Jonathan wrote to me in the second week of March 2022, requesting if I could help him out in finding some of his target species for Arabuko sokoke forest and the environs along the coast and Nairobi National Park and Magadi Road-Lake Magadi on the upcountry side, which of course was an honor for me.
Arabuko-Sokoke Forest has been ranked by BirdLife International as the second most important forest for bird conservation on mainland Africa and is part of the East African coastal forests Endemic Bird Area. More than 230 bird species have been recorded including nine globally threatened species. The area is also home to the endemic Golden-rumped Elephant–shrew.
The plan was to spend two full days birding the coastal part of Kenya (Majorly Arabuko sokoke forest and Sabaki arid-bushland ) and another two days birding Magadi road all the way to Lake Magadi and Nairobi National park.Davida Ngala, a conservation hero and a legendary bird guide from Arabuko Sokoke forest was to guide Jonathan for the two days coastal tour and I will then handle the Magadi-Nairobi part of the trip.Since I did not participate in the coastal tour guiding, I will write less about it and more about the Lake Magadi and Nairobi national park birding voyage.
Jonathan target species list for Arabuko Sokoke forest included; Violet-breasted Sunbird (checked),Sokoke Scops Owl(Checked),Clarkes’s Weaver(Checked female),Eastern Black-headed Batis (Checked),Eastern Creasted Guineafowl,Dimorphic Egret(Checked),Mangrove Kingfisher(Missed),African Broadbill(Checked),Spotted Ground Thrush(Missed),African Barred Owlet(Missed),Gorgeous Bush-shrike(Checked, Call heard only) and Madagascar Pratincole(Checked).
For Magadi Raod-Lake Magadi and Nairobi national park which I was guiding, his target species list was; White-tailed Lark (Missed),Short-tailed Lark(Checked),Lynes’s Cisticola(Checked),Shelley’s Francolin(Checked),Sombre Nightjar(Missed),Gorgeous Sunbird(Checked),Buff-bellied Penduline-tit(Missed).
5th May,2022:Jeffry and I picked up our clients at the Crowne Plaza hotel at 6:15 AM and headed straight to Ngong hills.The traffic along Mombasa road was not so bad enabling us to drive through the city pretty fine.Our first stop was Corner Baridi where we picked up species like;Lynes’s Cisticola,African and Long-billed Pipit,Reichenow’s Seedeater,Kenya Rufous Sparrow,Rufous-naped and Red-capped Lark,Variable Sunbird,Red-cheeked Cordon-Blue,Blue-cheecked Bee-eater and Crowned Lapwing.
The descend down the Rift Valley brought us to Olo Polos country club junction where our brief birding at this stop yielded species like Abyssinian Wheatear,Red-fronted Barbet,Yellow-bellied Eremomela , Little Rock Thrush,Spotted Palm Thrush,Grey-backed Camaroptera,Vitalline Masked Weaver,Red-and-Yellow Barbet,Beaitiful Sunbird( race Melanogastrus,Gorgeous Sunbrids),Rattling Cisticola,African Hawk Eagle,Red-faced Crombec,Cinnamon-breasted Bunting,Chin-spot Batis and Common Kestrel.
A dry river down the road proofed to be an excellent birding stop for species such as Black-necked Weaver,Southern Grossbeak-Canary,Pink-breasted Lark,Lesser-striped Swallow,Black-throated Barbet,Rock Martin,Tawny-flanked Prinia,Yellow-breasted Apalis,White-browed Coucal and Black-backed Puffback.As we drove through, we observed many White-throated Bee-eater perched on the electric line and Eastern Chanting Goshawk become more common on the electric poles.
We made a birding stop just past Ole Temesi centre on that hilly ridge past the settlement area.We recorded species like;Bare-eyed Thrush,Grey-capped Social Weaver,Steel-blue Whydah,White-bellied Canary,Southern Citril, Mouse-coloured Penduline-Tit,Red-fronted Prinia,Gabar Goshawk,huge colonies of breeding Village Weavers,Chesnut Sparrow and Yellow-throated Bush Sparrow.
We proceeded on to Olorgesaile prehistoric site where a short walk in their compound produced species like Mourning Collared Dove,Namaqua Dove,D’Arnaud’s Barbet,Red-and-Yellow Barbet and Black-throated Barbet,White-browed Scrub-Robin,Hunter’s ,Beautiful,Variable and Eastern Violet-backed Sunbirds,Taita Fiscal ,Somali Bunting,Eastern Paradise-Whydah,Fischer’s Sparrow-Lark,Pink-breasted Lark , Foxy Lark, Red-billed Hornbill,Von der Decken’s Hornbill,Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Diederik Cuckoo,Cardinal Woodpecker ,African Grey Flycatcher,Slate-coloured Boubou and last but not the least Capped Wheatear.
