TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT
Sunday 27th October - Sunday 10th November 2002
Mike Read , The Travelling Naturalist
David Mengo Mnjala, Local Guide
Sunday 27th October Heathrow Terminal 4 and flight departure
Atrocious weather conditions in England provided varied and 'exciting' ways of getting to the airport with trains and busses cancelled (storm force winds in the Channel etc.). However, everyone arrived in good time and we were pleased to hear that our flight with Kenyan Airways was still going (while many BA flights were cancelled). Just 10 minutes behind schedule we were heading for take-off and soon we left the lights of England behind; Kenyan safari here we come!
Monday 28th October Arrive Nairobi, Nairobi National Park
We landed at about 06.20 and after waiting for our A&K driver, we headed in towards our hotel in Nairobi. Birds were quite numerous and during the drive we saw a Common Fiscal Shrike, 2 Hadadah Ibis, many Black Kites and Pied Crows. Along the major route into town, groups of Accacia trees held large breeding colonies of Cattle Egrets and then Marabou Storks.
After breakfast, during which we added Common Bulbul, Baglafecht Weaver and Bronze Manakin, we all took a little time to R & R (rest and re-organise) in preparation for the drive out for lunch and an afternoon at Nairobi National Park.
During lunch we were able to view some presumably captive mammals but seeing the same species out in the park later was much more interesting. Masai Giraffes were plentiful and very approachable, Burchell's Zebra numbered hundreds and there was a good scattering of Hartebeeste throughout the area that we drove. There were occasional groups of Impala; Buffaloes and Thompson's Gazelles and we also saw 3 Oribi, which our guide told us, were very rarely seen. Our final 'good mammal' was a rather distant Black Rhinoceros and unfortunately we were mostly watching its rear end as it walked purposefully off towards a small scrub-filled valley.
Needless to say, we had also seen lots of birds and an early 'goodie' being a Martial Eagle that had taken its prey to the top of an Acacia tree where it was feeding quite contentedly. There were perhaps 5 Montagu's Harriers and twice that number of Black-shouldered Kites, an Augur Buzzard, 4 White-belied Bustards and a single Hartlaub's Bustard. Beside a small pond there were 9 Hadada Ibises, 2 Blacksmith Plovers, a Squacco Heron and towering elegantly above them all was a Grey Crowned Crane.
Our afternoon in the park ended just after sunset so we headed back to Nairobi and after dinner, we headed to our rooms for a well-earned nights sleep.
Tuesday 29th October Nairobi to Mountain Lodge, walk at Mountain Lodge
During breakfast we were entertained by a few birds including Baglafecht Weavers and Common Bulbuls while Pied Crows and Black Kites flew in arcs across clearing skies. At 9 o'clock we began our journey towards Mountain Lodge and though we were seeing plenty more Kites and Crows, we were pleased when we left the city behind and were seeing some different species. At a number of river crossing points there were obviously lots of Little Swifts nesting beneath them as huge numbers wheeled around. A few Black-shouldered Kites were seen, as were some Superb Starlings.
As we began the climb towards Mountain Lodge, small villages were scattered along the way. On the outskirts of one of these we paused to look at a Gymnogene and immediately added a few new species including White-browed Coucal, White-eyed Slaty-Flycatcher, Brimstone Canary and Grey-capped Warbler. During the rest of the journey further new birds included Bronzy Sunbird, Cape Robin-Chat and Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater but perhaps the most surprising was a Stonechat, the same species that we see in Britain but with a much whiter throat and breast. Just before reaching the lodge, we paused to look at a Bushbuck and feeding close to it was a Red Duiker.
At Mountain Lodge we were warmly welcomed and were soon enjoying a fine lunch. After this we had a little time to admire the Bushbucks and Defassa Waterbucks visiting the waterhole in front of the lodge; some even managed to catch a glimpse of a Marsh Mongoose which paid the area a brief visit.
Soon we were heading out on a walk close to the lodge and as we set off, a couple of Mountain Orioles gave good views. The information from our guide regarding local customs and plant uses was excellent but all the time our attention was mostly taken by the abundant wildlife. The trees held a group of Black-and-white Colobus Monkeys and a little further on a Sykes Monkey walked across in front of us. Birds included Red-fronted Parrot, Waller's Starling and African Dusky Flycatcher but the biggest surprise came as we entered a clearing to find that we were to be treated to afternoon tea! As we sat on a log at our individual 'tables', a noise from deep within the forest indicated the presence of a group of Forest Elephants. All of the time we were there, their trumpeting and rumbling noises indicated they were very much aware of us but did they could not quite make us out. But then again, not many humans can understand the British penchant for a drink made from leaves (that we cannot even grow in England!) steeped in boiling water.
Soon we were heading back towards the lodge and on the way we saw a Suni, the smallest African antelope. Back in our rooms and the 'forward hide' we awaited the arrival of the Elephants at the water hole. We were not to be disappointed, as eventually a dozen appeared from the depths of the forest and after a few moments, they made their way down to the water's edge for a drink. They were joined by a procession of other species including Waterbucks, Bushbucks and some passing Buffaloes. As darkness fell, 4 or 5 Large Spotted Genets fed on platforms close to the bar balcony. Dinner was interrupted when a Black Rhino appeared in the floodlights but the food was so good that we were soon seated back at the dining tables. Later appearances at the water hole included a White-tailed Mongoose and a Spotted Hyena though most of the group had gone straight to their rooms and missed these two species.
Wednesday 30th October Mountain Lodge to Samburu Intrepids Camp, Game Drive in Samburu
Early morning watching by the waterhole provided 36 Buffalo, 6 Bushbucks and some very close views of 3 Defassa Waterbucks. Birds included the family of Egyptian Geese, 3 species of Sandpiper, Tropical Boubous, an Eastern Collared Sunbird and good views of Hunter's Cisticola giving their dueted, trilling songs.
As with the other meals here, breakfast is highly recommended especially as it began with a choice of bucks fizz or just straight champagne!
Soon after breakfast we were on our way but before reaching the more major road, we had excellent views of many species including Hartlaub's Turaco, Golden-breasted Bunting and Yellow Bishop.
Heading north towards the equator we were occasionally pausing to view new birds. These included Pin-tailed Whydah, Red-billed Firefinch, Fischer's and Greater Blue-eared Glossy Starlings; Speke's Weavers' Crowned Plovers, Long-tailed Widowbird, Speckled Pigeon and a Secretary Bird.
We took the usual pause at the equator for a photo opportunity and to see the 'water demonstration' (clockwise draining to the north of the line and anticlockwise to the south ....... or was it the other way round?!)
As we headed onwards it became apparent that we were a little behind schedule so stops were fewer now though we did manage Straw-tailed Whydah, Red-rumped and Lesser Striped Swallows, 5 White-backed Vultures, a Long-crested (Hawk-) Eagle as well as Helmeted and Vulturine Guineafowl.
Inside Samburu National Park, a stunning Golden Pipit stopped us in our tracks and here we also saw a Rosy-patched Bush-shrike and Black-capped Social Weaver. Mammals we sped past included many groups of Elephants, Gerenuks, Grevy's Zebras and Reticulated Giraffes though we would see these again and lunch was calling very loudly!
After dining well and settling in to our luxurious tents (complete with four-poster beds!) we were soon off out on a game drive. Birds were again numerous and included Black-bellied and Violet-backed Sunbirds. 3 Black-faced Sandgrouse, 3 species of Hornbill, a mating pair of Pygmy Falcons, Eurasian Hobby and a Lanner Falcon. Mammals were also on view with 2 species of Dikdik (Clark's & Guenther's) being numerous during the early part of the journey. Once David received some news via the radio, we passed a close Grevy's Zebra and out to a slightly more open area where, after much patient waiting, we managed to see a Leopard. We had fabulous views as it clambered up a rocky ridge. Two Dikdiks came dashing from the area and sped off while the Leopard just sauntered onwards. After more excellent views and some considerable time spent watching it laid down amongst the low scrub, we had to head back towards Intrepids in time for the 6.30 pm curfew though we did manage a brief pause to view a fine Tawny Eagle, our last bird of a truly spectacular start in Samburu.
Thursday 31st October Samburu; morning game drive near Intrepids, relax after breakfast and lunch, afternoon game drive.
By 06.30 we were off out on our first game drive of the day and were soon adding new species. In just a short distance we had seen a Nubian Woodpecker, some Crested Francolins and Parrot-billed Sparrow though unfortunately we only heard the Verreaux's Eagle-Owl. Among a group of Impala there was a very small youngster which everyone enjoyed watching as it pranced around. New birds came thick and fast now with Village Weaver, d'Arnoud's Barbet, White-headed Bush-Shrike, Violet-backed Sunbird, Golden Weaver and Openbill Stork all being seen before we returned to looking at mammals like the Rock Hyraxes that were moving around on a rocky ridge or the Greater Kudu that walked along beneath them. A little later, a Bateleur flew overhead as a White-headed Mousebird skulked in the top of a bush but eventually everyone secured something of a view. At the river there was a Greenshank and 4 Spur-winged Plovers along one of the banks and a few Little Swifts were dashing under the bridge. Our mornings' watching was completed with some Donaldson-Smith Sparrow-Weavers, a fine male Waterbuck, a couple of Reticulated Giraffes and a Silver-backed Jackal.
