Category Archives: Birding with Brian Finch

NAIROBI NATIONAL PARK 25th February 2013

By Brian Finch:

Mike Davidson, Fleur Ng’Weno, Jennifer Oduore, Karen Plumbe and myself met at the Main Gate to Nairobi National Park at 6.50am having had some traffic difficulties. We were expediently processed and through the gate on the hour. It has been dry for a while now, and the Park is showing the signs of dehydration. There is still much grass, but all the green has gone and it looks sunburnt. The dams are still in fine condition, but the muddy margins are now appearing. Although cool in the mornings it has been of late warm at night, and quite hot during the day. Today was not hot, but a strong wind. Four of us stayed in the Park, and did not leave until 7.00pm having been checked out on entry. The evening was very spectacular and the traffic was moving well and we were not held up.

Our first call was KWS Mess gardens. Some five Blackcaps were coming in to a fruiting tree we have to identify (Strychnos is suspected), and there were two Nightingales in the hedge. The Black-collared Apalis was still present but recently has been calling from inside the Army Camp. There was a Suni on the lawn. From here we went to Ivory Burning Site which has been quiet this year, and yet used to be so interesting, with a host of good sightings. Today we were not disappointed, a male Pallid Harrier flew through, as strangely did a Secretarybird. We had seven different Secretarybirds today, they are obviously doing very well in the Park. Long may it continue. In the bushes were one Nightingale, and singles of Common Whitethroat, Olivaceous Warbler and Marsh Warbler. There was another Acrocephalus singing a sub-song that was thought to be an Eurasian Reed Warbler. There were a number of Red-collared Widowbirds around, some of which are already sporting red collars. There was another Acro singing softly and intermittently when we visited Nagalomon Dam, this was thought to be a Marsh Warbler but was not seen. There were two very impressive Crocodiles being visited by three Green Sandpipers and a couple of pushy Egyptian Geese, a pair of Orange-breasted Waxbills flew by without stopping and a Fan-tailed Grassbird was singing from a corner near the Mokoyeti River. Instead of circling back to Hyena Dam, we continued into the Kisembe Valley along the beautiful forested stream. On the way there was another Acro singing, thought to be a Marsh, and this was seen and confirmed. The immature Bateleur was circling with the first rising White-backed Vultures, a dark Booted Eagle was soaring over a clearing, a near adult Lesser Spotted Eagle came over us near Langata Gate, some ten Bee-eaters fed over the dam which had a Little Grebe with chick, and Moorhens also had a family. The old drinking pond that should be attractive to many Sylvia warblers and other birds, just had a pair of Little Grebes. There is far too much water around for this to be a magnet this year. We circled round back to the main gate to drop Fleur off, and an immature Fish Eagle had arrived on Nagalomon Dam.

After leaving the gate we took the back road to Hyena Dam, the Crowned Cranes were taking good care of their two chicks, and not seeming too worried about the diving Yellow-billed Kites which soon gave up. Out first of six Whichats were here, and a couple of Banded Martin were over the little swamp. Hyena Dam was quiet but we were much later than usual, there were three Wood Sandpipers and African Water Rail which refused to show themselves. There was a reasonable sized Crocodile hauled out on the bank. A Great Egret, which looks small and I believe has been visiting us for many years, was also there. The Run-Off was dry and did not produce anything, and the inside road to Eland Hollow was also very quiet. At this dam there were a pair of Spur-winged Geese, our only Red-billed Teal of the day, a Yellow-billed Egret, four more Wood Sandpipers, a Common Greenshank starting to show some attractive patterning, and the pair of Spotted Thick-knees were on their usual territory. Heading off to Karen Primary School  Dam we had a male Lesser Kestrel on a bush, and at the dam which was spectacular for bathing Zebra, the drinking Barn Swallow had a Sand Martin accompanying them.

Now it was time to head south, the vultures were at the drinking pool above Athi Basin, there were nineteen White-backed and nine Ruppell’s, nearby we had just seen a pair of Lappet-faced Vultures.

