5th February 1990 - 20th March 1990.
A day in Nairobi at Jean Hartley's house, firstly Richard Matthews arrived to pick up Samantha and as they were leaving Charles Bishop and his brother Richard turned up.
Charles had flown in the previous day and had stayed overnight with his brother, who lives just outside of Nairobi. Charles was to be my driver and companion for the rest of the trip, being a friend and at that time my flat-mate in Bristol, he was also interested in birds as well as other wildlife and doing a PhD in Zoology at Bristol University.
The rest of the day was spent picking up the vehicle for the trip, a Suzuki Vitara, not what I would have chosen, but we were told that because it was light it could easily be pushed out of ditches! On the down side, because the windows wouldn't close properly we would have to unload the vehicle each night, but at least it was 4-wheel drive.
Later we went through our itinerary with Jean who had booked our accommodation for the next 4 weeks.
Photo: African Mourning Dove
An early start to load the vehicle and get out of Nairobi before the rush-hour, Charles and I headed west for the Masai Mara, stopping along the way when we saw something of interest.
We saw 3 Augur Buzzards and 2 Spotted Eagle Owls, then as we decended into the rift valley we stopped at a dried-up river bed, where in the bank were nest holes of at least 12 White-fronted Bee-eaters and we also saw a White-headed Rough-wing Swallow and Variable Sunbird.
Continuing the jouney, we saw 2 Abyssinian Scimitarbills, a Black-shouldered Kite, Giraffes, Ostriches, Cape Rooks, 3 Egyptian Vultures, 3 Tawny Eagles, Black Kites, Pin-tailed Whydahs, Common Waxbills, Yellow Bishops, a Blue-eared Starling and 6 or more White Helmet-shrikes.
As we entered the national park it began to drizzle with fine rain, not for long but enough to wet the surface, then we found out how tricky it was to drive on the fine clay of the Mara's roads, it was like driving on black ice, so perhaps the Suzuki was a good idea!
We continued into the park, driving through an area known as Itong Plain, here we saw 4 Caspian Plovers, Thomson's and Grant's Gazelles, Zebra, Wildebeest, Impala, Topi, 2 Black-backed Jackals, Anteater Chats, African Stonechats and a Denham' Bustard which is a local and uncommon bird in Kenya. We also saw Wheatears, Mourning Wheatears, Capped Wheatears, Crowned Plovers, Grey Crowned Cranes and Egyptian Geese.
Then we came across a group of 8 African Hunting Dogs, 2 males, a female and 5 well-grown pups, one of the adults wearing a radio tracker. In the same area we also saw 2 male Lions, several Eland and Warthogs.
Later we arrived at our base for the next 6 days, a tented camp on the eastern side of the park by the Mara River. In the evening the sound from crickets and frogs was amazing, and the staff put out food in the trees for 2 Greater Bushbabies.
Photos: Augur Buzzard.
African Hunting Dogs.
Our first full day in the Masai Mara, as we entered the park we saw 2 Long-crested Eagles, Little Swifts, 2 Whyte's Hares, Impala and several Topi, some on 'stands' where they scraped at the ground trying to attract females. Also African Snipe, of which we saw 3, a new bird for me and and we also saw several Fan-tailed Widowbirds.
Lions were one of the species on the recording list, so once we found the local pride, known as the marsh pride, we stayed with them for several hours, unfortunately, they made no sound, doing what lions do, mainly resting and sleeping and they all appeared well fed, making kills at night or very early morning, times that visitors were not allowed in the park. Several of the cubs did move around for a while, but soon rejoined the pride of a male, 2 young males, 9 females and 7 cubs.
Topi on 'stand'.
The marsh pride of Lions.
Giving up on the Lions we decided to explore further into the park and found a group of 10 Spotted Hyaenas crunching on the bones of an old carcass, and they did make a lot of noise!
During the rest of the day we also saw White-backed and Hooded Vultures, Black-headed Herons, 2 Saddle-billed Storks, Tawny Eagles, Elephants, Buffaloes, Lilac-breasted Rollers, Grey Crowned Cranes, Marabous, Egyptian Geese, a Bronze-tailed Starling, Woodland Kingfishers, Olive Baboons, a White-headed Vulture, Jackson's Widowbirds, African Sand Martins, a Hamerkop, a Black-backed Jackal, Yellow-throated Longclaws, Swallows, around 25 Wood Sandpipers, a Malachite Kingfisher, 2 Wattled Plovers, Blue-eared Starlings and in the evening, back at the camp, a Greater Bushbaby.
Photos: Spotted Hyaenas.
Today we entered the park to look for the 'marsh pride' again, but they had moved, during the search we saw Impalas, Grant's and Thomson's Gazelles, Topis and Kongonis, also called Hartebeest.
We also saw a White-headed Barbet, Wire-tailed Swallows, 3 Long-crested Eagles, 2 Hartlaub's Bustards and a distant herd of Elephants.
Eventually we found the Lions, side by side asleep in the shade of an acacia tree.
Kongoni or Hartebeest.
The day was hot and it seemed that we were destined to view only sleeping Lions!
We parked a few feet from the pride and they took no notice, one of the cubs climbed into the fork of the tree trying to catch some breeze, then 3 of the smaller cubs crawled under our vehicle.
A little later, Jonathan Scott ( a well known wildlife photographer, before he became a presenter for the BBC ) arrived to take some pictures and joked that it may be difficult to get them out.
After he departed I mounted the reflector on its tripod on the front part of the roof, controlling it from the roof-hatch, and of course, it fell off! When it landed right by the side of the pride I expected them to be startled and jump up, but they didn't move, one female opened her eyes and moved her head and then went back to sleep! So, I very carefully pulled the reflector back up by its cable.
Later with the pride still sleeping we started the engine and luckily the 3 cubs came out, so we left.
Photos: Above: Lion pride and Jonathan Scott.
Leaving the 19 Lions we drove across the grassland towards the Mara River, seeing Yellow-throated Longclaws, 2 Yellow- collared Lovebirds, a Wahlberg's Eagle, Crowned Plovers and a herd of around 300 Buffaloes. At the Musiara Marsh we saw Grey Crowned Cranes, about 50 Wood Sandpipers and a Greenshank.
As we neared the Mara's riverine forest there were 3 Southern Ground Hornbills, 2 adults and an immature.
In the forest/woodland we saw Crowned Hornbills, a Black-backed Puffback and Common or Fork-tailed Drongos. In the river were several Nile Crocodiles and we saw and heard a Hippopotamus.
We continued exploring the woodland seeing Black-headed Orioles, a Blue Flycatcher, a White-browed Scrub Robin, a Ross's Turaco, 2 Pale Flycatchers and a Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill.
Photos: Below: Southern Ground Hornbills.
After overnight rain we chose an alternative route into the park, a big mistake!
On previous days the other way into the park had been tricky, with puddles along the track, but we had always been able to drive through them, but, today we got stuck, and no amount of reving and pushing would free us.
As Charles was the one who drove into the rut, he was the one who had to walk back to a nearby village. After about half an hours wait he arrived back with lots of men and a tractor and we were soon on our way again.
We soon found other vehicles and learnt that we had missed the lion pride hunting Warthogs by 20 minutes and that they had made a kill, fed and moved off.
We didn't go that way again!
As the Lions would be sleeping the rest of the day, we visited other areas of the park to sound record in, by the marsh, in the forest along the river and on the plains away from the tourists.
Photos: Charles and the vehicle. Grey Crowned Cranes.
We saw 2 Black-shouldered Kites, several Grey Crowned Cranes and followed the herd of Elephants for a while, until other vehicles arrived.
Continuing we saw Pectoral-patch Cisticola, Wood Sandpiper, African Snipe, Egyptian Geese, Horus Swift, Black Rough-wing Swallow, Woodland Kingfisher, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Black Kite, Hippopotamus, Olive Baboon, Vervet Monkey, Blue Monkey, 4 Banded Mongooses, 2 Black-backed Puffbacks, a Palmnut Vulture, 3 Speckled Mousebirds, an African Pied Wagtail, a White-browed Robin Chat, 3 Northern Black Flycatchers, Grey-backed Camaroptera, White-bellied Tit, Abyssinian Scimitarbill, Anteater Chat, Spur-winged Goose, Tawny Eagle, Long-crested Eagle, Topi, Thomson's Gazelle, Lilac-breasted Roller, Ruppell's Long-tailed Starling, Giraffe, Crowned Plover, 6 Dwarf Mongooses, Grassland Pipit, Long-billed Pipit, Yellow-throated Longclaw and a Lappet-faced Vulture.
Photos: African Elephants.
Out early into the reserve to record anything, except Lions, which we now considered made no noise during daylight hours.
Our first stop was at Musiara Marsh, a small area of pools and boggy grass tussocks, here we saw Knob-billed or Comb Ducks, Marabou, Yellow-billed Storks, Yellow-billed Egret, Little and Great White Egrets, African Spoonbill, Sacred Ibis, Grey Heron, Hamerkop, Wood Sandpiper, Grey Crowned Crane, Saddle-billed Stork, Squacco Heron, Malachite Kingfisher, Black-headed Heron and 2 Open-billed Storks.
