Category Archives: Birding with Brian Finch

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.

Birding with Brian Finch 6th January

I had my first bird-outing for 2010, and visited Nairobi National Park
on 6th January arriving at 6-20am. It had been dry for the past few
days, although since I had been there last, there had been good rain.
There was nothing in the car-park and I went straight to Ivory Burning
Site seeing nothing en route.
At this time of year, most migrants encountered should be on their
wintering grounds, and not continuing further south although there
probably is still light passage. There were over half-dozen
Nightingales, the only Spotted Flycatcher of the day, two Garden,
single Upcher’s and Marsh Warblers and that was it. Along the back
road where the acacia forms a canopy, there were three each Blackcaps
and Garden Warblers, singleWhitethroat, Eurasian Reed Warbler and
Willow Warblers, and two more Nightingales. Scaly Francolins called
from the scrub and a few Blue-naped Mousebirds fed amongst the acacia
blossom. On the track into Hyena Dam there were an adult Fish Eagle,
the first of five Whinchats and first of six Red-tailed Shrikes all in
the north of the Park. There was nothing at all at the dam, and on the
run-off a female Eurasian Marsh Harrier, two Steppe Eagles, several
Rosy-breasted Longclaws in both good voice and plumage, six breeding
plumaged male Yellow-crowned Bishops, and a few Jackson’s Widowbirds.
From here to Nagalomon Dam there was a single Parasitic Weaver. At the
dam there were a single adult Great Cormorant, four Green Sandpipers
and a Swamphen calling from the bulrushes. Olmanyi Dam was very full
and a pair of Little Grebes have taken residence, the acacias at the
back of the dam were in heavy leaf and had an abundance of flowers,
White-bellied Go-Away Birds, Black-headed Oriole and Willow Warbler
could be heard calling from inside the dense cover but were never
seen. Circling around towards Kingfisher, a Hartlaub’s Bustard was
giving a terrestrial display, a female Montagu’s Harrier was
quartering the plains, the small swamp now has a male Saddle-billed
Stork (but no sign of the female!), and there was a Red-chested
Flufftail calling from the marsh. Ten Eurasian Bee-eaters were in the
trees. The first of ten Northern Wheatears was seen, these were
distributed over much of the Park, the first of twenty-five Isabelline
Wheatears, all of the remainder only being between Athi Basin and
Hyena Dam apart from a rather out-of-place individual at the Forest
edge dam towards Langata Gate. The first of five Pied Wheatears, all
males but for one. There were a couple each of Quailfinch and
Grey-headed Silverbills. Nothing rewarded a stop at Kingfisher, and
the drive along the south road towards Athi Basin provided an immature
African Hawk-Eagle, the first of only two Lesser Kestrels and a young
Eurasian Roller. Athi Dam had not received a level increase, and
looked even lower than when I saw it just after Christmas. The
widespread inundations elsewhere have obviously proven more attractive
and the variety was disappointing. There was an immature Pink-backed
Pelican, a couple of Red-billed Teal, a Fish Eagle calling somewhere,
a single Spur-winged Plover but 25 Kittlitz’s Plovers including one
with a day-old chick, just two Black-winged Stilts, 35 Little Stints,
five Ruff, four Marsh, three Common and one Wood Sandpipers, two
Greenshank, and three adult Black-crowned Night-Herons were roosting
in their usual place. On driving out towards Cheetah Gate, the plains
were arid and birdless (apart from an unusual abundance of Crowned
Plovers), but there was the first Capped Wheatear I have seen in the
Park for a couple of years. (Strange date). Near the gate were one
each of African and Eurasian Hoopoes, eight Speckle-fronted Weavers
and a female House Sparrow. At the “Orange” mast was the only Eurasian
Rock Thrush of the day. There was little on the return, a male Pallid
Harrier was scattering Red-capped Larks and Grassland Pipits, and the
very extensive and attractive short-grass plains festooned with game,
had two male Kori Bustards ostentatiously parading themselves. Near
the Langata gate both forest edge dams are full, there was the only
Common Buzzard of the day, the latter still dam is still attractive to
a pair of Crowned Cranes, but their island nearly under water. There
were four other pairs of cranes seen today, all on potential nest
Amazingly not a single Barn Swallow was seen!
Mammals were mainly concentrated on the short grass plains beyond the
“Beacon” and extending to Athi Basin. There were scattered groups but
this was the major concentration. The numerous game that has
frequented Hyena Dam has all moved out apart from a couple of Kongoni.
More interesting mammals today were a Steinbok in Athi Basin, six
Mountain Reedbuck including a young animal in their usual place, a
Hippo feeding in the grassland around Nagalomon Dam in the evening,
and five White Rhinos including the new calf. For the first time in
the past seven visits I failed to see any Lions. There were no mammals
recorded that were not native.
A good start to the New Year, though nothing too unexpected

