Birding With Brian Finch

On 2nd March 2009, I spent the day in Nairobi National Park. There
were a couple of surprises, but basically the birds that have been
with us for most of this year, are still with us, and the population
was stagnant, there being no evidence of any northward passage. Birds
on the dams continue to fall in numbers in line with the drop in water
level, although the variety is still good.

There were numerous Blackcaps on the way to Ivory Burning Site, and a
few Willow Warblers were calling near the entrance. At least six
Nightingales were at the picnic area, the male Irania still present
and active in its usual territory, but shows no interest in singing
now. Only one Upcher’s Warbler was present in the Acacias. The morning
was bright and sunny, Scaly and Crested Francolins were calling from
the scrub and simultaneously Shelley’s Francolin was calling from the
grassland lower down.
The back road was quiet, apart from two more Nightingales the only
other migrant being the first of nine Red-tailed Shrikes (only one
isabellinus) recorded today. In scrubby growth to the right, opposite
the “pumphouse” there was a Broad-tailed Warbler calling, and my
personal second only Beautiful Sunbird in the Park, a stunning adult
male, was in the same locality (the acacia gerardii that forms a
canopy over the road) as my first, late last year. There was nothing
of any interest at the back of Hyena Dam, and little at the dam itself
apart from an African Water Rail in the marshy opening, but the
resident Eurasian Marsh Harrier female was in residence, and also a
single overflying Yellow Wagtail, Taking the track from the dam along
the run-off there was a male Pallid Harrier and ten Athi Short-toed
Larks, plus the first of only three Lesser Kestrels seen. There were
single Northern Wheatear and Whinchat on the way to Karen Primary
School Dam where there were single Green and Wood Sandipers and a
Greenshank. On the way to the bone dry Eland Hollow Dam were single
Northern and Isabelline Wheatears and a Rosy-breasted Longclaw in full
breeding dress. Zitting, Desert and Pectoral-patch Cisticolas were all
singing in this area. At the burnt area beyond the “Beacon” were
Montagu’s and Pallid Harriers, a pair of Temminck’s Coursers, a
Black-winged Plover, two Northern and an Isabelline Wheatear. At the
Ruai Dam junction was a Kori Bustard and the usual resident
Lilac-breasted Roller. Descending from the ridge into Athi Basin there
were fifteen Athi-short-toed Larks (and another ten south of the dam),
a White-tailed Lark and another breeding plumage Rosy-breasted
Longclaw as was a male Pangani Longclaw. Athi Dam level is still
falling, there are less waterbirds now although it is still
interesting. Three Pink-backed Pelicans, single Great Cormorant and
Red-knobbed Coot, only two White Stork, no interesting ducks, Ruff
down to 45, 20 Little Stint, 8 Marsh and 4 Common Sandpipers, one
Greenshank completed the palearctic waders, whilst African residents
were fifteen Black-winged Stilts, five Spur-winged and merely a single
Kittlitz’s Plover. The white-wing Marsh Harrier rested in the shade
all the time I was there. Towards the Cement Factory, I heard an Olive
Tree Warbler singing, and managed to get a photo and video by sitting
in the vehicle and waiting for it to reveal itself. This is a very
rare migrant to the Park, and I was most surprised to find a second
bird only a hundred metres further down the road. Whilst it is
possible that these represent passage migrants from the south, in view
of the unusual dry country migrants that have wintered this year,
maybe these two have been staying in the area. Towards Cheetah Gate I
found eight Crimson-rumped Waxbills and a Vitelline Masked Weaver in
full breeding plumage, on Rhino Circuit was nothing other than an
Olivaceous Warbler (all three grey Hippolais species being recorded
today). Nothing more was recorded until the Mbagathi bridge below
Leopard Cliffs, where there was a single Mountain Wagtail, an adult
Steppe Eagle flying over from Kitengela and Kingfisher Picnic Site had
but a single Northern Wheatear in the area. On the forest edge towards
Langata Gate were single female Eurasian Marsh Harrier, a dark Common
Buzzard and a pair of Nairobi Pipit, whilst the Crowned Cranes are
still incubating on the small dam sharing it with a young Little
Grebe. Quailfinch were scarce with not many in evidence from areas
where they had been recently numerous, Barn Swallows were also in very
small numbers, but Cinnamon-chested Buntings were still in good
Mammals were so impressive, there even seems to be more than on the
recent better days. There was a lioness stalking Zebra, actually on
the main road near “Lone Tree” using the fringe of taller grass to
conceal it. Domestic mammal count numbered two groups of fifteen
cattle near the Cement Factory, and a collection of sheep near Rhino
Circuit, areas not much visited now with the closure of Cheetah Gate.
Also forty cattle near Leopard Cliffs, so there is an attempt at
reinvasion but nothing like before. I reported all of these
whereabouts to roving Rangers, and will let the Chief Warden know.
Some interesting migrants must be fated to pass through the Park soon,
it’s just a matter of being here when they pay their visit.