Flamingos of Bogoria

Flamingos of Bogoria

Flamingos flock to Kenya’s Lake Bogoria. The chemistry of the lake is harsh but here the lesser flamingo’s primary food can grow. And in some ways they are a litmus test, a measure of the lake’s health. Nearby springs provide a constant supply of fresh water. In these fresh running streams the flamingos drink, having dined in the caustic waters of the lake. They bathe and careen to wash away the laborious minerals which could turn their feathers to stone and drown them forever.
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By some estimates more than a million flamingos flock to Bogoria. This year the flamingoes keep coming massive and huge flocks like a spreading pink plague. Bogoria is being pushed past the breaking point. The flamingoes swarm over the lake like eating machines. The caustic waters breed a blue-green algae called spirulina. For the lesser flamingoes it is the staff of life. The powerful tongue pumps water like a piston, the beat is a highly efficient filter, so efficient perhaps that they may be overgrazing the waters or worse. The flamingoes spend hour after hour on the lake eating and defecating, stuck in a potentially lethal cycle. For more than a million birds, Bogoria’s waters may well be turning from a nourishing soup into a poisonous sewer. Hundreds of birds fall ill each day.
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By January nearly 50,000 birds are dead, one of the single largest die offs ever recorded. Everywhere the birds turn they face death and so they fly. They leave the darkened waters of Bogoria by the hundreds of thousands. The flamingoes settle to the south on the waters of Lake Nakuru, another of the riff’s alkaline lakes. Here at Nakuru they have found a place with food and a new harmony, at least for now. Turned to feed, the flamingo’s frown changes into a patient smile; timeless, almost serene.