Category Archives: Birding with Brian Finch

Will KWS really Allow SGR to Destroy NNP?

By Brian Finch;

On the main road in, there were Nightingales singing in the scrub, and
others were at five other locations in the north, and on the way to
Ivory Burning Site was the first of only two Spotted Flycatchers. The
Site failed to produce anything of interest, although there was an
Irania singing from a patch of thick scrub nearby, attempts to lure it
into sight failed miserably. Whilst looking for it, a pair of
Dark-capped Yellow Warblers was nest building. On the way to Nagalomon
Dam there was no sign of the Spotted Thick-knees, but on the dam it
was all go in the Sacred Ibis rookery. There were a few chicks but
most were incubating. Towards the top of the rookery were three
African Spoonbills which were displaying. If these were to breed then
it would be a new nesting species for the Park. The few Cattle Egrets
present showed no sign of nesting, but the scattered Black-crowned
Night-Herons already had flying young. The margin was quiet with a few
Green and Wood Sandpipers, but on the sand spit was a smart young male
Knob-billed Duck and an adult African Jacana. Crowning the top of the
tree only a few metres from the nesting Ibis was an adult Fish Eagle,
whilst the only Darter present sought a quieter perch off to the side.

Taking the back road to Hyena Dam, there was a Thrush Nightingale
singing in the scrub but it remained in cover. Not a species that
usually winters in NNP. Passing the apartments where someone keeps a
pigeon loft, the birds were receiving much attention from a Great
Sparrowhawk. Usually there is a chase and either success or failure
and the bird moves on, but on this occasion the pigeons only kept
flying between a tree and the loft, and the raptor kept in the area
and persistently swooped on them. We left the bird there with the
nervous pigeons. In the swamp at the back of Hyena Dam there was an
African Water Rail, a few Wood and Green Sandpipers and a short-billed
fairly dark Snipe (see image). Of the two Yellow Wagtails one was a
young male lutea and the other indeterminate. Our first of six
Whinchats was along here, all birds today were in dull plumage, but
the best bird was the adult Great Spotted Eagle perched on a small
acacia and later flew right over us several times affording superb
views (see images). At Hyena Dam the water is receding but the
assemblage was varied with a female Darter, pair of White-faced
Whistling Ducks and a Red-billed Teal, two Yellow-billed and an
attractive adult Open-billed Stork, an adult Glossy Ibis and two
non-breeding Squacco Herons. A Fish Eagle perched in the large acacia,
an African Water Rail sauntered across the road, just one Swamphen and
the same for Long-toed Plover, but the two Spur-winged were present.
Two African Jacanas, but no sign of the immatures, whilst migrant
waders consisted of a dozen Wood and five Green Sandpipers and two
Common Snipe. In the lantana along the causeway were three Sedge and
two Eurasian Reed Warblers, the last were both singing, and one was in
exactly the same little clump where one wintered last year, suggesting
the same bird and site fidelity, but then maybe the Sedge are also
returnees. The reeds held ten Yellow-crowned Bishops, but today only
three Red-collared and one breeding male Jackson’s Widowbirds were
seen indicating a massive withdrawal from the Park.
We continued along the run-off and made a circuit crossing the
Mokoyeti Bridge where there was a pair of Wahlberg’s Honeybirds giving
aerial chase.

We then looked at the most scenically beautiful piece of the Park,
which is the Kisembe Forest with the small rocky river of the same
name. There was a reason to take this route, and that was to take
images to make people aware of what we are about to lose if the Kenya
Government gets its way to destroy it with the railway-line carving it
up with irreversible damage. In addition the destruction of the river
which is the source of the water courses that flow southwards through
the Park to the Mbagathi River. The area is home to the most important
of all Black Rhinoceros territory in East Africa. The species has
always survived well in NNP, it is not a reintroduction but the
original descendants of animals that were widespread but now
exterminated. It is from this core area for the species that important
reintroductions were successful in other Parks, Reserves and Game
Ranches. Were it not for the Nairobi Rhinos, there would be far far
fewer in East Africa and the continent would be all the poorer.

When Nairobi was first populated, the area had extensive
Brachylaena-Olive-Croton Forest, but soon the town and later city
engulfed the unique habitat, it is only with the timely creation of
Nairobi National Park that a small representation of this attractive
mix of forest, glades and open vleis was saved. Once this has gone the
unique habitat will be lost for ever, to say nothing of the Black
Rhinoceros resident there, and the abundant and varied life forms that
call Kisembe Forest their home. So I thought that a collection of
images of the habitat would make a nice memento of the future “what
once was!”

Earlier I took a photo of the plaque on the small monument
commemorating the visit of the Chinese Premier, and his excellency
President Uhuru Kenyatta for the ceremonial second Ivory burn at Ivory
Burning Site. It states on the plaque…. no, best to read the
Presidential proclamation for yourself, it is the centre of the
montage remember this was just twenty months ago.

