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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Kenya and NE Tanzania, July 14th - August 5th, 2003,
Rob Bouwman (excel reporter), Remco Hofland (general info and day-to-day reporter), Chris Quispel, Roland van der Vliet and Ruud Vlek, The Netherlands
We used the services of Sunworld Safaris (email@example.com). They are based in Nairobi and also provide cars & drivers for Tanzania & Uganda. Our car was a 4WD Toyota Landcruiser with pop-up roof allowing good viewing and photographing, which cost us 155 Euro per day (to be divided by 5).
Our driver Sammy knew a lot about the wildlife, looked after our safety, acted as interpreter when necessary and was an enthusiastic birder. He knew Masai Mara like the back of his hand and thanks to him we saw, for example, Black Rhino in Nairobi NP; Cheetah and Silverbird at Masai Mara; and Jackson's Widowbird near Mt Kenya.
Many thanks also for Bernd de Bruin for his feedback on our itinerary; his comments on where to find sought-after birds and his great guiding on the memorable first day in Nairobi NP.
Before our trip we contacted Jan Bisschop and Arnout Linckens (firstname.lastname@example.org) from The Netherlands, who had done roughly the same trip the previous year (summer 2002). They provided us with much information, of which the scribbled map of the Taita Thrush-location at Taita Hills, sent by email, proved invaluable. Thanks guys!
Furthermore, we would like to thank Ruud Schenk for lending us his 11 West Africa CD's, which were much help at Kakamega Forest, and Rinse van der Vliet who lend us his South Africa tapes....that were unfortunately stolen from RH's backpack and therefore could not be used in Sokoke Forest.
We got our Tanzanian visa at the Dutch Consulaat Tanzania, Parallelweg Zuid 215, 2914 LE, Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel, tel (0180) 32 09 39. The Kenian embassy in The Hague provided us with our Kenian visa.
Sun July 13th
Left Amsterdam Schiphol at around 19.00, and London Heathrow Airport with little delay at 22.40.
Mon July 14th Nairobi NP
Arrived at Jomo Kenyatta Int'l Airport, Nairobi, at 8.30. Changed USD 1,000 between the five of us at airport. Rate about 73 Kenyan Shillings (Ksh) to a dollar, the dollar being about 0.97 Euro at the time. RH's backpack had not arrived, so filled out a form at BA customer service. Sonal of Sunworld Safaris and our driver Sammy Mbevo were waiting outside; after packing our luggage in our Toyota Landcruiser headed straight for Nairobi NP, where Bernd de Bruin, a resident Dutch birder, was waiting for us. Handled financial matters with Sonal over a cup of tea/coffee at the gate of Nairobi NP: 726 Euro per person for 23 days of car hire including insurance, cost and accommodation of our driver; also including the 65 Euro border crossing insurance for our 5-day-trip into Tanzania. Upgraded our smart card with 5-person entrance fees to Nairobi NP, Tsavo East NP and Tsavo West NP. Criss-crossed Nairobi NP, among others visited the hills and Hippo Pools. Stayed the night at Hotel Impala, Nairobi (cold showers), about USD 12 each.
Highlights: (Nairobi airport) flock of Yellow-throated Sandgrouse overhead; (Nairobi) Marabou Stork colony near roundabouts east of town; (Nairobi NP, plains) a bustard too distant to identify, a group of 5 young Lions (of the 14 present in the park), 6 Black Rhinos including a calf, Secretarybird, 2 Saddle-billed Storks; (Nairobi hills) perched African Baza, 'Nairobi' Pipit (probable split from Long-billed Pipit); (Hippo Pools, late afternoon) female African Finfoot, Red-throated Tit. RH's first day in the African tropics resulted in 97 new birds and 8 new birdfamilies!
Tue July 15th Nairobi - Voi
After breakfast at the hotel, spent about an hr near Nairobi NP entrance before checking whether RH's bag had arrived at the airport - it hadn't. Left airport at 10.30 for Athi Plains (south of Athi River village, about 20 km east of Nairobi), where birded until 12.30, after which departed for Voi. Brief refreshment stop at Hunter's Lodge at 14 hr. Arrived Distarr Hotel, Voi, at 18 hr. Rooms cost about 4 USD each, good food.
Highlights: (Athi Plains) a single White-bearded Gnu / Wildebeest amongst Zebras, flock of Yellow-throated Sandgrouse overhead, 2 male Kori Bustard, Athi Short-toed, Short-tailed and White-tailed Lark, Capped Wheatear; (Hunter's Lodge) pair of Giant Kingfisher; (road between Tsavo East and West NPs) Greater Kudu, 3 Martial Eagles.