After breakfast we had time to relax through to lunchtime and then until our 3.30 game drive. Needless to say, some of the group spent a little time wildlife watching and saw things like Grey-headed Kingfisher plus Red-billed and d'Arnoud's Hornbills.
As we assembled for the afternoon drive there were the usual Vervet Monkeys around the camp area and a little way down the road was a group of Olive Baboons. 2 Leopard Tortoises showed a surprising turn of foot (well, for tortoises!) and we then saw another Silver-backed Jackal. At the rocky outcrop there were at least half a dozen Rock Hyraxes on view and on the way to the river we added Pink-breasted Lark and Rufous Chatterer to the list. A meleé of vehicles at the river indicated 'cat' and in this instance it turned out to be a couple of Lionesses that were trying to secure some privacy and were consequently trying to hide in deep cover. The 'side show' was provided by 50 Yellow-billed Storks, a very close Spur-winged Plover and a Lilac-breasted Roller. As we headed back towards camp for our evening meal, we also saw Grey-headed Kingfisher, Magpie Starling, Three-banded Plover and a good group of Cut-throat Finches to complete the day.
Friday 1st November Samburu; 06.30 game drive, relax after breakfast, short walk before lunch, game drive at 3.30 pm.
This morning we set off with the intention of ignoring the birds a little and heading out to find some of the special mammals of the area. We had not gone far before we slipped back into our ways of the previous few days as first an Imperial Eagle and then a Martial Eagle posed waiting to be identified. Spotted Morning Thrush, Grey Wren-Warbler and Brown-crowned Tchagra all caused more brief stops but a Golden-breasted Starling stopped us in our tracks. It was a stunningly beautiful bird even more superb than the Superb Starlings we had been driving past so far today!
Our first couple of Reticulated Giraffes were in 'track-free zones' and so we headed on and found a good group of Grevy's Zebras. These we watched and photographed for some time and then they were joined by a dozen or more Giraffes. The group of 4 Gerenuks were almost a minor distraction though we did spend some time watching these, including one doing its usual trick of standing on its hind legs to feed, before returning to revel in the Zebras and Giraffes. Acacias dotted the land and hills rose up beyond with the sacred mountain of Lolongwe standing proudly above everything. Needless to say we were still adding new birds and these included 2 Golden Pipits, a Red-backed Shrike, a few Fawn-coloured Larks, Northern Brubru, Yellow-vented Eremomela, Taita Fiscal-Shrike and a Pink-breasted Lark. But now we had to return to Intrepids for breakfast and we paused briefly on the way back for an Isabelline Wheatear, Cardinal Woodpecker, Northern Grey Tit and a Sprosser or Thrush Nightingale.
After another fine breakfast, we rested until noon when we strolled along the Ewaso Ng'iro (which translates as Brown Water River) and looked at the local/camp birds. A Black-headed Oriole sang constantly to accompany us as we watched other species like Nubian Woodpecker, White-browed Sparrows, Emerald-spotted Wood Doves and Northern Puffback. A flock of Red-billed Quelias were coming to the river to drink while on the far bank, a Common Sandpiper was feeding. Perhaps the birds of the walk were the splendid Green Woodhoopoes that firtled around in a tree before flying over our heads to reveal the white in their wings and tail, and also the colourful Grey-headed Bush-Shrikes which fed high above us in the acacia trees.
When we began our afternoon game drive, just a short way out we came across 2 juvenile Bateleurs and 2 Tawny Eagles perched in one tree. Another Lilac-breasted Roller added some colour to the proceedings, as did some Chestnut Weavers. Back to the raptors and we now were able to watch an adult Bateleur and a Tawny Eagle soaring around and they were joined by a pair of Lanner Falcons. The next new bird species was a stunner, a Golden-breasted Starling. Everyone agreed that this species made the nearby Superb Starlings look like Average Starlings!! A Gymnogene flew into some woodland and a group of 4 White-headed Mousebirds gave much better views than the one this morning and then in fairly rapid succession we had excellent views of a juvenile and then an adult Eastern Pale Chanting Goshawk. A Violet-backed Starling was seen by one member of the group but our final sighting of the day was of 2 Cheetahs. These two individuals, possibly brothers, were intent on securing an evening meal of Impala but as dusk gathered, we unfortunately had to leave to be back at camp before the curfew ............. and we were still late!
Saturday 2nd November Leave Samburu and drive to Loldia House by Lake Naivasha
We had become accustomed to seeing 2 species of Dikdik close to Samburu Camp and as we left, today was no exception. Also here were Impalas, Dwarf Mongooses and a Bateleur and new species included Somali Bee-Eater. Close to the latter species we saw a couple of Silver-backed Jackals and a Rock Thrush while further on we were able to spend a little time in the company of 2 of the 4 Beisia Oryx that we saw. While watching and photographing the Oryx, a (Buff) Crested Bustard appeared on the other side of the minibus. Our journey to the edge of Samburu National Park was interspersed with glimpses of such lovely and unique species as Black-bellied Bustard, Somali Golden-breasted Buntings, Golden Pipits, Red-fronted Warbler, Secretary Bird and Elephant.
Soon we were on our way and clocking up the kilometres and at first were pleased to be back on tarred roads though we soon changed our minds, as they became increasingly bumpy. Despite the 7.30 departure, it still took us until 11.15 to reach Nanyuki and as we headed on from there we saw Bronze Sunbird, Blacksmith Plover, Montagu's Harriers and Black-shouldered Kites. Sweetwaters Game Farm held Giraffes, Thompson's and Grant's Gazelles and a small group of Olive Baboons crossed the road and seemed to be heading for the farm.
Soon we were taking the short route (for this read 'very bumpy cross country route') towards Naivasha and this part of our journey was only broken by further sightings of Montagu's Harriers, an Augur Buzzard, a few Lilac-breasted Rollers and finally a flock of about 120 Crowned Cranes. Despite our haste, we still did not reach Loldia House until about 3 pm.
After a late lunch and a little settling in, we were taken for a fabulous boat ride along the edge of Lake Naivasha where there were hundreds of 'water birds' on view. Herons and Egrets were there in huge numbers with perhaps the most unusual being about 150 Squacco Herons. African Jacanas and Long-toed Plovers were also quite numerous and we did see a small number of Black Crakes though these did prove very elusive. African Fish Eagles perched high in Acacia trees and their frequent, loud calls echoed around the waterside. Malachite Kingfishers were dwarfed by their Pied cousins while Long-tailed Cormorants dived to secure perhaps their final meal of the day. The African White Pelicans adopted an altogether different technique for catching their fish. They swam around in a tight group and they would all submerge their heads at the same time; the theory is that in the fishes confusion, at least a few of the Pelicans would be fortunate enough to catch something.
Also present were many Sacred Ibises, a few Glossy Ibises, a lone Pink-backed Pelican, Yellow-billed Ducks, Gull-billed and Whiskered Terns, Purple Gallinules and many more birds besides. The mammals included Defassa Waterbucks and Cape Buffaloes feeding at the water's edge and numerous Hippos in the lake itself. All too soon, the evening began to draw in and we made our way back towards the jetty, back to our rooms to prepare for a superb evening meal to complete the day.
Sunday 3rd November Early boat trip on Lake Naivasha, drive to Nakuru National Park for birds and game, return to Loldia House.
After watching the sun rise over Lake Naivasha, another boat ride enabled us to see many of the same birds that we saw the previous afternoon including the Plovers, Jacanas, Kingfishers, Ibises, Herons and Egrets. The Pelicans and Cormorants were less active than yesterday and a Grey-headed Gull was a new species. There were at least 10 Fish Eagles in various locations along our route.
By 7.30 we were having breakfast where we were joined by Superb Starlings, Common Bulbuls and an Olive Thrush and then at 8.30 we were off towards Lake Nakuru.
A pair of Fischer's Lovebirds and a couple of Red-cheeked Cordonbleus delayed our departure briefly but we were soon heading up the hill pausing only to identify such exotics as Spotted Flycatcher and Whinchat!! Oh, and we also saw more mundane birds such as Hunter's Sunbird, Yellow-breasted Apalis and White-bellied Tit. Once we were outside the Loldia premises, the dirt road took us through various habitats where we added Schallow's Wheatear, Pale Prinia and Cliff Chat to the list.
Heading northwards there were a few birds to be seen including Black Kites, usually close to towns, and a couple of Long-crested Eagles. In Nakuru itself there was a good flock of Rock Martins on view as well as more Black Kites and a number of Pied Crows.
At the entrance to Nakuru National Park a few Vervet Monkeys were making a nuisance of themselves by entering mini busses and looking for items of food. Impala, Defassa Waterbucks, Burchell's Zebras and Buffaloes were easily found while along the lake shore there were a few Marabou Storks and at least 6 Tawny Eagles. Waders were represented by Black-winged Stilts, Little Stints and Marsh Sandpipers in numbers while there were singletons of Greenshank, Ruff and Avocet. But needless to say, the spectacle of the day was the huge number of Lesser Flamingos present. Recent estimates by park staff suggested there were something like 750,000! They stretched like a broad pink ribbon all around the lake and across the lake itself; more constantly moving sinuous ribbons etched Arabic-like scrolls against the dark water. Amongst them all, we could only locate one definite Greater Flamingo though we were sure there were many more than that.
