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A backpacker birding report on: Kenya ,
a report about a birding trip mainly outside national parks by means of public transport
24 January - 14 April 1996 and 15
December - 29 December 1996
Public Transport and Accommodation
Useful information, books etc
Information about birding sites
Other books and information
The sites (in chronological
Naivasha, Nyahururu (and Thompson Falls), Lake Baringo, Kakamega Forest, Sirikwa Safaris Camp, Kongolei Road, Kongolei village, Marich Pass, Maralal, Isiolo, Mt Kenya (Chogoria route), Thika, Malindi, Sokoke Forest, Kwale (Shimba Hill NP boundary), Wasini Island, Mtito Andei (Tsavo NP boundary), Sultan Hamud, Athi River, Lake Magadi, Kisumu, Port Victoria
Kenya is one of the best birding countries in the world with a list of about 1200 species. As a destination for a (short) birding holiday Kenya is maybe the best country in the world. The main reason for this is that birding is delightfully easy (a lot of open habitat and incredible high species density for open habitat) and as a bonus one can easily see a lot of mammal species. Especially the last reason has made Kenya a very popular country for all tourists and therefore the national parks have become quite expensive, although not as expensive as neighbouring countries Uganda and Tanzania. Entree for the parks varies from 10 to 27 US$ per day excluding prices for vehicles which in most cases are obligatory (exceptions are Hells Gate NP; Saiwa Swamp NP; Mt. Kenya NP. where one is allowed to walk, even without a guide). Apart from Park fees and Organised Safaris Kenya is still a very cheap country.
I had two goals for a one year trip to East Africa: To travel around and see the countries and the birds. The other reason was I wanted to work for the environment in East Africa and get some experience what it is like to work in a different culture (Kenya). First I was travelling around for half a year in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi, mainly watching birds (about 820 species) and then I was working for half a year at Moi University in Eldoret as a lecturer in Industrial Pollution Control and Public Health Engineering. I simply had one of the best years of my life so far.
To get there I flew with Gulf Air, which was the cheapest company who issued one-year open return tickets as far as I knew (about 900 US$, note: the US$ has raised 21% value since then). While I was there I met a lot of people who flew with Air France which had cheap offers for three-month return tickets (667 US$). Bear in mind that it is not a very good idea to arrive at night time in Nairobi as taxis are asking astronomical prices because they know you are desperate to safely reach a place to sleep (the town is DANGEROUS at night!!). If you arrive at daytime you might be able to go to Naivasha the same day (as I did).
When one needs to travel low-budget and wants to see a great list of birds, Kenya is still the best of the (East) African countries. Most of the habitats are quite open and birds are easy to find. Also infrastructure is not bad for East African standards, and Public Transport can take you practically anywhere (accessibility is a bit better when compared to Uganda and Tanzania). The climate is also quite pleasant virtually all year round (especially compared to tropical countries in South America and South-east Asia where humidity is a lot higher and heat is much harder to bear). In most of the areas I didn't even sweat while watching birds. Exceptions where the heat makes birding in the afternoons unpleasant and not very productive are: the Rift-valley lowlands and Coastal Kenya (the worst are the months January till April). The main reason for the mild climate is that a relatively large area of East Africa is around 1000 meters above sea-level. Birding in the hot areas is by consequence only spectacular in the early mornings.
Birdfamilies which are particularly well represented are: Eagles, Shrikes, Sunbirds, Rollers, Bee-eaters, Starlings, Hornbills and Weavers.
The best birding sites I visited are basically the top birding sites for Kenya apart from the National Parks: Kakamega Forest; Lake Baringo; The road to Kongolei; Isiolo; Sokoke Forest; Mtito Andei (Tsavo NP. boundary); Athi River and Kisumu. But also quite interesting were: Nyahururu; Mt. Kenya; Lake Naivasha; Wasini Island; and Port Victoria. Besides these sites I visited a few other sites.
With a car and good information it is possible to see around 700 species in one month! (Try that in "the bird continent": South America....). Kenya is one of the few countries where attempts were made to set the 24 hrs twitching worldrecords. Without a car things are of course not that easy. Without going on any organised safari and without entering the national parks (apart from Mt. Kenya) and without a vehicle I still saw 625 species in a little more than three months. It is very much recommended to visit Uganda if you have the time and money (it is somewhat more expensive than Kenya). Because Uganda has more tropical rainforest and geographically (for birds) lies more in the West African region a lot of species can be added to your list. The country is just as safe or safer than Kenya except for some areas in the North where rebels oppose the government.
One thing about birding on foot struck me while I was in East Africa and in Kenya in particular: Most of the people are living in the urban areas, very much scattered over the land. You'll find many huts in the middle of nowhere. I always operate on foot from a village nearby a suitable habitat and found many times that the villages never seemed to come to an end. Sometimes this can be quite disturbing as you'll find a bunch of kids following you everywhere or people staring at you all the time.
I had some help from local people when I was there. Quite crucial information about birds in the Kisumu area I got from Tom Mboya (usually around at hippo-point). Leonard (one of the guides of Kakamega forest) who was quite familiar with most of the sounds of the rainforest birds and sites for some specialities. Alex and David, two birders at Gede Forest Station (Sokoke Forest) where very helpful. I was very grateful when David offered me a seat in a Landrover on an excursion to spot the very rare Sokoke Scops Owl, of which they knew the roosting locations so that I could get views of the species well before dusk.
Public Transport and Accommodation
I found the public transport in East Africa effective but slow and bad in 'service' (compared to Central and South America and South East Asia). The matatu's as, the small public service vehicles are called, are always incredibly overloaded. As the Lonely Planet guide states: "the word full has no meaning in Kenya". The roads are quite bad and finally the drivers often drive like madmen. The major risk of going on a long trip in Africa is without any doubt the (public) transport, if it is to be compared with the always exaggerated risks of molest, robbery and (tropical) illness. But the good thing about Kenya is that you can get practically everywhere. If there's no Peugeots or Nissans because there're not enough customers and the road is too bad, there's usually a few trucks or a pickup going per day. Travelling by public means is still fairly cheap: count roughly on 1 US$ for 40 km by matatu or cheaper for long distances (Nairobi-Mombassa express (bus) for instance is about 7 US$). But, if you don't watch what local people are paying you might be in for 'mzungu-prices'= white peoples-prices. Apart from express busses (for long distances between main cities) all of the vehicles are only leaving when completely overloaded (or full if you're lucky in some busses) you might find you have to wait for too long for a short drive to the next village. Breakdowns of minibuses, matatu's and busses are also very common. As a result I would say that because of this the birder without a car needs a lot of time.
Accommodation in most of the non-touristic places can be obtained from 3 to 5 US$ a night although it is usually quite grotty and the toilets and showers (if they have them) are sometimes hard to tell apart. Of course in the cities and the touristic places there's good accommodation available for higher prices.
In most small villages there's at least a cheap but grotty place to stay. Meals can be obtained for 2 US$ and I found the food basic but good and clean and not too fatty most of the time.
Useful information, books etc.
