Wet Season in NNP

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After a two year drought, Nairobi National Park finally received some decent rain in December & early January & the effects have been dramatic. Every last blade of grass had been grazed to dust by the 6000 or so resident herbivores & a similar number of illegal cattle, all of which (in the case of the latter) have now died or moved away to grazing lands in Maasailand. Seasonal wetlands provide excellent habitat for aquatic sp. of birds such as this Saddlebill stork…..

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All predators, including the Big Cats have done well during the drought, with virtually all wildlife in the Athi-Kapiti ecosystem north of the Namanga highway  being contained in the park owing to the presence of water & grazing…..

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Bohor reedbuck such as this male are doing well (many of them are translocatees from Western Kenya) & easily visible in the the new short grass……

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Buffaloes surprisingly survived the drought well: there are close to a thousand of these large bovines in the park today……

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Kongoni (Coke’s hartebeest) are now confined to the park because of human activities in the dispersal area.They are increasing in numbers & provide food for the ever-hungry & ever increasing NNP lion population (which is estimated at between 35 & 40 individuals…..)

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Migrant White or European storks, feasting on the exploding insect population (a consequence of the Rains…)

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A dainty bushbuck pictured in a seasonally flooded vlei in the Langata Forest….

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Dikdik in the Silole Sanctuary abutting the park: I have never seen this sp. in the park itself. Could somebody suggest WHY this might be the strange case?

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Mother & calf Southern White rhino continue to do well: we have 11 in the NNP.

Buffaloes Chase Lions

Story & pictures courtesy of Chirag Shah……

On the 6th of December we decided to stop by the impala observation point to scan the area and to our surprise we found a group of lions watching a herd of buffaloes intently, only a few minutes later the tables were turned, the lions were spotted and driven out by a brave buffalo. It was quite funny to see 5 lions including the pride male being forced away by a single buffalo.

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Python!

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Yesterday driving home came across this 12 foot python (African Rock Python?) in the middle of the road. With newly shed skin, it was moving slowly about, no doubt hungry & looking for lunch (which can last several weeks or months before another meal…..)

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Beautiful reptiles, but nevertheless,in me at any rate stirring gut fear……

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Notice the bright camouflage colours -these snakes swim, climb trees, come through the window into your bed………

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Not sure what the nostrils are for: I thought snakes ‘smelt’ with their toungues. Certainly they cannot hear, so why could this one not ‘feel’ the car coming towards it?

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Inching along using belly muscles……

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Into cover, where it would again be practically invisible….

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I think it spotted me……..time to leave!

Bloomin’ Bustards

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Yesterday as we drove around a very green, lush & fantastic looking NNP we might have been excused some double takes as strange objects paraded about the short-grass plain that is now the dominant habitat in the park…

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Kori bustards: we must have seen at least 10 of them (all in one area -a sort

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of lekking ground). Several magnificent males paced about, necks puffed out, tails spread, wings down.

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Handsome chap!

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Meanwhile, in true female fashion, these birds remained singularly unimpressed with all the pomp & continued grooming as though nothing was happening…….

In 10 years of observations in the park I never saw Kori bustards until the burn of 2007 & thesubsequent drought, which has turned the park from rich & undergrazed grassland savannah to short-grass plain….

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NNP has 4 sp. of bustard – Kori, White bellied, Black bellied & Hartlaub’s.

These are White bellied, whose far carrying cry “Kwa kaaa ka Kwa kaaa ka”is

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is one of the characteristic sounds of the plains…..this is the very beautiful female. The male below.

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Birding with Brian Finch 6th January

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
sites.
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

Not All NNP is Green……

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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.

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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….

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The Athi Basin, with the Athi Dam in the foreground & the industrial conurbation that is Athi River township beyond…

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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.

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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?

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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…..

 

Sweet Rain!

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….

Continue reading “Sweet Rain!”