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offshorebirder

Fantastic Kenya birding and mammal safari - January 8-23, 2016

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offshorebirder

This trip report covers a safari I took to Kenya with my friend Tommy Graham. Tommy is a good naturalist who also knows his birds, though he is not a lister or twitcher by any means. Mammals are his primary natural history interest. Tommy went to school with my father and has been a friend of the family since before I was born. This was the first trip to Africa for both of us.

Prologue

By rights I should do acknowledgements first - because this exceptional safari would have been a much poorer experience without the safaritalk community at large, as well as several individual members who were extremely generous and helpful with their advice for this Safari newby.

For key advice I am particularly indebted to @@Safaridude, @@armchair bushman, @@pault, @@Tom Kellie, @@madaboutcheetah, and @@Geoff. For inspiration - too many to list but particularly @@Safaridude, @@Game Warden, @@madaboutcheetah, @@twaffle,  @@Bush dog, @@michael-ibk, @@pault, @@COSMIC RHINO, and @@AKR1.

And for outstanding guiding, agent services, and "riding to the rescue" to overcome the unexpected loss of a private guide in the Mara at the last minute - Ben Mugambi of Ben's Ecological Safaris. I am so glad to count Ben as a friend and field companion - he is a "birder's birder", a fabulous field man and safari guide, and a scholar and a gentleman who is rock-solid dependable.

The theme of this safari was "good luck". And baby animals I suppose. Time and again the guides or camp managers said "We have never seen X before". Or "we have only seen Y two or three times in our lives." I suspect some camps say things like that fairly often to set the hook with their guests - but in our case, I believed the statements to be true!

Itinerary:

January 7 - Arrive Nairobi late pm. Overnight at Purdy Arms.
January 8 - Recovery day (birding the 20-acre grounds) + shopping in Nairobi. Overnight at Purdy Arms
January 9 - Day trip to Ngong Hills + Magadi Road w/ Ben's. Overnight at Purdy Arms.
January 10 - Day trip to Nairobi NP w/ Ben's. Overnight at Purdy Arms.
January 11 - Drive to Mt. Kenya NP with Ben's. Overnight at Castle Forest Lodge.
January 12 - Mt. Kenya National Park with Ben's. Overnight at Castle Forest Lodge.
January 13 - Drive to Samburu + Buffalo Springs. Overnight at Samburu Simba Lodge
January 14 - Full day in Samburu + Buffalo Springs. Overnight at Samburu Simba Lodge.
January 15 - Full day in Samburu + Buffalo Springs. Overnight at Samburu Simba Lodge.
January 16 - Short game drive in Samburu, drive to Naro Meru River Lodge. Overnight Naro Meru.
January 17 - Bush flight from Nanyuki to Mara Naboisho. Overnight Encounter Mara.
January 18 - All day in Mara Naboisho. Overnight Encounter Mara.
January 19 - Morning game drive then vehicle transfer to Offbeat Mara in Mara North Conservancy. Overnight Offbeat Mara.
January 20 - All day in Mara North, overnight Offbeat Mara.
January 21 - Masai Mara National Reserve 7am-4pm, game drive in Mara North, overnight Offbeat Mara.
January 22 - All day in Mara North, overnight Offbeat Mara.
January 23 - Morning game drive, lunch, then 4pm flight to Wilson Airport, transfer to the Boma.
January 24 - Depart JKIA for USA


We flew Jetblue from Charleston to New York City, then Emirates to Dubai and another Emirates flight to Nairobi. It was a 26 hour trip and I was not able to sleep a wink. My carryon was a Think Tank Photo camera backpack - Airport Essentials. I loved it - but next time I might get the model that is one size larger. It held my camera, lens, a Swarovski spotting scope, Swarovski binoculars, laptop, iPad, memory cards, batteries, a La Cie portable hard drive, cables, camera cleaning kit, and 1 day's clothing. I checked two bags, including a large duffel bag (Patagonia Black Hole Bag). This was to take my tripod, beanbag, and other bulky gear. Next time I will travel lighter - did not need sweater, long underwear and various other ballast it turns out.

