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WHAT? I am flabbergasted. Did not realize how lucky we were at the time!


In retrospect I should have shot some video. <kicking self>



<shaking head> Kicking self probably not enough - self-flagellation may seem more appropriate one day. ^_^



Mea culpa <ouch>. Mea culpa <ouch>.


-- I did not realize what a big deal that sighting actually was until yesterday when @@Safaridude set me straight.


I should have cranked the zoom up to 400mm (from 300 mm) and shot video - but the fact that the Suni were standing on "unnatural pavement" dampened my enthusiasm. So I casually ripped off a couple of shots at sub-optimal settings and left it at that. Drat! I pride myself on being ready and nailing big shots when opportunity suddenly presents itself. But that gets short-circuited when one is too ignorant of what is very special and what isn't...


I should have known what a big deal that sighting was from Francis' reaction at the time.


And during a dinner discussion at Offbeat Mara with @@mapumbo and Mama Ndege, their excitement over seeing Suni in NNP should also have gotten the point across.


Oh well - I will be ready next time!

Edited by offshorebirder
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Like the unusual stopovers very much. Would like to know why you chose Castle Forest Lodge.


@@pault - we chose Mt. Kenya NP over the Aberdares in general for better chances at Crowned Eagle, African Black Duck and African Green Ibis. Plus the concentration of many target bird species within easy walking distance of Castle Forest Lodge - no need to drive around to bag them.


This being said, I do very much want to visit the Aberdares on a future Kenya safari!


Within Mt. Kenya NP, we chose Castle Forest Lodge over Serena Mountain Lodge for multiple reasons, including:


- Better chances for Crowned Eagle and African Green Ibis at Castle Forest Lodge versus Mountain Lodge.


- Larger + better grounds for birding and naturalizing around the lodge itself, and better immediate access to walkable trails and little-used dirt roads.


- I am not a fan of light pollution and the massively illuminated salt lick at Mountain Lodge rubs me the wrong way.


- The notion of staying in the individual bandas / huts at CFL appealed to me more than a big multi-room lodge at SML that I had read had very thin walls on Tripadvisor.


- Ben's Ecological Safaris also advised staying at Castle Forest Lodge for Mt. Kenya, which was good enough for me.

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For anyone interested in potentially staying at Castle Forest Lodge, here is some info.

The main building (the lodge itself) is where the kitchen, restaurant, bar, laundry, and quarters for drivers and guides are located. There may also be a couple of guest rooms.

The restaurant has good fare and plenty of fruits and vegetables - though a couple of the meals were a bit rich and heavy on the cream-based sauces. We enjoyed eating breakfast and lunch on the veranda and we ate dinner each evening inside in the dining room. The bar only had Tusker and White Cap in stock, but they were happy to keep some Guinness I brought in cold storage for consumption each evening. The bar seemed to have a good selection of spirits.

They have 2-3 levels of accommodation in the bandas / cottages. At the low end, there are single-room bandas with two beds and a bathroom. Ben's booked us in one of these. Knowing birders and their frugal habits, Ben's probably assumes birders want the cheapest accommodations possible everywhere...

There are also more upscale bungalows with two bedrooms + living room, bathroom and veranda. The "Sun House" and "Moon House" are two of these and they looked nicer than the 1st tier housing when we looked them over. I will likely stay in the Sun or Moon house next time I visit. There are also a couple of slightly more posh bungalows for honeymooners and people seeking a bit more luxury. And there is a secluded cottage named the "Bush Hut" 8 kilometers up the service road beyond the main lodge grounds.

Hot water is provided to the cottages by using wood fires to heat water in metal vessels within stone-and-mortar enclosures in back of the cottages. With about 30-40 minutes notice, the staff can start a fire and go from a tank of cold water to piping hot water. The water stays hot for 2-3 (or more) hours, so one does not need to rush to shower as soon as the water first gets hot.

Wood-fired hot water heater

The fireplace and chimney design in our 1st-tier cottage was very poor. Tommy is a general contractor, who specializes in restoring 200-300 year old buildings - so he is an expert on good fireplace and chimney design. He said that the tiny flue and poorly designed smoke shelf were almost guaranteed to send large amounts of smoke into the room. That, combined with the wet/green wood they were using, made for a very smoky indoor experience our first evening when a staff person lit the fire.