Wed July 16th Tsavo East NP
Left hotel after breakfast at 7.15 for Manyani entrance of Tsavo East NP, where entered at 7.30. Only reached Luggard's Falls at 9.30 due to frequent stops - the falls being the only place where it's allowed to leave the vehicle. A Leopard crossing the (mainly dry) river bed and taking 20 minutes to do so was the main highlight here. 15.30 arrived at Sala Gate, where the local military saw no use in accompanying us to Malindi, as we were told by Sammy was necessary to avoid being robbed - apparently, two weeks later a vehicle was robbed whereby the driver was shot. Arrived safely at Malindi's Lutheran Guest House (6 USD each, nothing special) at 19 hr, after having booked David Ngala as our guide to Sokoke Forest for the next morning. Diner at nearby Italian Restaurant.
Highlights: Leopard at Luggard's Falls; a pair and a nearby male Lion; our first Elephants including some lone males; Black-faced Sandgrouse abundant, several Somali Bee-eaters and a male Somali Ostrich, 3 Gerenuks, 9 Somali Coursers, 6 Golden Pipits, all at Tsavo East NP.
Thu July 17th Sokoke Forest
Picked up David at Sokoke Forest Station at 6.20, in light rain. Used the vehicle to start off in a patch of (mixed) forest for East Coast Akalat and Fischer's Turaco. Dipped on both, but saw Spotted Ground Thrush on the path, and some saw 2 Golden-rumped Elephant-Shrews. Late morning spent at Brachystegia (open) forest, where birds were more easy and Sokoke Pipit was seen, and at mixed forest that didn't produce much. Late lunch at Forest Station (soft drinks and stew). No tide tables at Forest Station, so off to Mida Creek where low tide resulted in distant Crab Plovers (15-16 hrs). Late afternoon spent at Cyanoptera (closed) forest, where few birds and Sokoke Scops Owl heard only. Left forest at 19.30 hr, well after dark, which upset our driver Sammy who (because of safety) wanted to be back at the accommodation at 19 hr.
Highlights: (mixed forest) Spotted Ground Thrush, Golden-rumped Elephant-Shrew, African Pygmy-Kingfisher, Red-tailed Antthrush, Yellowbill, a beautiful pair of Peters's Twinspot, African Wood-Owl; (Brachystegia) Sokoke Pipit, Chestnut-fronted and Retz's Helmetshrike, Crowned Hornbill, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Narina Trogon and Amani & Plain-backed Sunbird; (Cyanoptera) Forest Batis, Sokoke Scops Owl heard; (Mida Creek) Crab Plover.
Fri July 18th Sokoke Forest
Another early try for East Coast Akalat, which was finally taped in with the aid of a record of its song, taped by David - his tape of the bird had been broken and could not be fixed, despite the natural glue he distracted from a forest tree. Another try at Mida Creek at 9.30 produced high tide and no waders at all. Late morning a trip to S Sokoke Forest did not produce Clarke's Weaver (according to David our best bet since the Weavers might already have teamed up with the Helmetshrikes in that part). Lunch at Malindi, while RH's bag had been delivered at Lutheran Guest House by British Airways - several items were missing, including the much needed tapes of South African Bird sounds. Another 1,000 USD changed at Barclays Bank. Without David (who attended the graduation of professionally trained guides - as of next season he will start his own guiding office), tried Malindi Pipit near Gongoni (14.30 - 15.30) but failed, while football pitches south of Gongoni were also checked in vain. Approached Sabaki River Mouth from the north (first dirt road east, north of the bridge) but could not reach nearer than about 1 km. Here accompanied by Emanuel, a 10-year old boy with knowledge of birds and a sketchbook full of drawings.
Late afternoon tried to approach Sabaki River Mouth from the Golf course but failed, so no close views of terns or gulls. David volunteered to follow the Sokoke Scops Owls during the night in order to discover their roost. RV and RH spent late evening in the company of Marc Guyt, Andre van der Plas and Ellen, Dutch birders staying at Scorpio Villas who had just spent 19 days touring S Kenya (but failed to see Leopard).
Highlights: (mixed forest) East Coast Akalat; (Brachystegia) Eastern Nicator; (Gongoni) male Pin-tailed Whydah (one of only a few seen this trip); (Sabaki River Mouth) African Skimmer, Senegal Plover, distant Sooty Gulls, Zanzibar Red Bishop, Madagascar Pratincoles; (Golf Course) Slender-tailed Nightjar.