Birding with Brian Finch 25th November

Mike Davidson kindly conducted Heather Elkin, Karen Plumbe and myself
around Nairobi National Park on 25th November 2009.
We met at 6-30am at the Main Entrance, there had been light rain, and
this continued as we drove down to the Ivory Burning Site but soon
cleared up for the remainder of the day which for much of the time was
At Ivory Burning Site there were a few migrants, but the hoped for
fall didn’t eventuate and the migrant presence was rather poor. There
were a few Eurasian Bee-eaters calling somewhere, many Nightingales
and one Sprosser in the bushes, several Willow Warblers, a Garden
Warbler, the first of three Spotted Flycatchers met with today, a Tree
Pipit and a trio of Northern Hobbies in the area.
Along the back road, a Croaking Cisticola was a surprise in this part
of the Park, a few more Nightingales, a Marsh Warbler and a Black
Rhino with a calf suddenly appeared before us and gave us a mock
charge with considerable snorting. We lost our concentration on a
small group of birds that were mobbing something cheer-led by a
Moustached Warbler! At Hyena Dam there were a Spur-winged Goose, two
Common Kestrels, a couple of Eurasian Marsh Harriers and a flock of
Jackson’s Widowbirds. On the circuit through the run-off and back
round to Hyena Dam we found a Squacco Heron, two Great Egrets, a Fish
Eagle, two males and a female-type Pallid Harriers, a couple of Common
Buzzards, a pair of displaying Kori Bustards, a couple of Common Snipe
dropped into cover, at least eight Rosy-breasted Longclaws (and others
elsewhere), five Whinchats, the first of only three Red-tailed Shrikes
all day, and a couple of Parasitic Weavers. We passed birdless
Nagalomon and Olmanyi Dams across to Kingfisher Picnic Site. In this
area we had a pair of Eurasian Rollers, the first of eight Isabelline,
first of five Northern and first of four Pied Wheatears. At the site
a very attractive pale-phase Booted Eagle came over low, and disturbed
some Black-winged Plovers that we did not see. The female
Saddle-billed Stork was at the neighbouring swamp and a Green
Sandpiper. Driving around to Hippo Pools area, we had an adult
Black-chested Snake-Eagle, then we stopped at the ford below Baboon
Cliffs to look for the Finfoot that we did not find, but there was a
single Mountain Wagtail and a Nightingale. Whilst we waited the Parks
third record of Grey-olive Greenbul appeared and started displaying
with wing and body shivering in a horizontal pose, there was one
calling somewhere above the car, so the bird was not alone. Athi Dam
was low but we had an immature White Pelican, only one adult
Black-crowned Night-Heron, a dozen White-faced Whistling-Ducks, a pair
of Red-billed Teal, three Hottentot Teal, six Northern Shoveler, the
same five Avocet and Black-winged Stilt, on Spur-winged and fifteen
Kittlitz’s Plovers, fifteen Little Stint, one Ruff, ten Marsh and
three Common Sandpipers, three Greenshank and a Fish Eagle.
At Hippo Pools the first bird we looked at was a bird I had never seen
in the Park before, although it is found almost all around Nairobi, a
Green Wood-Hoopoe was feeding on a trunk and the shiny green back was
very obvious. Then, only thirty metres away a pair of Violet
Wood-hoopoes were feeding young in a nest in a dead tree! There were
single Greenshank, Green and Common Sandpipers along the river, a
number of Nightingales, a few Willow Warblers and a singing Red-faced
Cisticola. On the drive back there was a Long-billed Pipit on the Athi
Basin ridge, and in short grass there were a pair of Temminck’s
Coursers and a Hartlaub’s Bustard near the “Beacon.” There were a few
Barn Swallows but only in the northern parts.
The more interesting mammals were five Black and eight White
Rhinoceros, five Mountain Reedbuck, a Side-striped Ground-Squirrel
below Baboon Cliffs and an Egyptian Mongoose near Hyena Dam run-off.
There were plenty of plains game all through the Park and about fifty
cows were in the Athi basin.
We were through the gate at 4-15pm having had a great day

Birding with Brian Finch 14th November

After an absence of six weeks, I was looking forward to getting back
into Nairobi National Park, when a visit was suggested by Rupert
Watson the previous evening.
There had been much bad news relating to the invasion of the Maasai
and their cattle on the net of late, and the indifference of KWS. We
spent the whole of Friday 13th November in the Park, and this is what
we found.
Wild mammals were in very impressive numbers scattered in large
concentrations in various corners of the Park but the numbers coming
in to drink at Karen Primary School Dam was most impressive. The north
is grassy and attractive, but parts of the southern parts still arid
and very bare though some new grass shoots are appearing. In spite of
the greenery many dams are dry, Forest Edge, Empakasi and Langata have
all but gone with just damp mud remaining.
We saw cattle only in the south-east and all day no more than forty
were seen, whilst dead cattle were at least three times this. Of the
native mammals, the only mortality was a Giraffe near Kingfisher, and
this could have been weeks old, and totally unrelated to any drought
problems. It would appear that KWS may have been pushing the herds
out, or that the people have recognised a futility of incursion as the
cattle are not able to survive the drought anyway, contrary to the
endemic plains game. It’s still a fantastic destination… do not be put
off by anything you may hear.

