ornithologist. The important thing is that you enjoy what you do. Started by Fleur Ng’weno as a volunteer under the auspices of the East Africa Natural History Society, the bird walks are now part of the Nature Kenya calendar.
Since February 1971, Wednesday morning birdwalk participants have been meeting at the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi at 8:45 (now 8:30) am, where they share transport, and visit green spaces within the city. Sometime the birdwalks have many people and sometimes they have few.
The bird walks started because Fleur wanted to do more birding and Nature Kenya only had one trip a month and that didn’t feel enough; she wanted to go more often and share it with other people.
Fleur highlighted that Nairobi’s high avian diversity of more than 600 species has kept the bird walks going for the last 48 years. Other factors include; a wide range of habitats from upland dry forest to grassland and wetlands. Also, a wide range of venues including three can be reached on foot such ad City Park and the Nairobi Arboretum and the museum grounds where there are numerous indigenous trees. The dependability of the bird walks each week, come rain or shine as kept the numbers growing. Fleur shares that there was one bird walk where she was just with her friend and they both went for the walk.
The combination of volunteer leaders and institutional support and the enthusiasm of leaders for going for bird watching has kept the birdwalks; as there is always something new to see. According to Fleur, “seeing a turacco fly is surely enough to inspire you to keep on the joy of bird watching. I think that’s pretty good. You need to be happy to do that”.
Nature Kenya (NK) used the success of the Nairobi birdwalks to guide its work with communities near Important Bird Areas (IBA). Nature Kenya found that when they start engaging a community group in the countryside, birdwatching is a good entry point and an exciting hobby that helps to conserve the outdoors. As the local community members discover an exciting new hobby, their enthusiasm for the environment grows. Birds become the focus of conservation efforts, such as Clarke’s weavers in the Dakacha Woodland IBA. Also, trained community members participate in citizen science projects such as the annual African Waterfowl Census, Common Bird Monitoring, and the Kenya Bird Map.
In Kenya we have so far identified 67 IBAs where trained community bird guides earn an income by guiding local and international visitors in these Important Bird Ares.
Carrying a box in his hand, Washington placed it on the table and welcomed Fleur and Herbert to open it. They unveiled a lovely lime green cake with a binoculars, notebook and pencil at the top. Participants took turns to take photos and indulge in having a little piece of the cake.
Washington drew four (4) participants from the crowd to take part in a Bird quiz; two men (Kiprono Chesire and John Gitiri) from Kenya and two women (Prossy Nanyombi and Ada Lesale) from Uganda where they engaged in a neck-to-neck challenge that saw Kiprono Chesire emerge as the overall winner.
Lilian Kamusiime, the chairperson of the Uganda Women Birders, a professional driver guide and owner of Kigezi Biota Tours Ltd based in Kabale town, urged more women to join and support each other and further empower the community
Herbert was instrumental in sharing the business of birding. He urged the participants to get into the business and also sharpen their birding skills as he termed some guides to be “jua kali” or “Mr. Fit It” who don’t offer quality and professional services to clients. Most birdwatchers are also interested in other activities, and a birdwatching tour sometimes incorporates other activities, such as a cultural tour, a visit to a local community, archaeology or game viewing.
He encouraged birders to try and get into researching more on birds in Kenya it is a growing field as compared to Uganda. And also urged members to collaborate and work together as we all try to promote Kenya and Uganda as birding destinations. He indicated that an increasing number of birdwatchers are travelling to long haul destinations to spot new birds and East Africa would greatly benefit through collaborative marketing.
Birdwatchers are generally more concerned about conservation and sustainability than general travellers and look out for comfortable birder-friendly accommodation facilities, like 3-4 star hotels. For twitchers and enthusiastic birdwatchers, birds have priority over comfort.
The event was also graced by Sam Dindi of Mazingira Yetu Magazine who committed a section of the magazine towards birdwatching and urged members to contribute articles for upcoming issues. Sam has started a podcast; you can listen to the Mazingira Yetu Soundcloud Channel on the launch HERE.
- Cynthia Wekesa (Chairperson)
- Ann Karuga (Deputy Chairperson)
- Lynn Mulati (Secretary)
- Linda Nyakara (Treasurer)
As the event drew to a close, it had an attendance of 72 people keen on supporting KWB grow and become what it is meant to be.
Interested in a birding safari within Nairobi or Kenya? We know Important Bird Areas and other birding hot-spots, contact us today via email@example.com or call, text or WhatsApp + 254 732 281 432 to book a tour.