Wednesday 24 August 1983

KENYA August 1983: Coast & Mt Kenya

13 August 1983.  Morning at Sokoke with ringers seeing similar species including both East Coast and Forest Batis and Retz’s and  Chestnut-fronted Helmet Shrikes.  Frustratingly we heard Sokoke Pipit but it was a very thin call and we weren’t sure where it was coming from.  Most interesting bird caught was a very long lived Fisher’s Greenbul ringed in the very same net ride over 20 years previously.  Returned to Malindi with the ringers after saying goodbye to the very friendly villagers where we’d camped. 
Collared Sunbird
Forest Batis
Red-tailed Ant-thrush.  After seeing ant-thrushes in Venezuela earlier in the year this was something of a disappointment
Red-capped Robinchat, the same could certainly not be said of this superb species
14 August 1983.  All day on Malindi Golf Course and at Sabaki.  The opposite side of the river from where we’d first been produced some different birds including 3-4000 Madagascar Pratincoles, African Skimmers and an identifiable White-cheeked Tern.  Sadly we probably overlooked Madagascar Squacco Heron which wasn’t covered very well in our literature, otherwise a most enjoyable day.
Blackhead Plover on Malindi Golf Course

Bataleur, one of the few raptors I'm confident identifying!
African Spoonbills
the very dark, squat Madagascar Pratincole 'winters' at Malindi in large numbers. 
African Skimmer

terns near the Sabaki river mouth

some had us scratching our heads ...
although there was no mistaking the dark mantled Crested Terns

here with young Sooty Gulls
adult Sooty Gull
15 August 1983.  Morning in Sokoke afternoon at Mida Creek.  More ringing sessions although we wandered off looking unsuccessfully for Sokoke Pipit again.  Narina Trogon and Madagascar Bee-eater were some compensation.  A few waders at Mida Creek but the tide wasn’t ideall. 

16 August 1983.  Final ringing session at Mida Creek was somewhat more successful with a better tide.  We then got a mutatu to Mombassa (very squashed as usual) and an overnight bus to Nairobi (more room but still not very comfortable).

Greater Sand Plover at Mida Creek.  For a while at the Sabaki River mouth we convinced ourselves that all the sand plovers running away from us along the shore were Greaters while those heading our way were Lessers.  One turning around put paid to that unlikely theory and we concluded they were all Greaters, a view reinforeced when we saw Lessers on the muddier areas just in from the beach.  Not easy and I've been caught out several times since ...
Lesser Sand Plover at Mida Creek, small bill and black legs evident here
17 August 1983.  Bus from Nairobi to Naro Moru, walked to Mt Kenya gate where camped.  Dusky Turtle Dove, Red-fronted Parrot and Robinchat were the best birds seen.  Glad most of the travelling is now behind us as getting a bit tired of buses and mutatus.

18 August 1983.  Walked up to Mt. Kenya Met Station where camped.  Birds included Narina Trogon, White-starred Bush Robin and Abyssinian Ground Thrush, Hill Babbler an d Crimsonwing.  All were excellent, as it was to be at a reasonable altitude and feel a slight chill in the evening.

19 August 1983.  We walked up onto alpine moorland to about 12,000 feet where we saw Scarlet-tufted Malachite Sunbirds.  It was hard going, perhaps the altitude having more of an effect than I was expecting.  We returned to the Met Station , packed up tent and continued down to Mt. Kenya gate seeing another Abyssinian Ground Thrush.
trail on Mt Kenya
view from near the Met Station
Hill Chat
rather bleak moorland above the tree-line on Mt Kenya
looking back down from Mt Kenya alpine moorland
Scarlet-tufted Malachite Sunbird on the lookout
chemical disintegration or unnoticed insect swarm
20 August 1983.  We walked slowly down towards Naro Moro, the last part in rain.  We saw Hartlaub’s Turaco, Moustached Green Tinkerbird. Kendrick’s Starling and Abyssinian Crimsonwing  Put up tent in rain at the edge of a small village near someone’s house who helpfully waited until it was up before coming out to tell us we couldn’t camp there.  It was a dome tent and so easily picked up and we walked further down the road with it.  Soon it stopped raining and we came to a clearing were a fire had been lit and abandoned (by shepherds?).  Things were looking up and we dried out and camped there, very nice.
Olive Thrush
Streaky Seedeater
leaving Mt Kenya, clearing with ready made fire
21 August 1983.  We continued the 4 kms to Naro Moro seeing another White-starred Bush Robin on the way.  At Naro Moro we put the tent up at River Lodge and spent rest of day birding the grasslands nearby.  We saw Ostrich, Black-bellied and White-bellied Bustards, Black-winged Plover, Angola Swallow and Scarlet–chested Sunbird.
Capped Wheatear
22 August 1983.  Morning around River Lodge seeing similar grassland birds and a White-browed Robinchat.  We then caught an afternoon bus back to Nairobi where returned to Mrs Roche’s.
Naro Moro grasslands in unsettled weather
Rufous-naped Lark
Long-tailed Widowbird, it was too quick for me to focus on
23 August 1983.  All day in Nairboi, mainly in City Park and Museum Hill.  Brown-hooded Kingfisher was my last new bird while a Mountain Wagtail was as superb as always.