Beyond a herd of Buffaloes we found our first 3 White Rhinos of the dozen we saw that day and we also saw some European Bee-Eaters and European Rollers. During our picnic lunch in the woods we managed to see Bearded Woodpecker, a female Black Cuckoo-Shrike and a Striped Kingfisher.
In the woods approaching the lake viewpoint we added African Paradise Flycatcher and Grey-headed Woodpecker. The view over the lake proved an even greater spectacle in pink than expected and other birds noted from here included House Martin, Mosque Swallow, Common Swift and Rock Martins. Heading back towards the lake we again passed through some woods where a Black-headed Oriole added a good splash of colour. On an area of open grassland, a Silver-backed Jackal and a male Ostrich provided good size comparisons and then a Eurasian Marsh Harrier drifted past. A group of 4 White Rhinos provided some good photo opportunities and at one time there were three in a row ......... but unfortunately they were showing their rear ends!
We drove to a lakeside area and were able to get fairly close views of this particular part of the ribbon of pink and we could also see a couple of African Spoonbills. Further White Rhinos were seen in this area but it was now time to complete the circuit of the lake and head back towards Loldia House but before we left the park a group of 10 Black-and-white Colobus Monkeys, a Long Crested Eagle and a group of Speke's Weavers all delayed us a little.
The journey back was completed in fairly rapid time and along the dirt road before the Loldia Estate, we did get some very close views of a couple of Rock Hyraxes to complete our days viewing.
Monday 4th November Journey from Lake Naivasha to the Sarova Mara camp, around camp, afternoon game drive.
Before and during breakfast there were many birds to be seen down by the lake shore. Perhaps the most noticeable of these were the quantities of African White Pelicans which were flying to their feeding grounds. By 07.30 we were on our way and were soon passing the usual Impalas and Thompson's Gazelles. Before reaching the tarred road, we had seen Schallow's Wheatear and Cliff Chat.
After passing through the town of Naivasha, we did see a couple of Kori Bustards, a Tawny Eagle and a Black-shouldered Kite. We paused in Narok and added White-fronted Bee-Eater to the day's list but then we were heading off towards Sarova Mara camp. By 11.30 a.m. we had left the tarred road though we were still able to watch the wildlife as we bumped our way along. A Dark Chanting Goshawk and a Wahlberg's Eagle were perched in bushes at fairly close range while Thompson's and Grant's Gazelles fed happily on the sparse grazing.
Our tented accommodation at Mara Sarova was well situated and a fair bit of wildlife was visible as we settled in. However, at 4 p.m. we were re-boarding the minibus and setting out for a game drive, our first in the Mara.
Just a short way down the road, Little Bee-Eaters adorned occasional trees and shrubs. Topi, Impala, Zebra and Baboons were all numerous and we also found some groups of Giraffe. Naturally, birds were not overlooked especially as many of them were so colourful. These included Greater Blue-eared Glossy-Starling, Lilac-breasted Roller and Hildebrandt's Starling. Three species of Plover (Crowned, Wattled and Three-banded) were vying for attention with Black-bellied Bustards plus plenty of other species. But the stars of the afternoon had to be the big cats.
A pride of 8 Lions had obviously only just finished a large meal and were looking typically lethargic. Most just lounged around or slept but the energy of youth shone through and a couple of year-old individuals seemed ready for anything. They constantly pounced on each other and when they tired of that, they then went to annoy others which until now, had been sleeping. Their annoyance at being woken seemed pretty apparent.
Time was now pressing and so reluctantly we tore ourselves away and began the journey back to camp. We had not gone far when we spied another conglomeration of vehicles. Moments later we were pulling up close to a female Cheetah and her 4 cubs. Sadly we could only spend a few moments here but we revelled in the moment and hoped to see her again the next day.
Tuesday 5th November Morning and afternoon game drives from the Sarova Mara camp
Once again we set off at 06.30 for our game drive and were soon seeing the usual Tommies, Topi and Impala. a Couple of Silver-backed Jackals and some Buffaloes were also seen before we really started on the birds. Sooty Chats, Yellow-throated Longclaws and a Brown-crowned Tchagra all followed in quick succession before we turned our attentions back to mammals when we found a herd of 7 Elephants. 25 Eland were quickly followed by 4 Bat-eared Foxes but unfortunately these disappeared below ground rather than enjoy our company! As a few vehicles began to assemble on a distant slope, t became apparent that there was something worth seeing and we were not wrong, Lions had made a recent kill and were now surrounding the carcass and enjoying their breakfast. After a short time of watching this, we moved off to try to find the Cheetah and cubs and we soon found them close to where we had seen the lions the previous day. Unfortunately they were some distance from the nearest track and so we decided that our own breakfast should take priority.
We relaxed for the rest of the morning and in to the afternoon after which we went out for another drive. A White-headed Vulture circled overhead and two Lesser Kestrels passed by and then we saw 2 Dark Chanting Goshawks, one perched and the other in flight. A Saddle-billed Stork wandered off as we stopped to admire it and the group of Banded Mongooses were in the same place as we had seen them the previous afternoon.
A couple of groups of Elephants, totalling about 22 individuals in all, were most obliging. The larger of the groups had a couple stood in the shade of a large tree and the rest of the group stood in their shadows to avoid the heat of he direct sun. A couple of Black-bellied Bustards wandered along feeding and then we spotted another group of Elephants but they were difficult to count as they were wandering through thick scrub. A Black-shouldered Kite flew past and must have caught something very shortly afterwards because a female Montagu's Harrier also flew past us but with more speed and purpose than the Kite. There was a brief skirmish between the two and it ended with the Kite dropping its prize only for the harrier to catch it and head off with its easily won meal.
After a slightly worrying ditch crossing, we headed off towards an assemblage of vehicles. Here, a pair of what David described as a honeymooning-couple of Lions were fast asleep. Nothing seemed to disturb them. Was this 'the morning after the night before' despite the fact that it was the middle of the afternoon?! We left them to sleep it off.
After pausing briefly to see a group of 7 Ostriches, we soon found ourselves looking at the female Cheetah and her 4 cubs. She seemed intent on hunting but seemed to be ignoring a group of Tommies that might have provided a suitable target and we guessed that it might be that hunting in this area might arouse the attention of the pride of 8 Lions that were certainly not far away. For the Cheetah, the safety and survival of her young was obviously the primary consideration.
A short detour from our return route soon had us viewing the 8 Lions once again and their 'entertainment value was such that the light was fading as we eventually left to head back to camp. We saw a Bat-eared Fox close to where we had seen the four earlier in the day so presumably it was one of the same ones. As the sunset colours were now quite good, we paused to enjoy the scene as a group of Elands crossed the skyline and were silhouetted against the best bit of colour. As we sped back along the road, an African Hare gave brief views in the headlights and so we ended the day's watching with yet another new species of mammal.
Wednesday 6th November Late game drive and drive to Kichwa Tembo Camp
As one of the group was unwell this morning, rather than immediately transfer to Kichwa Tembo, we delayed departure until after lunch. As we had taken the decision to have a late breakfast, we went for a later game drive. Little Bee-eaters were most co-operative just a short way down the road and soon afterwards, a Black Stork circled overhead. We took a completely different route to the previous days and soon found ourselves in the company of a couple of Giraffes. A Gabar Goshawk flew past and a family group of Reed Bucks (male, female and growing youngster) fed near the track. We watched these for a while before moving on and soon found a White-crowned Bush-Shrike and a couple of Golden-breasted Buntings.
The Tawny Eagle and the Black-chested Snake-Eagle were obviously hunting for larger prey than the Mosque Swallows that flitted just overhead. Further on, a par of Striped Kingfishers perched in the same tree and a group of at least 5 Temminck's Coursers contained at least one juvenile. Another new species for the tour came in the shape of a Grey Kestrel but unfortunately this did not remain perched in view for long. As we began the drive back to camp, an African Hoopoe flapped past and a d'Arnaud's Barbet perched in the back of a road side bush. A group of 23 Elephants provided some good viewing and as we drove up the final approach to Sarova Mara camp, not only were the Little Bee-Eaters still perching in exactly the same place as when we went out, but a small group of Tawny-flanked Prinias were passing through the bushes nearby. To complete the morning, a Mariqua Sunbird put in a brief appearance in the parking area.
Thankfully Jenny was now feeling much better and so, after a fairly speedy lunch, we set off for the other side of the Mara. Again, shortly down the road, we set off on new tracks and were soon pausing for our first daylight Spotted Hyenas of the tour. A couple of Kori Bustards strode along and we also spotted a Dark Chanting Goshawk. As we reached higher ground, the numbers of Wildebeest increased greatly here we were to see tens of thousands; a truly remarkable spectacle. A pair of Lappet-faced Vultures were on their bulky nest in a low acacia tree and further along we saw a Short-toed Eagle and this was followed shortly afterwards by a Brown Snake Eagle.
At one point David indicated a marker stone on the border between Kenya and Tanzania; the Masai Mara and the Serengeti. Needless to say we did the touristy thing of driving across the border for a couple of minutes and wondered what lay beyond. Could this be the destination for our next African tour?