There were two Northern and two female Pied Wheatears along the top road and a nice Kori Bustard sheltering under a small acacia barely larger than itself. On the track to Athi Dam we found a full adult male Turkestan Shrike this was our only migrant shrike seen today, and a female-type Pallid Harrier was over the grassland. Whilst there was not a huge variety of birds on Athi Dam, the sight was nothing short of amazing. There were 1500 Marabou Storks, amongst these we individually counted 530 White Storks, which must be the largest number ever recorded together in Nairobi, poor Yellow-billed Storks were a  bit left out with only four! The storks surrounded the resident giant Croc who made even the Marabous look so small. Big croc number two was as usual on the island now joined back to the mainland. There was a single adult Pink-backed Pelican, a Great Egret of normal size, an immature Montagu’s Harrier, fifteen Yellow-throated Sandgrouse came in whilst we were there as did six Speckled Pigeon which is hardly a rare species, but I believe all the other records always involve a maximum of one pair. There was a male lutea Yellow Wagtail who had bright breeding plumage underparts but the head was still saying it was winter! In the wader line, there were four Black-winged Stilts, fifteen Spur-winged Plovers, a compact group of thirty Little Stints, but the only other palearctic waders were single Common Greenshank and Green Sandpiper. We had our traditional Carrot Cake on the Causeway, the Black-crowned Night-Heron adult was in his roosting tree, and a Western Marsh Harrier went over without stopping.

We carried on in the direction of the Cheetah Gate road, there was a stunning spring male Pied Wheatear, but our best bird of the day was a species I had never seen before in the Park. By the track was a female Black-faced Sandgrouse which posed for us. There is a historical record, this means over forty years ago but there are no details. On the road towards the Hippo Pools there was another female Pied Wheatear, an adult Fish Eagle along the river and a noisy Pangani Longclaw. Our last bird of note was a male roadside Hartlaub’s Bustard as we climbed up out of the Mbagathi Valley.

As we passed Karen PS Dam on the way back we stopped to look at a Black-headed Heron who had caught an unfortunate Battersby’s Green Snake, this was swallowed with surprising ease.

There was a sprinkling of Barn Swallows but nothing that looked like any passage, and there was evidence that Quail-finch were returning. We were out of the Park at 7.00pm.


It was a great day, nothing in writing can convey the stork spectacle of Athi Dam. This is probably a daily event, and it is necessary to be there at 3.00pm. Presumably the Whites are coming in from the Kitengela.


The game has returned in really impressive force as the dry sets in, Zebras in most impressive numbers, but a group of seventy Wildebeest in the Athi basin is a good number nowadays. None of the special mammal species were seen today, they were all in hiding. Hippos were in Nagalomon, Hyena, Eland Hollow and Athi Dams.


Birding in NNP 28th January

Dear All,
Mike Davidson, Jennifer Oduore, Karen Plumbe and myself met at Nairobi
National Park Main Gate at 6.30am and were soon in the Park. It was an
extremely beautiful morning, although at this time of year the sun
gets up a bit later. There was evidence of recent showers in the north
of the Park, but the south was continuing to dry. In the afternoon it
remained sunny, but out over the Ngong and Kitengela there was a
building haze which culminated in an impressive storm in the evening
with very strong winds and short heavy bursts of rain.