We hurried to move our clothing, camera gear, laptops, etc into the bathroom and closed the door. Then we quickly moved the wood away from the little bit of flame, and did our best to put out the fire. When he came back, we had a hard time convincing him we wanted no more fire (or smoke). The concept that we would rather have a cold cottage at night than a very smoky one seemed completely alien to him. But at last he gave up on trying to get a fire going.

But when we went to dinner, he came back and started the fire again. Ah Africa, where employees hew closely to their routines despite smiling and agreeing not to beforehand... This prompted a return trip to the restaurant (after waving a flashlight for an askari) and a chat with the manager, who promised to see that no more fires got started in our cottage.


On this, our first Safari, I found that a humble, polite chat with the manager is the best way to have one's wishes granted - rather than making requests directly of the staff. At first, my natural inclination was not to "go over people's head" but I found in multiple places that politely asking the manager was the quickest and least turbulent route to getting things sorted.

* We very much enjoyed our time at Castle Forest Lodge. But unless one is on a very tight budget, I recommend the 2nd-tier or higher cottages.

Edited by offshorebirder
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*** If any site admins can help, I am having trouble aligning the text on the left, yet centering the photos. I used to be able to do this, but now every time I try and select just the text to left-format - it left-formats the photos as well. And if I try and center-format just the photos, it center-formats this entire post - text and all... Very frustrating - if anyone knows how to fix this please let me know...

Tuesday, January 12, 2016.

Our day dawned cloudy but without rain. We met Francis along the path between the bandas and the main building just after 6am to look and listen for African Green Ibis. Green Ibis call a lot in flight between their roosting and feeding areas, and their calls can help alert birders to their flight path and potentially to temporary roosts in dead trees on the way to their feeding area.

Eventually we did hear some faint Green Ibis vocalizations, but far off to the south and out of view. There were so many Hadada Ibis and other noisy birds calling, it was a little challenging to pick up Green Ibis calls.

After a quick breakfast, we made our way uphill, moving towards the back of the extensive grounds. A large open grassy area (30-40 acres?) around the lodge, bandas, and staff houses is kept sheared - a little taller than ankle-high - by goats and cows. The "grounds crew" is then brought in at night to protect them from Leopards and Hyenas. Guests have to have an escort walking back to their bandas after dinner, on account of Leopards and Elephants.

At the edge of the grounds, the shorter grasses and wildflowers gave way to a border zone of sedges, shrubs, and bushes. Then the taller, vine-laden canopy begins. The transition zone had very good bird diversity (and Chameleons too).

At the top of the hill behind the staff houses, we had a view of Mount Kenya. We could see the snowy ravine near the summit, but the early time and cloudy conditions made for less than spectacular views. But the field of view we had over a large expanse of canopy was great for birding and scanning for primates.

The summit of Mt. Kenya early on a cloudy morning

View from the rise at the back of the grounds

Transition zone between grassy grounds and forest proper

Forest canopy behind the transition zone

We saw some distant Syke's Monkeys and Black-and-white Colobus. Francis said that meant there were not any Crowned Eagles around yet - monkeys get scarce when they are about!

We also saw a large flock of Red-fronted Parrots flying over, and through the scope admired a Great Sparrowhawk as it spread its wings and tail to dry off. Great Sparrowhawks are huge Accipiters - one of the largest in the world next to Northern Goshawks.

Great Sparrowhawk early on a cloudy morning

Then the passerine activity began picking up. In addition to great views of a pair of Hunter's Cisticolas, some new species included Montane Oriole, Common Stonechat, Rufous-breasted Sparrow and Eastern Double-collared Sundbirds. In addition to other common species, we also had good looks at Crowned Hornbills, several Silvery-cheeked Hornbills, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eaters, White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher, Thick-billed Seedeaters, African Citril, Yellow Wagtail, Olive Thrush, Northern Double-collared Sundbirds, and Bronze Sunbirds. We also had good scope looks at a European Honey Buzzard, a new bird for the trip. Other good new species included Rupell's Robin-Chat, Common Stonechat, African Dusky Flycatcher, African Hill Babbler, Montane White-eye, Eastern Olive Sundbird, Collared Sunbird, and Baglaflecht Weaver.

