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KENYA - Jun - 2004

595 Bird Species recorded

Leader: Steve Easley

Day 1 Thursday 10th

Everyone met up on schedule at Heathrow airport and later we boarded our night flight to Nairobi, Kenya.

Day 2 Friday 11th

An incident free flight saw us arrive at about 6.30 am. With the immigration formalities and luggage collection soon completed we met up with our guide Steve and driver Peter. From the airport we drove to the nearby Maxwell Academy which was to be our lodgings for two nights. We quickly took the luggage to our rooms and after a brief freshen up started birding in the extensive grounds of the academy. We were soon drooling over the aptly named Superb Starling which, notwithstanding proving to be a common and widespread species, never lost its appeal. Other gems came in the form of Bronze, Scarlet-chested and Variable Sunbird, Red-throated Tit and Dark-capped Yellow Warbler. Whilst, perhaps, not having the beauty of the preceding species other observations were a couple of Spotted Thick-knee, Eastern Honeybird, Singing Cisticola and both Banded and Brown Parisoma. After lunch at the academy we drove the Magadi road as far as the Ngong escarpment. This proved brilliant for Whydah species with Paradise, Steel-blue and Straw-tailed all being seen. The only Black Cuckoo for the trip initially proved elusive but eventually gave reasonable views. Tiny Cisticola was a particularly good observation as also were Fawn-coloured Lark, Capped Wheatear, a female Pringle's Puffback, Hildebrandt's Starling, Grey-capped Social Weaver and Grey-headed Silverbill.

Day 3 Saturday 12th

After an early breakfast all day was spent in Nairobi National Park. The day provided many excellent bird and mammal observations but arguably the most interesting was a Pipit. On finding this particular bird Steve explained that for many years he was perplexed by some of the Pipits he was seeing in the park which differed slightly from Long-billed in plumage and vocalization but did not fit other species described in the bird literature. Together with a colleague Steve took photographs and sound recordings and submitted detailed written descriptions to the ornithological authorities with the result that the birds are in the process of being ratified as a new species to be called Nairobi Pipit. Other notable bird observations included Common Ostrich, Lizard Buzzard, Shelley's Francolin, a male Black-bellied Bustard that refused to move out of the tall grass that hid its black belly, Fischer's Lovebird, White-tailed Lark, Pangani Longclaw, Croaking, Desert, Pectoral-patch, Siffling, Singing, and Stout Cisticola's, Ruppell's Robin-Chat, White-browed Scrub Robin, a few Yellow-billed amongst the more common Red-billed Oxpeckers, Holub's Golden and Parasitic Weaver, Purple Grenadier and Quail Finch. Pride of place amongst the mammals had to be the two male and three female Lions that were lazing out in the open, enjoying the morning sunshine near one of the picnic sites. No less impressive were the Black Rhinoceros, Masai Giraffe and Cape Buffalo, while Vervet Monkey, Olive Baboon, Common Zebra, Eland, Thomson's and Grant's Gazelle, Impala, Coke's Hartebeest and Slender Mongoose completed an impressive mammal list.

Day 4 Sunday 13th

After an early breakfast we loaded the minibus and set off on the journey to Lake Naivasha. Our first stop was at a pond where a good range of birds included the only Maccoa Duck seen on the trip but the star observation had to be a stunning male Malachite Sunbird. Continuing on our way the next stop was at a mid elevation forest where we arrived around midmorning. We spent a couple of hours, both before and after lunch in the area and although it was tough birding, by the time we left we had amassed an impressive list. Particularly difficult was the Evergreen Forest Warbler that refused to budge from dense cover but with perseverance all members of the party eventually got some sort of view of it. Other good observations were Hartlaub's Turaco, Crowned Hornbill, Mountain Greenbul, Black-collared, Black-throated, Chestnut-throated and Grey Apalis, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, African Hill Babbler and Black-fronted Bush Shrike. Our next planned stop was to be on top of a Plateau. Nearing the area we saw the only Black-winged Plovers of the trip. Once on site Steve soon located the target species, the extremely uncommon and localised Sharpe's Longclaw. A bonus here was an African Snipe seen both on the ground and in flight. Continuing on we arrived at the lake Naivasha Country Club late afternoon. After taking the luggage to our rooms we used the remaining daylight to look around the grounds including the jetty that gave good views of the lake. A good list of water birds was soon logged including both Great White and Pink-backed Pelican. African Darter was according to Steve a good observation for this location and a surprise was the single Sand Martin amongst the mass off Plain Martins. Lesser Swamp Warbler obliged with close views and Wildebeest, Waterbuck and Cape Hare were added to the mammal list.

