Friday, 28 August 2015

East Africa - Day 40

Kenya 27 August 2015

I have not been able to upload photographs to my blog because there has not been any wifi or decent band width but will add my photographs to my blog post as soon as I can.

Today is the ninth day of our birding trip to Kenya which we have organised through local ground agent and bird guide Moses Kandie of Birdwatching Express Tours.  He provided lots of references, who all said that Moses was a brilliant guide and well organisedHaving now birded with him, he is a great birder, very focussed on what we want, which is seeing our target birds, and a great guy too.

Today was our ninth birding day in Kenya.

Last night we stayed at Castle Forest Lodge, which is forest raised at 2,300 metres.  It is on the south side of Mount Kenya.

We were up at 6.00 am this morning, a late start for us.  We had a brief look in the forest for Green Ibis again with no luck before breakfast.

After another quick look for green Ibis, we headed out of the forest, having to wait for the Forest Guard to get up and dressed before coming and opening the gate to let us out.

We were on our way to the northern side of Mount Kenya, to Samburu National Park, where you get specialist birds many with Somali in the name.

On the way, we stopped at a desert location which was quite high up and very windy.  We saw a swirling dust whirlwind here.  We were searching for Jackson’s Widowbird which we didn't see but we did see a Black-winged Plover.

We crossed the Equator today for about the 5th time on this Kenya trip, but this time stopped for photos.  I also got to have a scientific fact which I knew in theory, demonstrated to me in practice.  Water, when north of the equator, spins clockwise and when south of the equator spins anti-clockwise.  On the equator itself, water doesn't spin at all.  This is because of the earth’s magnetic forces and was amazing to see.

We arrived at Samburu Lodge in time for a late lunch, first seeing different species of Giraffe and Zebra, antelope including Giraffe Gazelle and lots of Elephants.  We also saw a Somali Ostrich (which was flapping its wings to cool down) and Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbill.  There was a large river running through the park which had dried up.  Moses said that he hadn't known it to dry up before but this was the second time it had happened this year.  As we drove in, there were lots of Elephants, antelope and other animals in the dried up river bed trying to get some moisture out of it.  The elephants are able to dig down to get to the water.

I felt really guilty when we arrived at the lodge, firstly there was a large water feature by the entrance.  There were no water saving rules in place, eg restricted length showers, no towel changes, no swimming pool.  Apparently, they had their own bore hole for water.

After lunch, we went into an open seating area for hot drinks.  Dad went off and when I looked up, there was a Vervet Monkey with it’s nose in someone’s tea dregs.  I felt a bit sorry for it, so left it to it’s drink.

We met up to go birding around the Park and was pleased to see the fountain off. Talking to Moses, he said the Elephants were able to go as far as Mount Kenya for water.

Moses showed us a photograph of 3 Cheetah together on his last visit only two weeks ago, but there was still a little water in the river then, so it might be more difficult now.

We had the pop up top open in the Landcruiser, but because I was in my Tevas (outdoor activity sandals) on for once, I was a bit short to look out.  I wasn't holding on tight enough, so when we went over rocks at speed, my mouth smashed onto the metal side of the vehicle.  I thought I'd knocked my front teeth out, but luckily they were fine.  I came away with a big cut on my lip, which wasn't too bad.

We also crossed a small river, so I felt better for the animals and less guilty about their water usage. 

We then found a lioness under a tree in the shade, with the carcass of a zebra, with about ten vultures sitting in surrounding trees.  Then close by there were three of the cutest cubs.  One was tiny and could only be a few months old and the other two maybe from last year’s brood.  We couldn't stay long though as we were rushing to get to the site for Somali Courser and back into the lodge by the Parks enforced curfew of 6.30 pm.  That was a bit disappointing as I didn't get a chance to get a decent photo of the cubs.

As we returned to the lodge, we crossed a bridge over the river bed.  In it were three crazy and stupid white girls running along in it. This is where we saw about thirty elephants earlier, as well as lots of animals and not far from the lions.  The sun was setting and it would be pitch black in about 15 minutes, as we were so close to the equator.  Moses was extremely concerned for their safety and said that he was even more worried that they might be attacked.  We almost immediately passed the forest guard’s house, but he had gone leaving the barrier up, even though it was only 6.20 pm and he was meant to be there to check everyone was back before 6.30 pm.  We left Moses discussing things with the guards from the lodge.  We didn't hear anything more about them except they were probably from an overland truck.  So hopefully they were OK and they were told why they shouldn't do it again.

Best birds of the afternoon were Donaldson-Smith Sparrow-weaver, Black-capped Social-weaver, Somali Bee-eater, Banded Parasomer, Buff-crested Bustard, Pink-breasted and Foxy Lark, Litchensutein’s and Black-faced Sandgrouse, Rosy-patch Bush-shrike, Orange-bellied Parrot, Somali Courser and Mottled Swift,

Trip List – 585 birds for Uganda, 183 birds for Rwanda, total trip list of 612 for Uganda and Rwanda, 371 trip for Kenya, 733 total trip list and 381 lifers for me. 

About the Writer

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig on Scilly
Photograph taken by and copyright Chris Craig

Mya-Rose Craig is a 13 year old young birder, conservationist, writer and speaker. She is based near Bristol and writes the successful Birdgirl Blog, with posts about birding and conservation from around the world. She is loved going Mountain Gorilla Trekking in East Africa and is looking forward to watching Penguins in Antarctica in December 2015, which will be her 7th continent. She has recently been listed with the singer songwriter George Ezra and actress Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones as one of Bristol's most influential young people. Please like her Birdgirl Facebook Page and follow her on Birdgirl Twitter

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