Hunter's Cisticola pair

Olive Thrush

At 9:30am, we headed over to the overgrown access road. John followed not far behind us in the vehicle. This precaution is necessary since people have been trampled by Elephants near Castle Forest Lodge before. A bad incident a few years ago involved a mother and her infant getting separated from their tour group while on a forest path. Somehow they ended up between a mother elephant and her calf. Very unfortunately, the lady and her child were trampled to death. As a result, visitors are not allowed to travel off the road on the forest paths without an armed escorts. But staying on the Castle Forest Lodge grounds and the service road are safe. The Elephants mostly avoid the service road until after dark, when they use it to travel and visit roadside mineral excavation sites. Nevertheless, out of an abundance of caution, Ben's Ecological Safaris have a policy that the driver and vehicle will follow the field party along the service road at a fairly close distance, just in case Forest Elephants suddenly appear.

Forest Elephant trail crossing the service road

Elephant path leading into the forest

Elephants' mineral excavation site beside the service road

Closer view

Francis checking a strange bird call on a side path down near the forest gate

The bird activity was really hopping in the forest along the service road. At first we worked a little uphill from the lodge, then the denser forest downhill. We ran into multiple mixed-species flocks of insectivores. Just as in the new world, finding these mixed-species flocks and working them thoroughly is the key to successful forest birding and finding rarities. We enjoyed close long looks at Yellow-rumped Tinkerbirds, as well as Mountain Greenbul and Yellow-whiskered Greenbul. Tropical Boubous were also plentiful and a Fine-banded Woodpecker put in a brief appearance. We also got to admire a Tambourine Dove.

Elephant trail leading uphill from the service road shoulder

But the best bird of the morning was one I saw that eluded Francis. At one point, we had two Narina Trogons vocalizing on opposite sides of the service road. It appeared to be the border line between the two males' territories. One male was calling from a little way uphill of the other. Francis had walked uphill to see if he could spot the bird and I was downhill working the other. Just then, my bird got agitated and flew across the service road. I didn't need optics to appreciate its stunning plumage. The trogon paused briefly on a branch near the edge, then as I raised my camera it flew deeper into cover. It was a great encounter with a major target bird.

Service road leading downhill from the lodge

As we worked further downhill, we had a Scaly Francolin by the service road - another new bird for the trip. At the bottom of the road, we checked out the stream to the left of the entrance gate. The first few bends and pools did not hold our target - African Black Ducks. The mud got very deep and there seemed no way around it, so Francis said he would go look around the next bend for the ducks and come get me if he found them. Find them he did, and by the time I got up there (and very muddy) they had moved farther upstream. Snaking through the woods and up and around the bend failed to produce them. Oh well - need to save a few species for next visit...

During lunch, we spotted an immature African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene) circling overheard. Very impressive raptor.

African Harrier-Hawk

After lunch Tommy and I went back to our rooms briefly, and as we stepped back outside we saw Francis hustling towards us. "Bring your scope, bring your scope" he said excitedly. We rushed to a vantage point between our cottage and the lodge, and Francis pointed to a distant tree. I knew what it was before scoping it, because I could hear the faint whistling calls of a CROWNED EAGLE!

We watched this number one target bird for Kenya as it perched in a distant tree. A spotting scope gave pretty good looks, though the view from binoculars and camera lens left a bit to be desired...

I got some lousy documentary photos - a montage of a couple are below.

Adult Crowned Eagle

After watching the Crowned Eagle depart, we birded the grounds briefly and returned to the service road, heading downhill. One of the first birds was an Abbott's Starling - a handsome species which is highly sought-after by birders. Other good birds included Mountain Wagtail, Slender-billed Greenbul, Grey Apalis, and Black-throated Apalis. And we ran into a nice mixed species flock orbited by several warblers - we had Brown-backed Woodland Warbler, male and female Black-caps, Pied Warbler, and Willow Warbler. A Tuhlberg's Woodpecker also gave us good looks.