On the way to KWS Mess gardens we had an Emerald Cuckoo, and a few
Yellow-bellied Waxbills and Black-and-White Mannikins, whilst in the
gardens were much the usual few Nightingales, six or so Blackcaps, a
Garden Warbler, the Eurasian Reed Warbler still in the hedge, but
little was moving in the trees. Slipping down to Ivory Burning Site
there was a party of African Firefinches along the road, and at the
site an Olivaceous Warbler and a Garden Warbler. Eurasian Bee-eaters
were calling but remained hidden, later seen over Nagalomon Dam. Here
the Great Reed Warbler was still singing along the edge, and
Three-banded Plovers were mating. A female Darter was sitting in the
trees overhanging the dam, and a Wood Sandpiper was in the shallows.
The Broad-tailed Grassbird was calling from the grassland in this
corner, a regular site. A really nice surprise was an immature
Bateleur, many years since I have seen one in the Park. The usual
adults were met with in the course of the day. On the back road to
Hyena Dam we had Red-collared Widowbirds in non-breeding plumage but
males with long tails, these were to be our only widowbirds today.
There was a Common Buzzard at last, along here, but the real surprise
was a White-bellied Go-Away Bird feeding in the bushes, the first in
the north of the Park, whilst in the southern parts they are resident.
The African Water Rails were in residence at the marsh, and at Hyena
Dam we had twenty-six Wood Sandpipers and a couple of Green, a female
Yellow Wagtail and a Sedge Warbler. The first of seven Whinchats was
here as well. An adult Purple Heron which had been there all the time
suddenly stepped into view. The run-off was not too exciting, but
there was an Isabelline Shrike, and heading out to Eland Hollow we
found a Greenshank and two Rosy-breasted Longclaws, whilst at the dam
another eight Wood Sandpipers, a pair of Red-billed Teal and a pair of
Spotted Thick-knees. There were another three Spotted Thick-knees at
Karen Primary School Dam but nothing else apart from an incubating
Crowned Crane hidden in the sedges and out first of three Northern
Wheatears. Continuing south we found a solitary male Lesser Kestrel.
Above Athi Dam we had singles of Isabelline, and a female Pied
Wheatear, and both Isabelline and Turkestan Shrikes. Also there were
Long-billed Pipits feeding flying young. Athi Dam itself was rewarding
with two adult Pink-backed Pelican, eleven White Stork, a female
Pallid Harrier, a Fish Eagle was calling that we did not actually see,
a young Steppe Eagle, another very large and very black eagle that is
being looked into, a single Black-winged Stilt, no less than
thirty-two Spur-winged Plover that were matched in number by
Blacksmiths, twenty Kittlitz’s and a delightful Little Ringed Plover,
a Park rarity, ten Little Stint and four Greenshank. Two Speckled
Pigeons were along the edge, a Black-and-White Cuckoo was in the
acacias, a solitary lutea Yellow Wagtail along the edge. The fourteen
foot Crocodile has returned to the dam once again but now is fifteen
foot! Along the causeway we had an adult Black-crowned Night-Heron
roosting and single Willow and Olivaceous Warblers. There were good
numbers of Barn Swallows feeding in the Park. From here we left to
return as we for reasons of other commitments we had to be out of the
gate at 4.00pm which we achieved. The only other bird of interest were
ten Greater Blue-eared Starlings at Kingfisher where we had our final
coffee in the Park.
During the day we had only visited KWS Garden, Ivory Burning Site, and
most of the major dams and the grassland in between. We had not birded
the riverine, Cheetah Gate, Hippo Pools or the highland forest, and we
still left the Park with 176 species recorded. Had we have stayed the
entire day, the last two hours being an interesting time in the Park,
we would have sailed well over 200, likely over 220 with all of the
common residents not visited today.

Mammals were not in high numbers except in the Athi Basin. There were
three Suni at KWS garden, four White Rhinos on the way to Eland
Hollow, but nothing unusual otherwise. Hippos were in Nagalomon, Hyena
and Eland Hollow Dams.

It was good to see the Park returning to former glory, and such a good
variety of migrants at long last.