Sat July 19th Sokoke Forest - E Usumbara Mnts (T)
At 7, car packed with luggage, we met with a soaked David at Sokoke Forest N - it had rained heavily at night but nevertheless he was all smiles: within 5 minutes he had shown us a pair of Sokoke Scops Owls (orange male, grey female). Breakfast at Gedi Ruins (9-10) and brief stop at Kilifi baobab trees where no Brown-headed Parrots found. Crossed Mombasa in 45 mins, including shopstop at megastore. Took from 14.15-15.30 to cross into Tanzania, arrived at Tanga 17.15 with banks closed. Jewelry shop offered a bad rate on USD, so changed 15,000 Ksh into 180,000 Tsh. Good tarmac road towards Dar es-Salaam; after 35 km, at Muheza, turned right (west) towards Amani. Another 32 km unsurfaced, sometimes steep, road through (sometimes) pristine forest brought us eventually in Amani (well after dark) where the IUCN Guesthouse was a welcome surprise: great accommodation, including hot showers, for 10 USD each full-board.
Highlights: (Cyanoptera) pair of Sokoke Scops Owls, Trumpeter Hornbill, Eastern Bearded Scrub Robin, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher; (Gedi) Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Eastern Nicator; (Kilifi) Lizard Buzzard; (Tanzanian road-stop) Woolly-necked Stork, Northern Carmine Bee-eater.
Sun July 20th E Usumbara Mnts
Birding by 6.30, breakfast at 7, Martin Jolo arrived at 8 and took us straight to one of the rarest birds of Africa: Long-billed Tailorbird, in roadside scrub near the IUCN Guesthouse. Walking tour around Amani village, after which lunch from 13-14.20. Afternoon spent at empty primary forest some 8km from IUCN Guesthouse, reached through endless tea plantations. Last hr of daylight spent roadside birding. 18.30 dusk.
Highlights: (IUCN Guesthouse) White-eared Barbet, Long-billed Tailorbird; (Amani) Waller's and Kenrick's Starling, Green-headed Oriole, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Cabanis's Bunting, White-necked Raven, Uluguru Violet-backed and Purple-banded Sunbird; (roadside) Fischer's Turaco, Black-throated Wattle-eye, perched Southern Banded Snake-Eagle; (primary forest) Guereza Black-and-white Colobus Monkey, Yellow-streaked and Stripe-cheeked Greenbul.
Mon July 21st E -> W Usumbara Mnts
Left IUCN Guesthouse at 6, arrived at Kwamkoro Tea Estate (9 kms from Guesthouse) at 6.30 in light rain and fog. Walking the trail through this dark and (yet again) empty forest between 7 and 11 we saw 3 (!) birds, of which Sharpe's Akalat was only seen by Martin and RH. Without tapes no chance of Spotthroat and Dapplethroat, as we had to experience. Brief stop at small river where Half-collared Kingfisker was easily seen well. Lunch at IUCN Guesthouse, left at 13.20, tarmac road reached over an hr later. 15.30 at turn-off towards Arusha (near villages of Hale and Segara). At Mombo turned right (east) toward Lushoto, which reached by 17.30. Lushoto Sun Hotel adequate, 5 USD each.
Highlights: (Kwamkoro Tea Estate) female Three-horned Chameleon, Sharpe's Akalat (RH and Martin only), Green-headed Oriole, Half-collared kingfisher; (IUCN Guesthouse) African Crowned Eagle; (unsurfaced road) Mountain Wagtail; (roadside stop) Verreaux's Eagle, Black-winged Red Bishop; (Hale) 2 Palm-nut Vultures, Fan-tailed Widowbird; (Mombo-Lushoto road) Mocking Cliff-Chat, Mosque Swallow.
Tue July 22nd W Usumbara Mnts -> Voi (K)
Left Lushoto at 5.30, arriving at Sawmill at 6.30, after 7 km dirt road over Sawmill track. Breakfast at 10 while birding along the track; 10.50 Lushoto; 11.50 Mombo; 13.20 Same; 14.15 Himo; 14.20 Tanzanian - Kenyan border, which passed withing half an hr. Reached Maktau (E) Gate of Tsavo W NP at 17.30. 18.45 arrived at Wudanyi where stayed at Hebron Christian Guesthouse (clean, 5 USD each). Dinner at Hotel Hill View where two freshly killed (and roasted) chickens with rice cost 10 USD.
Highlights: (Sawmill Track, from sawmill until about 4 km lower) Usumbara Akalat and Usumbara Nightjar on track at dusk; Nduk (Usumbara) Eagle Owl perched on post at sawmill; Red-capped Forest Warbler a.k.a. African Tailorbird, Evergreen Forest Warbler, Black-fronted Bushshrike, Bar-throated Apalis, "black-browed" Mountain Greenbul, Mountain Buzzard, African Hill-Babbler (RB & RV only) and Grey Cuckooshrike; (border) Cutthroat, African and Grey-headed Silverbill, Greater Blue-eared Glossy Starling; (Tsavo W NP) Hildebrandt's Starling, White-belied Bustard, Yellow-billed Hornbill.
