Report 9

New comments added are in red. Sharon has a few comments in {angle brackets}.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006. Last Birding Day (13). Samburu National Park to Nairobi Again,


Last night, during dinner (or was it the night before?), I walked past the dessert section. All the food is identified by a small plaque beside each item. I had to do a double take at one. It was labeled "BACK LOVER." Huh? I checked the appearance, and it looked a little like... No, can't be. Sharon comes over and I ask her to look. "What does that look like?" I ask. "It looks like baklava," she says, and I agree. That's what I said -- back lover...


Sharon has been wearing her high-top walking boots, and a couple of days ago, she stepped on a broken-off branch on the ground without looking at it. Well, we've walked for miles and miles, and you don't look at the ground in front of you every step. It turns out to be from a thorn tree (like the one in an early email, where I'm standing behind a thorn bush). A thorn is about two inches long or more, and goes straight through the bottom of her very thick soled boot and penetrates into her skin, she says. I lean down and pull it out. Ouch. Who would have thought a thorn could go clear through that boot sole? Sharon seems to have no residual effects.

{It doesn't hurt me after Bob pulled it out, but I think of all those boys and girls we see who walk everywhere barefooted. I did notice that they watch where they are walking because that must hurt like crazy to step on with your bare foot. Other than that, they must have the thickest soles ever.}

Back to today's tour...

We're up early, set our big luggage out for the porters to carry to the van, then head to breakfast. We watch for "Bob" and "Sharon" on the way, but it's no croc.

Our drivers Peter and Joseph with Sharon.

After breakfast, we load up and head out. The spare tire falls off the back of one of the vans, after a part breaks, so they have to design a means of holding it on. While they do, Sharon and Robyn get a beautiful Marico Sunbird. Yesterday we heard a Banded Parisoma, and now we see one. Excellent. We get a very nice Shining Sunbird, and then we're on the road again.

We get our last Vulturine Guineafowl, seeming to come from outer space.

Vulturine Guineafowl

We pass a huge petrol truck, one wheel mired deep in the mud, waiting for rescue. Its driver is not around.

Stuck Truck

We are lucky to get more elephants on the way out too.

We pass a large series of rocks on our left, and Frank said lions like to lay on sun-warmed rocks, so we keep an eye out. Lion is the only disappontment we've had, so we're hoping for luck. As we pass the rock, I notice a man standing on top of the flat rock, fifteen or twenty feet up. There must be a pool of water up there, because he's taking a bath.

A Great Spotted Cuckoo is perched right next to the road. We get great looks.

We see a Rufous-crowned Roller, and Steven says there may be another down here, called a High Roller. He says to also keep an ear out for the Rock 'n Roller. Excellent. He is steam-rollin' us though, of course.

We pass a woman with a large container of water on her head, standing straight and tall. As I took the photo, I thought she was walking to her home, but I see now that it's a shop she's headed for.

The Water Woman

Steven has said several times, as we criss-crossed the equator, that we will stop on the last day and see a special demonstration. Demonstrations?? Now we're talkin'.


We pull over at the equator, and go up to the sidewalk where a man begins his bit. There is a line painted across the sidewalk. He takes two pitchers and a square funnel. One pitcher is empty and the other is half full of water. He puts the empty pitcher on the ground, then the square funnel on top of the empty pitcher, such that it will drain into the pitcher. The hole in the funnel is small, maybe about as big around as a #2 pencil. He then pours water from the full pitcher into the funnel, filling it about halfway. As the water drains, he puts a wooden matchstick on top of the water. It rotates around, in a clockwise manner. He puts his finger into the water and gives the match a spin in the opposite direction that it's spinning. It quickly stops, and resumes spinning in a clockwise fashion.

We are about twenty feet north of the equator.

He moves to twenty feet south of the equator and repeats the experiment. The water drains counter-clockwise-ly. He repeats the attempt to get the match to spin in the other direction. It won't and resumes the counter-clockwise spin.

He then moves the whole arrangement to exactly on the painted line on the sidewalk -- the equator. The draining continues, but the match holds steady on top of the water. It won't spin in either direction, even if he gives it a little help.

The Equator Coriolis Effect Demonstrator

Awesome. Right?

In Missouri, in our bathtub when I was in high school, the water would be spinning as the tub drained. I would take my hands, put them into the water, and simultaneously pull one towards me while pushing the other away from me. On either side of the whirlpool. I could change the direction of the spin. And it would continue the new spin direction till the tub drained.

This Missouri experiment, looking back on it now, agrees with info on the internet that other, stronger forces actually determine the direction of spin. The strongest factor is any force that gives the drainage spin its initial direction. So if the demonstrator just subtly poured the water into the funnel a little to the right of center, then that would start the spin in the direction started by that water. Sort of like that hyperbolic funnel thing you see in some stores. You put a coin in a slot, give it a push, and it rolls round and round, slowly dropping down to the bottom, before dropping out the hole at the bottom.

So what's with giving just the MATCH a spin in the opposite direction? Why not give the entire funnel of WATER a twirl in the other direction????

