Tour Participants: Sara and Oliver Kell.
Tour leader: Joseph Aengwo.
Photo acknowledgements: Joseph Aengwo
Number of Bird Species seen: 487
Temperature Range: 10 –30°C.
Birds of the Trip: Sharpe’s Longclaw,Jackson’s Widowbird,Grey-crested Helmet-shrike,Red-throated Tit,Red-naped Bush-shrike,Somali Ostrich, , African Crowned Eagle, Bat Hawk, Vulturine Guineafowl, Somali Courser, Sokoke Scops Owl,Sokoke Pipit, Somali Bee-eater,Golden Pipit,Golden-breasted Starling and Chestnut-headed Sparrow Lark, to mention a few!
Trip Report Compiled By: Joseph Aengwo.
18th June, 2022: The scheduled time for the arrival of KLM flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi was 22:00pm,but then we were notified of a 30 minutes delay, Which meent the waiting time for the arrival of our guest will be more than we thought. The good news is, we finally met up at the arrival terminal at around Mid-night and after a brief exchange of pleasantries, we drove them to Sarova Panafric hotel where they were to spend the night.
19th June,2022:Today we started off early and drove through Nairobi city pretty fast as it was on a Sunday, we were saved of the notorious traffic jam that Nairobi is sometimes known for.Our destination today was Manguo swamp,Kinangop grassland,Hell’s gate national park and eventually we spend the night at Crater Lake Lodge.
At Manguo swamp we picked-up species like Hunter’s Cisticola,Golden-winged Sunbird,Common Waxbill,Purple Swamphen,Glossy Ibis,Yellow-billed Egret,Hottentot and Red-billed Teal,Southern Pochard,Red-knobbed Coot,Common Moorhen,Lesser Swamp Warbler,Augur Buzzard and Yellow-billed Kite.We then proceeded on to the Great Rift Valley view point, but we did not have great views as it was very cloudy.
Our next stop was Kinangop grassland, where we met up with a local guide who was very helpful in pointing out the most reliable site for the endemic Sharpes’s Longclaw,where we had some excellent views. Other than the Longclaw, we also picked up species like Jackson’s,Red-collared and Long-tailed Widowbirds,all in their spectacular breeding plumage.We also had fantastic views Levaillant’s Cisticola and Cape Crow.
After such a successful stop,we proceeded on to Crater lake lodge where we enjoyed the presence of Arrow-marked Babbler,African Grey-capped Warbler and White-browed Robin-chat and Little Grebe as we were having lunch.
We visited Hell’s gate national park where we enjoyed superb views of Schalow’s Wheatear,White-fronted Bee-eater,African Pipit, Secretary Bird,Lanner Falcon,African Harrier-Hawk,Reichenow Seed-eater,Scarlet-chested Sunbird,Lilac-breasted Roller and our major target, Grey-crested Helmet-shrike of which we had brilliant views. We slowly retired to our lodge at the shore of the Crater Lake.
20th June,2022: After checking out of our lodge, we decided to explore the Crater Lake Sanctuary before heading out to Masai Mara Game Reserve, we picked-up Hilderbrandt’s Francolin,African Grey Flycatcher,Northern Ant-eater Chat,Red-billed Oxpecker,Green Wood-hoopoe, Ruppell’s Long-tailed Starling,Eastern Grey Woodpecker,Rufous-naped Lark,Klaas’s Cuckoo,Spot-flanked Barbet,Brown-backed Honeybird and Red-rumped Swallow.
We exited Naivasha and drove to the Meltingpot town of Narok where we stopped for lunch and after we drove toward Sekenani gate birding en route.A long the way we picked up Red-capped Lark, Speckled-fronted Weaver,Long-crested Eagle and finally we were rewarded with admirable views of Red-throated Tit.
After some clerical work at the entry point of Masai Mara game reserve, a brief birding at the gate gave us nice views of Yellow-fronted Canary, Bare-faced Go-Away-Bird,Yellow-throated Longclaw,Sooty Chat and Little Bee-eater. We also had our first encounter with a pride of Lions and a Black Rhino which we saw from a little distance.Other species that we recorded included;Crowned Lapwing,White-browed Coucal,Kori Bustard and two perched Lappet-faced Vulture before we checked-In to Aruba Mara Camp,where it will be our home for the next 3 days.