Back on our route, we could see rain clouds gathering just ahead of the long ridge running along this part of the Mara. The quantities of Wildebeest still kept rising and when we paused to watch a couple of White-bellied Bustards, we also noticed a few Rosy-breasted Longclaws in the nearby vegetation.
Further on there had obviously been some very recent rain. The track that had been OK until now, suddenly turned into a quagmire. Wheels on the minibus were spinning and it seemed like we were on a skating rink as we did some rather nifty sideways driving!! All credit to David, he did a great job of keeping us heading in the right direction ........ for most of the time. And when we were not, we never felt there was any real problem. We paused at the entrance/exit of the National Park and beneath the archway there were many nests of Little Swift.
Once our journey was complete, we settled in to our Kichwa Tembo camp and relaxed before the evening meal.
Thursday 7th November Early morning game drive then after lunch we try two different locations.
Birds were abundant as we left Kichwa Tembo for our first game drive of the day with a range of sizes from Purple Grenadier right up to Wahlberg's Eagle ........ and that was before we reached the end of the drive. Before going on from there, a couple of large black birds with white in the wing, flew along the hillside and landed on a grassy slope. These turned out to be our first Ground Hornbills of the tour. We headed towards the park entrance and saw a female Pied Wheatear, which flew along and conveniently landed on a rock near the road. Banded Martins, Anteater Chat, Wattled and Greater Blur-eared Glossy Starlings were all seen before we reached the entrance arch of the National Park where we were able to see the nesting Little Swifts once again.
Driving onwards, a couple of Warthogs ran across the road just ahead of us and these were followed by 4 small youngsters; they all ran off at high speed, tails held high. A Long-crested Eagle sat sentinel on one acacia while on other trees White-backed, Lappet-faced and Ruppell's Griffon Vultures were surveying the local landscape in the hope of indications of an easy meal.
A Black Rhinoceros fed close to the track and seemed happy to accept the presence of ours and other vehicles (unlike their reputation would suggest!) and so we spent some time watching this before turning our attentions on a pair of nearby Black-bellied Bustards. These birds seemed to be surrounded by a mass of Yellow-throated Longclaws all of which were well camouflaged when they stood with their backs to us though as soon as they faced towards us, their bright yellow throat and breasts became glaringly obvious.
Further along the track, Stout Cisticolas seemed fairly numerous at one point while 2 female Bahor Reedbucks sprung from a clump of taller vegetation as we drove past. Our next sighting was of a group of Lions, dad, mum and two smallish cubs. There were two recent kills. Close to the male lay the remains of a Topi while the lioness and her cubs were walking away from what was left of a young Buffalo. The two kills surely hinted that there may be more lions hidden somewhere nearby. The male Lion had obviously eaten well and seemed reluctant to wake from his slumbers though he did occasionally raise his head to survey the surrounding area to check for danger. After a while of watching and photographing this fine, proud beast, we turned our attentions to the female and cubs. A quick drive later had us grabbing some images before they disappeared into a thicket. David suggested that they might be heading for water so we drove around to the far side of the bushes but sadly they never did appear. As vultures were gathering above the buffalo carcass, we decided to drive over and watch the scene there. As we emerged from behind the bushes, the male Lion was making a headlong dash with a large herd of Buffaloes in hot pursuit. Where was his proud posture now? As soon as he entered the bushes, the Buffaloes, presumably fearful of a surprise attack where they were less manoeuvrable, gave up the chase. This was an interesting and somewhat amusing moment to observe. After a while of watching the various Vultures 'clean up' the remains of the Lion kills we turned our attentions to our own breakfasts and we were soon back at Kichwa Tembo camp.
Our afternoon game rive began at three o'clock and as we approached the road to the park, a pair of Spot-flanked Barbets perched in a roadside bush for a few moments before flying off. A Red-necked Spurfowl, half hidden in the base of another bush, was expertly 'whistled out' by David and we were soon enjoying our first views of this species.
As we headed in to the National Park, it became apparent that heavy rain was falling ahead of us. Soon the track became very slippery and, fearful of getting stuck in, David turned around and we were soon heading back again. To our surprise, just before reaching the Kichwa Tembo turning, David turned off and began the steady climb up the slope to the north of our accommodation. We were assured this was OK as this track was driveable in all weathers. Even so, we were thankful that the rain was now behind us and we were able to raise the roof again.
In the valley woodland to our left, a fine male Bushbuck wandered along just beyond the troop of Baboons we had paused to admire. Overhead, a passing Steppe Eagle posed a few identification problems but it was soon sorted out after consulting with the field guide. Winding Cisticolas, a Bare-faced Go-away-bird and a flock of Common Bulbuls added interest to the climb, as did the quantities of Zebras, Impalas and a couple of Bahor Reedbucks. The views from the top of the hill were simply quite fantastic. With much the Masai Mara spread out before us, we could see the area of the Sarova camp, the approximate route we had taken to get to Kichwa Tembo and so much more. Much closer in this vast vista we could make out perhaps half a dozen Elephants beside the Musiara Marsh, our destination for tomorrow. Almost directly below us we could also make out the sinuous route of the Mara River as it winds its way through the riverine woodland where so much wildlife was no doubt sheltering. A Cocqui Francolin completed our watching for the day and we headed back o Kichwa Tembo in good time for our evening meal.
Friday 8th November All day game drive to Musiara Marsh.
Today we had decided to visit the Musiara Marsh and the surrounding area for the majority of the day. Around camp and as we left Kichwa Tembo camp it was apparent that there had been something of a fall of migrants. Willow Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher and Red-backed Shrike all gave excellent views but two resident Schallow's Turacos that flew over were only glimpsed. On the hill by the camp we found a range of things which it seemed had conspired to delay us! White-headed Barbet, Isabelline Shrike, Blackcap and Red-throated Wryneck were all new and we had only noted Mariqua Sunbird, Yellow Bishop and Red-headed Weaver once before during this tour. A group of 3 Red-necked Spurfowl called loudly and 2 Steppe Eagles drifted lazily overhead.
After crossing the Mara River, the road climbing up the other side of the valley made us all thankful for even the worst of British roads!! The remainder of the journey out to the marsh proved fairly uneventful but once we arrived there the birding certainly improved. There was a good variety of waders but the 'stars' among these were 4 Painted Snipes that allowed a very close approaching the minibus. Eurasian Marsh Harriers and a couple of Yellow-billed Kites caused some consternation with the Little Stints and Marsh Sandpipers we were watching. Mosque and Wire-tailed Swallows flitted overhead in their constant quest for food but in Mike's opinion, they were not efficient enough ........... and he has the insect bites to prove it! A European Roller proved something of an identification problem through the heat haze which was by now pretty fierce. Yellow Wagtails were obviously passing through on migration while Open-billed Stork and Rufous-bellied Herons were more permanent residents.
As we moved off towards the nearby runway, a Secretary Bird wandered around in the grassland that a female Pallid Harrier was hunting over. A small pool held numerous surprises not least of which were the 18 or so Hippos that were relaxing on the shore or suddenly surfacing with clumps of Nile Cabbage on their heads. We just had time to note that there were another 3 Rufous-bellied Herons present including one juvenile before heading off to enjoy our lunch.
We ate our sumptuous picnics under the shade of a tall Acacia tree with Zebras, Tommies and Wildebeest all feeding not far away. To follow, we drove around for some time in the hope of finding one or more of the cats though sadly our search was unsuccessful. However, we did see another Secretary Bird, Black-bellied and White-bellied Bustards, 5 Montagu's and a pair of Pallid Harriers.
For the journey back to Kichwa Tembo, David deliberately remained on high ground as there was now some rain about and he felt it best to avoid any unnecessary slopes, which may prove slippery. His route proved most beneficial as we saw plenty. Most notable were a group of Caspian Plovers, 3 Elephants including a fine tusker, 5 Ground Hornbills feeding at close range and a couple more Secretary Birds. Back at the Mara River crossing we managed to add a few good birds for the day including Black-backed Puffbird, Violet-backed Starling, Black Saw-wing, Wire-tailed Swallow and Purple Grenadier.
As we arrived back at Kichwa Tembo a little earlier than usual, we decided to run through the checklist over a cup of tea before resting ahead of the evening meal.
Saturday 9th November Journey from Kichwa Tembo to Nairobi,
We had breakfast at 6.45 and after bidding farewell to new found friends; we were soon heading for Nairobi. We made a brief stop at the Mara River and were surprised to find a Goliath Heron standing sentinel in some shallows. A Black-headed Oriole flew from one group of trees to another where a Bronze Sunbird was already perched. For many of the next few miles we were seeing many of the mammas we had become used to over the course of this tour Impala, Thompson's Gazelle, Zebra, Gnu and Giraffe to name just a few. There were also many birds including Black-winged Plovers which were well camouflaged until they spread their black and white wings, beautifully coloured Lilac-breasted Rollers and a couple of Secretary Birds which looked exactly how they should ........ yet they still did not look right somehow! They really are most unusual looking.