While we were there a Spotted Hyaena appeared carrying the leg of a gazelle, it walked into the water and then pushed the leg under the water, making adjustments to secure it in place, I didn't know that hyaenas cached food.
Photos: Musiara Marsh.
Photos: Right & below: Spotted Hyaena caching food in marsh.
The rest of the day was spent visiting various different habitats in the reserve, seeing Black-headed Oriole, Common Bulbul, Black-headed Weaver, Holub's Golden Weaver, Dusky Flycatcher, Black-backed Puffback, Rufous Sparrow, Collared Sunbird, Grey Flycatcher, Speckled-fronted Weaver,Wheatear, Hildebrandt's Starling, Lions, Striped Kingfisher, Banded Martin, African Sand Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Olive Baboon, Black-backed Jackal, Topi, Impala, Grant's and Thomson's Gazelle, Elephant, Black Kite, African Marsh Harrier, Pied Kingfisher, Buffalo, around 35 Caspian Plovers, Didric Cuckoo, Purple Grenadier, Isabelline Wheatear, 2 Wattled Plovers, 2 Secretary Birds and a Red-chested Cuckoo.
Photos: Striped Kingfisher Secretary Bird
Today we returned to the Itong Plain, an area we drove through on our way to the camp in the Masai Mara, and spent all day exploring this mainly short grass part of the reserve.
We saw Zebra, Topi, Thomson's Gazelle, Wildebeest, Warthog, a Side-striped Jackal, 2 Black-backed Jackals, flava wagtails and then we came upon a flock of 200+ Caspian Plovers feeding in an area of short cropped grass.
We also saw Marabou, White-backed Vulture, Tawny Eagle, 3 Lappet-faced Vultures, Striped Kingfisher and Yellow-throated Longclaw.
Photos: Caspian Plovers.
A little later we found a place with trees and bushes, where we saw 2 male Lions sheltering from the sun under the bushes, they looked old, both with blackish manes and not in good condition, perhaps these were the former leaders of the 'marsh pride'.
Continuing we saw Specked-fronted Weavers, 3 Spotted Hyaenas, Giraffe, Impala and 10 Temminck's Coursers, in the same area we found the Hunting Dogs again, a male and female with 5 well grown pups.
We also saw Egyptian Geese, Wood Sandpipers, a Three-banded Plover, Fiscals, Grassland Pipits, 2 Secretary Birds, Rufous-naped Larks, Buffalo, a flock of around 200 White Storks, Crowned Plovers and a Leopard, not close and it quickly disappeared.
Also seen were Brimstone Canary, 2 Bateleurs, Little Bee-eaters and then resting in the shade of some trees we found 4 Cheetahs, we were told that they were a female and 3 well-grown male cubs.
We spent sometime watching the Cheetahs and then headed back, on the way seeing a Long-crested Eagle, a Montagu's Harrier, a Kestrel, about 50 Bee-eaters and an African Goshawk.
Photos: Above: One of the two old male Lions.
Above & right: African Hunting Dogs.
Our last full day in the Masai Mara, around the camp we saw a Yellow-breasted Apalis, Common Bulbul, Black-headed Weaver, a Black-throated Wattle-eye, 3 Dusky Flycatchers, a Paradise Flycatcher and a Collared Sunbird.
In the reserve we visited lots of different areas seeing Grey Crowned Cranes, Wheatear, Yellow-billed Oxpeckers with the herd of Buffalo, the pride of 21 Lions, Impala, several families of Warthog, which we watched for a while, wondering why some would knee to feed on the short grass when there were plenty of longer grass areas.
We also saw 3 African Fish Eagles, a Bare-faced Go-away-Bird, a Buff-bellied Warbler, a Black-shouldered Kite mobbing a Tawny Eagle, 2 Mosque Swallows, Waterbuck, Grant's and Thomson's Gazelles, 2 Wattled Plovers, Crowned Plovers, Yellow-billed Stork, Knob-billed Ducks, Glossy Ibis, Sacred Ibis, Yellow-billed Egret, Black-necked Heron, Squacco Heron, Olive Baboon, Elephant, Striped Kingfisher, 2 Saddle-billed Storks, 4 Wood Sandpipers, 4 African Jacanas, 2 Black-backed Jackals, a Pied Kingfisher, 7 Marsh Sandpipers, Malachite Kingfisher, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Great White Egret, Grey Heron, 3 Spotted Hyaenas, Somali Short-toed Lark, Flappet Lark, an African Marsh Harrier, a Steppe Eagle, Topi, Rufous-naped Lark, 2 Buffy Pipits which are also called Sandy Plain-backed Pipit and may be different to the races further south, Ostrich, Hildebrandt's Starling, and a female Black-throated Honeyguide.
Later we visited an area we had not been to before, a high point overlooking the mara, here we saw a female Black Rhinoceros and her well-grown calf with their attendant Red-billed Oxpeckers , being guarded by an armed park official, a sad reflection of our times which hasn't got any better.
In this area we also saw Ruppell's Long-tailed Starling, 6+ Quailfinches, Lilac-breasted Roller, an eagle sat on a dead tree that we puzzled over for some time, but when we got closer saw it was an immature Black-chested Snake Eagle, Blue-eared Glossy Starling and Palm Swifts.
Towards evening back at the camp we saw a Senegal Bushbaby or Galago and a Bat Hawk.
Photos above: Warthog, Black Rhinoceros, Black-chested Snake Eagle.
Up early for our drive to Lake Naivasha, at the camp we saw the 2 Greater Bushbabies again, coming in for food, and a Large Spotted Genet. In the trees were 3 Black-backed Puffbacks, Common Bulbul, Paradise Flycatcher, 2 Grey Woodpeckers and later near the river 2 Yellow-mantled Widowbirds.
Our journey took us back across the Itong Plain, then northeast on the C12 to Narok and northeast to Lake Naivasha, on the way we saw Crowned Plover, Caspian Plover, Impala, Grant's and Thomson's Gazelles, Wildebeest, Topi, Warthog, Kongoni, Zebra, Wheatear, White-backed Vulture, Black-backed Jackal, a female Cheetah, around 20 Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, 2 Cardinal Woodpeckers, Red-rumped Swallow, African Sand Martin, Hildebrandt's Starling, Vervet Monkey, Fisher's Finch Lark, a Long-crested Eagle, 3 Bateleurs, 2 Lappet-faced Vultures, Tawny Eagle, 2 Augur Buzzards, 2 Kestrels, Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, Yellow-fronted Canary, a Mariqua Sunbird, 2 Wattled Plovers, 3 Usambiro Barbets, 2 Kori Bustards, Olive Baboon, 2 Rock Thrushes, Superb Starling, Anteater Chat, Cape Rook, Black-headed Heron, an Egyptian Vulture, a Montagu's Harrier, a Pallid Harrier, a White-eyed Kestrel, 2 African Swallow-tailed Kites, Giraffe and Pied Crows.
We stayed overnight in Naivasha.
Photos: Yellow-throated Sandgrouse.
The day started well, we filled the vehicle with petrol, using all of our local cash, and began a drive around Lake Naivasha.
The lake was very low and getting to the water's edge was not possible, however we did find some damp areas and places where we could view the lake, seeing 2 Red-faced Crombecs, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Puffback, Grey Crowned Crane, Egyptian Goose, African Fish Eagle, Augur Buzzard, White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher, Bronze Sunbird, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Variable Sunbird, Robin Chat, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Squacco Heron, Purple Heron, Green-backed or Striated Heron, Garganey, Yellow-billed Duck, Crested Coot, Cape Wagtail, Giant Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Hottentot Teal, Long-tailed Cormorant, African Stonechat, Grey-backed Fiscal, Wood Sandpiper, White-browed Coucal, Black Crake, Greater Swamp Warbler, African Marsh Harrier, an immature Little Bittern, Ruff, Moorhen, yellow wagtails, Superb Starling and Speckled, Laughing, Red-eyed and African Mourning Doves.
By late morning we were at the southern end of the lake and decided to visit the gorge at Hell's Gate. We got to the entrance and discovered there was an entry charge as it was now a national park, something we didn't know as it wasn't shown on our map as such!
Having spent all our cash on petrol, we returned to lake Naivasha to see if we could change some traveller's cheques at one of the hotels. We tried a couple of hotels and they were closed and looked abandoned, we looked for a shop in a nearby village but couldn't find anything open, eventually we found a man walking along the road and asked him if he knew of anywhere that was open, he said no, we would have to go back to one of the towns further north. He told us that because the water level in the lake had dropped so dramatically, a couple of years ago, there were no tourists and all the hotels had shut.
We didn't need a lot of money for the park, 20 shillings I think, so Charles said to him "can we sell you someting" producing a couple of T-shirts, he didn't seem impressed, then I got out a track-suit, which although new I never wore, and he agreed.
We returned to Hell's Gate and drove along the western side of the gorge looking for a suitable place to stop to view as much of the gorge as we could.
On the cliffs opposite the watch spot there was a colony of Black-necked Rock Hyraxes, we spent some time here, recording their soft grunts to each other and the occasional alarm at sight of a preditor. They are the favourite prey of Verreaux's or Black Eagles and during our stay we saw 5 of them gliding along the gorge.
