We have come to the final part of our assessment of the current coverage of the Kenya Bird Map. We end our assessment with what is no doubt the wildest, remotest and most hostile part of Kenya – the east. This is also, by far, the least explored part of the country, mainly due to the conflict and insecurity that has plagued this area and the horn of Africa for decades. Like northern Kenya, it falls within the Somali-Masai Biome and is a low-lying landscape characterized by semi-desert and desert conditions (except the Boni Forest, which is part of the East African Coast biome). The vegetation is mainly dry shrubland and thorn bush, but there is some rich woodland and forest on a few isolated hills (e.g. Mutitu, Mumoni and Muvarao hills and Mt. Endau) as well as at Boni and along the Tana River. Birds largely or wholly restricted to this region, within Kenya, include the African White-winged Dove (Streptopelia reichenowi), Collared Lark (Mirafra collaris), Gillet’s Lark (Mirafra gilletti), Black-billed Wood-hoopoe (Phoeniculus somaliensis) and Juba Weaver (Ploceus dichrocephalus).
The area is comprised of Kitui, Tana River (excluding the Tana Delta), Garissa, Wajir and Mandera counties. Key features include The mid-sections of the Tana and Athi-Galana rivers, the Tiva River, the northern section of Tsavo, the lower reaches of the Lorian Swamp, the Boni Forest and the various isolated hills mentioned above. Kenya’s remotest protected area (Malka Mari National Park) is also in this region.
The remoteness and insecurity of eastern Kenya mean that, as you would expect, it has the lowest coverage on the Kenya Bird Map. Kitui is the region’s best-covered county, although it’s coverage is still very sparse.
There is a nice group of mapped pentads lining the road that runs along the Galana River from Sala Gate to Manayani (in Tsavo East NP), as well as a small group of three mapped pentads in the north-western section of the park. There are also a few scattered pentads between Tsavo and Mwingi that have been mapped, including a few around Mt. Endau and one at Mutitu. A few pentads between the Tana River Primate Reserve and Arawale National Park have some records as well. Only two pentads in the entire region, both within Tsavo East NP, have 4 or more full protocol cards (bird lists) submitted from them. (These are the two green-colored pentads on the map below).
Apart from the handful of pentads mentioned above, the rest of the eastern Kenya region has no pentads with full protocol cards. In fact, the entire area north of the Tana River, all the way to the borders with Ethiopia and Somalia, remains completely uncharted territory on the Kenya Bird Map. Only one pentad each that touch the Tana River Primate reserve and Arawale National Park have full protocol cards. The rest of the protected areas, apart from Tsavo East, have no full protocol cards. Notice the major contrast between the untouched Kora/Mwingi/Rahole reserves on the Tana River and their immediate neighbor, Meru National Park, that has several mapped pentads (see map above). The poor coverage of eastern Kenya means that there are presently very few (and in some cases no) records of the restricted-range birds in this area on the Kenya Bird Map (e.g. Collared Lark). We also know little about how Kenya’s more widespread dryland species are doing in this region at present.
Insecurity of course is the main factor contributing to this area’s scarcity of records on the KBM. Getting sufficient bird records from this area will be quite a challenge, but I believe that with time it will be possible to achieve some coverage that will give a fairly good representation of the overall status of several bird species in eastern Kenya.
With this, we have come to the end of our assessment of the coverage that has been achieved so far on the Kenya Bird Map project (you can always revisit the previous blog posts in this series at any time, as well as have a look at the up-to-date coverage map on our website). I hope this series has been helpful and has given you some insight into the areas that need your attention most as a bird mapper/atlasser. Please use the information to go out and do your best to record and submit full protocol records from as many unmapped and little-mapped pentads as possible. It is only with your records that the bird atlas has been able to grow to it’s current state and your records are what will help it grow much further.
Thank you to all those who have been submitting records to the project. Please keep it up and encourage your birding friends to join as well! Because let’s be honest, birding is A LOT more fun and exciting when you’re atlassing!