Tour Participants:Holger,Katja and Petra.
Tour leader: Joseph Aengwo.
Photo acknowledgements: Joseph Aengwo and Holger Kirscht
Temperature Range: 15 –31°C.
Total Birds Seen: 294.
Total Mammals and Reptiles Seen: 25.
Birds of the Trip: The Taita Hills endemics of Taita Thrush, Taita Apalis and Taita White-eye, Hartlaub’s Turaco, Saddle-billed Stork, Taveta Golden Weaver,White-throated Robin,Steel-blue Whydah,Pangani Longclaw,Northern Carmine Bee-eater,Red-winged Lark, Ashy Cisticola,Golden Pipit,Golden-breasted Starling,Vulturine Guineafowl, White-necked Raven and White-eared Barbet
Trip Report Compiled By: Joseph Aengwo.
There can never be a better place to introduce birding to clients in Kenya like Amboseli,Tsavo West and Tsavo East national park owing to its vastness and excellent birding biotope it provide.Other than birding my guest were also interested in other diversity of wildlife and scenery.The timing of the trip was perfect as it coincided with bird migration period and the short rains that was experienced in south-eastern part of Kenya a few weeks earlier.However,we were surprised at how dry Tsavo East was!Tsavo West was more greener and the scenery was breathtaking.
Amboseli was a paradise for elephants, we really had a peaceful time with the jumbos there and water birds were plenty and in their numbers.We were also lucky as we were treated to excellent views of Mt.Kilimanjara! The sky was cloudless; the two peaks of Kibo and Uhuru were clear with its ice cap.
26-28 Febraury,2022. Amboseli National Park.
Day 1: I meet my clients at their residence in Nairobi and after a brief exchange of pleasantries our road trip to Amboseli national park began.Since it was Saturday,we were lucky with the nasty traffic that Nairobi is known for.On our drive along Mombasa road we were able pick species like; Hadada Ibis,Yellow-billed and Black-winged Kite,Marabou Stork and White-bellied Go-Away-Bird.We had a 15 minutes break at a gallery shop in Emali town.
We arrived at Amboseli national park gate at around 12:30 am.The park entry procedures were really slow and time consuming. It probably took us 30 minutes to get cleared. But at the gate birds were plenty and we were not bored at all.We recorded Speckled Pigeon, Ring-necked Dove, Lesser-striped Swallow,Beautiful Sunbird,White-browed Sparrow,Superb Starling,Little and White-rumped Swift,Fischer’s Starling and House and Parrot-billed Sparrow.Once inside the park,we saw Yellow-necked Spurfowl,Fischer’s Sparrow-lark,Gabar Goshawk, Kittlitz’s Plover.We arrived at our at around 2:00 pm.We were staying at Amboseli Serena Lodge.
After enjoying a delicious lunch and a small rest,we resumed our birding in the afternoon.A small drive from our lodge we spotted two Double-banded Courser,Short-tailed Lark,Eastern Chanting Goshawk,Plain-backed Pipit,Yellow-throated Longclaw and Martial Eagle which had just killed a Cape Hare.The swamp was full of Elephants enjoying themselves wallowing in the mud while quenching their thirst.There is nowhere in Kenya where I found Elephants at peace like Amboseli.
Water birds were everywhere;African Jacana,African Snipe,Wood and Green Sanpiper,Common Greenshank,Long-toed,Blacksmith and Spur-winged Lapwing,White-faced Whistling Duck,Hottentot and Red-billed Teal,White-backed Duck,Red-knob Coot,Glossy and Sacred Ibis,Yellow-billed,Cattle,Little and Great White Egret,Grey-crowned Crane and Fan-tailed Widowbird.
The drama of the afternoon was however staged by a Black-backed Jackal chasing a calve of Thomson Gazelle.The mother combined efforts with other Gazelles to block the Jackal from catching up with the speeding calves,buying the young calve time to gained distance.What the young calve and Jackal were not aware is that there were a pride of lion laying inside the tall grass close to the swamp.As the Jackal intensifies its chase,it was chasing its prey closer and closer to a much bigger predator who got surprised how lucky it was,the lioness easily got the calve and the jackal run back for his life and counting his losses.Life is hard and you die,sad ending for the Calve and Jackal.Before the day ended we also recorded Montagu’s Harrier and Western Marsh Harrier hunting on the swamp hedges.
Day 2:Our second day in Amboseli was very productive.We spend most of the morning birding the alkaline pools to the left of Ol Tukai lodge.We recorded both the Lesser and Greater Flamingoes,Little Stint,Curlew Sandpiper,Three-banded and Kittlitz’s Plover,Black-winged Stilt,Common Greenshank,Wood and Common Sandpiper,Little Grebe.
