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KENYA - August/September [ Part 2] (1 Viewer)

Bob Biggs

Well-known member
25 August

White-Browed Sparrow Weavers took over the early morning call at Sagala Lodge so I got up and had a look around the grounds at about 7am. I think it's fair to say that we were starting to feel the pace and Lorraine and Phil were in no hurry to move today!

There were good numbers of birds close by and I joined Jonathan in a pre breakfast walk that yielded over 20 species. Abyssinian Scimitarbill was a lifer for me as was the bird of the morning, a lovely Green-Winged Pytilia.

Lorraine and Phil joined us around 8 am and we decided that we would just stick around the grounds for the morning and chill out, before going to Tsavo East NP later in the afternoon. That gave me a good chance to assess Sagala Lodge and I came away with the view that it's good value for money. At around £50 per night per couple, it's relatively cheap. The accommodation is basic, particularly the showers, but it's good enough and the food is OK. It's a very birdy place so it was great to have some time to see the birds well and to study them. After breakfast, we had the comical sight of 37 Vulturine Guineafowl marching past us. We then made our way to the "lookout" within the grounds and we saw a number of good birds from there over a couple of hours. Lifers included Little Sparrowhawk, Black-Throated Barbet, Grey Wren-Warbler, Red-Fronted Warbler, Slaty-Coloured Boubou and a large number of Chestnut Weavers [at least I think that's what they were].
We saw about 40 birds during the morning in total and I believe there are many other species to be seen here.

We had lunch in the company of Golden-Breasted Starlings, which flitted around the pool outside the "restaurant". I was telling Jonathan that the management should arrange for the birds to be able to settle so they could drink/bathe when we were rudely interrupted by a Grey Headed Bush-Shrike, which came into the eating area and sat on a post!

The waiter asked us if we had seen the Spotted Eagle Owl. It wasn't long before we had! After that, we had a short rest and then set off for the Voi Gate which is only about 20 minutes from Sagala.

We arrived at about 3.30 and spent the rest of the afternoon within Tsavo East NP. Immediately, it was apparent that it was very dry. In our view, it was less birdy, and there were less animals, than on our previous visits. We did pick up about 50 species on our two visits but it was a little "flat" after Amboseli. Highlights on the 25th included Rosy Patched Bush-Shrike, Bateleur, Taita Fiscal, Black Chested Snake-Eagle, Chestnut-headed Sparrow-Lark and great views of a Secretary Bird. We also got great views of Elephants, Lesser Kudu, Zebra and 2 Lions, one of which was in distress as it had been "quilled" by a Porcupine! The quill was sticking out of the lion's mouth and clearly, was causing it a deal of discomfort. Jonathan told us that rangers were on their way to sedate the animal so they could remove it. I suppose it shows how desperate the lion must have been for food. It's not a good idea to mess around with a porcupine!

Then it was back to Sagala for a second night.

26 August

Another early call from the Sparrow-Weavers so I was again up and off before 7am. Birds were similar to those seen previously, with additions being three noisy Red and Yellow Barbets, several Fischer's Starlings, Red-Fronted Tinkerbird and more Black Necked Weavers and Black Headed Orioles than previously. I got good views of a single bird that had puzzled us and it turned out to be a female Red-Headed Weaver. It had me fooled for a long time.

After breakfast, we left for a return to the Voi Gate. As we left, two massive White Naped Ravens stood to attention - nice touch!

We made our way through Tsavo East at a leisurely pace, stopping occasionally. We came across a few nice birds, including 3 Verreaux's Eagle-Owls, D'Arnaud's Barbet, Brown Snake-Eagle and Blue-Naped Mousebirds. Highlight of the day for me was our "hunt" for the identification of a Courser. Jonathan thought Cream-Coloured. I wasn't convinced. The soil at Tsavo is red so lots of animals and birds look dusty. However, I've seen Cream-Coloured Coursers elsewhere and it didn't look right. We lost sight of it and it ended up about 50 yards behind us. So we backed up but the Courser walked away at the same pace! So we went quicker and the Courser went quicker. After a good 3 minutes, it finally did the decent thing and hopped up onto the embankment. We stopped alongside it and after a number of discussions, it flew - to reveal itself as a Somali Courser!! One to me [ I don't get many] and a lifer too. Now, how many other safari vehicles would have done that? Answer - None to my knowledge and certainly not the two I'd been in previously.

Jonathan showed us around Tahri Camp, whcih looked nice and isn't too expensive given its location. They had a small water trough which was attracting a number of birds, including Cut-throats and Violet Backed Starlings. A few miles away, we stopped at an area that did have some water. This was attracting all sorts. Six Warthogs, lots of different types of antelope [ including our only Gerenuk of the trip], Zebra, Elephants, 4 Kori Bustards, Lanner and lots of small birds, mostly Quelea and Weavers. A lifer for me came in the shape of 4 Black-faced Sandgrouse, which showed very well. Unfortunately, we needed to make our way to the Sala Gate and be out of the Park by about 3.30pm [ie within 24 hours of arriving on the previous day].

So, we moved on and made it with half an hour to spare. Once outside the Park, we had a look at the river. Again, Elephants were the main attraction, having a great time in the water. Crocodiles loafed around on the sand banks, while two Pied Kingfishers did what Kingfishers do. Two more Sandgrouse dropped in to wet their feathers and then flew off.

It was time to head for the coast. Our trip to Watamu would take about 2 hours before we arrived at the Turtle Bay Beach Hotel, one of our favourite places in the world!! A couple of Carmine Bee-eaters along the way kept the list going but really, we were all ready for a rest. Even I was ready to give the birding a miss so on arrival, I arranged for us to have a day off.

My final part of this report about birding on the coast will follow.
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