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

KENYA - August/September (1 Viewer)

Bob Biggs

Well-known member
This could go on for a very long time but I'll resist that temptation. At this stage, the main point I want everyone to know is that I've funded a safari vehicle and it's a birder-friendly vehicle! It's for anyone who wants a safari, particularly in Tsavo. The vehicle stops for birds!! If you are thinking about a birding trip to Tsavo, feel free to PM me. The vehicle needs to be used. I am not involved in the business and make nothing from it. I just want to see Jonathan, his family and the wider community of Watamu benefit from the vehicle.

This was my third trip to Kenya. After the first two, I decided that I couldn't stand the prospect of speeding past potential lifers again. After a long conversation in 2007 with a local bird guide about his dream of having his own vehicle, I took on the challenge of raising a five figure sum to turn that dream into reality. Many good people helped me [and my long-suffering wife and son] to raise the best part of £5k over the three years and we put the rest in.

So, I'm sure you can imagine our delight when we saw our vehicle at Nairobi Airport, accompanied by our friend Jonathan Baya. It looked just the same as all the other safari vehicles - but it was very special to us!

We had left Newcastle about 15 hours earlier and were fairly whacked on arrival in Nairobi. Lots of traffic, even late on in the evening, held us up en route to our first stop at Blue Post Hotel. New road construction made matters worse so it took about 2 hours to do about 30 miles. We were heading towards Mount Kenya NP so that was the reason for trying to get out of Nairobi on arrival. It was probably a mistake.

It was fairly cool and we didn't sleep particularly well - but we [ Lorraine and Phil making up the rest of the Biggs family] were in Kenya and had another 15 days to look forward to.....

Sat 21 August

Not too early a start but eventually we wandered around the grounds with Jonathan and Nickson Kilonzo, who works at Blue Post. He took us around and found us a number of good birds. Pride of place for me [all lifers] were Cinnamon Breasted Bee-eaters [ I'm a sucker for Bee-eaters..], Black throated Wattle-eye, Baglafecht Weaver, White Bellied Tit, Yellow Breasted Apalis, African Black Duck and White Eyed Slaty Flycatcher. We saw 26 species in an hour or so.

If you're heading that way, Blue Post is a good place to stop and not expensive. Contact "[email protected]" if you want a guide. Very nice chap.

We then moved on to Naro Moru River Lodge, about 3 hours away. En route, we saw a few nice birds, two Grey Crowned Cranes being the best of the bunch. It was raining on arrival and still not too hot - which suited us if not Jonathan! A walk around the grounds and just outside gave us Chinspot Batis, Tacazze Sunbird, Hartlaub's Turaco, Common Fiscal Shrike among 30 species.

Sunday 22 August

Off to Mount Kenya National Park at 8am. It was cool and damp. More like the UK than Kenya. The trip proved to be very short on animals. Eventually, we stopped and then walked up a steep path until I'd had enough! That took about an hour. Birds seen included African Harrier Hawk, Montane White-Eye, Eastern Double Collared Sunbird, Jackson's Francolin, Dusky Turtle Dove, Olive Thrush and, last but not least, Black Headed Waxbill and Grey Headed Negro Finch.

We made our way back via the Serena Mountain Lodge, where we had a nice cup of tea, over looking the waterhole. Not too much happening but we added Cape Robin, Yellow-Crowned Canary and Olive Pigeon to the list and enjoyed watching our first Buffalo, closely accompanied by Red Billed Oxpeckers! Overall, I was a little underwhelmed by the number of birds in the Mt Kenya area [about 45 species] but I suspect you need to have more knowledge about where to look than I had.

Naro Moru Lodge was very nice but it isn't cheap.

Monday 23 August

We weren't looking forward to this! A very long drive to Amboseli, via Nairobi. We estimated about 7 hours and we weren't far off. We stopped at Blue Post for half an hour just to strectch our legs and to see whether Nickson knew anything about Thika Ponds. Surprisingly, he didn't so we moved on, which turned out to be just as well in view of the traffic in and around Nairobi. Unbelievable driving!

Eventually, we were through the city and en route to the National Park. A Secretary Bird livened up proceedings for those that were still awake and we passed the occasional Wattled Starling too. We hadn't been to Amboseli before so I wasn't sure what to expect - it was excellent from the start to the finish. I regret that I only booked one night.

As soon as we were through the Gate, we started to see good birds. White Bellied and Kori Bustards, Collared Pratincoles, Common Ostrich and Yellow Throated Spurfowl were all seen well before we stopped at a wet meadow area. This had attracted a number of Elephants as well as many wader species and herons. There were also many hirundines flying around, plus the occasional Grassland Pipit. An African Fish Eagle looked slightly out of place sat on the grass but seemed very happy to do so.

We then spotted a number of Wildebeest and Zebra which continued to walk towards us until they were walking past the vehicle. Excellent photo opportunities for Phil, which he took willingly. It was hard to come away from this area but it was getting late so we moved on, stopping briefly for a dusk-type view of Mt Kilimanjaro. Just as well as cloud cover made it invisible on the following day.

We stayed at Kibo Tented Camp and I was very happy with it. Tents are not my type of thing but this was comfortable and had good facilities.

Tuesday 24 August

I woke up at about 6am, thanks to a Pied Crow, which heralded the dawn from the top of our tent! It gets light at about 6.30 so I got up and had a look around the immediate area. How many Superb Starlings are there in Kenya? The place was lifting with them! I saw my first Northern White Crowned Shrike for the trip, plus Spotted Morning Thrush, White Bellied Go Away Bird, Von Der Decken's Hornbill and a lifer in Hildebrandt's Starling.

The we were off to explore the NP again, stopping at various sites, both wet and dry. It was full of birds. One stop brought Brubru, Northern Crombec, Pale Flycatcher, Lilac Breased Roller [ which were to become very common], Tawny Eagle, Yellow Bellied Eremomela and Pygmy Falcon. Another gave us brilliant vews of water birds, including Saddle Billed Stork, Squacco Herons, Spur winged Goose, Marsh Sandpipersand many 100s of waders [ Little Stints, Curlew Sands, Ruff, Kittlitz's Plovers]. Hottentot Teal, Greater and Lesser Flamingoes. It goes on..then we moved another mile or so and found another wet area. This hadn't so many birds [ just several hundred..] but included Whiskered, White Winged Black and Gull Billed Terns, African Spoonbill, Three Banded Plovers, Malachite Kingfishers, Blacksmith Plovers, and lots of the smaller waders referred to previously. An outrageous Martial Eagle sat at the edge of the water, looking almost as big as the young Hippo which did very little on the other side of the water. 4 Two-banded Coursers were lifers for me and an unidentified Lark would have been!

We saw about 90 species in our time at Amboseli. That was without trying too hard. I'm sure "real" birders could see a lot more than that. Overall, it was a great place and I hope to return.

We had to leave so we could get to our next Lodge, whcih was a good three hour drive away. So, very reluctantly, the roof came down and off we went towards Tsavo, heading for Sagala Lodge.

More to follow.
Amboseli is my favourite reserve in East Africa. I don't know what it is about the place, I just love. I'm looking forward to part two.
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