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ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

KENYA -August/September [Final Part] (1 Viewer)

Bob Biggs

Well-known member
27 August

We spent Friday 27th doing very little, catching up with a few of the staff at the Hotel. It's a great place for families. Ironically, it's not very good for birds. A few waders on the beach, the occasional Osprey and Fish Eagle, plus nesting Golden Palm Weavers and African Golden Weavers are about all you'll see. There is the odd Lesser Masked Weaver too. A pair of African Pied wagtails are always around as are Pied Crows but it's not a place to stay for birding in the grounds. Happily, everything else about the place is excellent!

Saturday 28th

We looked at the tides and timed our trip to Sabaki accordingly. En route we stopped at the road bridge over the river, where there were 50+ White Faced Whistling Ducks, a couple of Yellow Billed Storks and a few distant waders. We made our way along the track in the van, which is hard work at times as the track is in very poor condition. We then parked up and walked the rest of the way. There were several common birds around but nothing that I hadn't seen on the trip already. Once we reached the sand, we were met with wall to wall waders! I've never seen so many in one place. I couldn't count the Curlew Sandpipers, there were all kinds of Plovers, including Greater and Lesser Sandplover. At least 4 Terek Sandpipers took little notice of us and Crab Plovers were dotted around. I counted at least 18.

Both Flamingoes in good numbers, Common Sandpipers, lots of Little Stints - it was hard to keep up! I was looking for a particular bird all the time but having no success until I scoped an African Spoonbill and found a Madagascar Pratincole! It hadn't been there previously and neither had the other 14 that joined it. We got close and had excellent scope views of a number of the Pratincoles, which was a lifer for me. Having had our fill, we walked further, adding Greater Crested Terns, Sooty Gulls and Gull Billed Terns to a list that exceeded 50 species by the time we had finished.

We had lunch, with three Carmine Bee eaters above us for most the time , hawking along with a number of hirundines. We added Yellow Fronted Canary, Pink Backed Pelicans and Black Shouldered Kite to the list on our return walk. It's a great place.

30 August.

I'd had Sunday off too so met Jonathan at 6.30 in the hotel lobby and we made our way to the Arabuko Sokoke Forest. Not far from the hotel, Jonathan stopped the van so I could pick up Mottled Spinetail. There were about half a dozen flying around, doing good bat-type impressions! A Lizard Buzzard posed nicely before we got to the Forest entrance. Once in, the first bird was a lifer as a Pallid Honeyguide sat out on a branch without a care in the world. There were also Green Barbet and African Golden Oriole flying around. A Tambourine Dove showed well before we found a feeding party. Several Chestnut Fronted Helmet Shrikes were joined by an Eastern Nicator, Black Headed Oriole and Dark Backed Weavers. My next lifer was a Mombasa Woodpecker, shortly followed by Scaly Throated Honeyguide. Distant views of Amani Sunbird were a little disappointing but we got great views of Pale Batis, Common Scimitarbill and Little Yellow Flycatcher. We headed towards a pond, where more Carmine Bee eaters put on a show. Close by, a Black Backed Puffback sang and showed well. We saw 31 species in all during the morning. We arrived back at the hotel at midday and I decided that was enough.

31 August

Another early start saw us on our way to Lake Bartum, around 30 minutes from the hotel. We stopped for petrol near Gede and I saw 2 Trumpeter Hornbills picking berries from a nearby tree. At Lake Bartum, there were many water birds, including a dozen Open Billed Storks, several African Jacana and a number of Herons and Egrets. There was a lot of activity in the bushes and grasses, including Fan-Tailed Widowbird, which was a lifer. Zanzibar Red Bishops showed really well, as did Grosbeak Weaver. We found 2 Black Crowned Tchagra, Tropical Boubou and came across two Warbers, which were probably Lesser Swamp Warblers [ I wasn't sure about the possibility of Little Rush]. Malachite and Pied Kingfishers flew around in pursuit of their breakfast as did more Carmine Bee eaters....

We then moved on to a site that eventually yielded two Malindi Pipits. Jonathan had a guaranted site at Gongoni until recently but that site is now a saltpan. In all we saw about 40 species in this area.

We moved on to the Lake Chem Chem area, where there were a number of the same species. However, there were a few new species, including Lesser Jacana lifer] and Black Winged Bishop [lifer]. A superb Long Crested Eagle gave brilliant views. We looked over the Lake from a higher point and added African Pygmy Goose [6], Fulvous Whistling Duck [2], Black Crake [2] and anothe lifer, Allen's Gallinule. More of the same Bee eaters, Kingfishers and Storks made this a very good site [ about 35 species]. Both areas mentioned can be done in a half day.

1 September

Very little birding today. I checked out a hotel in Malindi that friends of mine were to visit later in the month and we drove to Gongoni so I could see for myself what has happened to the area previously famous for Malindi Pipit.

We did stop along the road by a a pool where the "usual" birds were showing in good numbers. We also saw quite a few Grey Headed Kingfishers on the wires.