Also we saw Rufous Sparrows, Rock Martins, Nyanza Swifts and an Augur Buzzard. At the end of the gorge the habitat changes to open acasia grassland where we saw Kongoni, Zebra, Grant's and Thomson's Gazelles, Red-winged Starling, Black-headed Oriole, Common Bulbul, Yellow-rumped Seedeater, Variable Sunbird, Speke's Weaver, Anteater Chat and Schalow's Wheatear.
We returned to Lake Naivasha and drove west, stopping for anything interesting. Along the way we saw 2 Long-crested Eagles, 3 Black-shouldered Kites, White Storks, a White-necked Raven, 2 Buzzards, an Augur Buzzard, a Gabor Goshawk, African Firefinches, a Silverbird and an Indigobird.
Late afternoon we reached our hotel in Kisumu on the shore of Lake Victoria.
Photos: right: Hell's Gate Gorge. Below: Common Zebra.
Kisumu is the 3rd largest city in Kenya, on the shore of the largest lake in Africa, we wanted to find a place that I could sound record by the water which was away from human noise. We drove west to Bondo and soon discovered why this is the most populated part of Kenya, everywhere was given over to agriculture with lots of smallholdings.
But there were places along the road, pools, stands of trees and bushy areas, where we saw 2 Brown Parrots, 3 Black-winged Bishops, Common or Fork-tailed Drongos, 2 Black-headed Gonoleks, Golden-backed Weavers, a Splendid Glossy Starling, a Black-shouldered Kite, a Tawny-flanked Prinia, a Rock Thrush, a Grey Kestrel, Hamerkops and Wire-tailed Swallows.
From Bondo we drove to Usenge and followed the road alongside Lake Victoria to the end. At the edge of the lake were dense Papyrus beds with breaks every so often where we could view the water, over the Papyrus there were 1,000's of Banded Martins hawking insects, we also saw Black-headed Weavers, 5 Black-lored Babblers, 2 Little Bee-eaters, Grey-backed Fiscals, 3 Crimson-rumped Waxbills, Glossy Ibises, Yellow-backed Weavers, 2 Swamp Flycatchers, Hamerkops, Black-winged Stilts, Grey-headed Gulls, 300+ White-winged Black Terns, Pied Kingfishers, Long-tailed Cormorants, Little Egrets, Cattle Egrets, 5 Slender-billed Weavers, 7 Blue-breasted Bee-eaters, Spur-winged Plovers, 8 Pink-backed Pelicans, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 100's of yellow wagtails, 6 Open-billed Storks, 5 Kittlitz's Plovers, around 60 Ringed Plovers, 4 African Stonechats, a Malachite Kingfisher, African Masked Weavers, 8+ Northern Brown-throated Weavers, 3 Ruff, a Sanderling, 2male and 3 female Red-chested Sunbirds, 6+ Black-headed Gonoleks and 3 Splendid Glossy Starlings.
Later, we drove back to Kisumu and spent the rest of the day at Hippo Point, we didn't see any hippos but did see 6 White-throated Bee-eaters, 2 African Reed Warblers, a Yellow-spotted Petronia, Compact Weavers, Golden-backed Weavers, Yellow-backed Weavers, Carruther's Cisticolas, White-browed Coucals, Slender-billed Weavers, 2 Black-headed Gonoleks, Fiscals, Hamerkops, White-winged Black Terns, African Jacanas, Red-chested Sunbirds, Sacred Ibises, Black-headed Herons, Black Kites and a Brown-hooded Kingfisher.
Photos: White-throated Bee-eater.
We left Kisumu and headed a couple of hours north to Kakamega and after booking into our hotel set off to explore Kakamega Forest. This is the last remnants of rain forest which stretched across West and East Africa left in Kenya, and is home to species not found or difficult to see in other parts of Kenya.
We saw Red-billed Firefinch, Reichenow's Weaver, Northern Masked Weaver, Red-chested Sunbird, a Black-billed Weaver, a Grey-throated Barbet, a Blue-throated Brown Sunbird, a Wattle-eye Flycatcher, 10+ Blue Monkeys, 4 Stuhlmann's Starlings, 5 Crested Guineafowls, a Long-crested Eagle and a Mountain Buzzard.
As it got towards dusk there was the spectacle of around 60 Black-and-white-casqued Hornbills coming in to roost in some tall trees, their calls echoing around the forest.
Photo: Northern Masked Weaver.
Our first full day in Kakamega forest, as we got further into the forest we didn't expect to see as many people as we did, and, that the tracks mainly lead to villages, it may have changed now.
However, we found plenty of places to sound record and birdwatch, around the forest glades seemed best, where we saw 5 Great Blue Turacos, White-throated Bee-eaters, a Golden-rumped Tinkerbird,
2 Brown-capped Weavers, an Olive Mountain Greenbul, a Yellow-billed Barbet, 2 White-chinned Prinias, a Yellow-whiskered Greenbul, a Brown-eared Woodpecker, Common Bulbuls, a Bristlebill, Hadada Ibises, 10+ Joyful Greenbuls, a Little Grey Greenbul, a Green-headed Sunbird, 2 Blue Flycatchers, 3 Yellow White-eyes, Grey-backed Camaropteras, White-headed Rough-wing Swallows, 6+ Grey-throated Barbets, an Eastern Black-and-white Colobus Monkey, a Red-tailed Monkey, Black Rough-wing Swallows, a female Violet-backed Sunbird, Grey-headed Sparrows, Speckled Mousebirds, 4 Blue Monkeys, a Green-throated Sunbird, a Northern Double-collared Sunbird, Stuhlmann's Starlings, 2 Cinnamon-chested Bee-eaters and a Mountain Buzzard.
It was near dusk when we headed back to the hotel and in the headlights I saw a White-bellied or Tree Pangolin run across the road.
Photo: Speckled Mousebird.
Back in Kakamega forest, exploring some different areas, the first birds we heard before seeing them, their song loud and penetrating, at times the pair dueting, and their habit of skulking in low vegetation made them difficult to see, but eventually we saw 4 Black-faced Rufous Warblers, the males stunning with their rufous and black plumage.
A little later, in the same area, we could hear a bird moving around on the forest floor, but it took ages to see, at last we did see and photograph it, but didn't know what it was as it was not illustrated in our guide, later we learned it was a White-tailed Ant Thrush.
Through the day we also saw 4 Mountain Wagtails, a Grey Wagtail,
3 Red-tailed Monkeys, Common Bulbuls, Little Bee-eaters, White-throated Bee-eaters, Blue Monkeys, Yellow White-eyes, a Chubb's Cisticola, 2 Collared Sunbirds, Black-billed Weavers, a Golden-rumped Tinkerbird, an Emerald Cuckoo, White-chinned Prinias, a Little Purple-banded Sunbird, a Northern Double-collared Sunbird, a Black-necked Weaver, 3 Giant Forest Squirrels,
2 Luhder's Bush Shrikes, Black-and-white Casqued Hornbills, Wattled-eyed Flycatcher, Cameroon Sombre Greenbuls, a Shelley's Greenbul, Dark-backed Weavers and Grey-headed Negrofinches.
Photos: White-tailed Ant Thrush.
Also, we saw Black-throated Wattle-eyes, Blue Flycatchers, Grey-backed Camaropteras, Paradise Flycatchers, 2 Banded Prinias, a Black-backed Apalis, a Square-tailed Drongo, a Pink-footed Puff-back, a Chestnut Wattle-eye, a Bristlebill and 6+ Eastern Black-and-white Colobus Monkeys.
In Kakamega Forest again, where we saw Eastern Black-and-white Colobus, Blue and Red-tailed Monkeys, 2 Blue-headed Bee-eaters, Black-faced Rufous Warblers, Banded Prinias, Grey-throated Barbets, Yellow White-eyes, Grey-backed Camaropteras, 2 Bar-tailed Trogons, a Brown-eared Woodpecker, Little Grey Greenbuls, a Blue-shouldered Robin Chat, Common Bulbuls, a Little Yellow Flycatcher, Dark-backed Weavers, Black-and-white Casqued Hornbills, a Mountain Buzzard, a Black-shouldered Kite, Joyful Greenbuls, a Stiffling Cisticola, 2 Chubb's Cisticolas, Square-tailed Drongos, Pale Flycatchers, Giant Forest Squirrels, Cameroon Sombre Greenbuls, 2 Collared Sunbirds, a Western Black-headed Oriole, a Yellow-spotted Barbet, 2 Blackcaps of the race dammholzi, a Green-headed Sunbird and Olive-green Camaropteras.
Our last day in Kakamega forest, where we saw Blackcap, Common Bulbul, Black-and-white Mannikin, Dusky Flycatcher, a female Black Cuckoo Shrike, Grey-throated Barbet, Yellow-whiskered Greenbul, 2 Paradise Flycatchers, Western Black-headed Oriole, an Equatorial Akalat, 2 Yellow-billed Barbets, a Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Grey-headed Sparrow, White-throated Bee-eater, and then we saw a bird of prey which we decided was an African Cuckoo-hawk, I have since learned how rare this bird is in Kenya, but I think we would have known if it was an African Goshawk as we had seen several.
