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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Kenya - Nov/Dec 2001,
Beautiful Just Birding (Send for a Brochure)
Bed & Breakfast
Birding, Nature & Scenic Tours
13 van Riebeeck Street, Wakkerstroom
Although I had visited before, I had never been to Kenya at this time of year so was looking forward to seeing what was around. In the event it turned out to be a fantastic time for this really great birding venue. Our total species count for the 18-day trip was 633 birds, 49 mammals and several reptiles that were positively identified. Another great advantage of visiting Kenya at this time is that it is not a popular time for mammal-watchers and other holiday-makers in Kenya.
Participants were John Hunter, Ted Beedy, John and George Sterling, Kristy Nelson, Joel Ellis and Bud Widdowson from California, Margaret Widdowson, now from California, but originally from Scotland and Wim Wisse from the Netherlands. I was very ably assisted by William Kiror from Kampi ya Samaki on the shores of Lake Baringo and our very hard-working and competent drivers Kiplangat Rop Ropkoi from the Molo district and Sammy Maina from Nakuru.
On arrival at Jomo Kenyatta airport do not be tempted to take the public buses or "mutatus" (minivan taxis) into Nairobi. The more expensive private taxis are far more secure and you have a much better chance of arriving at your hotel along with your passport, money and luggage. Taxi prices are negotiable, especially if you can promise the driver another fare, e.g. back to the airport the following morning.
With the exception of the Golf Hotel in Kakamega the food in the lodges and hotels varies from good to excellent. For curry fans the curries served by most places throughout the country are excellent. At the Golf the food is adequate, but not in line with the high prices charged by this establishment.
As in most African countries visitors are warned against drinking tap water and should either buy or boil and filter their own drinking water. Most people will not eat fresh salads as they have probably been washed in normal tap water, but I personally did not experience a problem with this, but perhaps my African stomach is a bit more resistant than most North Americans or Europeans. Where drinking water is provided by the hotels guests are advised to use it only if it comes from bottle where the seal has not been broken. Do not drink the very tempting iced water provided in vacuum flasks by some establishments.
In contrast with the drinking water the locally brewed Tusker beer (lager) is excellent and has won many international awards. Prices range from 50 Ksh or less in local bars to 200 Ksh or more in the most upmarket hotels. In my opinion it is far superior to the readily available South African brewed Castle Lager.
Road conditions in Kenya vary from mediocre to appalling and the standard of driving is generally hair-raising to put it mildly. For this reason I would recommend that birders visiting the country at least consider hiring the services of a reliable ground operator. We used Keep Adventures and, provided that you can get hold of "Rop" Ropkoi I would suggest that you consider doing the same. It is probably easiest to do this through Sarus Bird Tours in the UK (email@example.com) or myself (firstname.lastname@example.org) but you could also contact Rop directly at email@example.com.
Accommodation was in good tourist hotels wherever this was possible. Details of the individual hotels follow.
Boulevard Hotel, Nairobi
A good mid-range hotel with pleasant, well trained and efficient staff, en suite rooms on three floors (no lifts or escalators), telephones, television and radio in the rooms a selection of bars and an a la carte restaurant. Drinking water is not provided in the rooms and guests should purchase their own supply. The hotel is situated in pleasant, quite birdy grounds and fronts onto the Nairobi River. Across the river are the well-wooded grounds of the National Museum. When booking accommodation ask for rooms overlooking the river, i.e. not on the Uhuru Highway side of the hotel. The hotel also operates its own taxi service and arrangements can be made to have them pick you up at the airport. You can probably get a cheaper fare by making these arrangements yourself though.
Keekorok Lodge, Maasai Mara National Reserve
This lodge is now operated by the Sheraton Group and standards of service, food and accommodation are generally high. Try and ensure that your accommodation is in the new units, however as the older ones leave a little to be desired - especially the single units. All rooms have en suite facilities. As is to be expected of a lodge in a National Park or National Reserve the lodge is set in beautiful, very birdy surrounds. It is possible to fly on a scheduled Air Kenya flight from Nairobi's Wilson Airport to Keekorok and arrange for the lodge vehicles to pick you up and take you around the reserve. While this obviously adds to the cost of the trip the roads to and from the Mara are long and horrific even by African standards so it may well be a viable option. There are no telephones, television or radios in the rooms.
Mara Serena Lodge, Maasai Mara National Reserve
As with all lodges operated by the Serena Hotel Group this is a 5-star plus lodge and the standard of service, food and accommodation (all rooms en suite of course) is excellent, some would say even over the top. Prices of course match these standards and a cold Tusker here will set you back nearly 200 Ksh (around US $ 2.30 or £ 2). Free drinking water (sealed bottles) is provided in each room. The lodge is beautifully sited atop a ridge and all rooms have a magnificent view over the Mara plains below. As with most lodges there is a scheduled air service from Wilson Airport to the lodge as well a lodge-provided transport. There are no air conditioners, telephones, television or radios in the rooms.
Imperial Hotel, Kisumu
The Imperial is a good hotel in downtown Kisumu with good en suite rooms each complete with air conditioner, telephone and radio. The wood-panelled a la carte restaurant serves good food in a good atmosphere. We experienced some administrative problems here, but these were probably caused by Let's Go Travel as much as by the hotel personnel. An alternative hotel is probably the Sunset Hotel closer to the lakeshore, but standards are reputed to have fallen here in recent years.
The Golf Hotel, Kakamega
The best thing that can be said about this hotel is that there are resident Hooded Vultures and Marabou Storks in the hotel grounds, although this in itself seems a little ominous at times. The standards here continue to drop in virtual free fall. I stayed at the hotel in April, July and again in November, 2001 and each time the standards were worse than before. When we arrived at around 8 p.m. on the night of 24th November the mosquito nets had not been put up in the rooms yet, even though they had known about our booking (10 people for two nights) for several weeks. These were put up while we were going through the day list and having dinner, but they should have been up before we arrived. There were no cold beers available from the bar and no selection of courses for dinner. Service was appallingly slow even by Kenyan standards and although we had arranged for breakfast at 6 a.m. the following morning it was still not ready by 6:30 when we walked out. It was also the only hotel where the staff asked me directly for a tip! All this would have been acceptable had the prices been proportionately low, but at $ 75/person sharing I felt that the standards were disgracefully low. The only practical alternative to the Golf seems to be the delightfully situated Rondo Retreat Centre in the forest run by the Anglican Church. Unfortunately it is notoriously difficult to get reservations here. Another alternative for "do it yourselfers" would be to stay at the very rustic but acceptable facilities offered by either the Kenya Forest Service in Kakamega Forest South or the Kenya Wildlife Service in Kakamega Forest North.