1. Zimmerman D. A.; Turner D. A. ; Pearson D. J.; Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania; Russel Friedman Books; 1996
2. Williams J.G.; Arlott N.; A Fieldguide of the Birds of East Africa; Collins; 1980
3. Van Perlo B.; Collins Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of Eastern Africa; Collins; 1995
4. Sinclair I; Hayman P.; Arlott N. et al.; Illustrated Guide to the Birds of Southern Africa; New Holland; 1993 (reprint 1995) ('Sasol' guide).
The best fieldguide of the region (1) can hardly be called a field guide, it is more like a handbook: 740 pages and large size (27 x 18 cm) make the book so bulky that a backpacker would think twice carrying it. Nevertheless it is a very good guide. I would say the first satisfactory guide of the region that is complete and has (more than) enough information.
The book came out in Kenya in August 1996 and therefore too late for me to use it while birding, I bought it after the birding trip in January 1997 in Nairobi for around 3000 Ksh (US$ 55.50).
During my birding I used the Williams and when my Williams got stolen I used the Van Perlo, which I bought in Nairobi. Also I used the 'Sasol' guide, when a bird was also South African.
The Williams has some good information but lacks illustrations of almost half of the birds and is far too brief about the birds which are not illustrated.
The Van Perlo is small and light has all the birds illustrated (also of Uganda and Tanzania) but lacks (vital) information and has illustrations which can cause wrong determinations. It is actually not a fieldguide but an illustrated checklist and one has to bear in mind that Van Perlo is more of an artist than an ornithologist. Greenbuls will be wrongly identified when one uses this book and the Cisticola's and Larks and Pipits are not accurate enough for identification.
The South African Birdguide is excellent and maybe even among the best birdguides of the world. The problem is that this books does not cover the area sufficiently so you need an additional guide.
Information about birding sites
This trip was aimed mainly on sites outside the national parks. Birding in national parks is very expensive and can not be done on foot (I prefer birding on foot). Most national parks do not allow people to walk in them. One needs a car which is unbelievably expensive or one has to go on an organised safari which is not cheap and also not too satisfactory for a birder as the vehicle does not stop for birds other than big or colourful ones that are nearby. Most national parks are not fenced off completely (for good wildlife management reasons) and usually have the same habitat around them, which means you can see the birds also outside the parks. The mammals are largely withdrawn in the national parks and I had some indications that one generally sees more birds inside the parks: In Tanzania I went on a safari for mammals and was very surprised about the richness of birds in the parks. And along the border of Tsavo national park I birded where mammals where also around and the number of species in a small piece of dry scrub was higher than anywhere else.
Because my trip was mainly to sites outside national parks and without a car I needed good information about easy accessible sites:
The travel report I used was:
Potts, J E and Marsden, S.; Birding in Kenya without a car; may 4th - July 30th 1986, Although 10 years old I found the report excellent and very useful, because most of the sites were still much the same and they're still the best birding sites for a low-budget-birder on foot.
The reports that these authors (later referred to as
P&M) took with them and recommended are:
Kelsey et al.: Birds of Sokoke and Kenyan coast
Whitehouse: Birding in Kenya
They also used: Moore R.: Where to watch birds in Kenya. A second report I took with me was: Wilkinson, R; Irvin, S.; An itinerant naturalist's guide to finding birds & mammals in Kenya (and the best bits of Uganda); April 3 - June 20 1993.
I hardly used it. It contains virtually only the major touristic sites (national parks) which I rarely visited and there was hardly any information on where to find some interesting species of birds. It contains some interesting information about mammals when you have your own car, and there is only little information about Uganda.
When one is determined to visit some national parks. There is a nice guide about national parks of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda with good information, maps, checklists of mammals and birds also site information on some interesting species:
Other books and information
The best travel guide for the backpacker is as usual: the lonely planet guide. They give the essential information about public transport; accommodation and restaurants one would like to know particularly of small places that not so many people are interested in. Besides that it has a lot of useful information that one usually misses in other travel guides.
Kenya; Lonely Planet; Travel survival kit; or
East Africa Lonely Planet; Travel survival kit;
Trekking in East Africa; Lonely Planet; Walking guide
National Parks of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania; Collins
The East Africa guide has all the information of the guide about Kenya and is only a little more expensive, so especially when you go for a longer period I would certainly recommend the East African guide it has some useful information about Uganda and Tanzania. The trekking guide has detailed information about Mt. Kenya; Mt. Kilimanjaro (Tanzania); Rwenzoris and Mt. Elgon (Uganda); and the most important mountain areas in Malawi.
Nairobi has several good bookshops (see Lonely planet guides) where one can still buy all books if you change your mind about what you need. There are also many mammal guides in these bookshops.
The map I used was:
Roadmap Kenya; Tanzanie; Ouganda; 1:2 000 000; Freytag & Berndt
I chose this one because I also visited Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi (which are also (partly) covered on this map) I believe I have seen a slightly better maps. Marich Pass is not on this map; Pt. Victoria is called Pt. Bunyala on this map.
2) Fisherman's Camp (Lake Naivasha) 26-29/1/96
3) Nyahururu (+ Thompson Falls) 30-31/1/96
4) Lake Baringo 1-4/2/96
5) Kakamega Forest 7-16/2/96
6) Sirikwa Safaris Camp 17/2/96
7) Kongolei Road 18-19/2/96
8) Kongolei 20/2/96
9) Marich Pass 22-23/2/96
10) Nyahururu (+ Thompson Falls) 27-28/2/96
11) Maralal 29/2/96 + 1/3/96
12) Isiolo 3-4/3/96
13) Mt. Kenya (Chogoria route) 6/3/96
14) Mt. Kenya 7-10/3/96
15) Thika 13/3/96
16) Malindi 16-17/3/96
17) Sokoke Forest 19+21/3/96
18) Kwale (Shimba Hills NP boundary) 24-25/3/96
19) Wasini Island 26-27/3/96
20) Mtito Andei (Tsavo NP boundary) 29-30/3/96
21) Sultan Hamud 31/3/96 + 1/4/96
22) Athi River 2-3/4/96
23) Lake Magadi 5/4/96
24) Kisumu 8-11/3/96
25) Port Victoria 13-14/3/96
After this I went to Uganda but that is a different story. Please contact the DBTRS for this report.
I also visited Tanzania (no report) and Malawi (report at the DBTRS).