Day 5 Monday 14th

After breakfast we undertook a boat trip on the lake. New water birds came to the list in the form of Goliath and Purple Heron, Glossy Ibis, African Spoonbill and African Jacana. Several African Water Rails were heard but despite repeated efforts to tape lure at least one of them into the open only brief glimpses were achieved. Black Crake were much more obliging. Sightings of Little Stint, Curlew and Marsh Sandpiper, Greenshank and Black-tailed Godwit reminded us of Europe with Kittlitz's and Long-toed Plover adding a more exotic wader presence. A summer plumaged Black-headed Gull was a good find amongst the plentiful Grey-headed Gulls and a couple of Gull-billed Terns were picked out from the very numerous Whiskered Terns. Arguably the most impressive water birds seen were a couple of Giant Kingfishers whilst raptors were represented by African Fish and Long-crested Eagle and Gabar Goshawk. Diederik Cuckoo, White-fronted Bee-eater and close views of Horus Swifts were also much appreciated. Immediately after the boat trip we boarded the minibus and took the road that led to a small secluded gorge where the targeted Schalow's Wheatear was soon located. Other birds of interest were Nyanza Swift, Lynes's Cisticola, Cliff Chat and especially nice views of a Ruppell's Griffon Vulture that circled low in company with a single White-backed Vulture. We returned to Lake Niavasha for lunch on completion of which we loaded the minibus and set off on the journey to Lake Baringo. Stops on the way provided interesting observations by way of Black-headed Plover, Brown Parrot, Madagascar Bee-eater, Jackson's Hornbill, Red-fronted Warbler, Northern White-crowned Shrike and African Silverbill. We arrived at our accommodation at the Lake Baringo Club with still more than an hour of daylight left so we walked down to the jetty to view the lake. Squacco Herons were much in evidence and both Dwarf and Little Bittern gave brief views. Weavers were plentiful and Black-headed, Chestnut, Jackson's Golden-backed, Little and Northern Masked were all logged. A Nile Crocodile and especially a couple of beautiful Yellow-winged Bats that obligingly settled close by in a small bush were also much appreciated.

Day 6 Tuesday 15th

The morning was spent in the vicinity of the Lake Baringo Country Club. We were joined by a couple of local contacts who were to help us locate today's target species. Our first stop was at the bottom of a high cliff face. The localised Brown-tailed Rock Chat was soon ticked off as was the Fan-tailed Raven. Other rather more impressive birds seen here included a perched Shikra, a small party of Dusky Turtle Doves, several flight only views of Hemprich's Hornbill, Brubru, Pygmy Batis, Blue-naped Mousebird, Black-throated Barbet, Bristle-crowned Starling, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Green-winged Pytilia, Northern Grey Tit, Hunter's Sunbird and Red-headed Weaver. On a small pool both Dwarf Bittern and Striated Heron provided excellent views while Rock Hyrax and Dwarf Mongoose were added to the mammal list. Moving on local knowledge really proved its worth when first a White-faced Scops Owl was found for us soon followed by a Heuglin's Courser.