Alakara Hotel, Kitale
Situated in downtown Kitale this hotel can best be described as a very pleasant dump. In contrast to the Golf Hotel though the prices are commensurately lower at around $ 8 per person for Bed and Breakfast. To offset the fact that the en suite showers often only have cold water, that barking dogs can keep you awake for much of the night and that the room telephones don't work for the most part, the prices are very low, the staff are very friendly and courteous, the food in the a la carte restaurant is excellent and the Tuskers are cold. There is also no reasonable alternative accommodation in this part of Kenya.
The Lake Baringo Club
Situated in really birdy grounds in one of the birdiest parts of Kenya the Lake Baringo Club is a must for all birders visiting this country. Service, food and accommodation is all first class and the place is highly recommended whatever the price. My only disappointment was that they did not serve black pudding with breakfast this time as they had done in July! Eating on the terrace with White-billed Buffalo-Weavers, Jackson's Golden-Weavers, Northern Masked Weavers, Little Weavers and Superb Starlings all vying for your attention is an experience not to be missed. Rooms are all en suite and have overhead fans - no air conditioning, television or radios though - and hippos wander around the gardens at night.
Lake Elementaita Lodge
Situated in large grounds overlooking Lake Elementaita - about an hour's birding walk away - this delightful lodge is part of an historic colonial estate that used to belong to Lord Cole. The staff are friendly and courteous, the mosquito nets in the en suite rooms fit very well, the food is good and the price is reasonable. Situated midway between the better known Lakes Naivasha and Nakuru it makes an ideal reasonably priced base for visiting both Hell's Gate and Lake Nakuru National Parks. The rooms are not equipped with air conditioning, telephones, television or radio.
Naro Moru River Lodge
Strung out along the well-wooded banks of the Naro Moru River at the foot of Mount Kenya this hotel has wonderfully birdy grounds and a visit is almost compulsory for all birders. The staff are friendly, courteous and efficient as is the norm in Kenya. Rooms have undergone a major upgrade in recent times and are all en suite and equipped with telephones. While the restaurant does not provide a wide selection of food what there is is quite pleasant. The Lodge serves as a base for climbing Mount Kenya and weather permitting, you can arrange for a four-wheel drive vehicle to take you up to the "Met Station" - a base camp with bunkhouse accommodation for climbers and birders alike. A night spent at the Met Station (self-catering) and a morning's birding above 3 000 m is a very worthwhile experience.
Shaba Sarova Lodge, Shaba National Reserve
Once again five-star plus luxury situated on the south bank of the Ewaso Ngiro. No telephones or air conditioners in the en suite rooms though. The standards of service, food accommodation and the prices for these are commensurate with the degree of luxury. A must if you can afford it - around $ 190 per double room on a full board basis, but far less expensive and far superior in my opinion to the more famous lodges such as The Ark and Treetops in the Aberdares National Park
Samburu Serena Lodge, Buffalo Springs National
Once again all the luxury you could desire, but even more expensive than the Shaba Sarova. There are nightly crocodile feeding sessions and a leopard feeds on a chunk of meat placed in a tree on the opposite bank of the Ewaso Ngiro most nights. Many people find these feeding sessions somewhat plastic, but I can't see that there's much difference between them and bird feeding tables. Both are frequented by the animals on a completely voluntary basis. Definitely worthwhile if you can afford it.
New Blue Posts Hotel, Thika
A dump with its only redeeming feature being the outstanding birding in the extensive hotel grounds. If you can get rooms Chainia Wing these may well improve the situation appreciably as they overlook the gardens and the Chainia Falls. The service was pathetically slow although the food was pleasant enough.
A strange, but not unpleasant guest house on the Kiserian-Isinya road south of Nairobi, owned and run by an expatriate couple. Ablution facilities are shared between two rooms and the rooms have only basic facilities, but the service is good, the staff friendly and courteous and the food is good.
Tsavo Park Hotel, Voi
This hotel is situated in downtown Voi and can be quite noisy on occasions. The staff are friendly and courteous and the food is adequate. Rooms which are not fitted with air conditioning units have overhead fans, but there are no telephones, television sets or radios. A nearby mosque ensures that you do not oversleep in the morning.
Scorpio Villas, Malindi
A fascinating collection of accommodation units, each with two or three en suite rooms set in lush tropical gardens and with three swimming pools. All rooms have air conditioners and overhead fans, but are not equipped telephones, television sets or radios. Although there is only a set menu the food is excellent and has a distinctly Italian flavour. The Villas are located near to Da Gama Point and are conveniently situated for birding Malindi Bay.
The official starting date of the tour was 20th November with most folk arriving on the British Airways flight from London. Wim, however, arrived on board the KLM flight from Amsterdam the previous day and I only arrived in the early evening aboard the Kenya Airways flight from Johannesburg. Rop, Sammy and William met the main group at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and assisted them with their transfer to the Boulevard Hotel in Nairobi.
The afternoon was spent birding the hotel grounds and the adjacent grounds of the National Museum. Of the 46 species of birds seen the most spectacular had to be Hartlaub's Turaco, Superb Starling and the very attractive Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater. The most mundane had to be the ubiquitous Feral Pigeons and House Sparrows with Common Bulbuls coming in a very close third. Perhaps the most interesting bird from an urban environment point of view was a Shikra in the hotel gardens. The only species that was seen on this day and none other during the trip was the migrant Chiffchaff.
After a 6 a.m. breakfast (one advantage of birding in equatorial regions is that dawn breaks at a fairly respectable hour) we headed off to Limuru Ponds, two natural ponds in the Nairobi satellite town of Limuru. These are great for getting to grips with the vast majority of the waterfowl found in Kenya - a somewhat surprisingly scarce group of birds given all the large wetlands in the country. The Silvery-cheeked Hornbills seen by John Sterling on the highway between downtown Nairobi and Limuru were the only one's seen on the entire trip!
Rop and I had to leave the group here under the able care of William and Sammy in order to clear up some very irritating and unnecessary administrative hitches caused by Let's Go Travel, the Kenyan travel agents and Western Union who were handling the money transfers from the United Kingdom.
