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Day 1 - 27th June
After everyone had met at Gatwick Airport, we checked in and then after a short delay we caught our direct flight to Nairobi, Kenya. A smooth overnight flight saw us arrive in Nairobi late morning on day 2.
Day 2 - 23rd June
After arriving at Nairobi airport 3 hours late we were met by Steve Easley our local guide. We changed some money before loading our luggage into a minibus and as we left the airport we noted Speckled Pigeons, Red-winged Starling and some Common Bulbuls. Within forty five minutes we arrived at the Maxwell compound a secluded property with a garden full of birds. En-route we had noted African Palm Swifts, Yellow-billed Kites, the first of many Common Fiscal Shrikes perched on fences, Black-headed Heron and we also passed by a group of huge Marabou Storks sat in the top of a tree. In Maxwell we re-arranged our luggage ready for our afternoon flight and then we enjoyed a very nice lunch. Outside in the gardens a Grey-headed Kingfisher sat on a railing, before finding White-browed Sparrow Weavers, and a smart African Paradise Flycatcher. Streaky Seedeaters were around, and amongst the swallows we watched Lesser Striped and Red-rumped. We then found a stunning male Purple Grenadier and a Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, plus Variable Sunbirds, Bronze Manakins, Speckled Mousebird, Superb Starlings, Abyssinian White-eye, and a male Village Indigobird. Kenyan Rufous Sparrows were easily seen, while a Sacred Ibis flew over and in an overgrown area of the gardens we found Spectacled Weaver, female White-winged Widowbird, a beautiful Spotted Palm (Morning) Thrush, Tropical Bou Bou, Collared Sunbird, Southern Black Flycatcher, African Citril, Parrot-billed Sparrow, Yellow-breasted Apalis, excellent views of Brown Parisoma, Bronze Sunbird, White-eyed Slaty-flycatcher, Singing Cisticola, White-browed Coucal and a Buff- bellied Warbler. Around the edge of a small pond we found a Three-banded Plover, African Grey Flycatcher, Fork-tailed Drongo, and Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu. It was now time to leave but just before departing we saw a Cape Robin-Chat and then a Spotted Thick-knee sat under a small bush. After this great start to our tour we drove the short distance to Wilson airport where we caught our small plane which gave us fantastic views as it flew right over the Masai Mara before landing on a small grass strip near to Kichwa Tembo Camp. Our faithful driver and friend Peter was there to meet us with the minibus, having set off from Nairobi early in the morning. As soon as we had loaded up we drove a short distance seeing our first Common Zebra, Coke's Hartebeest, and Thompson's Gazelles, plus four Common Ostrich. Peter then took a detour driving us up to a grassy hill where a Lioness was sat surveying the area. After this exciting encounter we made our way towards the camp with a few roadside stops along the way. Our first stop was for three Red-necked Spurfowl, there were plenty of Plain Martins around, an immature Dark-chanting Goshawk was seen sat on top of a small bush as was a Greater Honeyguide. A fantastic pair of Bat-eared Foxes sat on a termite mound for all to see, and the soon to become common Stout Cisticola and Sooty Chat were easily seen. African White-backed Vultures drifted overhead and Yellow-mantled Widowbird was seen. We then had great views of Usambiro Barbet, followed by Plain-backed Pipit, and an African Harrier Hawk which perched for a while in a small tree. In another small bush we found Red-faced Crombec and beside it was a White-browed Scrub Robin. As we entered the gates of the camp an Emerald Spotted Wood-Dove was seen. After settling into our permanent large tents which all had en-suite shower room, real beds, furniture and electric lights, we went for a quick look around the gardens. A Northern Black Flycatcher was soon found and then looking out onto the wide open grasslands with its hundreds of zebra, we saw a very distant Secretary Bird. A few of the group got onto a Chin-spot Batis, we all saw Pale Flycatcher, while above us a huge Mosque Swallow was replaced by a group of Black Sawwing's which included White-headed Sawwing and then a few Rufous-chested Swallows. Beside a small patch of cover we saw a Cinnamon Breasted Bee-eater and then as we returned to our rooms a group of three African Blue Flycatchers entertained us in a tree top.