Hueglin's Courser
Hueglin's Courser

Locating our next target species proved more problematic for our local contacts. On reaching the normal roosting tree of a Spotted (Greyish) Eagle-Owl the bird was found to be absent. Undaunted they set off at a run to try to find the bird. They reappeared within ten minutes with the news that it had been relocated in a tree about kilometre away. Excellent scope views were had as the bird proved to be completely unconcerned by our close proximity. Our local contacts then took us to see the final target species, namely a party of roosting Slender-tailed Nightjars that certainly ran well into double figures. Elated by an excellent mornings birding we return to our accommodation for lunch. A brief walk in the grounds and adjacent camp site after lunch provided views of a pair of roosting Verreaux's Eagle-Owl, d'Arnaud's and Red-and-Yellow Barbet and a couple of very large Nile Monitor Lizards. Undoubtedly the best sighting provided by the grounds were a pair of African Paradise Flycatchers that had built there tiny nest literally within touching distance in the branches of a large scrub that formed an archway over the path from the main building to the lodges. The male of the pair was a beautiful white morph and one or other of the pair were sat on the nest every time we passed. At mid afternoon we undertook a boat trip on the lake which was to prove rather an adventure. All went without incident initially with excellent views of Hippopotamus, a good range of water birds including very good numbers of the scarce Allen's Gallinule and the only sightings for the trip of both African Marsh Harrier and Black Heron. However soon after turning to make our return we were engulfed in a rain squall. The wind picked up alarmingly and spray started coming over the sides. By the time we had reached the jetty we were a very wet and bedraggled party. A shower, change of cloths and a delicious evening meal soon revived our spirits.

Day 7 Wednesday 16th

After an early breakfast we loaded the minibus and set off on the journey to the Kakamega Forest. A series of brief stops in varying habitats brought Ross's Turaco, Black-and-white-Casqued Hornbill, Spot-flanked Barbet, Green-backed Eremomela, Pale Flycatcher, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Black-headed Batis, Black-crowned Tchagra, White-crested Helmet-shrike and Violet-backed Starling to the list. A longer stop in a well forested valley produced African Green Pigeon, White-crested Turaco, Common Scimitarbill, White-headed Saw-wing, Lead-coloured Flycatcher, Black-headed Gonolek and Northern Puffback. Our next stop was at a small reedy pool where birds of note were Double-toothed Barbet, Mosque Swallow, Purple-throated Cuckoo-shrike and Grey-capped Warbler. We stopped next at a high point overlooking a valley stretching away far into the distance. Three Wahlberg's Eagle were soaring around above us and a Lanner Falcon was hunting in the valley below. However the highlight here had to be the masses of hirundines with good views of African Black and Mottled Swift being especially appreciated. Our next stop was to tick off Bronze-tailed Starling. Our viewing of the species was rudely interrupted when a very drunk local lady started berating us and we beat a hasty retreat to the minibus. Our last stop on the journey was at a large marsh where Levaillant's and Red-faced Cisticola, Little Rush Warbler, Fan-tailed and Jackson's Widowbird and Yellow Bishop were species of interest. We arrived at the wonderfully appointed Rondo retreat, which was to be our lodgings for the next three nights, too late to do any real birding in the magnificent grounds so we contented ourselves with enjoying a delicious evening meal and awaiting the morrow.

Day 8 Thursday 17th

All day spent in Kakamega Forest. The first hour or so after breakfast we spent in the grounds of the retreat with the rest of the morning spent at the pump house trail. After lunch at the retreat we visited the Ikuyuwa trail with the last forty five minutes of daylight spent in the retreat grounds when the immensely impressive Great Blue Turaco was finally nailed. Birding today was tough with a lot of species either skulking in dense vegetation or high up in the canopy. However at the end of the day quite a list had been amassed with highlights being African Emerald Cuckoo, Hairy-breasted, Grey-throated, Yellow-billed and Yellow-spotted Barbets, Least Honeyguide, Cassin's Honeybird, Brown-eared and Yellow-crested Woodpecker, African Broadbill, Petit's Cuckoo Shrike, Ansorge's, Cameroon Sombre, Joyful, Little Grey and Shelley's (Kakamega) Greenbul, Red-tailed Bristlebill, White-tailed Ant Thrush, Brown-chested Alethe, Chubb's Cisticola, Banded Prinia, Buff-throated Apalis, Green Hylia, Uganda Woodland Warbler, Southern Hyliota, African Blue, Chapin's and Northern Black Flycatcher, Equatorial Akalat, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Brown and Grey-chested Illadopsis, Dusky Tit, Green, Green-headed and Green-throated Sunbird, Western Black-headed Oriole, Bocage's and Luhder's Bush-shrike, Square-tailed Drongo, Stuhlmann's Starling, Black-billed, Brown-capped, Dark-backed and Vieillot's Black Weaver, Red-headed Malimbe, Grey-headed Negrofinch, Red-headed Bluebill, Oriole Finch and Thick-billed Seedeater. Steve has a good friend called Wilber who lives within the forest and who regularly gets African Wood Owl in the trees around his compound. After dinner we went to try and see the species. Initially there was no response to the tape lure so we tried another place a little way off. Whilst here Wilber arrived to say a bird was now calling at his compound. On returning the bird was duly located and 'spotlighted'. A marvellous end to a fabulous days birding.