The prize for the most spectacular birds at the ponds undoubtedly had to go to a pair of Grey Crowned Cranes (what - me prejudiced? just because I used to monitor crane populations in northern South Africa? - well maybe, but still great to see free-flying birds on an urban wetland!). All in all the group saw 59 species on these two ponds among which were 12 ducks (including Garganey and Northern Shoveller), 11 waders or shorebirds (including Green and Wood Sandpipers, African Snipe and African Jacana), 5 hirundids, 4 raptors (African Marsh Harrier, Shikra, Augur Buzzard and Eurasian Hobby) 3 herons/egrets, 3 rallids and 2 ibises. Birds not seen elsewhere on the trip included Fulvous Duck, Spur-winged Goose, Garganey, Northern Shoveller, Southern Pochard, Common Moorhen and Purple Swamphen.
Rop and I rejoined the group at around 11 a.m. and we set off into the "real" Kenya. Shortly after leaving Limuru we stopped for the obligatory photo session on the descent into the Great Rift Valley and were rewarded with our first sighting of Black-and-White Colobus Monkey.
Our roadside lunch stop on the banks of a deeply incised dry river at the foot of Mt Longonot - a "senile" but not extinct volcano - gave us a total of 25 species including no less than seven birds of prey among which were Lappet-faced and Egyptian Vultures, Eastern Pale Chanting Goshawk, Tawny Eagle, Secretarybird and our only Spotted Eagle-Owl of the trip. It was also the only spot we found Schalow's Wheatear on the trip. Other interesting birds included Abyssinian Scimitarbill and Hildebrandt's Starling.
The long and horrifically bad road from Longonot to the Sekenani Gate of Maasai Mara National Reserve gave us a total of 11 species including our first Kori Bustards and White-bellied Bustards (presumably a different species to our Barrow's or Southern White-bellied Korhaan) of the trip.
The short time we had left in the Mara before nightfall (we got to the gate around 6 p.m.) was taken up largely by mechanical problems with one of the vehicles. The alternator decided that it had lived long enough and we had to tow the vehicle in to Keekorok Camp. Nevertheless we managed to see 30 species of birds including Southern Ground Hornbill and both Yellow-billed and Red-billed Oxpeckers. With the exception of Yellow-billed Oxpecker all of these were however seen elsewhere during the trip as well.
After having spent much of the night with the Keekorok mechanics Rop suddenly remembered that he had seen a spare alternator floating around under all the luggage in his vehicle. This was fitted to Sammy's broken-down van and all systems were go by the time we had finished our early morning walk around the lodge grounds.
The rest of the day was spent birding in the Mara and our tally of 146 species for the day included no less that 17 raptors with five vultures (Hooded, African White-backed, Rüppell's, Lappet-faced and White-headed) being seen. From my point of view Somali Short-toed Lark and Isabelline or Red-tailed Shrike (both lifers) were the most exciting birds seen. General favourites though included Black Crake, Red-cheeked Cordonbleu and Purple Grenadier. Birds that were not seen elsewhere on the trip included Rüppell's Vulture, Somali Short-toed Lark, Fan-tailed or Zitting Cisticola, Siffling Cisticola, Green-capped Eremomela, Grey-capped Social Weaver and Jackson's Widowbird.
The Maasai Mara is part of the Serengeti ecosystem so I guess I'll have to make mention of some of the other animals seen during the day. Unlike South African parks and reserves the Mara is not fenced and the animals are free to come and go as they please. There is something aesthetically very pleasing about seeing "truly wild" large mammals in these conditions. At Keekorok we found a group of mammals that I did not even know existed as a separate species - Bush Hyraxes - a sort of washed out version of a Rock Hyrax. African Elephant, African Buffalo, Plains Zebra, Common Giraffe, Blue Wildebeest or Brindled Gnu (this sub-species sometimes treated as a separate species - the White-bearded Gnu), Hartebeest, Topi, Impala, Thomson's and Grant's Gazelles and Olive Baboons were all over the place. The Mara River gave us many Hippos and the biggest Nile Crocodile I have ever seen. The charismatic Warthogs and appealing bambi-like Kirk's Dikdiks are always nice to see, the Spotted Hyenas were exciting, but pride of place definitely had to go to a lone Cheetah keeping a watchful eye on an Impala herd. Perhaps the most significant non-avian sighting of the day though was a brightly coloured Mwanza Flat-headed Agama which only just gets into to Kenya along the Tanzanian border here.
A pre-breakfast drive from the Mara Serena down to the Mara River gave us great close-up views of a lone Lioness (resting up after the night's hunt?) and our only Saddle-billed Stork and Kittlitz's Plover of the trip.
After a great breakfast at Mara Serena we headed off to the Oloololo Gate on the far western edge of the Mara. Perhaps the most exciting sighting in this portion of the Mara (we saw a total of 89 species by 11 a.m.) was of a Male Amur Falcon by Wim Wisse - very far west for this species. Other birds that we saw in our time in the Mara that we would not find elsewhere on the trip were Red-necked Spurfowl, Northern Black Flycatcher and Swahili Sparrow - a probable (or recent?) split from Northern Grey-headed Sparrow.
From the Oloololo Gate we climbed up the escarpment of the same name and drove on to Lolgorien (pronounced lol gory en) and into the Lolgorien Forest. Birding-wise this part of the trip was relatively uneventful. The Oloololo Escarpment is one of a few good Kenyan sites for three cisticolas - Long-tailed or Tabora (may be conspecific with the South African Neddicky), Rock or Rock-loving (may be conspecific with our Lazy Cisticola) and Trilling -
which are difficult to find elsewhere in the country. We dipped out on all three as we were running late and time constraints forced quite a fast pace through this interesting, but little visited area. One great sighting (particularly from my point of view) was a Western Banded Snake-Eagle at our lunch stop on the banks of the Migori River.
Finally the loooong drive from the Mara ended at Kisumu at around 5 p.m. We spent the last hours of daylight birding around Hippo Point on Lake Victoria. Of the 36 birds seen during this time Black-crowned Night Heron was the only species not seen again on the trip. We also saw Blue-headed Coucal, Black-billed Barbet , Black-lored Babbler, Carruthers' Cisticola, Swamp Flycatcher, Slender-billed Weaver, Black-headed Weaver (a black-faced subspecies of Village Weaver), Yellow-backed Weaver and Fan-tailed or Red-shouldered Widow. Although these were all also found at Hippo Point or nearby the next morning they were not seen elsewhere on the trip.
