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On Sunday morning, Isaku and I rode out with six of the horses, riding Sahara and Ivory and bringing four youngsters along to run off any excess energy in the vast bush.

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It’s a beautiful place where time stand still, and the horses adore it. I’m glad they all follow their herd leader, making our excursions smooth and easy. It’s a race against time before the rains fall and the fields are filled with crops (no place for lose horses as the land will turn into an equine buffet of delicious foods!) and so we make use of this luxurious freedom as much as we can!

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Birdwatching was a hobby I discovered late in life (2008), but just as with horseback riding (1998), it got me hooked. Although I won’t stop for every bird that I see, I am always on the look-out for new species. On Sunday morning, a clear high pitched call that I had never heard before made me stop my mount and turn back. Can you see him on the picture above?

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From afar, I could only make out a small shape, but the good thing about birdwatching on horseback is that many birds allow you to approach real close, not minding you as you are connected to a (to them harmless) four-legged creature.

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The little bird with the powerful voice was none another than a Striped Kingfisher – my first kingfisher sighting in Niger ever!

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He was surprisingly small and I would not have noticed him, had he not called out for the whole world to hear.

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If anyone thinks that the red-billed hornbill has an unproportionally large bill, it’s nothing compared to the bill of the Striped Kingfisher, which is huge in proportion to the body – enhancing the “cuteness” factor…

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Cute however does not rhyme with his temperamental reputation. According to wikipedia, the Striped Kingfisher [Halcyon chelicuti] is a courageous and “highly territorial bird”, chasing off other birds much bigger than itself. Their territory may be several hectares in size and hold more than a hundred trees. I smiled when I read the following:

“It is surveyed from a treetop by its owner, who sings from before dawn intermittently until after midday.”

Wikipedia – The Striped Kingfisher

…and thought of how well the description fitted our early Sunday morning encounter.

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With little water left in the area, the Striped Kingfisher is a rare sight at this time a year, and I was happy to have seen one! They are very good for the environment as they feed mostly on grasshoppers and other large insects, and now is definitively the season for any bird to go “grasshopp harvesting”.

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Our ride continued into the heart of the Zinder bush, taking us through a vast area of bird territory and spoiling us with the songs and cries of various species. I love horses, I love nature and I love the sound and sights of nature’s own inhabitants.

For more birds around the world,
visit World Bird Wednesday!