Wed July 23rd Taita Hills, Sisal Farm / bush birding
Drove towards Taita Thrush-site, as explained to us by Jan Bisschop and Arnout Linckens who visited the site in 2002, after which went to Forest Rangers House for Taita Apalis. Stayed at Taita Hills from 8 - 13 hrs. Back at Wudanyi at 13.45, where punctured tyre was fixed. At 14.30 tried to reach 'Rukinga Ranch' / Steve Turners village, but were not sure whether we were expected and didn't know exact locality. Got into the huge Sisal Farm located just east of Mwatate and tried to drive south towards Mt Kasigau. About 20 km south of the main road the farm ended and dry acacia bush began - which was full of birds. Realising reaching Rukinga Ranch was not possible, we turned back at 17 hr. Arrived at Distarr Hotel, Voi, at 18 hr. In the evening, decided to forget about Rukinga Ranch (where two nights were planned - apparently a good site for Bronze-winged Courser, Teita Falcon and Friedmann's Lark) and to try for Grey-crested Helmetshrike and Ardvark at Crater Lake Game Sanctuary, Lake Naivasha instead.
Highlights: (Taita Thrush-site) Taita Thrush (after 3 hrs of trying), Taita White-eye, Northern Brownbul; (nearby vegetable garden) Green-backed Twinspot, Yellow-bellied Waxbill, Yellow-bellied Eremomela; (Forest Rangers House) Taita Apalis, White-starred Robin; (dry acacia bush) Black-throated and d'Arnaud's Barbet, White-crested Helmetshrike, African Black Swift, Yellow-spotted Petronia, Violet Woodhoopoe, Purple Grenadier, Grey Wren-Warbler.
Thu July 24th Voi - Lake Naivasha
Left Voi at 8.10, arriving at Nairobi Airport 12.45. Lunch there, while RH claimed his lost/stolen luggage at BA and (only) got 3500 Ksh (40 USD). Left airport 14 hr towards Limuru pond, where stayed between 15-15.30. Brief stop at Kinangop Plateau, from where left for Lake Naivasha at 16.15. Arrived Crater Lake Game Sanctuary, just southwest of Lake Naivasha, at 17.15. RH talked them from 90 USD full-board to 50 USD each, arranged game drive for same evening and morning walk for next morning. Great place, small crater lake with 100s of Lesser Flamingoes, feeders full of birds and a Genetcat at night, good food, cottages/tents with hot showers. Dinner from 20-21.30, after which night drive (RB, RH and guy with spotlight on top of the car on mattress, with RV, CQ and RuV + driver inside) from 21.30-2 - kept on going since we saw too much!
Highlights: (gas station stop) Green-winged Pytilia; (Limuru Pond) Maccoa, White-backed, Yellow-billed and White-faced Whistling Ducks, Hottentot and Red-billed Teals, Southern Pochard, Glossy Ibis, Great Crested Grebe and Madagascar Pond-Heron; (Kinangop) Sharpe's Pipit, Cape Rook; (Crater Lake) Grey-headed Bushshrike, 5000+ Wattled Starlings at roost; (night drive) Leopard targeting Bush Hares, Spotted Hyena, Bat-eared Fox, Zorilla, Steinbuck, Waterbuck, Bushbuck, Marsh and Spotted Eagle Owl, Dusky Nightjar.
Fri July 25th Crater Lake Game Sanctuary / Lake Naivasha
Morning walk, mostly outside of crater in surrounding acacia bush, from 7.30-11. Many mammals, quite some birds, but nest of Grey-crested Helmetshrike abandoned. Afternoon spent at Fisherman's Camp, Lake Naivasha (no exposed marsh, so not really worthwile) and at smaller lake west of Lake Naivasha (also no marsh but plenty of ducks), from 13-15 hr. From 16-17.30 spent at N side of smaller lake (property of mr. Irvine, retired doctor and birder) where another flock of Grey-crested Helmetshrike should occur but again no luck. Cancelled a second nightdrive since first one so spectacular. Genetcat on feeder while having dinner at lodge.
Highlights: (morning walk) Arrow-marked Babbler, Black, Red-chested and Klaas's Cuckoo, Leopard heard (and seen by RB) next to path, Hildebrandt's Francolin, White-fronted Bee-eater, Nyanza Swift, Pale Prinia, (our only) Pearl-spotted Owlet, Grey-headed and Nubian Woodpecker, Dusky Turtle Dove (latter at waterhole), Lappet-faced Vulture overhead; (lodge) Little Rock Thrush, Grey-capped Warbler, Crimson-rumped Waxbill; (Fisherman's Camp) African Hoopoe, Grey-headed Gull, Black-lored Babbler; (smaller lake) Cape Teal, Kittlitz' Plover, Coqui Francolin.