A pre-breakfast visit to Hippo and Dunga Points and surroundings gave us 55 species for the day list. Nine of these, including a Black-headed Gonolek, were new for the trip, but only one, a female (or a non-breeding male) Northern Brown-throated Weaver was not seen again on the trip. It also gave us the only Klaas' Cuckoo SEEN on the trip (we heard this species several times, but this was the only one seen).
After breakfast we headed off along the road from Kisumu to Busia on the Uganda border. A Long-crested Eagle gave Wim his 500th raptor world-wide. He had missed this species earlier and was very sceptical about my guarantee that he would see the bird around Kisumu if nowhere else. Our first stop was at the Nzoia River Bridge where a few Rock Pratincoles were clinging to rather precarious perches on some barely visible large rocks in the river which had become a raging torrent as a result of heavy rains in the catchment area.
The next stop was in the very pleasant grounds of a deserted school (the schools were of course on their Summer holidays). The grounds proved to be quite birdy and gave us our first Olivaceous Warbler and Scarlet-chested Sunbirds of the trip as well as the only Black-crowned Waxbill we were to see..
At the small town of Bumalo we turned southwards on the "road" to Nangina and Sioport, a small Lake Victoria fishing village on the Kenya-Uganda border. The attraction here was the extensive papyrus beds at the mouth of the Sio River. We had heard Papyrus Gonolek at Kisumu and hoped to see them here. This was not to be however. Soon after passing the small town of Nangina the road was flooded by an overflowing dam and was impassable for our two-wheel drive minivans. On the way back to the main Kisumu-Uganda road we picked up the only Black Bishop of the trip so the detour was not totally unproductive.
Between Bumalo and Busia Rop's vehicle decided that it was time for a break. While Rop and Sammy attempted some roadside repairs we put the time to use and did some unscheduled birding. A Piapiac gave us a great flypast and the trip's only Alpine Swifts flew over, but no matter hard we tried we could not convert a Grey Kestrel into a Sooty Falcon.
Finally Rop and Sammy conceded defeat and we towed Rop's van into Busia. Rop and the rest of us all piled into Sammy's vehicle and we left Sammy and William with the other vehicle in Busia. They would rejoin us at the Golf Hotel in Kakamega after having the vehicle attended to. We proceeded directly to the Kenya Wildlife Service's section of Kakamega Forest, arriving there with around half an hour's worth of birding. In the short time available before dark we managed 15 species, 10 of which were trip birds including great views of a Snowy-headed Robinchat which was to be our only sighting of the trip.
It was the turn of the other vehicle to give us trouble now. Fortunately there was a guy from the Kenya Wildlife Service who was apparently having a busman's holiday from the Mara. He graciously agreed to tow us into Kakamega town and the Golf Hotel with his Mercedes Benz Geländewagen - Kenya Wildlife Service obviously pays better than the conservation bodies in South Africa!
When we got to the Golf Sammy and William were waiting for us. They had had to have the fuel system cleaned out in Busia. We had seemingly filled up with dirty fuel in Kisumu that morning - an occupational hazard in Africa, but at least we now knew where to look for the fault in the second vehicle.
After deciding to walk out before breakfast was served (the service was painfully slow and the food was not ready despite having made arrangements the previous evening) we left for the southern section of the forest for the day. We would be in the forest on foot for most of the day so Sammy and Rop had plenty of time to get the vehicle looked at while we were birding under the able guidance of Wilberforce who heads up KEEP (Kakamega Environmental Education Programme), the conservation NGO trying to increase awareness of the value of the forest to the neighbouring communities.
As usual this highly threatened forest patch really produced the goods. The morning was spent walking along the transects through the forest cut by previous researchers and still used by current researchers into the forest's abundant wildlife. We returned to the forest station where we had a picnic lunch on the forest edge. By the time we had finished lunch Rop and Sammy arrived in the now healthy vehicles. We took another walk through the forest, this time along the well-known Pump House Trail and met up with the vehicles on the forest road. We drove down to Rondo Retreat and then birded the track by alternately walking and driving down to the Yala River. Late in the afternoon we drove to a quarry on the edge of the forest where Wilberforce informed us that we may see the real birding prize of the forest - African Grey Parrot - as they fly out for their evening feed. After some rather nervous waiting there they were - or rather it was. A single bird gave us a flyby just before dusk. There are apparently less than 20 of these beautiful birds left in the wild in Kenya, all of which occur in the forest.
Other birds that we saw during the day that were not seen again on the trip were Eurasian Honey Buzzard, African Goshawk, Crested Guineafowl (subspecies verrauxi), Great Blue Turaco, Black-billed Turaco, Yellowbill, Blue-headed Bee-eater, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Least Honeyguide, Ansorge's Greenbul, Honeyguide Greenbul, Pink-footed Puffback, Equatorial Akalat, Brown-chested Alethe, White-tailed Ant-Thrush, Brown Illadopsis, Buff-throated Apalis, Black-faced Rufous-Warbler, Olive-green Camaroptera, Chapin's Flycatcher, Jameson's Wattle-eye, Chestnut Wattle-eye, Dusky Crested-Flycatcher, Eastern Olive Sunbird, Green-throated Sunbird, Copper Sunbird, Stuhlmann's Starling, Western Black-headed Oriole and Square-tailed Drongo.
A very tired but happy group of birders returned to the Golf Hotel in Kakamega, arriving there well after dark. This time the staff had got the message and there were COLD Tuskers waiting for us.
Today started off well. Breakfast was ready at 6 a.m. and we were able to get on our way by 6:30. Our first stop was Udo's Camp at the KWS portion of the forest to mop up on some of the birds we had not yet seen. We left the forest at 9:30 having seen 35 species of which five - Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, Double-toothed Barbet, Yellow-crested Woodpecker, Wood Warbler and Turner's Eremomela - would not be seen anywhere else on the trip.
In addition to the birds mentioned above the following birds were seen on more than one of our forest visits, but which we would not see again :- Black-and-White-casqued Hornbill, Grey-throated Barbet, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Shelley's Greenbul (Kagamega race), Red-tailed Bristlebill, Luhder's Bush-Shrike, Grey-green Bush-Shrike, Blue-shouldered Robinchat, Scaly-breasted Illadopsis, Uganda Woodland-Warbler, White-chinned Prinia, Banded Prinia, African Shrike-Flycatcher, African Blue Flycatcher, Yellow White-eye, White-headed Negrofinch and Red-headed Bluebill.