As we drove slowly along the tracks there were numerous butterflies,
scattering Suni and a very attractive pair of Ayre’s Hawk-Eagles, as
well as a Bateleur. This is the only breeding pair left in Nairobi,
and today it is a long drive to the nearest Bateleurs, the most
stately, and most attractive of our eagles. The only migrant Common
Buzzard was also here. The Hippogrebe Dam, Langata Dam and the
Forest-Edge Dam each had a pair of Grey Crowned Cranes, four other
small dams today held paired Crowned Cranes, Karen Primary School Dam
has one unattached bird. Undoubtedly we did not see every pair of
cranes in the Park. Grey Crowned Crane numbers are falling at an
alarming rate outside of protected areas, on an Africa-Wide
classification the species is now considered threatened with
extinction, and everything should be done to protect it. Nairobi
National Park has a very healthy population that annually produce
young successfully, hopefully this iconic species will receive all the
protection it requires and deserves, and will continue to be a
familiar sight for future generations.
Langata Dam held the days only Little Grebe, and a few pairs of
White-backed Vultures were perched near nests in that area, but it
could not be ascertained whether they were currently using the nests
or not. Next to Forest-Edge Dam we did watch a vulture nest-building.
Interestingly it would break branches off neighbouring trees, which
was a revelation and explains why you never see vultures as with other
birds of prey collecting sticks off the ground, but I wonder why this
is. White-backed Vultures have declined by 95% throughout Africa in
the past decade, Kisembe Forest and other parts of Nairobi National
Park have the most successful breeding population of the species left
on the planet. It would be a travesty to lose a single pair of this
greatly endangered species.

From Kisembe Forest we continued to Kingfisher Picnic Site, another
important site if only for a picnic in idyllic peaceful surroundings,
but maybe soon the railway going through it will change any sense of
either idyllic or peaceful. There was a pair of Tawny Eagles nest
building, with much cavorting and display. Also a pair of Meyer’s
(Brown) Parrots was well concealed in the acacia canopy. On the old
burn area were two Northern Wheatears, with another on the inside road
near Maasai Gate passing old currently flooded murrum pits. The area
also had our only two Turkestan Shrikes and a pair of Speckle-fronted
Weavers, whilst a little further towards Leopard Cliffs was an
immature Great Spotted Cuckoo with attractive reddish-orange flight
feathers (see image). Rosy-breasted Longclaws were frequent, but as
can be seen on the montage, the colour is fading fast. We had our
lunch by the Mbagathi directly below Leopard Cliffs, with a pair of
Fish Eagles and wing-waving displaying Striped Kingfishers for

Athi Dam was fairly quiet with high water still. Quiet apart from the
500 or more Marabous that were dropping in and landing on the shore.
The high water has dropped enough to reveal a narrow ribbon of the old
track around the dam, but the edge was crowded with the Marabous. We
drove slowly through the Marabou flock, not one took flight and all
only stepped to the side to allow our passage. There is something
surreal about driving through a large flock of huge birds that just
walk away to no more than a couple of metres from the car, and close
the road again as soon as the space is left vacant!
Accompanying the Marabous were single each of White and an immature
Open-billed Storks. Waders included six Spur-winged Plover, three each
of Common Sandpiper and Little Stint and one Greenshank.

On the Vulture bathing pools at the head of Athi Basin were some
thirty White-backs and five Ruppell’s enjoying the procedure until an
idiot got out of his vehicle to flush them for his wageni, they didn’t
go far though. There was a Laughing Dove on a small Acacia mellifera,
these are usually confined to the Cheetah Gate area, and three
Quailfinch were the only ones seen today. At Eland Hollow we found a
handsome Spur-winged Goose at the site where they bred successfully
two years ago, and on a small un-named flooded murrum shallow a female
Saddle-billed Stork was also enjoying a vigorous bathe. This closest
Saddle-billed Storks to this only pair in Nairobi are Amboseli to the
south, Naivasha to the north, Maasai Mara to the west. The bird is
endangered and now few pairs are found in Kenya. Out over the
grasslands, Barn Swallows were in rather small numbers, and only three
Banded Martins were seen. The dehydration of the grasslands in the
north is more advanced than the south, where the rains were
considerably much later.

We departed through the Main Gate at 4.00pm, having had, as we always
do without any exception, a superb day in Nairobi National Park having
recorded 179 species of birds.



Vultures: Eurasian Griffon in NNP ?

By Adam Scott Kennedy:


These vultures were at the murram pits at the top of the Athi Basin…



Brian Finch poses the question: is this an immature Eurasian Griffon or one of our African Ruppell’s?



Simon Thomsett or Munir Virani, any ID guesses?


Thank goodness NNP remains an oasis for vultures of many species…..


Hoopoe & Frog

By Adam Scott Kennedy:










Birding with Brian Finch 31st March

By Brian Finch:

On the morning of the final day of March, Mike Davidson, Heather
Elkins, Karen Plumbe and myself arrived at the Langata Entrance to
Nairobi National Park at 6.40am having had a fairly open Magadi Road.
At the gate we were all processed efficiently and cheerfully by
Customer Services, and through in no time.

