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January 14, 2016 - morning activity.

Jet lag again reared its ugly head - I woke up at 2:30am and could not get back to sleep for the life of me. I wondered how long I could keep operating on 4-4.5 hours of sleep a night...

Since things got hot and heavy on January 14, I am going to split the post for January 14 in two - AM and PM. I will likely do the same for January 15 (even more busy). Samburu and Buffalo Springs amazed us with the constant birding and mammal action. There was an almost palpable sense of contentment + eagerness to feed and breed among the birds and beasts. I love the green season in Kenya!

We started with a quick 6am breakfast over wonderful scenery, and loaded into the vehicle just after 6:30. Our plan was to work over the bridge into Samburu in the morning, and to spend the afternoon game drive in Buffalo Springs. We were glad to learn that the flood-destroyed bridge between Samburu and Buffalo Springs had finally been replaced - courtesy of the British Army.

One of the first birds to greet us was a Somali Fiscal, new for the trip. There were also several Beisa Oryx and Grant's Gazelle just outside the gate at Samburu Simba. In the first stretch of road we then saw Pale Prinia, Golden Pipit, Lesser Masked Weaver, and a beautiful male Chestnut Sparrow.

Our first subject in decent light was a Yellow-necked Spurfowl:





Just afterwards, we came upon a sharp-looking male Black-faced Sandgrouse:




Then we came upon a small herd of Gerenuk and got to watch them browsing on all fours, as well as on hind legs.





Then a fairly large herd of Beisa Oryx (28) was accompanied by a dozen or so Grevy's Zebra and around two dozen Grant's Gazelle.

At the bridge over the Ewaso Nyiro, we saw a Gabar Goshawk perched in a tree and a Savannah Monitor Lizard on the riverbank. One of our first birds on the Samburu side was a Wattled Starling - a strange-looking bird indeed!

Wattled Starling


Then we came upon a pair of male Reticulated Giraffes sparring. It did not look like a very serious fight - perhaps more like practicing.

Male Giraffes sparring 1


Male Giraffes sparring 2


Here is a short video - I decided to post it despite a brief period of camera shake. Be sure to increase the resolution to 1080p.

Then we watched a pair of Buff-crested Bustards foraging close to the road and as we moved off, a Harlequin Quail flushed and gave brief flight views (did not manage a photo however). Then we had a Red-tailed Shrike - a dashing new species and some vocal White-bellied Go-away Birds. Then we admired a pair of Somali Bee-eaters, which were also new birds for the trip.

After seeing several Vulturine Guineafowl, we finally saw one in light that was not terrible:



Then at a bluff overlooking the river, we saw a pair of Reticulated Giraffe drinking.

First the front one drank while the other acted as lookout:


Then they switched roles of drinker and lookout:


Then as we moved through a grassy area with short shrubs, Francis said something like "look" and pointed as a brownish streak flashed across a grassy dell towards cover. "AFRICAN WILD CAT!" I exclaimed to Tommy as I fired off a documentary shot. I know how Francis felt - sometimes in the heat of the action, the old brain-mouth connection fails and all you can stammer is "look" or "there". Happens to all of us regularly...

African Wild Cat


Just after the wild cat sighting, we saw a small herd of Elephants crossing the road.

There were adults


And this calf who seemed to be testing the edge of the road before crossing


Then we had a nice Walberg's Eagle sighting and a Yellow-billed Hornbill perching and leaning into a nest box. Glad to see they are augmenting the nesting facilities for Hornbills with nest boxes. Then as we rounded a bend, a wonderful Elephant encounter unfolded around a mud wallow.

Youngster played in the mud


And we saw an adult female with a GPS collar - presumably from Iain Douglas-Hamilton's "Save the Elephants" organization.


Eventually we left the elephant mud wallow and came upon a wonderful little puddle - nothing huge or fancy but a steady stream of small finch-like birds was coming to drink. We got set up in good light, with camera and scope ready and admired Cut-throat Finches, Blue-capped Cordon-Bleu, Red-billed Quelia, and White-bellied Canary coming to drink.

