By Will Knocker:
Early morning at Mokoyeti picnic site…
The King is looking to have either baboons OT tourists for breakfast…
The Queen on the lookout…
Do not mess…..
Seen it all before…..
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!)
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…
By Nikhil Patel, image by Chirag Patel
It was a crisp and misty Sunday morning when we arrived at the main gate of Nairobi National Park at 6:30 am. After getting our safari cards we thought it would a good idea to drive back out and enter via the forest gate. This is never a good idea as either the warden here has not arrived or he has “forgotten” the card too activate his smart card. Disappointed and mildly irritated we turned back around, drove back to the main gate and made straight for Impala View Point where we set upon our ART café croissants and coffee/orange juice with ravenous intentions (Chirag gets cranky if he doesn’t get orange juice and croissants for breakfast). The contrast of the hot coffee and the crisp morning breeze, carrying with it the smell of Africa, we felt charged and set off with a determined focus akin to that of pack of hunting dogs. The Eagerness to see something was almost palpable as after we had been driving for a while one of our group members (Kunal Patel) enthusiastically shrieked….STOP!!!! We all grabbed a pair of binoculars and scanned the brush with a predatory focus…..alas the subject of our focus was just a bush, which swayed from side to side in a mocking wave. However, in my experience I have found that if something seems out of place, it usually is and deserves a closer look. As I panned my binoculars to the right of the bush a stark white flash came into focus. Surprised, I refocused my binoculars, and there came into focus one of the most elusive and graceful cats we have in the park…..I could barely believe what I was looking at and had to re-adjust my position to confirm the sighting. The excitement was contagious, some of us had binoculars glued to our eyes and others trying to get a picture of this phantom.
The soft rumble of a water tanker in the distance distracted us for a brief instant and as I peered in the rear view mirror I saw it closing in on us. I started the car to make room for the tanker to pass. It could not have been more than a 5second window where we had all turned our focus on the tanker, when we looked back it had disappeared just as magically as it had appeared….a true phantom of the savannah. In a mad panic we scanned the area, but to no avail. It wasn’t until the tranquillity of morning was disrupted by the snort of an impala and our photographer Chirag, spotted a herd of impala dash off in the distance. Making a calculated decision we made drove off in the direction of the commotion. With a combination of some keen spotting (Anjli Patel) sheer luck we found it again walking in the tall grass some distance from the road.
Like most of their kind, this individual was extremely shy and wary of us, I suppose this is what has kept it alive thus far, as it kept looking back at us and gradually made its way into thicker taller grass. We did not want to bother the animal and so hung back for a while in the hopes that it may cross the road or come out in the open. Unfortunately this did not happen……..and just suddenly as this enigma had appeared it disappeared, the tall grass closing behind it like a protective cloak.
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.
By Will Knocker:
Fifty USD is a lot of money in anybody’s book & for overseas tourists visiting the Park, the authorities (KWS) should ensure that they are getting Bang for their Buck.
Left to itself, Nairobi NationalPark cannot fail to amaze, it’s catalogue of wonders too diverse to go into here (just scroll down for more details..) and of course it is Kenya’s foremost Rhino Sanctuary and as such, deserves all the protection it can get.
BUT….is it worth sacrificing visitor experience (for it is visitors that ultimately pay the bills here) for wildlife protection & the need for round-the-clock vigilance against rhino killers?
I throw this question out there for users of the Park to debate.
As a Guide in the Park, my visitors are regularly disappointed by seeing rangers on patrol & ugly structures in the otherwise pristine Park.
As for the pylons in the Athi Basin……… that was a fait accompli…..
What is this tent for & why is it located right next to a major crossroads in the Park?
A rhino was spotted running away from this group of patrolling rangers…
KWS need some lessons on Park aesthetics & what visitors pay for in a National Park (answer: wild landscapes, undisturbed wildlife & no people..)
Not what you expect to see when entering NNP from East Gate..
Outpost at Eland Hollow, out on the pristine African Plain….
By Will Knocker:
A giraffe in the Sosian Valley: King of all he surveys….
Zebras were crossing the Empakasi river to come back into the Park
My favourite spot: the Athi Dam
Nursey herd of Easternwhite-bearded wildebeest at the Athi Dam
Which contains (sometimes hidden) dangers
Eland Hollow, with the city as a backdrop
By Will Knocker:
Things are getting very dry in Nairobi National Park & several sources of water like this gravel pit are now dry: shouldn’t they be scooped out now, ready for the Rains?
Driving into the Mokoyeti valley gives the impression of a dessicated landscape…
The Acacia mellifera is in flower: it only does so when provoked by a dry period: food for bees & other insects…
This is a good time for the scavengers such as these vultures: NNP is a refuge for these Masters of the Skies…not a cloud to be seen
The large mammals such as the 150 or so Masai giraffe we have in the Park are hungry & wandering far in search of browse: they cannot go too far into the humanised world outside the Park: they are constrained…
A victim of drought, strangely untouched by scavengers…
Wildlife ,such as this tommy, stay close to sources of water (Empakasi river)
The wildebeest are giving birth in this unusually dry year: will the precious calves survive? Only a few thousand of this sub-species of gnu exists: about 500 of them in NNP
Nursery herd of Eastern white-bearded gnus
The Plains zebra are foaling too: it’s tough for the youngsters & their lactating mothers too..
The Athi dam is receding & a magnet for all forms of wildlife..
Like these thirsty zebras…
This old Grant’s gazelle will not survive this bitter season
But in the receding dams, new life emerges: White-faced whistling duck & ducklings
Aquatic birds like the splendid Saddle-billed stork look out of place on the dry plains…
Whilst impalas stay in the shade at mid-day
The dams are frequented by thirsty herds…
And the Empakasi river flows very slowly. We all await the Life-giving Rains…..
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?
By Will Knocker:
Black-backed jackals have not been a common sight in NNP in the last ten years.
These delightful little wild canids were feared to have been decimated by domestic dog diseases. The Park, surrounded as it is by the city of Nairobi & it’s suburbs (containing thousands of domestic dogs), certainly does not seem a good place for these fascinating (& difficult to photograph) animals..
But in recent years their numbers have shot up: testament to the extraordinarily large biomass in the Park, where wildlife has nowhere else to live.
At one time, a few years ago the, Park was down to just one breeding female of this sp. after another was run over by a speeding visitor..
Off they go…there were 5 in this family group, whose noctournal yelping “Kwe…Kwe…” I can hear from my home in the Silole Sanctuary just outside the Park….