Birding with Brian Finch 8th April

After a wet night that had turned Langata Road into a flowing river, Mike Davidson, Fleur Ng’Weno, Jennifer Oduore, Karen Plumbe and myself met at the Main Entrance to Nairobi National Park at 6.30am. The overnight rain confined us to the north, as the roads were too muddy and treacherous to venture to the southern portion of the Park. In fact we confined ourself to KWS Mess Gardens, Ivory Burning Site, Hyena Dam from the front road as the back road impassable, Nagalomon Dam, Karen Primary School Dam and Eland Hollow which is a small proportion of the Park. We were out through the Main Entrance at 3.30pm, having recorded nearly 150 species. On the descent road there was a Common Buzzard drying out in the beautiful sunny morning light. Our first call was Nagalomon Dam, this was the first time that I have ever seen it, the drift just before the Causeway was a flowing river but not too deep to negotiate, Nagalomon Dam has lost its reed-bed, there only being a metre wide fringe along the shoreline, and the water level was very high turning the Mokoyeti River into a raging torrent. There were over forty Black-crowned Night-Herons incorporating just slightly fewer immatures sitting in the trees along the bank where they were accompanied by a Great Egret and male and female Darters. In the far corner were a pair of Spotted Thick-knees which had probably been washed out from a normal day roost, and were at the edge of the water. Along the causeway was a Pygmy Kingfisher, which may or may not have been related to a pair at Ivory Burning Site later, and the dam also had a Giant Kingfisher. From here we visited KWS Mess, but it was surprisingly quiet, Scaly Francolins were making a lot of noise, the Black-collared Apalis was also very vocal, there were a couple of Spotted Flycatchers and Garden Warblers but no other palearctics, a pair of Pale Flycatchers were on the front lawn. On exiting through the gate there was a male Crowned Eagle not ten metres from us, and quite indifferent to our presence. It was perched three metres above the ground, and intently scanning the ground below it. We drove past it and away, leaving it still searching the ground. On to Ivory Burning Site, and there was Kilimanjaro with a good blob of snow on the flanks, and crystal clear. An Emerald Cuckoo was singing in the adjacent woodland, Eurasian Bee-eaters were somewhere up there, but could not be seen, a Wahlberg’s Honeybird was in the central Acacia gerardii, which were also attracting warblers. Garden Warblers voices were all through the scrub, large numbers must have been in the Park, but they were the only sylvid recorded, there were quite a few Willow Warblers and more than a couple of Olivaceous Warblers. Also there was a visiting White-browed Sparrow-Weaver and African Firefinches calling from cover. Next we went to Hyena Dam, on the way there were still Whinchats present, and we had four today, another Spotted Flycatcher, the first of twenty-five Red-backed Shrikes, first of ten Lesser Grey Shrikes and all three Widowbirds in full breeding dress. The dam was quiet, with a young Fish Eagle, Yellow-billed Egret and three Wood Sandpipers. The excitement here was when the young Fish Eagle swooped down on a Hadada, and the other Hadadas came in to mob the eagle, but in vain. From here we left for the Main Gate to deposit Fleur, after a pair of Yellow-bellied Waxbills along the road, we then went round to Eland Hollow the long way round. There was a Shelley’s Francolin moving like a chameleon across the road on the way, and a Secretarybird by the road edge, and at the dam was a young male Darter, a pair of Red-billed Teal, a pair of Bateleurs, three Sand Martin with a steady stream of Barn Swallows, and at Karen PS Dam a pair of very still Spotted Thick-knees. Returning to the Main Gate there was an adult Fish Eagle along the Mokoyeti, and amongst a group of Little and Palm Swifts mixed in with Barn, Red-rumped and Lesser Striped Swallows were two birds that resembled Pallid Swifts. It was a very nice day with so much to see and in such crystal clear conditions, and confortable climate. Mammals were obviously further southwards as we did not see too much of interest, the usual Hippos were at Nagalomon and Hyena Dams, and we had a lioness not far from Karen Primary School. On the return we encountered another lioness walking along the road, and followed the animal slowly for about a kilometre not wanting to disturb it by trying to pass it. We were rewarded for this, as in the last half kilometre she starting calling a double grunt, and I thought that there was a likelihood she might be calling cubs. Then two four to five month old cubs emerged from the grass, and just in front of us we witnessed the greeting ceremony, playing, and drinking as a family, out of a road puddle. It was all just so magical, needless to say there was a lot of digitising taking place.