Also seen was Joyful Greenbul, Hadada Ibis, 3 Luhder's Bush Shrikes, Black-billed Weaver, Golden or Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Willow Warbler, 2 Black-collared Apalis, 2 White-eyed Slaty Flycatchers, a Red-headed Bluebill, Chubb's Cisticola, a Long-crested Eagle, Red-rumped Swallow,
4 Blue Flycatchers, Black-and-white Casqued Hornbill, Olivaceous Warbler, Reichenow's Weaver, a Steppe Buzzard, 2 Green-headed Sunbirds, an Olive-bellied Sunbird, Blue-throated Brown Sunbird, Collared Sunbird, a Rufous-backed Mannikin, Eastern Black-and-white Colobus Monkey, Blue Monkey, Black-faced Rufous Warbler and Cameroon Sombre Greenbul.
Today we travelled north, stopping at the bridge over the Mumias River where there was a White-collared Pratincole, Lesser Striped Swallows, Little Swifts, Angola Swallows and a Copper Sunbird.
We continued to Kitale then north to the Barnley's Guest House, where we were the only guests, after settling in we had a look around the garden, seeing White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher, Dusky Flycatcher, Yellow White-eye, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Paradise Flycatcher, a Yellow-breasted Apalis and a White-browed Crombec. Tomorrow the plan was to visit Saiwa Swamp and Mrs Barnley kindly offered their guide to come with us.
At Saiwa Swamp, now a National Park, I'm not sure that it was in 1990, certainly from recent pictures there are more hides and boardwalks than I remember.
It made such a difference visiting with a local guide, I wish we had known about him for our stay in Kakamega. At Saiwa our guide picked a lot of birds up on call, so we got to see 2 Violet-backed Sunbirds, Common Bulbul, 2 Black Cuckoo Shrikes, Hadada Ibis, a Grey-capped Warbler, a Ross's Turaco, African Snipe, Wood Sandpiper, Grey Crowned Crane, Grey Heron, Yellow-billed Stork, African Marsh Harrier, Yellow-billed Duck, Holub's Golden Weaver, Chubb's Cisticola, a Grey-winged Robin Chat, Luhder's Bush Shrike, Black-collared Apalis, Tropical Boubou, Paradise Flycatcher, Red-chested Cuckoo, Yellow-whiskered Greenbul, a Hill Babbler, Grey-backed Camaroptera, a Red-tailed Greenbul, 2 Snowy-headed Robin Chats, Northern Double-collared Sunbird, Splendid Glossy Starling, Grey Apalis, Black-billed Weaver, Speckled Mousebird, 3 Double-toothed Barbets, Blackcap, Black-headed Heron, Great White Egret, an African Yellow Warbler, a Black-headed Waxbill, Moorhen, a male Sitatunga, a Purple Heron, Malachite Kingfisher, Collared Sunbird, African Reed Warbler, Black Crake, Spectacled Weaver, Tawny-flanked Prinia, White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher, Chin-spot Batis, Green-headed Sunbird, Common Waxbill, Yellow Bishop, Red-cheeked Cordon-Bleu, Giant Forest Squirrel, Yellow-throated Longclaw, African Citril, Bronze Mannikin, Long-crested Eagle, Yellow-throated Leaf-love, Bronze Sunbird, Violet-backed Starling, Black-and-white Casqued Hornbill, an Afriacn Thrush, Crowned Hornbill, Chestnut Weaver, Pale Flycatcher, Buff-bellied Warbler, Grey-headed Negrofinch, African Pied Wagtail, Grassland Pipit and 3 Black-throated Wattle-eyes.
Later we travelled west to the Kongelai Escarpment, near the Uganda border, where we saw Grey Hornbill, Lesser Blue-eared Starling, Ruppell's Long-tailed Starling, Yellow-spotted Petronia, a Sulphur-breasted Bush Shrike,
2 Red-and-yellow Barbets, Wire-tailed Swallow, White-browed Sparrow Weaver, Silverbill, Speckled-fronted Weaver, White-headed Buffalo Weaver, Golden-breasted Bunting, White-bellied Go-away-bird, African Cuckoo and Dark Chanting Goshawk.
Photos: Black-headed Heron and White-bellied Go-away-bird.
We left the Barnley's Guest House and headed northeast then south into Baringo county, after a few miles the road changed to the most perfectly smooth and well maintained tarmac that we had seen in Kenya, only later did we find out that President Moi had a house in this area.
This stretch of road went on for several miles until it changed back, and it was about here that we saw a huge eagle flying towards us, we got out of the vehicle to watch an African Crowned Eagle fly overhead and disappear into the distance.
We continued to Lake Baringo were we would be based for the next five days. The camp was by the lake and after settling in to our huts we had a look around the immediate area, seeing White-browed Sparrow Weavers, Superb Starlings, African Jacana, Spur-winged Plover, Crested Francolin, a Black-and-white Cuckoo, White-billed Buffalo Weavers and 4 Hippos.
Photos: White-billed Buffalo Weaver.
White-browed Sparrow Weaver.
Our first full day at Lake Baringo, firstly exploring the area around the camp, then by the lake and later the dry bush areas to the west of the lake, seeing White-browed Sparrow Weaver, 2 African Fish Eagles, 2 Red-and-yellow Barbets, White-headed Buffalo Weaver, 2 Bat-eared Foxes, 3 Great Spotted Cuckoos, 3 Spotted Mourning Thrushes, Helmeted Guineafowl, White-bellied Go-away-bird, 3 Kenya Violet-backed Sunbirds, Grey-headed Sparrow, 2 male and 2 female Jackson's Hornbills, Red-billed Hornbill, 14 Bristle-crowned Starlings, a Vervet Monkey, 2 D'Arnaud's Barbets, Black-headed Oriole, a Pygmy Sunbird, a Rufous-crowned Roller, Drongo, 2 Cliff-Chats, Anteater Chat, Red-cheeked Cordon-Bleu, Hamerkop, a
White-faced Scops Owl, a Spotted Eagle Owl, White-faced Whistling Duck, African Jacana, Nile Crocodile, 3 male and 4 female Painted Snipe, Black-winged Stilt, Common Sandpiper, a Goliath Heron, Black-headed Heron, Egyptian Geese, Fan-tailed Raven, Marabou, Squacco Heron, Spur-winged Plover, a Nile Monitor, Malachite Kingfisher, Zitting Cisticola, Grey-backed Fiscal, Yellow-fronted Canary, 3 Rufous Chatterers, White-browed Coucal, Superb Starling, a Grey-headed Bush Shrike, Ruppell's Long-tailed Starling, Speckled Mousebird, a Red-chested Cuckoo, a Lanner, a Northern Brubru, 2 Red-headed Weavers, 3 Crombecs, Grey-headed Silverbill and 2 Yellow-billed Hornbills.
Photos above: White-faced Scops Owl and Painted Snipe. Photos below: Grey-headed Bush Shrike.
Also seen were 2 White-eyed Kestrels, a Black-throated Barbet, a Nubian Woodpecker, 3 Tawny Eagles, 2 Pale Prinias, White-winged Black Tern, Black Kite, Northern Masked Weaver, Grey-backed Camaroptera, 4 species of doves, White-billed Buffalo Weaver, Paradise Flycatcher, Southern Black Flycatcher, a pair of Hunter's Sunbirds, a White-browed Scrub Robin, Ruppell's White-crowned Shrike, Yellow-breasted Apalis, 2 Beautiful Sunbirds and Blue-naped Mousebird.
Photos: Fan-tailed Raven.
White-browed Coucal and Grey-backed Fiscal.
A second day around Lake Baringo, trying to find quiter areas in which to record, mainly away from the lake in scruby places to the west.
We saw 3 Slate-coloured Boubous, 4 Red-billed Hornbills, 2 Yellow-billed Hornbills, 2 Jackson's Hornbills, White-browed Sparrow Weaver, White-headed Buffalo Weaver, Beautiful Sunbird, Kenya Violet-backed Sunbird, Grey-backed Camaroptera, 2 Green-winged Pytilias, a Grey-headed Bush Shrike, a Bush Squirrel, 2 White-eyed Kestrels, 3 African Fish Eagles, 3 Spotted Mourning Thrushes, Little Weaver, Bristle-crowned Starling, 2 Cliff-chats, Northern White-crowned Shrike, 3 White-browed Scrub Robins, Pale Prinia, Superb Starling, 2 Red-billed Firefinches, White-bellied Go-away-bird, Fan-tailed Raven, Ruppell's Long-tailed Starling, Grey-backed Fiscal, African Jacana, Cattle Egret, 2 Northern Brubrus, 3 Painted Snipe, 2 Egyptian Geese, White-faced Whistling Duck, Common Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, Squacco Heron, Drongo, Spur-winged Plover,
14 Black-headed Plovers, Rufous-crowned Roller, Yellow-breasted Apalis, D'Arnaud's Barbet, Blue-naped Mousebird, a Nubian Woodpecker, a Sulphur-breasted Bush Shrike, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Didric Cuckoo, Namaqua Dove, Black-headed Oriole, Lesser Striped Swallow, 4 Grey Tits, a Grey Wren Warbler,
2 Olivaceous Warblers, an African Marsh Harrier, 2 Black-throated Barbets, African Hoopoe, Chestnut Sparrow, White-billed Buffalo Weaver, a White-faced Scops Owl, Pale Flycatcher, 3 Rufous Chatterers, Speckled Mousebird, 2 Hippos, Grey Heron, 2 Pied Kingfishers, 3 White-winged Black Terns, 4 Hamerkops, African Pied Wagtail, a Nile Monitor, 2 Nile Crocodiles, White-browed Coucal, Crested Francolin and a bat with yellowish wings.