The sites (in chronological order)
Common birds that can be seen at many sites are of course not indicated. To name a few that can not be missed when the right habitat is visited:
Grey Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Hamerkop, Squacco Heron, White Stork, Sacred Ibis, Marabou, Black Kite, Black-winged Kite, Kestrel, Helmeted Guineafowl, Crested Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Spur-winged Plover, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Whiskered Tern, Laughing Dove, Namaqua Dove, Swift, Little Swift, Eurasian Bee-eater, Pied Kingfisher, Malachite Kingfisher, Hoopoe, Common Bulbul, Stonechat, House Sparrow, Red-billed Firefinch, Black-headed Heron, Marabou, Gabar Goshawk, Red-eyed Dove, Didric Cuckoo, Klaas's Cuckoo, White-browed Coucal, African Palm Swift, Little Swift, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Lilac-breasted Roller, Wire-tailed Swallow, African Pied Wagtail, African Paradise Flycatcher, Hadada, African Harrier-hawk, African Goshawk, African Little Sparrowhawk, Long-crested Eagle, African Jacana, Blacksmith Plover, Crowned Plover, Speckled Pigeon, African Mourning Dove, Ring-necked Dove, Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, Speckled Mousebird, Woodland Kingfisher, Little Bee-eater, Green Wood-hoopoe, Lesser Honeyguide, Mosque Swallow, Lesser Striped Swallow, Richard's Pipit, Tawny-Flanked Prinhia, Common Camaroptera, Northern Crombec, Chin-spot Batis, Variable Sunbird, Yellow White‑eye, Bronze Mannikin, African Black-headed Oriole, Brubru, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Tropical Boubou, Grey-backed Fiscal, Common Fiscal, African Drongo, Superb Starling, Grey-headed Sparrow, Rufous Sparrow, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, White-headed Buffalo-Weaver, Red-billed Quelea.
This list contains a few migrants from Europe that are common, these birds can only be seen during the palearctic winter or early spring and late autumn.
Good birds and specialities for the site are marked in bold font, when a not very common or hard to spot bird is recorded the number of individuals of the total occasions the bird is spotted are behind the name between brackets.
Naivasha (Map 1) 24-25/1/96
This place has quite good birding. Although I recorded no 'specialities'. You can reach this place directly by Nissan (minibus) from Nairobi. The best thing to do is to walk the dirt road past the railway in the edge of town (see Map 1). Turn left from the main road to Nairobi. Keep right and the path will continue to the lake. You can actually not see the lake itself because the papyrus beds are blocking your view, but there are usually some fishermen around who can take you through the beds on a boat trip (for around 2 US$, this is not a touristic site at all, prices may be very different when you are there).You can have a look at this part of the lake which is the richest I think. It was full of birds when I was there. There were also a few Hippo's around, and I didn't see them at Fisherman's camp.
Track towards the Lake:
Scarlet Breasted Sunbird; Grey Hornbill; Fiscal Shrike; Grey Backed Fiscal; Northern BruBru; Eurasian Cuckoo, Purple Grenadier, Hoopoe, Hobby, Gabar Goshawk, Black-winged Kite, African Pygmy Falcon (1) (no other birders I met saw this bird here), Kestrel, Red-eyed Dove, Marabou, African Mourning Dove, Yellow-collared Lovebird, Fischers Lovebird (also hybrids between Yellow-collared and Fischer's Lovebird suspected), White-fronted Bee-eater (many; best site for this bird), Green Wood-hoopoe, Diedrick Cuckoo, Grey-backed Fiscal, Baglafecht Weaver, Red-headed Weaver.
Also in the area I saw:
White-headed Barbet, Nubian Woodpecker, Mosque Swallow, Cape Wagtail, Arrow-marked Babbler, Red-winged Starling, Crowned Plover.
P&M claimed Wahlbergs Honeyguide in the acacia trees along the old road to Fisherman's camp.
At the lake:
Cormorant, Long-tailed Cormorant, Glossy Ibis, Yellow-billed Stork, Greater Flamingo, Egyptian Goose, Crested Coot, Common Snipe, Gull-billed Tern, Whiskered Tern, African Spoonbill, Grey-headed Gull, Yellow-billed Duck, Red-billed Duck, Hottentot Teal, African Harrier-hawk, Black Crake, Long-toed Plover. (P&M saw White-backed Duck; Spur-winged Goose; Saddle-billed Stork)
Fisherman's Camp 26-29/1/96
The place is on the South-east bank of the Lake. This is a wonderful relaxing place to camp with quite a lot of birds around. If you walk a few hundred meters on the road to the west there are paths which lead to more reed and papyrus beds around the lake (no good views of the lake). There are busses from Naivasha that can drop you of at Fisherman's Camp.
Goliath Heron (1), African Little Sparrowhawk, Augur Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, African Fish Eagle, Verreaux's Eagle-Owl (2; the birds were in the trees next to the campsite office just like 10 years ago according to Pott's & Marsden), Marsh Sandpiper, Grey-rumped Swallow, Malachite Kingfisher, Lesser Swamp Warbler, Singing Cisticola, Black-lored Babbler, White-bellied Black Tit, Rueppell's Long-tailed Starling, Speke's Weaver, Lesser Masked Weaver, Yellow Bishop, Northern Anteater Chat
Hell's gate NP
It is quite a long walk to this National Park from F. Camp. If you are lucky like me you may get a ride to the park entrance.
One of the very few national parks where you can walk. Though it does not compare to other national parks as far as the birdlife and the animals (and from this point of view it was an expensive birding site) I saw:
Verreaux's Eagle (1); Rüppell's Vulture (many), Horus Swift, African Black Swift, Egyptian Vulture, Hildebrandt's Francolin (2).
Nyahururu (and Thompson Falls, Map 2) 27-28/2/96
This is not a well known birding site but it was surprisingly good birding. You shouldn't miss the place. The town and the Fall's (a touristic attraction and in most of the travel guides) are some 2700 m. high. Which means that the rainforest around the falls hold a few highland species. I discovered a small swampy area as I walked stream upwards from the falls. (See Map 2) There's a path which goes over a small bridge and passes the sewage-treatment system (good for ducks). The path eventually leads back to town. Don't stay at the campsite of the lodge as they'll rip you off . There are a lot of cheap hotels in town and you can walk the path from town to the falls past the interesting swampy area the reverse way.
The wastewater treatment plant:
Little Grebe, Shoveller, Tufted Duck, Crested Coot, Yellow-billed Duck, Southern Pochard.
The swampy area (see Map 2):
African Black Duck (3), Night Heron, Long-tailed Widowbird (100+, they were gathering in large flocks when I was there), Levaillant's Cisticola (2), Red-throated Wryneck (1), Giant Kingfisher (1, near the bridge over the main road), Black Crake, Three-banded Plover, African Snipe (1, together with common snipes), Red-billed Duck, Hottentot Teal, Spotted Crake, Moorhen, Purple Gallinule.
The forest near the falls:
Crowned Eagle (2), Hartlaub's Turaco, Brown Woodland Warbler, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Moustached Green Tinkerbird, Black Saw-wing, Golden-winged Sunbird, Common Robin-chat, Slender-billed Starling, Abyssinian Crimsonwing, Montane White-eye, African Rook (in village), Thick-billed Seedeater.
Lake Baringo (Map 3) 1-4/2/96 + 24-26/12/97
This is a famous place for birding and even the local people have noticed that there are many white people visiting the place just to see birds. The lodge organises expensive birding trips to the cliffs (the most interesting part of the area).
The lodge also sells a booklet "The birds of Lake Baringo" by Terry Stevenson, which contains valuable information about habitat and a detailed checklist for each species with status and information where to find a lot of interesting birds exactly in the area.