It had been dry recently and the road around to Nagalomon Dam did not
have the mudholes of the previous week. As we passed the Langata
Forest dam there was an African Jacana, presumably the same individual
for the past couple of months.

We arrived at the Main Entrance and collected Jennifer, whilst Fleur
was there she had her daughter with her, and they went mainly

Not a lot was happening at KWS Mess, the usual Eastern Honeybird was
calling, a Spotted Flycatcher was on the fence, this being our first
of ten today, the Black-collared Apalis was noisy and that was about
it. Ivory Burning Site was also quiet with just the first of three
Olivaceous Warblers, but on the causeway at Nagalomon Dam were single
Great Reed Warbler (which could have been the wintering bird as no
more were seen today, and it was in the identical place), and a Garden
Warbler. The dam itself provided the first Great Cormorant in a long
while, an impressive five Darters, ten Black-crowned Night-Herons, the
small Great Egret, a pair of Swamphens, and a pair of Spotted
Thick-knees were back at the drift.

There was not a lot of activity along the back road to the new swamp,
one of just two Eurasian Hobbys, the first of three Willow Warblers,
the first of only three Red-backed Shrikes, whilst at the swamp there
was an African Water Rail, fifteen Wood and two Green Sandpipers.

Retracing, and on to Hyena Dam for anxiously awaited coffee, we found
the first of just four Black-shouldered Kites, a female Eurasian Marsh
Harrier, another African Water Rail, another Swamphen, another dozen
Wood Sandpipers with two Ruff of which one had just one leg, a Sedge
Warbler called from concealment, whilst a Eurasian Reed Warbler was
very showy sitting in the open basking and preening on a reed for a
long period. We tried along the side road, but the water was still
flowing from the new swamp, and just had our first of seven Whinchats.

Taking the run-off we found the grassland full of bouncing Jackson’s
Widowbirds, and a pair of very few Quailfinches were seen. Mbuni was
quiet, just a Willow Warbler, and no sign of the Tawny Eagles at the
nest, but they were probably not far away. The Crowned Crane was still
incubating, and four Yellow-crowned Bishops were in the sedges. Eland
Hollow Dam had nothing new, the African Jacana still there, as was a
Spotted Thick-knee, the same Greenshank that has wintered was still
here, with a few Wood Sandpipers, then in the sedges were three Sedge
Warblers and four more Yellow-crowned Bishops.

Driving through the grassland we had our first of three
Secretarybirds, single Lesser and Common Kestrels, two individual Kori
Bustards, and an additional female with two very small chicks above
Athi Basin, the first of two Turkestan Shrikes, and the first of only
three Lesser Grey Shrikes. At the Murrum Pits was a Red-throated Pipit
getting some colour, but only five White-backed Vultures were in to
bathe, and after quite a long time White-tailed Larks were singing

Athi Dam had a few birds, an adult Pink-backed Pelican, fifteen White
Storks with a party of five Open-billed Storks, five Black-winged
Stilts, six Spur-winged and eight Kittlitz’s Plovers, two
summer-plumaged Ringed Plovers, ten Little Stint, a Common Greenshank
and three Common Sandpipers. There were two roosting Black-crowned
Night-Herons on the causeway where the wintering Olivaceous was still
present in the same tree, and in very good voice.
Although not much of the Park had seen rain, Athi had obviously had a
downpour, and the dam was quite high again, and peripheral weeds were

It was not very eventful towards Cheetah Gate, but men were working on
the pylons again, and the closed road was open. Presumably just to let
the stima people in through Cheetah Gate, with their heavy machinery.
We had a look but nothing rewarded us apart from a few Speckle-fronted

Driving along the river we had our only Bateleur of the day, and the
same for Fish Eagle, there was also the first African Hoopoe in quite
a while. Near Rhino Circuit we had our best mammal of the day, with
only my second ever Kirk’s Dik-Dik in the Park!

It was quiet all around to Kingfisher, where on earth are all the
shrikes that should be here? There were eight Black-winged Plover on
the burnt piece, both they and Crowned Plovers had nested and had
single chicks.

We were out by 4.30pm and the traffic was flowing smoothly.

It had been a fairly disappointing day for migrants, just scratchings.
Barn Swallows were flowing through in fair numbers but nothing

Hippos were at Nagalomon, Hyena and Athi Dams, a few Black and White
Rhinos were seen. Plains game concentrated along the southern border
and the burnt area.

Tracks Open Again!


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.

No Answers from KWS…..


Mike Davidson, Heather Elkins, Fleur Ng’Weno, Karen Plumbe and myself
met up at 7.00am at the Main Entrance to Nairobi National Park. The
reason for the late start was that the traffic was appalling with the
construction still continuing past its completion date. The transition
through the gate was speedy and efficient, and we made straight for
KWS Main Gate after stopping to appreciate a Willow Warbler that had
survived the gauntlet of Mediterranean bird killers and was busily
feeding in a flowering Milletia.
It was a bright and sunny day and remained so, though never actually
got that hot.

