Birding with Brian Finch 14th November

After an absence of six weeks, I was looking forward to getting back
into Nairobi National Park, when a visit was suggested by Rupert
Watson the previous evening.
There had been much bad news relating to the invasion of the Maasai
and their cattle on the net of late, and the indifference of KWS. We
spent the whole of Friday 13th November in the Park, and this is what
we found.
Wild mammals were in very impressive numbers scattered in large
concentrations in various corners of the Park but the numbers coming
in to drink at Karen Primary School Dam was most impressive. The north
is grassy and attractive, but parts of the southern parts still arid
and very bare though some new grass shoots are appearing. In spite of
the greenery many dams are dry, Forest Edge, Empakasi and Langata have
all but gone with just damp mud remaining.
We saw cattle only in the south-east and all day no more than forty
were seen, whilst dead cattle were at least three times this. Of the
native mammals, the only mortality was a Giraffe near Kingfisher, and
this could have been weeks old, and totally unrelated to any drought
problems. It would appear that KWS may have been pushing the herds
out, or that the people have recognised a futility of incursion as the
cattle are not able to survive the drought anyway, contrary to the
endemic plains game. It’s still a fantastic destination… do not be put
off by anything you may hear.

We arrived about 6:40am and made for the Ivory Burning Site. Here we
found a few migrants, one of the Upcher’s Warblers is back in it’s
Acacia gerardii already, and will probably stay there for the next six
months, and a Tree Pipit flew over calling. There were two
Nightingales, but no sign of Willow Warblers or Spotted Flycatchers. A
Giant Kingfisher was calling on Nagalomon dam, and an African
Firefinch feeding under the scrub.
From here we drove along the road to the back of Hyena Dam, and found
an Eurasian Hobby, Red-backed Shrike (the first of three seen today),
and a Red-tailed Shrike (the first of eight), non-palearctics
consisted of a Rufous-crowned Roller, and a noisy Nairobi Pipit
singing from the roof of the Pump House. At Hyena Dam there has been a
remarkable die back of Typha resulting in some superb looking habitat
and total visibility of the open water. The die off seems natural, and
the same situation showed at other clumps in the Park. Possibly all of
the reeds were of the same age, and have run their course. We saw an
Eurasian Marsh Harrier, two Green Sandpipers ( many of both Green and
Common Sandpipers were seen in many parts of the Park), a few Barn
Swallows (only five all day) and an African Jacana with a
Rosy-breasted Longclaw singing in the adjacent grassland where there
were mixed Yellow-billed and Black Kites.
Taking the run-off we found two each of Great and Yellow-billed
Egrets, sixteen Common Snipe, two Whinchats (the first of four seen),
a male Pallid and two Montagu’s Harriers, additionally on the back
road into Karen Primary School Dam, a displaying Kori Bustard, the
first of ten Isabelline and first of three Northern Wheatears. At the
dam were single Greenshank and Green Sandpiper. Two female flava
Yellow Wagtails trailed the mammals.
Nothing additional was seen on the way to Empakasi Dam where we found
an adult male Pied Wheatear. There is still water in Athi Dam and
this was proving attractive to waterside species. As in the previous
two seasons Pied Avocets have arrived, there were seven present. The
possibility of these regular visitors being palearctic migrants cannot
be ruled out. There were also eight Black-winged Stilts and a
Spur-winged Plover. Palearctic waders consisted of two Greenshank,
seven Marsh, three Common Sandpipers and ten Little Stints. Ducks were
very low but nine Northern Shovelers were present. Other species were
an Eurasian Marsh Harrier and six Yellow-throated Sandgrouse. Along
the river on the Rhino Circuit was the only Spotted Flycatcher of the
day.
Next came the Hippo Pools walk, personally I have nearly always come
away from here disappointed. Not this time though! There was a nice
pair of Finfoots (feet?) on the river. There was a male Blue-capped
Cordon-bleu in low scrub along the river and whilst pointing this out
to Rupert I saw another movement and on checking this found that it
was an African Penduline-Tit. My first in the Park, but there is a
historical Van Someren record from about forty years ago. A pair of
adult Fish Eagles were in the figs, one barely adult having a flew
black splotches on the breast. Two Violet Woodhoopoes might already be
planning on another family, a male Namaqua Dove flew over as did
Eurasian Bee-eaters. There were two Nightingales, a single Sprosser
and the only Willow Warbler of the day. On the return we bumped into
the tame solitary African Penduline-tit again, and had a very noisy
pair of Red-faced Cisticolas.
It was quiet and hot across the southern parts towards Kingfisher
Picnic Site. Near here we found an adult Black Stork, and adult
blackish Steppe Eagle, more wheatears and shrikes, and on the small
swamp near the site which is another place that usually rewards nada
were a female Saddle-billed Stork which we watched catch many
Louisiana Crayfish and swallow them whole. I had no idea that they
(crayfish) were in the Park, two Yellow-billed Ducks shared the swamp
margins with seven Wood Sandpipers, whilst a female type Eurasian
Rock-Thrush bounded on the boulders. There is a new track alongside
the small swamp and well worth a look, we found a Lion hiding in the
reeds there.
We left at 4-30pm not visiting the Nagalomon or Olmanyi Dams or the forest.

We had a superb time, and were most relieved to see the major
reduction in the incursion of domestic livestock.

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