The kids in the area can also offer to be a guide (cheap) because they have been following the trips from the lodge they have learned a lot from the professional birders. But I went on my own because I am not particularly fond of guides. Nevertheless I met a kid who pointed out a roosting Pennant-winged Nightjar, although he wrongly identified it, I was of course very grateful. The best thing to do is to walk to the cliffs (see Map 3) very early (start well before sunrise) because it is a three quarters of an hours walk and it gets very hot in the late morning, so most of the birds are only active in the early morning.
The area north of the village close to the lake is good habitat for Heuglin's Courser this nocturnal bird can be extremely difficult to find. There are sometimes kids around who know a nesting site for a little money they will show you the bird. In this area we saw:
Heuglin's Courser (1 on nest), White-crested Helmet-shrike, Verreaux's Eagle-Owl (1), Star-spotted Nightjar (1 roosting), Red-rumped Swallow, Spotted Morning-thrush. It is also a good site for Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse.
Great White Pelican, Pink-backed Pelican, Goliath Heron, Squacco Heron, Yellow-billed Stork, Greater Flamingo, Egyptian Goose, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Greater Sand Plover, Kittlitz's Plover, Temminck's Stint, Little Stint, Sanderling, Common Snipe, Gull-billed Tern, African Spoonbill, Lesser Flamingo, African Fish Eagle, Yellow-billed Duck, Red-billed Duck, Three-banded Plover.
The cliffs and the area between the cliffs and the village:
Black-winged Kite, Shikra, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Lanner Falcon, Lesser Kestrel, Laughing Dove, Namaqua Dove, Alpine Swift, Black-headed Plover, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (in Summer Madagascar Bee-eater is more common), Rufous-crowned Roller, African Harrier-hawk, African Pygmy Falcon (1), African Mourning Dove, Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, White-bellied Go-way-bird, White-faced Scops-owl (3; a family) , Pennant-winged Nightjar (1), Blue-naped Mousebird, African Grey Hornbill, Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Jackson's Hornbill, Red-billed Hornbill, Hemprich's Hornbill (1), Red-fronted Tinkerbird, D'Arnaud's Barbet, Red-and-yellow Barbet, Red-fronted Barbet, Black-throated Barbet, Fawn-coloured Lark, Pink-breasted Lark, Lesser Striped Swallow, Mocking Cliff Chat, Brown-tailed Chat, Brown-backed Scrub-robin, White-browed Scrub-robin, Red-fronted Warbler, Olive tree Warbler, Grey Flycatcher, Rufous Chatterer, Northern Grey Tit, Mouse-coloured Penduline Tit, Beautiful Sunbird, Slate-coloured Boubou, Northern White-crowned Helmet-shrike, Bristle-crowned Starling, Magpie Starling, Fan-tailed Raven, Blue‑capped Cordon‑blue, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, White-billed Buffalo-Weaver, Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver, White-headed Buffalo-Weaver, Eastern Golden Weaver, Little Weaver, Compact Weaver, Baglafecht Weaver, Red-headed Weaver, Green-winged Pytilia.
Kakamega Forest (Map 4) 7-16/2/96 + 18-21/12/96
This is one of the best birding places in Kenya as it holds the last piece of rainforest. You'll have to take time for it though as a few interesting species are not easy to get. There are around 60 species here that are almost impossible to get anywhere else in Kenya. I took 10 days for the area and if you're not visiting Uganda and will stay three months in Kenya, that is certainly not too long. If you are going to Uganda (which is certainly recommended if you are in East Africa for three months or more), I wouldn't worry about a few birds who are difficult or not too easy here but fairly easy in Uganda: Grey Parrot (the last record by the quite competent birding guides of the forest reserve dated back at least a year); Hairy Breasted Barbet; Black Billed Turaco (although quite possible if you are there in the wet and have you're own car to be able to drive to Ikuywa River in order to be there early in the morning); Buff spotted Woodpecker; Pink-footed Puffback; Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher; Green Hylia; Olive green Camaroptera and Sabine's Spinetail. But certainly go for the following species (even if you go to Uganda): Blue-headed Bee-eater (this is the only place in East Africa to see it); African Broadbill (not difficult to hear but hard to find); Jameson's Wattle-eye; Yellow-bellied Wattle-eye (I noted that I saw this species only in December, but then on several occasions and some individuals together); Brown Chested Alethe (easy here); Blue Shouldered Robinchat (fairly easy here, try to make a whistle of 7 clear whistling notes that are descending); Turners Eremomela (a rare species, this is the best place to see it).
Access is via Kakamega to take a matatu to Shinyalu and from there either hitch or hike the 8 kms signposted in the village to the forest station (see Map 4). If you take a taxi mind the price, don't spoil the market. As a birder you should take some time for this place and buy some supplies in Kakamega. Supplies are rather scarce and more expensive in the forest. There is a wooden hut which is called 'canteen' close to the guesthouse where you can get a basic nice meal (not cheap) if you order in advance. The place is not only fantastic birding but wonderful to have a nice rest and a good chat with other travellers it is becoming more and more popular and the guesthouse is usually booked. The very friendly people of the forest department will do their best to give you a dry place to sleep somewhere close if you have no tent. There is no electricity and water is pumped up from a stream in the forest (treat it). Sometime in May or June 1996 local people have decided to start an eco-tourism project to let local people benefit from the forest in a different way then by cutting down wood and destroying this unique place. Now one should register and pay a fee of 200 Ksh for access in the forest for one day. Although you might feel uncomfortable with the idea to pay to watch birds this may be a good measure to slow down the destruction of the forest which is going at alarming high rate. Local people are not allowed to take wood other then branches that have been fallen off. The forest is right in the middle of one of the most densely populated area in Kenya and the people are very poor and need firewood. For the moment the tea plantations around the forest are not providing them with enough money and they still cut down trees. Unless the local people are not benefiting from tourism the place is definitely doomed, so please pay! The fee for a guide is up to you there are some good guides by the name of Wilberforce and Leonard which can help you find some of the more difficult birds, they know sounds and where to look exactly.