Mammal-wise we had also seen Gentle (or Samango) Monkey, Black-and-White Colobus Monkey, Red-tailed Monkey and Red-footed Sun Squirrel.
In addition to the "specials" seen we saw an apparently out of range Buff-bellied Warbler on the edge of North Kakamega Forest. This is normally a bird of the more arid regions of Kenya - Baringo, Samburu and so on. Perhaps this is a somewhat ominous sign of what's to come. Perhaps it was only an out of range vagrant - who knows?
During our brief visit to Kakamega Forest we had seen 53 bird species that we did not find elsewhere on our trip through Kenya, proving once again the importance of this rapidly dwindling forest patch. Let's hope and pray that Wilberforce and his helpers will be able to make the people of the communities surrounding the forest aware of both the biological and economic value of the forest to them. Members of our group were determined to take the Kakamega cause back to the States with them and George Sterling was planning to finance the salary requirements of the KEEP staffers from his business back in the US - well done George!
From Kakamega we made our way northwards through Webuye and Kitale to Kapenguria. Here we turned north-west off the main road onto a small, rough track that winds its way down the escarpment into the northern Lake Victoria basin. A short way down the track we stopped to bird for an hour or so before going on down the pass for a way for a lunch-time picnic on the banks of a small stream. Of the 40 species we found on the pass Ross' Turaco, African Penduline Tit, Superb Sunbird, Abyssinian White-eye, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver and Lesser Blue-eared Starling (conspecific with the Miombo Lesser Blue-eared Starling?) were not seen again on the trip. Other exciting birds that were seen elsewhere as well include White-crested Turaco, a Pallid Honeyguide (a lifer for me) which was possibly the hatchling of a nearby pair of Parrot-billed Sparrows on a telephone pole next to the road, Mouse-coloured Penduline Tit and Fan-tailed Raven.
After lunch we retraced our steps to Saiwa Swamp National Park for some afternoon birding. Here we saw the only Cinnamon Dove, Eastern Grey Plantain-eater, Yellow-billed Barbet, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Grey-headed Negrofinch, Black-necked Weaver and Hartlaub's Marsh Widowbird (yet another lifer for me) of the trip. We also got great views of Sitatunga, the mammal for which the Park was created.
From Saiwa Swamp we retraced our steps once more to Kitale where we had a great dinner at the Alakara Hotel.
We left Kitale at around 7 a.m. driving along the base of the Cherangani Hills to Iten then along the spectacular route down the Elgeyo Escarpment, through the Kerio Valley, up the Tugen hills to the town of Kabarnet and back down to the floor of the Great Rift Valley en route to Lake Baringo.
Our first trip bird was a great sighting of a Great Spotted Cuckoo while still in the West Kenya Highlands. At Iten a brief stop at the viewpoint overlooking the Kerio Valley far below we got the only White-necked Raven of the trip. Another short stop at the Kerio River itself gave us 27 species including the only Lesser Honeyguide of the trip.
Today lunch was a sit-down affair at the Lake Baringo Club - a welcome change from chicken, sandwiches, warm juice and wilted fruit. After lunch we spent an hour or so birding in the Club gardens before going out for a walk in William's home patch. Of the 70 species seen birds not found elsewhere were Black-headed Lapwing, roosting White-faced Scops-Owls, Jackson's Hornbill, Beautiful Sunbird, White-billed Buffalo-Weaver, Little Weaver and Northern Masked Weaver. Other great birds included Pygmy Falcon, Three-banded or Heuglin's Courser, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Eurasian Hoopoe (with African Hoopoe close by to make a detailed comparison), Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Northern Brownbul, Grey-headed Bush-Shrike, Spotted Morning-Thrush, Red-fronted Warbler and Bristle-crowned Starling.
The day started of with a walk along the base of the Baringo cliffs led by William Kiror. Of the 75 species seen before breakfast Hemprich's Hornbill, Brown-tailed Rockchat, Straw-tailed Whydah and Red-headed Quelea were not found elsewhere. Other great birds seen included Black-throated Barbet, Northern Grey Tit, Blue-capped Cordonbleu, African Silverbill and Cut-throat Finch.
After breakfast William showed us Nubian, Gabon (apparently a recently discovered population) and Slender-tailed Nightjars all roosting among a prickly pear (Opuntia sp.) hedge at Kampi ya Samaki near Lake Baringo. Needless to say these were the only nightjar sightings of the trip. Congratulations to William and his band of schoolboy trainees, in particular congratulations to Silas.
From Baringo we once again climbed up the escarpment to the highlands around Molo. The purpose of visiting this site was to look for the elusive, endemic Sharpe's Longclaw and Aberdares Cisticola. To Rop's dismay the site where he had previously found the longclaw was now planted to wheat. A short after lunch walk through a small piece of rather unsuitable looking (to me at least) grassland yielded nothing. Of the 18 birds that we did find Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk, Dusky Turtle Dove and Cinnamon Bracken-Warbler (all rather ominously forest-edge not grassland species) were not found elsewhere on the trip. Other interesting species included Brown Woodland-Warbler, Golden-winged Sunbird and Fawn-breasted Waxbill - again all forest edge species.
From Molo we dropped back down into the Great Rift Valley and drove through Nakuru town to Lake Elementaita Lodge for our overnight stop. We arrived at the lodge in time for a late afternoon walk down to the lakeshore. Of the 49 species seen on the walk only Cape Teal was not seen elsewhere on the trip. The pink haze of Lesser Flamingos was a taste of what was to come at Lake Nakuru, however. Other interesting birds seen here included White and Pink-backed Pelicans, Greater Flamingo and Red-throated Pipit.
The day started off on a very promising note with Pied Wheatear and a seemingly lost Bristle-crowned Starling being seen in the lodge gardens.
Today was to be the day that we would connect with a four-wheel drive vehicle at Naro Moru River Lodge and proceed up Mt Kenya for an overnight stay at the Met Station on the mountain. The plan was to pay a quick and nasty visit to Lake Nakuru National Park, buy some food in Nakuru Town for our stay at the Met Station, pay a quick visit to the marsh above Thomson's Falls near Nyahururu and drive on to Naro Moru.
To quote the greatest poet that ever lived "The best laid plans of mice and men oft gang aglee." A cell phone call to Let's Go Travel, in response to an unreadable fax, resulted in us finding out that the Naro Moru track had been closed consequent to heavy rains on Mt Kenya and vehicular access to the Met Station was not possible. While this meant we would not be able to find the Mt Kenya high altitude specials it did mean that we would be able to spend more time at Lake Nakuru, Thomson's Falls and Samburu.
