By Fleur Ng’weno
In July we brought you the good news that Clarke’s Weaver had been seen again after six months and a long drought. Flocks of males, females and juveniles were seen in Dakatcha Woodland in Magarini sub-county, Kilifi County (as this bird is found only in Kilifi County, we are beginning to call it Kilifi Weaver).
The good news this year is that Kilifi/Clarke’s Weavers were breeding again in the seasonal wetlands of Dakatcha Woodland. It rained heavily in November and December, filling the seasonal wetlands, and sedges and water lilies grew rapidly. The weavers nested in Nature Kenya’s Kamale Nature Reserve and a smaller wetland to the west, and small flocks were seen in the big Bore (Munyenzeni) wetland near Marafa.
Despite the successful breeding and regular monitoring, however, we still do not know the size of the Clarke’s/Kilifi Weaver population. These Endangered birds are only known to nest in seasonal wetlands – sites that fill with water and water plants during the rainy season. Because these wetlands become dry in the dry season, they are often overlooked and subject to demarcation for other uses. Yet seasonal wetlands play a critical role in the ecosystem – in this case, supporting a species threatened with extinction.
Clarke’s/Kilifi Weavers are different from most other weavers in that they feed mostly on insects and small wild fruits. Parent birds could be seen bringing fat green caterpillars to feed their young. Their breeding cycle is also very rapid: the eggs hatch quickly, the young grow fast and soon fledge and fly – enabling them to make use of temporary, seasonal wetlands.
During January, Julio Mwambire and Maxwel Issa of Dakatcha Woodland Conservation Group took many birders to see the endangered birds at their nesting sites.