NAIROBI NATIONAL PARK 7th OCTOBER 2013
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
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
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
We were out of the Park just after 4.00pm and the traffic moved