Report 5

Friday, November 10 2006. Birding Day 8. Lake Victoria, Kisumu, Nakuru National Park

Wake up in: Rondo Retreat Center, Kakamega Forest.

We're up early, finish packing, set our luggage out, then have breakast. On the road early, we have a long way to go today, with lots of birding stops. We head for Kisumu, a large city on the shores of the second largest fresh water lake in the world -- Lake Victoria.

We stop at a spot along the way and get great looks at Fantailed Widowbird and Yellow-backed Weaver. Then it's on to Kisumu. We stop at a petrol station to fill up and use the rest room later in the morning.

As we're coming into town, Christine says, "There's a stork!" And she's right, an Abdim's Stork lifts off, and we all watch it fly away and over some buildings. One of its feet appears to be broken, but it's a life bird and a very good one. It was working some trash. Then immediately, Steve (I think) notices an Eastern Plaintain-eater (a bird) in a tree across the road. Excellent. We continue through town, and come to some petrol stations. Kevin says not to stop at this one because they have "dodgey" gas, meaning they add water to it, Steven says. The petrol they use is actually diesel, and water in diesel is not as bad as water in gasoline, as I understand diesel, which is not very much.

Anyway, Steven says when they were growing up, Kevin had dodgey gas sometimes.

We come to a petrol station that they are familiar with. We pull in and they fill up.


As in Turkey, the most common public toilets are what's known as "squat toilets." They are rectangular porcelain bowls set into the floor. In delicate language, you take your pants down as if you were about to sit on a western toilet, but you put your feet one on each side of the hole in the floor, as I call it. You squat and then take care of business. My problem is that the floors are often wet and my pants are going to touch the floor. Also, the floors and bowl are often fairly filthy. The variation is wide, as some are spotless.

Anyway, I just can't use them. I'd rather go out into the forest, like the good Lord intended me to do.

Back to the tour...

So we're in line for the toilet. Sharon comes out with a sick look on her face. "Are they squat toilets?" I ask. "Yes," she says, "and it's BAD." I get out of line and go to the other side of the building, where a couple of large trucks are pulled up close to a wire fence. There are plants and some grass against the fence. I choose this as my relief spot, as the only person who can see me is a fellow washing his tennis shoes in a dirty puddle. And he's intently focussed on his shoes.


When our van pulls up to the diesel pump, they put a little ramp behind one of the rear wheels and drive just that wheel up onto the ramp, then stop the van and put on the emergency brake. Apparently, this allows air to bubble out, and they can fill the tank fuller.

Bladders emptied, diesel tank filled, we take off. We continue through town, then park beside a dirt road in view of Lake Victoria. We get African Marsh Harrier, Common Fiscal, Red-cheeked Cordon-Bleu, Black-headed Gonolek. Then they decide the marsh harrier is Western, not African.

We get Papyrus Canary, with the curve on its upper bill. We see Winding Cisticola in the scope. Over by a stream, Steven gets a small falcon called a Shikra perched in a small tree -- a good bird. A beautiful Red-chested Sunbird shows nicely in the scope. Next I get a Woodland Kingfisher, but it scoots before Sharon can get a view, so we can't count it, by our rules. Swamp Flycatcher is next, and there are several. Steven gets us a pair of Slender-bill Weavers, then a great bird -- a Black-billed Barbet, is seen on top of a power pole. Nice scope views.

A Blue-headed Coucal calls "Coo coo coo coo" on the right, behind some papyrus. He puts his head down against his chest to do this call.

We get a pair of Water Thick-knees, a pair of Pied Kingfishers perched on a bright blue boat, and a Hadada Ibis perched on the ground, near the lake.

Hadada Ibis

Northern Brown-throated Weavers are building a nest by the boat. Jackson's Golden-backed Weavers are spectacular in the scope. The Baglafect Weavers here have a more lemon yellow color than the ones we saw a few days ago. A Grey-backed Cameroptera gives us nice looks. We get Greater Swamp Warbler and Long-toed Lapwing at a location further down the road. African Jacana is added too, and a nice Bare-faced Go-Away-Bird is seen.

We drive on, and can hear a fellow yell "Give me something small!" as we pass him. We give him the infinitesimally small thing called absolute zero.

Later we come to Kericho, an enormous tea-growing center. They have grown their own forest, to supply wood for the fires needed to brew the tea. A small village of orderly houses are the living quarters for workers. The operation is very neat and attractive.

