Category Archives: Birds

Will KWS really Allow SGR to Destroy NNP?

By Brian Finch;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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!)

1-IMG_6198 (1)

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??