Cut-throat Finches drinking


Cut-throat Finches and Blue-capped Cordon-Bleu


Moving on, a Straw-tailed Whydah perched to display his finery to full effect. And we saw some Dwarf Mongoose, but they did not show themselves well or long. Plus many common birds I will not bore you with, and new birds such as White-browed Sparrow-weaver, Black-cheeked Waxbills and Speckle-fronted Weavers.

White-browed Sparrow-weaver


Then we came across more Elephants:





Then we had a nesting Black-and-white Cuckoo, Fischer's Starling, Steel-blue Whydah, Black-shouldered Kite, and Striped Kingfisher - all new for the trip. We also had a pair of d'Arnaud's Barbets

d'Arnaud's Barbet 1


d'Arnoud's Barbet 2


Moving back towards the bridge to head home for lunch, we saw a group of three Steppe Eagles. It was an adult and two immature birds that were in loose association, and apparently tolerating each other. A family group perhaps?

Steppe Eagle


Immature Steppe Eagle in flight


Back on the Buffalo Springs side, we had a large Somali Ostrich family:

Ostrich family




Our lunch was VERY good - I had Chicken and vegetables with roasted potatoes, and Tommy had a tasty beef medallion dish with salad and mashed potatoes. We were still buzzing - and having trouble mentally processing the fantastic natural history spectacle we had just witnessed.

It was a little strange not to have any other guests in the lodge - we wanted someone with which to compare notes. The lodge staff said registrations would pick up in February and that by March the place would be fully booked or close.

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Love the Cut-Throat-Finches - never seen them, striking birds. And the Gerenuk of course.

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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...

That was really a funny explanation of your cute begging genet. We feel the same way about habituating wildlife but as you say if they are polite and cute as all get out it is almost impossible to resist. Now on the other hand, annoying vervets at the buffet table can be quite another matter.


I was wondering how you are posting photos that are displayed in different sizes?? Thanks.

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Looks like a great birding destination! Some awesome shots so far.


Thanks for pointing out the availability of the Guide to the Birds of East Africa app. It looks just like the one for the SASOL Southern Africa guide, in fact its produced by the same company, so I will definitely pick one up for next year's Kenya trip. Its always really useful to have the calls.

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To many beautiful bird photos to mention but that paradise flycatcher really sticks out. Another non birder here but I'm definitely coming around, I'd be happy to get shots half as good as yours.

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Love the Cut-Throat-Finches - never seen them, striking birds.

Me neither. I wonder if they only appear in green season.


I don't care for that gruesome name, though I see why they are called that.


The Crowned Eagle is a big deal for birders and non-birders so I can see why that bird caused a stir with Francis.


Lovely variety from Samburu.

Edited by Atravelynn
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I was wondering how you are posting photos that are displayed in different sizes?? Thanks.



@@mapumbo - I am using a photo editing program and cropping + resizing some of the photos. Then I use those cropped / resized images to post in the trip report.


I use a free program called GIMP (Graphics Image Manipulation Program or something similar). But it is very user-unfriendly. Soon I am going to take the leap and get into Photoshop+Lightroom but have not taken the plunge as of yet.


I think both Microsoft Windows and Macintosh computers have built-in graphics programs. If you need more info or assitance with this, shoot me a personal message - glad to share experience and advice.

Edited by offshorebirder
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Thursday January 14, 2016 - afternoon and evening activity.

* Correction:
In my previous post about the morning of January 14, I made up an incorrect name for the Red-backed Shrike we actually saw. I called it a "Red-tailed Shrike" when there is no such thing... Sorry about that.

Between our lunch and the start of the afternoon game drive, I could scope the surrounding area pretty well - both from the lounge area and the deck of our second-story room. Here is the view straight out from our deck, looking towards the Ewaso Nyiro and Samburu:



The spotting scope and tripod were very useful for examining Giraffe, Oryx, Zebra, Kirk's Dik Dik and other game - as well as soaring raptors, bee-eaters and other birds. From our deck I was able to acquire and track passing swifts fairly well - noting Palm Swift, Little Swift, and Mottled Swift.