Rows of workers' houses, provided by the tea grower company.

A worker lays down a bag, held open with a spring. He will pick the leaves by hand, throwing them into the bag every time he gets two handsful.

Steven has us stop at a shop where he buys some cellophane tape, which he uses to fasten his scope to its platform. He broke the holding bolt sometime before our trip began, and its' a klugey-looking scope, but the view through it is world class, so who cares what it looks like.

We come to Lake Nakuru National Park, do a toilet stop, pay the entrance fees (all covered by Steven and Kevin), look at the Vervet Monkeys (or Pervert Monkeys, as Steven has named them) and head in.

We get our second Wahlberg's Honeybird, and in Steven's word, "That's a good bird." I get a fair photo of a Red-throated Wryneck, a type of woodpecker we missed in all three trips to Turkey. A Black-crowned Changra is in the same binocular view as the wryneck at one point.

We continue on to some plains, and get Plain-backed Pipit, then a troop of Olive Baboons. Common Scimitarbill is next, with its strongly hooked bill.

Olive Baboons

It's great fun to be on a birding trip, then come to a view of big mammals, like this rhinocerous.

White Rhinocerous

Just about sunset, we arrive at our lodging for the night -- Sarova Lion Hill Lodge. As usual, Kevin and Steven make all our arrangements, our bags our marked for our room, and we take our carry-on bags ourselves. Very nice room.

Steven has us set up for dinner at 7:30 pm, but Sharon has noticed that there is a dance performance at 7:00. We decide to go to that and see how it is. Well, it's fabulous.

They build a big fire in a fire pit on one side of the dance floor, and put the drums very close to the fire. They are clearly warming the drums up, I suppose to tighten them or something. It makes for a great scene. I take some video and some photos and we enjoy the show.

Dancers perform

We watch till about 7:45, then head over for dinner. Great dinner, stir fry to order, great desserts, then we meet to review the day's checklist, and go over the "buds" as locals pronounce the word "birds."

We hope to hear lions roaring in the night as we drift off, surrounded by a mosquito net in our huge bed. It's good sleepin' weather, as Uncle Peter Hilty and I used to say on infrequent cool summer nights in Missouri, 1962.


Trip Birds Seen Today (First Time on the Trip): 27
Total Trip Birds to Date: 480

Life Birds Seen Today: 26
Total Life Birds to Date: 415

Best Birds: Fantailed Widowbird, Abdim's Stork, Red-chested Sunbird, Black-billed Barbet, Blue-headed Coucal, Barefaced Go-Away-Bird, Red-throated Wryneck, Black-crowned Tchagra, Lesser Flamingo, Shikra, Verreaux's Eagle-Owl, Common Scimmitarbill.

Best Mammals: Olive Baboon, Black-faced Vervet Monkey, White Rhinocerous, Cape Buffalo, Defassa Waterbuck, Thomson's Gazelle, Grant's Gazelle, Impala.

Best Reptiles and Amphibians: none special.


Saturday, November 11 2006. Birding Day 9. Lake Nakuru, Thomson's Falls, Gataragwa Cliffs, Solio Ranch, Naro Moru River

Wake up in: Sarova Lion Hill Lodge

We're up and at 'em. We understand Christine heard lions from her room. Dangit!!

At 7:40 am, breakfast is over, our bags are packed into the vans and we just got African Hoopoe. Striped Kingfisher is next. There's a plant or tree called a Euphorbia, if I have that right, and a beetle or insect is slowly killing most of them.

Further on, we get Pectoral Patch Cistocala, then Isabelline Wheatear. Warthogs put in an appearance, and we get the very large Mosque Swallow, then White-fronted Bee-eater. The trees around here are yellow and are called Yellow Fever Trees as a nickname, or Yellow-barked Acacia. Ah Olive Pigeon gives us a flyby.

We drive to Thomson's Falls and get Slender-billed Starling and lots of locals representing their small shops. They try to get us to promise to stop in after we see the birds and the falls. We are mysteriously noncommital.

Robyn picks out a bird over the falls, which Steven IDs as a Mountain Buzzard. We take off, stopping at a small bridge. Steven calls in a Levillant's Cisticola with a tape, and we get Lesser Swamp Warbler at the far end of the bridge. We also get a beautiful Pin-tailed Whydah.

As we walk the area, known by Steven and Kevin to contain several birds in the whydah and widowbird families, small boys begin to join us, "How are you? How are you?" they ask.

