Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Larks

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

9 comments:

  1. Yep. I like your LBJ's especially the one with the gelled hairdo.

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  2. Wow---that's alot of LBJ's. My fav is the Red-capped Lark.... Neat!!!!

    Hope you are doing okay this first week of 2012.
    Hugs,
    Betsy

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  3. Great birds, Jo! I love the one with the crest. It is amazing how the LBJ can look alike! Happy Birding!

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  4. Fun images of such a lovely bird. I hope that you enjoy a wonderful New year~

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  5. That's a great collection of larks. I like the sandbathing photos in particular.

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  6. I like the gelled hair-do, and the sandbaths. I've never heard a lark sing. I listened for larks when we were in Flanders but to no avail.
    Interesting post, Jo.
    Luv, K

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  7. What a superb post Jo!! I barely get to see a lark, mainly just hear it , let alone point a lens at one.

    Hats off to you girl!!!!

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  8. Perfect post Jo. Wonderfully written and your photos are teriffic. I'm a LBJ guy through and through.
    Cheers to Kenya!

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  9. I wish I had taken an interest in birding while I lived in Kenya. We had visitors who were "birders" or "ornithologists" that carried notebooks in which they made voluminous notes and got all excited while I barely paid attention. I love the birds though - and enjoy reading your (and Betsy from Tennessee) posts about them. Nice.

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Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate your feedback. Jo