Setting out on our afternoon game drive, our plan was to stay in Buffalo Springs National Reserve. We had a pair of Absynnian Scimitarbills take flight just outside the gate, followed quickly by a pair of Red-billed Hornbills. Then we had a European Roller perched out in the open.

European Roller



Soaring nearby were Black Kite and African White-backed Vulture. Then we had Brown Snake-eagle and Eastern Chanting Goshawk in quick succession. After some Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Yellow-necked Spurfowl and Vulturine Guineafowl, we came upon a Gabar Goshawk soon followed by a Bateleur. It was quite the afternoon for raptors!

Then along the river we saw a small group of Elephants crossing.

Elephants crossing the Ewaso Nyiro


And we also had a nice herd of Beisa Oryx, Thomson's Gazelle and Grant's Gazelle



Thomson's Gazelle


Continuing south, we got into an area with several small finchlike species. We saw some Cut-throat Finches drinking again at a puddle - but unlike the morning group, these had posted a lookout.

Cut-throat Finch sentry


The puddle also hosted Crimson-rumped Waxbills and nearby a Cinnamon-chested Rock Bunting. As we drove away, we saw a Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse in the grass near the road. They are such striking creatures!

Then we found an African Cuckoo skulking around a thick Acacia. It gave us pretty good looks through the spotting scope but not very good photo oppotunities.

Then we had a nice Isabelline Shrike perched low in an Acacia.


Driving further south-southeast, we came across a nice watercourse flowing gently on its way down to the Ewaso Nyiro river. We slowly followed the watercourse upstream, making frequent stops to examine birds and other wildlife.

A Green Sandpiper foraged in the current above a miniature rapid, and Spur-winged Lapwings relaxed on the shore and streamside rocks.

Green Sandpiper


Egyptian Geese loafed at various intervals along the watercourse and we saw multiple groups of Sandgrouse coming down to drink - both Black-faced Sandgrouse and Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse.

Black-faced Sandgrouse drinking


Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse drinking 1


Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse drinking 2


Farther upstream, we came across a Black-headed Weaver Colony and a Lesser Kestrel perched nearby. Then we came upon a gradually sloping shoreline with several Terrapins and a tiny Crocodile sunning themselves.

Terrapins and tiny Croc sunning


Near the watercourse was a tree with three different Starling species - Wattled, Superb, and Fischer's. The Wattled Starling was an immature bird that had not yet developed much of a wattle:



Eventually we tore ourselves away from the delightful little watercourse. It had been very birdy and full of wildlife - as it had been during John and Ben's visit the previous week. Benefits of scouting! For those curious about the watercourse, I believe it runs from well south-southeast of Samburu Simba, northwards towards the Ewaso Nyiro. It approaches the river just to the west of the Samburu Simba, before curving east and running in front of the lodge to join the river.

Not far from the watercourse, we found a herd of 22 Grevy's Zebra. They seemed to be enjoying the lush green grass and wildflowers immensely.

Grevy's Zebra 1


Grevy's Zebra 2


Driving uphill, we had quick but good looks at a Four-banded Sandgrouse! That was not an expected species, as the Namunyak + Samburu area is in the extreme southeastern corner of their range according to the field guides.

In less than an hour and a half in Buffalo Springs National Reserve, we had four of Kenya's five Sandgrouse species! I was amazed and gratified at the experience.

Continuing on, we had Common Kestrel, Buff-crested Bustard, Kori Bustard and Harlequin Quail - followed by Speckled Pigon, Namaqua Dove and Emerald-Spotted Wood Dove. Then we came upon a Savannah Monitor lizard peeking out of a hole in a termite mound.

Savannah Monitor


On a partially dead tree, we had some Fischer's Lovebirds peeping at us from nest cavities and a pair of Diederik Cuckoos (male chasing female). Then we had some White-headed Mousebirds preening and foraging.

Bee-eaters were also well represented on our afternoon game drive - we had Little, White-throated, and Somali.

