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|Sunday 13th April 2003, 23:16||#1|
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Devon. UK.
Kenya. Part 6 of 7
Location : Sabaki River Mouth, Malindi, Kenya.
The previous evening, I ignored the holiday representativeís poor advice and arranged an early morning trip to the Sabaki River mouth with Jonathan and a friendly taxi driver. The warning of security problems rang in my head so I left the scope back in the hotel safe and took only my binoculars. The temptation of this place was too much for me to resist having read good reports about the bird life here.
At the first glimpses of dawn we set off along the coastal road, the taxi van had a lift up top for observing birds from. This was a real treat as the driver also kept an eye out for birds, stopping whenever his sharp eyes picked some up. Along the way we collected many sightings including some spectacular LONG TAILED FISCALS close to the road, these were black and white shrikes with long tail roosting on wires or tree tops. On a tall tree stump a LIZARD BUZZARD looked over his patch. Plenty of AFRICAN PALM SWIFTS and BARN SWALLOWS darted around in the air along the road and a small flock of six or seven GREY HEADED SPARROWS roosted on a wire. A couple of PIED CROWS flashed over head and this instilled a small sense of accomplishment as I had now seen all the birds on the hotel notice board.
There was a bit of panic as the metal floor was glowing and a hole had formed under my foot. Smoke and sparks appeared. Being stood up I had been pressing the metal floor onto the battery. This was frantically solved by the driver without even stopping! We drove over the Sabaki River and turned off shortly onto to the most uneven track in the world half expecting the van to roll over anytime. When the road levelled out we added a huge flock of dazzling RED CHEEKED CORDON-BLEUS, honestly this is a name of a bird. They were delightful little jewels, brown backed, blue fronted and faced with red cheeks and bills feeding away in the dusty track. Four SACRED IBISES passed over towards the river mouth and a small tree held several HOUSE CROWS, a few COMMON BULBULS and a TROPICAL BOUBOU. In the dirt was a large flock of small passerines feeding away and there were only two or three colourful black and red ones, these were fluffy headed male ZANZIBAR RED BISHOPS with a very large group of duller brown sparrow like females.
The taxi pulled up against a small building where we were to walk from. The scene was a vast tract of scrubland with sand dunes in the distance and I was led towards the dunes. A couple of BLACK HEADED HERONS flapped their way over to the coast and the scrub yielded GRASSLAND PIPITS, NORTHERN BROWNBULS, a couple of charming COLLARED SUNBIRDS, one SPECKLED MOUSEBIRD and a few BLACK CROWNED TCHAGRA.
Soon the three of us climbed over the dunes and from the top I could see an even larger expanse of scrubland yet to be negotiated before we reached the river mouth. I was assured it would provide many birds along the way and how right this was. The first birds to be seen were some fantastic SPUR WINGED PLOVERS foraging individually around the scrub occasionally in twos or threes. A LAUGHING DOVE shot across our bows into a tree to offer a good view of itself.
I came across a YELLOW WAGTAIL which Jonathan dismissed as nonsensical birds until I pointed out there are many races of this bird. This made him think twice about them and indeed we saw loads more of different races around the area. The first one was of the flava race. Unfortunately I did not make notes of the other races seen as they could have qualified as separate additions to my list!
Jonathan spotted something interesting and took us on a arduous path up and down some dunes to come back down the rear of some bushes and we were watching a small group of six CRESTED FRANCOLINS which are large game birds like quails or partridges. After only twenty seconds of watching these the taxi driver coughed, sending them all flying off!
Eventually we reached the edge of the mudflats which was sharply separated from the narrow sandy beach and an AFRICAN FISH EAGLE roosted in one of the small green trees out in the mudflats. There were what looked like millions of waders feeding ardently including RINGED PLOVERS, GREY PLOVERS, GREENSHANKS, COMMON SANDPIPERS, a few WHIMBRELS and many SANDERLINGS. There were many quality waders dotted around in excitingly large numbers including plenty of CURLEW SANDPIPERS, quite a few WHITE FRONTED PLOVERS, five or six GREATER SANDPLOVERS and the same number of TEREK SANDPIPERS.
I was really finding it all a bit surreal seeing so many top list rarities here in such quantities. I made an enquiry about some large prints in the mud and they were Hippopotamus prints. This bemused me as I could not see any bushes large enough for one to hide behind.