Day 3 - 29th June
This morning we had our wake up call and hot drinks delivered to our tents and then went out for a couple of hours birding before breakfast. The first birds we saw sat in the top of a dead tree were two Ross's Turacos while nearby the song of Rattling Cisticolas soon attracted our attention and we watched several of these little birds performing right in front of us. We then decided to walk a section of road and within minutes we were watching Olive Pigeons flying over and Harry spotted two Ovambo Goshawks which we all saw flying over the hillside and away. Continuing on, two Long-billed Pipits showed well as did Familiar Chat, Spot-flanked Barbet and Grey-throated Barbet. A close Brown Snake-Eagle circled around while distant Lappet-faced Vulture was just a bit too far away. A Black-crowned Tchagra then showed well and later we had good comparisons as we found four Brown-crowned Tchagras. A Black-backed Puffback was spotted along with several African Yellow White-Eyes and some White-bellied Tits. An Amethyst Sunbird perched above us briefly before we returned to camp for a wholesome breakfast. As we ate outside in the gardens a stunning Bateleur flew over. After breakfast we met up by the bus where a pair of White-browed Robin Chats came so close that everyone grabbed their cameras. We then drove out into the vast grasslands. A couple of immature Black-bellied Bustards walk slowly through the grass just in front of us. We saw Giraffes and Topi, Thompson's Gazelle, Lilac-breasted Roller, Grey Kestrel and Crowned Plovers. Grant's Gazelles were then found, as were some Horus Swifts, an African Fish Eagle, and three Cardinal Quelea including a very nice male. A superb Black-chested Snake- Eagle flew around giving us excellent views, while Peter had just spotted a Leopard which unfortunately disappeared very quickly into thick bush so no decent views were had. Several tiny Pectoral-patch Cisticolas showed well and later we saw a group of Hippos on a river, as well as a Holub's Golden Weaver. Just before we arrived back at camp for lunch a quick stop got us excellent views of a Red-throated Wryneck, and then just inside the gates a tree full of Ring-necked Doves also held one Blue-spotted Wood-Dove. After lunch and a little siesta, we set of in a different direction. Driving over some very bumpy ground we made our way towards a swamp. A Cinnamon-breasted Bunting showed briefly on a rock and as we came to a more open area near to a Mara camp we found several Ruppell's Glossy Starlings, and a Speckle-fronted Weaver, whilst a Tawny Eagle flew over before we came across several Grey-backed Fiscals, Hildebrandt's Starlings and plenty of Yellow-fronted Canary's. There was a couple of superb Silverbirds that showed well and as we approached the swamp area a small pool held a Malachite Kingfisher. We then saw several Rufous-bellied Herons in flight and another sat on a dead tree beside two Lilac-breasted Rollers. A Little Bittern put in a brief appearance while a little further on we saw three Lionesses sat on the ground together and then on top of a distant tree was a huge Saddle-billed Stork.
Next, we found two close Grey-crowned Cranes plus Rufous-naped Larks, Grassland Pipit and Plain-backed Pipit. A Rufous-crowned Roller was followed by several Bare-faced Go-away Birds, Northern White-crowned Flycatchers and a pair of Nubian Woodpeckers. Later in the day we got to see lots of Yellow-fronted Canary's as well as Speckle-fronted Weavers, Purple Grenadiers, Yellow-spotted Petronia, Little Bee-eaters, Yellow Bishops, a very attractive but flighty Red-collared Widowbird, and finally before we reached camp a superb Verreaux's Eagle Owl perched in a tree for all to see.
Day 4 - 30th June
Before breakfast we met up and took a short drive to the Oloololo escarpment. As we arrived a Cinnamon-breasted Bunting was spotted on a nearby bank. We then walked up a small canyon where a troop of Olive Baboons were hanging around. As we reached our target point a White-headed Barbet flew past and then in a short time we soon heard and after a few anxious moments saw a Lazy (Rock) Cisticola first sat on a rock as you would expect and then perched right on the top of a tree. We returned to the minibus and while waiting for everyone to catch up I spotted a
Great Sparrowhawk sat in a distant tree. We all got good scope views of this and an African Green Pigeon before driving slowly back towards the lodge. A short stop beside a large tree then produced another White-headed Barbet and two superb Double-toothed Barbets.
Once we were back at the lodge we went birding in the gardens and soon located a calling Red-faced Cisticola but it never showed itself. Harry then found an African Goshawk which was sat quietly underneath a tree - good spot Harry! Nearby a Marico Sunbird showed well as did a group of Cinnamon Breasted Bee-eaters, then our target bird a superb Schalow's Turaco which gave us fantastic views. We then had good views of Brown Parrot, and nearby we found two Cabanis's Greenbuls which put on great performance. It was now time for breakfast after which we packed up our luggage and left the lodge. Moving south east throughout the day we travelled through the Masai Mara making many stops along the way. It wasn't long before we got good views of Red-faced Cisticola, Wattled Plovers and several Banded Martins. Beside an area of burning grasslands we found White-headed Buffalo Weavers, a small group of Black-lored Babblers, then Grey Kestrel, followed by good views of a couple of Quail Finches. We then had to work hard to get reasonable flight views of a Broad-tailed Warbler, but much easier was a very confiding White-bellied Bustard and groups of Wattled Starlings. On we continued until we reached another burnt out area. Here we found Capped Wheatear, good numbers of Temminck's Courser, Red-capped Larks and finally some Black-winged Plovers. In a small hollow beside some rocks we located a sleepy Spotted Hyena. Further on, a small village area held Silverbird, Grey-capped Social Weavers, Little Weaver, and Banded Parisoma. Moving on to some Hippo Pools we spotted Egyptian Goose, Yellow-billed Oxpeckers and brief Red-billed Oxpeckers, while just a few people got a Grey-backed Camaroptera. There were lots of Hippos plus huge Nile Crocodiles which were feeding on a dead Hippo. Our next stop was for Fisher's Sparrow Lark, Northern White-crowned Shrikes, African Black Swifts, Lappet- faced Vultures, Yellow-billed Stork, then beside a pool we watched two superb Yellow-throated Sandgrouse and an exceptionally close Saddle-billed Stork. In the same area a pond with dozens of bathing Zebra, held some extremely ugly Marabou Storks. Continuing our journey we went though herds of White-bearded Gnu, we saw a perched Bateleur and eventually came to a tree which to our great delight held a Leopard sleeping at the top. As we headed towards our lodge we came across a Bat-eared Fox, then two excellent Southern Ground Hornbills strutting around the long grass. A little further on, two resting Cheetah's had everyone reaching for their cameras and we enjoyed a fantastic Black-chested Snake Eagle, and then two Lions. Almost to our lodge we added Coqui Francolins, Harlequin Quails, Black-bellied Bustard, Zitting Cisticola, Plain-backed Pipits and several Flappet Larks to our list, eventually arriving at our lodge at about 6.30pm were we settled into our permanent tents and then had another very nice evening meal. Once we had done our checklists we then took a short night walk around the grounds where we found a tiny Kirk's Dikdik and after a lot of searching an African Scops Owl which we all got to look at through the scope. Noisy Rock Hyrax did their best to keep us awake.
