Eggs & Chicks – Article by Gareth Jones
EGGS & CHICKS!!! – BIRD WATCHING – BY GARETH JONES
Over the years we have enjoyed so many aspects of the Nairobi National Park, always with an air of expectation and anticipation mixed with the excitement of what could possibly be seen.There is always something wonderfully special about watching birds, especially when they have eggs or tiny chicks, perhaps because they represent ‘new life’. With over 500 species of birds recorded in the park there is no shortage of species that are resident and breeding in the park. The bird species range from seed eaters, water birds, raptors, insect eaters, sunbirds etc.
In order to have a special “baby bird moment” it is useful to note a few tactics that have certainly been very rewarding for me over the years. Firstly, find a place where there are a number of bird species thriving. Wetland places like the Hyena Dam, Athi dam, Naglomon dam, No 10 murram pits are typical rewarding locations. Secondly, sit quietly and observe the various species for at least 15 minutes. This is because the parent birds instinctively hide the chicks when they feel threatened and noises like motor vehicles tend to reduce possible sightings. However if you sit very quietly we
have noted that many species start to behave naturally. That is when we have experienced most of our “baby bird moments”.
Early on a fresh crisp summer morning near the Kingfisher picnic sight that I had an interesting sighting. Ahead of me a number of colourful birds flew, the beautiful shining feathers of a flock of superb starlings looked wonderful as the sun shone on them.
After stopping briefly to watch them, I was just about to start the vehicle engine when I noticed a superb starling landing with a dry stick in its beak, in a brief moment a young chick appeared and moved quickly towards the adult bird. The chick was no doubt very keen to have breakfast in the form of whatever edible meal was presented by the parent bird. However with our human logic it is often hard to imagine what kind of logic birds might have, but I did imagine for a moment that this was actually “Chick stick lesson #101” – with this superb starling seemingly educating its chick, as if it was trying to say “If it is very hard and firm and does not squirm it is not a worm”. It was also very amusing to watch the chick repeatedly try to take the stick from the adult bird, hopefully the chick did learn the “stick lesson”, and that sometimes grown-ups have more to do than just feed youngsters. Maybe the stick was eventually put to good use to help build a nest for future chicks?
Some time ago, I noticed a 3 banded plover crouched near the edge of a pool of water, then suddenly the plover stood up and a tiny “little fluffball” of a chick emerged from beneath her feathers. The chick quickly dashed along the edge of the pool much to the dismay of the mother who gave a number of calls in the hope of getting the chick to return closer to safety.
However this chick seemed to be very independent as it ran around and was even catching its own variety of aqua snacks. Then the chick became even braver and wandered off away from the edge of the pool into the longer grass, as I sat there very quietly. The chick seemingly unaware of my presence ventured to within a mere metre of my vehicle, what if I was a predator? It would have been a very quick meal if any predator was around.
However “ mother plover” had had enough, she ran after the chick, with a series of high pitched alarm calls. The chick finally seemed to have regained its hearing and a bit of common sense, as it turned around and ran back to its mother, diving headfirst under the soft protective feathers. Then after a few short minutes the mother stood up again and the independent little “fluffball” ran off again. I watched with amused interest as this cycle was repeated over and over again.
Then I thought just how vulnerable both of them were, the chick somehow thinking that “mother plover” was the best protection. Yet the mother herself is so tiny, and it is only through the experience of life and instinctive behavior that many such species survive in the wild.
I always find it a joy to see birds when driving in the park, God has created so much amazing diversity. While driving away I reflected on our human lifestyles in that perhaps we could all learn a lesson from the ‘chick stick’ example, as at times we chase after dead and dry meaningless things, when we should rather be seeking the best of what life has to offer!
Chicks are often completely different from the adults as they are created with natural camouflage to increase their possibility of survival, as they have high mortality in the wild.. Predators like raptors, Nile monitors, snakes and jackals get a quick high protein snack when they find bird eggs. Therefore wild bird eggs are very often well camouflaged with blending patterns to make them almost invisible to predators. All babies have a high “cuteness factor” and chicks are often especially unique little fluffballs. So why not try something different and try to have some “baby bird moments”? Much of what happens in nature can be very harsh, and as it is literally survival of the fittest, may God favour many little chicks with protection and life! Long may the Nairobi
National Park continue to be a breeding haven for many bird species.
The park is open daily from 06h00 to 19h00.