The birds I saw (please bear in mind that I was there for almost two weeks, you can not expect to see this in two days, when a number is stated it is the total of individuals of all occasions):
Buzzard, Marabou, White-throated Bee-eater, Black Goshawk, White-spotted Flufftail (1 seen but easily heard), Blue-spotted Wood Dove, Tambourine Dove, African Green Pigeon, Yellowbill, Great Blue Turaco, Ross's Turaco, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Bar-tailed Trogon, Blue-headed Bee-eater, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, White-headed Wood-hoopoe, Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill, Crowned Hornbill, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Grey-throated Barbet, Yellow-billed Barbet, Hairy-breasted Barbet (3), Double-toothed Barbet (1), Scaly-throated Honeyguide (1), Green-backed Woodpecker, Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Brown-eared Woodpecker, African Broadbill (1), White-headed Saw-wing, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Mountain Wagtail, Black Cuckoo-shrike, Petit's Cuckoo-shrike (1), Purple-throated Cuckoo-shrike (1), Ansorge's Greenbul, Slender-billed Greenbul, Shelley's Greenbul, Yellow-whiskered Greenbul, Joyful Greenbul, Little Greenbul, Common Bristlebill, Olive-mountain Greenbul, Honeyguide Greenbul (2), Yellow-throated Leaflove, Brown-chested Alethe, Equatorial Akalat, White-tailed Ant Thrush, Blue-shouldered Robin-chat, Rueppell's Robin-chat (between the Shinyalu and the forest), African Thrush, Uganda Warbler, Stout Cisticola, Chubb's Cisticola, White-chinned Prinhia, Banded Prinhia, Black-faced Rufous Warbler, Black-collared Apalis, Olive-green Camaroptera, Turner's Eremomela (5), Green Hylia, Dusky-blue Flycatcher, Banded Wattle-eye, Chestnut Wattle-eye, Jameson's Wattle-eye, Yellow-bellied Wattle-eye, Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher (3), Dusky Crested Flycatcher, Scaly-breasted Illadopsis, Pale-breasted Illadopsis, Brown Illadopsis, African Hill-babbler, Dusky Tit, Olive Sunbird, Green Sunbird, Marico Sunbird, Olive-bellied Sunbird (1), Western Black-headed Oriole, Pink-footed Puffback, Grey-green Bush-Shrike, Luehder's Bush-Shrike, Mackinnon's Fiscal, Stuhlmann's Starling, Purple-headed Glossy Starling (1), Square-tailed Drongo, Veillot's Black Weaver, Dark-backed Weaver, Black-necked Weaver, Black-billed Weaver, Brown-capped Weaver, Red-headed Malimbe, Grosbeak Weaver, Yellow-mantled Widowbird, Grey-crowned Blackfinch, White-breasted Blackfinch, Red-headed Bluebill
Sirikwa Safaris Camp 17/2/96
This is a comfortable place to camp if you want to bird on the Kongolei-road. The place is run by an old English (typical colonial-thinking) lady. Although quite expensive: 5 US$, they have hot showers and the local cook can serve superb meals (try the rabbit!!) which are not too expensive. The alternative is to use Makutano as a base. Makutano means junction in Swahili and it is the junction of the Kongolei road and the main Kitale-Kapenguria road. There are numerous small matatu's between Sirikwa's and Makutano also early in the morning. There is at least one guesthouse in Makutano, cheap but no running water. This village is not on most maps. The area has structural water problems (when I was there even the whole Kitale town had no water for one week). But Sirikwa safaris always has water (they collect it from a river). The Camp has also banda's (more expensive of course) and they can arrange hiking trips in the Cherongani Hills and birding trips. To get there you can take a matatu from Kitale to Kapenguria and tell them you want to go off at Sirikwa Safaris (0.7 US$) which is clearly signposted. In the early mornings you can catch matatus on the main road to drop you off further north at Makutano. Even close to the campsite I saw some interesting birds:
Verreaux's Eagle (1), White-throated Bee-eater, Grey Crowned Crane, Striped Kingfisher, Broad-billed Roller (2, probably breeding, follow the dirtroad almost opposite the Sirikwa safaris entrance), Red-faced Cisticola, Grey-capped Warbler, Chestnut Weaver, Splendid Glossy Starling (1).
Kongolei Road 18-19/2/96 + 22-23/12/96
The area has a lot of rain but has good birding when you are on foot. I was there when the wet wasn't supposed to be started but the first morning I had to wait until 9.30 am because of heavy rain.
Black Stork, Hoopoe, Tree Pipit, Fan-tailed Raven, Wire-tailed Swallow, Eastern Chanting Goshawk, Black Goshawk, Martial Eagle (1), Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, Tambourine Dove, Brown Parrot, Ross's Turaco, White-crested Turaco, Mottled Swift, Giant Kingfisher (1), Green Wood-hoopoe, Abyssinian scimitarbill, Levaillants Cuckoo, Crowned Hornbill, African Grey Hornbill, Red-billed Hornbill, Hemprich's Hornbill, D'Arnaud's Barbet, Spot-flanked Barbet, Double-toothed Barbet, Greater Honeyguide, Mosque Swallow, Rock Martin, Black Cuckoo-shrike, Yellow-whiskered Greenbul, African Yellow Warbler, Red-faced Crombec, Grey Flycatcher, Yellow-breasted Hyliota, Brown Babbler, White-bellied Black Tit, Mouse-coloured Penduline Tit, Beautiful Sunbird, Marico Sunbird, Montane Oriole, Sulphur-breasted Bush-Shrike, Slate-coloured Boubou, Slender-billed Starling, Greater Blue-eared Glossy Starling, Lesser Blue-eared Glossy Starling, Chestnut Sparrow, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver, White-headed Buffalo-Weaver, Vittelline Masked Weaver, Chestnut Weaver, Grosbeak Weaver, Green-winged Pytilia, Golden-breasted Rockbunting, Cinnamon-breasted Rockbunting,
Kongolei village 20/2/96
It takes some perseverance to get to this place which is really in the outback of Kenya. There is a truck going everyday no fixed time (you may be waiting for hours, like me). This truck gets completely stuffed with all kinds of materials and 50 people or so. Kongolei has not really a place to stay and also not really has a restaurant but you may survive two days which is more than enough as far as the birds go:
Greater Kestrel (1), Steppe Eagle, Abdim's Stork (flock flying over), Wooly-necked Stork (1), Brown Babbler, Brown Parrot, Eastern Grey Plantain-eater, Red-and-yellow Barbet, Red-fronted Barbet, d'Arnauds Barbet, Spotted Morning-thrush, Abyssinian Scimitarbill, Red-faced Crombec, Pygmy Batis, Yellow-billed Shrike, White-crested Helmet-shrike, Northern White-crowned Helmet-shrike, Speckle-fronted Weaver, Pallid Honeyguide (1).
Marich Pass 22-23/2/96
This is not known as a true birding-site and it didn't produce many birds. Although not on my map it is a site where a few tourists go and it is in the Lonely Planet travel guide. It is situated where the river Morun crosses the Kapenguria-Lokichar road. Together with Maralal I would skip the place, especially when you have little time and are going to visit some game parks.
There is a fieldstudy centre where you can camp or rent a banda (check the lonely planet for details). There is no public transport from here via Sigor and Tot to the Lake Baringo area as I hoped.
White-crested Turaco, Pearl-spotted Owlet (1), Blue-naped Mousebird, Red and Yellow and d'Arnauds Barbets, Double-toothed Barbet, Slate-coloured Boubou, Rufous-crowned Roller, Brown Parrot.
Maralal 29/2/96 + 1/3/96
Although I did see a few birds here that I didn't see in other places and there is also some game to be seen at the sanctuary. It is not a top birding site. If you have little time in Kenya I wouldn't go there. There's no public transport from Lake Baringo to Maralal, although it may be possible to get there hitchhiking. I had to go back to Nakuru and go up via Nyahururu. The road from Maralal to Isiolo is extremely bad but there is a bus linking the to places which goes through Samburu NP and I saw the only Elephant actually outside a national park here together with Grevy's Zebra's.