Day 5 - 1st July
Before breakfast we drove into Masai grasslands where we soon found Northern Anteater Chats, a pair of White-headed Vultures on their nest and then nearby an immature Martial Eagle. Later White-rumped Swifts were seen and two Striped Kingfishers sat on some fence posts. Listening to a local guide trying to convince his clients that they were first watching a Malachite and then a Pied Kingfisher was of great amusement to us. We then spotted Lappet-faced Vulture, several Cape Buffalo, and a group of Elephants. Returning to the lodge for a filling breakfast we then took a short look around gardens. I found a Tree Hyrax sat on a branch for everyone to see and on the small pond we had an AngolanGreen snake. In an open area of the gardens we got superb views of a roosting African Scops Owl, while nearby a group of Violet-backed Starlings included some stunning males. There was also White-bellied Tits, female Black Cuckoo-shrike, a Black-headed Oriole, three Emerald-spotted Wood-doves and a fly over Tawny Eagle. Travelling north towards Nairobi we passed through some very out of the way birding areas in search of several very good species. On the way to our first stop we located several Brubru and found some Crested Francolins. In a dry scrubby valley we then spotted Blue-naped Mousebirds, Red-fronted Barbet, Yellow- bellied Eremomela, Lesser Honeyguide and a couple of African Penduline Tits. In another area we had good views of Long-tailed Cisticolas, several Golden-breasted Buntings, African Grey Hornbill, two Von der Decken's Hornbill, Cardinal Woodpecker, a female Pygmy Falcon, male Black Cuckoo-shrike, a superb Red-throated Tit and then a very excited group of six Grey-crested Helmet-Shrikes and two more African Penduline Tits. We left this valley and continued off road for many miles until we eventually found a group of ten Magpie Shrikes which performed wonderfully for us. Also here we came across several White-headed Buffalo Weavers, a Von der Decken's Hornbill, Crested Francolin, African Hoopoe and a Fawn-breasted Lark. Travelling on through open plains we did stop for a superb looking Two-banded Courser. After leaving the park we continued on our way birding as went. We still had a long way to get to Nairobi but roadside stops did produce an Auger Buzzard, some Rock Martins, and in a dead tree we watched two White-fronted Bee-eaters and a male Pin-tailed Whydah. We had a couple of Speke's Weavers on their nests, while Laughing Doves had now become the commonest dove. In an area of very open arable fields we saw several Cape Crows, as well as a huge Kori Bustard, Eastern Pale-chanting Goshawk, and then shortly after a fabulous pair of Greater Kestrels. Finishing off we noted lots of Grey-rumped Swallows and then a pair of bright White-bellied Canary's, before completing the last bit of our journey to reach the Maxwell academy by dusk.
Day 6 - 2nd July
After an early breakfast we packed our belongings into the minibus and set off towards Amboseli National Park. Along the way we passed through some interesting grasslands where we saw Black-shouldered Kite, and then superb views of a Hartlaub's Bustard, followed by two Kori Bustards and a Long-tailed Fiscal. We then had two Orange-bellied Parrots fly over and after a little searching we eventually found the birds going into a nest hole in a telegraph pole. Continuing on White-bellied Go-away-Birds became plentiful and during a short stop to look at several sat in a tree top we also saw Slender and Dwarf Mongoose.
Day 7 - 3rd July
Before breakfast we went on a game drive into the park. The snow covered Kilimanjaro was a wonderful site and as the sun came up so the mountain became more illuminated. Masses of Zebra, Wildebeest, and antelope littered the plains and several very large African Elephants stood out amongst the rest of their smaller family members. A very nice Bateleur sat in a dead tree looking down on a young male Lion who was looking around for a breakfast snack! We then found a Collared Pratincole which showed very well as did a Two-banded Courser and then a couple of Taveta Golden Weavers, a very restricted and local species. In the grounds of the Amboseli Lodge we found a Grey-headed Kingfisher, Hunter's and Beautiful Sunbirds, a showy Bearded Woodpecker, Grey-backed Cameroptera and a male Slate-coloured Boubou. A new mammal for the trip came in the form of three Common Waterbuck. Heading back towards our lodge for breakfast we found two Intermediate Egrets and both Red and Yellow-billed Oxpeckers on a group of Buffalo. A superb and majestic male Lion was found with a couple of Lionesses, while nearby three Spotted Hyenas proved to be very wary of the 'King'. After breakfast we went out again and enjoyed some excellent sightings. Over fifty Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse were seen very well feeding beside the track while two Thompson's Gazelle were engaged in a dusty and bloody battle and nearby an exceptionally large flock of Crested Guineafowl must have numbered some 500. A little further on we watched two Southern Ground Hornbills foraging for food when one made a quick flight and then started digging around until he unearthed an East African Whip-tailed Lizard which was soon devoured - down in one! In the same area a Buff-crested Bustard showed superbly well. In the grasslands a Serval Cat was again