Tracks Open Again!

NAIROBI NATIONAL PARK 13th January 2014

On the beautiful and cheerful sunshiny 13th January, Mike Davidson, Jennifer Oduore, Karen Plumbe and myself met up at 6.30am at Nairobi National Park Main Entrance. The traffic had been smooth, until arriving at the NNP new roundabout, where there was a tail-back towards the direction of the city.
Our first port of call was KWS Mess Gardens, three Suni were there to welcome us. Two Tree Pipits were feeding on the lawn, a couple of Nightingales were vocalising intermittently, a Spotted Flycatcher was along the fence and the lonely Black-collared Apalis now has a mate! It was fairly quiet, and we left for Ivory Burning Site, which was also not too active with a pair of Brown Parisomas in the Acacia gerardii above the picnic table, and a Common Buzzard that we flushed from there on our arrival. An Eurasian Reed Warbler scolded from dense cover.
On to Nagalomon Dam, the male Red-collared Widowbird who lives near the junction, and has been present when all others have departed and returned, is still in this same strange arrested plumage. All brown and streaky, but with a full tail and a red collar. Another feature that marks him as the same bird is that he is unbelievably tame and just feeds unconcernedly when parked literally only a couple of feet from him. There was nothing on the drift, and the dam itself was very quiet. But good news for interested parties is that the young Greater Spotted Eagle is still in the same area, and on this occasion was perched on the little peninsula where the Darters usually perch (and were not there today). We had out first of three different Eurasian Marsh Harriers, and that really was it.
Along the back road to Hyena Dam (still the flood necessitating a return but long may it remain this way), there was a Tree Pipit, and the Red-throated Wryneck seen on 30th November and 2nd December last year, in exactly the same place. Four hybrid Lovebirds were checking out potential sites on the new buildings. At the swamp we found an obliging African Water Rail, forty Wood Sandpipers, five Green and three Ruff, and to show that at this time of year migrants are on winter territories, the same Yellow Wagtails of the races lutea, flava, dombrowski and beema as last week. There were three Red-throated Pipits, and feeding over the area were about ten Eurasian Bee-eaters.
We retraced our way back round to Hyena Dam, and amazingly in the immediate vicinity were seven different Whinchats, with only two other recorded elsewhere in the Park. The Dam was quiet, if you can call a pod of nine Hippos quiet, but bird wise it was not very productive. The same Little Egret was still present, Water Rails were calling from two locations, two separate pairs of Secretarybirds were feeding in the grass, and we also had three other single birds today elsewhere, a Steppe Eagle fed on an unidentified something in the large acacia, whilst the other tree had a Martial Eagle. A Great Sparrowhawk was flying over with deliberation of reaching a destination, and a Bateleur passed overhead. There were a few Wood and Green Sandpipers, watching a small crocodile which seems to favour the same muddy patch. Whilst a large crocodile was being eyed by Sacred Ibis, who seemed intent on prodding it, until one slipped towards it and they backed off, without the crocodile showing any signs of awakening. A Speckled Pigeon manage to land to drink after several nervous circuits. Continuing along to the other side of the swamp we had a group of Buffalo flush two Common Snipe that we would otherwise have missed, and a group of four Quailfinch were the first for some time, feeding openly on the track. On the run-off was the same very young looking Black Stork and little else. The drive around to Karen Primary School Dam was so very quiet, as was the dam, but Eland Hollow had a single White Stork, the recently arrived African Jacana and a Spotted Thick-knee in its usual group of rocks.
Whilst continuing to Athi Dam, we had a female Hartlaub’s Bustard, the first of two Isabelline and first of four Northern Wheatears, and just one Long-billed Pipit.  The flooded murrum pit was attracting bathers with one Steppe Eagle, twenty White-backed and ten Ruppell’s Vultures. Athi Dam was also not very exciting, there were a couple of hundred Marabous giving synchronous sunning displays which is very impressive and 105 White Storks amongst them. Apart from a plethora of Egyptian Geese, maybe over 70 excluding chicks, the only other waterfowl were ten White-faced Whistling Duck and a pair of Red-billed Teal. Of the waders there were two Black-winged Stilts, ten Spur-winged Plover and eight Kittlitz’s, palearctics being reduced to eight Little Stints, four Greenshank, three Common Sandpipers and a few Woods. Three Black-crowned Night-Herons were roosting on the causeway.
Towards Cheetah Gate was also quite dull, maybe too hot for much action by this time, apart from a Harrier Hawk, a single Grey-headed Silverbill and a few Speckle-fronted Weavers, we did have our first of three Turkestan Shrikes and first of two Pied Wheatears. It was much more interesting by the Mbagathi on the Rhino Circuit. Here there were two Violet Wood-Hoopoes, an Olivaceous and two Willow Warblers together with residents including Lesser and Vitelline Masked Weavers. Not far from here Jennifer’s sharp eyes picked up a roosting Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl.
Driving towards Kingfisher was also hot and fairly birdless, our best being six White-bellied Bustards a stunning male Pallid Harrier and a Pangani Longclaw.
On the burn-off there were some fifty Crowned Plovers with seven Black-winged with them, and on the return a pair of Saddle-billed Storks below Impala Lookout.
Overall Barn Swallows were in very low numbers, but plains game were abounding especially in the Athi Basin. We had five White Rhinos, five more Hippos in Athi Dam, but otherwise good numbers of Eland, small Zebra representation and so very many baby Kongoni.
We were through the gate at 5.00pm having had a great day, and the traffic was moving nicely.
It must be said that the roads that were closed off so abruptly are now once again open access.
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