Upon arriving at JKIA, there were not different queues for eVisa and Visa-on-arrival. But the lines moved quickly. The immigration agent asked for my eVisa and I said we needed Visa on arrival. She scowled slightly but then took $50 from each of us, gave us the slips of paper and we were on our way. The baggage claim was chaotic, crowded bedlam. After following our flight number as it moved from carousel to carousel, we watched an endless succession of luggage parading around and around. After close to an hour, we finally started seeing our bags. Huge relief! When we got outside and saw the guy holding the sign with my name on it, a wave of relief washed over us. We were home free now and on our way to our lodging.

We were the only guests for our entire stay at Samburu Simba, and the only guests in camp for the first part of our stay at Encounter Mara. There were only a couple of other parties staying at Castle Forest Lodge while we were there. We had private vehicles the entire safari. I cannot say enough good things about Offbeat Mara camp and Encounter Mara camp - we loved them both immensely. And I loved the Purdy Arms in Karen - a nice laid-back place, green + leafy + good birds, very affordable, good food and drink, convenient to Magadi Road + Ngong Hills and Nairobi National Park, as well as the Galleria mall (for beer, Forex, and a SIM card). Many thanks to @@armchair bushman and @@pault for suggesting Purdy!

 

There are those who scoff at the notion of a photo safari in Kenya during the green season, particularly one this green - high grass everywhere, etc. Let me tell you - things worked out very well. The green season is a double-edged sword for sure but the good edge far outdid the bad edge on our trip. We were still able to find extensive short/cropped grassland areas, and even in tallgrass areas we could usually pop out the top of the roof and shoot down on targets to overcome the tall grass.

 

The Vehicles:

Offbeat Mara won the "most functional safari vehicle" contest - closely followed by Ben's Ecological Safaris. But the vehicles at Encounter Mara were very good and completely satisfactory as well.

Ben's Ecological Safaris vehicle:

 

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Encounter Mara vehicle (David on the left and our guide Wilson on the right):

 

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Offbeat Mara vehicle (the short wheel base was invaluable for not getting stuck):

 

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Interior shot of Offbeat Mara vehicle, showing the very handy storage shelf behind the cabin:

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The companions:

For our first week we were guided by a sharp young birding and safari guide named Francis Rutich, from Ben's Ecological Safaris. And our driver John was a fine driver and very good spotter. Francis has some of the sharpest eyes I have encountered in my field travels. I run with guys like Steve NG Howell and Todd McGrath - and Francis would give them a run for their money at sea. He might take them on land... I am no slouch at spotting birds + wildlife, even in heavy cover but it was spooky how good Francis is.

Francis on the job:

 

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We had a Maasai gentleman named Wilson for a guide at Encounter Mara - he is one sharp safari guide! Good driver, good at route planning and very attuned to our wants and needs. No complaints whatsoever. A young man named David from Koyaki Guiding School was attached to Encounter Mara during their semester break - he was very sharp as well.

* See the above Encounter Mara vehicle photo to see Wilson and David.

 

During our time at Offbeat Mara, we were fortunate to have a Maasai gentleman named Josphat for a driver/spotter/guide. Josphat is superb! Though we had intended to have the legendary James Sengeny for a private guide at Offbeat, a foulup that we learned of 5 days before our arrival in the Mara meant James was unable to guide us. This is a somewhat sensitive matter, and I won't mention the agency involved, but suffice it to say I am 100% convinced that James was in no way at fault either for the foulup or for us not getting notified very far in advance. When I learned the bad news, I was sitting in the bar at Samburu Simba at 3pm on January 14. By 4pm Ben Mugambi had agreed to fly to Mara North and guide us during our time there. Ben handled the Safarilink tickets and other details, and he knows the crew at Offbeat well. What a relief! Ben saved the day and I am so glad to have spent time in the field with him - great learning experience and lots of fun all around.

Here is a photo of Josphat, Tommy, and Ben at our first sundowner together:

 

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The next post will cover our first day afield - a day trip visiting the Ngong Hills, a long stop at 'Corner Baridi' (cold corner), and various stops on the way down to Oltepesi and beyond. Lots of birds and birding, but also a very unexpected mammal find!

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michael-ibk

I´m glad your first safari in Africa was everything you had hoped for - love your enthusiasm, and very much looking forward to your report, birds, mammals and other critters alike. Bring it on! :)

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offshorebirder

I should also clarify that we used Ben's Ecological Safaris as our agent for the first week's activities and a different agent+company for the second week, when the unwelcome foulup occurred...

