LUTMAN'S KENYA 2006 BIRDING SAFARI TRIP

Report 8

NOTE: Sharon has added comments. They are in {curly brackets}.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006. Birding Day 12. Samburu, Buffalo Springs Reserve

In the morning, Sharon goes on ahead of me, as I'm still collecting cameras and so forth. I follow about five minutes later.

As I walk up towards the open air restaurant, I see Sharon and other birders by the river, so I turn right and head that way. Today we're going to bird the grounds a little, then go vanning, then come back for breakfast.

She's frantically motioning for me to come over, so I switch to fast-walk. When I get there, I get on a vulture flying away, seeing it well enough to get key features. "Hooded Vulture," she says. That's a life bird. Then on the sand, eating something is a big white bird with black markings very attractive, and finally I have my beautiful Palm-Nut Vulture. {It's difficult when I have seen a bird that is new to us and Bob isn't there. I had seen this Palm-Nut Vulture and David and I had identified it as that and not the Fish-Eagle we had first thought but Bob wasn't there so I had to wait and watch for him to come up from the room and get on the birds (two birds as it turned out)}

Palm Nut Vulture. Why don't we have vultures like this in the U.S.?

We get an unusual bird we have trouble ID-ing, but Don is positive it's a Striated Heron, and the Easley brothers concur when they check it out. We have never seen this particular color pattern on one before.

Sharon says there are crocodiles around too. We load up into the van and head out into Samburu National Park. We get excellent Crested Francolin views, then a White-headed Mousebird. Steven says Vitelline Masked Weaver is also called African Masked Weaver as we're on him. We get a perched Sooty Falcon, and this is rare, to see one perched. There are large numbers of White-backed Vultures across the river, in the tops of huge, tall trees.

We get Rufous-crowned Roller in the top of some large dead trees. A Black-and-white Cuckoo flies to our right and perches.

We get a high-flying Martial Eagle, then a Grey-headed Kingfisher plus some other birds. A woodpecker maybe Bearded, but we already have that bird.

We round a corner, and there in spectacular lounging position, a leopard rests in a tree. I have included the photo in the Report 7 1/2, so I won't duplicate it here. But it is one COOL leopard. {This leopard never gets the least bit excited about our being there. Steven says that they have no real predators here and have never been hunted by man here so they don't associate the cars with trouble. So we get very good looks at him.}

Steven spots a pair of Verreaux's Eagle-Owls, but we don't spend any time on them at all. An Unstriped Ground Squirrel scurries along, and then we hear, but don't see a Black Cuckoo. We chase it a little, but don't see it.

Along with the White-backed Vultures in the tree tops, there are also Rupell's Griffin Vultures across the river. We get a flight of Black-capped Social Weavers, who perch giving me a nice camera shot.

New birds are coming fast today. We get Liechenstein's Sandgrouse, then a Rosy-patched Bush-shrike. Fischer's Starling makes an entrance, then an eremomela.

Sandgrouse

As a harrier flies over on our left, Steven spots an excellent African Hawk-Eagle on the right. We get Three-striped Tchagra, also an excellent bird. Finally after seeing so many Common Bulbuls that we began calling them 75.1 birds that's the plate number and position on the page, we finally get a Dodson's Bulbul, which was split off from the common.

We ID a Von der Decken's Hornbill, and Sharon and I both can do the ID. Spotted Morning Thrush and Rufous Chatterer add their voices to the morning. We get Golden Palm Weaver and Northern Brownbul, both nice birds.

We go back to the lodge and have breakfast, then load up for another trip into the park. It's our next-to-last day of birding in Kenya, and there's something slightly painful, knowing it's almost our last day. Off we take.

We get several nice birds we already have, then get a pair of nice Gerenuk, one doing the standing on his hind legs thing to get at leaves higher up on the bushes.

Gerenuk, aka Giraffe Antelope

We finally get Somali Bee-eater, with its yellow crewcut look. A Cardinal Woodpecker shows up as we're waiting to cross the stream, way down from last night. A gray Bush Hyrax seems much more attractive than the earlier hyraxes we've seen.

Don and I get White-crested Helmet-shrike, but nobody else gets on them. They are quite a distance away, then they're gone.

We go back to Samburu Lodge for lunch and a break. A troupe of what looks like Maasai dance and sing their way through the open air dining room. I love their sound. They head on back to the outdoor dance theater.

A young man dressed in what looks like Maasai cloth asks if we would like to see the 2:00 pm dance performance. I check with Sharon and then buy tickets. We may have to leave early, but we're going to go. I've been hoping for something like this. I have seen them practicing, and it's just what I'm after.

At the real performance, one of the male dancers announces each dance they're about to do. Lion Dance, Milk Dance, Love Dance, Snake Dance and how the chief kills the snake. Excellent stuff and we're free to take video and photos, which we do in abundance.

{The young man says after every dance, "Now you have seen how we play the Snake Dance, next we will do..." I love the idioms and turns of phrases that we often see here. For example, in the warnings posted as you enter each of the parks, it says "...do not patch on the roof of your vehicle" I imagine that they are trying to communicaate "do not PERCH on the roof of your vehicle" that they have heard in English but aren't quite sure how to say it.}

Turkana Tribe Dancers leap straight up

The performance ends at almost the exact last moment at which we must leave to catch our van. Chuffed, we get to the van, and people are birding around the van, waiting to load up.