Sat July 26th Lake Naivasha -> Masai Mara
Drove with lodge 4WD towards acacia bush at 7, because of sharp-eared driver (who heard a single call) saw Grey-crested Helmetshrike flock (6 adults and all 5 fledglings) by 8 and left (after breakfast) at 10.45. Brief stop at Lake Naivasha Lodge (again not much exposed marsh) where left at 12.15. 14.55 Narok, took C13 towards NW Masai Mara. From 16-17 took short cut (dirt road) for 32 km and 500 Ksh. Because of lack of tourists (rumours of terrorism) most accommodation at Masai Mara closed, so upon arrival at 19 hr camped at Musiara 'gate' (in the middle of nowhere, NW Masai Mara). Diner mostly packed lunch of Crater Lake Game Sanctuary.
Highlights: (morning walk) Grey-crested Helmetshrike, Greater Honeyguide; (lodge) Greater and Scaly-throated Honeyguide; (Lake Naivasha Lodge) Grey-rumped Swallow, mating African Fish Eagles; (stops on way to Narok) Long-tailed widowbird, Yellow Bishop, Brown-crowned Chagra; (short-cut) Bare-faced Go-away Bird, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Temminck's Courser, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Secretarybird, Harlequin Quail (flushed by car).
Sun July 27th Masai Mara
Luggage stored in car, we started birding at 7 - only from the car, as in all NPs. By talking to his friends, Sammy was able to show us a group of 8 Lions as well as a Cheetah with 3 cubs, the Cheetah using cars as viewpoint - which she needed when a Spotted Hyena passed by to check her and the cubs out. Stopped at Governor's Camp for coffee and tea from 11.30 - 12.30, after which set up tents next to the river about 3 km east of Governor's Camp, N of Musiara Swamp. Worried for our safety, Sammy went back to Musiara gate to get us an armed guard for the night but it took a long time - two Masai men came to tell us that he got stuck in the mud and when we walked in the direction of Musiara Swamp with them, from a distance we could see he was pulled out of it by a 'zebra' car. More birding from 16 - 19. (Good) dinner (30 USD each) outside at Governor's Camp, while enjoying Hippo with baby and two Genetcats at feeder (no Bushbaby unfortunately). Small campfire and armed guard at night.
Highlights: (NW Masai Mara) Cheetah with 3 cubs absolute highlight of the trip (for RH that is), Black-chested Snake-Eagle, Rose-throated Longclaw, Wattled Lapwing; (Governor's Camp) Double-toothed Barbet at nest, perched Hooded Vulture next to river; (camp site) Woodland Kingfisher, Meyer's Parrot, African Blue Flycatcher, Horus Swift, Water Dikkop; (Musiara Swamp) Rufous-bellied Heron, Grey Crowned Crane with nest containing one egg and a pulli, Square-tailed Nightjar; (hilly small-acacia bush country) Silverbird, Usambiro Barbet, Swahili Sparrow; (between camp site and Governor's Camp at dusk) Verreaux's Eagle Owl, 4 Southern Ground Hornbills perched in dead tree.
Mon July 28th Masai Mara
Early morning visit from Hippos, Elephant and Baboons. Packed our stuff (apart from the tents), since armed guard had to go back to Musiara gate and nobody guarded the tents while gone. Off at 7.30. Ground Hornbills, feeding near the dead tree were photographed, after which drove to Mara river where no Wildebeest - all 3 million were still in Tanzania's Serengeti way south of the border, migration late this year - but some smaller crocodiles, and a Southern Ground Hornbill flew past. Lunch at Governor's Camp 12.30 - 13.30. Early afternoon spent at Masai village where possibility of photographing people for a small fee. 30° C. Birded small valley and open plains but relatively few birds, lots of mammals though. 45 min downpour while having dinner at Governor's Camp, one tent partly wet.
Highlights: (camp site) adult Lappet-faced Vulture perched in top of tree, as was Saddle-billed Stork; (NW Masai Mara) Red-necked spurfowl, Speckle-fronted Weaver, Grey Kestrel, Secretarybird at nest, Banded Mongoose.
Tue July 29th Masai Mara -> Kakamega Forest
Left camp site at 7, arriving at Kichwa Tembo at 8, where stayed until 9.50. Took Nature Walk there, to try for Schalow's and Ross's Turacos but dipped on both. Had full breakfast for 600 Ksh (6 USD) each. Drove to Kisumu past Lolgorien, Kilgoris (11.10), Kisii (12.10, where changed 500 USD), Oyugis (13.30), Sondu (14.05), Ahero (15 hr, where small stop at roadside pond). Brief stop at Hippo Point south of Kisumu (15.30-15.50), where approached by resident birder but no time to go to Dunga for the papyrus specialties. Another short stop at nearby Sunset Hotel (16 - 16.20, hotel garden turned up nothing apart from abundant dragonfly). Spent until 17.30 in a Kisumu garage because of break repair. After a stop at Rivendell Gardens that, despite good critics in the Lonely Planet, did not have hot showers, arrived at Rondo Retreat, Kakamega Forest Reserve, at 19 hr. Cost 4400 Ksh half-board (55 USD each). According to my travel companions, the no-alcohol policy at Rondo Retreat almost made them go back to Rivendell Gardens.