So I got my doubts about this guy's "demonstrations". I tried to get my two bits in, but in the mean time other tourists had arrived and he was off to try and get a $5 donation from each of them too. I decided to let him off the hook. {Bob, the doubter, the guy had me impressed!}

BUT THAT'S NOT THE GOOD PART!!! Here comes the good part.

Later, he was standing in the parking lot, between the sidewalk and some small shops, and was talking to a tourist. He invited him to go over to the sidewalk and watch his experiment. The tourist suggested that he do it right there in the parking lot. "NO, NO," said the demonstrator. He pointed over to the line across the sidewalk, "The equator is over there."

Excellent stuff.

Just before our own experiment-watch, one of the small shop's owner came over to try to get me to go into his store. "Just for a few seconds," he said. I told him I was going to have lunch. "Then AFTER, will you come to my store?" "OK," I said, "after lunch I'll come over if I can." That finally got rid of his pestering.

Anyway, after lunch, it was time to go. We all got in the van and began to take off. I was watching the storekeeper, standing in the doorway of his shop, wondering how he was going to react when we left, or if he would remember me in particular as a guy who said I'd come over. First he was oblivious, then it was clear that he noticed our van leaving. He took about two steps towards the van, realized that I was gone, then went back to his shop. But he had time to stew for only for a second, because then more tourists pulled in. He grabbed a carving and headed for the tourists. "Come to my shop."

Best of luck, dude.

We continue on, past more shops. A common sight is large rocks in the area between the shops and the road. I believe it's to keep vehicles from parking in front of their shop, which would restrict the visibility of passing tourists to see their goods.


I have been staying up late, transcribing my digital audio recordings, updating the birds-seen in an Excel spreadsheet, drafting reports and so on. My plan has been to catch up on sleep while riding in the van, during the longer excursions. It has worked perfectly, and I doze off during the next leg of our journey.

Back to the tour...

At 3:00 pm sleepy time is over. We are pulling over by a large series of rice fields. Immediately, Kevin gets a scope on the main target bird here. It's a small finch-size bird, black but with brilliant yellow on its head and back. It's perched, but suddenly the yellow parts fluff out very noticeably, and it takes off from its blade of tall grass. He buzzes over the grass and looks just like a big bumble bee, landing after a flight of about twenty feet. It is the Yellow-crowned Bishop.

Yellow-crowned Bishop, from the internet.

It's a spectacular breeding display, and the females take it all in. This is one of my favorite scenes of the entire trip.

Steven gets us on a female Greater Painted-Snipe. In an exception to the norm, the female is the beautiful half of the species, and the male is the dull one. Just like people, huh?

We get many others we already have. Fulvous Whistling-duck, Hotentot Teal, Blacksmith Plover, African Jacana, Black-winged Stilt, then crippling views of a breeding plumaged White-winged Widowbird. Absolutely gorgeous in the bright sunlight. We also get, as we are moving to the vans, a fly-over of Gabar Goshawk that many people have been waiting to see. Including us.

We move on, making one last stop, near the entrance to an electrical power plant. We get Holub's Golden Weaver, Speke's Weaver, African Golden Weaver, African Grey Hornbill and more.

Finally, it's the last words, "Time to go." But wait, as they say on those TV commercials that keep throwing in another thing for only $19.95. Kevin, usually even-keeled yells, "ZANZIBAR SOMBRE GREENBUL!!!" very excitedly. I immediately get the import of the increased-volume yell and look at his eyes to get the direction he's looking. He's calling out clock times as the bird flies. I follow his line of sight, and get on the bird. It flies across the road and perches. It's our last life bird. Way to go KEVIN!

We drive on towards the hotel, stopping once to drop off Mike and Judy, who have three more nights scheduled at a lodge called The Ark, with a watering hole which attracts mammals. Another van picks them up.

Then we come to the Panafric, and the trip is over. We make arrangements for the two additional nights Sharon and I will stay, plus a van to take us to the airport about 48 hours from now. Others have a flight to Amsterdam this evening. We let Frank have a shower and rearrange his packing in our room while we relax downstairs. He will leave early.

We all have dinner together. It's a good time, and after a bit, one of the vans takes tonight's departers to the airport. We say goodbye to Frank, Don and Robyn, David and Margaret.

We call Gacheri and make arrangements for her and her son to come over tomorrow where we will treat them to dinner. Then she'll have us over for tea the next day -- the same day we'll fly out at 11:30 pm or so.

We have a good night's sleep, not setting the alarm for 5:15 am. Can you imagine?

As my last picture today, I want to show you one of the most common bird photos I take over the course of our trip.

It's called the bird-that-was-here-100-milliseconds-before-I-snapped-the-picture. Maybe it's the Gone-Away-Bird.



Trip Birds Seen Today (First Time on the Trip): 8
Total Trip Birds to Date: 574

Life Birds Seen Today: 7
Total Life Birds to Date: 505

Best Birds: Striated Heron*, Shining Sunbird, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Yellow-crowned Bishop, Greater Painted-Snipe, Gabar Goshawk, African Golden Weaver, Zanzibar Sombre Greenbul

Best Mammals: Did not make notes but I gotta say African Elephant.

Best Reptiles and Amphibians: No notes is bad notes.


* - I mistakenly included Striated Heron in yesterday's report, but it was actually today that we saw it.

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