Category Archives: Birds

Wetlands of NNP

Images by Trish Heather-Hayes

“The grandfather of birding lists is the Nairobi one, with 605 sp. rdecorded from the city & environs. NNP is the nest with 529 sp.” So writes Stephen Spawls in his epic tome, KENYA, A Natural History…& the reason for this huge biodiversity is variety of habitat..


NNP (& Nairobi, including the Karura & Ngong Road Forests) boasts an incredible array of habitats, from the dry plains of the Athi Basin to the Langata Forest in the west..


The most important & fragile (dependent of the source of water) are the Park’s wetlands, such as Hyena Dam, pictured here: full of nutrients for this Yellow-Billed stork (the sewage from the blocks of flats upstream!)

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A moorhen feeding it’s chick


Black-headed heron, otherwise known as a Snake bird owing to it’s propensity for gobbling snakes: this sp. is not always associated with water or wetlands..


Beautiful & elergant White-faced Whistling ducks


A Purple Gallinule or Swamphen (not such an elegant name): easy to spot at Hyena Dam…


Incomparable NNP

By Will Knocker:

Apologies for paucity of updates recently, but am now back in the saddle…

The Park is looking amazing this year after record rains in April May & June.

Yesterday I took a turn around the Park & this is what I found:


Dawn in the Park is always the best time for me…


I found 3 lions: 2 lionesses & a male asleep after the night’s activity asleep at the bottom of the Sosian valley


A Browse rhino in it’s natural habitat..


And a separate bull at closer quarters…


A cow hippo at Athi dam (notice her calf in the water.)

Sadly she is grazing on the dreaded Parthenium weed which is taking over the area…& Nairobi.


Athi Dam: my favourite place….


A ‘tirikoko’ (Maa): a Yellow-bellied sandgrouse


There are hundreds, if not thousands of impala in the Park.

Gazelles, without any space to wander outside the Park, are also increasing in number..



Kongoni (a species in steep decline elsewhere owing to competition with cattle: this is a species evolved to living in long-grass environments) are increasing in numbers in NNP.


Amazingly well-adapted & intelligent Plains zebras are now in the Park in their thousands.

They DO go out of the Park, but it is increasingly dangerous owing to the Bushmeat trade.

Better to stay in the Park in spite of the danger from lions…


It is mating season for Masai ostriches, of which there are masses in the Park: we hope for plenty of chicks in September/October…


The Ngong Hills from the Park: this is Big Sky country..


Plenty of grazers in the ocean of grass this year: outside in the pockets of ‘dispersal area’,  once super-productiver rangelands like these have been converted into a Man-made desert….


At Eland Hollow, I came across 3 lionesses & 5 large cubs watching the lines of zebra filing into drink…


Learning to watch………and wait…..


Nairobi Before & After….


At lease there is some competition for the skyscrapers!


NNP remains an amazing & precious & incomparable wildlife area,

full of Nature’s marvellous evolved bounty.





Ostriches in NNP

By Will Knocker


It is said that Nairobi National Park has the greatest concentration of Maasai ostriches

anywhere & certainly it is a good place to observe & photograph these enormous,

ungainly but beautiful birds.


During the Long Rains, when there is plenty to eat, the birds get sexy & mate (see


Chicks hatch & a pair of ostriches might have up to 30 young in their nursery flock,

which are fiercely guarded by the parents.


Sadly ostrich chicks suffer very high mortality & only  a few at most manage

to escape the attentions of predators.


In an Anthropecenic world, where there is very little space for ostriches

to freely breed & reproduce, aren’t we fortunate to have the Park as

an a sanctuary for ostriches, amongst many other forms of life?

Mating Ostriches

By Will Knocker:


Let’s Dance….


Yee Hah!


Give it to me Baby…..














The male’s massive cloaca…


Vultures: Eurasian Griffon in NNP ?

By Adam Scott Kennedy:


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



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



Simon Thomsett or Munir Virani, any ID guesses?


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


Hoopoe & Frog

By Adam Scott Kennedy:










Treacherous Croc

By Will Knocker:



Marabous all of a twitter…”isn’t that one of us in his mouth” ?




Sure looks like it….



“Ooo-err…it’s Fred !”



Plenty more where that came from…..




Birding with Brian Finch 31st March

By Brian Finch:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the Athi Dam

By Will Knocker:

Pictures from the Athi Dam: surely one of the best corners (amongst many)  in NNP:


Yellow-billed storks, with an African spoonbill in the background..


Why O why have KWS allowed pylons to be built & the ENTIRE Athi Basin aesthetically spoilt in an undeveloped area (ie this would be a perfect place for future tourist development) ? Who allowed this? So short-sighted….


Diederik cuckoo: what a beautiful bird!


Egyptian goslings have to beware……


The aptly-named Black-winged stilt ….


European storks have been numerous this year….


And this is for you to ID: sorry out of focus…..palearctic migrants….ruffs??

Tracks Open Again!