Apart from a pair of Suni, the garden was not at all rewarding. The
usual birds were present, with additionally five Violet-backed
Starlings and a flock of forty Eurasian Bee-eaters flew over. From
here we went to the Ivory Burning Site with nothing at all to make us

The Thick-knees were not on the Nagalomon drift, but the Red-collared
Widowbird that lives in a very small area, and has managed never to
lose its tail, was. It is such an incredibly tame individual and feeds
alongside quite unconcerned. The dam itself was very quiet, there were
a couple of Darters, a few Black-crowned Night-Heron were loafing in
the waterside woodland, but it was too much like daylight for any
nest-building activity. With them was what was presumably the same
Madagascar Pond Heron seen resting on this same perch a number of
times over this season. But now it had greatly changed and was going
white, (see attached image), as it progresses into breeding plumage,
and soon to leave us.

Nothing was encountered along the back road to Hyena Dam, apart from
three Green and a Wood Sandpiper along the creek, and at the dam we
were to be confused by the presence of three Darters (were there still
darters at Nagalomon Dam?). It was a nice coffee break entertainment
watching their tilapia-catching success. Other than this we could only
muster a couple of White-faced Whistling-Ducks, a noisy African Water
Rail, three more Wood Sandpipers, and a few Barn Swallows that
remained a common sight all through the Park today. The only Whinchat
of the day was on the run-off and two Long-crested Eagles along the
Mokoyeti, and as these had all primaries accounted for and we had seen
one with several primaries missing near Nagalomon Dam, then there were
three birds in the area.

Then we took the long and boring drive from here all the way to Athi
Basin. It must be so frustrating for visitors to see all the plains
game such a long way off and not being able to get anywhere near them
for a photograph. Soon the word will get out that Nairobi National
Park is now a most frustrating place to see the wildlife, and no
chance of photographs at all, and will go elsewhere. One has to wonder
about the sensitivity to customer requirements by the people are in
tasked to manage the Park, they are certainly very quiet,
non-responsive to enquiries as to why all the roads have been closed,
and show no interest in replying to the questions sent to them both by
Fonnap and Nature Kenya.
So we drove through seeing dot-like Kongoni, dot-like White Rhinos,
dot-like gazelles etc. Birds were equally mundane with our confinement
to the main highway, though we found the first of four Secretarybirds,
of course the reliable Martial Eagle was at its nest, the Tawny Eagles
at Mbuni Picnic Site have fledged, and there was a group of five
Orange-breasted Waxbills flying ahead of us and feeding quite openly.
Although with bright red rumps, none of them showed anything other
than pale buff underparts and were thought a family of fledged
immatures. We did have a magnificent male Saddle-billed Stork that
could have put its bill through the window, and after very close
admiration we drove away leaving it still attending to its appearance.

Finally after the long long drag, thankfully after the speeding
commuters were already through the Park, and did not have to suffer
their dust along with all the poor suffering visiting tourists who get
their lens coated, thanks to them, in a dangerous abrasive film…. we
arrived at Athi Basin and at the murrum pits (road closed) we could
see a pair of Crowned Cranes who knows what else was in there.
Vultures were coming in to bathe (this used to be such a daily tourist
spectacle before the road was closed off), but now they land behind
the gravel hills, again who knows what was in there.

Athi Dam greeted us with a stunning vista of thirteen illegal giant
pylons, but worse than this was a smell that was so acrid it tingled
the nasal passages. It was like being in an over-chlorinated
swimming-pool. Because there was quite a wind, we could not tell
whether this was a contamination at the dam, or was noxious odour
blowing in from outside of the Park. It could be quite serious.
However there were no dead birds or mammals, but then again the dam
was as birdless at I have ever seen it at this time of year. The first
Common Buzzard of the season was feeding over the grasslands, a dark
bird. Later on we had a pale Common Buzzard near Leopard Cliffs. Of
the larger African species, there were single Crowned Crane,
Yellow-billed Stork, African Spoonbill, Grey Heron, and only a handful
of Marabous. Waders were four Spur-winged, eight Blacksmith and
fifteen Kittlitz’s Plovers whilst migrants were just three each of
Little Stints, Common Greenshanks and Common Sandpipers and a Green
Sandpiper. Six Speckled Pigeon fed on the foreshore weeds, and three
Black-crowned Night-Herons roosted on the Causeway. Whilst we had
lunch, Eurasian Bee-eaters could be heard somewhere. We saw a few more
bee-eaters along the Mbagathi and at Kingfisher Picnic Site.