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Tom Kellie

~ @@offshorebirder

 

@@michael-ibk has eloquently expressed my feelings.

Your opening volley in this trip report is a classic, both for the clear fact presentation and for your enthusiasm.

With your long months of patient waiting, your careful pre-planning, and your attention to detail, it's no surprise that you and Tommy had such a productive experience.

What a joy to be reading your Kenya trip report!

Thank you!

Tom K.

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twaffle

Very interesting itinerary, and I'm looking forward to reading all the details. Ben has a pretty good reputation so I'm glad that he came through for you.

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xyz99

Can't wait to read more, Kenya is still a place I hope to get someday.

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Marks

I'd be curious to hear how being in the more closed-in vehicle from Ben's Ecological Safaris specifically compares with the regular open air vehicles, having never been on safari in the former. Did you feel at all restricted?

 

Looking forward to your report.

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Tom Kellie

~ @@xyz99

 

Kenya is well worth visiting for several reasons.

The beauty of the landscape is impressive, as is the consistent quality of the sightings.

In nine safaris I felt warmly and fairly treated by every Kenyan I met.

I hope that you'll eventually find your way to Kenya to enjoy the superb hospitality there.

Tom K.

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offshorebirder

Thanks for the kind words @@michael-ibk, @@Tom Kellie, @@twaffle, @xz99, and @@Marks.

 

@@Marks - the vehicle from Ben's worked very well. The windows rolled down in the 1st passenger row and the others slid open even wider. And the pop top opened nice and high. If you look closely, you will notice that the rear door and its window are wider than the normal door size on such a vehicle. Sitting in that first passenger row, one has a wide "field of fire" with one's camera. I usually sat in the second passenger row (1 back from the rear door) and I never had a problem getting the shot I wanted compared to open-sized canvas-walled vehicles. We also appreciated the design of the vehicles from Ben's a couple of times when brief light showers happened - as well as driving between destinations like Mt. Kenya and Samburu.

 

Our modus operandi in the field was to drive slowly with lots of stops - with John driving and Francis, Tommy and me standing in the back, scanning our surroundings through the pop-top. Then we would sit or crouch when needed to get things at eye level.

 

The sides of Ben's vehicle also worked much better with beanbags for photography than the low-cut armrests of open-sided vehicles. In open-sided vehicles, I sometimes found myself putting my foot up on the shelf or back of the cab, and propping the beanbag on my elevated knee. Or kneeling on the floor to get level with the beanbag on the armrest. Which is a bit less than optimal... Or I sometimes I propped the beanbag on the headrest of the seat in front of me. That is why the roof hatches on the Offbeat Mara vehicle were so good - the rooftop beside the hatch was the ideal beanbag platform. And unlike pop-top roofs, they let you look straight up at birds that were perched or soaring nearly overhead.

Edited by offshorebirder

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TonyQ

@@offshorebirder

I am looking forward to this! We were in Kenya at a very similar time, and I recognise what you say about the long grass. An opportunity and sometimes a challenge. I am pleased you had a great trip and I look forward to reading about it and seeing your photos.

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Tom Kellie

~ @@offshorebirder

 

Your explanation of the advantages of the vehicle is highly appreciated.

I've never ridden in such a vehicle, hence was unaware of how well-suited it might be to observation.

As with @@TonyQ, I'm interested in your comments about long grass, especially as in little over 24 hours I'll be headed out to the airport for a week at Porini Lion beside Masai Mara.

Thank you for sharing so many pertinent details here.

Tom K.

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Towlersonsafari

very much enjoyed the start-I love reading about the nitty gritty about equipment and the thinking behind decisions or trips.looking forward to the next bit!

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offshorebirder

@@offshorebirder

I am looking forward to this! We were in Kenya at a very similar time, and I recognise what you say about the long grass. An opportunity and sometimes a challenge. I am pleased you had a great trip and I look forward to reading about it and seeing your photos.

 

Thanks @@TonyQ - I hope you had a stellar trip as well.

 

We met some Safaritalk members (a nice couple from Kansas) at Offbeat Mara who had met you and Mrs. Q on a prior stop (Offbeat Meru or Sosian I think). I regret not getting their Safaritalk username - but don't want to use their real names on the Internet without permission...