Photos: Slate-coloured Boubou.
Grey-headed Bush Shrike.
Ruppell's Long-tailed Starling.
Black-winged Stilts x 2.
An early start, leaving Lake Baringo we headed south, on the way seeing 2 Brown Parrots and 100's of Little Swifts.
Entering the Lake Borgoria reserve we drove as close as possible to the water and the largest concentration of Lesser Flamingoes, of which there were 1,000's, spread out across the lake.
Recording the flamingoes was our main reason for coming here, not only their feeding sounds, but also their calls and mass take-offs when being attacked by eagles, especially Tawny Eagles. During the time we watched the flock we saw 4 Tawny Eagles and a Martial Eagle all try to take a flamingo by putting up the flock.
Although the majority of the flamingoes were Lesser, there were a few Greater Flamingoes, also seen around the lake were Cape Teal, Spur-winged Plover, Little Stint, Black-winged Stilt, Kittlitz's Plover, Ruff, Black-necked Grebe and Marsh Sandpiper.
Photos: Lake Borgoria and Lesser Flamingoes.
Later we drove further down the lake to see and record the geysers and bubbling hot springs. As the lake is alkaline there is little of lakeside vegetation, but a few hundred yards away from the shore there are thickets and grassy areas, and also more arid parts.
Here we saw Swallows, White-rumped Swift, 3 Silverbirds, Red-billed Quelea, Lesser Striped Swallow, Red-and-yellow Barbet, Slate-coloured Boubou, 9 Grant's Gazelles, 10 Kirk's Dikdiks, Fan-tailed Raven, Little Bee-eater, Northern Masked Weaver and a special mammal of the park Greater Kudu, seeing 6 males, 4 females and 3 calves.
We also saw 4 Striped Ground Squirrels, 4 Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse,
a Dark Chanting Goshawk, a Chestnut-bellied Kingfisher, 3 Marsh Mongooses, 2 Cliff-chats, 4 Crested Francolins, a Verreaux's Eagle Owl, around 10 Impalas, 4 Zebras, 2 Reedbucks, 2 Warthogs, 4 Thomson's Gazelles, 2 Grey Crowned Cranes, a Harlequin Quail and near dusk as we left the park, 4 Slender-tailed Nightjars sitting on the road.
Photos: Geysers and hot springs at Lake Borgoria, Greater Kudu (male, female, calf), Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse.
Another day recording around Lake Baringo, seeing Slate-coloured Boubou, Grey-backed Fiscal, Superb Starling, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Northern Masked Weaver, White-browed Sparrow Weaver, Spotted Mourning Thrush, Paradise Flycatcher, Beautiful Sunbird, White-bellied Go-away-bird, White-faced Whistling Duck, Hamerkop, African Fish Eagle, Didric Cuckoo, Black-headed Oriole, 2 Olivaceous Warblers, 2 Black-and-white Cuckoos, 2 Jackson's Hornbills, 2 Red-billed Hornbills, around 15 Jameson's Indigobirds,
3 Bristle-crowned Starlings, a Kirk's Dikdik, about 30 Helmeted Guineafowl, Crested Francolin, a Violet Wood Hoopoe, Tawny Eagle, Speckled Pigeon, Red-and-yellow Barbet, a Fiscal and 2 more of the bats with yellow wings.
Photos: Superb Starling, Hamerkop, White-faced Whistling Ducks.
Our last day at Lake Baringo, and we took the boat trip around the lake, which lasted around couple of hours.
We saw several Hippos, 6 Goliath Herons, 2 Squacco Herons, a Grey Heron, a Purple Heron, 2 Black-headed Herons, Pink-backed Pelicans, 4 African Fish Eagles, Blacksmith Plover, African Jacana, Black Crake, 3 African Darters, 10 Long-tailed Cormorants, 2 African Pochards, 10 Whiskered Terns, 2 Knob-billed Ducks, Marabou, Sacred Ibis, an African Spoonbill, a Yellow-billed Stork, 3 Little Bitterns, Northern Masked Weaver, Grey-backed Fiscal and Superb Starling.
Photos: Goliath Heron.
Later, we had a last chance to find a quite area to record, seeing an African Goshawk, 2 Grey-headed Bush Shrikes, a Nubian Woodpecker, Spotted Mourning Thrush, 2 Red-billed Hornbills, 5 Jackson's Hornbills, a Black-and-white Cuckoo, a Red-fronted Tinkerbird, 3 Rufous-crowned Rollers, 5 Hemprich's Hornbills, 2 Yellow-billed Hornbills, 4 Bristle-crowned Starlings, Slate-coloured Boubou, Kenya Violet-backed Sunbirds, a Black-cheeked Waxbill, an African Cuckoo, a Gabar Goshawk, White-browed Coucal and a White-faced Scops Owl.
Photos: Grey-headed Bush Shike, White-browed Coucal.
An early start, leaving Lake Baringo and driving south to Lake Nakuru, along the way we saw Long-crested Eagle, Buzzards and 2 Abdim's Storks.
Soon after driving through the gates of the national park we stopped to view the lake. The water level was the lowest we had seen of all the lakes we had visited, we thought that Lake Borgoria was low, but here, at Nakuru, there was a huge expanse of muddy shore covered in birds.
From this spot we could see 1,000's of Lesser Flamingoes, one of the species I had come to record, but as the water was so shallow they were out towards the centre of the lake and impossible to get close to, so it was lucky that the Lesser Flamingoes at Lake Borgoria had been so approachable. Here, we also saw Pink-backed Pelican, Marsh Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Blacksmith Plover, Black-winged Stilt, Ruff and Little Stint.
The track around the lake went through woodland and more open areas were we could view the foreshore, continuing we saw Grey Woodpecker, Nubian Woodpecker, Arrow-marked Babblers, Reichenow's Weaver, Red-headed Weaver, a Tambourine Dove, White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher, Grey-headed Gulls and White-winged Black Terns. Out on the marshy areas were 100's of Waterbucks and we also saw 6 Bushbucks, Warthogs were common and just before we turned to drive into the lodge we saw 4 Warthogs wallowing in a pool by the side of the road, taking no notice of us when we stopped to take pictures.
Photos: View of Lake Nakuru.
We booked into the lodge, moved our stuff into the room and had lunch, then a stroll around the garden revealled a huge tortoise, apparently a gift to the lodge from a former guest, a Seychelles Giant Tortoise which had been there some years.
In the afternoon we continued our exploration around the lake, seeing Long-tailed Cormorant, African Darter, Tropical Boubou, Drongo,
a Three-streaked Bush Shrike, Spectacled Weaver, Vervet Monkey, a Black-chested Snake Eagle, Hildebrandt's Francolin, Anteater Chat, Helmeted Guineafowl and 6 Grass Mice.
The southern end of the lake was a lot more open and we saw Impala, African Buffalo, Thomson's Gazelle and Olive Baboon. Here, we could drive a bit closer to the water, before the mud became too soft, seeing more Lesser Flamingoes, some Greater Flamingoes and 1,000's of White Pelicans.
This was the other species we had come here to record, but trying to get close to them was going to be difficult. We tried various places along the lake and found a place where the mud was firmer and we could get just close enough to hear some faint calls, but they didn't call very often! Later, we saw large flocks of White Pelicans returning to roost by the lake, apparently many of them go to Lake Elementaita, another nearby soda lake, to feed during the day and some go as far as Lake Naivasha. The sounds from their wings as they circled to land was amazing and the occasional gruff call showed that it was possible to get some recordings, even though we were at a distance from them.
Also seen around this part of the lake were Yellow-billed Duck, African Spoonbill, 3 Woolly-necked Storks, Sacred Ibis, Yellow-billed Stork, Spur-winged Goose, Egyptian Goose, Marabou, Swallows, Hadada Ibis, Augur Buzzard, White-backed Vulture, Black-headed Heron, Hottentot Teal, Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, 3 Long-tailed Widowbirds, Pectoral-patch Cisticola, Kittlitz's Plover, Whiskered Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Zebra, Kirk's Dikdik and Rothschild's Giraffes now a sub-species of Northern Giraffe.
Photos: Seychelles Giant Tortoise.
Our first full day in Lake Nakuru National Park, we made our way to the southern end of the lake, but the White Pelicans were a long way off and quite a lot of them had already left for the day.
So, we spent the day exploring the rest of the park, seeing African Buffalo, Waterbuck, Impala, Zebra, Warthog, Yellow-billed Stork, Marabou, Egyptian Geese, Garganey, Red-billed Duck, Blacksmith Plover, Wood Sandpiper, Greenshank, Little Stint, Black-winged Stilt, Sacred Ibis, Long-tailed Widowbird, a Montagu's Harrier, an African Marsh Harrier, Rosy-breasted Longclaw, Swallow, Augur Buzzard, Hildebrandt's Francolin, Coqui Francolin, Helmeted Guineafowl, Grey-headed Gull, Tropical Boubou, Nubian Woodpecker, Brown-headed Bush Shrike, Bushbuck, Lesser and Greater Flamingoes, Black-tailed Godwit, Hadada Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Gull-billed Tern, White-winged Black Tern, Ruff, Blue-eared Glossy Starling, Ruppell's Long-tailed Starling, an African Hawk Eagle, Verreaux's Eagle Owl, Bronze Sunbird, African Fish Eagle, Hippo, Olive Baboon and around 20 Rothschild's Giraffes.