It was a treat to see a Fireball Lily beside the road.

Fireball Lily

Then just below the bridge, we ran into a wonderful mixed species flock. The highlight was a Black-fronted Bush-Shrike that gave us very good looks. And we had multiple Moustached Green Tinkerbirds, also highly sought-after. Plus many previously-observed yet pleasing species to watch.

Moustached Green Tinkerbird

We got back to the compound around 5ish, under heavy cloud cover, and heard a Crowned Eagle calling! We set up the scope and watched an immature bird circling the canopy some distance away. But again, the spotting scope, at 40 or 50X gave pretty good views. Then we saw the eagle stooping on prey - presumably an unfortunate monkey. Oh happy day - two Crowned Eagles in one afternoon!

I saluted the stooping eagle with my camera - here is another lousy documentary shot:

Just before dark, we tried again for Green Ibis and Montane Nightjars. We heard the former but missed seeing them and saw the latter. I had been surprised to learn that no owl species call Mount Kenya home - for owls we would have to wait...

Edited by offshorebirder
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@offshorebirder Beautiful images. I liked your comment about concentrating on capturing the moment or bird and letting the quality take care of itself - I feel it does your skill a disservice though.

Edited by pomkiwi
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@@Safaridude Suni are easy to see in The Salient (Aberdare NP), Arusha NP, a couple of spots on Zanzibar, and False Bay Park in South Africa. That said, they can be awfully cryptic. This sighting in Nairobi NP was certainly a very lucky find - I don't hear of sightings from there much at all (though I do recall they occur in the Ngong Hills).

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Sounds like @@Safaridude needs to pop over from the Emakoko and bag some Suni on his next orbit through Kenya...

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The sunbirds are positively spellbinding!

In fact, your last few posts have been something of a birding revelation for me. Hanging on your every word and looking forward to more.

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Really enjoyed the Mt. Kenya part, some lovely birds you found there. Have only seen a Narina Trogon once (and from quite far away), a very beautiful bird. About Suni, I wouldn´t exactly say they are easy to find in the Aberdares Salient like Anomalure suggested, so far I´ve seen a total of two there in quite a lot of drives. Apart from the Monkeys, which mammals did you see around Mt. Kenya?

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Definitely enjoying the "focus" on birds, keep 'em coming!

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Thanks for the compliment @@Marks - never too late to become a hard-core birder :-)


Thanks also @@michael-ibk. We did not see other mammals besides monkeys - could have pursued Bushbuck, Giant Forest Hog, etc. but were having too much fun birding. We heard Hyenas both nights and Elephants one night.

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Thanks @@janzin. The focus is about to shift and give mammals equal billing, but with birds of course still being big players.


* In my report on the day at Nairobi National Park, I neglected to mention a neat sighting and to share some photos. At Hyena Dam, we saw two Hammerkops engaged in courtship behavior. One (presumably the male) was picking up little sticks and pieces of debris. Then tossing and catching them, or dropping them. The female seemed fascinated at his play behavior, watching the sticks and debris as they fell.




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@@michael-ibk In hindsight, I guess I was thinking of The Ark, where Suni come to the birding tables every afternoon to eat the crumps left behind. I would agree that away from there, they would probably be pretty tough to find in the Salient due to elusive habits, small size, and dense vegetation.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

We rose early and tried one more time for Green Ibis, but struck out. Our luck had finally failed us on a major target species. But we were not disheartened - one has to leave something for next trip. We birded until breakfast, then got on the road to Samburu and Buffalo Springs.

At this point in our trip, we had seen 256 bird species and had another couple of dozen heard-only species.

We slowed as we approached the bridge across the mountain stream halfway down the service road - in case Giant Kingfisher, African Black Duck or some other good bird was around. As luck would have it, a Giant Kingfisher was perched on the little concrete dam upstream from the bridge.