Day 9 Friday

All day spent in the Kakamega forest. Immediately after breakfast Steve determined to nail two species that we had been hearing in the grounds of the retreat since our arrival but had not managed to see. Snowy-headed Robin-Chat gave itself up easily to the tape lure this time but White-spotted Flufftail remained as stubborn as ever. The first individual we encountered came within a few metres of Steve's tape but refused to come that metre or so closer that would have given a view of it. A second individual encountered a little way off was more obliging and although staying in dark thick cover, where Steve's laser pen came into its own, it did eventually give good views to everyone. The rest of the day was spent visiting the Zimmerman plot, the pump house trail and the Ikuyuwa river trail with a break for lunch at the retreat. Other highlights today were Blue-headed Bee-eater, Cabanis's and Toro Olive Greenbul, Olive-green Camaroptera, an immature Black-faced Rufous Warbler, Turner's Eremomela which is a globally threatened species found only in Kakamega and Kigezi forest in Uganda, Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat, Chestnut and Yellow-bellied Wattle-eye, Dusky Crested Flycatcher, Olive Sunbird, Mackinnon's Fiscal, Pink-footed Puffback and White-breasted Negrofinch.

Day 10 Saturday 19th

Immediately after breakfast we loaded the minibus and set off on the journey to Kisumu on the shore of Lake Victoria. Our first stop was at Munias where we walked down to the river bank. Two Rock Pratincoles were spotted sitting on a large boulder in mid stream. Other good birds seen here were a small party of Fulvous Whistling Duck that flew overhead, several Angola Swallow that were picked out amongst the hirundines perching on telephone wires, Senegal Coucal, Red-chested Sunbird, Slender-billed and Yellow-backed Weaver and the yellow-shouldered form of Yellow-mantled Widowbird. Between Munias and Nambale several stops were made to investigate the fields bordering the road. Highlights on this stretch were Hooded Vulture, Lizard Buzzard, Great Sparrowhawk, several flight only views of Red-headed Lovebird, Speckle-breasted Woodpecker, Yellow-throated Leaf-love, African Moustached Warbler, Copper, Olive-belled, and Orange-tufted Sunbird, Marsh Tchagra, Compact and Parasitic Weaver, Black-and-white Mannakin and flight only views of Locust-Finch. Arriving at Kisumu at mid afternoon we dropped the luggage at the Imperial Hotel, Had a quick freshen up and then drove to the outskirts of town bordering Lake Victoria. Swamp Flycatcher and Papyrus Canary were ticked off within minutes. Other good birds seen were African Open-billed Stork, Blue-headed Coucal and Black-billed Barbet. Last thing we visited the grounds of a Hotel where Shikra, Yellow-throated Leaf-love, Double-toothed Barbet and Black-headed Gonolek provided a lovely end to the day.

