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Category Archives: Rains
Story & pictures by DAVE MCKELVIE:
Came across 3 lions who were in the process of killing a buffalo
A very large buffalo
2 large males and a female, just next to 4b, they will still be there as they have a lot to eat
Female and a male at back end feasting
Large male had a hold on snout and paws round horns suffocating the buff
Large male buff was still alive, kicking a bit and trying to move his head, but was already weak and on his last breath
The Rains on the Savannah brings a time of great plenty & this year this process has been quite exceptional! Guinea fowl (amongst many other sp. of birds) have been able to nest TWICE this season: look at all them chicks!
It has been raining on & off since the beginning of the year, with 6 inches in the last week alone!
The Park is a sea of grass, all the dams are full & the wetlands brimming with water…
It’s difficult to see wildlife in the long grass & the predators are hungry as much of the wildlife has migrated out of the Park…
The other day I noticed hundreds of ethereal enormous white birds wheeling into treetops on the ridge opposite the Silole Sanctuary……..NOT the usual common egrets….
Taking shelter from the storms: they stayed all night…..
Great White Pelicans…..
Hundreds of them, from the Rift Valley, investigating the huge areas of Kenya that are currently flooded….like Spirits of the Wet….
The sun comes out briefly from time to time….
Most wildlife, such as these Plains zebra, are in the Athi Basin & on the Sheep & Goat land adjacent to the Park.
Many kongoni (especially bulls on their territories) remain in the Park….Yellow -Necked francolin in the foreground.
The Lightning Bird in his element, hunting frogs…….
What on earth is this weird design?
Extraordinary neck contusion & vocally a quiet ‘click!’ then a slightly louder ‘pop’ followed by a deep mooing boom…..
A male Hartlaub’s (or Maasai -this sp. only occurs in or nearby Maasailand!) Bustard trying to impress an invisible female hidden in the grass nearby…
What do I look like from behind?
The things we do to TRY & impress…..
Rain has been falling in NNP since January & was particularly heavy over Easter…wet weather often means it is unusually clear & for a few minutes last week the mass of Mount Kenya (17,000 foot) was visible over the usual smog of the Industrial Area. On a VERY clear day one can also see Mt Kilimanjaro far to the south……
A Crowned Eagle in the Langata forest. At least one pair of these magnificent forest eagles nests in the park. Leopards of the air (notice talons in this pic), these birds eat fully grown monkeys & small antelope……
All over the park, seasonal wetlands brim with water & with life.
Water lilies in the top Langata dam. Brian Finch reports at least 8 pairs of Crowned Cranes (see previous post) have raised chicks in the park this season & conditions are so fecund most pairs have managed to raise more than one chick!
Apart from resident large mammal sp : giraffe, buffalo & rhino & the kongoni that have now decided to stay in the park permanently, the most numerous sp., plains zebra, are mostly out of the park now. Out of an estimated population of 4,000, only a few hundred are now in the park. Of the est. 1,000 gnu, which calve in March, we saw just a couple yesterday along with a large nursery herd of eland (see above) in the Athi Basin where most wildlife is now concentrated owing to the short grass & proximity of the fast diminishing ‘dispersal area’.
The Athi Dam -nearly empty in the drought -is now full up, though no sign of the large crocs that used to be there: have they migrated to the river??
The park is one enormous ocean of long waving grass right now, full of the sound of buzzing grasshoppers trying to attract mates: all life seems to be displaying, mating & breeding as the ecosystem is transformed by rain into a bountiful natural bread-basket for all life……this hen Kori bustard had a half grown chick with her!
We saw several large herds of buffalo on the plains & hopefully their increasing numbers will help to keep the long grass grazed, otherwise the gnu & the gazelles will be tempted to stay out on the overgrazed areas outside the park.
Still no cheetah cubs alas…….
NNP is an oasis for all forms of life, but not least for birds: the park has more sp. of birds than the British Isles……..
Amongst these are Crowned Cranes, magnificent large birds dependent on wetlands for breeding & feeding….
In the Nairobi area, many wetlands have disappeared forever, compromised by development, building, pollution, human interference & so on.
But in the park are numerous dams & wetlands & in each site this year, crowned cranes are breeding!
Above, a courting pair of adults…….
A henbird on the nest, incubating up to 3 eggs……the nests are surprisingly visible & exposed & the hen will crouch down & hide when large mammals or other visitors come to water.
The nest -on an island-how do the chicks get to dry land? Can they swim?
The male feeds nearby -on guard- bravely fending off the curious or the hungry.
Chicks hatch & begin to feed with their parents in nearby grasslands & reedbeds.
And so this superb sp. continues into the future- it’s fate utterly dependent on the habitats to be found in the superb Nairobi National Park…..
Nairobi National Park is looking fantastic at the moment, with massive grassland regeneration throughout the park & especially in the western, wetter end.
