LUTMAN'S KENYA 2006 BIRDING SAFARI TRIP

Report 3.

Comments added after the email report are in red.

 

Jambo Again from Kenya, Sharon reviewed this report, and here comments are in {brackets}. Enjoy.

 

Monday, November 6, 2006. Birding Day 4. Birding Baringo.

Wake up in: Baringo Country Club. Hippos woke Sharon up at 4 am (details in previous report).

There was a hippo about thirty feet from our front door this morning, but it was too dark to take a photo or video without going down on the lawn. Kevin warned us sternly. He said when you have doubts about his warning, we should just pretend it's a pride of lions. Extremely dangerous.

The view from our Room 9 at Baringo Country Club.

We have breakfast, then walk the parking lot for a while. Spotted Morning-Thrush calls as does African Mourning Dove. Red-and-yellow Barbet is outrageous in its colors. The White-bellied Go-Away-Bird is named for its nasal "go-way" call. It's warm already and a hose is running water, making a puddle in the grass, so this is where the birds are.

Early Morning Sunrise.

We take off for the day and quickly get White-headed Buffalo-Weaver, Jackson's Hornbill and Pygmy Batis. Now I know I said we got our 2000th bird yesterday, but after further review, the Pygmy Batis is #2000, and even THAT is subject to final review when we get back home. [And the results of the final review is that White-crowned Shrike was #2000]

We see our first little Namaqua dove, with its long slender tail. It's a little before 7 am. It rained last night, and the red ground is sticky, adding an inch or so to everybody's height as we clump around. A Brubru shows itself as we're walking towards a long cliff face which is the home of many of today's target birds. Eastern Yellow Hornbill is very showy. We get other birds, including Fantail Ravens high above us, on the cliff tops.

Steven has hired two local guides, one of whom he has known for many years to help us. The guides know the "staked out" birds -- birds which always roost in the same tree or few trees every night. We get Beautiful Sunbird, then Bristle-crowned Starlings flying. A Pied Wheatear, African Grey Flycatcher, Green-winged Pytilia and Yellow-spotted Petronia with its difficult-to-see yellow spot on the throat.

More birds. This is a bonanza. Somali Tit, Little Weaver, a gorgeous Eurasian Hoopoe -- one of my favorite birds in the world. We saw them in Turkey. A dark Hemprich's Hornbill. Then we get a fabulous staked-out White-faced Scops Owl in a tree.

A beautiful White-faced Scops Owl is interested in us only enough to open one eye.

The cliff is long, tall and deep red rust-colored. It reminds me of such a cliff in Australia, near Alice Springs. As we arrived at that area, and got out of the motorhome, we could hear "Smack", then "Pdddddddddddddddddddd." The 'smack' is from a wood chopper hitting a piece of wood with his axe. The 'pddd' sound is what seems like a hundred echos, each following milliseconds behind the previous, as if you had a baseball card clipped to the spokes of your bicycle, while riding down the road.

The echos were from the many facets on the cliff face. It was marvelous, but our Kenya cliffs give no such echo, and no one is chopping wood.

A Red-billed Hornbill is on the ground, in bright sunlight. We get Pygmy Falcon, a non-breeding-plumaged Vitelline's Weaver, then a tree with lots of weaver nests. Several Red-billed Firefinches work their way through. We get Parrot-billed Sparrow, a Northern Masked Weaver, Jackson's Golden-backed Weaver and Village Weaver. d'Arnaud's Barbet is similar to the Red-and-Yellow Barbet we saw earlier.

Nightjars fly at night, in high-insect areas, with their wide mouths held open, snagging bugs as if using a collector's net. In the daytime, they go to the ground, roosting in rocks or dirt that are the same color as their own feather patterns, making them very difficult to find. But the guides have a couple staked out in a square corral formed with cactus.

{It appears that the locals frame plots of land with the cactus, planting it to form a fence when it gets big. They may herd their goats into it at night to keep them safe.}

We go through the gate, and get a nice Slender-tailed Nightjar, then immediately an Abyssinian Scimitarbill, with its strongly arched bill. We get scoped views of Beautiful Sunbird -- spectacular -- and Speckle-fronted Weaver, then Little Weaver.