Nothing along the road towards Cheetah Gate, apart from an incubating
Secretarybird, the Pearl-spotted Owlet was calling in the usual place
along the river, but could not be induced out into the heat of the
day. There were six stunningly all blue and black Violet Wood-Hoopoes
here, feeding low and glistening in the sunlight, and a couple of
Wattled Starlings fed on the backs of Zebra. Just above the Hippo
Pools was a group of three Speckle-fronted Weavers and the final birds
of the day were a pair of unseen noisy Brown Parrots calling down the
valley at Kingfisher, where they were two weeks ago. Possibly they are
nesting along there.

Black-shouldered Kite numbers might be dropping away now, with ten
seen, and no Lesser Striped Swallows have come back yet.

As far as the more interesting mammals are concerned, we had Hippos on
Nagalomon, Hyena and Athi Dams, a female Steinbok above the Athi
Basin, a Syke’s Monkey on the Mokoyeti just below Nagalomon, a
Side-striped Ground-Squirrel at Baboon Cliffs where there were nine
Bush Hyrax.

In the Rhino Circuit area we counted over 150 Cattle and three
cowherders inside the Park. We reported this to the ranger at Hippo
Pools. It took a long time to wake him up as he was in deep slumber,
he listened rolled over went back to his siesta and did absolutely
nothing. Cattle along the Rhino Circuit are a stake out, blind Freddie
could not miss them, but it seems a blind spot for KWS.

Just a little east from the Massai Gate turn-off we saw a woman
walking along the valley heading towards Lion Dip carrying a large
white sack.

At Nagalomon Dam having not long been in the Park, we were harassed by
a surly group of rangers led by a smile-less woman, that wanted to
check our tickets. Quite honestly I can think of far more pressing
issues that checking the damn tickets. If we are in there every week,
isn’t it obvious that we are in there having paid, if they check our
tickets and find them in order every time, is it likely that we have
tried to buck the system on this occasion?

The previous day was the organised game count. Some friends of mine
have been doing the count on the same block just north from Baboon
Cliffs for the past thirty years. Of course it is a service provided
freely in every respect by the interested citizens of Nairobi for the
benefit of KWS. There had always been an arrangement that rather than
drive all the way up Magadi Road and down to the Main Gate, that they
would enter Langata Gate (originally it was Banda Gate down the bottom
of our road, but they stopped that). They arrived and there was not a
soul stirring, after banging on the gate, a woman came to the gate and
said there was no-one there and they could not come in. So they had to
drive all the way round to Main Entrance. They advised me that there
was an official looking woman at Main Gate who was very neatly
dressed, obviously in charge and they took as the Warden. They told
them their problem with no-one at Langata Gate, in the politest of
manners, but the woman stormed of in a huff without acknowledging the
problem, and was most abrupt.
(All this is as it was reported to me, and I trust it implicitely).
Then they were doing the same block, counting game as they always had
on every organised game count, and a KWS vehicle drove up to them and
told them they were “Off Road Driving!!!!!!!!”

It will be most interesting to see the figures, they have to be down a
conservative 70% as there is no way to get to the animals to count
them now. If the numbers remain similar to before, then the accuracy
has to be seriously questioned.

As the Park continues its management spiral downhill, all these issues
now have to be addressed very urgently. The Director of Wildlife need
be aware of the problems, and Fonnap really needs to do something
positive in finding out what is going on with the administration of
the Park.

We were out of the Park just after 4.00pm and the traffic moved

Depressing Developments in NNP


Mike Davidson, Heather Elkins, Salma Watt and myself met at the Main
Entrance to Nairobi National Park at 6.30am. It was a bright and sunny
day, and remained as such all day. There was evidence of recent rain
with drying puddles, and dams higher than last week. The gate was very
efficient and we were through in little time.

Our first call was to KWS Mess gardens, where in spite of being a
beautiful morning there was not initially much activity. Eurasian
Bee-eaters could be heard not too far away, an Eastern Honeybird was
displaying, two Pale Flycatchers have returned after an absence, the
Black-collared Apalis sang alone, and some very nice Violet-backed
Starlings glowed on the lawn. There were five Suni around the gardens,
and later in the day another on the Main Entrance Road.
From here we had a few African Firefinches on the road to Ivory
Burning Site, which proved an uneventful pause, and continuing on to
Nagalomon Dam we were delighted to see that three Spotted Thick-knees
had returned to the drift, and whilst all three had yellow eyes, one
bird looked as if it might have been a younger bird.
At the dam there was much activity from the Black-crowned Night-Herons
as they set up territories, a pair of adult Darters were perched on
the other side, two Little Grebes were the first I had seen here, and
a couple of Green Sandpipers fed along the edge.