Day 11 Sunday 20th

At first light we drove to a nearby fishing quay where Steve attempted to hire a boat to take us out on the lake. This proved unsuccessful so we had to content ourselves with viewing the vast papyrus beds from the land. Three of the specialties of the area, namely Papyrus Gonolek, Carruther's Cisticola and White-winged Warbler responded to the tape lure by calling back and coming near but steadfastly refused to show themselves. More obliging species were Abdim's Stork, Eastern Grey Plantain-eater, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Greater Swamp Warbler, Northern Brown-throated Weaver, Black-winged Red and Southern Red Bishop. After a late breakfast we loaded the minibus and set off on the journey to Lake Nakuru National Park. Our route took us through Kericho the centre of the tea growing area. Birds of note seen on the journey were Bateleur and Bare-faced Go-away-bird. We arrived at the entrance to Lake Nakuru National Park at about 2.30 pm. We proceeded to drive slowly through the park reaching our accommodation at the Sarova Lion Hill Lodge just before sunset. Arguably the vast number of Lesser Flamingo present here constitute one of the most impressive wildlife spectacles in the world but surely the large number Great White Pelican here can not be far behind. Other bird highlights in the park this afternoon were Knob-billed Duck, Cape Teal, Hildebrandt's Francolin, Bearded Woodpecker, Red-capped Lark, Plain-backed Pipit, Arrow-marked and Long-tailed Widowbird. Mammal highlights were several White and a single Black Rhinoceros, Rothschild's Giraffe, Black-backed Jackal, Common Warthog and the tiny Kirk's Dikdik.

Day 12 Monday 21st

After breakfast we set of to do a complete circuit of the tracks bordering the lake. New bird species seen were Black-necked Grebe, a group of about a dozen Greater Flamingo, Ruff, Wood Sandpiper, our first views of a perched Tambourine Dove, Broad-billed Roller, White-headed Barbet, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Little Rock Thrush, Speke's Weaver and African Firefinch. After lunch back at the lodge we loaded the minibus and set off on the journey to the Naro Maru River Lodge. Not long after leaving the national park the minibus came to a screeching halt as Steve spotted a Red-throated Wryneck sat in a tree at the roadside. It was soon joined by its mate and the pair were still sat in the open calling when we continued on our way ten minutes later. Our next stop was a scheduled one at Thomson Falls. Here a pair of African Black Duck were a nice surprise and Golden-winged Sunbird also came to the list. Continuing the journey we stopped next at a small gorge. The impressive resident Mackinder's Eagle-Owl was soon located sat on the rock face in the shade of an overhang. As we neared our accommodation short stops were made as new species including Yellow-necked Spurfowl and White-bellied Bustard were spotted at the roadside. We arrived at the Naro Maru River Lodge with about 30 minutes of daylight left and this was sufficient time for us to see Mountain Wagtail on the river that runs through the grounds.

Day 13 Tuesday 22nd

A brief walk in the lodge grounds immediately after breakfast added Tacazze Sunbird to the bird list and Tree Hyrax to the mammal list. We then loaded the minibus and set off to drive to Mt. Kenya National Park. Peter needed all of his driving skills to negotiate the extremely steep and slippery track up to the Met station. On disembarking here we soon had Jackson's Francolin and Alpine Chat almost within touching distance. However the pair of Abyssinian Ground Thrush who we were told by a party of climbers had 20 minutes before our arrival been similarly obliging had disappeared and despite patient searching all we saw of this species were brief views of an immature bird.

Abyssinian Ground Thrush
Abyssinian Ground Thrush

Other new bird species seen here were African Cuckoo-Hawk, Mountain Buzzard, brief and distant flight views of African Crowned Eagle, White-headed Wood-Hoopoe, Fine-banded Woodpecker, Mountain Yellow Warbler and Eastern Double-collared Sunbird. Late morning we departed the park to drive to the Samburu-Buffalo Springs National Reserves. We made a brief stop near Isiolo where the tape lure soon persuaded a Boran Cisticola to call back but probably because of the very strong wind it refused to show itself. On reaching the Buffalo Springs reserve we were soon roused from our travel induced reverie. The drive through the reserve to our accommodation at the Samburu Serena Safari Lodge provided new birds in the form of a magnificent Bat Hawk sat in a tree less than 50 metres away, Lappet-faced Vulture, Pygmy Falcon, exquisitely beautiful Vulturine Guineafowl, Somali Courser, Black-faced and Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse, African Orange-bellied Parrot, White-headed Mousebird, White-throated Bee-eater, Von der Decken's Hornbill, Red-winged Lark, Mouse-coloured Penduline Tit, Rosy-patched Bush Shrike, Chestnut Sparrow, Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver and Black-capped Social-Weaver and new mammals in the form of African Elephant, Grevy's Zebra, Reticulated Giraffe, Gerenuk and Beisa Oryx. The lodge staff regularly place meat at dusk on a tree, illuminated by a spotlight, on the opposite side of the river that forms one of the boundaries of the grounds about one hundred metres away from the restaurant in the hope of attracting a Leopard. The tree had been baited and shortly after dark a Leopard duly obliged and settled contentedly enjoying its meal in full view for almost thirty minutes. What an aperitif to our evening meal!