Highlights: (Masai Mara camp site) Elephant nearly attacking while we packed our tents; (Kichwa Tembo nature walk) Violet-backed Starling, Grey Apalis (RH only), Scaly Francolin (CQ only), Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Green-headed Sunbird; (Ahero) Tawny Eagles at nest, Golden-mantled Weaver, Black-headed Gonolek, Black-billed Barbet, Marico Sunbird; (Hippo Point, Kisumu) White-throated Bee-eater, Swamp Flycatcher, Red-chested Sunbird.
Wed July 30th Kakamega Forest
Early morning, went to Wilberforce, who lives near the Forest HQ, but unfortunately he was not available for July 30th. Drove to Ikuywa Bridge where stayed from 8-11.30, after which collected cameras and scope at Rondo Retreat before heading for Kakamega town, where had awful lunch at Western Union (good African music, though). Mistake of driver made us take long detour to Mumias, where birded at Nzoia river from 15.10-15.30. Back at Kakamega Forest, birded Zimmermann Grid from 17-18.15. Before dinner, beers were served after this mornings protest about the no-alcohol policy. Max 30° C, rain in late afternoon.
Highlights: (Rondo Retreat garden) Black-and-white Casqued Hornbill abundant, Brown-capped Weaver; (Wilberforce's garden) Lueder's Bushshrike; (Ikuywa Bridge) Black-billed and Compact Weaver, Yellow-billed, Grey-throated and Yellow-spotted Barbet, Red-headed Malimbe, Turner's Eremomela, Scarce Swift, Equatorial Akalat, Oriole-Finch, Green Sunbird, Stuhlmann's Starling; (roadside) Striped Kingfsher; (Nzoia river, Mumias) 5 Rock Pratincoles, Angola Swallow; (Zimmermann Grid) Hairy-breasted Barbet, Great Blue Turaco, Yellow-crested and Brown-eared Woodpecker, Grey-headed Negrofinch, Blue and Guereza Black-and-white Colobus Monkeys.
Thu July 31st Kakamega Forest
With Wilberforce, slowly walked the Waterpump Trail and Zimmermann Grid from 7-13.15, had lunch at Forest HQ and then walked the road between 14.45-17.45 (east of Rondo Retreat cd'd but dipped on Black-billed Turaco). Max 27° C, but birded mostly in shaded forest.
Highlights: (Wilberforce's garden) Lesser Honeyguide, White-breasted Negrofinch, Kakamega and Slender-billed Greenbul, Brown-chested Alethe, Red-tailed Bristlebill; (Waterpump Trail) White-tailed Antthrush, pair of African Shrike-Flycatcher, Brown Illadopsis, Vieillot's Black Weaver, Black-faced Rufous Warbler, White-spotted Flufftail heard only; (Zimmermann Grid) Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat, Blue-headed Bee-eater, White-headed Woodhoopoe, Honeyguide Greenbul, Pink-footed Puffback, Dusky Crested-Flycatcher, Jameson's and Yellow-bellied Wattle-eyes; (roadside birding) Bocage's Bushshrike, Purple-throated Cuckooshrike, pair of Red-headed Bluebill; (big Rondo Retreat sign) pair of Ross's Turaco; (about 2 km east of Rondo Retreat) African Broadbill and Red-chested Owlet taped out - Black-billed Turaco didn't respond.
Fri Aug 1st Kakamega Forest -> Lake Baringo
With Wilberforce, slowly walked the surroundings of Rondo Retreat and the Zimmermann Grid (from 6.45-11). Left Kakamega Forest Reserve for Lake Baringo at 11.05, with brief stop at Maturu village at 12.15 and again about 20 km west of Eldoret. Reached Eldoret (13.40) and started descending into Rift Valley at 14.45. Stop at 2nd viewpoint at 15.30. At Lake Baringo, heavy rains had washed away roads and bridges but filled the lake. Stayed at Soi Safari Lodge (40 USD each, full-board, food not great). Arranged 'full birdwatching tour' with Peter Fox & Syalas, including boat-trip (1,500 Ksh / 18USD an hr, divided by 5), late morning walk for owls, acacia bush birding and Heuglin's Courser & nightjars, and late afternoon walk for sandgrouse and Spotted Thickknee (apart from boattrip, 500 Ksh / 5 USD each) - good deal, guides recommended.