Birding with Brian Finch January 2013


Dear All, On 7th January after some rearranging, Mike Davidson, Jennifer Oduore, Karen Plumbe and myself were kindly transported around the Park by Mrs Watt, who was relatively new to birding but highly hooked and had over sixty new species bringing her to over three hundred for her Kenyan list. We were through the Main Gate a little before 7.00am, there had been some recent light rain with heavier falls three days before but none of the roads had become impassable although the inside road to Karen PS Dam had become sticky. We commenced at the KWS Mess Garden, where there were a few birds showing activity in the sunlight. Amongst these were a Nightingale sitting on a post next to the rubbish tip, a Spotted Flycatcher on the fence, a couple of Garden Warblers, six or so Blackcaps, and the Black-collared Apalis in the hedge still present. From here we went to Ivory Burning Site where another Nightingale called from cover, but there was nothing else to reward us. A detour to Nagalomon Dam did reward us however,  with a Swamphen coaxed from cover and a Great Reed Warbler in song in the typha. Along the back of Hyena Dam, African Water Rails rushed out to wish us a happy 2013, a couple of Wahlberg’s Honeybirds were chasing each other around the bushes and a male Syke’s Yellow Wagtail fed on the mud, finally a couple of Village Indigobirds were on the fence (not usually seen in the north of the Park for some unknown reason).  At Hyena Dam there were twenty Wood and a few Green Sandpipers, and a few Yellow-crowned Bishops flew over. One of our few Barn Swallows for the day was here. On the Hyena Dam run-off there was a female  Saddle-billed Stork, a few Rosy-breasted Longclaws in colour, the first of five Whinchat, first of three Isabelline Shrikes, all three widowbirds in breeding dress and five Yellow-crowned Bishops also with males in nuptial plumage. Eland Hollow failed to produce, and Karen PC Dam gave up a handsome adult Black Stork and ten more Yellow-crowned Bishops. Near the Beacon was a male Kori Bustard, another dozen Yellow-crowned Bishops and our only three Quailfinch of the day. Athi Basin could only come up with two Northern and one Isabelline Wheatears, a Long-billed Pipit, and a couple of Pangani Longclaws, whilst Athi Dam attracted a few birds such as four each Pink-backed Pelicans and White Stork, only two Yellow-billed Storks, a Little Egret (always inexplicably rare in NNP), just one Black-winged Stilt, but some thirty Kittlitz’s and a dozen Spur-winged Plovers. Just three Little Stints and four Greenshank were all the representatives of palearctic waders. Along the causeway there was a roosting adult Black-crowned Night-Heron and a sub-adult Fish Eagle. At Cheetah Gate there were a few species associated with drier ground like d’Arnaud’s Barbet, Crimson-rumped and Black-faced Waxbills and several parties of Speckle-fronted Weavers. Along Rhino Circuit was an interesting mixed group of Ostrich chicks of every size imaginaeable, about twenty in number with a pair of adults, single Lesser Spotted Eagle (horrifyingly the only migrant raptor of the day), and a different sub-adult Fish Eagle. In the bush were a glowing Pygmy Kingfisher and another couple of Spotted Flycatchers We returned via Kingfisher and round to Main Gate, but found nothing else of interest, and were through the Main Gate just before 5.00pm. Ornithologically no surprises, and still the feeling that the migrants are not representing themselves well.
Really large numbers of plains game in the southern parts and Kingfisher, Zebra and Eland are coming back, and apart from a few singles there was a group of twenty Wildebeest at Athi Dam. There were seven White Rhinos near Kingfisher, but nothing really of note in the mammal department.

