Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Road to Amboseli - 11 Jul 2013

Fork-tailed Drongo
We were up and ready to leave the Village Guest House by 7:30 am. We thanked Jane for her hospitality, and got ready to greet Charles at 8 am. In the meantime I walked around the yard and said my goodbyes to a Bronze Sunbird, a pair of Hadada Ibis on the grass, a Pied Wagtail, Olive Thrush, Speckled Mousebird, a pair of Streaked Seedeaters, and a Pied Crow.

The skies were hazy but the sun soon burned it away. We had a relatively smooth 3 hour drive to Amboselli. Along the way I spotted four Long-tailed Fiscals along a fence line near Embakasi. Shortly thereafter I was able to ID a pair of White-browed Sparrow Weavers by their their dark brown heads and thick white eyeliners.

Then we ran into trouble. Just 43 Km from Amboseli the oil light came on. Charles pulled over immediately and suggested we wait 15 minutes or so to resume. He brought oil, so while waiting for the engine to cool I walked a short distance into the scrub to identify and photograph a flock of White-headed Buffalo Weavers, with their white bodies and headm brown wings, and brilliant red rumps that flash in flight. Their colony was nearby so I watched them fly back and forth. A few minutes later a pair of White-bellied Go-away Birds tussled with each other atop a scrub tree. When they fly their tails and wings flash black and white stripes. I managed a flight shot of some Wattled Starlings just before getting back into the van.

Wattled Starling

Eastern Red-billed Hornbill
He put oil in the tank and resumed resumed driving, but within a minute the light came on again. Oil was gone, and we were stranded. Charles started making phone calls, notifying the lodge to pick us up, while he contacted friends to bring a mechanic and another vehicle. For the next hour we sat in the van and cooled our heals. Skies were cloudy and it was cool, so we didn't bake. I took the time to pick up some new species: an Abyssinian Scimitarbill, a glossy purple-black grackle sized bird with a thin, red, hooked bill. A flock of Blue-naped Mousebirds landed in the trees next to the road while Superb Starlings foraged on the ground. A flock of Fisher's Starlings were foraging alongside them, as well, and at first I thought that they might be female Superbs - the birds were a pale gray with a tinge of blue in their wings, and have whitish heads and rumps. But they were a distinctly different species! An Eastern Red-billed Hornbill had me scrambling for the camera while a Black-throated Barbet made a brief appearance.

Blue-naped Mousebirds

Blue-naped Mousebirds

Superb Starling

Black-throated Barbet

Soon a Toyota Land Cruiser appeared, and Benjamin whisked us on to the Sopa Lodge at Amboseli. We hated to leave Charles to the van but he assured us that he would be along in a while, either with the van fixed or a new vehicle for tomorrow's game drive. We crammed into the jeep and headed for the lodge. Poor Robin had a migraine, so when we hit dirt road and the clay dust started pouring in through the floorboards she was not feeling the best.

But we arrived at the lodge at 3 pm, and even though the dining room was closed the staff were gracious enough to open for a late lunch. We enjoyed a Tusker, Coke-light, some curried chicken, rosemary potatoes, and dessert while a family of Banded Mongoose sauntered across the terrace. A pair of Yellow-necked Spurfowl appeared, while overhead another colony of White-browed Sparrow Weavers chattered away in an acacia tree a few feet away.

We then headed to our room for a late afternoon nap.

I woke at about 4:30 pm and walked around the grounds. A pair of Fork-tailed Drongos foraged in the trees outside our house, followed by a pair of Northern Black Flycatchers. The only way to tell them apart was the colors of their eyes and shapes of their tails.

Northern Black Flycatcher

Fork-tailed Drongo

Red-faced Crombec
I also spotted a pair of African Paradise Flycatchers, a Spot-flanked Barbet, a pair of Lesser Masked Weavers, and a gorgeous Red-faced Crombec.


Lesser Masked Weaver (female)

I then walked over to Hemmingway's (a bar) and found a family of Banded Mongoose sleeping on the rocks at the base of the hill. I then returned to the room, where Robin had awakened, so we had a nice cup of coffee next to the pool. The hot water came on at 5 pm, so we headed back to clean up for dinner.

Charles finally arrived at 7:30 pm and joined us for dinner. The oil sending unit had ruptured and that caused the loss of oil pressure. His mechanic friend was able to repair it, so hopefully all will be well for the morning game drive. We were all so grateful to see him back in our company. Benjamin had taken Guy, Sandi and Andrew out this afternoon for a game drive, and all agreed that it was NOT the same without our Kenyan Brother.

After dinner Deb and I went back to Hemmingway's. at 9:15 pm they were putting out table scraps for the wildlife, which turned out to be 15 feral cats and a mongoose. We didn't stick around, since power goes out at 10 pm, and it is dark enough with what little lights there are. The stars are pretty, though...

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