For those readers who know me, I love LBJ's (Little brown jobs) and have convinced Grant over the past year that they're also interesting birds to watch and photograph. On our first morning ride in the Maasai Mara, the very first birdsong I heard through the open window of the vehicle, was that of the Red-capped Lark.
Larks are an enigma to birdwatchers including ornithologists. They are very similar and there are Greater Short-toed Larks, Lesser Short-toed Larks, Rufous-rumped and Rufous-naped Larks, Crested Larks - which I was privileged to see in the deserts of Northern Sudan - and Short-tailed Larks to name but a few. The most sought after lark to spot is Rudd's Lark which is endemic to South Africa, and only in a few places in the country as it's critically endangered. You get the picture?
Larks are very difficult to id; you need to hear them and hopefully see them in flight and you also need to take note of where you're seeing them: on very flat, stony surfaces, open grasslands, short grassy areas and agricultural lands, perching on rocks and/or on sparse vegetation. Sometimes the bird has distintive markings, such as a white eye-stripe or rufous patches on their upper wings or napes.
So although larks might seem like boring little brown birds -aka LBJ's to some, they are very interesting to many birders, yours truly included!
Grant kindly stopped many times for me to get photos of this and another lark (see lower down on this post) The Red-capped Lark called its normal tchweerp and then burst into song. This lark mimics other birds and we thoroughly enjoyed its song while I clicked away.
The Red-capped Lark treats us to its early morning song in the Maasai Mara
The Red-capped Lark's red cap crests at times, making it a distinctive feature for identifying
The cheeky looking crest seems as though it's been gelled!
Red-capped Lark having a sand-bath. I loved the long shadows it threw in the early morning light
A few kilometers into our ride, we came across the other lark which is also common in the park. The Rufous-naped Lark. My identification of these two larks is confirmed in my field guide: Birds of East Africa, by Dave Richards who says both these birds are common in Kenya. My Birds of Africa, South of the Sahara, is a lot more confusing but also confirms their presence here. But as they are such baffling birds, I may be wrong on both counts!
The Rufous-naped Lark in an almost identical pose to the photo I have in my Birds of East Africa field guide
According to the same book on East African birds, the Kenyan species, (Mirafra athi) lacks the rufous nape but to me the colour is rather visible in the bird I photographed (See below)
The Rufous-naped Lark is found in grasslands and savannas as well as cultivated fields
Thank you to Springman for hosting this wonderful meme. For more birds around the world, click here