After some while, we passed within 5 kilometers of Kicheche Camp where Mike had stayed 2 years earlier. We rose up through the hills and continued until we reached an area of rolling countryside, which was obviously under the plough. This was in stark contrast to the Masai herding that we had become used to over the past few days. In one area, presumably set aside for grazing, 2 Kori Bustards strolled sedately along occasionally stooping to peck at edible items. Nearby, a flock of Red-billed Queleas descended to drink at a puddle before flying off as a single unit to feed on nearby land. Occasional Augur Buzzards, a few unidentified Larks and Wheatears and our first Black Kite for a few days were all passed in their time until we reach tarmac roads after two and three quarter hours of travel. As our speed was naturally now able to increase, it was something of a shame to ask David to stop so we could identify a falcon perched on a fence post beside the road; it turned out to be a Lanner Falcon. We reached Narok by 11 and leave after adding Speke's Weaver and White-fronted Bee-Eater to the days list and seeing another Augur Buzzard this time being mobbed by a Pied Crow. Many miles further on we paused very briefly to look at some Cape Crows perched on roadside fence posts. As we sped on towards Kenya's capital city on somewhat better roads, some members of the group were able to instigate brand new research into the insides of their eyelids!
About 55 kilometers short of Nairobi, we rose up over a ridge where a flock of about 80 Open-billed Storks were thermalling.
We arrived in Nairobi at 1.20 and by 2 p.m. we were having lunch with Hadada Ibis nesting in the tree opposite, Black Kites wheeling overhead, Baglafecht Weavers searching for crumbs and Common Bulbuls making a general nuisance of themselves. After a somewhat restrained lunch there was time for re-packing and relaxing before the next assault on yet more food!
At 6 p.m. we were collected and taken to the 'World famous' Carnivore Restaurant for our final meal on Kenyan soil. It was a really sumptuous feast and we really did enjoy the wide variety of food on offer. Eventually, we had to lower the flag in surrender to allow us to move from the main course on to the sweet and coffee. After this, we were taken to the airport in plenty of time for our flight back to London.
Sunday 10th November
We landed a little ahead of schedule to a cold and typically damp British November morning. After collecting our luggage, we bade our farewells and headed for our respective homes.
NN = Nairobi National Park; ML = Mountain Lodge;
SB = Samburu National Park; LO = Loldia House/Naivasha;
NK = Nakuru National Park; SM = Sarova Mara;
KT = Kichwa Tembo Camp; MM = Musiara Marsh;
J = Journey from one camp to another on that day:
Ostrich: 30 at NN on 28th, 1 at NK on 3rd, 3 on 4th & 7 on 5th at SM and finally 2 at SM and 4 during the J to KT on 6th
Little Grebe: 6 at LO on 2nd and seen there on 3rd
Great Cormorant: 15 at LO on 3rd
Long-tailed Cormorant: 4 at LO on 2nd then plenty at the same location on 3rd & 4th
Pink-backed Pelican: Just a single at LO on 2nd
African White Pelican: 21 on 2nd, 30 on 3rd and about 150 on 4th all at LO plus about 80 at NK on 3rd
Grey Heron: 1 at SB on 31st, 2 at LO on 2nd & seen at LO on 3rd and finally, 2 on 8th at and near MM.
Black-headed Heron: First seen on 29th during J to ML then seen on 30th (ML), 31st & 2nd (SB), 2nd & 3rd (LO) and finally at MM on 8th
Goliath Heron: Just a single sighting of 1 standing in the Mara River (near KT) on 9th
Purple Heron: Just 2 at LO on 3rd
Cattle Egret: A large nesting colony in the outskirts of Nairobi on 28th was the first sighting of this species which was then seen on 8 further days during the rest of the tour
Great White Egret: 2 or 3 at NK on 3rd and 1 at MM on 8th
Intermediate Egret: At least 100 at LO on 2nd and also seen there on 3rd and 4th
Little Egret: At least 15 at LO on 2nd, 3rd & 4th, also at NK on 3rd
Squacco Heron: 1 at NN on 28th, at least 150 at LO on 2nd & similar numbers there on 3rd & 4th
Rufous-bellied Heron: 6 at and near MM on 8th
Black-crowned Night-Heron: 2 at LO early on 3rd
Hammerkop: Seen on 8 days from 29th
Greater Flamingo: Only one positively identified at NK on 3rd but surely there were thousands more present
Lesser Flamingo: Perhaps as many as 750,000 at NK on 3rd; a staggeringly impressive sight
Yellow-billed Stork: First 2 during J on 29th and 1 during J on 30th then 50 at SB on 31st, 60 at NK on 3rd and 1 juvenile near KT on 7th
African Openbill Stork: 4 in SB on 31st, 1 at MM on 8th and about 80 during J on 9th
Black Stork: 1 on 28th at NN and 1 near SM on 6th
White Stork: 2 passing migrants in SB on 31st
Saddle-billed Stork: 1 in SM on 5th and 1 at MM on 8th
Marabou Stork: Seen every day except 1st
Sacred Ibis: The first was seen during the drive to ML on 29th, also seen on 30th (3), 2 at SB & 40 at LO on 2nd, 75 at LO & 3 or 4 at NK on 3rd, a few before we left LO on 4th and 2 at MM on 8th
Hadada Ibis: Noted every day except 7th & 8th
Glossy Ibis: About 15 at LO on 2nd and 25 there the following day
African Spoonbill: 2 at NK on 3rd
Egyptian Goose: Seen every day up to 5th and then on 8th & 9th
Yellow-billed Duck: 10 at LO on 2nd and 2 there on 3rd
Black-shouldered Kite: Seen most days in widely scattered locations
Black Kite: Seen most days we were near large areas of human habitation or rivers where they seem to do best
Yellow-billed Kite: Just 2 seen at MM on 8th
African Fish-Eagle: 10 on 2nd and also seen on 3rd and 4th at LO, also in smaller numbers at NK on 3rd and heard near MM on 8th
Palm-nut Vulture: Just a single sighting on 31st at SB
Lappet-faced Vulture: 1 on 31st in SB then seen on 6th & 7th near KT
White-headed Vulture: 2 on 5th at SM were the only ones positively identified
Hooded Vulture: 4 at SM on 6th were the only ones
Rüppell's Griffon Vulture: only confirmed on 7th near KT
African White-backed Vulture: seen every day from 30th
Black-chested Snake-Eagle: 1 at NN on 28th and then 2 on 6th near KT and 2 near MM on 8th
Brown Snake-Eagle: just 1 as we approached KT on 6th
Short-toed Eagle: just a single bird near KT on 6th
Bateleur: seen on 7 days with the most being 7 in SB on 1st
Dark Chanting-Goshawk: 1 on 4th during J, 2 near SM on 5th and 1 on 6th near KT
Eastern (Pale) Chanting-Goshawk: 1 during J on 30th and 1 at SB later that day and a juvenile and an adult on 1st also in SB
Gabar Goshawk: Just a single bird on 6th near SM
African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene): 2 as we approached ML on 29th and 1 at SB on 1st
Pallid Harrier: at least 1 female and 1 male near MM on 8th
Montagu's Harrier: 4 at NN on 28th then 2 on 30th during J, at least 9 on 2nd during J then 1 on 5th and 1 on 6th near SM 2 on 6th near KT and 7 at MM on 8th
(Eurasian) Marsh Harrier: 1 on 28th at NN, 2 on 3rd at NK 1 on 6th during J and 2 at MM on 8th
Steppe Buzzard: 1 on 7th near KT and 1 on 8th near MM
Augur Buzzard: seen on 7 days with the most being on 9th during J to Nairobi
Imperial Eagle: 1 on 1st in SB was the only sighting
Tawny Eagle: seen on 9 days with the most being 15 at NK on 3rd
Wahlberg's Eagle: 1 on 4th near LO and 1 near KT on 7th
Martial Eagle: first one seen at NN on 28th then seen on 30th (ML), 1st and 2nd (SB) and finally a juvenile near KT on 7th
Long-crested Hawk-Eagle: 1 on 30th near ML, 3 near NK on 3rd and 1 on 7th near KT
Secretary Bird: 1 on 30th during J to SB, 2 on 2nd at SB, 1 on 6th near SM and 1 approaching KT later that day, 8 - 10 near MM on 8th and 2 leaving KT on 9th
Pygmy Falcon: a mating pair in SB on30th and 1, also in SB on 1st
Lesser Kestrel: 3 on 1st in SB, 2 on 5th near SM and 2 at MM on 8th
Grey Kestrel: just 1 on 6th near SM
Common/Rock Kestrel: just a single sighting in SB on 2nd
Eurasian Hobby: just a single brief sighting on 30th in SB
Lanner: 1 on 30th and 2 on 1st in SB, and 1 during J on 9th
Red-necked Spurfowl: 1 on 7th and 5 on 8th at KT
Yellow-necked Spurfowl: seen every day from 28th to 3rd
Crested Francolin: seen on 30th, 31st and 1st in SB including around our camp site.