Along the back road to Hyena Dam there were African Water Rails
calling at the swamp, where the first Whinchat of the season was
found. This was soon followed by a second on the track to Hyena Dam
and a further two on the run-off. There were a pair of adult Darters
here, having just left the adult pair at Nagalomon Dam we were not
sure if they had come in ahead of us, but with the convolutions of our
route today we passed both dams again and both had Darter adults. So
either they have a strange sense of humour or there are two adult
pairs present!
A surprise here was an adult Striated Heron, whilst a resident
breeding species along the Mbagathi, this was in fact the first I had
ever seen in the north on any of the dams in this area, and whilst
watching it the stunning adult male payesi Little Bittern shot its
head up for a look right alongside it. African Water Rails called from
the typha but stayed hidden, and on each side of the dam there were
single adult with single very large grey and white Swamphens. There
were one Green and three Wood Sandpipers along the edge and several
groups of Wattled Starlings were coming to bathe in the feeder stream.

With the barred access to Karen Primary School and Eland Hollow Dams,
there was no point taking the often monotonous long drive through the
grasslands to the Athi Basin, so we opted to take the short cut to the
south road. It might be added that whilst KWS have been asked by
Fonnap and Nature Kenya as to why the roads have been closed over a
major portion of the Park, they have not come back with any
explanation and no expletives will be used in the preparation of this
On the Mokoyeti Bridge there was a Wahlberg’s Honeybird hiding well in
the bushes, an adult Martial Eagle was at the nest, with the chick
almost its size already, a pair of noisy White-bellied Bustards, and a
stop at Leopard Cliffs provided just one of the two Barn Swallows
today. Very strange after the passage last Tuesday, maybe these are
just the survivors of a large contingent that tried to pass through
Egypt, and finished up in Cairo restaurants instead!

Along the Mbagathi the Pearl-spotted Owlet was present in the same
place, not too much activity around him although we did hear a Willow
Warbler calling. There were a few Eurasian Bee-eaters flying high, and
our only Secretarybird seen today. This is not necessarily a reduction
in numbers, but reflective of the prime Secretarybird habitat now
access-barred by KWS.

We continued to Athi Dam, there was a gathering of Marabous, four
Yellow-billed Storks and four African Spoonbills, and two adult
Open-billed Storks associating with them. There was one Black-crowned
Night-Heron on the Causeway, where two dead Cattle Egrets were
entangled in the acacia thorns. Maybe they are using this as a roost,
but then who knows as the KWS policy of us all having to be checked
out of the park by 6.00pm means that all of the interesting bird and
mammal activity is never witnessed, the second most interesting part
of the day spent in the Park. Still no expletives! There were three
pairs of Spur-winged Plovers and some fifteen Kittlitz’s, migrants
being seven Little Stint, two Common Sandpipers and four Greenshank
only. A Speckled Pigeon dropped in to feed on the weeds bordering the
Whilst on the Causeway with coffee occupying one hand, and a
comestible in the other, a group of waders flashed past through a gap
in the trees and was not seen to land. On terminating the
refreshments, it was now essential to locate this group, as the
trailing bird was larger and had very flashy white bands on the wings.
We retraced our route back towards the north end of the dam, and
amongst a group of Kittlitz’s Plovers was a very handsome Sanderling.
There are historical records from the Park, we don’t know if relating
to very white Little Stints or the real thing and so they were
disregarded from the main part of the Nairobi National Park Bird
Checklist, and relegated to unsubstantiated historical records. This
bird is fully documented (see image) and there is no question of there
being a Sanderling in NNP. Not so extraordinary inland, with annual
passage through the Rift Valley Lakes, all records have been on very
large water bodies, and a record from a small dam is very unusual. It
was very tired, eye-lids determined to close, and not feeding.
We retraced our track back to Nagalomon Dam, via the top of Athi
Basin, without finding anything much of further interest although it
was hot by now. A pair of adults Ostriches that showed some indication
of Somali in their make-up had eight small chicks with very bright
orange-rufous crowns.
Taking the Kisembe Forest track for the first time since the flooding
earlier in the year we thought we would have our late picnic lunch at
the “Drinking Pond,” on the edge of the forest. This can be a very
rewarding place for birds coming in to slake their thirst in the
hottest time of the day when other areas are very quiet. Migrant
Sylvia warblers are particularly drawn to this water, and all four
species have been seen drinking at the same time, although Gardens are
by far the most abundant. It is the only site where Lemon Doves have
been seen in modern times, again arriving to drink, but a whole host
of other species come out of the forest like Placid and
Yellow-whiskered Greenbuls etc., Madagascar Pond Herons like to chase
frogs in the shallows, and it is pleasurable to sit there for several
hours and watch the comings and goings. So it seemed to be an ideal
place to spend an hour or so as it was warm and the place had grown
quiet. IT HAD BEEN BLOCKED OF BY KWS!!!!!! They really do seem to be
out to make birding far less enjoyable than it used to be. At least
they are successful in this one thing.
As we continued there were eight Eurasian Bee-eaters flying around the
vlei, and finally we came to the Langata Dam, again not visited for
some time as having to be out of the gate at 6.00pm really eats into
the day. Here there was an African Jacana, and a surprise of four
large fully winged Spur-winged Geese, probably the Eland Hollow/Karen
Primary School brood. It was very thick in the sedges and whilst we
saw four there could have been more. Just along the road from here was
a Northern Wheatear, really a late first date for a migrant Wheatear
in the Park. Maybe the bird-slaughtering Egyptians again have consumed
the first birds that should have been here.
We departed at 4.00pm to avoid the worst of the traffic arriving from
town, but soon maybe (supposed to be completed in four days time), we
should have the traffic more free-flowing once again.