21st June,2022:We did extensive birding in the southern section of the greater Masai Mara ecosystem and we were rewarded with views of species like Black-winged Lapwing,African Wattled Lapwing,Secretary Bird,Plain-backed and African Pipit,Cinnamon-breasted Bunting,Usambiro Barbet,White-bellied Canary,Tawny- flanked Prinia,Grey-headed Kingfisher,Red-cheeked Cordon Blue,Purple Grenadier,Wattled Starling,Red-billed and Yellow-billed Oxpecker,Gabar Goshawk,African White-backed Vulture,Tawny Eagle,Yellow-throated Sandgrouse and Little Bee-eater before attention was attracted by a coalition of three roaming male Cheetahs! Briefly we thought they were attempting to hunt as there were plenty of Wildebeest around,but our assumption however was proven wrong,they found a nice balanite tree and they lazily laid around cleaning themselves and stretching.
We proceeded on toward Roan hills looking for main target species for this part of the Masai Mara, Magpie Shrike and Tabora Cisticola.We were eventually lucky with great views of Tabora Cisticola and we unfortunately missed the Magpie Shrike.We also manage to pocket Black-lored Babbler,White-headed Barbet race albicauda that is found in southern Kenya,we had excellent views of African Green Pigeon and Violet-backed Starling and Croaking Cisticola called before finally revealing itself to us .Our driver Michael managed to pick-up a lone Silverbird!
We broke for lunch and had a small rest before resuming our birding in the afternoon around the central part of the park. Briefly there was a call from a fellow guide who had seen a Leopard but our effort to set our eyes on the leopard was all in vain. After missing the Leopard,we were reward with great sighting of White-bellied Bustard,Grey-crowned Crane,Hammerkop,Pectrol-perch, Zitting and Rattling Cisticola,Black-winged Kite,Greater Blue-eared Starling and Mosque Swallow. Nothing matches the Sunset in Masai Mara national reserve…the extensive grassland plains with rising escarpment in the west of the reserve provide breathtaking scenery!.
22nd June,2022:Today we had an early start in the reserve with the intention of doing a longer drive all the way down to Mara River, the lifeline of both Masai Mara and Serengeti national park. Exploring open grassland plains we picked-up Plain-backed Pipit,African Pipit,Rufous-naped and Red-capped Lark,from a distance we picked up a pair of nesting Secretary bird,Grey Falcon,Temminck’s Courser and pretty good views of Melodious Lark, previously thought to be White-tailed Lark and more and more spotting of Yellow-throated Sandgrouse. We also witnessed firsthand Lions mating and since the penetrative part of it didn’t last more than half a minute, we were off to our birding ways passing a couple of Hyenas and a pair of Black-backed Jackal along the way.
Riverine vegetation produced superb views of Schalow’s Turaco,which was our target in that habiat,White-headed Barbet,Meyer’s Parrot,African Palm Swift,Cardinal Woodpecker,Western Banded Snake Eagle,Bare-faced Go-Away-Bird and African Green Pigeon.
We then went back to the grassland plains,and we were rewarded outstanding observation of Coqui Francolin,Common Quail,Harlequin Quail,Black-bellied Bustard,Red-collared and Jackson’s Widowbird,Desert Cisticola and a feeding party of Hooded Vulture. When we were having lunch under a tree in the middle of the day, we were joined by four Rufous-tailed Weavers and they really enjoyed their share of our packed lunches.
Since the plains was getting quieter we drove back to the lodge recording African Golden-breasted Bunting,Little Weaver, White-fronted Bee-eater and Red-necked Spurfowl on the way.The habitat around the lodge was very productive as it yielded Speke’s and Spectacled Weaver,White-browed Robin-chat,Grey-backed Camaroptera,Brown-throated Wattle-eye,Palid Honeyguide, African Blue Flycatcher and White-headed Saw-wing.
23rd June,2022: Our destination today is Kisumu,a Meltingpot city at the shore of Lake Victoria birding en route. Driving through the Masai Villages,we encountered two Capped Wheatears.Just before we joined the main highway from Narok to Sotik,we made a brief birding stop and we saw Brimstone Canary and Pale Flycatcher, African Golden-breasted Bunting and Thick-billed Weaver.