 

It was nice to see a good level of awareness about Safaritalk during our Kenya travels and I also spread the word to some future converts I hope.

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offshorebirder

~ @@offshorebirder

 

Your explanation of the advantages of the vehicle is highly appreciated.

I've never ridden in such a vehicle, hence was unaware of how well-suited it might be to observation.

As with @@TonyQ, I'm interested in your comments about long grass, especially as in little over 24 hours I'll be headed out to the airport for a week at Porini Lion beside Masai Mara.

Thank you for sharing so many pertinent details here.

Tom K.

 

@@Tom Kellie - On our vehicle transfer from Encounter Mara (Naboisho Conservancy) to Offbeat Mara (Mara North Conservancy) we traversed the Olare Orok Conservancy where Porini Lion is located. And a little bit of Motogori Conservancy. Of the three conservancies (Naboisho, Olare Orok, and Mara North), Olare Orok seemed to have the most extensive shortgrass areas. Part of this is because we largely drove through villages and cattle grazing areas but the set-asides for wildlife also seemed to be more closely cropped than much of Naboisho and most of Mara North. Naboisho had a good bit of shortgrass plains though - Masiligi and Payie Plains were both vast and full of easily-viewed game and terrestrial birds (more Bustards than you could shake a stick at).

 

The grass in much of the main reserve is even higher than the conservancies at present - as high as anyone can remember. So most of our shorebirds, good looks at larks + pipits + Longclaws, unobstructed views of small game, etc. were in the conservancies not the main reserve. But the main reserve is well worth a visit - we had a single herd of 105 Elephants and 257 Ellies for our day in the main reserve. Lots of Buffalo too and good Hippos, Crocs, predators, etc.

 

Good luck on your trip!

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Tom Kellie

Olare Orok seemed to have the most extensive shortgrass areas. Masiligi and Payie Plains were both vast and full of easily-viewed game and terrestrial birds (more Bustards than you could shake a stick at).

 

The grass in much of the main reserve is even higher than the conservancies at present - as high as anyone can remember. So most of our shorebirds, good looks at larks + pipits + Longclaws, unobstructed views of small game, etc. were in the conservancies not the main reserve. But the main reserve is well worth a visit - we had a single herd of 105 Elephants and 257 Ellies for our day in the main reserve. Lots of Buffalo too and good Hippos, Crocs, predators, etc.

 

Good luck on your trip!

 

~ @@offshorebirder

 

Wow! Nothing beats first-person reporting!

You've more than whetted my appetite for this safari.

I'm especially grateful for the specific detail you've provided.

Thank you so much for your very kind good wishes.

As I'll arrive on 31 January and have a game drive in Nairobi National Park that day, it'll be a joy to have been in Kenya in the same month that you, @@TonyQ and @@Thursday's Child were also there.

In South Africa this week and last the bird sightings were non-stop.

Raptors, raptors, raptors!

Eagles, snake-eagles, hawks, kites — all frequently observed. Vultures, too.

Sunbirds, kingfishers, bee-eaters, tchagras, whydahs, flycatchers, widowbirds, tree-hoopoes, hoopoes, bishops, hornbills, finches, pipits, starlings, longclaws, bulbuls, doves, thrushes, sandgrouse, francolins.

Herons, egrets, flamingoes, ducks, geese, plovers, thick-knees and a very rare painted snipe sighting.

One of the other guests, a retired athlete and knight, teased me for stopping for every bird, wildflower and insect.

What can I say? — Guilty as charged.

I thought of you several times, glad to know that you were experiencing likewise north of me in my beloved Kenya.

I'll see what the trusty combination of the EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II and EOS 1D X might capture at Porini Lion.

With Appreciation,

Tom K.

Edited by Tom Kellie

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offshorebirder

I had intended to make the next posting about our first day afield. But then it occurred to me that I should paint a proper picture of the Purdy Arms and its bird and mammal inhabitants.

 

January 8, 2016.

After checking into our room at 11pm the previous night following a sleepless 26-hour journey, I was able to rest pretty well. At 8:30am, as we made our way onto the awning-covered dining patio at the Purdy Arms, I thought "this isn't so bad; I do not feel very jet-lagged at all". That turned out to be a very false sense of security!