Hildebrandt's Francolin: seen on 2nd 3rd and 4th at LO
Cocqui Francolin: just a single bird on the hill above KT on 7th
Helmeted Guineafowl: seen on 9 successive days from 30th
Vulturine Guineafowl: seen on all 4 days in SB
Grey/Southern Crowned Crane: 1 on 28th in NN, a staggering 120 together during J on 2nd, 2 near LO on 2nd, 2 at NK on 3rd and 4 at and near MM on 8th,
Black Crake: about 12 at LO on 2nd and 1 there the following day, 1 juvenile at SM on 6th
Purple Swamphen (Gallinule): 2 at LO on 2nd
Red-knobbed Coot: perhaps 50 at LO on 2nd and also seen there on 4th
Kori Bustard: 1 on 30th & 2 on 1st in SB, 2 on 4th during J, 2 on 6th near KT and2 on 9th during J
White-bellied Bustard: 4 on 28th in NN, 2 on 6th near KT and 5 at MM on 8th
Black-bellied Bustard: seen on 5 successive days from 4th at SM and near KT
Hartlaub's Bustard: 1 in NN on 28th
Crested Bustard: 1 on 2nd in SB
African Jacana: 50 on 2nd, 40 on 3rd and also seen in smaller numbers on 4th at LO then 3 at MM on 8th
(Greater) Painted Snipe: 4 at MM on 8th
Black-winged Stilt: 10 at NK on 3rd
(Pied) Avocet: 1 at NK on 3rd
Water Dikkop (Thick-knee): 7 beside the river in SB on 31st
Temminck's Courser: 5 on 6th at SM
Long-toed Plover: 20 on 2nd, 15 on 3rd and also seen on 4th at LO
Spur-winged Plover: seen on 4 successive days from 30th mostly in SB
Black-winged Plover: at least 15 seen on 8th going to and from MM and also seen on 9th as we left KT
Crowned Plover: seen on 8 days in SB and the Masai Mara National Parks
African Wattled Plover: seen on 4th & 5th near SM and on 8th & 9th near KT
Blacksmith Plover: the first 2 were at NN on 28th then seen on 30th during J, 31st at SB, 2nd leaving SB and then 8 - 10 seen at NK on 3rd
Three-banded Plover: 1 at SB on 3st, 2 at SM on 4th and about 5 at MM on 8th
Caspian Plover: 8 seen on our way back from MM on 8th
Marsh Sandpiper: 3 at NK on 3rd and 3 at MM on 8th
Common Greenshank: noted on 5 days with the most together being 3 at MM n 8th
Green Sandpiper: at least 4 at ML pond (by floodlight!) on 29th then seen on at least 4 other days
Wood Sandpiper: noted on 8 days with the most being 5 at MM plus another 9 or 10 at the nearby runway pool
Common Sandpiper: noted on 9 days
Common Snipe: 2 at the ML pool (by floodlight) on 29th and 4 at MM on 8th
Little Stint: perhaps as many as 50 at NK on 3rd and about 10 at MM on 8th
Ruff: 2 on 3rd at NK and 4 at MM on 8th
Grey-headed Gull: 1 on Lake Naivasha on 2nd then seen there on there and at NK on 3rd
Gull-billed Tern: at least 6 over Lake Naivasha on 2nd and also seen there and at NK on 3rd
Whiskered Tern: seen on Lake Naivasha on 2nd, 3rd & 4th with quite a large flock (40 + birds) seen on the latter day
Black-faced Sandgrouse: seen each day (30th - 2nd) in SB with the maximum being 3 birds
Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon): seen in Nairobi on 28th and on 4th in Narok
Speckled pigeon: just a single bird seen at ML on 30th
Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon: seen on 29th & 30th at ML
African Mourning Dove: seen 3 days from 31st in SB and then 4 days from 4th in the Mara
Red-eyed Dove: seen in small numbers at LO on 2nd, 3rd & 4th
Laughing Dove: just noted on 30th in SB
Emerald-spotted Wood (Green-spotted) Dove: seen on 31st, 1st & 2nd in SB and then on 5th & 6th at SM
Namaqua Dove: just a single bird well seen in SB on 1st
African Green Pigeon: about 20 seen during the early morning boat ride on 3rd at LO and 1 on 7th at KT
Red-fronted Parrot: 10 seen during the ML walk on 29th
Brown (Meyers) Parrot: 2 seen on 6th at SM and then 2 glimpsed as we left KT on 9th
Fischer's Lovebird: 2 at LO on 3rd and then 2 at NK later that day
Bare-faced Go-away Bird: seen on 30th at ML and then on 5th, 6th, 7th & 8th in various parts of the Masai Mara
White-bellied Go-away Bird: seen on 30th, 31st & 1st in SB
Hartlaub's Turaco: heard on 29th and then seen on 30th near ML
Schallow's Turaco: 2 glimpsed at KT camp on 8th
Red-chested Cuckoo: just a single sighting on 1st near our accommodation in SB
White-browed Coucal: seen on 29th as we approached ML and then seen on 6th at SM and 7th at KT
Verreaux's Eagle Owl: heard on 31st during our early morning game drive at SB then 3 seen at LO on 2nd
Common Swift: only 1 definitely identified at NK on 3rd though we probably saw many more
Little Swift: frequently seen (recorded on 9 days) sometimes in large numbers especially when they were nesting under road bridges etc, and well seen at the KT entrance to the Mara reserve where they were nesting under the archway
African Palm-Swift: seen in Nairobi on 28th and in SB on 30th and 31st
Speckled Mousebird: commonly seen at a wide variety of locations
Blue-naped Mousebird: just seen on 31st in SB
White-headed Mousebird: 1 seen (with difficulty) in SB on 31st then perhaps a dozen seen there the following day
Giant Kingfisher: just seen on 4th and 6th at SM
Pied Kingfisher: 1 in NN on 28th and then 4 on 2nd and 1 on 3rd at LO
Malachite Kingfisher: probably 6 seen on each boat trip on Lake Naivasha (on 2nd & 3rd) and also seen on 5th at SM
Grey-headed Kingfisher: just seen on 31st and 1st in SB
Woodland Kingfisher: seen on 5th & 6th at SM
Striped Kingfisher: 1 seen on 3rd during lunch at NK and also seen at SM on 5th
White-fronted Bee-eater: a single bird on 3rd at NK was followed by about 10 at Narok on 4th and we also saw smaller numbers there on 9th during the return journey
Little Bee-eater: noted on 10 days during the tour but always on small numbers
Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater: 5 seen as we approached ML on 29th
European Bee-eater: about a dozen seen on 3rd at NK
Somali Bee-eater: just a single bird seen in SB on 2nd
European Roller: 3 at NK on 3rd and 1 at MM on 8th
Lilac-breasted Roller: this fabulous bird was seen on 10 successive days from 31st
African Hoopoe: 3 on 4th, 1 on 5th and 1 on 6th near SM
Green Woodhoopoe: seen on 1st in SB and 3rd at NK
Abyssinian Scimitarbill: just a single bird seen on 30th near ML
African Grey Hornbill: 4 on 2nd as we approached LO and 1 there the following day and then seen at SM n 5th & 6th
Red-billed Hornbill: seen on 4 days from 30th at SB
Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbill: a couple seen on 30th then seen the following day in SB
Von der Decken's Hornbill: seen on 4 days from 30th in SB where a pair was very regular around the camp
Silvery-cheeked Hornbill: just 2 on 29th at ML
Southern ground Hornbill: 2 on 7th near KT camp then 5 well seen during the return from MM on 8th
Red-fronted Tinkerbird: just 1 seen at SM camp on 5th
Spotted-flanked Barbet: 2 just outside KT camp on 7th was followed by another in the area the next day
White-headed Barbet: a single bird was well seen at KT on 8th
Red-and-yellow Barbet: 1 or 2 seen in SB on 31st
d'Arnaud's Barbet: probably 6 or more seen in SB on 31st and then single sseen on 6th, 7th & 8th near KT
Red-throated Wryneck: just a single bird seen during a fall of migrants at KT on 8th
Nubian Woodpecker: 3 on 31st and 1 on 1st in SB and 1 on 3rd at NK
Cardinal Woodpecker: 1 on 1st in SB and 1 on 7th at KT
Bearded Woodpecker: just a single sighting at NK on 3rd
Grey Woodpecker: 2 on 3rd at NK
Rufous-naped Lark: about 6 in NN on 28th then seen on 30th during J, 7th near KT and on 8th on the way back from MM
Flappet Lark: just a single sighting near KT on 7th
Pink-breasted Lark: seen on 31st and 1st in SB
Red-capped Lark: seen on 8th and 9th near KT
Fawn-coloured Lark: 2 seen during the afternoon game drive near SM
African Rock (Pale Crag) Martin: about 50 seen circling over the town of Nakuru on 3rd and a few more were seen in the nearby National Park
Red-rumped Swallow: 2 on 3oth near ML then 2 on 5th and 5 on 6th near SM camp
(European) Sand Martin: about 10 over MM on 8th
Banded (African) Martin: 1 on 28th at NN then not seen again until 7th when there were 2 near KT
Barn Swallow: seen on at least 7 days
Wire-tailed Swallow: just 2 seen near MM on 8th
Lesser Striped Swallow: seen during J from ML on 30th
Mosque Swallow: 4 near LO and 1 at NK on 3rd, 2 on 6th at SM and then seen near KT on 7th, 8th & 9th
(Common) House Martin: 2 at NK on 3rd was the only sighting
Black Saw-wing: 2 at the Mara River crossing near KT on 8th
Yellow Wagtail: about 20 at NK on 3rd and smaller numbers at MM on 8th
African Pied Wagtail: seen every day except 28th
Cape Wagtail: 2 at ML on 30th and 1 at LO on 3rd
Yellow-throated Longclaw: seen every day from 3rd sometimes in fair numbers as on 7th when a pair of Black-bellied Bustards almost seemed to be surrounded by them!