Birding in NNP 18th November


Nigel Hunter and myself spent the day in NNP, arriving at 6.45am. The day was overcast but mild, this degenerated quickly to drizzle and unseasonally cold! There was a Willow Warbler singing in the car-park at the Main Entrance (the only other individual recorded was one at Hippo Pools, and this constituted all the migrant warbler presence NAIROBI NATIONAL PARK 18th November 2012 for the day). At the KWS Mess garden we were amazed to see two Nightingales feeding amongst tin cans and cardboard packets on the rubbish-tip, sharing this with two Egyptian Mongooses. There were no other interesting species to be seen, although two Banded Martins flying over the area seemed to be leaving the Park. At Ivory Burning Site we found a Eurasian Hobby but nothing else, and Nagalomon Dam had no Night-Herons where they were on Monday, although ten could be seen at the back of the dam. Otherwise a few Green Sandpipers, the Booted Eagle seen on Monday with the missing primaries, and a Fan-tailed Grassbird singing from the adjacent grassland. Along the back road the African Water Rails were calling (and also from Hyena Dam), but the only observation of mild interest was a Red-billed Teal (the only wildfowl seen today that was not an Egyptian Goose). Nothing was happening at Hyena Dam, there were ten Wood Sandpipers, and the African Jacana still present, a few Barn Swallows and that was it. On the run-off we had the first Common Snipe of the season, a couple of Whinchat, Red-collared and Jackson’s Widowbirds were in breeding plumage. There were a dozen Eurasian Bee-eaters along the Mokoyeti River and a pair of the only Lesser Striped Swallows of the day, whilst Eland Hollow produced a Ruff, a female type plumaged Montagu’s Harrier, a young male Pallid Harrier, another Whinchat and a Sand Martin. In the grasslands were a couple of Rosy-breasted Longclaws, whilst the Karen Primary School Dam produced nothing. The grasslands from here onwards were quite dull, but five Chandler’s Reedbuck were on their usual territory, where there was a Long-billed Pipit and a couple of Parasitic Weavers. There was also a single Hartlaub’s Bustard. Some Ostriches had young, and the plains game were in good numbers. At the Vulture-washing pits above Athi Basin there was a Greenshank and a Short-tailed Lark which dropped to the ground and was never relocated. Athi Dam was attracting birds along the northern shore, the most surprising being a concentration of 25 Spur-winged Plovers and a single young bird, which is an amazing number for the Park. Blacksmith were in similar numbers, and Kittlitz’s Plovers also much the same. With the waders were seven Common Ringed Plovers. Also two Common Greenshank, a Wood Sandpiper, a Ruff, a dozen Little Stints and eight Black-winged Stilts. Other birds included a Glossy Ibis with three African Spoonbills, and a young Eurasian Marsh Harrier. A surprise find was six African Silverbills on the causeway, this is hardly a drought year. There was nothing of interest on cutting through towards the Cheetah Gate road, but then came the great surprise of finding a pair of African Silverbills fashioning the interior of an old Vitelline Masked Weaver nest, and joined by a third bird. I had no idea that they used other birds nest for their own, but there it is in print in Zimmermann & Turner….. “usually uses old weaver nests for breeding!” Most surprising that this species is now breeding in Nairobi! Another three kilometres along the road we found another party of eight birds. At Cheetah Gate towards the river, we added a few of the dry country species such as Marico Sunbird, Speckle-fronted Weavers, Lesser Masked singing and in full breeding plumage, and some extravert Black-faced Waxbills sitting on a fence. At the ex-Orange Tower site there was an adult female Eurasian Golden Oriole and a noisy Banded Parisoma. The Rhino Circuit was not too birdy but did provide the only Spotted Flycatcher for the day, and along the road towards Hippo Pools was a stunning Pangani Longclaw, two Northern Wheatears and an adult Turkestan (phoenicuroides) Shrike. There was a party of thirty Red-billed Quelea in non-breeding dress also. Hippo Pools was quiet, the only Common Sandpiper of the day was here though! Recent floods have again wreaked havoc, with very many felled trees in the river. There was a party of Crimson-rumped Waxbills that contained a pair of Black-faced with an immature that showed a pale crown. Near Kingfisher were two Northern Wheatears, and a Nairobi Pipit close towards Langata Gate where we exited… more on that incident later! Several other species deserve mention, there were up to eight Black-shouldered Kites seen during the day scattered over most of the Park, this is a high number in recent times. There also appeared to be many White-backed Vultures, but with them ranging over the Park there is a high probability of duplication, but they did appear to be in good numbers. There were three Lappet-faced Vultures seen also. In incredible numbers through much of the scrub in the Park were Purple Grenadiers, we conservatively had eighty birds during the course of the day. Where on earth have they come from? Another surprise were the Cinnamon-chested Buntings, they were all along the roadside in singles to threes and probably amounted to fifty during the course of the day. I have said this before, the buntings do not nest anywhere in the Park, the only one ever heard was singing from the rocky barren hill on the Kitengela side of the Hippo Pools, so they must surely be migrants. Maybe from the Middle East where they are a migrant breeder, this almost makes them palearctics! It would be good to have some more knowledge of the species movements in East Africa, or anywhere in fact. Rufous Sparrows are a common bird in the Park, usually pairs and small groups around acacias. A flock of fifty feeding on the grass strewn rocks at Karen Primary School Dam was a surprising number, after this we became aware of very many more Rufous Sparrows over much of the area. Whilst we are conditioned to noticing the arrivals of known migrants, we don’t take the same interest in the comings and goings of the Afrotropicals, and what brings about these temporary local incursions. We arrived at the Langata Gate at 6.07pm. The KWS ranger explained that the gate closed at 6.00pm and the lady had gone home. We would have to come back tomorrow to have our cards exited. Nigel went back today and we hope has successfully exited the cards… we shall see! This brings several things to comment about; why have the hours been reduced back to 6.00pm when especially for mammal watchers, the animals are active and the chances of seeing something special, greatly improved? Why are the cards not exited at the point of entry as they always were in the past. There is a tented camp in NNP now, and there will be people overnight, obviously but why should this result in a penalisation to the “day tripper” resulting in less hours in the Park and a reduced chance of seeing something really worthwhile…. And why we are at it, why has the area next to Kingfisher Picnic Site been ploughed up and planted with seedlings, making it look like a vegetable garden!