2 September

A rainy morning, that got wetter at times, normally when we were in the middle of nowhere! We went to Lake Jilore and saw over 50 species altogether. The best bird for me was a Fire Fronted Bishop [lifer] but there was a good spread of species and there were plenty of them. Black Winged Stilts, Kittlitz's Plovers, Little Stints, Pink Backed Pelicans and African Jacanas were present in considerable numbers. Inevitably, Carmine Bee eaters were flying around. In the surrounding bush and scrub, Violet Backed Starlings, Tawny Flanked Prinia, Fan Tailed Widowbirds, Yellow Throated Longclaw, White Browed Robin Chat and various Shrikes all moved around busily. Ethiopian Swallows and Lesser Striped Swallows were also present in good numbers. It's another good place but there's not much cover if it rains!

3 September

A quick trip to Roka Pools saw Lorraine and Phil join in for the first time for a week! More rain spoiled things a little but we still had time to see over 20 species, including Collared Palm Thrush, which was a lifer. Three Water Thick-knees were new for the trip. Three-Banded Plovers flew around the pools as did a number of common waders.

We then made our way to the Mida Creek Eco Campo to check on how that was going and to meet Sammy, who had guided us around Mida Creek on one of our previous visits. It's a very good [and cheap] place to stay and is totally "green".

4 September

I made a quick trip across the road from the hotel to walk through the mangrove area. We saw over 20 species, with a male Pin Tailed Whydah being the pick. That bird took my trip list to 270.

We did a photo shoot at Jonathan's house later and then went back to the hotel for our last afternoon of darts and table tennis!

5/6 September

Goodbyes to all our friends, and then off to Mombasa Airport with Jonathan where we picked up a Kenya Airways flight to Nairobi [ we were upgraded to business class!!!] It only took 50 minutes but it was good while it lasted.

8 hours on an evening BA flight to Heathrow, then a delay of over an hour before we took off for Newcastle. Eventually, we got home and that was that.

I'd recommend Kenya to anyone who can afford it. I intend to return. I hope the safari van gets some use from birders. Jonathan is a genuinely nice guy and he is a very careful driver. He is particularly good at identifying birds in the coastal area and he has a good knowledge of Tsavo's birds and animals. As I said at the start of this report, please PM me if you would like any further details about Jonathan and the vehicle.
What a great read Bob!! Every time I read a trip report from East Africa, it just makes me want to go to the travel agents and book up to go back again.
Hi Gary

Thanks. I tried to limit the amount of words so I hope I've done it justice.

As for your comments on Amboseli in your other reply, I agree that it's a bit special. I'd like more time there. I was anxious that it would be dry but that wasn't a problem this year.

Hope you get back there sometime. If you do, don't forget the man with the van!
Just a very quick, and very sad, update on my comments re. 3 September. We have learned that Sammy died shortly a couple of weeks ago after an incident. I am not sure what this means for the Eco Camp in the short term. So much good work has been done there in the last few years. I do hope that the people who funded it can find the strength to carry on. I'm sure they will but please do check before presuming that the business is operating as before.

Sammy was one of the nicest guys we have ever met anywhere. He was just a young man with a dream to manage and develop an environmentally friendly Lodge. It's tragic that his life has been taken for no good reason. Sickening.
An excellent report of what the Watamu area has to offer Bob!

I'm surprised that more birders don't take advantage of the cheap package deals available as the coastal birding is simply superb.

I've recently returned from a safari through Mount Kenya>Samburu>Baringo>Rift Valley>Masai Mara and intend to write a report of this but as we spent a two-week family holiday at the TBBC in Watamu in 2007 I decided to do a trip report on this first having only just (co-incidentally) completed writing it up. I used the services of David Ngala as I wasn't aware of Jonathan until we visited Watamu. The big drawback with the Spinetails guys (David Ngala, Albert and Willy) is that they have no transport which I found was the biggest issue when organizing local trips. It's good to hear that Jonathan has a vehicle as that makes the logistics of coastal birding so much easier; does he have a website to promote his services/make bookings?

We're working on that now. A group of friends of mine from Northumberland were over in Kenya for 2 weeks in early September with Jonathan. They saw 315 species and only visited the Tsavo Parks and the coastal areas. As you say, the charter flights to Mombasa make this a very affordable option, particularly for birders with families.

We are meeting later this week to discuss how to "market" his business so I will post the details here once we've decided how best to proceed.

I hope you have no objection to me posting my report which might help publicise what Watamu has to offer.

If you need some images for a website I would be happy to help out -I have pictures of some of the more unusual A-S forest specialities.

All the best,
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Click HERE for a link to a website that we have prepared for Jonathan Baya. Please feel free to contact us.

Thanks again to Steve (aka - the RAINBIRDER) for use of his photographs.
Just returned from a fabulous 2 week stay at Turtle Bay,Watamu. We did an overnight safari to Tsavo East plus 4 local trips, all with Jonathan Baya (see above for his contact details). He was excellent company and I picked up over 160 lifers seeing well over 200 species .
For anyone looking for an easy package holiday with exceptional birding possibilities, I can't recommend both Turtle Bay Hotel, and Jonathan more highly. We will certainly return in the future,
Bill Turner.
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