Rosy-breasted Longclaw: just seen on high ground as we drove to KT on 6th
Plain-backed Pipit: 1 on 3rd at NK then seen on 4th near SM and 7th & 8th near KT
Golden Pipit: 1 seen on the way in to SB on 30th then 2 on 1st and at least 7 on 2nd as we left SB
Black Cuckoo-Shrike: 2 females seen at NK on 3rd
Common Bulbul: seen every day
(Eastern) Mountain Greenbul: just a single bird seen at ML on 30th
White-crowned Shrike: seen on 31st, 1st and 2nd at SB and then a single bird seen near SM on 6th
Brubru: just a single bird in SB on 1st
Northern Puffback: just a single bird seen at the SB camp on 1st
Black-backed Puffback: just a single sighting at the Mara River crossing on the way back from MM on 8th
Black-crowned Tchagra: 1 seen on the way to MM on 8th
Brown-crowned Tchagra: 3 on 1st in SB and a singleton on 5th near SM
Tropical Boubou: first seen on 30th then seen on 5 days from 2nd in widely scattered locations
Slate-coloured Boubou: just seen on 30th and 3st in SB
Rosy-patched Bush-shrike: 1 seen as we approached SB on 30th and then a couple seen in SB on 1st
Grey-headed Bush-shrike: 2 seen close to the SB camp on 1st and then a couple of single birds seen on 5th & 6th at SM
Red-backed Shrike: 1 on 1st in SBand then a couple near KT during a fall of migrants on 8th
Isabelline Shrike: just a single bird seen on 8th close to KT
Grey-backed Fiscal: seen on 5 consecutive days from 2nd
Long-tailed Fiscal: at least 10 seen on 28th in NN then seen on at least 5 other days
Taita Fiscal: just a single sighting on 1st in SB
Common Fiscal: seen on 10 days of the tour
Rufous-tailed (Common) Rock-thrush: just a single bird seen in SB on 2nd
(Northern) Olive Thrush: singles seen on 2nd, 3rd & 4th at LO and then a couple seen during lunch on 9th in Nairobi
Cape Robin-Chat: a few seen on 29th close to ML and then also seen on 4th during J
Rüppell's Robin-Chat: 2 on 30th at ML then seen on 6 consecutive days from 4th; they were especially numerous and approachable at SM camp
Spotted Morning-thrush: seen on 31st & 1st in SB and then seen on 5th & 6th at SM
Thrush Nightingale: just a single bird seen on 1st in SB
Whinchat: 1 on 3rd at NK, 1 on 4th and 2 on 5th at SM
(Common) Stonechat: 1 on 29th and 2 on 30th near ML; these birds had white breasts, a stark difference to those found in Britain
Northern Wheatear: 2 on 2nd in SB then seen on 4th & 5th near SM and on 7th, 8th & 9th near KT
Pied Wheatear: single birds seen on 7th & 8th near KT
Schallow's Wheatear: seen on 3rd near LO and also probably seen in the same area on 2nd & 4th
Isabelline Wheatear: 1 on 1st and 2 on 2nd in SB then 1 on 4th and another on 5th near SM
Northern Anteater-chat: first seen on 3rd at NK and then frequently seen from 4th in the Mara
Sooty Chat: quite frequently seen in the Mara on 5 days from 5th
(Mocking) Cliff-Chat: 2 on 3rd and 1 on 4th close to LO
Rufous Chatterer: about 10 seen on 31st in SB
Black-lored Babbler: 10 on2nd and 4 on 3rd at LO
Arrow-marked Babbler: just 1 seen on 2nd at LO
Northern Pied Babbler: 3 seen at NN on 28th
Hunter's Cisticola: seen on 29th & 30th at ML
Rattling Cisticola: just 2 on 4th at SM
Winding Cisticola: seen on 7th & 8th near KT
Stout Cisticola: seen on 28th at NN and then on 7th near KT
Pectoral-patch Cisticola: 1 on 28h at NN then not seen again until 8th when 2 or 3 were seen near MM
Tawny-flanked Prinia: 3 seen on 6th near SM camp
Yellow-breasted Apalis: 2 seen on 6th at SM
Grey-backed Camaroptera: seen on 4th, 5th & 6th at SM camp and then on 7th close to KT
Grey Wren-warbler: just a single sighting on 1st in SB
Yellow-vented Eremomela: just one seen at SB on 1st
Red-faced Crombec: 2 or 3 seen around SM camp on 5th & 6th
Gray-capped Warbler: first seen on 29th & 30th at ML and hen seen at SM on 4th & 6th and at KT on 7th
Red-fronted Warbler: just a single bird seen on 1st at SB
Willow Warbler: just a single bird seen at KT camp on 8th
Blackcap: just a single male seen at KT camp on 8th during a fall of migrants
Pale Flycatcher: seen on 4th, 5th & 6th near SM camp
African Grey Flycatcher: 2 seen on 30th at SB
White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher: seen on 29th & 30th at ML
Northern Black Flycatcher: well seen on 5th & 6th at SM and also seen at KT on 6th, 7th & 8th
Spotted Flycatcher: 2 on 3rd at NK then 2 on 5th at SM and also seen on 8th at KT
(African) Dusky Flycatcher: just seen on 29th at ML
Common Wattle-eye: a single bird seen on 6th at SM
Chinspot Batis: seen on 6th at SM and on 7th at KT
African Paradise-Flycatcher: 1 on 1st at SB, 3 on 3rd at NK then seen on 4th, 5th & 6th at SM and finally on 7th at KT
Northern Grey Tit: just a single bird at SB on 1st
White-bellied Tit: 2 on 3rd at NK
Eastern (Kenya) Violet-backed Sunbird: a pair was at SB on 30th and we saw about 10 there on 31st and smaller numbers on 1st
Collared Sunbird: 1 at NN on 28th, 1 at SM on 6th and 1 at KT on 7th
Variable (Yellow-bellied) Sunbird: 1 n 5th at SM camp and also seen on 7th at KT
Scarlet-chested Sunbird: 1 on 28th at NN and 1 on 8th at KT
Hunter's Sunbird: seen on 4th & 6th at SM and on 7th at KT
Eastern Double-collared Sunbird: 1 on 30th at ML was the only sighting
Mariqua Sunbird: 1 at SM camp on 6th after our morning game drive and also seen on 8th at KT
Bronze Sunbird: seen on 29th during J and also during J on 2nd
Montane (Broad-ringed) White-eye: at least 3 during lunch at ML on 29th
Common (Fork-tailed) Drongo: commonly seen on 8 days
Cape Rook (Black Crow): seen on 9th during J to Nairobi and also probably seen on our way to the Mara on 4th
Pied Crow: seen on at least 6 days particularly near human habitation
Montane (Black-tailed) Oriole: 4 at ML on 29th
African Black-headed Oriole: seen on 1st & 2nd at SB camp, on 3rd at NK and on 6th during the J to KT
Blue-eared Glossy-Starling: commonly seen on 8 days
Superb Starling: seen on 10 days; superb!
Hildebrandt's Starling: seen on 5 days in the Mara from 4th
Golden-breasted Starling: 1 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon on 1st in SB and then 2 as we left the area the following day
Violet-backed (Plum-coloured) Starling: 1 on 1st in SB and then another at the Mara River crossing on 8th
Wattled Starling: commonly seen on 7 days at least
Waller's Starling: 2 on 29th at ML
Fischer's Starling: just seen on 30th near ML
Magpie Starling: 1 on 31st in SB was the only sighting
Rüppell's Starling: 4 on 4th as we approached SM also seen on 8th & 9th near KT
Yellow-billed Oxpecker: 3 in NN on 28th then seen on 5th, 7th & 8th in the Mara
Red-billed Oxpecker: seen on 28th in NN, 29th & 30th at ML, on 1st in SB and finally 2 on 3rd in NK
Golden-breasted Bunting: 2 near ML on 30th and at least 3 near SM camp on 6th
Yellow-fronted Canary: seen on 5 consecutive days from 5th in the Mara
Yellow-rumped Seedeater: just 4 seen on 4th near SM
Brimstone Canary: seen on 29th near ML and then not seen again until 8th near KT camp
Streaky Seed-eater: seen on 29th during J and at ML and then seen on 30th in SB
Green-winged Pytilia (Melba Finch): seen on 5th & 6th around the SM camp
Red-billed Firefinch: seen on 30th near ML and also on 2nd in SB
African (Blue-billed) Firefinch: just seen on 28th in NN
Red-cheeked Cordonbleu: seen on 29th during J to ML then 1 on 3rd at LO and finally at the SM camp on 5th
Purple Grenadier: seen on 6th, 7th & 8th at SM, KT and MM respectively
Common Waxbill: 2 on 28th in NN and then seen the following day during J
Bronze Manikin: the only sighting was of 4 during coffee in Nairobi on 28th
Cut-throat Finch: seen on 30th and 31st in SB
Pin-tailed Whydah: just seen during the J from ML to SB on 30th
Straw-tailed Whydah: 3 seen in some roadside rough grassland during J on 30th
White-headed Buffalo-weaver: commonly seen on 30th, 31st, 1st & 2nd in SB
White-browed Sparrow-weaver: seen on 28th in NN and then commonly seen from 30th - 2nd in SB
Speckle-fronted Weaver: just a few seen on 5th at SM
Baglafecht Weaver: numerous on 28th & 9th in and around Nairobi and then not seen again until we returned to the city area on 9th
Spectacled Weaver: seen on 2nd in SB and then on 4th, 5th & 6th at SM camp in particular
African Golden-weaver: just seen during the morning game drive on 31st in SB
Speke's Weaver: many seen during J on 30th and in SB later that day and then seen on 2nd as we left SB, on 3rd in NK and finally during the J to Nairobi on 9th
Black-headed (Village) Weaver: noted on 31st in SB and on 6th near SM
Chestnut Weaver: a group well seen in SB on 1st
Brown-capped Weaver: just seen on 29th at ML
Red-headed Weaver: a couple were seen in SB on 1st and then a single male was at KT on 8th
Black-capped Social-Weaver: just seen on 2nd in SB
Red-billed Quelea: seen on 30th, 31st & 1st in SB and also seen during J to Nairobi on 9th
Yellow (-rumped) Bishop: seen on 30th during J and then seen at KT on 8th
Fan-tailed Widowbird: about 8 seen at MM on 8th
Long-tailed Widowbird: 6 seen near ML on 30th
Red-collared Widowbird: just seen during J on 29th
Grosbeak (Thick-billed) Weaver: 4 on 4th and 4 on 6th by the lake at SM. They were absent on 5th when a snake was seen a few yards from their neat nests
Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver: seen on 31st & 1st in SB
Chestnut Sparrow: only seen on 1st in SB
Rufous (Great) Sparrow: seen on 28th in NN, on 29th during J and on 30th during J and in SB
Grey-headed Sparrow: just a couple seen on 7th near KT although on 31st & 1st in SB and on 4th during J, David identified 'Parrot-billed Sparrow' for us and this would seem to be a subspecies of this species ......... or has it been split in the past or recently?