The good thing about Maralal is that one can relax with a beer while watching mammals and birds at the drinking place of the sanctuary close to an expensive lodge. This place is a mile south from the village, ask the locals. Birds at Maralal:
Montagu's Harrier, Red-throated Pipit, Helmeted Guineafowl, Olive Pigeon, Dusky Turtle Dove, African Scimitarbill, Northern Brownbul, Pallid Flycatcher, White-necked Raven (2), Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Fawn-coloured Lark, Red-billed Oxpecker, Greater Blue eared Starling, Hildebrandt's Starling, Brimstone Canary, Golden Breasted Bunting, Yellow-breasted Apalis.
A good place when you decide to skip Samburu NP. or want to watch birds on foot. There are several cheap guest houses in the place and lots of transport in the Nairobi direction. It is also the place to get transport to Marsabit (an excellent birding area, but when I was there it was not safe). Isiolo is the place to see Rosy Patched Shrike; White Headed Mousebird and Donaldson-Smith Sparrowweaver. There is a wastewater treatment plant close to the village (at the end of the village on your left, when you walk in the Marsabit direction) which has some birds because the surrounding area is rather dry. Although I missed all species of Sandgrouses which where there 10 years ago (Potts & Marsden),
A small dirt-road/ path on the right about 2 km in the Nairobi direction is the best spot for Rosy-patched Shrike. Here I saw:
Booted Eagle (1), Pallid Harrier (2), European Roller, Rosy-patched Shrike (5), Wahlberg's Eagle, Blue-naped Mousebird, White-headed Mousebird, Taita Fiscal, Yellow-spotted Petronia, Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver (several), Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver, Baglafecht Weaver, Red-billed Quelea, Cut-throat, Paradise Whydah, Village Indigobird, Straw-tailed Whydah, Fisher's Sparrowlark, Yellow-spotted Petronia.
P&M also had Black-faced and Lichtenstein's and Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouses in the area.
The wastewater treatment plant:
Little Grebe, Garganey, Dunlin, Black-headed Gull, Marabou, Knob-billed Duck, Hottentot Teal, Southern Pochard.
Mt. Kenya (Chogoria route) 7-10/3/96
From Chogoria Reached by Matatu from either Meru or Nairobi direction. It is a long walk to the forest reserve so I got there too late in the morning and didn't see that many birds although I am sure the place holds a lot of interesting birds because inside the forest reserve it seems to be all primary forest. Just outside Chogoria 2 km. on the road continuing to the Mountain there is a signposted turnoff going up through the rural area to the forest reserve.
You can arrange a porter at the Transit Motel. This mountaineering service you can rely on. It is better to arrange it here rather then in Nairobi (expensive) or in the village Chogoria where people will ask you as soon as you go off the matatu or bus (you'll never know if you can trust them). I paid around 40 US$ for a porter for four days, including his food and camping and park fees, but excluding my own park fee which had to be paid at the gate. The fee is 10 US$ per day plus 8 US$ per night (it doesn't matter if you camp or use the Huts). I didn't pay the porter for the day I was birding around the gate although he has to pay for his food and camping still. The price per day for a porter should be less than 6 US$. But there are some additional costs. It is better to bargain down the price and pay the porter something extra. After all he is doing all the work and he is only earning 4 US$ a day. Camping at the gate is 2 US$.
Climbing Mt. Kenya:
Partly because the landscapes are spectacular and very special I consider this one of the best things to do in Kenya.
I went up and down the Chogoria route though for birds it seems that the Naru Moru route is a lot better. P&M had: Waller's -, Kenrick's - and Abbott's Starlings at the Naru Moru gate and Red Fronted Parrot; Scaly Francolin; Oriole Finch and Moustached Green Tinkerbirds at the lower slopes and Rufous-breasted Sparrowlark and Green Ibis at Met Station.
If you go up the Chogoria route. The first day will be a 30 km climb (far from steep) to the gate unless you are going to camp at the clearing which is already in the bamboo-zone. I decided to continue to the gate where most of the highland species can be seen. The gate is at around 3000 m. and at night it was already freezing. The second day I spend at the gate birding around in the area. It was raining most of the morning. The third day I climbed to Minto's Hut at 4000 m. where there are only a few bird species remaining. I didn't go to Pt. Lenana which is the highest point to be reached without climbing gear, because no birds where to be expected higher than Minto's Hut and I ran out of food and the nights are unbelievably cold on 4000 m. I think it was -10 or -15 °C at night (as it was below zero at 3000 m.) and it was snowing at daytime. You need a good sleeping bag here. Although I have to say that the porters sleep under one blanket! The fourth day I descended to the gate and the fifth day I had a ride down from the gate. In Chogoria village I saw: Pied Babbler (2), Yellow-bellied Waxbill.
Most birds I saw around the park entrance and a little down, possibly because I hurried a little to be sure I would get to the park gate before dawn I didn't see a lot besides a few 'Kakamega forest' species. Crowned Hornbill, Grey Cuckooshrike, Montane White-eye, Crested Francolin,
Brown-throated Sand Martin, Dusky Turtle Dove, Augur Buzzard, Crowned Eagle (3), Jackson's Francolin, Hartlaub's Turaco, Alpine Chat, White-starred Robin, Abyssinian Ground-Thrush, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, Hunter's Cisticola, Copper Sunbird, Tacazze Sunbird, Abyssinian Crimsonwing.
Above the gate:
Mountain Buzzard, African Fish Eagle, Scarlet-tufted Malachite Sunbird; Malachite Sunbird.
Around Minto's Hut and higher the only species I saw were:
Streaky serin; Alpine Chat and Yellow-crowned canary.
After a rest in Embu after Mt. Kenya I went to Thika which is a new site and again it was not that interesting. Although I had information that somewhere close to Thika one can see African Finfoot. I presumed the bird is to be found in the Thika-river. Although the river seemed to hold the suitable habitat I didn't see the bird.
Birds: Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Eastern Golden Weaver, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, African Black Duck.
I used Thika as a base to get things done in Nairobi (since I thoroughly hate Nairobi). There is very regular transportation to and from Nairobi.
This is supposed to be a superb birding area but in March I found all of the interesting ponds around the golf course were dried up. In the wet from June till October there are reports of the following birds: Dwarf Bittern; Blackheaded and Senegal Plovers; Collared Pratincole; Harlequin and Blue Quails; African Crake; Pygmy Goose; Madagascar Squacco Heron; Madagascar bee-eater and Madagascar Pratincole (in the dunes).