Photos: Rosy-breasted Longclaw.
Coqui Francolin, male Hildebrandt's Francolin.
Female Hildebrandt's Francolin.
Photos: Candalabra Trees (Euphorbia) at Lake Nakuru.
Our last day at Lake Nakuru and by first light we were at the southern end of the lake, this time not only could we get closer to the 1,000's of White Pelicans, many of them were further away from the water.
During the next couple of hours we watched and recorded as flocks took off, thermaling high into the sky before drifting away into the distance.
Later, we continued recording in various parts of the park, seeing 1,000's of Lesser Flamingoes, 100's of Greater Flamingoes, 100's of Yellow-billed Storks, Hildebrandt's Francolin, Helmeted Guineafowl, Tropical Boubou, Wood Sandpiper, Little Stint, Black-winged Stilt, Glossy Ibis, 100's of Waterbuck, 100's of Impala, African Buffalo, 2 Black-bellied Bustards, Long-tailed Widowbird, 2 Montagu's Harriers, Marabou, White-backed Vulture, Tawny Eagle, Drongo, Black-headed Oriole, Superb Starling, Ruppell's Long-tailed Starling, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Crowned Plover, Blacksmith Plover, Olive Baboon, Warthog, Grant's and Thomson's Gazelles, 2 Bushbucks, Zebra, an Ostrich, 2 Secretary Birds, Rothschild's Giraffe, Blue-eared Glossy Starling, Red-cheeked Cordon-Bleu, Red-billed Firefinch, 5 Elands, 2 White-throated Bee-eaters, African Fish Eagle, Augur Buzzard, Fiscal, Grey-backed Fiscal, 2 Yellow Bishops, Hadada Ibis, Sacred Ibis, Red-billed Oxpecker and Vervet Monkeys.
Photos: White Pelicans.
Leaving Lake Nakuru we headed north, then east and north again to the end of the tarmac road, Then it was another couple of hours north on a really bad dirt road to reach Buffalo Springs National Reserve.
We had intended only to spend a couple of days here, but when we talked to the people in the lodge, we were told that to go further north we would need to join an armed convoy for safety, as a single vehicle was likely to get shot at by Somali rebels, so we stayed for the next five days.
As we approached the reserve and driving through it to get to the lodge we saw a Cliffchat, a White-browed Robin Chat, Waterbuck, a Little Sparrowhawk, Warthog, Vervet Monkeys, 2 Secretary Birds, 2 Long-tailed Widowbirds, around 20 Scarce Swifts, 4 Silvery-cheeked Hornbills, 5 Quail, 6 Gerenuks, Reticulated Giraffe,
2 Golden-breasted Starlings, White-fronted Bee-eater, Superb Starling, Red-billed Hornbill, a Chestnut-bellied Kingfisher, Yellow-throated Spurfowl, 3 Cream-coloured Coursers now Somali Courser, a Beisa Oryx, a Guenther's Dikdik, 2 Pearl-spotted Owlets, 3 Slender-tailed Nightjars, a Spotted Hyaena and a Nile Crocodile.
Photos: Right: Golden-breasted Starling.
Photos: Above: Reticulated Giraffes. Guenther's Dikdik. Yellow-necked Spurfowl.
Our first full day exploring Buffalo Springs and to the north across the Ewaso Ng'iro River the adjoining Samburu National Reserve.
We saw Gerenuk, an Unstriped Ground Squirrel, 2 African Soft-shelled Terrapins, Zebra, Reticulated Giraffe, Beisa Oryx, 15 Grevy's Zebras, Grant's Gazelle, Impala, White-browed Sparrow Weaver, Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow Weaver, Red-billed Buffalo Weaver, White-headed Buffalo Weaver, Superb Starling, Chestnut-capped Finch Lark, Fischer's Finch Lark, 8 Somali Coursers, a Temminck's Courser, 2 Pale Chanting Goshawks, a Little Sparrowhawk, a male Pygmy Falcon, Lilac-breasted Roller, Drongo, 14 Somali Ostriches, Hamerkop, Black Kite, a Gabar Goshawk, Swallow, Striped Swallow, Fawn-coloured Lark which has been split and is now called Foxy Lark, Yellow-necked Spurfowl, Nubian Woodpecker, Red-billed Hornbill, White-throated Bee-eater, Little Bee-eater, African Hoopoe, Spur-winged Plover, Pied Wheatear, 4 Isabelline Shrikes, Wheatear, a Taita Fiscal, Hunter's Sunbird, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, Red-billed Oxpecker, Fan-tailed Raven, Black-headed (Layard's) or Village Weaver, Helmeted Guineafowl, 2 Nile Monitors, a Nile Crocodile, a Black Crake, 6 Silverbills, Namaqua Dove, Laughing Dove, African Mourning Dove, Chestnut-bellied Kingfisher, Egyptian Geese, Grey Heron, Waterbuck, Yellow-billed Stork, 4 Rosy-patched Bush-shrikes, White-browed Coucal, Rufous Chatterer, White-bellied Go-away-bird, Common Sandpiper, Great Sparrowhawk, White-backed Vulture, Marabou, Palm Swift, Violet Wood-hoopoe, Buff-crested Bustard, Thomson's Gazelle, 2 Guenther's Dikdiks, Vervet Monkey, Hildebrandt's Starling, Blue-naped Mousebird and an Ashy Cisticola.
Photos: Male Gerenuk.
Male Somali Ostrich.
A second day exploring Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Parks, seeing Tawny Eagle, a Bateleur, Wheatear, Superb Starling, Beisa Oryx, 2 Green Sandpipers, Vervet Monkey, 2 Secretary Birds, White-browed Sparrow Weaver, Pink-breasted Lark, 5 Buff-crested Bustards, Palm Swift, Grant's Gazelle, Impala, 5 Rosy-patched Bush Shrikes, Yellow-necked Spurfowl, Swallow, Hildebrandt's Starling, 3 male Pygmy Falcons, Singing Bush Lark and Red-billed Hornbill.
Photos: Above: Red-billed Hornbill. Right: Reticulated Giraffe.
We also saw, White-headed and Red-billed Buffalo Weavers, Taita Fiscal, Green Wood-hoopoe, Pale Chanting Goshawk, 2 Guenther's Dikdiks, Slate-coloured Boubou, White-browed Coucal, White-bellied Go-away-bird, Lilac-breasted Roller, Spotted Mourning Thrush, Rufous Chatterer, a Rock Thrush, Drongo, D'Arnoud's Barbet, Brown-hooded and Chestnut-bellied Kingfishers, Olive Baboon, Gerenuk, White-throated Bee-eater, Crested Francolin, Unstriped Ground Squirrel, Nile Monitor, Nile Crocodile, Red-chested Cuckoo, 4 Von der Decken's Hornbills, 8 White-headed Mousebirds, Reticulated Giraffe, Warthog, Northern White-crowned Shrike, African Hoopoe, Silverbill, Olivaceous Warbler, a Kestrel, Black-faced Sandgrouse, 6 Golden-breasted Starlings and 2 Somali Bee-eaters, this was a species we had been searching for and one that was on my recording list, luckily they did sing and call for a while before flying off.
We were well off the beaten track and hadn't seen other tourist vehicals for several hours, but as we headed back, we found out why, we found 15 or more jeeps virtually surrounding a clump of trees and there in the centre was a Leopard, although it didn't look frightened, it must have been a little scared of being boxed in. We stayed a couple of minutes, took a couple of photos and left.
On the way back to the lodge we saw 2 Somali Golden-breasted Buntings, Pied Wheatear, 2 Yellow-billed Hornbills, around 20 Vulturine Guineafowls, Isabelline Shrike, Crowned Plover, 3 Slender-tailed Nightjars, 2 Pearl-spotted Owlets, a Striped Hyaena, 2 White-bellied Bustards and a Grey Wren Warbler.
Photos: Top right: White-headed Mousebird.
Right: Vulturine Guineafowl.
Another day in Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves, seeing White-tailed Mongoose, Unstriped Ground Squirrel, Chestnut Weaver, Red-billed and White-headed Buffalo Weavers, Red-billed Hornbill, 2 Bateleurs, Black-faced Sandgrouse, Slate-coloured Boubou, White-throated Bee-eater, Yellow-necked Spurfowl, Montagu's Harrier, a male and female Somali Ostrich with chicks, Thomson's Gazelle, Beisa Oryx, a Somali Bee-eater, Gerenuk, Grant's Gazelle, Impala, Reticulated Giraffe, Guenther's Dikdik, a female Pygmy Falcon, Pale Chanting Goshawk and an adult and juvenile Tawny Eagle.