Driving toward the airstripe we saw plenty of Yellow Baboon,Hippos, Goliath Heron,Saddle-billed and Yellow-billed Stork and a fishing flotillas of Great White Pelican.Barn,Lesser-striped,Greater Kestrel and Red-rumped swallows were flying all over….everywhere was teeming with birds.
Moving out of the swampy habitat to more drier habitat we encountered species like Taveta Golden Weaver,Rufous-naped Lark,Rossy-patched Bush-shrike, Pygmy Falcon,Gabar Goshawk,White-backed and Ruppell’s Vulture,Tawny Eagle and African Hawk Eagle.
Our effort to see a lone male cheetah that was spotted early in the morning by another group of guests staying in the same hotel as us was never rewarded. Late in the afternoon as we were driving back to our lodge,we witnessed a failed attempt by three lionesses to hunt a wildebeest.
28 February-3 March,2022. Tsavo West National Park.
Day 3:This park being very vast (over 9000 square km),we had planned that we spend a day in Kilaguni-Rhino Valley area and 2 days in western side of the park.After checking out of our lodge,we did a morning game drive en route to Tsavo West national park.We arrived at Chylu gate at around 12:30 am.After clearing with the park officials which was much faster compared to Amboseli owing to the fact that Amboseli is a more popular park compared to Tsavo.
As we were driving from the gate toward Kilaguni Serena lodge,our lodge for the night ,we saw Northern White-crowned shrike more frequently now, and so was the Eastern Chanting Goshawk.European Roller was literally in almost every tree, which was amazing to watch.We drove through Shetani lava flow where we saw three Klipspringer.
We arrived at Kilaguni Serena Lodge in time for a well earned lunch. As we were having our lunch, the watering hole in front of the lodge entertained us as Elephants were cooling themselves off from excruciating heat and when the elephants were done,Buffalos came and then Zebras and Giraffes, Impalas and just before I left for my room Warthog were having their turn.
Our afternoon game drives was impressive for birds;Ashy Cisticola,Pink-breasted Lark,Fisher’s and big group of Wattled Starlings,Red-billed and White-headed Buffalo Weaver,Eastern-Paradise and Steel-blue Whydays,White-throated Robin,Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush,Eastern Olivaceous Warbler,Buff-crested and Hartlaub’s Bustard,Hunter’s and Tsavo Sunbird,Orange-bellied Parrot,Verreaux’s Eagle Owl,Black-and-White Cuckoo,Red-billed Oxpecker,Brown Snake-eagle, a group of migrating Common Kestrel,Von de Decken’s Hornbill and African Grey Hornbill,Long-tailed Fiscal, Black-faced Sandgrouse, Green-winged Pytilia among others.We got treated to a spectacular sunset as we made our way progressively back to Kilaguni Serena Lodge.
Day 4:The day started early as we were to check-out of our lodge birding en route to our next lodge,Ziwani Voyager Camp located at the edge of the western boundary of Tsavo west national park. We started off with the Rhino valley circuit where we were rewarded with two Secretary Birds,Crested Francolin,Black-bellied Sunbird,Pringle’s Puffback,Banded Parisoma and Eastern Paradise Whydah.
As we drove past the Severin Banda, we saw groups of Giraffes, Zebras,Elephants,Fringe-eared Oryx,Gerenuk and Grant Gazelles.The road toward Ziwani gate was very bad and its slow us down to the extent that we had to pay park fees again as we had overstayed our official time to exit the park which was 12:30 am.We were however happy to recorded three Southern Ground Hornbill as we approached the gate.
After checking in our lodge and enjoying a delicious four course lunch, we resumed our birding in the afternoon by birding the Southern part of Tsavo West national park. Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters were dominant and so was the European Roller,Rofous-tailed Rock-Thrush,Pale Prinia,Vitalline Masked Weaver and Brown Snake Eagle.
We across a water pan and there were several species of ducks including;White-faced Whistling-Duck,Knob-billed Duck and Spur-winged Goose.On our way back to the lodge,we saw a mixed flocks of Yellow-breasted Apalis,Ashy Cisticola,Banded Parisoma,Rufouse-tailed Scrub-Robin,a nesting colony of Black-capped Social Weaver and a feeding party of Orange-bellied Parrots.Perhaps the bird of the day today will the elegant Vulturine Guineafowl.
Before dinner we had organized for a night game drive around the Ziwani Conservancy and our spotter this night was Salim who managed to shine the spotting light on White-tailed Mongoose,Blacked-backed Jackal,grazing Hippos,a Gernet,Square-tailed Nightjar and Kori Bustard.
Day 5: Our plans today was to visit a low altitude forest located at the Kenya-Tanzania border, but first we had to make the most of our morning by birding the lodge compound which turn out to be very productive;We recorded Black-headed Heron,Helmeted Guineafowl,Grosbeak and Taveta Golden Weaver,Lesser swamp warbler,Thrush Nightingale,Yellow-spotted Bush-sparrow,Hunter’s Sunbird,African Pygmy Kingfisher,Spotted Palm Thrush,Red-and-Yellow Barbet,Striated Heron,Yellow-billed Stork,Gabar Goshawk,Grey Wren Warbler,Grey-headed Bush-shrike and Diederik Cuckoo.
