Saturday, August 17, 2013

Lake Nakuru - 08 Jul 2013

As we waited for a 6:30 am departure for Lake Nakuru Andrew informed me that my tip for Charles was off by a decimal point. The currency exchange is roughly 100 Ksh for 1 US dollar. For the five days of service I had only tipped about $30 when I meant to tip $300. I didn't have the cash so felt awful. By the good graces of God we found an ATM along the way, I remembered my PIN number, and was able to get enough money to pay Charles. Whew. So now we are on the road to Lake Nakuru.

From the roadside I am able to I'd many of the birds that frustrated me a week ago on the way to the Masai Mara, and am even able to add numerous Cape Rook and a Cattle Egret. I even spotted an Anteater Chat based on the white wrist patches I saw in flight that separate it from the similar looking Sooty Chat that has the white on the tertials.

We just passed a Long-crested Eagle, all brown with a crest on its head! A Km later we passed an Auger Buzzard landing in a tree (the red tail cinched ID).

When we arrived at Lake Nakuru, the first thing we noticed was the extremely high water levels. Lake Nakuru is home to millions of Lesser Flamingos and was a highlight scene in Out of Africa. Charles had been hearing that the water levels were forcing the flamingos elsewhere, so we didn't have high expectations. However, there were still plenty of birds to see!

Little Egret
As entrance fees were paid I walked around and got photos of Little Egrets, Intermediate Egrets
and Great Egrets. Little Grebes were as numerous as Pied-billed Grebes are at Pt. Mouillee. Sacred Ibis were also plentiful along the shoreline. Superb Starlings were found in the parking lot.

Intermediate Egret
Great Egret
Long-crested Eagle
Driving along the perimeter of the lake we drove through mixtures of open farmland and wooded forest. A beautiful female Collared Sunbird was foraging and offered nice pics. We stopped cold when we spotted a Long-crested Eagle in a dead snag next to the road. The all-brown raptor sported huge crest feathers. We also passed several families of Vervet Monkeys, and spotted a Grey-capped Warbler singing on the top of a large bush. It's whitish head and green back were highlighted by a distinct red throat patch. We then photographed the first of many Waterbuck in the park.

Vervet Monkey
Defassa Waterbuck
Eland w/ Red-billed Oxpeckers
A turnout took us into an open field where I finally got photos of Eland. Several Warthogs were in the area,as well. Ant-eater Chats have replaced Sooty Chats in this neck of the woods. Another Auger Buzzard was seen prior to our first 'real' Rhinoceros sighting.

Auger Buzzard
A slough along the shoreline had a small wetland adjacent to a large grassy marsh where dozens of Cape Buffalo rested. Along the far side of the marsh were three White Rhinoceros, with their distinctive 'wide' jaws. I took onl a few pics of them, because the shorebirding got my attention.

White Rhinoceros

Egyptian Geese
Egyptian Geese were as numerous as our Canada Geese. Dispersed among them were Charles' favorite bird, the Blacksmith Plover (formerly Blacksmith Lapwing). Also seen were Cape Teal and Yellow-billed Ducks, Black-winged Stilts, African Spoonbill, African Jacana, and an African Marsh Harrier.

Blacksmith Plover (Lapwing)
Black-winged Stilt
African Spoonbill

Three-banded Plover
A Three-banded Plover was a nice find, but it took us several minutes to verify it. A possible Common Greenshank pair were also photographed.

Common Greenshank

Great White Pelicans in flight
As we drove around the corner, with the intention of driving 30 Km to Baboon Mound, we passed a large Congress of Olive Baboons and came upon a flock of Great White Pelicans. I even spotted a pair of Pink-backed Pelicans. More stilts and plovers were foraging next to shore, while Great Cormorants roasted farther out on mud banks along with a single Grey-headed Gull! A Yellow-billed Stork made for a nice accent feature. We stayed only a few minutes to grab shots of the Cape Teal and Sacred Ibis that were lounging nearby.

Cape Teal

Sacred Ibis

Sacred Ibis in flight

Blacksmith Plover

Little Grebe in a big pond
With the amount of road traffic and dust being kicked up, Robin was finding that her sinuses were stinging. She drove the rest of the way with a handkerchief over her mouth to keep the dust out. I was concerned about an asthma attack. We drove on, passing numerous Rothschild's Giraffes, which have darker spotting than the Masai Giraffe we've seen to date.

As we approached a parked van I spotted a Lion in a large tree. When we stopped a second female lion appeared in the grass. It was at this time that a rut noe claimed the shield in the undercarriage, causing it to dangle and bang around as we drove. So we decided to leave the park, get lunch and get the van serviced, again. Poor Charles.

While heading for the park exit we came upon several small flocks of Greater Flamingos along the shoreline. They were too far to photograph, but it was nice to see them. We then had great looks at an African Fish Eagle!

Along the shoreline a colony of Whiskered Terns were roosting near another hundred flamingos, a pair of Glossy Ibis, and a single Black Heron. We finally drove out, leaving behind a small covey of Helmeted Guineyfowl.

Driving back into the city of Nakuru we stopped at a nice hotel where Guy once stayed, and had a nice poolside lunch while Charles took the van to get serviced. He was gone for only a half hour when he announced that we had a new van! The body shop put it on a hoist and re- tightened everything. We joked that the roads to Masai Mara would now feel smooth enough to be paved.

From there we drove a short distance to the Menengai Crater Forest Preserve, a large hilltop with gorgeous views of the valley below. The drive uphill was interesting, with smiling children on either side of the road that contained beautiful gardens and villas, and some of the most decrepit dwellings on the trip. I so wanted to take some pics of the people and buildings, but found the thought of it intrusive. So I looked for birds, finding a nice Whinchat near the summit.

Verreaux's Eagle
At the summit we had nice panoramic view of the Menengai Valley. While dodging vendors I was alerted to a beautiful Verreaux's Eagle soaring over the canyon. It was soon joined by a second one. As I grabbed flight shots a local ID'd it for me, so I gave him Charles' ten shilling. I would later buy a print for 500 Ksh.

Schalow's Wheatear
I then spotted a neat little chat/redstart sized bird with black body and wings, a red rump, and a silvery gray cap. So far the best ID is a Schalow's Wheatear that is endemic to the hills of central Kenya and the Rift Valley. Woo-hoo!

With the vendors now working us harder Charles bid us to leave. We drove down the hill, stopping long enough to photograph a Bronze Sunbird and a Variable Sunbird. At the bottom of the hill I put the equipment away for the day.

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