Our drive from Olorgesaile prehistoric site to Lake Magadi was on middle of the day.Nothing much happen until we reached Lake Magadi.The causeway between the railway line and the main entry gate we pocketed both Lesser and Greater Flamingos,Little Stint,Black-winged Stilt and Chestnut-banded Plover which is reliably common at Lake Magadi.Due Covin-19 protocol that were imposed by the Tata Chemicals Magadi Company,whose management of Magadi town falls under, we were denied entry to the town,so we had turn around and progressively head back to Nairobi.
Before we started ascending the escarpment, we made some two or three birding stop along the way and we were rewarded with species like;Black-and-White Cuckoo,Eastern Crombec,Swaili Sparrow,Verreaux’s Eagle,Hildebrant’s Starling,Ruppell’s Starling, Northern White-crowned Shrike and Little Bee-eater.It started raining and so that was it for that day.The drive to the lodge took longer than expected because the terrible traffic jam that Mombasa road is known for in the evenings.We arrived at lodge at around 19:25 hours.
6thMay,2022:Just like yesterday our trip to Nairobi national park started at 6:15 AM. Quarter to seven we were at main entry point and after some bureaucratic work with the management authority,we started birding the low altitude montane forest habitat of the park we picked up species like Abyssinian Thrush,Ruppell’s Robin-Chat,African Emerald Cuckoo,Tropical Boubou,Red-eyed Dove,Singing Cisticola ,Cape Robin-Chat and White-backed Vultures.
The grassland plains between the Ivory burning site and Hyena dam rewarded us with species like Northern Pied Babbler,Long-tailed Fiscal,Common Fiscal,Common Stonechat,Yellow-throated Longclaw,Rufous-naped Lark,African and Plain-backed Pipit,Ringed-necked Dove,Yellow-throated Spurfowl, Red-collared,Jackson’s and White-winged Widowbirds who were all in their spectacular breeding plumage.
At the dam we saw Spur-winged Lapwing,Long-toed Lapwing,Blacksmith Lapwing, African Spoonbill,Black Crake,Sacred Ibis,Yellow-billed Stork,Little Egret and Three-banded Plover. A detour from Hyena dam to Nugolomon dam added to our list species like Rosy-breasted Longclaw,Short-winged Cisticola,Stout Cisticola and Pectral-patch Cisticola,Yellow-breasted Apalis,Dusky Turtle Dove,Brimstone Canary,Malachite Kingfisher,African Fish Eagle,Long-tailed Cormorant and African Darter.
Our birding stop at Kingfisher picnic site was made impossible because we found two buses of Total Energy Staff touring the park at the site. We therefore forfeited this site drove down toward Baboon cliff picnic site, on this route we picked up Crowned Lapwing,Grey-capped Warbler, Wattled Starling,White-bellied Tit,African Moustached Warbler,Rattling Cisticola,Emerald Spotted Wood-Dove,White-bellied Go-Away-Bird,Spot-flanked Barbet,White-headed Barbet (senex race), Yellow Bishop, Yellow-crowned Bishop and one of our target species in this tour,Shelley’s Francolin.
As we drove toward southern end of the park, the biotope changed to semi-arid bushland and we encountered species like Grey-capped Social Weaver,White-browed Sparrow-Weaver,Hildebrandt’s Starling,Green Woodhoopoe,African Hoopoe,Striped Kingfisher,Cinnamon-breasted Bunting,White-browed Coucal,Abyssinian Scimitarbill,Wire-tailed Swallow,Red-billed and Yellow-billed Oxpecker and Pangani Longclaw.
Athi Basin and Athi Basin dam give way a very impressive list of Open-billed Stork,Yellow-billed Stork,Pink-backed Pelican,Long-tailed Cormorant,Pied Kingfisher,Three-banded Plover,Foxy Lark,Desert Cisticola,Croaking Cisticola,Black-winged Kite and Speckled-fronted Weaver.
As we progressively made our way toward East gate, our preferred park exit point, we spend considerable amount of time birding Embakasi plains and we were happy with Secretary Bird,Kori Bustard,Gray-crowned Crane, White-backed and Ruppell’s Vulture,plain backed Pipit,Brimstone Canary,Kenya Rufous Sparrow,Tawny Eagle and without expectation two Short-tailed lark to Jonathan Satisfaction.We eventually exited the park at 15:30pm after our clients request. We were both delighted on how impressive the birding has been for these two days.