Lake Nakuru National Park provided its usual spectacle. No matter how many times I see the spectacle of more than a million pink Lesser Flamingos lining the white shoreline of a brilliant blue soda lake the sight never ceases to amaze and move me. Add a few hundred thousand White Pelicans for good measure and you have got to have one of the truly great natural wonders of the world.
Of the 71 species we found at our brief visit to Lake Nakuru National Park five - Imperial Eagle, Hildebrandt's Francolin, Grey-crested Helmetshrike (yet another lifer for me and seen at the gate on the way out of the Park), Arrow-marked Babbler and a single Black Tern (seen by John Sterling only) - were not seen again on the trip. Other interesting birds included Lesser Spotted Eagle, African Hawk-Eagle and Pied Avocet.
Mammals at Lake Nakuru included Rothschild's Giraffe, Eland, Defassa Waterbuck, White Rhinoceros and a fantastic view of two Leopards - perhaps a mother and daughter. The Leopards had draped themselves over some dead trees and simply lay there in full view of ten astounded hard-core birders.
From Nakuru we climbed back up onto the Eastern Highlands. Lunch was again a picnic lunch, but eaten at the tables in the gardens of Thomson's Falls Lodge listening to the roar of the falls themselves. Some of the group went for a short walk along the precarious river path and were rewarded with sightings of African Crowned Eagle in the riverine forest. After lunch we paid a visit to the marsh above the falls. All in all a total of 31 species were seen at this stop. Seven of these - African Black Duck, African Crowned Eagle, Common Snipe, Giant Kingfisher, Little Rush Warbler, Le Vaillant's Cisticola and African Quail-Finch - were not seen again on the trip.
After 85 km on the Nyahururu-Nyeri road we turned left onto the small track leading across the Solio Plains to Naro Moru. These rather unprepossessing plains have always provided some good birding (don't try this track in wet weather - we almost had to turn back in sight of Naro Moru this time) and proved no different on this occasion. Although we failed to find Sharpe's Longclaw this time we had this species here in July. Of the 27 bird species we saw along this route only Black-winged Lapwing and Pectoral-patch Cisticola (conspecific with the Pale-crowned Cisticola?) were not seen elsewhere on the trip, but we also saw Montagu's Harrier, Lesser Kestrel (several), Greater Kestrel, Amur Falcon (hundreds), Eurasian Hobby, Kori Bustard, White-bellied Bustard and Black-bellied Bustard, to name but a few.
We arrived at Naro Moru River Lodge with only a little daylight left, but we still managed to see 12 species here including the first Scarce Swifts and Mountain Wagtails of the trip. That night we were treated to the eerie screams of the Tree Hyraxes that are resident in the Lodge grounds. Some of the group thought they were the drunken screams of a group of very noisy British Parabats who were having a break from their training (for Afghanistan?) at the British Army base at nearby Nanyuki.
A pre-breakfast walk in the bush across the river from the Naro Moru River Lodge gave us a total of 40 species before breakfast. African Olive (Rameron) Pigeon, Red-fronted Parrot and Mountain Greenbul were the only birds not seen again on the trip, but other interesting birds seen on the walk included Harlequin Quail, Sulphur-breasted (Orange-breasted) Bush-Shrike and Yellow-bellied Waxbill (East African Swee).
After breakfast we hit the road and travelled along the foot of a mist-shrouded Mt Kenya through Nanyuki and Timau and halfway down the descent into the Great Rift Valley to the junction of A2 (to Isiolo and the north) and B2 (to Meru and the south) roads. Here we birded a very unprepossessing patch of roadside scrub for an hour or so. Of the 13 species of birds we saw here six (or nearly half) - Fawn-coloured Lark, Little Rock Thrush, Long-billed Pipit, Tree Pipit, Boran Cisticola (a well-named sort of dull Rattling Cisticola) and Somali Golden-breasted Bunting - were new for the trip and only the first two were seen elsewhere on the trip.
After a stop under a tree near Isiolo for a picnic lunch (rudely interrupted by a very aggressive swarm of bees) we pressed on for the Samburu complex of National Reserves (Samburu itself, Buffalo Springs and Shaba). Each Reserve falls under the authority of a different Council and each tries to charge an entry fee of US$ 27 per non-resident plus entry fees for the vehicle and a lower fee for residents. After some lengthy discussions between Rop, Sammy and the gate staff at the Gare Mara gate to Buffalo Springs (where we arrived around 3:30 p.m.) we were allowed to transit Buffalo Springs to Shaba where we were to stay the night in the magnificent Shaba Sarova Lodge. We saw a total of 58 bird and 17 mammal species in the remainder of the afternoon in these two reserves. Of the birds Vulturine Guineafowl, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Black-faced Sandgrouse, Chestnut-headed Sparrow-Lark and Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver were not seen elsewhere and Jacobin (Black-and-White) Cuckoo, Pink-breasted Lark, Golden Pipit, Grey Wren-Warbler, Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver and Golden-breasted Starling were also seen in Tsavo East National Park.
Of the mammals seen pride of place definitely has to go to a single Striped Hyena (a lifer for me) seen in Shaba National Reserve. Other interesting mammals seen include African Elephant, Plains Zebras together with a herd of Grevy's Zebras for comparison, Reticulated Giraffe, Beisa Oryx, Gerenuk (like a Kirk's Dikdik on steroids), Lion and Unstriped Ground Squirrel (sounds like an Army corporal in trouble).
The entire day was spent in the Samburu reserve complex. We went on a pre-breakfast drive through the fascinating lava flows on Shaba, returning to Shaba Sarova for a scrumptious late breakfast at around 10 a.m. After breakfast it was back to Archer's Post outside the National Reserve and on the road north to Marsabit and the Ethiopian border. Here there was another long, vociferous discussion between Sammy, Rop and the Samburu National Reserve gate staff. Our destination was Samburu Serena just across the Ewaso Ngiro in Buffalo Springs National Reserve and the gate staff wanted to charge us for transiting "their" reserve. Somehow they were convinced that we could pass across the reserve without paying an additional entrance fee for the 24-hour period that had started the previous day. We spent the remainder of the day in the Samburu section, crossing the Ewaso Ngiro into Buffalo Springs at around 6 p.m. and driving the short distance from the bridge to the sumptuous Samburu Serena Lodge.