Giant Kingfisher



Reaching the highway, we drove west, then north to go around Mt. Kenya. To help break up the journey, we stopped at the edge of Solio Ranch to bird a little pond beside the highway. The water level in the pond was very high - it seemed to be overflowing its banks. A little island in the middle had some trees where Sacred Ibis were nesting. Francis started calling out birds like Least Grebe and Hottentot Teal, but my one-track mind was focused on shorebirds. "There's a Ruff on the far left bank" I said. "And Common Sandpiper and Marsh Sandpiper to the right of it." "Cool - a Ruff". Francis said. Then I called a Wood Sandpiper and Francis spotted an African Snipe skulking in some grass in the corner. We also had Blacksmith Lapwing, Red-knobbed Coots, Common Moorhens and African Spoonbills in addition to Sacred and Hadada Ibis foraging along the shore.

Getting back underway, we passed through Naro Meru and eventually reached Nanyuki Town. It had the bustling air of a frontier town. Army vehicles from Kenya and the United Kingdom zipped around, as did cars, trucks, motorbikes, donkey carts, and curious little half-motorcycle / half-pickup trucks. All sorts of people ambled past wearing all manner of garb.

After stopping for petrol, we continued on our way. When we reached Isiolo, it was like someone threw a switch. Suddenly half the ladies were wearing hijabs and many of the men were wearing kufis. As with other towns, there were plentiful fruit and vegetable stands lining the road. Every so often, a little pile of trash was burning - plastic, rubber and all.

Before log, we reached the gate of Buffalo Springs National Reserve. We got out and watched a group of White-headed Buffalo Weavers buidling nests in a nearby Acacia. Their white heads and red rumps are very distinctive. Francis said their nickname among Kenyan birders is "Tomato Rump". I told Francis that Americans have a similar nickname for Yellow-rumped Warblers - "Butter Butt".

In no time we were processed and on our way. On the drive to Samburu Simba, we saw several Grevy's Zebra and a couple of nice herds of Beisa Oryx. Also Reticulated Giraffes and Grant's Gazelles. I had expected a lot of searching would be needed to find Grevy's Zebras but they were regular sights driving around Buffalo Springs. In general during our stay the bulk of the Grevy's Zebras, Beisa Oryx, Reticulated Giraffe, Grant's Gazelles, Desert Warthogs and other prey animals (except Kirk's Dik Dik) were on the Buffalo Springs side of the Ewaso Nyiro river. All the Lions and most of the Elephants we saw were on the Samburu side.

We checked in and splashed water on our faces, then it was time to take an afternoon game drive.

Kirk's Dik Dik were plentiful. So were Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse. Then we saw a couple of Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse in some fairly tall grass beside the road. Their plumage was the perfect camouflage.

Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse blending in



Then we came upon a Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver perched atop an Acacia. It gave us crippling looks!


Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver



Just after that, we had an obliging Chestnut-headed Sparrow-Lark pose for a photo.

Chestnut-headed Sparrow-Lark


On the way to a wooded corner of the Ewaso Nyiro, I spotted our first Secretarybird far in the distance. At the river we had a Water Thick-Knee and a Laughing Dove perched at eye level.

Laughing Dove



Then we had an adult Bateleur perched in a tree - funny looking raptor and a new species for the trip. A Tawny Eagle was perched nearby watching some young Grant's Gazelles. Then we saw a Montagu's Harrier gliding past - it was easy to tell from Pallid Harrier by its heavier built and dark streaks on its underwing + belly.

We also saw a Northern White-crowned Shrike, Marico Sunbird and Red-billed Buffalo Weaver. Then we saw some Orange-bellied Parrots perched in a tree! Very striking birds.

Orange-bellied Parrot


In the same grove, we saw an Olivaceous Warbler. I shot quite a few frames but none came out very well due to the thick cover. I was finding that old-world warblers are harder to photograph well than new-world warblers.

Then we reached a more open, drier area. We had good looks at Isabelline Wheatear and spotted a couple of Somali Coursers up ahead. John idled closer in expert fashion for me to snap some photos.

Somali Courser


As I was getting started snapping some photos, John said "Hold on, we need to go". I looked up to start to say I wasn't quite finished with the Somali Coursers (major target bird) and I saw Francis grinning and giving the thumbs-up.