Sitting down for breakfast, we marveled at the lush tropical vegetation and the bustling bird life. Black-headed Weavers were flying down and gathering palm fibers and grasses for nesting material. Their colony was in a large Acacia off to the side of the patio, mostly overhanging the roof of the Purdy Arms.

Purdy's breakfast is very good, even for vegetarians and light breakfast eaters. I learned that "pancakes" in Kenya are more like crepes (no self-rising flour I presume).

Black Kites were perched in nearby trees and soaring overhead, and we could hear the raucous calls of Hadada Ibis all around. A pair of Hadadas foraged on the lawn like chickens. We also enjoyed watching Common Bulbuls coming and going, as well as a pair of Olive Thrush pattering about the grounds. I said to myself "they sure look and forage like American Robins (Turdus migratorius) - they must be a Turdus too." Looking them up on my birds of E. Africa app, I saw they are indeed Turdus olivaceus. Just like American Robins, they do the same little foraging sequence of "duck, run forward, stand up straight, and scan for prey" before pouncing or repeating the process.

Other breakfast birds included Yellow-billed Kite, Pied Crows, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Red-eyed Doves, and White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher. After breakfast I had a delightful encounter with a nesting pair of White-bellied Tits in the courtyard. They were foraging close at hand, at times upside-down, looking among lichens on a branch for scale insects and the like. Ochre Bush Squirrels were a regular sight around the grounds, and I also saw some Black-faced Vervet monkeys. But the ones at Purdy are very well behaved - we saw no incidents or problems between Vervets and people during our entire stay.

Just after lunch I took a short cab ride to the Galleria Mall to change currency, purchase a prepaid SIM card, and visit the Nakumatt for some beer. I am a terrible beer snob (spoiled rotten) and I wanted to have something decent in case any camps or lodges only had Tusker, White Cap, etc. I found Guinness foreign reserve in cans with the little nitrogen cylinders - an acceptable palliative that I was able to carry on the road and bush flights (having purchased a luggage seat). As it turned out, everywhere had Guiness except Castle Forest Lodge so I donated the leftover beers to the camp at our last stop.

I loved the short ride through Karen to the Galleria - neat birds, plants and people. I wished I had the luggage space for a visit to the Sarit Book Centre, but forced myself to pass by without entering due to luggage space requirements. Next time though...

Near the end of the day I was sitting in our room catching up on my journal, and Tommy came rushing in from outside. "You have to come see this!" he exclaimed excitedly. We went outside and a large, dark bird with very broad wings took flight from one thick tree canopy to another. It was exclaiming loudly, as were 3 Black Kites swooping and harassing it. The big bird had a fairly long tail, dark body and wings but was hard to see in its hiding place. After a few minutes, it shifted to another tree and I got a look at a big, curved bill. It was some sort of Hornbill! A few more glimpses let me assemble a composite picture - it was a Silvery-cheeked Hornbill! Wow! I did not expect to see them before Mount Kenya. Eventually it moved off the grounds of the Purdy Arms and the kite "posse" broke up. My guess is they might have been nesting nearby and did not like a potential Hornbill nest-robber hanging around.

Dinner was very good - Tommy had Red Snapper and I had a delightful chicken dish with vegetables and rice.

Edited by offshorebirder

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Tom Kellie

~ @@offshorebirder

 

Reading that your family friend, Tommy, had Red Snapper is yet another powerful enticement to return to Kenya as rapidly as possible.

Your descriptive writing beguiles, larded with so many familiar details that I can't wait to board the aircraft — 24 hours from this moment!

Thank you!

Tom K.

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janzin

It looks like the Offbeat Mara vehicle is the best of both worlds for photography! I too really preferred the pop-top vehicles we had in Tanzania over the open vehicles in Botswana, for just the exact reasons you stated. Propping the beanbag on the knee is less than optimal but in Bots that was actually my most used perch. But the downside of the pop-top of course is that things overhead, flying birds etc are difficult. I've never seen one like that Offbeat Mara vehicle but it seems perfect.

 

Anyway looking forward to this Kenya report, especially from the birding perspective :) We go for the first time next fall!