After checking-In to Imperial Hotel in Kisumu and enjoying a well deserved lunch break,we resume our afternoon birding at the shores of Lake Victoria,though very busy place,but we managed have incredible views of species like Double-toothed Barbet,Black-headed Gonolek,Woodland and African Pied Kingfisher,Greater Swamp Warbler,Northern Brown-throated Weaver,Swamp Flycatcher,Red-chested Sunbird,Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird,Black-headed and Slender-billed Weaver,Blue-headed Coucal and Eastern Grey Plantain-eater.
24th June,2022: We did a one hour boat excursion with Titus,a local boat man and an excellent bird guide.Our main target species was Papyrus Gonolek,Papyrus Canary, Papyrus Yellow Warbler, White-winged Warbler and Carruther’s Cisticola.We had a clean sweep of majority species with exception of White-winged and Papyrus Yellow Warbler.
After that rewarding lake shore birding we proceeded on to Kakamega Forest,the only remnant tropical rain forest in Kenya. We arrived at Rondo Retreat Centre, a beautiful lodge with a well kept garden and lucky enough,we had a brief encounter with a male White-spotted Flufftail at the gate.The weather was not very promising and that scared us,as we were staying there only for two nights and we didn’t want to lose time because of bad weather!!!BUT WE COULD DO NOTHING!!.
After lunch we started birding the compound of the lodge and were rewarded with Grey-headed Barbet,Thick-billed Honeyguide,Mackinnon’s Fiscal,Bronze and Green-headed Sunbird,African Blue Flycatcher,Petit’s Cuckoo-shrike and African Crowned Eagle.The fish pond trail yielded Snowy-headed Robin-chat,Joyful Greenbul,Yellow-billed Barbet,Black-billed Waever,Cinnomon-chested Bee-eater,Brown Illadopsis,White-chinned Prinia,Yellow-whiskered Greenbul and Olive-green Camaroptera.
The main road just next to the lodge rewarded us with Chubb’s Cisticola,Olive-bellied Sunbird,Black-necked Weaver,Black-and-white Casqued Hornbill,Buff-spotted and Yellow-crested Woodpecker. Our birding was brought to an end by heavy downpour.
25th June,2022: We had our breakfast at 6:00am hoping to have a head start, but again the weather worked against us, it was still raining. Armed with raincoats,we continue with our birding at Ikuywa trails.Though it was as productive as it would have been under such condition,we still manage to see Bocage’s Bush-shrike,Dusky Tit,Red-headed Bluebill,Yellow-billed Barbet,Luhder’s Bush-shrike,Black-faced Rufous Warbler,Equatorial Akalat,Scaly-breasted Illadopsis,Brown-chested Alethe,Kakamega Greenbul and Great Blue Turaco.
We moved to another trail in a different part of the forest and due to poor lighting conditions,that didn’t produce a lot, other than some very good views of Uganda Woodland Warbler and another Brown-chested Alether.
We drove to the forest station and did the Mama Mutere trails and we recorded Square-tailed Drongo,Western Black-headed Oriole,Green Hylia,Blue-headed Bee-eater,Pink-footed Puffback,Yellow-spotted Barbet.We later on returned to our lodge for lunch and some photographic moment with African Crowned Eagle which was nesting in the lodge compound.Our afternoon session was shattered as the heavens poured again.
26th June,2022:Today our intention was to spend the first two hours of the day birding Kakamega forest then drive down to Kerio Valley and eventually make our way to Lake Baringo located in the northern part of the Kenyan Rift Valley.The morning part at the forest didn’t produce much other than the excellent views we had of the White-chinned and Banded Prinia (race melanops), Northern Double-colored Sunbird,Brown-throated Wattle-eye and Cabanis Greenbul.
We exited Kakamega forest and drove through Uasin Gishu plateau and made a brief lunch stop at Kerio View hotel,at the edge of Elgeyo Marakwet Escarpment.As our lunch was being prepared,we birded the compound of the lodge and it yielded species like Ross’s Turaco,White-necked Raven, Lanner Falcon,Augur Buzzard,Variable Sunbird,Grey-capped Warbler,White-browed Robin-chat,Cape Robin-chat and Red-billed Firefinch.