Still more. Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Brown-tailed Apalis. Robyn spots a Dark Chanting Goshawk. A Yellow-winged Bat (not a bird) flies through and some chase it. Northern Crombec, Red-fronted Warbler wagging its tail, a pair of Buff-bellied Warblers, Olivaceous Warbler. Then the guides get us on a great, staked out African Scops Owl. Owls are some of our favorite birds. A Greater Honeyguide shows.

African Scops Owl

The honeyguides are so named because you can follow them to honey, in the forests. They are neutral grey-brown, but the underside of their tails are almost always white or pale. It's 12:15 noon.

The area is flat and dusty, it's very hot. We drive to another location nearby, and get out again. We form a line and follow Steven. We get Black-headed Lapwing and its nest. There is a single egg on the ground, but the color is such that it's camouflaged. If you didn't know where it was, you likely would never see it.

This Ostrich seems perfectly at home in this hot, dry desert-like habitat

A little boy shows me a home-made bird trap. It's like a cage, woven of thin sticks, on its side, with a stick holding it up. You put bait inside, then wait for a bird to enter. It's such that the bird knocks the holding stick, which falls down, dropping the trap onto the bird. Capture. We get Mouse-colored Pendule Tit. {Not in a trap though that is how this sentence made it sound.}

As we head back to the vans, little boys come up to us. One asks Kevin for a pen. When he says he has none, the boy asks for 20 shillings to buy one. Very quick. But no shillings change hands.

We go back to our rooms, have lunch and a rest, then head back out about 3:45 pm. We get two Heuglein's Coursers -- elegant birds, similar in stance to some plovers. Magpie Starling, White-winged Scrub-robin. White-bellied Canary and another nice Little Weaver. Pale Prinia. The birds are falling fast. Grey Wren-warbler, but Sharon doesn't see this one so we can't count it. Hopefully we'll have another chance. Brubru again. Rufous Chatterer with its white eye. Another Grey Wren-Warbler which we both get this time.

We go back to the lodge. What a great day.

Unloading our stuff to our room, Steven gets a Pearl-spotted Owlet. We go down to the lake and get lots of water birds, but not many new ones. One good one is a Goliath Heron. We watch two crocs, edging up towards the big heron. We get Temminck's Stint, and it starts to get dark. A hippo is slowly walking out of the water.

Back to our rooms. Then dinner. Then the day's bird review. Then, walking back to our room, someone spots a hippo, very close. I'm excited but don't have any camera. I tell Sharon, "I'm going to the room and get the video camera." She's nervous. I say, "I promise not to get on the grass." She sort of half-agrees and I take off, grabbing a security guard, telling him what I want. He's up for it. He immediately walks out onto the grass, but the hippo is clear across the grounds and there are lots of trees and shrubs. I follow him, but tell him I want to go back on the sidewalk when we get close.

We do.

Then I see that he's taking us to the swimming pool. The ground slopes down to the lake, and the swimming pool is level, and is surrounded by a concrete wall, on the "down" side. I video from there, and he says, "Come on," in a whisper. "Unh uh," I say, in American. The hippo senses our presence, stops munching and looks our way. A little shiver goes down my back. I plot an escape route in case he charges, and can come up the steps. Which I doubt.

I get excellent video and hustle back to the room. Not on the grass. On the sidewalk. I confess my grassy deed to Sharon, but explain exactly what I did.

Later I drift off to sleep, with visions of hippos dancing in my head.

 

DAY 4 TOTALS

Trip Birds Seen Today (First Time on the Trip): 59
Total Trip Birds to Date: 336

Life Birds Seen Today: 54
Total Life Birds to Date: 277

Best Birds of the Day: Red-and-Yellow Barbet, White-bellied Go-Away-Bird, Red-fronted Barbet, Pygmy Batis, Black-throated Barbet, Eurasian Hoopoe, White-faced Scops Owl, Pygmy Falcon, Slender-tailed Nightjar, Abyssinian Scimitarbill, Speckle-fronted Weaver, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Red-fronted Warbler, African Scops Owl, Brubru, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Gabar Goshawk

Best Mammals: Wahlberg's Epauletted Fruit Bat, Yellow-winged Bat, Hippo!