We also saw Yellow-billed Hornbill, 2 Red-fronted Warblers, Chestnut-bellied Kingfisher, Little Swift, Swallow, 2 Abyssinian Scimitarbills, Red-chested Cuckoo, Ethiopian Swallow, Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow Weaver, Secretary Bird, Dwarf Mongoose, Rosy-patched Bush Shrike, Isabelline Shrike, Golden Palm Weaver, Chestnut Sparrow, Black-capped Social Weaver, Golden-breasted Starling, Pied Wheatear, Waterbuck, White-bellied Go-away-bird, Lilac-breasted Roller, around 8 Somali Coursers, a Martial Eagle, Red-and-yellow Barbet, a Slender-tailed Nightjar, a Nile Crocodile and a Striped Hyaena.
Photos: Top right: Male Somali Ostrich with chicks. Above centre & above: Juvenile and adult or bleached juvenile/sub-adult Tawny Eagle.
Photos: Above: Guenther's Dikdik.
Today we started off in Buffalo Springs seeing a Pearl-spotted Owlet, Red-billed Buffalo Weaver, White-browed Sparrow Weaver, a Black Kite, White-throated Bee-eater, 2 Cardinal Woodpeckers, Swallow, Angola Swallow, Grant's Gazelle, Beisa Oryx, Warthog, Gerenuk and Black-faced Sandgrouse.
Photos: Right: male Gerenuk. Below: White-browed Sparrow Weaver.
We were finding it difficult to find quite places to record, so decided to visit the nearby Shaba National Reserve to the east, a smaller reserve and less visited.
A lot of the habitat was similar to Buffalo Springs, open Acasia bush, but there were also dense thorn-bush areas, with tracks only wide enough for a single vehicle.
Here we saw African Rock Martin, a male and a female Magpie Starling, 6 Orange-bellied Parrots, 2 Black-and-white Cuckoos and 27 African Elephants.
The Elephants were mainly around the more open clearings, but there were a few feeding in the thicker bush, and as we were driving along a track through one of these areas a large bull stood in our way in the centre of the track. We stopped and the bull began flapping it's ears and we could see dark, damp patches around it's temporal area and knew it must be in musth, Charles immediately put the vehicle into reverse, at which point the bull began to charge, thankfully it soon gave up, but we were a lot more wary of the Elephants from then on.
We continued exploring the reserve, seeing a Lavaillant's Cuckoo, an African Bare-eyed Thrush, 3 Bateleurs, Tawny Eagle, 3 Montagu's Harriers, Somali Bee-eater, White-throated Bee-eater and, at last the bird we most wanted to see, a stunning male Golden Pipit.
Golden Pipit was high on my list of birds to record, one of the BBC programmes which filmed at Buffalo Springs in 1989 found them abundant, but, numbers of this species can fluctuate drastically, depending on the rains, and this year they have been particularly elusive, so to find a singing male was a bonus.
We also saw Blue-naped Mousebird, 3 male Pygmy Falcons, 2 Pallid Harriers, 4 Somali Coursers, 2 Bristle-crowned Starlings, a large herd of Buffalo,
2 Black-shouldered Kites, a Kestrel, 2 African Swallow-tailed Kites, Somali Ostrich, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, 2 Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse, Chestnut Weaver, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Olive Baboon, a Black-backed Jackal and a female Leopard with 3 well-grown cubs.
Photos: Leopard cub drinking from puddle at the side of the track and walking off into the bush.
On our way out of the reserve we drove along the same track that we had earlier had the Elephant encounter, the Elephants had moved on and as we rounded a bend in the track we noticed some puddles at the side of the track. I was standing, looking from the roof-hatch and just after we passed the puddles something caught my eye, I got Charles to stop, then we saw a female Leopard with 3 cubs emerge from bushes by the puddles and drink. They drank quickly, except for one cub which took its time, the one in the photos.
On our way back to the lodge at Buffalo Springs we saw a Night Heron, 2 Pearl-spotted Owlets, a Striped Hyaena, a Nile Crocodile, a Water Dikkop, a White-tailed Mongoose and 2 Egyptian Geese.
Not such an early start, as today we were leaving Buffalo Springs and heading south. As we drove through the reserve we saw Vulturine Guineafowl, Helmeted Guineafowl, Yellow-necked Spurfowl, Rosy-patched Bush Shrike, Taita Fiscal, Reticulated Giraffe, Gerenuk, Grant's and Thomson's Gazelles, Montagu's Harrier, Fan-tailed Raven, Marabou, White-headed and Red-billed Buffalo Weavers, White-browed and Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow Weavers, Superb Starling, Red-billed Hornbill, White-crowned Shrike, Grey-headed Sparrow, (Lanyard's) Black-headed Weaver, White-throated Bee-eater, Somali Ostrich and Beisa Oryx.
Photos: Yellow-necked Spurfowl. Reticulated Giraffe. Male & female Gerenuk.
It was slow going on the rough, bumpy road south until we reached the tarmac of the A2 and headed for Mount Kenya, along the way seeing Long-tailed Widowbird, Augur Buzzard and Black Kite.
It was Friday and Charles had arranged to meet his brother and his wife at Naro Moru River Lodge for the weekend. We arrived early afternoon to be greeted by Richard and Ann, after stowing our luggage in the room we had time for a walk alongside the river, Richard was a well-known birder from the UK who now lived in Kenya and his expertise of Kenyan birds was welcome. We saw 4 African Black Ducks, 3 adults and a duckling, a brief view of a female African Finfoot, 2 Olive Thrushes, 2 Northern Brownbuls, 6 Red-fronted Parrots and a Hartlaub's Turaco.
The Naro Moru River is a fast flowing river which originates from Mount Kenya, from the lodge a path leads along the south side which, for the most part, gives good views of the river. On the north side it is forested with overhanging trees and bushes.
On our walk we saw Scarce Swifts, an African Black Duck, 2 Hartlaub's Turacos, a Golden-rumped Tinkerbird, a Steppe Buzzard, 2 Grey-backed Camaropteras, an Olive Thrush, a Montagu's Harrier, 2 Paradise Flycatchers, 6 Yellow-whiskered Greenbuls, a Crowned Hornbill and the female African Finfoot again.
In the guides it says the Finfoot is shy and retiring, but this was the sneakiest bird I have ever seen. We saw it briefly in the water, then it dived and disappeared, shortly after I spotted what I thought was a stick in the water, but it was the Finfoot lying outstretched, completely rigid, letting the flow of the river take it downstream. It came to life a little way infront of us and scrambled up the opposite bank, disappearing into the trees. We walked down to where the bird had left the river and scanned the bank, after a short time someone said "there it is" and we turned to see it entering the water back where we had first seen it, a hundred yards or so away. It must have run through the forest to get back there so quickly.
Photo: African Black Duck.
We spent the morning at Naro Moru seeing 2 Amethyst Sunbirds, a Red-chested Cuckoo, 2 Eastern Double-collared Sunbirds, Scarce Swifts, 2 White-rumped Swifts, Speckled Mousebird, Red-winged Starling, 3 Black-and white Cuckoos, Common Bulbul, African Citril, 2 Crowned Hornbills, Red-cheeked Cordon-Bleu, Wire-tailed Swallow, Rattling Cisticola, Streaky Seedeater, Reichenow's Weaver, Red-headed Weaver, a Northern Double-collared Sunbird, Yellow-whiskered Greenbul, around 8 Mountain Wagtails, an African Black Duck with a duckling, the female African Finfoot, 2 Egyptian Geese, Tropical Boubou, Collared Sunbird, 2 Olive Mountain Greenbuls, Paradise Flycatcher, 2 Hartlaub's Turacos, a Black Cuckoo Shrike, a Golden-rumped Tinkerbird, 4 Montane White-eyes, a Rufous-bellied Sparrowhawk, Common Waxbill, a Grey Apalis, 2 Hadada Ibises, 2 Dusky Flycatchers, a White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher, a Cuckoo Falcon and Long-tailed and Jackson's Widowbirds.
Phots: Right & below: Red-headed Weaver.
Later, we drove south stopping at a place on the Tana River, where we saw around 500 Fulvous Whistling Ducks, about 200 White-faced Whistling Ducks, 100+ Knob-billed Ducks, White-winged Black Terns, 2 Hippos, a Didric Cuckoo, a Croaking Cisticola, Golden Weavers, an African Marsh Harrier, a Squacco Heron, a Grey-headed (or Chestnut-bellied) Kingfisher,
2 Pied Kingfishers, Little Swifts and Long-tailed Cormorant.
Then we went to a place called Kitimi Dam, where we saw 5 White-backed Ducks, 3 Lesser Swamp Warblers, 2 Moorhens, African Citril, 6 Red-collared Widowbirds, a Red-legged Tree Frog and Grosbeak Weavers.
On our drive to Nairobi we saw 2 Trumpeter Hornbills.
Photos: Below: Grey-headed Kingfisher and Golden Weaver.
We stayed overnight at Richard and Ann's apartment in the compound at ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute) a few miles north of Nairobi.