After lunch we descended the Escarpment down the Kerio Valley enjoying breathtaking scenery along the way.Once inside the valley we encountered species like Jackson’s Golden-backed Weaver,Little Rock Thrush and Gambaga Flycatcher. Our next stop inside the valley yielded great views of Jackson’s,Hemprich’s ,Crowned and African Grey Hornbills. We also enjoyed incredible observations of White-crested Turaco and Beautiful Sunbirds.In the afternoon we made our way to Lake Baringo.
27th June, 2022: This morning before sunrise,we were sailing on a motorized boat on the western shores of Lake Baringo as the golden sun rose majestically above the towering Laikipia Escarpment on the eastern part of the lake. The silence inside the floating reeds were once in a while interrupted by the honking calls of hippos gathering from their overnight grazing on the land,this calls were so loud that you could hear it 1.6 mile away from the lake shores.
We had quality observations of Hammerkop continuously working on its already skillfully designed nest, Yellow-billed and Little Egret,Striated Heron,we counted 11 purple Heron, Hundreds and hundreds of Pied Kingfishers,Golden-backed,Lesser Masked,Northern Masked and Village Weaver were breeding on several trees spread along the shores, Olive (Madagascar)Bee-eaters were parched on every single tree we come across and gigantic Goliath Heron gave us some beautiful looks,The brightly scarlet Northern Red Bishop was spotted on a maize plantation on the shores,African Fish Eagle,Malachite and Giant Kingfisher gave us impressive sight and so is the African Jacana walking precariously on the floating water lotters and Purple Swamphen constantly flushing is its white Fluff tail.
As we were just thinking of sailing toward one of the eight islands in the middle of the lake,our attention was attracted by the loud call of Woodland Kingfisher which perched on dry acacia which dried up because of increase in the water level in Lake Baringo. On the Teddy bear Island we recorded Reed Cormorant,African Darter,African Paradise Flycatcher,Little Bittern and Common Sandpiper.We however,missed the Senegal Thick-knee which was our main target on the Island.We sail back to the shores and continue with hinterland birding.
Benson, a Sharp-eyed local guide took us to the roosting sight of Greyish Eagle Owl,Northern White-faced Scops Owl,Slender-tailed Nightjar,Heuglin’s Courser,Spotted Thick-knees and Pearl-spotted Owlet which we enjoyed some spectacular observations.Other than those,we also recorded Eastern Violet-backed,Hunter’s and Beautiful Sunbird, Mouse-coloured Penduline-tit,Yellow-bellied Eremomela,Somali Tit,African Grey Flycatcher,Rufous Chatterer,Verreaux’s Eagle,Vitalline Masked Weaver and Chestnut Weaver,Chesnut Sparrow and Yellow-spotted Bush-sparrow,Bristle-crowned Starling,Red-and-Yellow and Black-throated Barbet,Grey Wren Warbler and Eastern Black-headed Oriole.
A late afternoon birding yielded;Green-winged Pytilia, Abyssinian Scimitarbill,Hunter’s Sunbird,Purple Grenadier,Eastern Crombec,African Pygmy Falcon,Dark Chanting Goshawk and Red-fronted Tinkerbird.
28th June,2022: Our program today was to take us to Lake Bogoria national reserve and Thomson’s Fall, where we were to spend the night. However,we decided to explore more the cliff’s for species that we missed the previous day and lucky enough we had great views of Brown-tailed Rock Chat,Jackson’s Hornbill,Lead-coloured Flycatcher, Lanner Falcon,A Shikra flied fast overhead,Red-fronted Barbet,d’Arnaud’s Barbet and Beautiful Sunbird.Again,we ended missing Shining Sunbird from a very reliable site….such is life!!.We moved on to Lake Bogoria.
Our interest in Lake Bogoria was to enjoy the huge concentration of both Lesser and Greater Flamingos.Other than that we recorded Brown Snake Eagle,Three-banded Plover,Common Sandpiper,Little Grebe,Blacksmith Lapwing and Northern Red-billed Hornbill.
We had a long way to go, so we decided to hit road running driving across the Rift valley and eventually made our way to the popular Thomson’s Fall Lodge, a very old and rustic lodge and with good observations, you can easily tell that its better days are behind it. We had around an hour before the light goes off, so we did a small birdwalk in the lodge compound and we picked up species like Bronze Sunbird,Hartlaub’s Turaco, Cape Robin-chat,Chesnut-throated Apalis,Slender-billed Starling,Lanner Falcon,Hunter’s Cisticola,Yellow Bishop,White-eye Slaty Flycatcher and Speke’s Weaver.