24 August 1983.  A morning departure with stops at Entebbe, where Crowned Crane was the best bird seen from the airport, and Cairo.  An somewhat more sedate trip than my first visit but no less enjoyable because of it.  I ‘only‘ saw 420 species, about 2/3rds of my previous total, but they included about 90 new birds and doing it on public transport it was considerably cheaper (£480 all in, most of which was the international flight).  Not bad considering that we got the trip off the ground in two weeks.

[blogged January 2013]

Friday 12 August 1983

KENYA August 1983: Kakamega, lakes & coast

In mid July 1983 Nick Preston had just qualified as a teacher and started work in September.  We were keen to get away somewhere but had left it rather late to sort anything out.  I was passing Flightline, at that time a new travel agent in Brighton’s Queens Road, and saw cheap flights advertised to Nairobi.  There was availability on a flight at the end of the month but it was with Uganda airlines via Entebbe.  The added problem was that full payment would be needed almost immediately, Nick was in Liverpool and I didn’t have enough to cover both our flights.  Thankfully Flightline took a chance and booked the flights for us before receiving the full amount.  We decided, mainly for reasons of cost but also as I couldn’t drive, to do what we could on public transport.  This meant that the big game parks were off limits but there were sufficient areas of forest for a reasonable trip, and one that complemented my visit in 1977/78.

The following account is based on unreliable memories and scanned slides.  The slides were of varying quality to start with and some haven't aged particularly well, although the same could probably be said of me.

We left Gatwick less than two weeks later although being told by the UK check in staff that we were very brave flying with Uganda Airlines wasn’t the greeting we wanted!  Not that we knew what the fuss was about as the flights went without a hitch.  We arrived in Nairobi late morning of 28 July after a brief stop-over at Entebbe.  We got a bus into town and found our way to Mrs Roche’s campsite near City Park and spent the rest of the day birding.  We returned to City Park the next morning then packed up the tent and made our way to the bus station for an overnight bus to Kakamega in far west Kenya.  Highlights in City Park were Great Sparrowhawk, Lemon Dove, Emerald Cuckoo, Lilac-breasted Roller and White-bellied Tit which was very common.

30 July-5 August 1983.  We spent a week camping at Kakamega, mainly at the Forest Station.  Food was available there but comprised everlasting beans (no matter how many one ate the bowl never seemed to empty) and leathery greens.  On one occasion one of the wardens who we’d befriended invited us back to his house for a meal and we were very much looking forward to a change.  Unfortunately it was beans, greens and ugali, the latter might have looked like a heavy mashed potato but seemed more like congealed wallpaper paste.  It was very nice to be offered such hospitality but our rather precious palettes found it hard to take.  We birded mostly along the excellent grid trails at the Forest Station or along the roads, once making a day of the walk to the Ikuywa River and back.  We returned to the Irkuywa River for our last night and camped in a small clearing just out of sight of the road.  Just after dark several locals piled into the clearing as a vehicle went past, presumably not wanting to be seen on the road.  They seemed as concerned with our presence as we were with theirs and after a few grins all round promptly disappeared.  We saw lots of good birds at Kakamega, the most enjoyable ones being Grey Parrot, Great Blue Turaco, Narina Trogon, Blue-headed Bee-eater, Black & White Casques Hornbill (very common), Mountain Wagtail, Brown-chested Alethe, Blue-shouldered Robinchat, Pale-breasted Illadopsis, the brilliant Jamieson’s Wattleye and Red-headed Bluebill The next morning (5 August) we got a but to Eldoret and then Nakuru where we camped and birded the rest of the day.