Out of the 147 species today pride of place has to go to a lone, out of range Palm-nut Vulture in the trees along the Ewaso Ngiro in Samburu National Reserve. Other birds seen this day in the Samburu complex which were not seen elsewhere were Abdim's Stork, the Palm-nut Vulture mentioned above, African Orange-bellied Parrot, African Cuckoo (a pair engaged in a nuptial flight), White-headed Mousebird, Somali Bee-eater, Von der Decken's Hornbill, Fischer's Sparrow-Lark, Rosy-patched Shrike, Taita Fiscal, Southern Black Flycatcher, Black-cheeked Waxbill and Magpie Starling. Birds shared with Tsavo East National Park were Somali Ostrich, Crested Francolin, Crested Bustard, Eastern (Northern) Yellow-billed Hornbill, Pale Prinia, Black-capped Social-Weaver and Fischer's Starling. Other interesting birds included Black-bellied Sunbird, Crimson-rumped Waxbill and Chestnut Sparrow.
That evening George Sterling was watching the crocodiles being fed at the river bank while the rest of us were going through the list of species seen that day when he was fortunate to watch a great interaction between an African Wildcat and a Nile Crocodile. The crocodile appeared to be asleep so the cat took the opportunity to try and steal a chunk of meat put out by the hotel staff for the crocodiles. Suddenly the crocodile swung its head through 90 degrees in an attempt to grab the cat. It was only the cat's extreme wariness and quick reflexes that allowed it to escape the jaws of the attacking crocodile and to disappear into the night from whence it came.
Another morning and early afternoon spent in the Samburu complex. Once again we went out on a pre-breakfast drive, returning to the lodge by 9:20 a.m. (the staff here were not quite as accommodating as at the Sarova Lodge). After breakfast we worked our way slowly to the reserve gate, arriving there at around 2 p.m. after having yet another picnic lunch in the Reserve. From there we retraced our steps to Naro Moru River Lodge, arriving in time for some last minute birding before dark.
Of the 139 bird species seen in Buffalo Springs Gabar Goshawk, Somali Courser, Red-chested Cuckoo (the only sighting of this often heard bird on the trip), Red-winged Lark, an out of range Purple-banded Sunbird (it's short, only slightly decurved, bill and narrow purple band, was clearly seen) and a group of likewise out of range White-winged Widowbirds were new for the trip with only the lark and the widowbirds being seen elsewhere on the trip. Even at this late stage of the trip Samburu had succeeded in giving us 36 species that were not seen elsewhere except for 14 species also seen at Tsavo East National Park a few days later. Add to this the six species seen at the Meru-Isiolo cross-roads and the importance of an excursion north of Mt Kenya being on the itinerary of any birding trip to Kenya becomes readily apparent.
During the brief time left for birding at Naro Moru Bud and Margaret Widdowson saw Black-fronted Bush-Shrike and a White-starred Robin (both seen again by others at Kieni Forest two days later) and Wim Wisse saw a Thick-billed Canary which was seen again the next morning by the rest of the group.
The pre-breakfast walk at Naro Moru gave us 25 birds for the day list but none that were new for the trip. After breakfast we set of southwards with our first stop being at a natural pond just before the town of Karatina. No new species here so we carried on almost immediately to Wajee Camp.
At Wajee we hired a local guide to take us through the "forest" - mostly an old Eucalypt plantation overrun with an understory of Lantana. The owners of this small nature reserve are replanting the area with indigenous plants to replace these invasive exotics, but they have to exercise a great deal of care. The rare and endemic Hinde's Babbler has taken to living in these Lantana thickets. The walk through the area was quite strenuous as some steep inclines were involved, but the two hours or so we spent here proved well worthwhile. Of the 26 species of birds we found here five - African Wood Owl, Rüppell's Robinchat, Red-throated Wryneck, African Yellow-Warbler and, of course, Hinde's Babbler - were new for the trip.
After having our picnic lunch at Wajee we went on to our next stop - the rice paddies on either side of the road just south of the town of Thiba. The controlled flooding of the area not only allows rice to be grown here, but also provides a habitat well used by many species of waterfowl and shorebirds. Of the 32 bird species we found here three - Common Ringed Plover, Curlew Sandpiper and Yellow-crowned Bishop were new for the trip.
Finally we arrived at our overnight stop - the New Blue Posts Hotel on the outskirts of Thika. Situated at the confluence of the Chainia and Thika Rivers the grounds of this rather dilapidated hotel are very birdy indeed. Of the 24 species we found before the light faded three - Purple-crested Turaco, Trumpeter Hornbill and Brown-backed or Wahlberg's Honeybird - were new for the trip.
Our pre-breakfast walk in the hotel grounds gave us a total 42 species of which three - African Pygmy Kingfisher, Zanzibar Sombre Greenbul and Brown-backed Scrubrobin - were not seen elsewhere on the trip.
After breakfast we left for Kieni forest in the foothills of the Aberdare mountain range where we spent the rest of the morning. There are plenty of large wild animals, e.g. African Buffalo, present and there are reputed to be gangs of bandits holing up in the depths of the forest. Birding was thus essentially restricted to the paved road although there were many enticing trails into the forest. Of the 40 species of birds seen nine - Crowned Hornbill, Fine-banded Woodpecker, Grey Cuckoo-Shrike, Terrestrial Brownbul, Chestnut-throated Apalis, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, Black-headed Waxbill, Kenrick's Starling and Montane Oriole - were new for the trip. Of these only Crowned Hornbill was seen elsewhere (Sokoke Forest).
From the forest we continued on to the junction with the Naivasha-Nairobi highway. We skirted the southern edge of Nairobi passing through satellite towns like Kikuyu and Karen to the main gate of the Nairobi National Park for a short and nasty visit to this great birding venue. In spite of the extremely limited time we managed a list of 64 species with four new species - Pallid Harrier, Northern Pied Babbler, Desert Cisticola and African Moustached Warbler - for the trip. The new mammal of the day was Black Rhinoceros in Nairobi National Park. We left the Park through the Masai Gate at shortly after 6 p.m. and drove southwards along the road to Magadi as far as the town of Kiserian. Here we turned eastwards on the road to Isinya. We reached our overnight stop at Whistling Thorns well after dark.
Our pre-breakfast walk in the vicinity of Whistling thorns resulted in us getting 38 species for the day list including Spotted Morning Thrush, Pied Wheatear, Common Rock Thrush and Chestnut Sparrow, but no new trip birds. After breakfast we got a very unexpected Short-tailed Lark (another lifer for me), but dipped out on the target species - White-tailed Lark.
