Saturday, August 24, 2013

Nairobi National Park - 09 Jul 2013

With another 6:30 am start I stepped out into the back yard of the Guest House to see if anything could be found. It was somewhat dark so lighting was poor. It didn't prevent me from counting 17 Black Kites 'migrating' low over the yard from the east. A 'crested' Hornbill flew over the adjacent yard but was only a silhouette, but using the bird guide I was able to narrow it down by geography and shape to a Silvery-cheeked Hornbill!

It took a good 45 minutes to drive through morning traffic to get to Nairobi National Park. Driving is where Charles is a master: with few traffic lights and multiple lane highways crossing each other it was amazing to watch him calmly ease through the smallest gap between cars. In Kenya there is no road rage. People just calmly deal with heavy foot and car traffic with quiet grace.

Our first stop inside the park was the Elephant Memorial. In 1989 the President of Kenya, Daniel Arap Moi, in front of the entire world, burnt all the confiscated ivory that had been illegally obtained, showing the world that such crimes against nature cannot be tolerated, even for religious, economic, or superstitious reasons. A small memorial statue (2) (3) (4) (5) was built to commemorate the country's commitment to protect its natural resources. For good or bad there is a 'shoot to kill' policy against suspected poachers. Sadly, the crimes continue, with 2013 being particularly deadly with hundreds of elephants and endangered Black Rhinos the victim of the ivory trade.

Auger Buzzard
As we drove through the park I could make out Variable Sunbirds, Auger Buzzard (a larger version of our Red-tailed Hawk), a Saddlebilled Stork, a pair of Common Moorhen, and the silhouettes of either Widowbirds or Whydahs (long streamer tails). A distant Black-shouldered Kite flapped wings and got my attention as Charles suddenly moved on. A pair of tour vans were parked, so we suspected lions. Sure enough we found a large pride of Lions resting next to the trail in short grass. We arrived just as they were rousing and got photos from just feet away.

Auger Buzzard
Common Moorhen

The highlight was a big male lion that was obviously agitated by the scent of another male in the area. He growled, snorted, and marked the area before slowly walking off along the trail. Maybe he was smelling my Buffy and Asia on me?








Continuing on we drove by herds of Zebra, Hartebeast, and Eland, all with the city's skyline in the background. Black-shouldered Kites were hovering over the field behind us. We drove past a singing Yellow-necked Spurfowl atop a bush. And I'm guessing that this is a Rufous-naped Lark, one of many, many small brown jobs were passed along our journeys.

Black-shouldered Kite
Black-shouldered Kite
Yellow-necked Spurfowl

A large watering hole had a small hill that was occupied by 3 more lions, two females and a cub. They posed beautifully in the morning light. Blacksmith and Crowned Plovers were found next to shore of the tiny marsh, which held a family of African Black Duck (the adult would not surface while we were there...).

White Rhinoceros
We found two families of White Rhinoceros on the trail ahead of us, a baby and two parents. While we followed one family a Secretary Bird foraged in the field next to us. Another flock of Spurfowl were in the bushes ahead of us, but I couldn't get Charles to stop.






We flushed a small, pale dove with rufous wing tips, and I can only guess that it was an Emerald-spotted Wood Dove. A stop for Ostriches gave Charles the opportunity to describe the Ngong Hills as being Masai for 'knuckles'. A family of Olive Baboons were snoozing in the late morning sun, and we stopped just briefly to grab a few photos.  A Rock Hyrax provided a perfect late-morning pose for the camera.

Rock Hyrax
White-browed Scrub Robin
I spotted a White-browed Coucal, but was unable to photograph it as it flew behind a bush. A small flock of Northern Pied Babblers atop a large tree, and took a few pics from the moving van. Flocks of Purple Grenadiers were all over the place, and identifiable by their tiny size and bright blue rumps. Other LBJ's were less easy to ID: larks, pipits and longclaws. At one hippo stop I photographed a pair of White-browed Scrub Robins. A pair of possible Red-backed Shrikes also appeared. Little Bee-eaters were seen, as well as Red-billed Firefinches and Red-cheeked Cordonbleus (birds in this region have brown extending down onto the sides of the face). Since we needed to be at the Elephant Orphanage by 11 am we didn't stop for beast nor bird.

Red-cheeked Cordonbleu (female)
ID Help Needed!

Black-shouldered Kite
I did get close enough to finally photograph some of the Black-shouldered Kites that were perched in various locations inside the park.  A distant treetop held a nest of Tawney Eagles, but I could only get poor shots of an adult and a bright white chick.


The Elephant Orphanage (David Sheldrick Wildlife Trusts' Orphans' Project) is a refuge for those youngsters who's parents were victims of poaching. As crowds gathered the baby elephants delighted in the hot morning sun. I took refuge in the shade and looked for birds. A tiny Thompson's Gazelle was sleeping on the deck of one building, while overhead an (unidentified) olive-backed warbler with a yellow throat, white belly, long tail, gray head and a black chest spot foraged.

They love clay baths!

Abyssinian White-eye
I saw Abyssinian White-eyes and Spot-flanked Barbet in the trees, as well. The Spot-flank is similar in appearance to the Black-throated, but has distinct spotting on the flanks.

Spot-flanked Barbet

We then visited the Giraffe Manor and Orphanage just up the road. There I saw flocks of Black Saw-wings and photographed an Olive Thrush.




Olive Thrush

Next stop was the Karen Blixen Museum, location of the famous Out of Africa story and movie. We took a tour of the small home, and took in the gardens out back (contruction was in progress so we didn't stay).

Sandi and Guy

We then drove next door to the Tamambo Coffee House for lunch. Beautiful place with gardens and terrace, we ordered dessert just to stay longer. Folks were joking that the chocolate Concorde that I had ordered had cookies shaped just like the giraffe pellets people were given to feed the giraffes. We had also passed by a local painter, who had several stunning paintings on display while he worked on a new piece.  This was my favorite!

painting by J. Wanderer (2013)

Next stop was the Kazuri Bead Shop, which gave me a chance to relax in the shade while Robin bartered for a necklace. It was good to see Charles walking around with the extra Kowa binoculars I brought.

With beads bought we made one last stop at a roadside curio shop. I stayed outside, watching the van and a small garden plot filled with Bronzed Mannikins, Red-billed Firefinches, Purple Grenadiers, Rufous Sparrows, White-bellied Canaries and Streaked Seedeaters. The highlight was a small flock of Cinnamon-chested Bee-eaters and both White-browed and Cape Robin-Chats. Another Black-throated Barbet made an appearance, and I never had to move a step! Too bad I left the camera in the van...

With shopping done we drove back to Nairobi, enjoyed a nice evening rain shower, a short dinner and an early evening.

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