After breakfast, which took longer than we had expected,we drove to Kitovu forest and our target species were Brown-breasted and White-eared Barbet,Lizzard Buzzard,Black-throated Wattle-eye ,Palm-nut Vulture and Grey-olive Greenbul.
Our timing was not that good because we arrived at the forest at around 11pm!!not one of the best time to bird but we were rewarded with Green Wood Hoopoe,Verreaux’s Eagle Owl,Black-throated Wattle-eye,White-eared Barbet,Variable Sunbird,Red-billed Firefinch and Little Bee-eater.The heat and humidity exhausting us down, we decided to returned to the lodge for lunch and some rest.
An afternoon game drive around the conservancy produced species like Rosy-patched Bush-shrike,Blue-naped Mousebird,Pink-breasted Lark,Yellow-necked Spurfowl,Fischer’s Sparrow-lark,Lesser-striped and Barn Swallow,Pangani Longclaw,Pied Wheatear,Spotted Flycatcher,Taita Fiscal,Hilderbrand’s and Fischer’s Starling,Tawny Eagle,Eastern Chanting Goshawk and a flying Black-cheasted Snake Eagle.On flat grassland close to an artificial wetland we saw Black-headed Lapwing and Temminck’s Courser and a huge acacia full of Red-billed BuffaloWeavers nest. We had a delicious dinner under the African sky.
3rd March,2022. Taita Hills.
Day 6:Our destination today is Taita Hills,the northernmost of the biodiversity rich Eastern Arc Mountains.Rising up to over 2200m at Ngaongao our ultimate birding site on the hills. Our target species for Taita includes the three endemics of Taita Thrush,Taita White-eye and Taita Apalis.Others are Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler,Striped-cheeked Greenbul and Striped Pipit and sometimes Ayre’s Hawk Eagle ,Orange Ground Thrush,Harlaub’s Turaco and White-necked Raven.
The drive from Taveta to Taita Hills took us two hours.Upon arrival at Ngangao forest station,we were meet by our guide Joanam,who is also a forest ranger.Once inside the forest we recorded Cabanis Greenbul and Evergreen Forest Warbler, Taita Thrush which played a hide and seek with us for a while,but eventually we had reasonable views of it under poor lighting conditions inside the forest.
At the edge of the forest, we recorded five Hartlaub’s Turaco,Variable and Scarlet-Chested Sunbird,Taita White-eye,Spot-flanked Barbet,Striped-faced Greenbul,African Stone Chat,Augur Buzzard and Ayre’s Hawk Eagle zoomed overheard.We then moved on to another part of the forest to look for our remaining endemic,Taita Apalis which we located after much efforts by our guide who I really admire his patience.As we descended the hills,we saw two White-necked Raven as we passed by Wundanyi town.
We arrived at our lodge at Ngutuni Conservancy bordering Tsavo East national park at around 2:00pm.Tsavo East was extremely dry compared to Tsavo West and the watering hole in front of our lodge had only one bull Elephant compared big groups that I always see there.However,Black-headed headed Heron were dominating the pool. Our afternoon game drive around the conservancy produced species like Isabelline Wheatear,Golden Pipit,Red-winged Lark,Steppe Eagle,Martial Eagle, Pygmy Falcon,Common Kestel,Long-tailed Fiscal,African Bare-eyed Thrush,Northern Carmine Bee-eater,White-bellied and Buff-crested Bustard and Bateleur.We back early to the lodge for some sundowner drinks as Taita hills walk had drained us.
Day 7: This was going to be our last morning game drive before we could drop off my clients at Diani Beach lodge where they will spend another week relaxing by the sea.As we were leaving the car park of the lodge,we hard a Pearl-spotted Owlet calling,Spotted palm Thrush and African Bare-eyed Thrush,Blue-capped Cordon Blue,White-headed Buffalo Weaver and Fischer’s Starling were numerous.
At the Voi River,we recorded Martial and African Fish Eagles,Northern Carmine Bee-eater,Emarald-spotted wood Dove, Namaqua Dove,Black-faced Sand grouse,African Pipit,Lilac-breasted Roller,Northern Red-billed Hornbill,Wooly-necked Stork and Golden-breasted Starling.As we were approaching the lodge,we picked up Wahlberg’s Eagle,Von der Decken’s Hornbill,African and Golden Pipit,Northen Wheatear,Black-capped Social Weaver,Pallid Harrier,Secretary Bird and White-browed Coucal.
We had breakfast and checked out of our lodge and drove to Diani Beach lode.We bided goodbyes to our guest who we really had a great time birding with.