Sunday, January 27, 2008

Kakamega Forest

I spent my last weekend in Kenya at Kakamega forest. Apparently, just 400 years ago the forest stretched all the way across Equatorial Africa. After years of heavy cultivation and deforestation, it is now 2400 square km, a tiny island to the west of the barren Rift Valley.

Kakamega is famous for its biological diversity, especially the bird population. Lucky for me, Lucy is an expert bird-watcher (although she downplays this, in her modest fashion). But even Lucy paled next to our guide Wilberfource, who knows the habitats, flight patterns, facial wattles, and calls of each of the 430 avian species in Kakamega. We saw 43 bird species, including the famous Great Blue Turaco, which looks like a prehistoric beast. Lucy’s favorite is the Black-and white-casqued Hornbill. The Hornbill makes a racket--the Helm Field Guide describes its call as a “spectacular and musical bugled waah or waaah, which develops into a cacophonous din.” We also saw 2-meter Forest Cobra, which crossed our path approximately 5 meters ahead. The pictures above show Lucy standing on a hill with the forest canopy in the distance, and Wilberfource resting on a bench, East African bird Field Guide in hand.

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