Here is what John had spotted up ahead:



A gorgeous male Cheetah! He was resting on the backlit / bad light side of the road. So we settled in to wait. After 10 minutes or so, he got up and started walking towards the good side of the road. What an obliging fellow!





But alas, he did not pause and walked briskly away - giving us his backside for the majority of the encounter. But Tommy and I were overjoyed at the encounter. Cheetah was tied with Leopard for our "most wanted big cat" and right up there for "most wanted animal".


Soon after our Cheetah encounter, we came upon a cooperative Common Kestrel.

Common Kestrel


Then we had a pair of Reticulated Giraffe, a herd of Grevy's Zebras, more Beisa Oryx and a sounder of Desert Warthog! They were followed by a pair of White-bellied Bustards and a striking Rosy-patched Bush-Shrike.

All too soon, we had to head back to the lodge for the 6:30 cutoff time. We were still buzzing from the Cheetah sighting and toasted our good fortune with Tusker and Guinness, while Francis had a Sprite.

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Page 1

78 species and a gerenuk. Great start. I am thrilled you used Ben's Ecological Safaris. I heard a lot about Ben from his Uncle Ben (shared name) the last time I was in Kenya. You chose well for a bird-focused trip.


Page 2

Wow, a suni! Francis must have been surprised at that. I've never seen one either. A trip to Nairobi National Park may change that for me and others. Thanks @paulo! It is a feat just to see those elusive black crakes. You got a beautifully detailed photo!


Page 3

Nice scenery shot of Mt. Kenya.

"almost did not include that flight shot of the Striated Heron, since the focus is a little too soft for my standards." Cut yourself a little slack for BIFs! I was admiring it.


Hunter's Cisticola pair are charming.


Thanks for the Castle Lodge info!


Page 4

It seems you caught the Hammerkops engaged in a shared little game. They seem to be a very content couple.

Way to go with the cheetah. A thumbs up for sure! Was there any talk on cheetah numbers in Meru or whether they are increasing or decreasing?


The common kestral is uncommonly illuminated in perfect warm light.

Edited by Atravelynn
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Beautiful Giant Kingfisher - and fantastic that Buffalo Springs presented a Cheetah on the way in. Really admire all your bird photos, you did all those with a 400?!? Especially like the Parrot, I know they are very hard to get good pics of.

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I am continuing to enjoy the perspective of a proper birder. Beautiful photos - and a great cheetah sighting. How cooperative to go into the sunlight so his eyes could be lit up.

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Thanks again for the kind comments @@Atravelynn, @@michael-ibk, and @@TonyQ.


Lynn - I will be sure to let Ben know about your good things to say about him - and the nice comments @@twaffle made. When he gets back and settled in from a multi-week guiding session in Tanzania, I am going to get Ben introduced to Safaritalk.


Michael - yes, all photos were with a Canon 100-400 IS II and 7DmkII. At the high end, I mostly stuck to 300mm-350mm and only used 400 on very distant targets or well-lit stationary ones out in the open. Many of the better bird photos were good because we were pretty close to the birds. I cannot say enough good things about the fieldcraft and vehicle handling of the Ben's Ecological Safaris crew. At times we were almost too close to larger subjects, who were still comfortable and at-ease. One of many examples: Whenever possible, John would always use downhill slopes to gradually approach easily-spooked targets (birds and mammals). He did so by taking the vehicle out of park, lightening pressure on the brakes, and silently coasting ever so slowly without cranking the engine.


One of the things I like about the 100-400 IS II lens is that it is capable of f/5 all the way up to 300mm. Which equals 420mm on a crop-sensor body like the 7dmkII. Then the lens from 301-400mm is f/5.6. The minor downside is you only have f/4.5 from 100 to around 135mm.


As many of you probably noticed, in the excitement of the moment I blundered and chopped off the Cheetah's tail tip in some of the best-lit photo opportunities. Painful lesson about being more careful framing the subject while keeping its eyes in sharp focus, all while panning on a moving target in very limited time, etc. I think in that case back-button focusing might have saved a few shots for me...


But that painful lesson was remembered and used in several subsequent Cheetah encounters.