We arrived about 6:40am and made for the Ivory Burning Site. Here we
found a few migrants, one of the Upcher’s Warblers is back in it’s
Acacia gerardii already, and will probably stay there for the next six
months, and a Tree Pipit flew over calling. There were two
Nightingales, but no sign of Willow Warblers or Spotted Flycatchers. A
Giant Kingfisher was calling on Nagalomon dam, and an African
Firefinch feeding under the scrub.
From here we drove along the road to the back of Hyena Dam, and found
an Eurasian Hobby, Red-backed Shrike (the first of three seen today),
and a Red-tailed Shrike (the first of eight), non-palearctics
consisted of a Rufous-crowned Roller, and a noisy Nairobi Pipit
singing from the roof of the Pump House. At Hyena Dam there has been a
remarkable die back of Typha resulting in some superb looking habitat
and total visibility of the open water. The die off seems natural, and
the same situation showed at other clumps in the Park. Possibly all of
the reeds were of the same age, and have run their course. We saw an
Eurasian Marsh Harrier, two Green Sandpipers ( many of both Green and
Common Sandpipers were seen in many parts of the Park), a few Barn
Swallows (only five all day) and an African Jacana with a
Rosy-breasted Longclaw singing in the adjacent grassland where there
were mixed Yellow-billed and Black Kites.
Taking the run-off we found two each of Great and Yellow-billed
Egrets, sixteen Common Snipe, two Whinchats (the first of four seen),
a male Pallid and two Montagu’s Harriers, additionally on the back
road into Karen Primary School Dam, a displaying Kori Bustard, the
first of ten Isabelline and first of three Northern Wheatears. At the
dam were single Greenshank and Green Sandpiper. Two female flava
Yellow Wagtails trailed the mammals.
Nothing additional was seen on the way to Empakasi Dam where we found
an adult male Pied Wheatear. There is still water in Athi Dam and
this was proving attractive to waterside species. As in the previous
two seasons Pied Avocets have arrived, there were seven present. The
possibility of these regular visitors being palearctic migrants cannot
be ruled out. There were also eight Black-winged Stilts and a
Spur-winged Plover. Palearctic waders consisted of two Greenshank,
seven Marsh, three Common Sandpipers and ten Little Stints. Ducks were
very low but nine Northern Shovelers were present. Other species were
an Eurasian Marsh Harrier and six Yellow-throated Sandgrouse. Along
the river on the Rhino Circuit was the only Spotted Flycatcher of the
Next came the Hippo Pools walk, personally I have nearly always come
away from here disappointed. Not this time though! There was a nice
pair of Finfoots (feet?) on the river. There was a male Blue-capped
Cordon-bleu in low scrub along the river and whilst pointing this out
to Rupert I saw another movement and on checking this found that it
was an African Penduline-Tit. My first in the Park, but there is a
historical Van Someren record from about forty years ago. A pair of
adult Fish Eagles were in the figs, one barely adult having a flew
black splotches on the breast. Two Violet Woodhoopoes might already be
planning on another family, a male Namaqua Dove flew over as did
Eurasian Bee-eaters. There were two Nightingales, a single Sprosser
and the only Willow Warbler of the day. On the return we bumped into
the tame solitary African Penduline-tit again, and had a very noisy
pair of Red-faced Cisticolas.
It was quiet and hot across the southern parts towards Kingfisher
Picnic Site. Near here we found an adult Black Stork, and adult
blackish Steppe Eagle, more wheatears and shrikes, and on the small
swamp near the site which is another place that usually rewards nada
were a female Saddle-billed Stork which we watched catch many
Louisiana Crayfish and swallow them whole. I had no idea that they
(crayfish) were in the Park, two Yellow-billed Ducks shared the swamp
margins with seven Wood Sandpipers, whilst a female type Eurasian
Rock-Thrush bounded on the boulders. There is a new track alongside
the small swamp and well worth a look, we found a Lion hiding in the
reeds there.
We left at 4-30pm not visiting the Nagalomon or Olmanyi Dams or the forest.

We had a superb time, and were most relieved to see the major
reduction in the incursion of domestic livestock.