29th June,2022: Today,we were moving further north to Buffalo Springs national reserve.Ewaso Nyiro River is actually what separate Samburu game reserve from Buffalo Springs reserve.As we were driving through the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, we picked species Yellow-throated Spurfowl,Helmeted Geniefowl,Kenya Rufous Sparrow,Black-winged Kite,Crowned Lapwing and White-bellied Bustard.We also had great views of two White Rhinos grazing very close to the road,looks like this time round they kept their appointment time!
We made a brief stop at the eventful town of Nanyuki to replenish our supply of water and gas.After we proceeded to Timau where we stopped for Golden-winged Sunbird that we spotted as we were driving by. Beyond Isiolo the habitat becomes very dry and the signature tree becomes apparent along the waterways, the Doum Palm. Once inside Buffalo Springs reserve, we saw why this is one of the most exciting reserves in East Africa.We checked-in to our lodge at around 13:00 pm.
An afternoon game drive produced many of the specialty birds of the area like Somali Ostrich, Palm-nut Vulture and the tiny African Pygmy Falcon, Vulturine Guineafowl, Black-faced Sandgrouse, African Orange-bellied Parrot, Violet Wood-Hoopoe, White-headed Mousebird, White-throated and Little Bee-eater,Von Der Dicken’s Hornbill, , Rosy-patched Bush-Shrike, Black-capped Social-Weaver, and Somali Tit,Yellow-bellied Eremomela,Eastern Crombec, Rufous Chatterer,Pale Prinia and Spotted Mourning Thrush.We retreated to Ashnil Samburu Lodge for an overnight stay.
30th June, 2022: Buffalo Spring reserve is also great for big game viewing with Lion, Cheetah, Striped Hyena,the attractive Reticulated Giraffe, Cape Buffalo, Beisa Oryx, the unusual looking Gerenuk, which means Giraffe-Antelope, and the endangered Grevy’s Zebra all present.The biggest of big game is common, that being the African Elephants.On this morning game drive we had impressive observations of all those species I mentioned above with the exception of Striped Hyena.
Our further exploration of the reserve produced an almost overwhelming array of bird species: African White-backed and Ruppell’s Vultures, Bateleur, Martial Eagle, African Hawk-eagle, Crested and Yellow-necked Francolins, Vulturine Guineafowl, Buff-crested and White-bellied Bustards, Black-faced and Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse, Red-bellied Parrot,Mariqua and Black-bellied Sunbirds,African Grey Woodpecker,Slate-coloured Boubou,Southern Black Flycathcer,Chestnut Sparrow and Cut-throat Finch among others.
In the middle of the day we returned to our lodge,as the heat outside wasn’t friendly to birding.But the lodge compound was very productive,we recorded Northern Brownbul, exceptional views of African Pygmy Kingfisher and Orange-bellied Parrot.
Our afternoon game drive took us to a swampy ground downstream and we picked-up Squacco Heron,Spur-winged Lapwing,Three-banded Plover,Palm-nut Vulture,Wattled and Fischer’s Starling,Peregrine Falcon,Somali Courser,Fischer’s Sparrow-lark,Somali Ostrich,Donalson-Smith’s Sparrow-Weaver,Parrot-billed Sparrow,White-throated Bee-eater and stunning close-up views of Pearl-spotted Owlet.
1st July, 2022: Today, we visited Samburu game reserve, across the other side of the river.By 7:30 am,we were at Archer’s Post gate and clearing with the park authorities, we carried on with our major business.At the gate onwards, we recorded Little,Horus and White-rumped Swift,Lesser Striped Swallow,more sighting of Donalson-Smith’s Sparrow-Weaver,Rosy-patched Bush-shrike,Fischer’s Starling, glorious Golden-breasted Starling and Somali Golden-breasted Bunting,impressive Yellow-billed Hornbill,Taita Fiscal,Blue-capped Cordon-bleu and Banded Parisoma.
Our drive on the base of the hills on the western side of the reserve produced a female Cheetah with her three cubs. By the look of things, they appeared hungry. She left the three youngsters behind as she stalks her eyes on a group of Grant’s Gazelles that were feeding nearby oblivious of the imminent danger. However,we were impatience to wait for this nature drama.