Highlights: (around Rondo Retreat) cd'd in 4 White-spotted Flufftails & Grey-winged Robin-Chat; also Ansorge's and Little Grey Greenbul; (Zimmermann Grid) Chestnut Wattle-eye (dipped on both Chapin's Flycatcher and Bar-tailed Trogon that didn't react to tape & cd); (Maturu) Yellow-mantled and Red-collared Widowbirds, Black-winged Bishop; (small marsh 20 km west of Eldoret) Red-headed Quelea, Little Rush Warbler, Didric Cuckoo; (Rift Valley viewpoint) White-crested Turaco heard, Jackson's Hornbill, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaver; (Soi Safari Lodge) fly-by Black Egret, Nubian Nightjar.
Sat Aug 2nd Lake Baringo
Heavy rain at night. Took boat out from 7-10.20, past extensive reedbeds, heronry and small island (great trip). Birdwalk past Baringo cliffs from 11.15-14.30, ending in village with owls, courser and nightjars. Late afternoon walk through acacia bush at 'West Bay' unsuccessful as according to Peter Fox, both Lichtenstein's and Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse should occur.
Highlights: (Lake Baringo boattrip) Yellow-crowned and Northern Red Bishop, Little, Golden-mantled and Northern Masked Weaver, hunting Bat Hawk, Goliath Heron, Madagascar and White-throated Bee-eater, 'madagascariensis' Purple and Allen's Gallinule, Knob-billed and White-faced Whistling-Ducks, Jacobin Cuckoo, Senegal Thickknee; (Baringo Cliffs) Bristle-crowned Starling, Lesser Masked Weaver, pair of Hemprich's Hornbill, pair of White-faced Scops Owl; (stony fields near Baringo village) pair of Heuglin's Courser near nest containing two eggs, Brown-backed Scrub-Robin, pair of Greyish Eagle Owl / 'cinerascens' Spotted Eagle Owl, Nubian, Slender-tailed and (non-breeding) Pennant-winged Nightjars; (West Bay) Dark Chanting Goshawk, Rufous-fronted Warbler, Pygmy Batis, Northern Grey (Somali) Tit, Mouse-coloured Penduline-Tit, pair of Heuglin's Courser.
Sun Aug 3rd Lake Baringo -> Mt. Kenya
Left at 7.10, picked up Peter & Syalas and went to airstrip for Spotted Thickknee (no extra charge since included in yesterday's trip). Stayed until 7.50, then moved to (birdrich) Robert's Camp, where stayed until 8.30. Arrived at Nakuru 10.30, brief distant-flamingo-viewing stop north of Nakuru. Nyahururu / Thomson's Falls were reached at 11.30, where bought souvenirs, birded and left at 12.30. Roadside lunch at 14 hr. From 15-16.15 stayed at signposted 'MacKinder's Eagle Owl'-site. Arrived at Naro Moru River Lodge, west of Mt. Kenya, 17.50. No special deals possible, paid about 54 USD each half-board.
Highlights: (near Baringo airstrip) Spotted Thickknee, Pygmy Falcon, female Chestnut Weaver; (Robert's Camp) 2 Verreaux's Eagle Owls, Red-fronted Barbet, Rufous Chatterer, White-billed Buffalo-Weaver, Northern Puffback; (between Baringo and Nakuru) African Cuckoo, Black Coucal (latter RH only); (just north of Nakuru) Speke's Weaver colony; (Thomson's Falls) Small green chameleon, Golden-winged Sunbird (dipped by RH and CQ, who were buying souvenirs), Rufous-throated Wryneck; (near Ndaragwa village) Hartlaub's Turaco; ('MacKinder's Eagle Owl'-site) pair of MacKinder's Eagle Owl, pair of Giant Kingfisher, Red-fronted Parrot, Yellow-crowned Canary, African Golden-breasted Bunting; (Naro Moru River Lodge) Tacazze Sunbird, Thick-billed Seedeater, Mountain Nightjar heard only.
Mon Aug 4th Mt. Kenya
Breakfast served at 5.45, left 6.30, arrived at Met Station (over 3,000m) in light rain at 8. Entry for Mt. Kenya NP 15 USD each and 600 Ksh for driver and car. Birded 'dwarf forest' above Met Station from 8-11, few birds. Walked down from Met Station between 11 and 16.30, with lunch around 13 hr. Bamboo alongside path obscured vision into undergrowth, very few birds seen. Had to leave for Naro Moru early due to minor car trouble (broken exhaust pipe). RV and RH walked around Naro Moru River Lodge garden late afternoon.
Highlights: (Met Station) Jackson's Francolin, Abyssinian Ground Thrush, Hunter's Cisticola, Moorland Chat, Verreaux's Eagle, Cinnamon Bracken, Mountain Yellow and Brown Woodland Warbler; (bamboo) Grey-headed Negrofinch, Abyssinian Crimsonwing; (gate) Sharpe's Starling, Black-tailed (Montane) Oriole.