On the beautiful and cheerful sunshiny 13th January, Mike Davidson, Jennifer Oduore, Karen Plumbe and myself met up at 6.30am at Nairobi National Park Main Entrance. The traffic had been smooth, until arriving at the NNP new roundabout, where there was a tail-back towards the direction of the city.
Our first port of call was KWS Mess Gardens, three Suni were there to welcome us. Two Tree Pipits were feeding on the lawn, a couple of Nightingales were vocalising intermittently, a Spotted Flycatcher was along the fence and the lonely Black-collared Apalis now has a mate! It was fairly quiet, and we left for Ivory Burning Site, which was also not too active with a pair of Brown Parisomas in the Acacia gerardii above the picnic table, and a Common Buzzard that we flushed from there on our arrival. An Eurasian Reed Warbler scolded from dense cover.
On to Nagalomon Dam, the male Red-collared Widowbird who lives near the junction, and has been present when all others have departed and returned, is still in this same strange arrested plumage. All brown and streaky, but with a full tail and a red collar. Another feature that marks him as the same bird is that he is unbelievably tame and just feeds unconcernedly when parked literally only a couple of feet from him. There was nothing on the drift, and the dam itself was very quiet. But good news for interested parties is that the young Greater Spotted Eagle is still in the same area, and on this occasion was perched on the little peninsula where the Darters usually perch (and were not there today). We had out first of three different Eurasian Marsh Harriers, and that really was it.
Along the back road to Hyena Dam (still the flood necessitating a return but long may it remain this way), there was a Tree Pipit, and the Red-throated Wryneck seen on 30th November and 2nd December last year, in exactly the same place. Four hybrid Lovebirds were checking out potential sites on the new buildings. At the swamp we found an obliging African Water Rail, forty Wood Sandpipers, five Green and three Ruff, and to show that at this time of year migrants are on winter territories, the same Yellow Wagtails of the races lutea, flava, dombrowski and beema as last week. There were three Red-throated Pipits, and feeding over the area were about ten Eurasian Bee-eaters.
We retraced our way back round to Hyena Dam, and amazingly in the immediate vicinity were seven different Whinchats, with only two other recorded elsewhere in the Park. The Dam was quiet, if you can call a pod of nine Hippos quiet, but bird wise it was not very productive. The same Little Egret was still present, Water Rails were calling from two locations, two separate pairs of Secretarybirds were feeding in the grass, and we also had three other single birds today elsewhere, a Steppe Eagle fed on an unidentified something in the large acacia, whilst the other tree had a Martial Eagle. A Great Sparrowhawk was flying over with deliberation of reaching a destination, and a Bateleur passed overhead. There were a few Wood and Green Sandpipers, watching a small crocodile which seems to favour the same muddy patch. Whilst a large crocodile was being eyed by Sacred Ibis, who seemed intent on prodding it, until one slipped towards it and they backed off, without the crocodile showing any signs of awakening. A Speckled Pigeon manage to land to drink after several nervous circuits. Continuing along to the other side of the swamp we had a group of Buffalo flush two Common Snipe that we would otherwise have missed, and a group of four Quailfinch were the first for some time, feeding openly on the track. On the run-off was the same very young looking Black Stork and little else. The drive around to Karen Primary School Dam was so very quiet, as was the dam, but Eland Hollow had a single White Stork, the recently arrived African Jacana and a Spotted Thick-knee in its usual group of rocks.
Whilst continuing to Athi Dam, we had a female Hartlaub’s Bustard, the first of two Isabelline and first of four Northern Wheatears, and just one Long-billed Pipit.  The flooded murrum pit was attracting bathers with one Steppe Eagle, twenty White-backed and ten Ruppell’s Vultures. Athi Dam was also not very exciting, there were a couple of hundred Marabous giving synchronous sunning displays which is very impressive and 105 White Storks amongst them. Apart from a plethora of Egyptian Geese, maybe over 70 excluding chicks, the only other waterfowl were ten White-faced Whistling Duck and a pair of Red-billed Teal. Of the waders there were two Black-winged Stilts, ten Spur-winged Plover and eight Kittlitz’s, palearctics being reduced to eight Little Stints, four Greenshank, three Common Sandpipers and a few Woods. Three Black-crowned Night-Herons were roosting on the causeway.
Towards Cheetah Gate was also quite dull, maybe too hot for much action by this time, apart from a Harrier Hawk, a single Grey-headed Silverbill and a few Speckle-fronted Weavers, we did have our first of three Turkestan Shrikes and first of two Pied Wheatears. It was much more interesting by the Mbagathi on the Rhino Circuit. Here there were two Violet Wood-Hoopoes, an Olivaceous and two Willow Warblers together with residents including Lesser and Vitelline Masked Weavers. Not far from here Jennifer’s sharp eyes picked up a roosting Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl.
Driving towards Kingfisher was also hot and fairly birdless, our best being six White-bellied Bustards a stunning male Pallid Harrier and a Pangani Longclaw.
On the burn-off there were some fifty Crowned Plovers with seven Black-winged with them, and on the return a pair of Saddle-billed Storks below Impala Lookout.
Overall Barn Swallows were in very low numbers, but plains game were abounding especially in the Athi Basin. We had five White Rhinos, five more Hippos in Athi Dam, but otherwise good numbers of Eland, small Zebra representation and so very many baby Kongoni.
We were through the gate at 5.00pm having had a great day, and the traffic was moving nicely.
It must be said that the roads that were closed off so abruptly are now once again open access.