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The Birds in Kenya

The first night in Kenya, I broke Fr. John’s guidelines for tent management – for ease of access I had left my tent flaps open during the day – as a result mosquitoes gathered and a scorpion snuck in without me knowing it! I sprayed the mosquitoes and went to bed. Later that night the scorpion scampered across the floor, between my legs, caught in the light of my torch. I was in a state of shock, having been told
how painful its sting can be – I used some implement (I can’t remember what!) to usher it out the tent but not before it led me a merry dance round the tent, hiding under items lying on the floor. And I had to get the bottom flap open while holding the torch and watching that it didn’t get me first. After several attempts I whooshed it out the door and tried to get back to sleep, dreaming of scorpions coming at me. ‘Regime Change’ happened in ‘Camp Sleeman’ the next morning -flaps closed and hiding places reduced to a minimum. I related my story the next morning at breakfast so the rest of the Ken Crew and we were all duly warned of the folly of ignoring our leaders cogent advice.

You will be relieved to hear, that since then we have been taught to use a cup as a more efficient way of dealing with scorpions. I have one on standby to cover it before releasing it back to the wild.

This land supports the greatest number and variety of vertebrates in the world – giraffes, elephants, lions, baboons, monkeys to name a few – we are fortunate to have seen several of them – giraffes, elephants, baboons but it is the birds that have caught my attention. There is a seemingly infinite variety where we are – they are everywhere. Some are exquisitely coloured. As I write, sitting outside my tent, three to four species visible or audible. My constant companion is a woodpecker who pecks at the same tree, all day looking for insects under the bark.

The other thing about these birds, is that unlike the big five which most people are desperate to find, the birds are unafraid. I imagine that we humans, the main predator of this area, have ignored these smaller creatures in favour of the big five.

And I have no need to wear a watch or set an alarm – the birds do it for me especially the ibis. The one that flies over my tent is a big, goose like bird called the Hadada Ibis. They pass over like clockwork – 6.30am and 6.15 pm. The bird book I found here describes them as “very, very noisy, most often heard at dawn and dusk calling a varying bugled and onomatopoeic haa haa ha-aaa with the last notes downslide.” That is a good description and I can hear them heading my way now! And that reminds me that I need to get these few words to John or I will be in more
trouble.

All is going very well and your sons doing you proud.

Fr Simon OSB