grid trail at Kakamega provided superb access to the forest
6 August 1983.  Morning at Nakurua, where best birds were African Fish Eagle, Little Sparrowhawk, Pearl-spotted Owlet and Arrow-marked Babbler.  Bus to Naivasha where spent the rest of the day.
young Mr Preston at Nakuru, intently studying inadequate field guide!
still, it was good enough to identify White Pelicans
Impala and Defassa Waterbuck at Nakuru
dusk at Naivasha
7 August 1983.  All day birding at Naivasha.   Best birds were Africna Fish Eagle, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Malachite Kingfisher, Grey-rumped Swallow and Zebra Waxbill.

African Fish Eagle, very evocative of the Rift Valley lakes
local fishermen at Naivasha
probably not as accomplished as this one - Goliath Heron
or this one, Black-headed Heron
Red-billed Duck
Spur-winged Plover
juvenile Kitlitz's Plover
Three-banded Plover
... taking flight
Blacksmith Plover - spectacular, common and noisy
male Pied Kingfisher
joined by his mate
males have two black bands and females one
Malaxhite Kingfisher and chemical spill, fortunately on the slide
Great Spotted Cuckoo, presumably the East African resident race
Grey-rumped Swallow
African Pied Wagtail
Grey-backed Fiscal
Superb Starling, deserving of a much better photograph
8 August 1983.  Morning at Naivasha seeing White-throated Bee-eater and Quailfinch.  Bus to Nairobi, overnight bus to Mombassa.

9 August 1983.  bus to Malindi where walked to Sabaki River, camping in dunes. Highlights were 21 Crab Plovers, Sooty Gulls, various terns and Slender-tailed Nightjar at dusk
Crab Plovers in Sabaki dunes
flying with a Curlew Sandpiper

10 August 1983.  Morning at Sabaki River, now 36 Crab Plovers, Water Dikkop and identifiable Saunder’s Terns.  Mutatu (minibus) down the coast to Gedi where we were about to camp beside the last house in the village when Nick thought he’d better go in and ask if it was OK to do so.  He came out with an invite to stay with the VSO ex-pat living there.  Nice not to camp and our host enjoyed some bits of news from the UK.
Sabaki dunes with the Indian Ocean in the distance
White-fronted Sand Plover
Water Dikkop
Water Dikkop
me having tested the water, pleasantly cool
11 August 1983.  All day birding at Gedi.  Not many birds but those seen were good ones, notably Spotted Ground Thrush, Red-capped Robinchat and Pigmy Kingfisher.  We also encountered a large (8 foot) olive-grey snake on the trail ahead of us that was in no hurry to move.  Nick threw a stick towards it hoping to encourage it to go but his aim was a bit off and the stick hit the snake.  It reared up with lightening speed and for a heart-stopping moment looked set to attack but fortunately decided to move off instead.  Later investigation suggested it had been a Black Mamba, highly venomous, aggressive and reputed to be the fasted snake in the world.  We could vouch for the last two characteristics and considered ourselves very fortunate not to have tested the first.  I never have liked snakes and that episode did nothing to change my view.
Gedi Ruins.  Much to our envy an African Pitta was seen here a couple of weeks after we left, it is still very high on my wanted list.  
12 August 1983.  Morning at Gedi seeing similar birds, but thankfully no snake, afternoon at Sokoke where camped in village.  We met a group of ringers staying in Malindi during the University vacation and were generously invited to join them.  We saw some birds in the hand we probably never would have done in the field and at dusk were taken onto the red soil to look for Sokoke Scops.  This was successfully and we also saw Pigmy Kingfisher, Eastern Bearded Scrub Robin and Green-backed Twinspot.
the aptly named Tiny Greenbul
Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Bearded Scrub Robin, superb