Birding with Brian Finch 10th October

On 10th October, Mike Davidson, Fleur Ng’Weno, Karen Plumbe and myself spent the day in Nairobi National Park. We were through the gate at 6.30am, and because of the experience yesterday decided to spend all of our time in the northern portions of the Park. We set off for Ivory Burning Site, and found an small Aquila Eagle perched in the crown of a small tree. Though much hidden, it was possible to see quite profuse spotting and whitish tipping to the primaries. Unfortunately as we got closer the bird flew off and disappeared into the croton forest. We tried to locate it, as it was a Spotted Eagle sp (although most likely a juvenile Lesser Spotted), by driving on the roads surrounding the forest alongside the Army Barracks. We failed to relocate the bird, but did find no less than five Suni along this road! Continuing on to Ivory Burning Site, there were quite a number of birds present, that included a dozen Violet-backed Starlings, but no migrants. The only bird of any remote interest along the back road to Hyena Dam were a pair of Greater Blue-eared Starlings, and eight Wood Sadpipers on a marsh area, with one Green Sandpiper. The Dam was very quiet, but the weather was cold and miserable, and the clouds decidedly threatening. On the other side of the causeway were one each of Great and Yellow-billed Egret, six more Wood and three more Green Sandpipers and a couple of Sand Martins with Plain Martins and Barn Swallows. We continued on the road around the run-off finding a White-tailed Lark on the road, the same Spotted Flycatcher in the same solitary tree as yesterday, and ten Orange-breasted Waxbills. We drove into the run-off basin and the rain started. There was a remarkable association of three male Whinchats on the edge of the typha. Returning to Hyena Dam after the rain had ceased we found along the edge a pair of Swamphens busily feeding a chick, (a good breeding record for the Park), and in the same place an African Water Rail, African Jacana and Yellow-billed Duck, also a Yellow Wagtail flew over without stopping. Whilst a little further were four male Jackson’s Widowbirds in full breeding plumage, with one female. From here we made a circuit to the east, circling back around to Hyena Dam then across to Nagalomon Dam where we found nothing of interest. We went down the west side of the Mokoyiet, across the river and down towards Karen Primary School Dam on the inside road. In this portion we were seeing plenty of birds, but nothing of note. There were a few Eurasian Bee-eaters along the river, whilst the inside road produced little but a Rosy-breasted Longclaw. Rather than turning down to Karen PS Dam, we continued to Eland Hollow. This had water, and was attractive to waders, there were fifteen Wood, Six Green Sandpipers and five Little Stints, but more importantly there were a pair of Black-winged Stilts building a nest, and smoothing the scrape with their bodies whilst adding small items of vegetation. This will be a new breeding species for Nairobi, and we hope to see chicks soon. Also there was a Lilac-breasted Roller in the surrounding Whistling Thorn, and a single Sand Martin with the Barn Swallows present. Karen Dam had nothing, even yesterdays Little Grebe had departed. From here we took the road across towards Maasai Gate, and just before the junction 18B, had a singing Zanzibar Greenbul, which was a new site for the species which appears to continue its spread in the Nairobi area. There was nothing of note until arriving at the Kingfisher Picnic Site area, where we had three Northern and two Isabelline Wheatears, and yesterdays female Whinchat and twenty-three Grey-headed Silverbills. Before entering Kisembe Forest an attractive Booted Eagle passed over, and whilst waiting for the Madagascar Pond Heron to appear (which it didn’t) on the dam near Langata Gate, in the pouring rain an amazing sight of over five-hundred Violet-backed Starlings irrupted from the trees and flew off. Along the Kisembe River we found the seasons first Black Stork, a rather wet immature sitting in a tree, and in the same place a damp Bateleur on the branch where they used to nest. We continued to the Main Entrance, and departed at 3.30pm having had a very good day, and in spite of the showers for most of the day, there were breaks of clear weather, and our spirits were never dampened.

Every time you see a lot of mammals, the thought is this is the most I have ever seen in a day. Well today was that, the numbers of plains game towards Karen PS Dam are very impressive, and the numbers near Kingfisher also remarkable. There was a ginger and black maned Lion on the road south from the Hyena Dam run-off towards Karen PC Dam, and two females eyeing a large assemblage of animals near “Lone Tree.” Not far from the Lion was a very large Black Rhino, whilst there were five White Rhino on the road to junction 18B.

MORE birds of NNP


Saddle -billed stork


Martial eagle looking bellicose….


Crowned plover


Hadada ibis


White-faced whistling ducks


Superb starling (feeling cold? Or sexy?)


Egyptian geese


Harlaub’s bustard

529 sp. Birds & Counting…….



Brian Finch the NNP afficianado & bird expert has just identified the 529th sp. of bird for NNP.

Above a Crowned eagle with it’s leopard-like talons…..