I walked along the beach to the Sabaki River mouth. Later I heard that people have been mugged on this beach. Beaches all over Kenya and especially Tanzania are not safe! Birds:
Great White Heron, Yellow-billed Stork, Greater Flamingo, Crab Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Greater Sand Plover, Lesser Sandplover, Grey Plover, European Lapwing (1 an extremely rare vagrant. Probably the first record in Kenya! The bird behaved psychotic: it was constantly attacking other birds), Sanderling, Turnstone, Terek Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Sooty Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Caspian Tern, Crested Tern, Lesser Crested Tern, Little Tern, Tree Pipit, Black-crowned Tchagra, African Palm Swift, White-throated Bee-eater, Three-banded Plover, White-fronted Plover, Carmine Bee-eater, Rufous Scrub-robin, Chestnut-backed Sparrow-lark, Tropical Boubou, Village Indigobird.
Sokoke Forest (map 5) 19+21/3/96
This is a top birding site. Probably a lot better than you might think judging from my list of species.
Because I was accommodated in Malindi I couldn't get here early in the early morning which is essential as this is a hot area. The alternative is to get yourself accommodated in Watamu. To get at Sokoke Forest from Malindi get a bus or matatu to Mombassa and tell them you want to get off at Sokoke Forest. If you ask for Gede Forest Station they might drop you at Gede which is not exactly where you want to be (if they don't know ask them to drop you at Mida (this is just a few houses, not even a village).
Birds: Hobby, Eurasian Bee-eater, White-throated Bee-eater, African Hobby, Fisher's Turaco, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Sokoke Scops-owl (2), Fiery-necked Nightjar (1), Narina's Trogon (2), Carmine Bee-eater, Red-tailed Ant Thrush, Black-headed Apalis, Ashy Flycatcher, Little Yellow Flycatcher, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Forest Batis, Plain-backed Sunbird, Mouse-coloured Sunbird, African Golden Oriole, Zanzibar Sombre Greenbul, African Scimitarbill, Eastern bearded Scrub-robin, Green Barbet, Black-backed Puffback, Tropical Boubou, Retz's Helmet-shrike, Chestnut-fronted Helmet-shrike, Black-headed Weaver, Dark-backed Weaver, Black-bellied Glossy-starling.
P&M saw African Pitta at a site behind the Gedi Ruins in summer (this bird is only here in summer).
Kwale (Shimba Hill NP boundary, Map 6) 24-25/3/96
This village can be reached direct from Mombassa (Likoni) by bus (0.5 US$). On the edge of town I found a guesthouse which had water (5 US$, not cheap). Just 200 m. further is the Elephant-grid which is actually the park-boundary, about 4 km from the gate. You can thus walk in the park without paying the 20 US$ park entree. Be careful there are a lot of elephants in the park, they can be very dangerous. This is one of the few places where you will never meet other pedestrians, simply because local people fear the elephants (some accidents have occurred). I walked here a few times without seeing an elephant but the droppings were everywhere and the cars that passed me repeatedly warned me that I was risking my life.
Recordings I made from the main road are not complete because I lost my notes of this part of my trip:
Hooded Vulture (7), European Hobby, Lizard Buzzard (1), Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, White-eared Barbet, Green Barbet, Zanzibar Sombre Greenbul, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Red-tailed Ant Thrush, Little Purple-banded Sunbird, Green-headed Oriole (1), Black-bellied Glossy Starling, Flapped Lark.
P&M claimed: Boehm's Spinetail and Tiny Cisticola in the area.
Wasini Island 26-27/3/96
It is a beautiful place has a few good birds and fantastic snorkelling. I joined the divers for snorkelling because they were going to two different sites and spend more time in the Marine park. Though the second part of the reef they were going was a bit too deep (about 10 m., with a strong current) this was made good by a pair of Dolphins who were playful swimming around me (I could almost touch them). Snorkelling is quite expensive here around 20 US$ if you stay at Rashoods restaurant because you're allowed to pay the resident price then. The price is including park fee, boat trip, and snorkelling mask but no fins, because there were too many people standing on the coral or whirling up sand onto the coral. You can however rent fins in the village and bring them if you know how to use them properly. Rashood has a restaurant with expensive bandas but you can camp there cheaply. For 4 US$ you can have the most amazing dinner here. Don't think 4 US$ is too expensive, in half a year East Africa and four different countries I never had a better dinner and I rarely had a better one ever.
Western Reef Heron, Black Heron, Peregrine, Crab Plover, Terek Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Gull-billed Tern, Crested Tern, Wooly-necked Stork, Palmnut Vulture, Senegal Plover, Brown-headed Parrot, Mottled Spinetail, Ethiopian Swallow, Winding Cisticola.
Mtito Andei (Tsavo NP boundary, Map 7) 29-30/3/96
This is a very bird rich area were you can walk along the park boundary of Tsavo west NP. There are no fences around the park so you can expect to see some game while you're birding. I think I would even visit the place if I would have been in the Park in a vehicle because I think birding is more pleasant and productive while you are on foot than when you are rushing past by car. The first day I had 83 species of birds; Impala's; Grant's Gazelles; Dikdik and a couple of Tsetse flies who were biting me. Don't worry too much about the Tsetse flies because the chances of getting the sleeping disease are small because the fraction of flies that carry the parasite is small.
Pallid Harrier, Roller, Bateleur, Black-headed Plover, Malachite Kingfisher, Golden Pipit, Brown Snake-Eagle, Ayres's Hawk-Eagle, Martial Eagle, Wahlberg's Eagle, African Hobby, Black Goshawk, Black-headed Lapwing, Crested Francolin, African Orange-bellied Parrot, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Von Der Decken's Hornbill, White-browed Scrub-robin, Bare-eyed Thrush, Isabelline Shrike, Black-crowned Tchagra, Scaly Chatterer (1), Smaller Black-bellied Sunbird, Little Purple Banded Sunbird, Red-billed Oxpecker, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Hildebrandt's Starling, Fischer's Starling, Golden-breasted Starling, Paradise Whydah, Straw-tailed Whydah, Steel-blue Whydah, White-winged Widowbird.
Sultan Hamud 31/3/96 + 1/4/96
This is a new site and it didn't produce a lot of birds.
Banded Martin, Wahlberg's Eagle, Eastern Chanting Goshawk, Lesser Striped Swallow, Pangani Longclaw, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Fischer's Starling, Spotted Morningthrush, Golden-breasted Bunting, Speckle-fronted Weaver, Grey-headed Social Weaver,
Athi River (Map 8) 2-3/4/96
This is a great site certainly worth visiting. I got here on a bus from Sultan Hamud. The bus drops you off at the main road to Nairobi from where you have to walk about 2-3 km to the main town. The best is to walk past the slaughter township (this name is used locally to indicate that it is close to the slaughterhouse) and the rubbish dump around the fenced off area along the railway line and take a right turn through the short grass land to the acacia trees and the river.
In the village:
Yellow-crowned Bishop, Quail Finch (1)
In the grass fields I saw:
Ostrich, Kestrel, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Secretarybird, African Hobby, European Roller, White-bellied Bustard, Black-bellied Bustard, Temminck's Courser, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Fischer's Sparrow-lark, Rufous-naped Lark, Pangani Longclaw, Red-throated Pipit, White-browed Scrub-robin, Pectoral-patch Cisticola, Pied Babbler, Long-tailed Fiscal, Isabelline Shrike, Red-backed Shrike (plus one hybrid between Isabelline and Red-backed), European Rockthrush, Yellow-throated Apalis, Jackson's Widowbird.