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Tom Kellie

~ @@janzin

 

If you mean that you'll be visiting Kenya in autumn, 2016 that's great news!

The wealth of bird life there leaves one smiling at the end of each game drive.

I'm so pleased to know that you'll be enjoying a safari in Kenya.

Tom K.

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offshorebirder

January 9, 2016.

At 6:30am, we met our driver (John) and guide (Francis) from Ben's Ecological Safaris. After brief introductions and loading the vehicle, we were on our way. Driving through the southern outskirts of Nairobi we saw Marabou Storks, lots of Sacred Ibis and Hadada Ibis, Black and Yellow-billed Kites, and additional common species.

Our plan was to take Magadi Road south out of Nairobi, stopping at several productive birding spots en route to our final destination - Lake Magadi. What we had not bargained for was the condition of Magadi Road - particularly south of Oltepesi. The road has *many* large potholes - in some places stretching almost entirely across the pavement. Much of the time John and other drivers would have two tires on the thin strip of uninterrupted pavement, and the other tires running on the packed earth beside the road. But this was not always possible, depending on the condition of the road shoulder.

Apparently the owner of the Magadi Soda Works (Tata) is responsible for maintaining Magadi Road - not the government. But Tata does not do much of a job! Crews shovel murrum and dirt by hand to fill the worst potholes - we saw a couple of them engaged in this. But when it rains, the fill material washes out. And following the abundant short rains this year, Magadi Road was in terrble shape. So our progress was slow, and in early afternoon we had to give up on our goal of reaching Lake Magadi. But we still had a wonderful time.

Our first stop was at a crest in the Ngong Hills - famous among birders - called "Corner Baridi". This means "cold corner" but it was not too chilly that morning. The bird activity among the Acacias was great - too much to process. Just the way I like it. Francis started calling out the more noteworthy species first, as I was relishing good looks at subtly beautiful birds like Grey Flycatcher and Pied Wheatear. We also enjoyed colorful ones like Sunbirds, Weavers and Canaries in particular.

Just about all the photos today were shot handheld so the quality is a bit off versus the beanbag or tripod-supported photos later in the trip.

African Grey Flycatcher (note slight dark streaks on the crown + lack of breast streaking, which distinguishes it from Pale Flycatcher)

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Male Bronze Sunbird
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Female Bronze Sunbird
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Male Black-necked Weaver
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Female Black-necked Weaver
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Vitelline Masked Weaver
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When we had worked the birds in the immediate area pretty well, we walked 50-60 meters south along the road shoulder. As I was admiring how well a Cardinal Woodpecker blended in to the bark of the tree it was working, Francis said "Here's a Schalow's Wheatear". We enoyed "crippling" views as the UK twitchers say. Though not uncommon on Magadi Road, Schalow's Wheatear is a very range-restricted endemic, found only in drier parts of the rift valley with rocky hillsides with grass and isolated bushes.


Cardinal Woodpecker blending in
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Schalow's Wheatear
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Then a group of Blue-naped Mousebirds put in an appearance - funny-looking creatures to be sure. They were followed by a pair of Eurasian Bee-eaters and a Rufous-crowned Roller. Then I had to choose between looking at an Abyssinian Scimitarbill and a Von der Decken's Hornbill - two birds I had been dreaming of. I chose the Scimitarbill since it seemed it would not stick around as long and sure enough, it flew off as soon as I got my bins on it. The hornbill was more cooperative.

* On this safari, I had to strike a balance between A] visual appreciation of the subject through my optics and B] obtaining a good photograph. I usually chose A] first and let B] work itself out. Except with rare or fleeting birds.

Then we had the safari's first White-browed Scrub-Robin - common though charming little birds. They kind of struck me as "Kenyan Mockingbirds" with their constant + variable singing. It was accompanied by an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler - my first Old-world Warbler species. Later we had a Red-fronted Warbler.


White-browed Scrub-Robin
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Slate-colored Boubou
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Driving to the next stop, we sighted my first African shorebird - African Wattled Lapwing. Very nice and colorful bird.


At the next stop we had a pair of Red-throated Tits, another Kenyan/Tanzanian endemic that is highly sought-after by birders. I got better looks than photos, so I will not inflict the substandard images on y'all. But I got some great images in Mara North, so stay tuned. In the same mixed-species insectivore flock, we had Kikuyu White-eye and later we had Abysinnian White-eye.