So we carried on with our birding with great views reward of species like White-headed Vulture, Brown-snake Eagle, Eastern Chanting Goshawk, Garbar Goshawk,Tawny Eagle,Somali Bee-eater,White-headed Mousebird and Northern White-crowned Shrike after which we back-tracked our route back to the lodge.
On our afternoon drive,it tooks us a while before we added any new species to our list,but we had spectacular views of a Leopard who was feeding on Black-backed Jackal on top of a huge acacia tortilis. We spend considerable amount of time on this site alone, until our drive Michael decided to notify his colleague of our big catch in the good sprite of joint effort.Before long over 12 vehicles joined us in enjoying this stunning feline,but it didn’t last more than 3 minutes,the Leopard couldn’t handled this anymore, it grabbed its prey and disappeared into the woods. We slowly made our way back to our roosting site.
2nd July, 2022: Our intention today was to spend the morning in Buffalo springs reserve,before making our way progressively, to the bases of Aberdare ranges birding en route.We managed to pocket some new species in our morning game drives which included species like;Red-winged Lark,Yellow-vented Eremomela,Black-capped Social Weaver,Golden Palm Weaver,Somali Tit,Foxy Lark and Bateleur.The morning weather in the reserve was very cold,windy and dusty.We exited the park and drove toward Nanyuki stopping briefly on the same spot we spotted male Golden-winged Sunbird as my guest wanted better photos of this elegant Sunbird, which in the end they were successful.We stopped for Lunch in Nanyuki,which actually took longer than we thought.
In the late afternoon, we drove through Ol Pejeta and Solio Conservancy as we gradually made our way to White Rhino Hotel,our lodge for the night.
3rd June, 2022: The plan today was visit Aberdare national park with special interest in the moorland habitat which is accessible by a well maintain road which took us there.Treetops gate is the way we used to enter the park.At the park entry point birds were plenty,Bronze Sunbird,Cape Robin-chat,Scaly Francolin,Streaky Seed-eater,African Citril,Holub’s Golden Weaver,Black Saw-wing,Hunters Cisticola,Chin-spot Batis,Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird and Baglafecht Weaver.
As we be begin to ascend, we started hearing and seeing Ruppell’s Robin-Chat,Cinnamon Bracken Warbler,Thick-billed Seed-eater,Long-crested Eagle,Augur Buzzard,African Emerald Cuckoo was calling from a distance,but never revealed itself to us, Olive Sunbird and Northern Double-coloured Sunbird,African Goshawk flew overhead.Hartlaub’s Turaco gave some stunning views. Brown Woodland Warbler and Doherty’s Bush-shrike briefly gave us some observations still on our upward journey. Yellow-billed Duck were enjoying a swim on some chilly water and grazing alongside it was the repulsive Giant Forest Hog, a primordial looking pig.
As we begin to encountering the bamboo vegetation,the bird assemblage charged,we started seeing African Crowned Eagle,White-starred Robin,Golden-winged Sunbird, Mountain Yellow Warbler,Yellow-crowned Canary and Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo called from a distance and the scenery change on our way up pacify our souls.
Once we were in the moorland habitat we started seeing Jackson’s Francolin and Alpine ( Moorland) Chat frequently now,Eastern-Double Coloured Sunbird and Malachite Sunbird were seen once in a while. Tufted Sunbird proof to be a hard-nut to crack.We were very satisfied with our observation of the endemic Aberdare Cisticola.After enjoying our almost empty lunch boxes at Chania Falls, we slowly descended birding en route. White Rhino Lodge is a excellent facility except that they were not gifted with the talent of packing lunch boxes, for which we were very disappointed about.
On our downward journey,we enjoyed great views of Grey Cuckoo-shrike,White-headed Wood-hoopoe,the endemic Kikuyu White-eye and Black Sparrow-hawk.We exited Aberdare national park and drove further east to southern park of Mr.Kenya forest reserve where we to spend a night at Castle Forest Lodge.
4th July, 2022: We made an early start after breakfast, but gain, the weather was not on our side. Immediately we were done with breakfast, it started raining and it was freezing, with our rain jacket, we decided to soldier on and see what nature will reward us with.Not much really to be honest,we pocketed species like Abyssinian Thrush,White-eye Slaty Flycatcher,Streaky Seed-eater,Spectacled Weaver,Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, Grey-headed and Black-throated Apalis,Red-fronted Parrot and Olive Pigeon flied above our heads.We also had superb views of Eastern mountain and Slender-billed Greenbuls,four Olive Ibis flew above the forest.