Edited by offshorebirder
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You must have gotten very close indeed to have gotten all of these bird shots at (often) less than 400mm. They are all excellent, but the variable sunbird (which I've never seen) and paradise flycatcher (only a fleeting glimpse for me) really linger in my mind.


I think you may have successfully recruited a few folks to the birding side of things after dangling gerenuk and suni in front if them!

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Thanks again for the kind comments @@Atravelynn, @@michael-ibk, and @@TonyQ.


Lynn - I will be sure to let Ben know about your good things to say about him - and the nice comments @@twaffle made. When he gets back and settled in from a multi-week guiding session in Tanzania, I am going to get Ben introduced to Safaritalk.

In Sept of 2010 (somehwere in Kenya but can't remember where) I ran into a couple of birders who were traveling with Ben of Ben’s Ecological Safaris who were absolutely giddy with excitement over just seeing their 900th bird species in Africa. (I don't think all 900 were on this one trip with Ben.) They might have been Australian. Maybe Ben remembers that trip.


Which birds was Francis most enthused about on your trip?

Edited by Atravelynn
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Another day reading your report and looking at all the wonderful pics of the birds. Did you buy a book on birds in Kenya?

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@@Atravelynn - thanks for sharing that story about the birders in the "900 club" for Africa. Impressive stuff - hope I reach there one day.


The bird Francis was most excited about - hmmm. For himself, possibly Black-fronted Bush-Shrike - he had only seen them a handful of times himself and only one other sighting as good as the one we had in the Mt. Kenya forest.


Four-banded Sandgrouse (coming in today's installment) was also a big deal - they are not easy or expected as far southeast as Samburu / Buffalo Springs as only the bottom corner of their range overlaps there. We had 4 of Kenya's 5 Sandgrouse species in a single day in Buffalo Springs!


And Francis also got very exited by a completely unexpected Northern Carmine Bee-eater we had in Samburu on January 15.


I think Francis was happiest for my sake to get Crowned Eagle - a major target we had to work for.

Edited by offshorebirder
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@@CDL111 - I did indeed buy a book and an App for birds of Kenya.


It is called "A field Guide to the Birds of East Africa" by Terry Stevenson and John Fanshawe. It is wonderful.


The App (I have it for iPad and iPhone but available for Droid phones and tablets) is very handy and portable and it lets you play almost all the bird calls + songs. Very useful for studying bird vocalizations ahead of time.

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Wednesday January 13 - after dark.


As usual, at the end of the day before dinner, Tommy and Francis and I sat down with our checklist booklets to record the day's birds, mammals, and herps (reptiles and amphibians).


At the little table at the edge of the dining deck, we could see Slender-tailed Nightjars wheeling and hawking moths attracted to the lights of the Samburu Simba dining area. We could also see small/medium sized bats but could not get a good enough look for an ID. Kitk's Dik Dik and Common Waterbuck were also standing nearby.


Eating dinner, we had the cutest little visitor - a Genet Cat. It sat politely a short distance away, not really staring at us - just being outrageously cute with its prim little posture, tiny feet, dainty face, etc. And it was so polite - not pushy at all. I am pretty hard-hearted when it comes to feeding / habituating wildlife and so is Tommy. We have sayings back home like "A fed Gator is a dead Gator".


It was interesting to see that the Genet got scarce / disappeared whenever the waiter came around - then reappeared when the coast was clear.


Confession time:


Well after the first night, my self-control went out the window and I tossed the little Genet a little morsel of chicken. It carried it off - presumably to its young somewhere. By the end of our stay, even Tommy broke down and tossed it a morsel. The last night there were two Genets but they did not seem to get along. We each tossed them one morsel each - simultaneously in opposite directions - at the end of our meal.


I guess sometimes a critter is so cute that all one's self-control evaporates - especially if nobody is around or looking...

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@@offshorebirder, really enjoying the lovely bird photos, and that Cheetahs spots jump right out at you, beautiful.Also appreciate the tips and advice on your camera gear. Every little bit helps those of us back in the starting blocks with our photography. That Genet has probably mastered the art of polite begging, every guest gives it "just a morsel" for cuteness and manners.Smart.

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