spotted and then as we returned for lunch we noted a few Barn Swallows amongst the huge Banded Martins. We then had a little siesta before meeting up and taking an afternoon drive. Harry had found some Black-crowned Night Herons in the lodge grounds so on our way out we all got to see one sat in a tree. Driving towards an area of wetlands we found a group of Spur-winged Plovers, Kittlitz's Plovers and Two-banded Coursers, while on a causeway we spotted three close Black Crakes and several African Jacanas. We then spotted a group of perched vultures that included four Lappet-faced, White-backed and a single Ruppell's, plus a Tawny Eagle. Further on an African Fish Eagle and an Eastern Pale Chanting Goshawk posed very nicely for us. On a lake we noted Elephants up to their necks, plus several Hippos and an African Darter. Further on in a camp ground we wandered around and found a Crimson-rumped Waxbill and a superb Sulphur-breasted Bush-shrike as well as Spotted Morning Thrush, Red-billed Hornbill and plenty of Hildebrandt's Starlings. Leaving the camp ground we passed by a marsh again seeing Goliath Heron, Little Egret and some Winding Cisticolas. As we watched the sun start to set with Kilimanjaro in all its glory a single Pink-backed Pelican flew by, Elephants marched off into the bush, a distant Pied Kingfisher was then spotted and some very close Little Bee-eaters had us all reaching for our cameras. As we headed back to our lodge we suddenly noticed Thompson's Gazelles scattering in all directions. Looking to see what had caused the commotion a superb Cheetah was seen chasing down a few of the remaining gazelle. Another Cheetah was also seen but both failed to catchy their prey and they collapsed exhausted onto the dusty plain. Leaving these wonderful animals behind we drove a short distance and then saw yet another Cheetah sat in the long grass. A little further on a male Lion and two Lioness were watched walking within a few feet of a very nervous looking herd of Zebra. As we entered the lodge ground our fabulous day was finished off by the display of Slender-tailed Nightjars leaving their day time roost and going off to hunt. In all we counted over thirty and they showed superbly to all of us. Parking the minibus we also noted quite a few Yellow-winged Bats. What a fantastic day! Just before retiring myself and Roger heard some screeching outside or cabin. We shone a torch to reveal a very attractive White-tailed Mongoose on the lawn.
Day 8 - 4th July
Our pre breakfast drive took us to the wet area of the park where we first stopped at the causeway and soon found a Little Rush Warbler, several Black Crakes, Fan-tailed Widowbirds, two Malachite Kingfishers and four Taveta Golden Weavers including two stunning males. We returned for breakfast and then packed our bags and set off taking a dusty new road towards Tsavo West. Along the way we made many stops where mimicking the call of Pearl Spotted Owlet attracted a good range of species including astonishing numbers of Green-winged Pytilias. A Gabar Goshawk was later found and in amongst a small flock we saw Northern Crombec. Other good sightings along our journey included Gerenook and the amazing sight of a huge Kori Bustard in flight. We spent time searching a field where we failed to find Short-tailed Lark. Later in another area of similar looking habitat we found five of these excellent birds feeding very close on the ground in front of us. Continuing on to several small water holes we found a pair of Straw-tailed Whydahs, and two African Silverbills. Our next stop was in a hotel where we searched the grounds and its small lake. We soon spotted a Long-tailed Cormorant, a very posy Purple Heron with a large fish, and then a pair of Giant Kingfishers, plus Malachite and Pied Kingfisher and finally two Crowned Hornbills. Continuing on we later stopped and searched an excellent area of mature forest. A short walk and we were looking at an African Crowned Eagle flying. Next several of the group saw a very attractive but skulky Peters Twinspot soon followed by scope views of Jameson's Firefinch which was sat deep within a bush. Further on a group of White-crested Helmet Shrikes held four superb looking and much appreciated Retz's Helmet Shrikes alongside a female Black Cuckoo Shrike. Lower in the scrub we had a Brown-hooded Kingfisher, then a white morph African Paradise Flycatcher and excellent looks at a Little Sparrowhawk which sat perched for a while. As we made our way back towards the minibus a Lead-coloured Flycatcher ended a wonderful hours birding. We then drove to Tsavo West game reserve. As we waited at the park entrance there was a frenzy of birds that included two Tsavo Sunbirds, amongst Beautiful, Hunters and Eastern Violet-backed Sunbirds and new races of Yellow-breasted Apalis - (brown tailed) and Common Bulbul (dodson's bulbul). Once we had got into the park it wasn't long before we had excellent views of Hartlaub's Bustard, several Black-faced Sandgrouse, Black-headed Plover and then two separate sightings of the fantastic looking Golden-bellied Starlings. As dusk arrived so did we at our superb lodge. We had our evening meal overlooking the floodlit water hole where we were treated to the wonderful spectacle of Elephants and Zebra coming to drink and then as we ate diner a beautifully marked Common Genet came onto the railing beside us.