Day 14 Wednesday 24th

All day spent in Buffalo Springs reserve. Safaris in the minibus were undertaken before and after breakfast and after lunch. New birds that came to the list today were Somali Ostrich, Palm-nut Vulture, Brown Snake and Martial Eagle, African Hawk-Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Crested Francolin, Buff-crested Bustard, Water Thick-knee, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Somali Bee-eater, Violet Wood-hoopoe, Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Singing Bush and Pink-breasted Lark, Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark, Golden Pipit, and Dodson's Bulbul, Northern Brownbul, Yellow-vented Eremomela, Black-bellied Sunbird, Three-streaked Tchagra, Slate-coloured Boubou, Golden-breasted Starling, Chestnut-crowned and Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow Weaver, Golden Palm Weaver and Black-cheeked Waxbill. Mammal highlights today included a female Lioness with five cubs and later a second Lioness both of which sat quite unconcerned by the presence of our minibus within a few metres of them. Two Cheetah keeping company were seen well as was an African Wild Cat. The 'spotlighted' tree was not baited this evening so no Leopard, but some compensation was afforded by the appearance of a group of ghostly White-winged Tomb Bats hunting over the river at dusk.

Day 15 Thursday 24th

After breakfast we loaded the minibus and set off on the journey to Mountain Lodge in the Mt. Kenya National Park. On our way out of Buffalo Springs reserve we came upon three Lionesses who were stalking an Impala that was feeding in an area of dense scrub. The resulting charge failed to secure a kill. Once again we made a stop near Isiolo and this time in ideal weather conditions the tape lure persuaded a Boran Cisticola to pop out and perch on top of a bush. Entering the Mt. Kenya National Park we made a brief stop at the Mountain Rock Banta Lodge where Yellow-bellied Waxbill came to the list. We continued on the journey to our accommodation at Mountain Lodge making birding stops as we went. Highlights on the drive were Scaly Francolin, Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, Mottled Spinetail, Narina and Bar-tailed Trogon, White-eared Barbet and Montane Oriole. Once at Mountain Lodge, Cape Wagtail, Common Genet and Marsh Mongoose were seen from the balcony which overlooks a waterhole. Before retiring to bed we were invited to fill in a form containing a list of mammals stating those we would wish to be woken for should they put in an appearance overnight. As neither Leopard nor Giant Forest Hog appeared we had an undisturbed nights sleep.

Day 16 Friday 25th

Crowned Eagle
Crowned Eagle

Early morning at Mountain Lodge. Highlights this morning were a massively impressive African Crowned Eagle sat in a tree at the side of the road, our first perched Olive Pigeon and Red- fronted Parrot, flight only views of Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Moustached Green Tinkerbird, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler and Abyssinian Crimsonwing. Mid morning we loaded the minibus and set off to drive to Wajee nature camp. We stopped at a small pool en-route which held a good selection of waterbirds, including Pink-backed Pelican but brought no new species to the list. The target at Wajee was the localised and threatened Kenyan endemic Hinde's Babbler. Despite diligent searching the only babbler species seen here was Northern Pied Babbler. An African Wood Owl and Eastern Honeybird were some consolation. Our next stop was at the Mwea rice scheme fields which forms a marvellous wetland habitat. Here the pick of an excellent range of water birds was a Madagascar Squacco Heron. Our last birding stop of the day was at the Tana River where African Golden Weaver was added to the bird list. From here we drove to the Maxwell Academy where we had the opportunity for a wash and change of cloths before enjoying our last evening meal together and being driven to the airport where we said our good-byes and expressed our thanks to Steve and Peter for a holiday of a lifetime.

Many thanks to John Randall for the write up of this report.



birdseekers photos