We had a good day for Sunbirds, bagging: Bronze, Scarlet-chested, Hunter's, Northern Beautiful, Variable, and Eastern Violet-backed.



Scarlet-chested Sunbird (male)
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I love Shrikes and Fiscals (back home they are called Butcher Birds because they hang their meat). On the 9th we saw lots of Common and a few Somali Fiscals.

In the finch-like bird department we were treated to views of Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, Purpe Grenadier, Red-billed Firefinch, Blue-faced Waxbill, and African Silverbill. We also enjoyed Brimstone Canaries, Yellow-fronted Canaries, Yellow-rumped Seedeaters, Streaky Seedeaters, and Southern Grosbeak-Canaries.

We also had stunning views of a small flock of Somali Golden-breased Buntings. The range maps in Stevenson and Fanshawe do not seem to show this species in the Magadi Road area, but they certainly did occur there.

By the time I got through ogling them, all I could obtain was a partially-obscured photo.


Somali Golden-breasted Bunting
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When we were a little bit south of Oltepesi, two pairs of Diederik Cuckoos were having a territorial dispute. Francis and I were trying to get good scope looks at them. Then Tommy said "what are these interesting creatures looking at us?"

They were Gerenuks! It was a male, two females and at least one other (sex unknown). Most unexpected, but now I've been educated by @@Safaridude that they have a little spur of their range that includes the arid scrublands around that area.

23668899044_06da13a263_b.jpg


Not long after that, we turned back to return to Nairobi and had more interesting birds along the way. A Grey-headed Kingfisher was looking for prey with no water in sight, and raptors included Eastern Chanting-Goshawk and Tawny Eagle.

I will not bore people with the complete bird list, but we had 78 species for the day.

Edited by offshorebirder

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Tom Kellie

~ @@offshorebirder

 

Kenya's birds have met their 21st Century Audubon!

Your detailed report and exceptional images are a treat well worth waiting for.

Thank you!

Tom K.

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michael-ibk

Those Gerenuks, really a super-cool sigthing - I love them. Beautiful bird pictures, especially like the Schalow´s Wheatear.

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mapumbo

Hello @@offshorebirder,

Thank you for referring to us as the nice Kansas couple. My registered name on safaritalk is @Mapumbo.

 

We very much enjoyed meeting you and Tommy and Ben at Offbeat Mara. Mama Ndege and I also met Mr. and Mrs. @@TonyQ at Offbeat Meru and appreciated them sharing their game drive with us as we landed at the air strip. We had a nice visit with them over dinner the one evening we were together at Meru.

 

It is becoming a wide world of safari talk members. Our fantastic guide at Offbeat Mara was David who also is a safari talk member and he remembered GW and @@Safaridude when they visited as did the staff at the other Offbeat camps we stayed at, Meru and Sosian. The safari talk website was discussed at every place we stayed. This site is a power house for information and connection with like minded folks.

 

Mama Ndege and I used the information on safari talk extensively to plan our trip.

 

We will read @@offshorebirders trip report with interest.

 

@TomKellie, we stayed two nights in the Tented camp at Nairobi Nat. Park. We had a super safari there, Seeing both black and white rhino, a nice lion pride, sunni and lots of antelope species. As @offshore birder mentioned the grass is tall in all of Kenya. David our guide mentioned that he had not seen this much grass for ten years. The El Nino is making its presence known. It really did not hinder our game viewing too much. I'm sure we missed seeing some smaller species, but most of the game are in the patches of short grass they have grazed down and are staying out of the tall grass areas to be safe from the predators.

 

We also had a first rate guide at the Nairobi Tented Camp named Andrew. He was as good as any of our other guides in Kenya.

 

Enjoy Kenya Tom, I know you will and we will be looking for your great trip report.

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Safaridude

@@offshorebirder

 

Phew! This is coming at us fast and furious! Looking forward to more encyclopedic records of your trip.

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offshorebirder

@@offshorebirder

 

Phew! This is coming at us fast and furious! Looking forward to more encyclopedic records of your trip.

 

Thanks @@Safaridude. The pace may slow a bit this weekend when I have two full days in the field...

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