After a very long and unproductive wait at the Athi River junction waiting for Rop to attend to some irritating administrative problems in Nairobi we finally got on our way on the long drive to Tsavo East National Park and our overnight stop at Voi.
Our stop for a picnic lunch in the gardens of Hunters' Lodge between Sultan Hamud and Kibwezi provided a welcome break from the tedium of a very long drive. While having lunch we found 19 bird species including four trip birds - Woolly-necked Stork, Verreaux's Eagle (not a very satisfactory sighting, but the only one of the trip), Violet Woodhoopoe (subspecies granti sometimes treated as a different species, Grant's Woodhoopoe, from the Violet Woodhoopoe of northern Namibia) and the target species, Golden Palm Weaver or Palm Golden-Weaver.
From Hunters' Lodge we pressed on through Kibwezi and Mtito Andei and entered Tsavo East National Park through Manyani Gate at around 3:30 allowing us very limited time for birding in the Park. Nevertheless we managed to see 61 bird species of which nine - Grasshopper Buzzard, Pearl-spotted Owlet, European Roller, Pangani Longclaw, Three-streaked Tchagra, Nightingale, Garden Warbler, Common Whitethroat and Paradise Whydah - were new for the trip. New mammals for the day were Yellow Baboon and Lesser Kudu in Tsavo East National Park.
By consensus we decided, in order to maximise the number of species on the trip list, to forgo any visit to the Taita Hills or spending additional time In Tsavo National Park and press straight on to Sokoke Forest and the coast at Malindi. After a 6 a.m. breakfast we headed off down the road towards Mombasa. At Mariakani we turned off the main road to take the shortcut along the C107 to Kilifi, thus bypassing Mombasa and its horrific traffic.
We arrived at the Forest Station at Sokoke Forest around 11 a.m. On checking the tide tables at the Station it was obvious that the best time to be at Mida Creek was on the incoming tide at 7:30 the next morning. After making arrangements to pick up Willie, our forest guide at around 3:30 that afternoon we pushed on to Malindi. Birding from the beach and Da Gama Point resulted in us seeing 24 species of which no fewer than 16 - Greater Frigatebird, Grey (Black-bellied) Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Greater Sand Plover, Whimbrel, Terek Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Sooty Gull, Heuglin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Caspian Tern, Saunders' Tern, Greater Crested (Swift) Tern and Ethiopian Swallow - were new for the trip. We ate our picnic lunch at Scorpio Villas and Bud Widdowson had a Brown-headed Parrot flying over. The whole group got on to the Northern Carmine Bee-eaters hawking over the street outside the villas.
After lunch we paid a visit to the Sabaki Estuary where we got a total of 19 species, but the only new species for the trip was Eurasian Curlew. From here we retraced our steps to Sokoke Forest and Willie for a late afternoon walk in the forest. We found a total of 24 species of birds in short time available to us the forest and nine of these - Lizard Buzzard, Green Barbet, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Eastern Nicator, Retz's Helmetshrike, Chestnut-fronted Helmetshrike, Pale (Mozambique) Batis, Amani Sunbird and Black-bellied Starling - were added to our trip list.
Before returning to Scorpio Villas in Malindi we arranged to meet Willie at the Forest Station at 6 a.m. the next morning.
On our final morning in Kenya we arranged to have a 5 a.m. breakfast at Scorpio Villas. Rop, Sammy and William met us outside the Villas with all our luggage at 5:30 and we set off to Sokoke Forest for and early morning walk and hopefully a glimpse of a Spotted Ground Thrush. Although we did not succeed in this quest we had very pleasant walk in the forest with some of the group getting a glimpse of a Golden-rumped Elephant Shrew.
By 7:30 we were ensconced at Mida Creek scanning the ever dwindling exposed sandbanks for shorebirds. In the hour or so we were there we added a further five species to the trip list - African Darter (a single bird was seen flying overhead), Dimorphic Egret, Crab Plover (the target species), Bar-tailed Godwit and Lesser Crested Tern.
We returned to the forest for the rest of the morning. Ted Beedy, John Hunter and John and George Sterling opted to leave the group at midday. They were flying on to London directly from Nairobi and wanted to spend sometime at the Whitesands Hotel to freshen up before the trip. Kristy, Joel, Bud, Margaret, Wim and I stayed in the forest for some last minute birding. We were all staying over in Kenya for a bit longer - Kristy and Joel in Mombasa and the rest of us in Nairobi. We could freshen up at our respective hotels. We would all meet up again at the Moi International Aiport at Mombasa for the 7:30 p.m. flight to Nairobi.
Anyway the time in the forest gave us 44 bird species altogether, 12 of which - African Pygmy Goose, Southern Banded Snake-Eagle, Tiny Greenbul, Fischer's Greenbul, Gorgeous (Four-coloured) Bush-Shrike, Red-capped Robinchat, Red-tailed Ant-Thrush, Black-headed Apalis, Forest Batis, Little Yellow Flycatcher, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher and Plain-backed (Blue-throated) Sunbird - were additions to the trip list. In addition we saw the other Kenyan subspecies of Crested Guinea Fowl, Guttera pucherani edouardi, sometimes treated as a separate species - the Kenya Crested Guineafowl. Sadly we dipped out on Sokoke Scops-Owl, Sokoke Pipit and the endemic Clarke's Weaver
On the way to Mombasa we stopped for a very late, but very pleasant lunch at the Mnarani Club on the south bank of Kilifi Creek. After dropping Kristy and Joel off at the Lotus Hotel and picked our way slowly through the most chaotic traffic I have ever seen to the airport where we said our goodbyes to Rop, Sammy and William and rejoined the rest of the group in the domestic departures "lounge."
All in all it had been a really great trip. Of course there were some surprising misses - Great crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Maccoa Duck, Coqui Francolin, Hartlaub's Bustard, Temminck's Courser, Double-banded Courser, Collared Pratincole, White-fronted Plover, Common Tern, Blue-spotted Dove, Fischer's Turaco, Nyanza Swift, Mombasa Woodpecker, Cliff Chat, Capped Wheatear, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Somali Long-billed Crombec, Dusky Tit, Yellow-crowned Canary, Lesser Masked-Weaver, Village Weaver, Cardinal Quelea and Zanzibar Red Bishop to name a few, but then we had seen some quite rare birds for Kenya too - Piapiac, Superb Sunbird, Greater Frigatebird and so on.
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