Near the river and the acacia's I saw:
Night Heron, Namaqua Dove, White-throated Robin (Irania), African White-backed Vulture, Tawny Eagle, Mottled Swift, Red-rumped Swallow, Striped Kingfisher, Abyssinian scimitarbill, Red-throated Tit, Red-billed Oxpecker, Hildebrandt's Starling, Wattled Starling, Grey-headed Social Weaver, Cinnamon Breasted Rock-bunting.
Lake Magadi 5/4/96
This the site for Chestnut Banded Sandplover there were not too many interesting other birds around though it was very nice watching the Flamingo's and the other waterbirds. To get there is one bus company who runs two busses a day from Nairobi. I think it was Stagecoach. The town is owned by an Australian soda factory. It is probably the most unafrican place in East Africa, but it is neat and clean as all the 'laws' are made by the company because it is private property. There is a guesthouse for visitors and a hidden place to eat if you ask around. To get back there are only two busses which leave early 6.00 and 7.00 am. Birds:
Lanner, African Spoonbill, Great White Pelican, Yellow-billed Stork, Greater Flamingo, Lesser Flamingo, Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Kittlitz Plover, Lesser Sandplover, Cape Teal, Whiskered Tern, White-winged Black Tern, Grey-headed Gull, Yellow-billed Duck, Grey Crowned Crane, Chestnut-banded Plover, Fischer's Sparrow-lark, Wattled Starling.
This is also a top birding site there are in fact four locations to watch birds in the area: Hippo point (lots of herons, waders, weavers etc); Dunga Fishvillage (great site to get brilliant pictures of Hamerkop and herons because the birds are usually getting the remains of a catch by fishermen and they are far from shy); The wastewater treatment system and the Nyamware ricefields.
Hippo point is situated some 3 km south of town at the lakeside.
Dunga fishvillage is just past hippo point it is not only the jetty which is interesting, there are also good birds just around the village.
At hippo-point and Dunga Fishvillage I saw:
Cormorant, Purple Heron, Great White Heron, Intermediate Egret, Squacco Heron, Egyptian Goose, Marsh Harrier, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Whiskered Tern, Laughing Dove, Mourning Wheatear, Pink-backed Pelican, Green-backed Heron, African Fish Eagle, African Palm Swift, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Malachite Kingfisher, White-throated Bee-eater, Yellow-billed Duck, Red-billed Duck, Hottentot Teal, African Harrier-hawk, Rufous-Chested Sparrowhawk (1, this bird seemed to be out of habitat), Black Crake, Water Thicknee (3), Brown Parrot, Yellow-collared Lovebird, Eastern Grey Plantain-eater, Broad-billed Roller (1), Black-billed Barbet (a better known site for this bird is the trees near the Sunset Hotel nearby), Spot-flanked Barbet, Angola Swallow, Red-throated Pipit, Plain-backed Pipit, Lesser Swamp Warbler, Greater Swamp Warbler, Red-faced Cisticola, Grey-capped Warbler, Swamp Flycatcher, Red-chested Sunbird, Marico Sunbird, Golden-winged Sunbird, Rueppell's Long-tailed Starling, Chestnut Sparrow, Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver, Black-headed Weaver, Yellow-backed Weaver, Golden-backed Weaver, Slender-billed Weaver, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Black Bishop (1), Winding Cisticola, Red-billed Quelea, Cardinal Quelea.
The Nyamware ricefields
The Nyamware ricefields might be hard to reach if the area had a lot of rain because the tracks to the place can be flooded. To reach the place take a bus or matatu to Alendu (Nairobi road) and go off at myama saria river there's a footpath to the right just before the river which eventually leads to the ricefields. It might be hard to find the right way. Alternatively (certainly when you have a car go past the myama saria river to nyangandi turn right here and the road leads to the ricefields. I went there with a local birder by the name of Tom Mboya who frequently visits Hippo point and is very helpful and good company. He said the rainy season produces usually more birds. Birds which we didn't see but can be seen are: Wattled lapwing; African Snipe; Baillons Crake; Spur Winged Goose; Maccoa Duck; Goliath Heron; Saddle Billed Stork and sometimes Papyrus Gonolek.
White Stork, Curlew Sandpiper, Temminck's Stint, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Common Snipe, Common Pratincole, Fulvous Whistling Duck, African Spoonbill, White-faced Whistling-duck, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Banded Martin, Painted Snipe (2), African Open-billed Stork, Glossy Ibis, Yellow-billed Stork, Knob-billed Duck, Long-toed Plover, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Silverbird, Black-winged Red Bishop, Southern Red-bishop, Whistling Cisticola.
The wastewater treatment system
The wastewater treatment system is 2 km from town in the Nairobi direction walk to the Chiefs Place and take a right on a dirt road which leads to the treatment system which holds ponds that are covered by waterplants and sometimes hold quite a number of birds. No birds were sighted that I did not see at the ricefields, though a few knob-billed ducks are notable.
Port Victoria (Map 9) 13-14/3/96
On my map the place was called Pt. Bunyala but this village close to the border with Uganda on the Great Lake side is better known as Port Victoria. There are at least two good birding sites in the area. In the village I saw: Steel-blue Whydah (1) and Broad-billed Roller.
A new site: I had some good birds on a small dike some 2 km out of town (see Map 6). Potts & Marsden were talking about the Jacana Lake of which nobody in the area seem to know the existence. Some people told me that there used to be a flooded area (seasonal) but due to diverted waterflows it does no longer exist. Birds at the site:
Squacco Heron, Osprey, African Marsh Harrier, Senegal Coucal, Grey Kestrel (1), Blue-headed Coucal (1), Senegal Coucal, Moustached Warbler (1), African Yellow Warbler, Grey-capped Warbler, Swamp Flycatcher, Red-chested Sunbird, Golden-winged Sunbird, Copper Sunbird, Marsh Tchagra (1).
Second site in the area is the Munana Dam. Potts & Marsden are talking about a redbrick dam at practically the same location. Although the dam is not made of red bricks I had the same birds there as Potts & Marsden. The dam is situated about 6 km. past Sioport so you can go of the bus that goes from Pt. Victoria to Bumala. You can stand on the dam and look through the gap in the reedbeds to see:
Black Crake, Allen's Gallinule (1), Purple Gallinule, Rufous-bellied Heron (1), Nyanza Swift. I also saw two Bar-breasted Firefinches on the road nearby, which I did not see anywhere else in Kenya.Site Map
1. Niavasha 12.
2. Nyahururu 13. Athi River
3. Lake Baringo 14. Sultan Hamud
4. Eldoret 15. Mtito Andei
5. Kakamega Forest 16. Malindi
6. Sirikwa Safaris 17. Sokoke Forest
7. Kongolei 18. Kwale
8. Marich Pass 19. Wasini Island
9. Maralal 20. Lake Magadi
10. Isiolo 21. Kisumu
11. Mt. Kenya 22. Port Victoria