Birding with Brian Finch 27th March

To complement yesterday all of the birding was from the Main Entrance
keeping to the east and south. This is still the more interesting area
to visit at present.
I met up with Patrick Lhoir and his son Johann at the Main Entrance at
6.30am, and we proceeded to Ivory Burning Site. There was a Suni on
the way.
There was a good variety of migrants but no numbers, a single Tree
Pipit, two Spotted Flycatchers (about eight today), one growl from a
Nightingale was the only indication of the species continued presence,
one Marsh, two Olivaceous, two Garden, a Barred and four Willow
Warblers, and three Whitethroat. Also there were ten Eurasian
Bee-eaters, and a Nairobi Pipit flew over singing and disappeared in
the direction of the Army Camp, a Giant Kingfisher called from
Nagalomon Dam.
On the back road there were two more Spotted Flycatchers, Willow
Warblers and Whitethroat, the African Water Rail was on the small
swamp, and the first of a dozen Red-tailed (of both forms) and an
attractive nominate male Red-backed Shrike. There was nothing at Hyena
Dam, but on the run-of were the pair of Saddle-billed Storks and the
usual Rosy-breasted Longclaws, interestingly along the Mokoyiet was
the first Black-winged Kite since the drought ended. On the inside
road towards Karen Primary School Dam we found a female Western Marsh
Harrier, a Hartlaub’s Bustard displaying, and amongst the Cattle
Egrets was one with a bright red-bill and orange-yellow tip, red
facial skin with bright purple-lilac patch below eye which was red.
The legs were all carmine-red, but the only buff was a very small
patch on the crown which was completely crestless. I have never seen a
Cattle Egret as colourful as this before, I wonder how long it lasts.
Also there we found the only Whinchat of the day, several singing
White-tailed Larks were only a part of the chorus of large numbers of
grassland species, numerous Pectoral-patch with plenty of Desert and a
few Zitting Cisticolas, (and Stout and Winding of course), all three
Longclaws, innumerable Rufous-naped Larks and Grassland Pipits. At the
dam were an adult Black Stork with pale pink legs, and a male
Yellow-crowned Bishop, finally a pair of Blacksmith Plovers had two
chicks. Continuing along to Athi Basin we had a male Kori followed by
the female and the fast growing chick, the only Eurasian Roller of the
day and a dozen Chestnut Weavers all in non-breeding dress. Last week
there were over three-hundred Wattled Starling and flock after flock
of Speke’s Weavers, today there were only five Wattled Starlings seen,
and the weavers have vanished from the south of the Park. Entering the
basin there was a female Northern Wheatear, the first returning Lesser
Grey Shrike, a nice adult but only pinkish on the flanks, eighteen
Lesser Kestrels, incredibly yet another Red-and-Yellow Barbet (that’s
the fourth time already this year), some very obliging Long-billed
Pipits, hordes more Cisticolas including a few noisy Croaking, and
even though the area is quite open, clusters of bushes manage to
support Siffling. As we descended to Athi Dam we could see that there
had been a great transformation. The huge rain than had dropped on
Muthaiga (I heard 6 inches), also fell in the dams catchment and the
dam is back and healthy. The grassy-topped island is an island again,
the whole basin is under and this might only be the start of the long
rains! Birds have trickled back in, there was a Little Grebe already,
but the poor Black-crowned Night-Herons on the causeway have lost much
of their roosting area, and there was only one adult, there was a
Great Egret in breeding dress; all black legs and bill, whilst the
facial skin was blue-green not yellow contrary to Stevenson &
Fanshawe. Otherwise an immature Black Stork paid a visit but did not
stop, with the ten African Spoonbills were two Glossy Ibis, sixteen
White-faced Whistling Ducks and two Red-billed Teal were the only
waterfowl apart from pairs of Egyptian Geese one of which had a tribe
of goslings. There was an immature and two adult Fish Eagles, under a
bush by the causeway an immature Spotted Thicknee. I used to see these
on most visits to the Park in many different locations, they then
mysteriously vanished and this is my first in the Park for over three
years. Of the usual waders, there were three Black-winged Stilt, no
less than five Spur-winged Plovers (which is the largest number to
date), the Kittlitz’s Plovers (one pair with a large chick) had been
joined by a couple of Ringed Plovers, other migrants were poor with
just eight Little Stints, one each of Wood and Common Sandpiper and
two Greenshank. Towards the “Orange” Tower there were a pair of
Temminck’s Coursers, a happily solitary singing Athi Short-toed Lark,
the only Isabelline Wheatear of the day and a second Lesser Grey
Shrike, this bird still having a grey cap and forehead. At the tower a
pair of Lanners looked very comfortable, the days only Common Buzzard
flew over, the highlight here was flushing, relocating and getting
some very nice images of a female Plain Nightjar. This is the third
time I have seen them in the Park, all late March but the other two
were both road-kills. Migrants consisted of a two each of Olivaceous
and Willow Warblers, two Whitethroat and three Spotted Flycatchers and
one Sand Martin flying by with Barn Swallows.
On checking the dry scrub near Cheetah Gate there was an African
Hoopoe, couple of Tree Pipits, two Spotted Flycatcher, three
Olivaceous and Willow Warblers, a Whitethroat and two Marico Sunbirds.
I heard something familiar that should not have been in the area, we
tracked it down and secured photographic evidence of Nairobi NP’s and
the whole Nairobi districts first ever record of Bare-eyed Thrush!!!
It even started to sing whilst we were there. Another wanderer from
the dry, there have been so many since the start of the drought. Rhino
Circuit was very wet and treacherous, there were some Eurasian Golden
Oriole noises from down the healthier looking river, but with so many
mimics pouring forth we could not be sure. At Hippo Pools the place
was so green and attractive there was a Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl calling
all the time we were there, but it was only on leaving that Johann’s
sharp eyes located it in a tree on the other side of the river from
the car-park. Other nice birds were no less than seven African Hoopoes
in a flock, a male Von der Decken’s Hornbill, another Tree Pipit, two
more Spotted Flycatchers and a similar number of Olivaceous and Garden
Warblers, three Willow Warblers but no sign of last weeks bird,
Red-faced Cisticola still here, three Eurasian Golden Orioles with
some stunning males, five Speckle-fronted Weavers, two male and a
female Village Indigobird and plenty of White-winged Widowbirds along
the river.
On the drive back out of the Park, the only bird of interest was a
male koblyni Red-backed Shrike whose entire back was greyish with the
rufous only along the edge of the wings, and the edges of the
secondaries. The tail was black, a very strange individual.
Birds once again exceptional, mammals in large numbers in Athi Basin,
movement of Zebra back into Park. Better species were White
Rhinoceros, Hippos in Nagalomon Dam, two at Hippo Pools and the
strangest site of one running through the grassland above Leopard
Gorge, the Suni already mentioned and seven Mountain Reedbuck in a
valley before the more usual site.
Some species of migrants have already left us, but the variety is
still good. There was a reasonalble Barn Swallow passage all day
mainly to the east, whilst Quailfinch were fairly common in the
grasslands and we saw nest material being collected again.

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