In the past, in conditions like these, the large species of grazers -plains zebra, kongoni & eland usually migrated out of the park into the ‘dispersal area’ to the south of the park.
The sad fact is that this ‘dispersal area’ hardly exists any more & the biomass of the park is now restricted to the park & an area adjacent to the Athi River/Kitengela conurbation called the ‘Sheep & Goat Land’ which used to be a stock quarantine area & is now a vital calving ground for the last gnu which have access to the park….
Above, large herds of zebra in the Athi Basin area of the park, with large numbers also congregating in the Sheep & Goat Land outside the park.
The few zebra to have wandered further into the increasingly urbanised ‘dispersal area’ are falling prey to poachers: apparently there is a (Chinese?) order out for zebra skins….
Luckily we have c. 4,000 zebra in the park & surrounding areas, so maybe there are a few to spare …….bear in mind though, that even the resilient plains zebra is disappearing in much of it’s range (see separate WildlifeDirect story on translocations to Amboseli….)
The commonest antelope in NNP is the impala, which did well despite the recent drought.
This sp. are browsers, though they graze green grass when it is available. They do well in the diverse habitats characteristic of Nairobi National Park, comprising as it does short grass plain, long grass savannah, highland dry forest & rocky river valleys with riparian woodland…..
These ostrich have wondered out of the park into the Sheep & Goat Land……
The Athi Plains were once covered in thousands of gazelles -Grant’s & Thomson’s, which have increasingly been squeezed out by fencelines, quarries, agriculture & property development. The last few thousand -of both sp.- are found o the short grass plains of the Athi Basin -in the park & immediately adjacent to it……
Above, tommies, their tails incessantly wagging……..
A lioness (notice her teats: has she got cubs somewhere?) on the prowl in the Athi Basin , where most of the wildlife in NNP is now concentrated………this gives the grazing in the rest of the park a much needed rest.
There were several hundred eland around the Athi Dam when these pictures were taken (March 8th) including this fine bull.
This sp. no longer leaves the park- shy animals, they cannot take the level of human activity & disturbance now prevalent in what used to be their wet season ‘dispersal area’.
A pic of the Athi Basin, where most of these pictures taken (you cannot say I do not keep you up to date on this blog!)
Notice the rooftops of Kitengela township on the horizon……
A seasonal wetland on the plains so important to th fantastic biodiversity in NNP. Outside the park, such spots have been built over……..
Such as in this picture, where the reality of our fabulous park is quite clearly demonstrated: the Last of the Athi Plains, surrounded by the City……
Kongoni (Coke’s hartebeest) are another sp. now entirely confined to the park: they are breeding well & herds of cows & calves can be found all over the park.
We must have close to 1,00o 0f this sp. making NNP an important haven for these large grazers -in decline elsewhere from competition with cattle.
Pairs of Grey Crowned Cranes are nesting in most of the wetlands in the park at present.
Here’s a splendid male just for you, wherever you are…………
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
Here is an image of perhaps the most beautiful bit of NNP: the Athi Basin, in the east of the park. Although most of Kenya is receiving/has received good rains by now, ending the drought, Athi River seems to have been left out.
The result is that for the second (or even third?) year running, the migratory species (especially zebra) are still confined to the park & especially the western end, where the rains have been good.
Above is the Athi Dam, which threatens to disappear completely unless there is heavy rain soon….will the resident crocs migrate down to the Hippo Pools on the Empakasi River (now thankfully full of brown soil-filled floodwater? I suspect they’ve already gone….
The Athi Basin, with the Athi Dam in the foreground & the industrial conurbation that is Athi River township beyond…
The image above clearly shows the incredible paradox of the park: 150 sq kilometres (park plus neighbouring sanctuaries & immediate dispersal area) surrounded by urban/suburban areas such as the fast growing dormitory town of Kitengela (the mabati roofs glinting on the horizon.)
Foreground the park down to the riverine boundary, mid distance, sheep & goat land (beloved by wildebeest & Masai cattle camps designed to graze cattle in the park -now empty owing to drought in this area….)background Kitengela.
The almost complete denudation of vegetation in the park has made it very easy to see our resident black rhinoes, which I estimate at 35. The rhino patrol in the park has ceased operation for the last 2 years. Why?
Two cows probably a mother & mature calf at the top of the Sosian Valley. Notice the notched ear, which is how individuals are recognisable. Not all the rhinoes in the park are marked in this way, however…..
I cannot seem to get the images below to separate!
Happy New Year to all NNP blog readers & you will be DELIGHTED to hear that the park looks fabulous right now after Xmas Rains, which have filled up the dams & got all the vegetation growing again.
Below are a few images for you: storm clouds over the park, a Crinum (pyjama) lily, a Black stork fishing in floodwater, a tree (Kigelia africana) coming into bud, a ground orchid (Bonatea speciosa) shooting from it’s underground tuber & lastly, an acacia tree (Acacia gerrardii) coming into fruit/flower owing to the Rains….