Best Reptiles and Amphibians: Nile Crocodile, Tropical House Gecko, Giant Millipede

 

Tuesday, November 7, 2006. Birding Day 5. Baringo to Kakamega Forest in West Kenya.

Wake up in: Baringo Country Club.

It's malaria pill day. Every Tuesday, including after we get home, until the course is done. We take our pills with breakfast.

We pack up for travel to the Kakamega Forest, but will stop several times on the way for some birding. We head out and get a Eurasian Hoopoe.

Steven says there are three species of hoopoe -- Eurasian, African and Madagascar, but there are two different types of Eurasian in Kenya. One is permanently stationed here, and the other is migratory. A Gabar Goshawk flies across the road in front of us, but we don't see it. Dang.

We come to a town and drive through. A man comes down off a raised entrance to a building, and drunkly wanders out to the street, seeming to have his eye on our vehicle, which is moving about 25 miles per hour or so, I'd guess. But he keeps coming, as if he's aiming for the front right corner. I think he'll fall down before he gets here, but he doesn't. He starts yelling something, then one foot from the car, he raises his hand and smacks the corner of the car. He's not in enough control to keep from falling down.

Driver Peter slows down and looks in the rear view mirror. A crowd gathers and yells to us that the man is ok, and we should go on. We can see that the man is getting up, and we drive on, aware of the saying that you can't hurt a drunk man.

We get Brown Parrot at 7:45 am and a gorgeous Violet-backed Starling, then a Northern Crombec.

Steven says we are entering Kip Keno country. You may remember him as the Kenyan who won all the olympic marathons a couple of decades ago. There is a training center here. We are at much higher elevation, and the weather is gorgeous. Steven says everybody's name in this area of the country begins with 'K'. Incredible. Wonderful.

We park and head into the forest. We get a straight on shot of a Northern Puffback, puffing the feathers on his back. Remarkable to see. And what a great name -- puffback. A pair of Mountain Wagtails are ween, then a Western Olive Sunbird.

THE SUNBIRDS

Many people aren't aware that the Americas are the only continents on which you can see hummingbirds. None in Australia, Europe, Asia -- only North, Central and South America. When we were in Australia, the equivalent bird was the honeyeater. There were many, many species, all of them with curved bills to access flowers. Here in Kenya, the equivalent bird is the sunbird. Tiny birds with curved bills. Their characteristic is that in the right sunlight and angle, most of them sparkle like diamonds, in their individual colors.

Back to the tour...

We get Grey-backed Cameroptera, which Steven likes to call Camel Operator, then begins to sing the Sade song "Smooth Operator", but using "Camel Operator". My style of goofy humor and I love it. Grey Cuckoo-shrike, Double-toothed Barbet, then a cow bawling for its mother. We get a Ross's Turaco flying across the road. Sharon gets it very well in a tree, but I have only the flyover. {We see the local people all herding their cows and goats into a pit for the weekly "tick dip". It is quite a project with all hands pitching in with the little boys herding the animals to the pit and then the men taking over to encourage the cows into the trench where they get all covered with the dip.}

A beautiful African Goshawk is across the road in a rusty tree. We get Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill. We get a nice little Green-backed Eremomela, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaver, Golden-breasted Bunting and Pale Flycatcher.

It's 11:00 am and we're heading downslope into the Kerio Valley, a famous birding location. We get Red-faced Crombec in a fairly common manner. Steven either hears it calling from the open window of our moving van, or sees it. Then the driver pulls over and we all get out to see the bird. Then while we're out, Steven does a 360 check, and we often get another bird or two that way.

A Wahlberg's Eagle flies over. We get Red-faced Crombec and Grey-headed Sparrow. Black-headed Gonolek is elegant in its two-tone design. It's a gorgeous bird, but we don't have much time to admire it. Grey-headed Kingfisher turns up in this dry area. Not all kingfishers fish. Many, like this one, exist in dry areas and eat lizards and insects.

There is a beautiful bird called an African Paradise Flycatcher, with a nice crest. It comes in two "morphs" -- the rufous and the white. The morphs are not different subspecies. They freely interbreed, and there are intermediate hybrids as a result. The males have spectacular long tails in breeding season.