In the morning we drove south to visit Tsavo West where we saw Impala, Warthog, Savannah Giraffe, Crested Francolin, lots of Eurasian Rollers, Lilac-breasted Roller, Red-billed Quelea, Yellow-spotted Petronia, a
Straw-coloured Whydah, Red-cheeked Cordon-Bleu, a Rosy-patched Bush Shrike, a Black-headed Bush Shrike, a Three-streaked Bush Shrike, lots of Long-tailed Fiscals, White-crowned Shrike, an Ashy Cisticola, Pink-breasted Lark, D'Arnaud's Barbet, Little Swift, Red-billed Hornbill, a Von der Decken's Hornbill, African Hoopoe, Black-faced Sandgrouse, 2 Buff-crested Bustards, Helmeted Guineafowl, a Pale Chanting Goshawk, a Peregrine, 3 Black-shouldered Kites, Marabou, a male Pygmy Falcon, 2 Servals, 4 Finge-eared Oryx, Zebra and Buffalo.
We had hoped to stay overnight at the Kilaguni Lodge, but they were full and we hadn't booked, so we made our way towards Voi, looking for a place to stay.
It was getting towards dusk and along the way we saw 2 Large Spotted Genets, 3 Black-tipped Mongooses, 2 White-tailed Mongooses, 2 Striped Hyaenas, 2 Dusky Nightjars, 3 Gabon Nightjars and 2 Nubian Nightjars.
We eventually found a place open and although the accommodation wasn't great, we were too tired to care and we did hear and see an African Scops Owl outside of the hut.
Photos: Right: Rosy-patched Bush Shrike. Below: Black-faced Sandgrouse.
We were up early, after a very restless night with little sleep, as there seemed to be as much wildlife in the room as outside!
The room was full of insects, mainly crickets whose chirpping kept us awake all night and thank goodness for the travel tents.
In daylight we could see that the place was really run-down, but on the plus side we did see a troop of around 20 Eastern Dwarf Mongooses in the grounds.
We spent most of the day in Tsavo West within sight of Mount Kilimanjaro, seeing 2 Lesser Kudu, a Klipspringer, 4 Fischer's Starlings, a Blue Duiker, Pin-tailed Whydah, 2 Bateleurs, a Brown Snake Eagle, a female Zanzibar race Black-backed Puffback, 5 Kirk's Dikdiks, Impala, Buffalo, Savannah Giraffe, Zebra, Long-tailed Fiscal, Eurasian Roller, Lilac-breasted Roller and stopping to inspect some small mounds alongside the track we could see soil being ejected, looking into the hole we saw pinkish naked feet pushing up the soil, a Naked Mole-rat or Sand-puppy.
Continuing we saw Superb Starling, Red-billed Buffalo Weaver, Red-cheeked Cordon-Bleu, African Firefinch, Red-billed Quelea, Speckled Mousebird and Yellow Baboon.
Later we rejoined the main road and drove to Mombasa, then north along the coast to Watamu, seeing Indian House Crow and a Sooty Gull on the way.
Photos: Above: Mount Kilimanjaro from Tsavo West.
Below: Fischer's Starling.
We were booked into the Ocean Sports Resort at Watamu, with a hut at the top of the beach, a great place to relax after eight weeks of travelling. So, that's what we did for most of the day, on the beach we saw 2 Greater Sandplovers, a Little Egret, a Sooty Gull, a Grey Plover and a dark morph Mascarene Reef Egret or Dimorphic Egret, which has recently been split from Little Egret.
In the afternoon we went to the Gede Field Station to meet David Ngala, he had agreed to be our guide in the nearby Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve, one of the last remaining areas of coastal forest. It was getting towards evening and David suggested we take a drive through the reserve, it was dusk when we arrived and on the drive, in the headlights, we saw 4 Fiery-necked Nightjars on the track ahead of us, and then David spotted a snake camouflaged in the sandy track a few feet away, a Puff-Adder.
An early start to visit Sokoke Forest, picking up David on the way, unfortunately it was not the best time of year to find some of the endemic and near endemic birds of this forest (such as Clarke's Weaver, Sokoke Pipit and Spotted Ground Thrush), however we did see African Scimitarbill, a Narina's Trogon, a Trumpeter Hornbill, Palm Swift, 2 Golden-tailed Woodpeckers, 2 Nicators, Little Yellow Flycatcher, 2 East Coast Batis, a Forest Batis, Black-headed Apalis, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Black Cuckoo Shrike, 5 Chestnut-fronted Shrikes, 2 Retz's Red-billed Shrikes, Coastal Tropical Boubou which has recently been split, Black-backed Puffback, Collared Sunbird, a male and female Amani Sunbird, Common Waxbill, White-browed Coucal, Drongo and Black-headed Oriole.
We also saw, for a split second, 2 of the endemic Golden-rumped Elephant Shrews, as soon as they saw us they made off at incredible speed into the forest. Continuing, we saw 5 Yellow Baboons, Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, Wire-tailed Swallow, around 20 Kenya Crested Guineafowls and a Fischer's Turaco.
Later we returned to Watamu where a walk in an area behind the beach produced 20 or more Mottled-throated Spinetails, 6 Wire-tailed Swallows, African Pied Wagtail and a Black-headed Heron. We were told to stay on the track and tread carefully as there were venomous snakes in this grassy area, we had come here to see some of these snakes which were held in cages, part of an anti-venom collection programme. There were only three cages with something in them, I had brought the recording equipment to record thier hisses, there was a small Nile Monitor, a cobra and a Black Mamba, they all hissed, but it was the Black Mamba with its black mouth that gave the most chilling hisses.
Towards evening we met up with David again and headed back into Sokoke Forest, in the headlights as it got dark, we saw 3 Fiery-necked Nightjars, a Black-and rufous or Zanj Elephant Shrew, then we heard at least 3 Sokoke Scops Owls, we got out of the vehicle and followed David into the trees, getting close enough to one bird to get an excellent recording, having achieved that we then went further into the tangle of bushes and trees to try to see the owls, we did seeing one very well and 2 more less clearly. It was only after we returned to the jeep that David told us that the trees are full of Eastern Green Mambas!
From my hut at the top of the beach at Watamu I saw 2 Sooty Gulls and a Grey Plover.
After breakfast we drove a few miles south along the coast, scanning the sea we could see around 75 Greater Crested or Swift Terns, 30+ Lesser Crested Terns, about 15 White-cheeked Terns, 3 Sooty Gulls and a Brown Noddy.
We continued to Mida Creek, where we spent the rest of the day, seeing Little Egret, a Yellow-billed Egret, Black-headed Heron, Grey Heron, a Woolly-necked Stork, a Yellow-billed Stork, Lesser Crested Terns, Gull-billed Terns, 2 Ospreys, an African Fish Eagle, 2 Black Kites, a Pied Kingfisher, around 100 Crab Plovers, Whimbrel, Greenshank, 100's of Curlew Sandpipers, lots of Little Stints, Terek Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Greater Sandplover, Lesser Sandplover, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover and a White-fronted Plover.
Photo: Crab Plovers.
A return to Sokoke Forest seeing 4 Peter's Twinspots, a Little Sparrowhawk, 2 Dark-backed Weavers, 4 Chestnut-fronted Shrikes, African Scimitarbill, Black-headed Oriole, Drongo, 2 Black-backed Puffbacks, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Pale Flycatcher, a Green Barbet, White-throated Bee-eater, a Rufous-backed Mannikin which may or not be a sub-species of Black-and-white Mannikin, 2 Southern Black Flycatchers, Golden Weaver and around 8 Black-bellied Glossy Starlings.
Photo: Golden Weaver.
Today we drove north from Watamu to Malindi, a place full of hotels. We crossed the Sobaki River and found a place to park, then walked alongside the river to the coast, seeing 2 Malachite Kingfishers, 2 Zanzibar Red Bishops, Golden Weavers, Silverbill, a Zanzibar Sombre Greenbul, a Malindi Pipit, Grey Heron, Black-headed Heron, Little Egret, African Spoonbill, an African Fish Eagle, Yellow-billed Stork, a Pink-backed Pelican, a Nile Crocodile, Spur-winged Plover, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Lesser Sandplover, Greater Sandplover, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Gull-billed Tern, 4 Caspian Terns, around 3,000 Little Terns and Sacred Ibis.
On our way back we stopped at the ruins of Gedi or Gede, where in the tall trees around the entrance with saw and heard around 15 Trumpeter Hornbills coming in to roost, 6 Black-bellied Glossy Starlings and around 20 Syke's Monkeys.
Photo: Golden Weaver.
Leaving Watamu we travelled west through Tsavo East, seeing Kirk's Dikdik, a Gerenuk, Lilac-breasted Roller, Red-billed Quelea, Grant's Gazelle, Zebra, Giraffe, Impala, 2 Elephants, several Golden Pipits - so this is where they were, Red-winged Lark, Singing Bush Lark, Black-faced Sandgrouse, an African Harrier-Hawk, an Eastern Dwarf Mongoose, a Common Button-quail also called Andalusian Hemipode, Little Swifts and towards evening as we approached Ndara Ranch we saw a Bat Hawk carrying a Little Swift.
Photo: Lilac-breasted Roller.
We stayed overnight at Ndara Ranch, in the morning around the grounds we saw 4 Brown-throated Barbets, White-headed Buffalo Weaver, Pied Crows and Lesser Striped Swallows.
We drove to Voi and then on to Nairobi for our flight home, on the way seeing 2 male and 6 female Paradise Whydahs, Pin-tailed Whydah, Tawny Eagle, Long-crested Eagle and Golden Weavers.