New Male Lion in Nairobi National Park?

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Is this the face of a new dominant male in amongst the lions of Nairobi National Park?

For the last couple of years the single pride that exists in the park has been dominated by Ujonjo, a dark-maned adult male in his prime. Other males are younger & are probably Ujonjo’s sons or young brothers.One is distinctive in that he has a kinked tail.

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Lion genetics are of great importance,because as recently as 2005 there were only 6 adult lions in total in the park, which included but one adult male. Now we are in the happy position of having at least 2 adult males competing for the attentions of the adult lionesses amongst the estimated 24 (25 if you count the subject of this blog..) lions in the park today.

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One possibility is that the lion population is fragmenting into the 2 separate prides that traditionally held sway in the park. The average population of lions has historically been about 30, so we are getting up close to that healthy figure.

The question remains as to the identity of the tawny maned stranger. Is he a grown up youngster (he certainly doesn’t look like it) or is it possible that he has come in from the fast shrinking & nowadays thoroughly humanised dispersal area outside the park?

Can anybody out there shed light on this question?

In the meantime, here is the new boy on the block, marking his territory.

Photos by park  & lion afficianado Rob Allen. Thanks Rob!

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Birding with Brian Finch April 1st

I entered through the Main Entrance of Nairobi National Park at 6:30
am, and with no distractions along the road, made straight for Ivory
Burning Site.
There had been some showers during the night, but little compared to
the previous evening, nevertheless the place had a fresh feel, even
though it was cold and overcast. I decided just to stay in the
northern section rather than go down to the southern end as well. So
only a fraction of the Park was covered.
At the Ivory Site, there were at least eight Nightingales, a couple of
Spotted Flycatchers (and another eight seen), the two Upcher’s
Warblers were in their usual trees, as was a single Willow Warbler
(although another eight met with elsewhere), and two Garden Warblers.
Four Red-backed Shrike were in the clearing, the first of over
seventy, whilst a Black Stork, Eurasian Marsh Harrier, three Tree
Pipits and two Yellow Wagtails flew overhead. There were large numbers
of Barn Swallows, which had probably roosted on adjacent Nagalomon
Dam. Along the back road there was a Eurasian Reed Warbler where one
had wintered, two Whitethroat, three more Nightingales, two Red-tailed
Shrikes (only two others seen), and a pair of Brown Parisomas in the
canopy forming Acacia gerardii. There were several small groups of
Wattled Starlings which have been absent for a while. At the back of
Hyena Dam was the first of the returning Eurasian Cuckoos, and a
Whinchat. At the dam, the African Jacana was still present, another
Eurasian Marsh Harrier flew over, and two sub-adult Fish Eagles were
hunting over the area, finally a Sedge Warbler was singing from the
bulrushes. Circling around towards the Mokoyiet Bridge, another (or
the same) Black Stork flew down the river, there were at least four
Rosy-breasted Longclaws sitting up singing and displaying, and the
first of a dozen Lesser Grey Shrikes was seen. Carrying on to Olmanyi
Dam, there were five Common Snipe and a Wood Sandpiper, a Northern
Hobby flew over, there was a hunting female Montagu’s Harrier, and six
African Silverbills. Taking the long grassy stretch between the dam
heading towards Kingfisher Picnic Site, there were ten Lesser
Kestrels, two Eurasian Rollers, a very smart male Whinchat and two
Parasitic Weavers, whilst the picnic site revealed males of Eurasian
Rock Thrush and Northern Wheatear, and another Upcher’s Warbler. In
Kisembe Forest there was little to be seen, although a Nairobi Pipit
was displaying in a glade where there has been a territory most years.
The Crowned Cranes were tending their two chicks at the Langata forest
edge dam, whilst a fairly indifferent immature Martial Eagle sat on
top of a tree very close by. Instead of heading out at Langata Gate, I
thought I would investigate the scrub on the other side of the
clearing. At the first dam, there was a very impressive display of
water lilies, all the better with a very handsome adult Black Stork.
Not far past here is a small turning to another dam on the left, which
was more like a very large puddle, however it had scrub growing at its
edge and so was worth checking for birds coming in to drink. I arrived
here at mid-day, but did not leave until after 4-00pm it was so
fascinating. Amongst the thirsty residents, Tambourine Doves,
Hartlaub’s Turaco, Yellow-whiskered and Cabanis Greenbuls, and a
Violet-backed Starling slaked their thirst as well as a very
impressive assortment of commoner species, but the interesting birds
were the migrants, there were anything between fifteen and fifty
Garden Warblers, very difficult to count as they were constantly
arriving and departing, with never more than seven drinking at the
same time, with these were one each male and female Blackcap, a
Whitethroat and a female Barred Warbler. The first time I have ever
seen this species on the ground! All of the birds returned several
times during the course of the afternoon. A Spotted Flycatcher also
came in, single Common Buzzard and Eurasian Marsh Harrier passed
overhead, and six Eurasian Bee-eaters paid a short visit.
Barn Swallows were passing over all day, and many were resting in the
grasslands, whilst Quailfinch were present at any of the dams, and
seemed to have returned, at least in small numbers.
It was a very good day for migrants, with an excellent variety
although raptors were decidedly poor. A few more weeks of passage,
although after another week numbers will drop daily exponentially
until we say farewell to the last Lesser Grey Shrike!

Athi Dam

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Waterbuck are not a species you would associate with the present dry conditions, but the population in the Athi Basin seems to be OK judging by the furry creatures pictured above.

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The Athi Dam is the biggest dam (by area) in the Nairobi National Park, but getting less so. In the last few days there have been storms over the Athi River town area & I can only hope that this included the Athi Basin, in which case the dam might have caught some precious water.

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Thirsty gnu trek in from miles around to drink at the fast receding waters. The only other water source is at the western end of the Park (Hyena & Nangolomon dams, Olomanyi is fast drying up) in the Mokoyeti stream. The Empakasi River (the southern boundary of the park), which means “Always Running” in the Maa language, has stopped running & is a series of stagnant pools…..

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The Athi Dam -a truly magical spot where there is ALWAYS something interesting to observe-provides a precious aquatic habitat for water birds such as this Black-winged Stilt.

Below, wildebeest trek in…….

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