Kori bustard, the world’s heaviest flying bird…..


Marabou stork which breeds in the city centre & feeds at the city rubbish dump…..


Malachite kingfisher on the Empakasi river….


The park is a major breeding area for Crowned cranes….


Great white pelicans pass through from time to time……..


Hamerkop- a frog-eater, in it’s element……


There are currently large numbers of Helmeted guineafowl in the park after a successful breeding year: food for Martial eagles (2 pairs at least in the park: see next post………)

Life at the Waterhole……

Story & pics by WILL KNOCKER:

Last sunday I went into the park for my customary’ blog-hunt’ & came across the huge gravel pit that has been dug by the roadbuilders improving the tracks above the Athi Basin.


A large herd of buffaloes had meandered up from the Athi River to the plains above.


They were having a whale of a time….


A family of Crowned cranes were using this new wetland area to forage for food… Brian Finch the birder has just identified his 539th sp. of bird in the park, showing how extraordinarily rich (& unspoilt by man) NNP habitats are……


Cranes or ‘kongoyings’ as they are known in my family, have bred well this year in the first 6 month period of good rain: it now seems set to get drier….


Here comes a black rhino: a male (females nearly always have calves for company….)


Zebras join the melee……


Whilst the rhino hangs out with buffalo chums…..timeless scenes on the African plain…….

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.

