move from lake to lake in
Kenya's great rift valley

Lake Bogoria favored for algae

Aerial view of flamingos by the thousands on Lake Bogoria in the great rift valley of Kenya, Africa. Nearly one million birds were counted in the census taken in December 1999. Birds gathered several meters wide along the shores to feed on algae in the shallow waters. Arid rocky land slopes toward the west shore
Feeding on the algae, Spirulina platensis, and diatoms floating close to the surface in the alkaline water, birds must find fresh water to drink and wash soda off their feathers. In February 2000, fresh water was seeping in on only a few small streams Fresh water comes into the south  end of lake Bogoria
Flamingos appeared to be vulnerable to predators. Maribou storks patrol the shore waiting to scavenge flamingo carcasses brought down by eagles or other predators. Baboons, warthogs, and wild dogs fed daily; honey badgers, hyenas and mongooses at night. Maribou storks wait for an easy kill
During the Earthwatch research project at Lake Bogoria from February 16 to March 2, 2000, one kilometer transects were marked for study of flamingo dead. Carcasses untouched as this one were found daily. The birds appeared not to have been attacked by predators. Recently dead, this carcas will be ravaged by scavengers
Alert flamingos escaped by moving away from shore when threatened. Lethargic birds were unable to move quickly and were caught by eagles, hyenas, warthogs, and baboons. Two international media crews had set up blinds for photographing predators. A  sick  flamingo teeters near the shore as the healthier birds move away
Feeding was with a scythe-like motion to sift the algae and diatoms through the birds' gill-like teeth. The algae lives only in alkaline waters of the great rift and is the birds' food of choice. Flamingos feed on the surface algae
Most of the flamingos fed along the shore but in early morning when the water was still, many birds were sprinkled across the lake, on the water like pink marshmallows. Fish-eating birds, teal and grebes, were strangely present. Fish were not found in the lake. Roky shore made walking difficult on our morning bird count
Hot springs on the south end of Lake Bogoria are the constant source of fresh water for the flamingos. They often moved into waters with temperatures of up to 77 C to drink. Flamingos moved into the streams from the hot springs in search of  fresh water
Acacia camp for public tenting was accessible from the south entrance of Lake Bogoria Reserve over a rocky road, punishing ordinary vehicles. A small fresh water stream lured flamingos to drink. The elusive greater Kudu was seen in this region, but not by me. Flamingos drink and bathe in the fresh water inlets
Fig tree camp was also accessible from the south end where a freshwater stream flowed into the lake. Flamingos bathed and appeared to be pinker in this region, probably because their feathers were cleansed of soda. The escarpment looms above Lake Borgoria's east shore

National Geographic had a crew working on predators of flamingos
for an upcoming television special
French video company was working on a documentary of migration


Naomi Sherer