Yellow-spotted Petronia: about 6 seen on 31st in SB
Bush Baby: 2 seen from the bar at KT on 7th ........ and this was before we had any drinks!
Black-faced Vervet Monkey: seen on 8 days; at Samburu Intrepids, they were numerous and quite tame around the camp
Sykes Monkey: 4 seen at ML on 29th and then not seen again until we reached KT where we saw at least 2 on 7th and about 11 on 8th
Black and White Colobus: about 15 seen in the forests around ML on 29th and then there were 10 at NK on 3rd
Olive Baboon: commonly seen on 11 days
Silver-backed Jackal: 4 sightings in SB (1 twice on 31st and 2 together on 2nd), 1 at NK on 3rd and 5 sightings in the Mara (2 on 5th near SM and 3 on 6th near KT)
Bat-eared Fox: 4 seen on 5th close to SM during the morning game drive and 1 seen in the same area later the same day
Spotted Hyena: 1 seen by ML water hole late on 29th and again seen in the early hours of the morning. During the drive from SM to KT on 6th we saw 5 individuals some a very close quarters
Large-spotted Genet: about 5 individuals seen at special feeding platforms at ML on 29th
Lion: 2 females deep within cover on 31st in SB; a pride of 8 seen late on 4th at SM were also seen during both game drives on 5th on which day we also saw a 'honeymooning couple' who seemed a bit lethargic after .......... well we can only guess at why they were so sleepy! Finally, on 7th near KT, we saw a fine male, a female and 2 smallish cubs but as they had 2 kills (an adult Topi and a young buffalo) between them, it seems likely that there were more lions in the pride but that they had already hidden themselves in bushes somewhere nearby
Leopard: just a single sighting on 30th in SB though we did get excellent views and were with it for some considerable time
Cheetah: 2 males together on 1st in SB were seen to stalk up close to a group of Impalas though we did not see an actual chase then close to SM we saw a female close to SM on 4th and during both drives on 5th
Dwarf Mongoose: 4 on 30th, at few on 31st and a couple on 2nd all in SB
Banded Mongoose: about 10 on 4th, 6 on 5th and 2 on 6th near SM
White-tailed Mongoose: just a single individual walked past the ML water hole late on 29th
Marsh Mongoose: 1 seen twice near the ML water hole on 29th
Yellow-spotted Hyrax: 6 - 8 seen at a rocky outcrop in SB on 31st and then 2 seen at very close range as we returned to LO at dusk on 3rd
Tree Hyrax: sadly we only heard these at ML on 29th
African Elephant: we had at least 166 sightings on 9 of our days in Kenya with perhaps the first ones being the most exciting. These were the 'forest elephants' at ML, which nearly joined us for our afternoon tea deep within the forest
Burchell's/Chapman's Zebra: commonly seen on 8 days
Grevy's Zebra: many seen in SB on 30th, 1st and 2nd
White Rhinoceros: at least a dozen seen at NK on 3rd
Black Rhinoceros: 1 seen in the distance on 28th in NN, 1 in the floodlights at ML on 29th and finally, 1 well seen near KT on 7th
Hippopotamus: 1 glimpsed at a waterhole in NN on 28th, about 30 on 2nd and 20 on 3rd at LO particularly well seen during the boat rides, then 5 on 6th near KT and about 18 at the pool near MM on 8th
Warthog: 2 in NN on 28th were our first ones then not seen again until 3rd when we saw a few at NK then seen every day (from 4th to 9th) in the Mara
Giraffe: seen every day except 29th and of course, the ones we saw in SB were of the Reticulated variety
Grant's Gazelle: seen on at least 8 days
Thompson's Gazelle: commonly seen on 8 days
Gerenuk: about 8 seen on 30th as we drove in to SB where we also saw about 7 on 1st
Eland: at least 10 seen in NN on 28th then seen on 4 successive days in the Mara from 4th
Beisa Oryx: 1 seen on the drive in to SB on 30th and then 5 seen on 2nd as we were leaving
Common Waterbuck: 6 seen in SB on 31st and also seen there the following day
Defassa Waterbuck: 6 on 29th and also seen the next day at ML then good numbers at LO and NK on 2nd & 3rd, finally seen near MM on 8th
Bahor Reedbuck: 3 during the morning game drive at SM on 6th and another seen later that day on the way to KT. Also seen on 7th near KT and on 8th at MM
Greater Kudu: just a lone female seen in SB on 31st
Bushbuck: fairly numerous around the ML water hole on 29th & 30th and then 1 in the hills near KT on 7th
Hartebeest: about 40 in NN on 28th then seen close to SM on 4th, 5th & 6th
Blue Wildebeest: seen in NN on 28th and then not seen until we were on our way to the Mara on 4th when we saw a group of 5. In the Mara, things changed. They were common ............. and that is something of an understatement! On the day we moved from SM to KT, we passed over high ground on one of their migration routes and on that day we saw tens of thousands.
Impala: common; seen on all except 2 days
Kirk's Dikdik: commonly seen in SB on 30th, 31st and 1st and then seen near LO on 3rd
Guenter's Dikdik: seen on 3 days from 30th in SB
Red Duiker: just a single individual seen on 29th as we neared ML
Oribi: 3 of these rare antelopes were well seen in NN on 28th
Sunni: just 1 seen in the forests near ML on 29th; this is Africa's smallest antelope species
African Buffalo: seen every day except on 31st
Topi: seen every day from 4th until we left the Mara on 9th
Tree Squirrel: at least 3 seen at ML on 29th
Striped Ground Squirrel: just a singleton seen by one member of the group on 5th at SM
Unstriped Ground Squirrel: seen on 4 successive days from 30th in SB
African Hare: just a single sighting in the minibus headlights when we were a little late returning to SM camp on 5th
Scorpion: a couple seen on 31st and 1st at SB reminded us to be constantly vigilant about what might have crawled in to our footwear during the night!
Water Monitor: 3 of these large lizards were seen at SB camp on 31st and 1st
Agama Lizard: seen on 3 days in SB and then on 7th & 8th at KT
Leopard Tortoise: 3 on 31st, 2 on 1st and 1 on 2nd in SB
Snake (possibly a Python type): 1 present throughout 5th at SM camp
This was a fabulous tour with 315 species of birds and 50 species of mammal seen. There were many superbly close encounters with many animals including Giraffes, Elephants and Lions. There were also many humorous moments and this included seeing a fine male Lion being chased by a large herd of Buffaloes ........... but then again, the Lion had recently killed a young Buffalo from this herd.
The accommodation was superb and there was good food and service throughout; it even included a champagne breakfast at Mountain Lodge and breakfast on the lawn at Loldia House.
Most of all, our driver and guide David was superb. He was patient, observant, eager to please and he coped with the journeys from one location to another extremely well although some of the 'roads' were a little challenging! He identified just about everything we saw and the only exceptions to this were when we were overtaking a large lorry on the way to Nakuru. And the only reason he did not identify the bird? We did not ask!!
Throughout the tour, everyone took part in a shared 'Kenyan Massage' although it was only applied to one part of the body. A Kenyan Massage, by the way, relates to vehicle journeys and the state of Kenya's roads!!
I am sure that all of the clients felt that we achieved everything they had desired from a Kenyan safari ... and more. For a safari experience, it is hard to imagine that anything could better this.