Day 9 - 5th July
This morning we had an early breakfast before going out on a game drive. Stopping every ¼ mile or so we made pearl spotted owlet and pishing noises, which promptly made all the birds in each area come out to have look at us. Three-streaked Tchagra showed well as did our first Somali Golden-breasted Bunting and on the ground several Black-capped Social Weavers. The next new bird species was a couple of Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbills, then it was Abyssinian Scimitarbill. We had a great time as many other birds put on a show including Pygmy Batis and lots of Green-winged Pytilias. A nice selection of animals included ten Lesser Kuda, several Bush Hyrax, lots of tiny Kirk's Dikdik, a Waterbuck and Bush Duiker. We then found a really good species with four Scaly Chatterers seen working they way through some isolated bushes. Continuing our drive down a small track we followed a stream that joined together several small pools. On the first pool we saw a very close adult African Fish Eagle, while a marshy area produced a Greater Painted Snipe, and then a Wahlberg's Eagle was seen to fly by. A further search found us Northern Brownbuls and several Violet Woodhoopoes, but a highlight on our way back to the lodge was a family of six Golden-bellied Starlings. After lunch and a siesta, a Shikra was seen briefly perched in a tree outside our cabins. In the afternoon we drove to an area of freshwater springs where we walked towards the pools firstly seeing an Ashy Flycatcher. A Lizard Buzzard was then found sat in a tree and nearby we scoped a non breeding plumage Black-bellied Sunbird. Down on the largest crystal clear pool we saw a bunch of Hippos, a Monitor Lizard and some small Crocodiles. Taking a different route back towards our lodge we decided to try another
session of "pishing". Up to four Red-winged Larks were seen and in one of our final pishing sessions we produced a beautiful male Red-headed Weaver. During the afternoon, empty looking dry scrub suddenly became alive with mixed flocks of excited birds that included Brubrus, Eastern Violet-backed and Hunters Sunbirds, a flock of White-helmet Shrikes, over twenty five Green-winged Pytilias, Purple Grenadiers, Spotted Morning Thrushes, Blue-headed Cordon-bleu, Slate-coloured Boubou, Somali Golden-breasted Buntings, Tiny and Ashy Cisticolas. A few raptors were also seen and these included Gabar Goshawk, Eastern Pale-chanting Goshawk, an immature Martial Eagle and finally a Brown Snake Eagle. Both Nubian and Cardinal Woodpeckers showed well, as did Red-and-yellow, Spot-flanked, Black-throated and D'Arnoulds Barbets, African Hoopoe, Tsavo and Marico Sunbirds. There was also a superb Sulphur-breasted Bush-Shrike, and three Buff-crested and two White-bellied Bustards. After some excellent birding we returned to our lodge where during dinner, we watched hundreds of Buffalo, several Elephants, Hyena and a friendly Genet.
Day 10 - 6th July
This morning we went out on a pre breakfast drive. We came across many groups of birds including much the same species as the day before, although (Acacia)Northern Grey Tit was new to us. We then packed our bags, looked at a roost of Epauletted Fruit Bats in the hotel grounds and then headed across the park towards the Taita hills an area with several very localised specialities and somewhere that has only been visited by a few birders. Our first stop was back at the freshwater springs we visited yesterday. A brief look soon found us Striated Heron and a Zanzibar Sombre Greenbul. Continuing on we headed towards more open habitat and as we made our way across some dry grassland towards a small hill with a lookout on top, we spotted a dark looking lark fly off with white outer tail feathers. After a little searching we relocated it and identified it as a Freidman's Lark, an excellent find! We also managed to find a couple of Desert Cisticolas, and from the lookout we had wonderful views of two African Hawk Eagles. We carried on our journey making numerous stops when groups of birds were spotted. One of the groups we looked through held a Pale Prinia, while further groups produced such species as a stunning Golden Pipit, Pringles Puffback, Red-fronted Warbler and Black-headed Batis. Raptors included at least eight Pygmy Falcons, Tawny Eagle, a pair of Gabar Goshawks including one 'black morph' and a superb Secretarybird seen flying around in circles. Beside a small stream we found a Yellow-billed Stork and a fairly large Monitor Lizard. Further on there was a flock of Chestnut and Lesser Masked Weavers. Other species seen during our journey included good views of Black-faced Sandgrouse, Grey-headed Bush-Shrike, Pygmy Batis, Slate-coloured Boubou, Brubru, Cut-throat Finches, lots of Green-winged Pytilias, Northern Crombecs , Purple Grenadiers, Spotted Morning Thrushes, more Golden-bellied Starlings, Tsavo, Hunters, and Eastern Violet-backed Sunbirds, Tiny Cisticola and Mouse-coloured Penduline Tits. A good selection of mammals were also found and amongst these were a Klipspringer, Eland, Lichtenstein's Hartebeest and Lesser Kudu. Eventually we left the park and dust tracks behind us and turned onto tarmac. As we neared our lodge we were all very pleased to see a group of very attractive Vulturine Guineafowl walking across the road in front of us. It wasn't long before we arrived at our lodge which consisted of strange rocket shaped cabins, set up on stilts with adjoining walkways and all overlooking a salt lick. We settled into our rooms and watched a herd of Elephants coming in to drink, and then later we met up by the restaurant which overlooked the lick which was now floodlit enabling us to watch Slender-tailed Nightjars, plus a Verreaux's Eagle Owl, and then lots of Buffalo.