Game was poor, in the parts of the Park we were allowed in just a few
Zebra, Hartebeeste and the usual plains game but no numbers.
Highlights today were a Side-striped Ground-Squirrel along the
Mabagathi, and charming Bush Hyraxes at Baboon Cliffs.

As the KWS is the body charged with the mandate for conserving the
integrity of the Park for its citizens, I reserve the right to comment
on the work I observe there by these public servants. If there was
something of an improvement, I would report as such, but everything I
see taking place in Nairobi National Park is retrogressive and handled

Back to birds, there still have not been any Lesser Striped Swallows
coming back, Black-shouldered Kites seemed down, with only five or
six, but again it could be the lack of area visited. Interestingly we
encountered Augur Buzzards eight times, maybe duplication, but this is
more observation than usual.

Spur-Wing Geese Breed in NNP!

Report by Brian Finch, Pics by Will Knocker:


Some two months ago there was a pair of Spur-winged Geese
here that stayed for several weeks, looking at home and it was hoped
that they would breed.


Suddenly from under the bank three large orange-headed ducklings swam
out into the water-lilies, and a Red-billed Teal swam out to join


 I am sure that this is a first
breeding record of the species in not just the Park but all of Nairobi


 In fact to take it further, I cannot personally ever recall
seeing Spur-winged goslings before…. anywhere!






By Brian Finch:

Mike Davidosn, Jennifer O’Duore and myself met at the Main Entrance to
Nairobi National Park at 6.20am, and were through the gate at 6.30am.
There had not been much rain the two previous nights, but over an inch
had fallen three days before, compounding the accessibility problems
in the Park with many areas away from the main roads very sticky and a
few treacherous.
Water levels had subsided, but in the aftermath the Hippo Pools along
the Mbagathi has been destroyed, all the vegetation on the banks
scoured bare and parts of the track fallen into the river, and a new
small island created! Further up the Mbagathi at Leopard Cliffs, all
the riverine vegetation has suffered the same fate.

We set off for KWS Mess Gardens, on the way there were an Emerald
Cuckoo near the Entrance, and a party of Cabanis  (Placid) Greenbuls
on the short road towards the garden. Whilst they are a common species
in the Kisembe Forest, this was the first time I had encountered them
anywhere east of Nagalomon Dam.

The gardens were quiet, although both Green-backed and Wahlberg’s
Honeybirds were vocal, and for the first time in some six months we
did not hear the lone Black-collared Apalis.

Ivory Burning Site did not produce for us, but Nagalomon was
entertaining with the nesting Black-crowned Night Herons busying
themselves, and many sitting tight on their nests. We counted some
sixty birds, but there might have been more. Interestingly quite a few
immature birds are in the colony, although nothing to do with the
current nesting activity. There were three adult African Darters of
which one was a stunning male.

Taking the back road to Hyena Dam, there were a pair of tame Scaly
Francolins on the track, the African Water Rails were in the swamp,
and a pair of Brown Parrots in the fig tree, which seems to be a
favourite place for them. There was not a lot of activity at Hyena
Dam, but an adult male Little Bittern of the African race payesii was
a nice surprise.

The Run-Off from Hyena Dam was quite an active area. Large numbers of
Jackson’s and Red-collared Widowbirds are in large numbers through
much of the grasslands of the Park. The Jackson’s were bouncing and
singing here. Contrastingly, White-winged are only present in numbers
around the Hippo Pool although we had three at Hyena Dam. There were
three Yellow-crowned Bishops displaying in the typha, but on an early
date there were already fifteen Cardinal Queleas, the males in full
breeding dress.

Along the road to cross the Mokoyeti River we found a Common
Whitethroat which was the only palearctic recorded today apart from
three Barn Swallows.

We took the road to Kingfisher Picnic Site, then the southern road
towards Hippo Pools. Along the way we found a Broad-tailed Grassbird
displaying immediately on the eastern side of the Kisembe Bridge,
there was a Bateleur here also. Closer to Leopard Cliffs there were a
pair of Yellow-billed Oxpeckers at what is probably a nest hole in an
Acacia seyal. Also here was an attractive Pangani Longclaw.

Climbing up towards the Hippo Pools Road, a Waterbuck walking towards
us flushed a Dusky Nightjar out of the grass, but at the walk itself
we only had a Grey-headed Kingfisher and the depressing scene of the
habitat destruction.

On the return we had a nice Shelley’s Francolin on the road, several
Long-billed Pipits which are particularly dark at this time of year
and a Long-crested Eagle back near Nagalomon Dam.

