At 1880 metres above sea level, Lake Naivasha is the highest of the Rift Valley Lakes. It is the second largest freshwater lake in Kenya and one of only two freshwater lakes in the rift valley, the other being L. Baringo. Lake Naivasha is unusual in having no known outlet, normally a prerequisite for a freshwater lake! The lake edge supports dense vegetation which, in turn, supports a thriving bird population including the Grey-capped Warbler, Spectacled Weaver, Brimstone Canary and Red-billed Firefinch. All told the area has a bird list of over 350 species. While not usually one the of the main safari stops, Lake Naivasha is a good place for a one-night stop. The Kenyan roads mean that travelling from North to South (or vice versa) usually means travelling via Nairobi and is sometimes too much for a comfortable trip in one day. Lake Naivasha is on the main road to Nairobi and not too far from the city so makes a good alternative stop-over with some interesting birding.
Being a freshwater lake, Naivasha has a healthy fish population which attracts a variety of fish-eaters. Both Long-tailed and Great Cormorants can be seen, along with Fish Eagles and Pied Kingfishers. One of the memorable sights for us was a chance to watch Black Herons feeding on the lake. They are one of the bird species which form a canopy over their heads with their wings when feeding. This is presumably to reduce the surface glare or maybe to trick small fish and insects into believing that they are a shady sanctuary. We would like to include a link to a photograph of this behaviour at this point but ..... we have to confess that when we saw Black Herons behaving in this way we were so fascinated that we completely forgot to pick up our cameras!
Naivasha is also a good place to see the Grey-backed fiscal. This bird replaces the Long-tailed Fiscal in areas with higher rainfall. Also to be seen in the area is the Black-lored Babbler. The Naivasha race tends to show pale tipped feathers on their heads which this gives them a somewhat frosty effect. It is believed that this variation may be the result of hybridisation with Northern Pied Babblers at some point in the past.
The Naivasha region also supports a large population of Lovebirds. These are mainly hybrids of Fischer's and the Yellow-Collared Lovebird. In the main these populations have been established as a result of the escape (and deliberate release) of cage birds (both Fischer's and the Yellow-collared Lovebird are native Tanzanian species). Lovebirds are often seen for sale on the roadside. Often the birds are in very small, cramped cages and the vendors are young children. In fact you have to be licensed to catch and sell them but many tourists fall into the trap of buying and then releasing the birds, which are promptly retrapped and resold. This makes the illegal trade highly profitable and most Kenyan guides advise against being soft-hearted!
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