Further out into the mouth we could see many different species including a GREY HERON, some CASPIAN TERNS, a few LITTLE EGRETS and a large group of eight GREAT WHITE PELICANS which I was glad to have on my list however odd they appear to be. As we moved along the beach, I shouted out as I saw a single LITTLE SWIFT zoom around above us with great agility. The size of the bird next to some similarly sized African Palm Swifts, the colours and the tail shape provided the clues to itís identity. A short while later a large adult LANNER FALCON was identified flying over flushing a few birds off the mudflats.
We passed some grassier areas of the estuary and there were approximately ten WOOD SANDPIPERS feeding in the grass. I watched these birds for a time as they were my first ever sightings of these species. Some would fly out of the grass showing there were more than I could see. In a miniature tree bordering the beach was a small group of AMETHYST SUNBIRDS with a male this time compared to the female pair seen near the hotel two days ago.
I pointed out a bird in a thorny tree and Jonathan excitedly claimed his first ever DIEDERIK CUCKOO. It was an adult female. I saw of the yellow headed lutea race of Yellow Wagtails feeding along the edge of the mud and there was a distant COMMON DRONGO. Above us a small flock of BANDED MARTINS were pointed out to me and I spotted more birds out in the middle of the vast river mouth. These were eight AFRICAN SPOONBILLS, one YELLOW BILLED STORK and six EGYPTIAN GEESE.
It was unfortunately time to make our way back to the van as we had covered the area very well. As we approached the parked taxi a large raptor soared over the valley and it was an adult BLACK CHESTED SNAKE EAGLE. This was a prized sighting according to the guide and the trip was rounded off by a group of twelve PINK BACKED PELICANS flying over the distant sand dunes towards the beach.
I was quite miffed at having been given some inferior advice on this fantastic area by the holiday representative, the few people I met were very friendly and I could not see any threat to myself if I had been carrying a scope. With the scope I would have undoubtedly added a few more specials to my list. Nevertheless, I had really enjoyed this trip with a staggering forty nine species.
The return trip was interesting as the taxi driver was pulled over by two of the local boys in blue and given a court summons for driving without wing mirrors! It did not end there because he scrunched up the paper and later on he was stopped by some more of Kenyaís finest. Asked for the proof of a previous stoppage he had to pick up the paper off the floor and straighten it to the disgust of the on looking copper. The copper went from angry man to genteel friend and saluted me as if I was royalty!
Back at the hotel I had close views of the fiftieth species of the day, a gathering of BLACK & WHITE MANNIKINS were no more than four feet away in a tree by the pond.
Location : Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Sundowner, Watamu, Kenya.
To round off the holiday on a high note Jonathan took us for an evening walk to the tree house to watch the sun go down. Many birds showed along the walk but I was only recording the species I had not seen before as this was mainly intended to be a leisurely walk. The birds were very hard to ignore.
We were shown some butterfly breeding nets and traps. The traps were tubes of net curtain material hung up with a plate at the open bottom holding a cup of palm wine. The wine tempted the butterflies into the mouth and the ones that flew up the tube could not find their way out, a bit like a lobster net.
We had gone off track and it was returning to the track via an overgrown football field that we had to run after a mega rarity which was a red crested and green bodied FISCHERíS TURACO. The view on offer was a brief one of a bird in flight and perching for a couple of seconds before disappearing out of sight. I was on a real high after it was explained how special they were and felt it was a great ending to the holiday. Little did I know it was only a precursor to another couple of stunning birds.
Back on the track we sighted a YELLOW FRONTED CANARY. This was nothing much really, just a yellow bird yet it had an impressive set of go-faster stripes on itís face. There was a very brief glimpse of a passing SCALY BABBLER which seemed to have fish like scales and a set of powerful orange eyes. The second sensational birds of the evening were high up on the tips of a tall tree. A pair of WHITE THROATED BEE-EATERS were taking off from their perches, catching insects and returning to their original perches. I was mesmerised by these delightful birds despite not having my scope with me. I could make out their plumage, white faces and black supercilium but most of all their characteristically curved bills and streaming tails. Reluctantly, these birds were left behind in order to get to the tree house for sunset.
Nearing the end of the track we stopped to watch a pair of EASTERN BEARDED SCRUB ROBINS which were apparently rarities to be proud of. Finally, we made our way up a gum tree via a rickety set of steps with no reliable hand rails, to watch the sun set on a fine day. We had some lively and humorous banter up in the tree while some Elephants could be heard booming elsewhere. Today had turned out to be the best day with fifty five species altogether in my note book.
Are you listening to the voice that talks in your head while you read this?
Last edited by Andrew : Sunday 13th April 2003 at 23:29.
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