Day 11 - 7th July
Our early morning breakfast overlooking the salt lick saw us watching plenty of Elephants coming in to drink. Leaving the lodge early we drove out of the park seeing a couple of close PanganiLongclaws and a perched Lanner Falcon. A brief stop for fuel found us up to fifteen Silvery-cheeked Hornbills. We then drove into the Taita hills and climbed to an altitude of around 1600 metres where we parked and immediately saw a Cape Robin Chat. Entering the forest we slowly and quietly followed a narrow trail until unbelievable one of the first birds viewed was a superb Taita Thrush sat 15ft up on a branch in the sunlight! It soon dropped down where it became much more difficult to see amongst the leaf litter and thick cover. Further into the woods we came across Placid Greenbul, several Taita White-eyes and superb views of Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler. We also managed to find Stripe-cheeked Greenbul another speciality, but unfortunately an Orange Ground Thrush made such a brief fly past that we decided it should not go on our list. While here we found a tiny High-casqued Chameleon and also heard an African Crowned Eagle calling above the forest before heading back to the minibus. We then drove to another forest, and on the way we saw a brief White-starred Robin, and African Stonechat. Searching this next forest we had more brief sightings of the elusive Taita Thrush until eventually after some intense and difficult birding everyone caught up with this rare and sought after species. Distractions from the thrush came in the form of a Great Sparrowhawk and Auger Buzzard fighting and another White-starred Robin. It was lunch time so we had our picnic in the forest beside a local school whose pupils soon enjoyed most of its contents. Saying goodbye to the children we set off on our drive towards Mombassa. Descending the mountain we saw Red-winged Starling and a pair of huge White-naped Ravens. Continuing east we also came across our first House Crows, some Palm Swifts and even the ubiquitous House Sparrow. After crossing a river and negotiating the hustle and bustle of Mombassa and its terrible drivers we arrived at our lodge in the Shimba Hills in the dark. This wonderfully rustic rainforest lodge overlooked a small lake and as we enjoyed our evening meal we were visited by some inquisitive and rather cute looking Lesser Galagos.
Day 12 - 8th July
A pre breakfast drive this morning soon produced six Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeons and several Dark-backed Weavers before we even loaded the vehicle. During our drive we noted a group of Crested Guineafowl and some Yellow-bellied Greenbuls before it was time to return for breakfast. A couple of noisy African Fish Eagles serenaded us and tested our photographic skills as they snatched food from the lake surface. Returning to the park it was now showery. The first group of birds found all seemed to be EasternOlive Sunbirds, but later as the rain cleared we came across a mixed flock that got us all excited. Amongst this group of birds were superb looking Green-headed Orioles, African Golden Oriole, a flighty Yellowbill, a pair of Green-backed Woodpeckers, Black-headed Apalis, Tambourine Dove, Siffling Cisticola, Brown-backed Mannikin and nearby a Flappet Lark which was displaying and producing the amazing sound that gives the bird its name. We then drove to a picnic sight where in-between sandwiches we watched White-eared and Green Barbet and Eastern Green Tinkerbird. Leaving here we found an immature Martial Eagle sat in a tree and then we spotted a male Sable Antelope, a localised and very attractive mammal. As this elegant beast walked away from us it was seen to join a group of twenty or so females. Monkeys were also evident and we saw Black-and-white Colobus as well as Blue Sykes. Back to the lodge for lunch and the two African Fish Eagles were still performing over the lake. It wasn't the Galigos that joined us for lunch today but several very smart Rufous-bellied Coast Squirrels. Revisiting the park in the afternoon we first came across a group of Chestnut-fronted Helmet Shrikes which gave tantalizing views before disappearing through the forest. This sighting completed the entire list of helmet shrikes possible in Kenya which has probably never been done on a tour before! Driving a different route we next spotted a Bohem's Spinetail and in the same spot there were two Palm-nut Vultures. Further on and a frantic five minutes found us a male Narina Trogon, two Fishers Turacos, Klaas's Cuckoo, African Golden Oriole, White-eared Barbet, displaying Eastern Olive Sunbirds and five Brown-breasted Barbets - a superb species! Moving on we visited a small sewerage works and although rather quiet we did find several Black-bellied Starlings, lots of butterflies and a brief African Cuckoo-Hawk. Heading back we suddenly had an avalanche of Chestnut-fronted Helmet Shrikes with over thirty birds filling the trees and showing fabulously. Continuing back we had stunning views of an adult Martial Eagle plus another group of Crested Guineafowl, and some more Colobus Monkeys. Both Crowned and Silvery-cheeked Hornbills were seen throughout much of the day, and near the lodge we found a huge Nile Monitor and some Yellow-headed Dwarf Geckos.
After our evening meal we were doing the checklist and just as we were filling in the mammal section we were interrupted when a Civet Cat was seen below our balcony having a little altercation with a Genet, a great end to the day.
Day 13 - 9th July
As we were leaving Shimba Hills Lodge we added a Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird to our list while loading the bus. Driving south we passed through many areas of arable farmland with grass crop and maize. Making frequent stops along the way we soon located several very smart breeding plumage Black-winged Red Bishops and then some smaller Zanzibar Red Bishops. In one area of grassland as we watched more bishops, Steve heard a Black-collared Barbet calling. After much searching we eventually found two birds in the top of a bush. Quite unexpected were more Brown-breasted Barbets, and in the grass excellent views were had of Coastal Cisticola which has recently been split from 'winding'. Moving on to a bridge we found lots of nesting weavers that included African Golden Weavers and some Golden Palm Weavers. A Purple Heron then flew over and Woolly-necked Storks were spotted. On the telegraph poles we saw many Lizard Buzzards and it was one of these stops that produced a Little Sparrowhawk sat in a dead tree. Eventually the grasslands yielded Black Coucals with yet another roadside stop getting us a close perched Great Sparrowhawk, flocks of Black-bellied Starlings and then a pair of African Palm Thrushes. As we approached the coast another stop found us Brown-headed Parrot and several Madagascar Bee-eaters. We turned around by the coast and headed back towards Mombassa. It began to rain a little but this didn't stop us getting very good views of a Red-necked Falcon, and much later on a group of Ethiopian Swallows sat on a fence. After a few hours travelling without seeing much we arrived at Mida Creek, where we drove along a track until we reached the edge of the mud flats and a small information centre with some local guides stood outside. A friendly talk with the guides was had before we set out onto the mud flats to see what we could find. The highlight undoubtedly was the 63 Crab Plovers that allowed close approach and wonderful views.
