One of the ten donated Leica Trinovid binoculars has made its way to Kenya, to support the waterbird monitoring work being done under the umbrella of the National Museums of Kenya (NMK). The Museum together with Nature Kenya and international partners has been leading the waterbird census in Kenya for the past 33 years, conducting vital monitoring work across the capital city Nairobi, and at key waterbird sites in the country such as Lakes Nakuru, Naivasha, Bogoria, and Elmenteita.

Ms. Ireene-Rose Madindou (left), Waterbird Census Research and Monitoring Coordinator at The National Museums of Kenya (NMK) receiving her new LEICA Trinovid 10×42 binocular in the Wetlands International East Africa Office in Nairobi, Kenya.

“Seeing lifers and beautiful waterbirds in the city parks and at various wetlands around Kenya is a thrill that never fades,” says Ireene-Rose Madindou, Waterbird Census Research and Monitoring Coordinator at NMK. “Seeing the species through your binoculars engraves the bird species in your mind. Fine features like ciliary stripes and color-tinged wings or tails go a long way in differentiating wader species or terns and gulls, making one a finer ornithologist with each season of the waterbird census”, says Madindou.

Volunteers at Lake Naivasha ready to start.

In the capital Nairobi, NMK’s dedicated team of ornithologists regularly surveys waterbird populations in urban wetlands, which serve as crucial stopover points for migratory birds and breeding grounds for many resident species. The museum’s monitoring efforts in the capital are supported by experienced birdwatchers such as Ms. Fleur Ng’weno, from the East Africa Natural History Society (EANHS), who has introduced hundreds of Kenyans and visitors to the birdlife of Nairobi.

Beyond the city limits, NMK extends its monitoring efforts to Kenya’s famous Rift Valley lakes, renowned for their stunning flocks of flamingos and other waterbirds. At Lake Nakuru, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, NMK conducts extensive surveys to monitor the thousands of Lesser Flamingos that gather there to feed on the lake’s abundant algae. At Lake Naivasha, another important lake for waterbirds in Kenya, NMK’s work focuses on a variety of species including the Great White Pelican and the African Fish Eagle, both of which rely on the lake’s rich fish populations.

Key to the surveys conducted by NMK are quality binoculars and telescopes. “Equipment is key as well as notebooks and pencils for note-taking,” says Madindou. “Unfortunately, not all volunteers have access to good binoculars, making the process of sharing equipment time-consuming and challenging, especially for undergraduate students who cannot afford their own,” says Madindou.

Grey Crowned Cranes (Balearica regulorum) in Amboseli National Park, Kenya – one of the 255 waterbird species protected under AEWA. Photo: Sergey Dereliev

The key objective of NMK’s waterbird monitoring is to contribute to the International Waterbird Census (IWC), a global initiative that provides critical waterbird monitoring data for international conservation efforts under the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA).

NMK’s efforts are not just limited to data collection; they also engage with local communities to raise awareness about the importance of waterbird conservation. Through educational programs and community outreach in the city and around the important wetlands of Kenya, NMK fosters a sense of stewardship among local residents, encouraging them to protect and preserve their natural heritage.

“The work conducted by the National Museums of Kenya is vital for the conservation of migratory waterbirds, ensuring that these majestic creatures continue to thrive in both urban and natural environments. By safeguarding the diverse waterbird populations of Kenya, NMK is not only preserving an integral part of the country’s biodiversity but also contributing to the international efforts to protect migratory waterbirds for future generations,” says Jacques Trouvilliez, Executive Secretary of AEWA.

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