Birding with Brian Finch 9th May

Nigel Hunter kindly transported Fleur Ng’Weno, Leo Haskinen and myself
on a morning in Nairobi National Park.
We entered the Park through the main gate at 6:45am, and made straight
for the Ivory Burning Site. It was very quiet here, there were no
palearctic migrants, and the only bird of any note was a Brown
Turning the corner along the back road, we were very surprised to see
and hear a Red-faced Cisticola in the roadside scrub. All other
records for the Park have been along the Mbagathi River, and so it was
extraordinary to find one here. In the same place we had our first
Jacobin (Black-and-White) Cuckoo, five Crested Francolins walking
along the road, and a Nairobi Pipit at the old pumphouse station.
At Hyena Dam, there was an adult Fish-Eagle, the first Spur-winged
Goose for a while, and a couple of Village Weavers in the reeds, (and
a Hippo).
From here we took the circuit road, there was a very distant Kestrel
species hovering over the grassland, an adult Black-chested
Snake-Eagle, excellent performance by a White-tailed Lark in
song-flight, three Rosy-breasted Longclaws, the first of five
Red-backed and the first of four Lesser Grey Shrikes, and a couple of
Barn Swallows (the only individuals seen that morning). It’s worth
mentioning that Lesser Striped Swallows were in unusually large
numbers in various places. Also here we found three flowering
individuals of the rare lily Cyrtanthus sanguineus.
Cutting back towards Hyena Dam across the run-off area there were a
pair of Saddle-billed Storks, a Wood Sandpiper on a muddy pool, a
Great Egret, a second Jacobin Cuckoo and a brief Parasitic Weaver that
flew far. All three Widowbird species were in their breeding plumages,
with many individuals in the middle of changing.
At Nagalomon Dam there was a Darter, a number of African Black Swifts
with a few coming down to drink. We detoured to check for the Dwarf
Bittern near Langata Gate, and did not see it, though that does not
mean it wasn’t there! A Wood Sandpiper was on the muddy edge, with a
third Jacobin Cuckoo in the scrub, and four Chestnut Weavers in
breeding dress. The strangest bird was a female Red-backed Shrike,
that had a deformed upper mandible that had continued growing for over
a centimetre beyond the lower mandible. At last we had found the
Sickle-billed Shrike! The bird was naturally photographed. Continuing
the circuit to Kingfisher Picnic Site, there was nothing of interest
there, although there were six Bohor Reedbuck together, and an
impressive collection of mixed plains game. On the road towards
Olmanyi Dam there was a nice young male Parasitic Weaver, and on the
plains a female Lesser Kestrel. Olmanyi Dam of course had nothing.
Crossing the Mokoyiet we stopped for a couple of Madagascar
Bee-eaters, and here noticed two falcons feeding high in the sky, one
was a Eurasian Hobby, but the i.d. on the second bird was a doubt, it
looked dark but disappeared over the trees.
Continuing on around to Hyena Dam again, there were two male Kori
Bustards along the road, and we stopped for two more falcons, one
being a male Lesser Kestrel, and the second flew in towards us,
stopped and hovered and was feeding over the plains, and everyone was
delighted to see that it was a male Western Red-footed Falcon, with
all dark underwings. This was presumably the bird seen at the Mokoyiet
Bridge. There are still under ten records for Kenya, but there is an
undated record already for Nairobi National Park, that is given in the
literature as early May but no detail. Another Nairobi record was one
at the Arboretum in 1993. So this was a very exciting discovery.
Passing Hyena Dam, there was now a first-summer Purple Heron
frog-hunting along the reeds, and nearby we had a magnificent Serval
slinking through the grass. We left the Park at 1pm.

What can one say? It was another special day in the most incredible
of our National Parks.

Game Count April 5th

Apologies for the delay in passing on these figures:I have been away in the NFD (sadly little but ostriches, grantis & a few gerenuk to report from there….)

The following figures are significant because they represent most of the large mammals currently to be found in the Nairobi National Park & environs. Most of all species were in the park looking for grazing and/or water in the midst of a nasty drought which has now, thankfully, broken.

The question remains: where are the 300 odd eland, the 700 odd kongoni & the 1,000 gnu here counted going to go now? (The 3000 zebra are better adapted to living out on the humanised Athi Plains that is the dispersal area nowadays)

The fact is that they are going to have to adapt to living in what is an increasinly encircled Nairobi National Park……

Count was conducted by KWS & FONNAP:

Buffalo 372


Bushbuck 7


Dikdik 10 (the counters have misidentified suni -a dwarf forest antelope- here….)

Duiker 1

Eland 281


Grants gazelle 246


Thomsons gazelle 417

Giraffe 123


Kongoni (Hartebeest) 675

Steinbok 2

Waterbuck 20


Wildebeest 989


Warthog 62

Impala 502

Black rhino 6


Zebra 3071

Baboon 71

Vervet monkey 37

Spotted hyena 6

Silver backed jackal 2

Lion 2


Serval 1


Ostrich 94

Cheetahs are Back!!


I know this is a tiny little image, but it is a real symbol of hope for the future of the Nairobi National Park. Here is a mother & cub cheetah, the first birth and/or sighting in the park for many years, recorded & photographed by Dave McKelvie.

This picture illustrates a new reality:after many years of a wet cycle in the weather & in the abscence of controlled burns, short grass plain habitat disappeared in the park, together with the  gazelles & gnus which live in such areas.

Since the end of 2007 & the beginning of controlled burning in the park, together with an extended dry cycle that still continues & with the complete overgrazing, in this drought situation, of the dispersal area outside the park & the consequent influx of cattle into the park to compete for grazing with the thousands of migratory herbivores which had taken refuge there, all excess grazing has been severely reduced.

This complete change in circumstances have seen the last of the gnu in the ecosystem come back into the park (they calved in the park this year for the first time in living memory), together with hundreds of Grants & Thomsons gazelles:food for cheetahs….

Apologies for the tiny photo- it’s all I could manage after hours of trying to post….