Scanning through with the scopes we also found Terek Sandpipers, comparisons of Lesser and Greater Sandplovers, Greenshank, Grey Plovers, Whimbrel and Eurasian Curlew, ten Black Herons, Greater Flamingos, Yellow-billed Storks, and Dimorphic Egrets of both dark and light phases. Leaving the mud behind us we headed towards our lodge, finding a smart Long Crested Eagle along the way. Once we had arrived at our lodge which was situated right on the beach, we settled into our superb rooms and finally enjoyed some excellent food before retiring to bed.
Day 14 - 10th July
This morning we drove to the Sokoki Forest reserve where we met our local guide, a friend of Steve's. He was already briefed on the species we had seen and was ready to target the reserves many specialities. We soon found Red-capped Robin Chat, Pale Batis and then a small flock which contained Chestnut-fronted Helmet Shrikes, Eastern Nicator and a Black Scimitarbill. One of the most sought after and famous mammals of the reserve are the Golden-rumped Elephant Shrews which are about the size of our European Rabbit! As Basil studied his book a hundred yards in front of us, a few of us were lucky enough to spot one walk across the track just past him, unfortunately Basil never noticed it! Our next target bird was the skulky Four-coloured Bush Shrike which needed a fair bit of working on.
Eventually everyone got excellent views and what a bird it was! Continuing our search we had Little Yellow Flycatcher, a Mangrove Kingfisher which showed well with a Narina Trogon, and then we found a big flock of Chestnut-fronted Helmet Shrikes amongst which were a few of the rare and very restricted endemic Clarke's Weavers, a bird that once it leaves this forest it is not known where it goes. In and around this flock we also saw half a dozen Black Cuckoo-shrikes, a Dark-backed Weaver, plus Eastern Black-headed Oriole, and then three Green Wood-Hoopoes feeding in dead tree. A Scaly-throated Honeyguide was scoped for everyone to see and a brief Green-headed Oriole put in an appearance. To end the morning we also found African Goshawk, AfricanHarrier Hawk and excellent prolonged views of an African Cuckoo-Hawk We then left our guide and returned to our lodge for a super lunch. As we relaxed it was noticed that there were quite a few seabirds way out at sea. Some last minute organisation was made and we got Peter to drive some of us around to a nearby headland. As we scoped through the flocks of seabirds, 'which by the way are quite a rare occurrence on this coast' we noted that mainly consisted of Roseate Terns. With careful scanning we managed to find two White-cheeked Terns and then three Bridled Terns, a few Sooty Terns plus half a dozen Brown Noddies. In the afternoon we returned to the Sokoki Forest, met our guide and then promptly found a Red-tailed Rufous Thrush (Antthrush). It then took a lot of searching before we located a superb and again very rare and restricted bird, the Amani Sunbird, after some frustrating and then great scope views we carried on and then found another gorgeous bird, a male Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher. A female was also present as was a white morph African Paradise Flycatcher and a nice female Forest Batis and Eastern Olive Sunbird, unfortunately for most, a male Plain-backed Sunbird was a little too brief. Finishing the day off we stayed until dusk where a Suni was spotted on the track just before the distinctive call of a Sokoki Scops Owl lead us through a maze of bushes until we finally got to see a rufous phase bird sat just a short distance in front of us! By the time we had actually found it the light had diminished and the views were very poor, so we vowed to return. Driving back through the forest in the dark the headlights picked up some movement and it was here that we all got great views of a Four-toed Elephant Shrew running around on the side of the track. What an excellent way to finish an incredible day.
Day 15 - 11th July
Another early breakfast and we headed back to the Sokoki Forest. As we waited for the guide at the information centre, three much appreciated Trumpeter Hornbills landed in a tree above us. We were soon off taking a different route to yesterday. Not having gone very far at all we stopped and got out to look at a Southern Banded Snake Eagle perched atop a distant tree. While here we heard but did not see a noisy group of Scaly Babblers, but recompense came in the form of a flock of Magpie Starlings flying over. Two Little Sparrowhawks circled around together and then a Great Sparrowhawk flew over. Entering a new area of forest we went in search of East Coast Akalat an extremely difficult and sought after species. It took 2 ½ half hours before we eventually found one bird that would sit there long enough for all of us to see it well. As we walked back satisfied with our conquest we also saw Tiny Greenbul which showed exceedingly well and close, and a Narina Trogon. We then decided to walk another track and here we got superb views of a male Plain-backed Sunbird just 10 ft away! Just myself and Harry added African Pymy Kingfisher to our list before it was time to leave the forest and head for lunch. As we drove along the main road a Bat Hawk put in the briefest of fly bys and despite trying to relocate it, we failed. After lunch we tried for another seawatch and this time we had some very good views of Brown Noddies, a Bridled Tern and up to a hundred Sooty Terns which were way out. More thorough searching through the flocks of Roseate Terns found us a single White-cheeked and a Great Crested Tern. Back to Sokoki Forest and a very showy Mangrove Kingfisher allowed some good digishots, before we got engrossed in a spectacle of colourful butterflies. It was then time to track down the elusive Scaly Babblers which gave a time consuming run around before everyone connected with them. We also managed to see a very close Southern Banded Snake Eagle, while above us two Martial Eagles circled around and an Ayre's Hawk-Eagle was seen. Searching the bushes again we found a very obliging Yellowbill, another Mangrove Kingfisher, Brown-backed Mannikins, Green Barbets, African and Black-hooded Orioles. In another more open spot we had a Scaly-throated Honeyguide which was with a much smaller Pallid Honeyguide, and a close by Mombassa Woodpecker. It was now time to drive to another area of the reserve and wait patiently for dusk. While here an Eastern Bearded Scrub Robin appeared on the track with a Suni just a short distance behind it. As dusk approached we heard several Fiery-necked Nightjars calling and after a short walk into the forest we got excellent views of a Sokoki Scops Owl just 10 feet away - Fantastic! Back into the minibus we slowly returned back through the forest tracks. A short stop then turned into a night time scramble through the thickets until we eventually came across a calling African Barred Owlet which showed superbly above us. A real surprise as we continued to drive out was a couple of Forest Elephants which were initially on the track in front of us. This species of Elephant seldom gets seen. We eventually got back to our lodge for a late dinner. Although tired we were all very content that we had seen some very difficult, rare and very restricted species making all the hard work very worth while.