We head out for some more Samburu National Park birding. We get Northern Brownbul again and Red-billed Buffalo-weaver. Pearl-spotted Owlet and Red-billed Firefinches, a very good Bare-eyed Thrush flying, then perched, is called in by Steven.

We continue on, getting African Cuckoo, then while trying for Red-chested Cuckoos, we get sixteen elephants up ahead of us. Great Africa. They are fantastic. Peter (our driver) keeps moving us around, positioning our van so the elephants walk right past us in their feeding.

Elephants!

Oh Momma, this is what we came for.

We get our fill, taking still photos and video. At one point, following the females and babies, a huge male comes up, begins to get a scoop of dirt in his trunk, then blow it onto his back. He does this three or four times. Then he does this odd thing -- he sort of leans backwards, then -- oh never mind, here's a photo. He also trumpets at us, a great wild sound.

Big Bull

We decide that it too is a challenge. He's upset, and it's with us. He comes charging at us, and Peter, who was apparently expecting this, has already positioned us to be heading away from him, and he accelerates to keep us ahead of the bull elephant. The big male stops, and we do too. The male then totally circles us, keeping a distance. Finally we leave, and as we're leaving, the big guy runs at us again. It's as if he's saying, "That's right, run from me. Get out of here. This is MY house."

The cool part of this story is that I got most of it on video.

Awesome!

As the sun begins to set, we head back for the lodge.

Paul Simon did this song called African Skies. I've built up a slide show of our photos so far, and I have this song on my Mac, so I overlay that song and other African music on the slide show.

When we get there, Sharon wants to go up to the area where they feed crocodiles at night. We're just in time. So we are watching the crocodile feeding (they toss cow and other bones onto the sand, near the swimming pool). There is a big concrete wall the crocs can't get over, and that's where we're all standing or sitting. This enormous croc comes out of the river, and up to the bone location ever so slowly. The feeder guy says his name is "Bob." Can you imagine? I'm solemnly swear.

So there's a bone on the ground. How's he going to get at that bone? Dig his lower jawbone under the meal, getting a lot of sand in the process? Well, what he does is twist his head, at the neck, 90 degrees, drops his turned head down onto the bone, and snatches it up with his teeth.

The 90 degree chomp

Then there is the sickest CRUNCH you can imagine, as he chomps completely through the giant bone.

I back up a little.

I leave to do some other things, but while I'm gone, the feeder guy decides it's not big enough to be Bob, and it must be Bob's mate or something. It's a female. Our birding group decide that since it's not Bob, and doesn't have a name, that it shall from this day forward be called "Sharon." Sharon reports this info back to me later.

So there is a river in Samburu National Park in Kenya, Africa with two crocs, one named Bob and another named Sharon.

As we're about to eat dinner, Steven walks up to the table with a bird in his hand -- I'm serious! It's a Montezuma Quail, and it must have been stunned by running into a window or something. Steven picked it up off the floor and brought it over to us. We reviewed the rules, and decided that we could count it. It's a life bird. {What other bird guide actually brings the birds to you while you are eating dinner?}

We enjoy a dinner together (after Steven lets the bird go). Now during the past days, we somehow got into this teasing thing with Steven. He says he's going to start a deep frying company that will deep fry different things, one of which will be a Deep Fried Mars Bar. Robyn, who has bought a Mars Bar along the route somewhere in the last couple of days, finds the chef, who says he can deep fry it. With everybody gathering around, she presents it to Steven, who eats it, sharing some with brother Kevin.

Later Steven says he thought he was about to be taken into an intervention or something when he saw all of us around his table.

We do the birdlist review, and I give a presentation listing the famous people of the world who have never gone a guided bird trip with the Easleys. For example, Adam, who said, "I got more ribs, you got more women?", never birded with the Easleys. People are too tired to laugh, though a few of my target people give a chuckle or two.

DAY 12 TOTALS

Trip Birds Seen Today (First Time on the Trip): 26
Total Trip Birds to Date: 566

Life Birds Seen Today: 26
Total Life Birds to Date: 498

Best Birds: Palm-Nut Vulture, White-headed Mousebird, Vulturine Guineafowl, Black-capped Social-weaver, Liechtenstein's Sandgrouse, Fischer's Starling, Yellow-vented Eremomela, African Hawk-Eagle, Three-streaked Tchagra, Von der Decken's Hornbill, Verreaux's Eagle, Somali Bee-eater, African Bare-eyed Thrush, Banded Parisoma, Black-bellied Sunbird, African Cuckoo, Golden-breasted Starling, Montezuma Quail

Best Mammals: Eastern Black-and-white Colobus Monkey, Black-faced Vervet Monkey, Unstriped Ground Squirrel, Leopard!!, Bush Hyrax, African Elephant, Grevy's Zebra, Reticulated Giraffe, Cape Buffalo, Kirk's Dikdik, Common Waterbuck

Best Reptiles and Amphibians: Nile Crocodile, Rock Agama Lizard, Tropical House Gecko, Helmeted Terrapin.

So that's it for the day. Sleep well,
Bob and Sharon

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