Tue Aug 5th Mt. Kenya - Wajee Camp - Nairobi Airport
Most slept in late, left at 9.45. Stop halfway between Naro Moru and Nyeri, at Sammy's site for Jackson's Widowbird. Birdwalk with resident birder at Wajee Camp Nature Park, nearby Nyeri, from 11.45-13.15. Dipped on both Ayres's Hawk Eagle and Hinde's Babbler, the former since it was not seen for 3 days and the latter since two family groups stay at Wajee Camp but leave the place around 9.30 to forage in coffee plantations. Did not try for other specialties Rufous-throated Wryneck and African Wood Owl (seen them already), and also dipped on Golden-winged Sunbird in this foggy place. Nice though, a good site to start a trip. After lunch, left for Nairobi at 13.55, with stop at Blue Post Hotel, Thika, from 15.30-16.55 - no Purple-crested Turaco or Grey-olive Greenbul however. Few traffic jams in Nairobi, arrival at airport 17.45. Flight for London left at 22.45, with minor delay.
Highlights: (between Naro Moru and Nyeri) Long-tailed and Jackson's Widowbirds, Long-billed Pipit; (Wajee Camp) African Firefinch, Cape Robin-Chat, Green-headed Sunbird; (Blue Post Hotel, Thika) Spot-flanked Barbet.
Notes on specific species
Leopard: although common, this is a nocturnal animal and therefore seldom seen. It is very rare for birders (on a, say, 4-week trip) to see one in Kenya and if they do it is usually in Masai Mara or Samburu NP, where one is baited at night. Seeing 3-4, like we did, is very extraordinary, so don't count on seeing this magnificent animal.
Cheetah: this is quite a rare animal in the world, fortunately Masai Mara is one of the best places in the world to see one. Having a driver or guide who knows the area and who speaks Swahili so he can talk to the resident game drivers from, e.g., Governor's Camp, can increase your chances of seeing them considerably.
Every birder misses birds on a trip, especially when on a tight schedule like we were. Apart from specialties we didn't see because of not visiting special sites (see below), the following birds could have been seen by us: Black-headed Batis, Malindi Pipit and Clarke's Weaver at or near Sokoke Forest (the former should be common at Sokoke Forest while the latter two are both rare endemic Kenyan coast specialties that we tried but dipped); Spotthroat, Dapplethroat, Bar-tailed Trogon (sites for these birds exist in East-Usumbara's, but sounds are needed to have a chance of finding them); Usumbara Weaver, White-chested Alethe (West Usumbara's). Rufous-crowned and Broad-billed Roller, Black-bellied Bustard, Shelley's Starling (Tsavo East) and Brown Snake-Eagle are examples of rather common birds (at least in some seasons) that we looked out for but didn't see.
Other well-known sites that could be combined with our trip and that have certain specialties, are the following:
Sabaki River Mouth (north of Sokoke Forest): we visited the site but didn't get close enough to the sand banks to identify all birds present. Birds here could include White-cheeked, Roseate and Lesser and Greater Crested Tern.
Lake Magadi (day-trip from Nairobi): Chestnut-banded Plover is a localised endemic which is seen here regularly; other birds include bustards and raptors along the way there.
Lake Victoria (between Masai Mara and Kakamega Forest): several sites here, like Dunga Point, hold specialties like Papyrus Canary, White-winged Warbler, Papyrus Gonolek and Carruther's Cisticola. There are guides in the area who can show these species: we decided to skip these sites since RB and CQ had already been in Uganda and seen some of these birds.
Lake Nakuru (near Lake Naivasha): apart from the 100,000s of Lesser Flamingoes, this NP is a good site for White Rhino (introduced) and Black Rhino, and nearby cliffs are known for Schalow's Wheatear (localised endemic).
Aberdare NP (between Kakamega Forest and Mt Kenya): holds the world population of Aberdare Cisticola and is also scenically beautiful.
Samburu NP (north of Mt Kenya): known for Grevy's Zebra, Leopard, Vulturine Guineafowl, Somali Ostrich, Somali Courser and Somali Bee-eater (although the latter 5 can also be seen at Tsavo East).
Top Ten Most Beautiful New Birds (according to RH)
1. Golden Pipit
3. Fischer's Turaco
4. Heuglin's Courser
5. Lappet-faced Vulture
6. Jameson's Wattle-eye
7. Red-and-yellow Barbet
8. Sokoke Scops Owl
9. Saddle-billed Stork
10. Mountain Wagtail
(A fuller, Excel version of this file, showing day to day sightings is available from Remco at the e-mail address below.)
Oegstgeest, october 2003
Rob Bouwman, Geldrop & Remco Hofland, Oegstgeest, The Netherlands