The rain stopped and the cloudy sky began to clear up and certainly the forest came to life! We had better views of Montane Oriole,Cabanis Greenbul,Purple-throated Cuckoo-shrike,Black-fronted Bush-shrike,Hartlaub’s Turaco,Ayres’s Hawk Eagle made a brief appearance above the sky,Grey-headed Nigrita,Crowned and Silvery- Cheeked Hornbill,White-tailed Crested Flycatcher,African Black-duck and two patched Giant Kingfishers.
We went to the lodge for lunch and check out as we were still expected to visit a dependable site for Hinde’s Babbler before making our way to Nairobi where we were to spend the night.On to the Hinde’s Babbler site,we had remarkable looks of Orange-breasted Bush-shrike,White-crested Helmet-shrike,Southern Black Flycatcher,White-browed Scrub-robin,Red-headed Weaver,Black-necked Weaver,Red-cheeked Cordon Blue,Red-billed Firefinch,Scarlet-chested Sunbird,Kenya White-eye,Variable Sunbird,Northern Brownbul,Red-fronted Tinkerbird,Tawny-flanked Prinia,Yellow-breasted Apalis,Rattling Cisticola,Diederik Cuckoo and Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove.
The Hinde’s Babbler proved to be more difficult than we thought, but, after some effort we got some decent looks on four of them. To avoid the nasty traffic that Nairobi is known for, we dash to Sarova Panafric hotel.
5th July,2022:Our destination today is Tsavo West national park,an extensive area covering over 9000 sq.km.It took us four and half hours drive to reach there on the busy Nairobi-Mombasa road.We checked in at Mtito Andei gate at 12:00 and we got started with birding right away.Our drive from the gate to Kilaguni Serena Lodge yielded species the stunning Golden-breasted Starling,Von Der Dicken’s Hornbill,Black-throated and Red-fronted Barbet,Little Bee-eater,Blue-capped cordon Blue,Eastern Chanting Goshawk,Brown Snake Eagle and Abyssinian Scimitarbill,Fischer’s and Hilderbrandt’s Starling,Cut-throat Finch and lastly Ashy Cisticola just before arriving at our destinations where we were warmly welcomed and ushered in to enjoy the delicious lunch with great close views of Elephant’s quenching their thirsty at the nearby water hole.
In the afternoon, we visited the nearby Mzima Springs as a colleague of mine had informed me that a week or so ago, he and his guest had spotted an African Pitta around the area, a bird I have never seen in Kenya! We thought why not take our chances!.The bad news is we fail to track down the Pitta.Looking at the brighter side of life, we got great views of an immature Golden Pipit,Verreaux’s Eagle,white-crested Helmet Shrike,Gorgeous Sunbird, White-bellied Go-Away-Bird,Shikra,Red-billed Buffalo Weaver,Red-bellied Parrot, Eastern Paradise Whydah and White-throated Bee-eater.
6th July, 2022: This morning, we decided to bird the lodge compound extensively as the habitat outside the lodge was too dry, so we thought the birds might have taken refuge in the dense vegetation found in the lodge. This idea turn out to an excellent one as we recorded species like;Grey-headed and Orange Breasted Bush-shrike,Green-winged Pytilia,Eastern Nicator,Pygmy Batis,African Pygmy Kingfisher, Lesser Honeyguide,Klaas’s Cuckoo among others…
As we were driving our way out of the park birding en route, we spotted Tsavo Sunbird,Verreaux’s Eagle Owl and Golden-breasted Starling. Perhaps, the bird that thrilled all of us is our sighting of Red-naped Bush-shrike, a bird not frequently seen.We exited Tsavo West national park and made our way to Voi Wildlife Lodge,at the Western edge of Tsavo East national park.
After lunch and a some quick rest, we resumed our birding in the afternoon, we birded the lodge compound which yielded species like;Black-crowned Tchagra,more Tsavo Sunbirds,Sombre Greenbul,Northern Brownbul,Three-streaked Tchagra,Yellow-breasted Apalis,Spotted Palm Thrush,Brubru and African Spoonbill,Black-headed Heron and Yellow-billed Stork at waterhole in front of the lodge .