Exiting at 6.15pm we found no one at the gate to exit our cards which
is a royal pain in the backside. The Customer Care people shutting up
shop at 6.00pm is far too early with nearly another hour of daylight
left in the day. Hardly a sincere Customer Care at all!

Mammals were few and far between, the best being a Steinbok near the
Kisembe River Bridge. We did not visit the Athi Basin area however,
and quite likely there are still some in that area.

Another great day in the Park, in spite of restrictions necessitated
by the recent weather activities.


Birding with Brian Finch 8th April

After a wet night that had turned Langata Road into a flowing river, Mike Davidson, Fleur Ng’Weno, Jennifer Oduore, Karen Plumbe and myself met at the Main Entrance to Nairobi National Park at 6.30am. The overnight rain confined us to the north, as the roads were too muddy and treacherous to venture to the southern portion of the Park. In fact we confined ourself to KWS Mess Gardens, Ivory Burning Site, Hyena Dam from the front road as the back road impassable, Nagalomon Dam, Karen Primary School Dam and Eland Hollow which is a small proportion of the Park. We were out through the Main Entrance at 3.30pm, having recorded nearly 150 species. On the descent road there was a Common Buzzard drying out in the beautiful sunny morning light. Our first call was Nagalomon Dam, this was the first time that I have ever seen it, the drift just before the Causeway was a flowing river but not too deep to negotiate, Nagalomon Dam has lost its reed-bed, there only being a metre wide fringe along the shoreline, and the water level was very high turning the Mokoyeti River into a raging torrent. There were over forty Black-crowned Night-Herons incorporating just slightly fewer immatures sitting in the trees along the bank where they were accompanied by a Great Egret and male and female Darters. In the far corner were a pair of Spotted Thick-knees which had probably been washed out from a normal day roost, and were at the edge of the water. Along the causeway was a Pygmy Kingfisher, which may or may not have been related to a pair at Ivory Burning Site later, and the dam also had a Giant Kingfisher. From here we visited KWS Mess, but it was surprisingly quiet, Scaly Francolins were making a lot of noise, the Black-collared Apalis was also very vocal, there were a couple of Spotted Flycatchers and Garden Warblers but no other palearctics, a pair of Pale Flycatchers were on the front lawn. On exiting through the gate there was a male Crowned Eagle not ten metres from us, and quite indifferent to our presence. It was perched three metres above the ground, and intently scanning the ground below it. We drove past it and away, leaving it still searching the ground. On to Ivory Burning Site, and there was Kilimanjaro with a good blob of snow on the flanks, and crystal clear. An Emerald Cuckoo was singing in the adjacent woodland, Eurasian Bee-eaters were somewhere up there, but could not be seen, a Wahlberg’s Honeybird was in the central Acacia gerardii, which were also attracting warblers. Garden Warblers voices were all through the scrub, large numbers must have been in the Park, but they were the only sylvid recorded, there were quite a few Willow Warblers and more than a couple of Olivaceous Warblers. Also there was a visiting White-browed Sparrow-Weaver and African Firefinches calling from cover. Next we went to Hyena Dam, on the way there were still Whinchats present, and we had four today, another Spotted Flycatcher, the first of twenty-five Red-backed Shrikes, first of ten Lesser Grey Shrikes and all three Widowbirds in full breeding dress. The dam was quiet, with a young Fish Eagle, Yellow-billed Egret and three Wood Sandpipers. The excitement here was when the young Fish Eagle swooped down on a Hadada, and the other Hadadas came in to mob the eagle, but in vain. From here we left for the Main Gate to deposit Fleur, after a pair of Yellow-bellied Waxbills along the road, we then went round to Eland Hollow the long way round. There was a Shelley’s Francolin moving like a chameleon across the road on the way, and a Secretarybird by the road edge, and at the dam was a young male Darter, a pair of Red-billed Teal, a pair of Bateleurs, three Sand Martin with a steady stream of Barn Swallows, and at Karen PS Dam a pair of very still Spotted Thick-knees. Returning to the Main Gate there was an adult Fish Eagle along the Mokoyeti, and amongst a group of Little and Palm Swifts mixed in with Barn, Red-rumped and Lesser Striped Swallows were two birds that resembled Pallid Swifts. It was a very nice day with so much to see and in such crystal clear conditions, and confortable climate. Mammals were obviously further southwards as we did not see too much of interest, the usual Hippos were at Nagalomon and Hyena Dams, and we had a lioness not far from Karen Primary School. On the return we encountered another lioness walking along the road, and followed the animal slowly for about a kilometre not wanting to disturb it by trying to pass it. We were rewarded for this, as in the last half kilometre she starting calling a double grunt, and I thought that there was a likelihood she might be calling cubs. Then two four to five month old cubs emerged from the grass, and just in front of us we witnessed the greeting ceremony, playing, and drinking as a family, out of a road puddle. It was all just so magical, needless to say there was a lot of digitising taking place.