We've seen the rufous morph before, and now we see the beautiful white morph.

White Morph of African Paradise Flycatcher, from the Internet

Very, very cool. We get Blue-spotted Wood-dove, who has a bill where the front tip is red. White-naped Raven, Bronze-tailed Starling. A long-distance runner in training runs smoothly by us.

We come to the town of Eldoret, and stop in the market, called Nakumaat I think, as if to say Krogers or Vons or Piggly Wiggly. We buy some snacks and drinks, and I buy a music CD with the song "Jambo Jambo" on it.

{Bob and I do our usual thing which we have split up while shopping, I going to the baathroom or "loo" as they say here and Bob shopping. So then I go around and say to myself, he would like these chocolate Oreos and these Fig Newtons and pick them up. When I get up to the check out counter, he, of course, already has the Oreos and fig newtons that he knew I would like. So we buy them all! As I leave the building with my bottle of Coke, the security guard comes running out and says to us "that is our bottle" Seems I paid for the coke but not the bottle and have to drink it up on the sidewalk and give him back the bottle before we can leave. Yikes! Thought I was in trouble there.}

We continue on and come to a long spillway below a dam. We get Dusky Turtle Dove in the scope. Angola Swallow. Sharon and I are both on two African Black Ducks who come in and glide to a stop on the water. We get what at first is called a male African Goshawk, but after lots of debate, Frank convinces Steven to consult his brother and other experts by cell phone. Frank seems very certain it's a different species. And Steven admits that the very FIRST thing that came to mind wasn't African Goshawk but the bird Frank is arguing for. The bad news is that no such bird has ever been seen in this area before, or maybe a long time ago. More on this later [Steven consults and comes back later: He makes the call and agrees with Frank -- Ovambo Sparrowhawk].

We stop at a location to get a cisticola, and far off we can hear two kids playing and yelling. But then it becomes clear that they're running towards us, on a big pipeline. The one in front is yelling, with great gusto, "GIVE ME MY MONEY." We crack up, and it becomes the watchphrase for the rest of the trip.

Not "Give me some money", or "Give me something", but rather, "GIVE ME MY MONEY!"

On the road again, past a small shop called Roadside Butchery. A nice sunset is shaping up. We finally arrive at the Rondo Retreat Center, deep in the Kakamega Forest. It was founded as a religious Methodist retreat center, after many other concerns tried it as other things. But now, it's open to anyone. It's very serene and peaceful, and has great birds high in the trees in the grassy open area at the center of the compound.

We have dinner. Pork chops in gravy, potatoes and carrots and a nice dessert I can't remember. But very nicely done. You don't order here (except what drink you want), but rather you take what they fix everyone. Afterwards, as we do every night, we go over the checklist, to mark birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians we have seen today.

We are in the Caribu (Welcome, in Swahili) House, which has six or so different rooms. The only electricity comes from an on-site generator, and they shut it off in the middle of the afternoon and again about 10:30 pm for the night, till about 5:00 am the next morning. We have flashlights and candles, so we're prepared. We are in our room when at 10:25 pm, the lights go off for about three seconds, then come back on. That's our warning. Two minutes later we are in the dark, till we light our flashlights. {Thanks, Bob, for the recharger because I can read as long as I want by flashlight.}

Very cozy in the rainforest, and we can hear gentle rain start and stop during the night.

Almost forgot: Today sometime, we stopped to observe several wonderful Grey-crowned Cranes, most walking in the field, but a couple flying.

 

DAY 5 TOTALS

Trip Birds Seen Today (First Time on the Trip): 35

Total Trip Birds to Date: 371

Life Birds Seen Today: 34
Total Life Birds to Date: 311

Best Birds: Violet-backed Starling, Northern Puffback, Double-toothed Barbet, Black-and-White Casqued Hornbill (my favorite), Ross's Turaco, Golden-breasted Bunting, Sulfur-breasted Bush-shrike, Black-headed Gonolek, Black-and-white Mannikin, Black-billed Weaver, Ovambo Sparrowhawk, Grey-crowned Crane.

Best Mammals: Cape Hare

Best Reptiles and Amphibians: nothing new

Top
Previous Report
Next Report
Report List
Birding
Home