By Will Knocker:
It looks like the Rains have failed in Southern Kenya & the Park is getting very dry, causing the wildebeest population (c.250 animals) to come into the Park proper from the Sheep & Goat land across the Empakasi.
Eastern White-bearded Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus albojubatus). This is a rare sub-species of gnu which consists of less than 5000 individuals East of the Rift Valley. In this respect Nairobi National Park is a very important haven for these creatures.
Plains zebra watering at the Athi dam.
Zebra & gnu in the Athi Basin.
Gravel pits become useful water points in dry years like this.
A wet August was not great for nesting ostriches, but these guys seem to be alright. Sadly very heavy mortality amongst young ostrich means that almost certainly these chicks will be eaten!
Story & images by STEVE GARVIE:
Our driver guide Ben Gitari suggested we take the forest trail and it was his sharp eyes that first picked out the bird. He later said that he had always thought this to be a likely area in which to find Crowned Eagles and indeed though within NNP the immediate area was more like riparian forest
I think she had already butchered and consumed part of the carcase (presumably at the capture site) before she flew up into the tree with what was left. When we first found her she had the head, neck and upper chest with at least one leg still attached. The leg appeared to be dark but this may have been blood-staining. The leg and rib cage were quickly discarded as she set about opening up the cranium and consuming its contents (all pretty gross to watch -my teen daughter was none too impressed!).
I’m still not certain as to exactly what “Bambi” is but the dark chestnut fur and black on the snout and onto the forehead are not typical features of Suni. Harvey’s (Red) Duiker are larger and heavier than Suni as they are larger in the body (but not much different in head size).
I get the impression that Suni would be much more common in NNP than Harvey’s Duiker but as Crowned Eagles will kill antelope up to the size of young Bushbuck both of these small forest antelope will be on the menu.
Regardless of whether the prey was a Duiker or a Suni this was one impressive eagle !
By Will Knocker:
A mating bull hippo: don’t you love the look on his face? (The cow is completely submerged!)
Recently it has been very dry in the Park…
“Don’t mess with me,buddy!”
Elegant strider of the plains…the Secretary Bird. There are several breeding pairs in NNP…
Assemblage of waterfowl at Empakasi dam…
Downtown Nairobi…..how lucky is this city?
By Will Knocker:
C. t. albojubatus (Eastern White-bearded Wildebeest), of which species the IUCN says: “ However, recent population estimates suggest that the future prospect of some subpopulations or subspecies is of some concern, particularly that of the Eastern White-bearded Wildebeest (which, it seems, may have undergone a precipitous decline in numbers).”
Hope for the future? A yearling (born March 2012)……
This species was once one of the most numerous herbivores wandering the vast high plains of the Athi Kapiti Ecosystem of which NNP is the last remaining pristine corner: it has been estimated that there were 100,000 at the beginning of the Twentieth century.
Now: ”Eastern White-bearded Wildebeest, 94,000 (with about two-thirds in and around protected areas)”, of which we in NNP have about one hundred & fifty individuals (144 counted in February game count).
‘Our’ gnus tend to live on the rapidly dwindling Sheep & Goat Land between the park & the ever-burgeoning New Town of Kitengela south of the Park, which is heavily grazed short-grass plain habitat. The question must be: will they move into the Park once this last stronghold goes the way of the rest of the ecosystem?
The majority of the gnus in the Athi Kapiti live south of the Athi-Namanga highway, which they cannot cross to get to the Park. These will find it difficult to survive in an increasingly humanised & truncated ecosystem .
Cows & yearlings in the Athi Basin yesterday…
Our last few Eastern White-bearded gnus, for whom the Nairobi National Park is their last refuge…..
For more info on on-going research: http://www.nrel.colostate.edu/projects/gnu/nnp.php
By Will Knocker (Photos by Gareth Jones):
A dikdik (this is Kirk’s as different to Guenther’s which inhabits the arid North of Kenya) in the Park: an unusual sight although they are common in the abutting Silole Sanctuary area…..
Gareth, was this pic taken in Silole, or the Park? In game counts, Suni (see below) are often described as ‘dikdik’….
The Suni, below (from ‘esuuni’: a small antelope in Maa) is a dwarf antelope inhabiting forest areas: it is a completely different animal to the dikdik, which likes semi-arid localities….
Do let me know of your sightings of these 2 species of small buck & has anyone seen a Red Forest duiker (reportedly present in Langata forest), Steinbuck or Oribi recently? The Park is a haven of course for so many species of antelope….
By Will Knocker:
I was woken up by this Variable Sunbird (male of course) fighting with himself in my bedroom window…..
And at Main Gate, my guest Jess & I got caught up in the early morning circus: 2 male lions rubbing themselves in a buffalo pat!
The 2 males: looking thin: c’mon guys, you are supposed to be Super Predators & the Park is full of Prey!
A Blacksmith plover….
Kanga……Guinea-fowl have done well this year, with many grown chicks evident….
Chandler’s Mountain reedbuck in the Sosian valley….
A Yellowneck spurfowl with a runny beak….
And 2 African spoonbills………spoooning…….
Athi Dam megacroc getting some dirty looks…..
Lone bushbuck……(called Abu Naba in Arabic…any Arabic speakers out there?)
As Jess said “wall-to-wall” zebras in the Athi Basin, where wildlike is concentrated at present….
Upupa epops, the African hoopoe…what a lovely bird!
And to end a splendid day in the incomparable NNP: a monitor lizard at Nangolomon Dam (it should be Narok Omom): “Black Head” in Maa, referring to the Langata forest…..
By Will Knocker:
After months of greenery & long grass, the Park has turned tawny & the migratory herds are back: eland do not go far: across the Empakasi into the Sheep & Goat land. This is one of Kenya’s significant populations..
The NNP kongoni (Coke’s hartebeest) population is a conundrum: it used to consist of 2 populations, resident & migratory. As the migratory population has been confined to the Park (the remaining dispersal area is short grass plain-unsuitable for this sp. which is adapted to long grass areas) the population has shot up, in spite of record numbers of lions, for whom kongoni are a favourite prey sp. …
The Plains zebra are back! In a year of good rain such as this, our population of up to 4000 roam as far as they can in the remaining dispersal areas. However it seems that even these remarkably adaptive creatures, able to deal with the suburban conditions (fences, people, dogs) outside the park have had to overcome their fears about lions & have come back in small family groups & some bigger migratory mobs consisting of hundreds of animals…the lions will be happy!
Up until the turn of the century, such sights would have included thousands of wildebeeste, but alas the last few hundred like the short grass plain of the Sheep & Goat land & only venture into the park if pressed by drought conditions….
NNP remains the last pristine corner of the Athi Kapiti Ecosystem, now a truncated shadow of what it once was. It is so encouraging to see the herds of migratory species come back to the park safe & sound after the Rains…..