Day 16 - 12th July
This morning we had breakfast, loaded the bus and set of towards a small estuary. As we wound our way through a tiny village and out to the estuary edge, we parked up and immediately spotted a flock of Magpie Starlings flying over. Once out of the vehicle we found more perched in the bushes with several Black-bellied Starlings. In the reeds we scoped some Grosbeak Weavers and on the estuary itself we found Common Sandpiper, and a nice White-fronted Plover plus a few Curlew Sandpipers. As we made our way across the mud we suddenly noticed three fantastic African Skimmers coming towards us. They performed wonderfully close, and we even saw them skimming their beaks through the water just as their name suggests. Continuing on we noted more Curlew Sandpipers, Lesser Sandplovers, Greenshank and a perched Saunders Tern. Out amongst the more distant tern roost we noted Greater and Lesser Crested Terns, Roseate's, more Saunders and then four huge Caspian Terns. Sooty Gulls numbered hundreds with a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls scattered amongst them. At one point an Osprey scared everything into the air, it then joined in with a flight of Pink-backed Pelicans and disappeared into the distance. We also noted Sacred Ibis and African Spoonbills, Yellow-billed Storks plus Little Stint, Kittlitz's Plover and on the sea shore several Sanderling and Ringed Plover. Getting closer to the tern flock we searched through and had excellent views of Greater Crested, hundreds of Lesser Crested, Roseate's, Saunders and two Gull-billed Terns. Two Knob-billed Ducks then flew over, several Collared Pratincoles were scrutinised and a Dimorphic Egret was seen. Where the river met the sea we were very surprised to notice a Hippo popping its head up every now and again, it seemed very out of place! Returning back to the sand dunes we came across lots more Collared Pratincoles and amongst them a single Madagascar Pratincole. There were also a few Spur-winged Plovers scattered around. Still in the sand dunes we found a very nice Deiderik Cuckoo, Purple-banded Sunbird, Coastal Cisticolas,Zanzibar Red Bishop and another flock of the frustratingly elusive yet noisy Scaly Babblers. Moving on from here a posh hotel refused to let us in to buy some cold drinks - can you believe it! Nearby we arrived at an area of salt pans where no sooner than we had walked fifty yards we noted a high pitched call which was instantly different to the familiar harsher call of African Pipit. Two birds were seen to land on the track and once scoped we could see the distinctive streaks going all the way down to the flanks and even on the trousers, also a bright yellow lower mandible, greyer appearance, mottled mantle and distinct supercilium. All these features pointed to us having found the very restricted and endangered Malindi Pipit. As Steve got some rare and excellent photos of this species the rest of us continued a walk along a raised embankment. Here we found Black-winged Stilts, Little Stints, Red-billed Teals, Greenshank, a Marsh Sandpiper, Ruff, Kittlitz's Plover and Lesser Sandplovers. There was also a fly over Greater Cormorant and four more Knob-billed Ducks, while at the far end of the pans were a group of Whiskered Terns, some close Greater Flamingos and two Glossy Ibis. We then drove to Malindi airport where we said good bye to our perfect driver and friend Peter, who was an absolute asset to our tour. We soon caught our return flight to Nairobi where we saw Kiliomanjaro above the clouds. An hour's journey saw us arrive at Nairobi where we were met by another driver who took us to Maxwell's Acadamy. As some of the group opted to rest, a few of us went for a thirty minute final birdwatch in the grounds. The first tree we came to held White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher, Brown Parisoma, Chin-spot Batis, and a young Gabar Goshawk which showed well, while down beside the small pond we found a small flock of Dusky Turtle Doves, Grey-headed Kingfisher and as we waited to see what came down to drink we were treated to views of Cape Robin Chat, African Citrils, Yellow-rumped Seedeater, Specke's and Baglafecht'sWeavers, Crimson-rumped Waxbill, Bronze Mannikins, Bronze Sunbirds, Red-chested Sunbird, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Three-banded Plover, and Hammercop. Also coming down to drink right in front of us were White-rumped and Little Swifts, Red-rumped and Lesser Striped Swallows, Rock and Plain Martin. And to finish off, the final new bird of our tour was a very bright, male Brimstone Canary. After our final meal, we collected our luggage together and set off to Nairobi Airport, where we said our goodbye's to Steve, who was without doubt one of the finest bird guides you are ever likely to meet. His great sense of humour and unparalleled birding skills certainly set our Kenya tour in a class above the rest.
On behalf of myself and the rest of our group I thank him!