We get Cape Wagtail as one boy does a cartwheel, and his rubber flip-flops go flinging straight up into the air. Very good performance. We give them some candy and pencils. They are ecstatic. Is this how we bought Manhattan Island?

We drive up to a parking area off the road, and get out in view of a lake down in a valley. We are after bishops here, but get Pale Flycatcher first. Steven picks up a Yellow Bishop, but most of us don't get it. Steven points out a Speke's Weaver community nest tree. We get a nice Purple Grenadier, then study the birds over the water. Black Swifts hawk for insects. A Little Grebe swims on the water. Sharon gets a Red-winged Starling. We get a remarkable Giant Kingfisher, then a Slender Mongoose. A Great Cormorant is on a small bit of land. We get Little Rock Thrush, then head out onto the highway again.

The giraffe is a remarkable animal, and we come upon a new subspecies -- the Rothchild's Giraffe. They look like they have white stockings and are very elegant.

The Rothchild's Giraffe comes in different darknesses, if that's a word, as you see here.

It wasn't till a couple of years ago that I learned of the bump on the forehead of giraffes. This one is evident here.

The diminuitive Kirk's Dikdik just makes you wanna pick it up.

This is the fellow that rubs that spot in front of its eye against sticks to mark territory, I think. It makes me want to yell, "You'll put your eye out!"

We're approaching Lake Nakuru, and see some of the 100,000 or so Lesser Flamingo. A Whinchat is a bird we've seen in Turkey. One of many Steppe Eagle soars high overhead, and we're amazed at how Steven and Kevin can ID them from so far away.

Lesser Flamingos Mirrored in Lake Nakuru

Leaving the flamingos, we drive past some rocky areas, and catch views of Rock Hyrax, favored by eagles as a tasty snack.

A pair of Rock Hyraxes

One of the most common birds, and the most beautiful is the Superb Starling. We see them wherever we go.

You don't think of the European Starling when you see the Superb Starling. A beautiful bird.

We drive on, and after exiting the park, head on towards our evening destination. On the way, as usual, we stop and give leftovers from our lunch to children.

This guy was goofing off, and wanted me to take his picture, which I did. I showed it to him and he just cracked up, calling his buddies over to see it. Such great laughter.

We continue on, and pick up a local guide known to Steven. He takes us to a small shallow cave in a cliff, where a Cape Eagle-Owl is roosting for the day. We get great views, and kids begin to gather near our vans while we are climbing down into the valley where the owl is visible.

Frank tells the kids to study hard in school, and make Kenya a better place to live. He is very encouraging to them.

As we near our nighttime stop, we come across a Black-bellied Bustard. He is really cool. He seems to draw in a huge breath, puff up his breast, bend his neck and head back as if he's going to really belt out a big scream, and out comes a tiny, "Bloop." Very funny.

Black-bellied Bustard ready to bluster his "bloop."

We get a nice pair of Grey Crowned Cranes flying, then a White-bellied Bustard.

We arrive at Naro Muru, which is an area as well as a river. We are assigned to Room 27, a long way to walk, down the river. It is a nice, rustic mountain cabin type room with a bath and shower.

Dinner is barbecue, with our choice of meats, then we do the bird list, and turn in.


Because there are ten of us signed up for the trip, both Easley brothers came. If it had only been six or less, only Steven would have come as guide, and we would have had only one van. There are nice advantages of having both brothers here. They alternate doing the bird review each night. Often Steven will go into his Cockney-accent voice for several pages, and it's the best.

In addition to sharing bird review duties, though, one can be with the entire group, by the scopes, while the other circles around and slowly "drives" the target bird towards us, as we sit perfectly still, binocs up, ready.


Trip Birds Seen Today (First Time on the Trip): 16
Total Trip Birds to Date: 496

Life Birds Seen Today: 13
Total Life Birds to Date: 428

Best Birds: African Hoopoe, Long-tailed Widowbird, Black-bellied Bustard, White-bnellied Bustard, Cape Eagle-Owl, White-crested Helmet-Shrike.

Best Mammals: Eastern Black-and-White Colobus Monkey, Black-faced Vervet Monkey, Scrub Hare, Slender Mongoose, Defassa Waterbuck, Thomson's Gazelle, Grant's Gazelle, Impala, Beisa Oryx.

Best Reptiles and Amphibians: Leopard Tortoise.


Take care, Bob

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