Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I Left my Hat in Africa - 13 Jul 2013

No, that is not Guy St. Claire. But that is my hat, which is now gracing his head for the balance of the trip. At the last Curio Shop Guy had given his old safari hat to Jeffrey, who was the owner of the shop. Since he was now without a hat I offered him mine, since I wouldn't be needing it anymore now that our trip was ending.

We ate breakfast and met Charles at 7:15 am for one last game drive before heading back to Nairobi and the airport. I had given Charles my favorite shorebird t-shirt, but it was a little small on him. So I made sure to give him my Biggest Week in American Birding t-shirt, which is larger and will fit him better. I also left him my Kennedy Guides to the Animals and Birds of the Masai Mara, since we both found them so useful - he'll be able to use them for future client outings. I also paid him Ksh 3000 for all of the birds and animals I was able to see this trip (I promised him Ksh 10 for each bird I could ID). He has become my Kenyan Brother on this trip and I will truly miss him.

The 20 Km drive on the washboard road has me worried. The road vibration rattles the van and our teeth to the breaking point, and with the van troubles we've had on this trip I'm afraid we will break down again before getting back to Nairobi. But the van holds and we reach the gates to Amboselli National Park for our last game drive. Each of us had to buy new day passes (24 hrs for $80 US), but since half of the party renewed their passes yesterday afternoon, there was great confusion when Charles tried to get us through the gates. But once cleared up we were in the park.

Just inside the gate were a pair of Pygmy Falcons in a distant tree. On the roof was a Speckled Pigeon. Nearby three Long-tailed Fiscals were squabbling over a perch. We drove around looking for Elephants, but they seemed to be sparse this morning. But we finally stopped and photographed several small herds.

We passed a Lilac-breasted Roller and a flock of Red-billed Buffalo-Weavers. We would be heading back toward the marshes of Observation Hill, so I was happy. A pair of small chicks foraging in the grass had us temporarily confused until they caught up with mom and dad: Grey Crowned-cranes!

A small flock of brown shorebirds with black wings were swirling around the marsh, so I tried to get some flight shots for ID purposes. They turned out to be Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse!

As we approached the big lake I spotted a flock of Lesser Flamingos flying low over the water.

A bit farther along an African Fish Eagle was eating a meal next to shore.

As we drove tiny little plover chicks were scattering in the road ahead of us. I finally spotted the parents, a pair of Kittlitz' Plovers.

A drying water hole played host to a half dozen Spotted Hyenas, while African Jacanas and Blacksmith Plovers foraged nearby. I spotted a Purple Heron low in the grass near a Pied Kingfisher. While we looked at them through binoculars I photographed some Wattled Starlings in the bush next to the van.

With time running late we started back. I noticed how low the fuel gauge was reading so I was a bit nervous when Charles stopped to ask if the lodge in the park had gas. As I got more nervous we made it finally to a paved road and gassed up in Kimana. Next stop would be Nairobi, where we'll spend the afternoon at Nerisa's, clean up, and get ready to head to the airport this evening.

While we drove on smooth road (finally) toward Nairobi we passed a Giraffe on the shoulder of the Mombasa Highway!  But luckily everyone was keeping an eye on it.

We arrived at Nerisa's and spent the afternoon relaxing and drinking coffee.  It was great to get a shower, pack our suitcases and relax until 7 pm.  Since Charles was needing to get back to Nairobi to swap cars for the next couple of days (Guy, Andrew, Deb and Sandi would be heading to Kisii and to Tsavo for the next week), he couldn't drive us to the airport; we hated to see him leave.

Nerisa, Guy and Andrew drove us to the airport just after dark.  The normal, ten-minute drive turned into a harrowing 30-minute drive as we fought traffic, missed exits, and had to battle hundreds of lories jamming the service drives as they were quitting for the night.  But Nerisa got to the airport, we had our fond farewells w/ Guy and Andrew, we were able to find our way to  our gate, and were able to relax for the 17+ hour trip home and 3 day of jet lag.

What a trip.


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