Birding with Brian Finch 12th March

An average day in Nairobi National Park is an extremely good days bird
and mammal viewing, today was above average. Having not been in the
park for over five weeks, it was good to spend an entire day in the
confines, although there were not enough daylight hours to cover it
all. I was at Main Gate at 6:20am and there were already tourist
vehicles ahead of me.
My first call was Ivory Burning Site, some half-a-dozen Nightingales
were exuberant in their welcoming of the new day, and a Spotted
Flycatcher was busy looking for insects. Warblers were skulking in the
bushes, but as the dawn light intensified and took the chill off the
air, were more obliging. There were single Whitethroat, Garden Warbler
and a female Blackcap, the distinctive ratchet-like churr led me to
two handsome Barred Warblers and there were a couple of Olivaceous
Warbers. Along the back road were a Jacobin Cuckoo, another
Nightingale and another couple of Barred Warblers. The back of Hyena
Dam had the only Wood Sandpiper of the day, as well as the only
Red-backed Shrike and the first of eight Red-tailed Shrikes. There
were large numbers of Barn Swallows feeding over the grasslands but
apart from parties of Red-collared Widowbirds there was nothing at all
at the dam. The Hyena Dam run-off revealed a handsome pair of
Saddle-billed Storks (maybe winter breeding soon), a Squacco Heron, a
few Rosy-breasted Longclaws, a couple of very handsome Whinchats, a
male Yellow-crowned Bishop displaying to a single female and a number
of plumaged Jackson’s Widowbirds. Along the back road to Karen Primary
School Dam were some thirty Lesser Kestrels, a Pallid Harrier, Steppe
Eagle, a few singing White-tailed Larks, the first of six Isabelline
and first of four Pied Wheatears and a scattering of Quailfinch. The
dam was as sterile as Hyena Dam, though very full. Continuing on to
the Athi Basin was rather uneventful, a quick look at Empakasi Dam
showed that it was full, but as far as birds were concerned, empty!
The approach track to Athi Dam gave up a Hartlaub’s Bustard (the only
bustard all day), a few Athi Short-toed Larks, and the dam itself had
improved in water area, but still very low, the islands still being
joined to the mainland. The waterbirds were a disappointment, a single
adult Pink-backed Pelican, two roosting adult and one immature
Black-crowned Night-Heron, an adult migrant Black Kite dropped in to
slake its thirst, whilst the waders had dropped to a meagre three
Black-winged Stilts, a pair of Spur-winged Plovers, an impressive
group of forty Kittlitz’s Plovers, a dozen Little Stints still in
winter dress, as were two Greenshank and three Ruff. A dazzling lutea
Yellow Wagtail brightened up the assemblage. At the end of the
causeway was a Temminck’s Courser with a chick, and before arriving
out on the Cheetah Gate road another pair of coursers with a juvenile.
Also there was a Capped Wheatear on the plains. It was lunch time now,
and I stopped for a snack at the “Orange” Tower. On arriving I heard
an Icterine Warbler, and after a while tracked down this bright yellow
gem in the profuse flowering Acacia mellifera which are putting on a
fine show at present. This is the first Icterine in the Park for some
seven years or so. The only other bird here of any note was an
Olivaceous Warbler. Just before arriving at the Cement Factory I
spotted a Red-and-Yellow Barbet in another mellifera, and whilst
watching it could see tail wagging frantically, deeper inside. The
bird was the most dish-washing Upcher’s Warbler I had seen, and came
briefly to the edge swinging its rear end wildly before fading back
into the depths. I continued on towards Cheetah Gate checking out the
roadside thickets, there was an African Hoopoe, and I was videoing an
eclipse Marico Sunbird when I heard a rasp “tlllllt” like an
Acrocephalus but lasting a little longer. I spished frantically (I had
done a lot of very rewarding “spishing” today), and an Olive Tree
Warbler hopped into view. That was all four Hippolais warblers in a
few hundred metres! This is the first time that I have heard any call
that could be called specifically distinctive from this species,
(other than the song of course). Further spishing showed that
Olivaceous Warblers were in the area in numbers, many silent. The only
other migrant was another Spotted Flycatcher. Checking the Rhino
Circuit would have been little return were it not for a male Paradise
Whydah. This is only my second in the Park, the last being more than
ten years ago. Also there was a young Red-chested Cuckoo with all
charcoal hood and chest, and widely spaced barring, the only Fish
Eagle of the day was here as were a couple of Tree Pipits. Heading
towards the Hippo Pools there were a Long-crested Eagle, a flattened
male Dusky Nightjar on the road and the second Whitethroat of the day.
At the Hippo Pools was the days only Common Sandpiper, and a couple of
Rufous-tailed (Eurasian) Rock Thrush, another Nightingale and Spotted
Flycatcher, a Eurasian Reed Warbler singing and feeding along the
margins, more Olivaceous Warblers and at last a few Willow Warblers,
and a Red-faced Cisticola was singing announcing it was still residing
here. I crossed the bridge and meandered along the river on the other
side as far as being opposite the car-park. This side has thick scrub,
and a growth of young acacias on a sea of verdant grass. This opens up
into more open meadows. The area turned out to be far more interesting
and revealed a whole host of species, the more noteworthy being a pair
of African Hoopoes with two young, the first of four Northern
Wheatears, three Wattled Starlings, five Speckle-fronted Weavers,
numbers of nesting Vitelline Masked Weavers, a couple of Village
Indigobirds, but pride of place went to an adult male Straw-tailed
Whydah. Only my second in the Park the last being seven years ago.
Three Whydah species in one day in Nairobi National Park, who would
ever have thought it? Interestingly the only White-winged Widowbirds
seen all day were along the river where there were many territories.
Continuing on to the end of the main track I was rewarded by a
Finfoot. It was late afternoon now and time to head back to the north,
there was an immature Black Stork flying over near Baboon Cliffs and a
Common Kestrel near Leopard Cliffs. Kingfisher Picnic Site was full
and on a Friday evening, so I did not call in and went to the nearby
swamp. There was a Crowned Crane with two chicks and two separate
Black Crakes each with a chick in tow, a couple of Black-winged
Plovers, the only Banded Martin of the day, three Whinchat and a Sedge
Warbler making the eleventh palearctic warbler of the day! A party of
twenty-two Long-tailed Cormorants flew over to a roost site, but it
was not Nagalomon Dam as there was nothing at all here. As a point,
Long-tailed Cormorant is a solitary animal when feeding. How do
twenty-two get into a flock. Does a bird fly off then as it passes
over a swamp picks up another then another at another location en
route, and so on until a flock forms, like an avian bus-service? !!! At
the Kisembe Forest Edge Dam there was a Crowned Crane on a nest,
sharing the dam with a Hippo, my first ever in Langata! Langata Dam
had another incubating Crowned Crane, and the only Little Grebe of the
day was here.
So I exited the gate having had a very full and very exciting days
birding, once again in our own back-yard!
Mammal wise, in the Hyena Basin area it was almost all Kongoni,
however the Athi Basin had a great variety and numbers, there were
four White Rhino at Empakasi Dam, and the aforementioned Hippo on
Kisembe Forest Edge Dam. Kingfisher area also had a nice selection of
plains game as did the plains below Impala Lookout, and on leaving
Lions chorused from somewhere along the Kisembe River.