7th July, 2022: Our crucial destination today is Taita Hills.If there was a site where the weather didn’t favour us at all it is Taita hills. When we arrived there at around 8:00am,the forest fragment that we were visiting was completely covered with mist and you could rarely see more than 50 meters,and to make the matters worse, it started raining making the walking on that steeply and leafy terrain of Taita Hills a little difficult though possible.To cut the long story short, even though I saw both Taita Thrush,Taita Apalis and Taita White-eye,the guests saw some glimpse of Taita Apalis and nothing else. Obviously they were disappointed but nobody knew things will turn out this way. Perhaps a good reason to revisit the hills in future .
We descended the hills both exhausted and a little discouraged, but we bravely soldier on! There are such days in life. We entered Tsavo East National park and birded our way to Aruba lodge where we were to spend the night. On the way to the lodge, there was nothing really new for us, other than four Southern Ground Hornbills strolling from a far-off.
8th July, 2022: Today, we spent the entire morning exploring the Eastern part of Tsavo East national park. The weather this morning was perfect and so was the birding. We got better looks of Red-winged Lark,Chestnut-headed Sparrow Lark, Golden Pipit,Somali Bee-eater,Somali Ostrich,Kori Bustard,Rosy-perched Bush-shrike,White-headed Vulture,Golden-breasted Starling,White-crested Helmet-shrike,Hartlaub’s Bustard,Blue-naped Mousebird,Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse and Somali Courser.We also enjoyed observations of some of the biggest elephants with very massive tusk and we also saw three Hirolas.
We enjoyed our packed lunch at Sala gate and we briefly searched for Shelly’s Starling without any success. We drove through a quiet back road which eventually led us to the coastal town of Watamu where we were to spend the night.
9th July, 2022: Arabuko Sokoke is the largest stretch of dry coastal forest in East Africa and it is ranks amongst the top 36 global biodiversity hotspot.The avian diversity in the forest is impressive with 6 globally threatened, from which we had impressive looks of the Amani Sunbird,Sokoke scops Owl and Sokoke Pipit.We heard Clarke’s calling but, it become elusive for sighting.
Birding the mixed forest section produced species like the East Coast Boubou,Black-bellied Starling,African Golden Oriole and Narina Trogon.We also enjoyed excellent views of the Eastern Crested Guineafowl ,Lizard Buzzard,Black-backed Puffback(race affinis) and Yellow-bellied Greenbul.The astonishing Gorgeous Bush-shrike called from its hideout before finally showing off to us. Just before entering the open Brachystegia wood we had wonderful views of a Bat Hawk.
We drove through the Brachystegia vegetation to the Cynometra section of the forest ,our target in this vegetation is normally is Sokoke Scops Owl which we had excellent views.We also saw some views of Tiny Greenbul and Terrestrial Brownbul.Before breaking for lunch,we made another quick in the Brachystegia woodland and we picked species like Amani Sunbird,Pale Batis,Little Yellow Flycatcher, which looked more like a warbler than a Flycatcher to me!.
In our second visit to the forest that afternoon,our guide Willy took us to a swamp where Malindi Pipit is easily seen, and true to his wards we got the bird.We went back to the Brachystegia vegetation and we were rewarded with great views of Common Scimitarbill,Palid Honeyguide,Ashy Flycatcher,Black-headed Apalis Eastern Black-headed Batis,Collared Sunbird,Eastern Black-headed Oriole,Fischer’s Greenbul and lastly Red-capped Robin-chat.
10th July, 2022: Today we revisited the forest again for species we missed yesterday.Since our major target today was the Sokoke Pipit, we drove straight to its habitat which is Brachystegia woodland.While our guide Willy searching for the Pipit we watched hoping that he come back with great news.Blue-mantled Crested-flycatcher responded to our call back and Scaly-throated Honeyguide.
Willy heard the Sokoke pipit call and with his guidance we tracked it down through the woodland for a about an hour or so before managing some excellent views and even some decent good photos.After we have checked the pipit we went on searching for more and our search yielded species like Plain-backed Sunbird,Forest Batis ,Red-tailed Ant-Thrush,Mombasa Woodpecker and Green Barbet.That was it for Arabuko Sokoke forest for us.
After lunch and a little rest, we transferred our clients to Malindi International Airport in time for them to catch their domestic flight to Nairobi where they will then connect with their international flight.