Around 5:30 we reached a very neat area - with a semi-open Acacia canopy with grass and scattered shrubs underneath. We saw a somewhat shy group of four Desert Warthog - two females and two males. One of the males eventually relaxed and moved closer to us.

Desert Warthog 1


Desert Warthog 2


* I recall a researcher posting to Safaritalk not long ago, asking for photos and location details regarding Desert Warthog in Kenya - particularly Meru NP and Samburu + Buffalo Springs NRs. I logged Latitude + Longitude coordinates of each sighting and took photos as well. As soon as I finish processing the photos, I plan to provide them to the researchers in a single package (ZIP file).

In the same grassy grove, Francis spotted a Pearl-spotted Owlet. It is uncanny how similar they look (and sound) to North America's "Northern Pygmy Owl".

Pearl-spotted Owlet


Then we came upon a small herd of Plains Zebra, off to the side of some Beisa Oryx and Grant's Gazelle.

Plains Zebra


Several Laughing Doves were in the same area, then we came upon a Klaas's Cuckoo. Such a striking bird - I love their shiny green plumage. As with most Cuckoos, it was a challenge to photograph - I managed one so-so image.

Klaas's Cuckoo


As the light began to fade, we saw a pair of White-crested Helmet-Shrikes. Very strange-looking birds but very interesting to watch.

White-crested Helmet-Shrike


Then we had a pair of African Hoopoes! Conditions and their behavior did not allow any good photos, but I enjoyed watching their activity quite a lot.

Then we had a neat encouter with a pair of Wood-Hoopoes. They were fairly shy, and did not want to give us good views without being backlit. Eventually we got enough detail to decide they were Green Wood-Hoopoes.

Though we had covered the general area where we had the Cheetah the afternoon before, we did not see it on the 14th. Our next big cat encounter would have to wait until the following day...

Edited by offshorebirder
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I was wondering how you are posting photos that are displayed in different sizes?? Thanks.



@@mapumbo - I am using a photo editing program and cropping + resizing some of the photos. Then I use those cropped / resized images to post in the trip report.


I use a free program called GIMP (Graphics Image Manipulation Program or something similar). But it is very user-unfriendly. Soon I am going to take the leap and get into Photoshop+Lightroom but have not taken the plunge as of yet.


I think both Microsoft Windows and Macintosh computers have built-in graphics programs. If you need more info or assitance with this, shoot me a personal message - glad to share experience and advice.


We use a free program as well, called infan view. It works pretty well for resizing photos to put on websites or send via email.

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Wonderful catalog of birds over the past few posts.

The sparring giraffes make for a nice video, too! Always an impressive display.

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Very nice pictures of the Grevy's zebra, and the monitor coming out of the termite mound.

The White-crested Helmet-Shrike is a strange looking bird.

(I can see that the Klaas's Cuckoo is different to the picture I posted in my report - good to be able to compare the 2)


Excellent idea to send your Desert Warthog pictures and information to the researchers

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* A note to readers: I am not listing every bird species seen - just describing a sample and more noteworthy birds. Listing each and every bird species would bore my readers and me to death...

Thursday January 15, 2016 was to be a long day. Once again, I woke a little after 2am the night before and could not get back to sleep. Getting half my normal amount of sleep each night for the past week was starting to take its toll.

In the interest of getting underway quickly (and to keep our cholesterol from getting completely out of control), Tommy and I just had coffee and cold breakfast when the kitchen opened at 6am. Toast and jelly for me and Muesli for Tommy. We were in the vehicle and rolling through the gate at 6:30am. Our plan was to spend the morning in Samburu concentrating on finding Lions. Since we had been working the western and central parts of Samburu up to that point, we went out the gate, through Archer's Post and in the eastern gate to Samburu.

Leaving Samburu Simba, a Spotted Hynena escorted us down the road a bit, then we had nice looks at a Martial Eagle perched in a tree and a pair of Fan-tailed Ravens strutting around on the ground looking for trouble.

On the short drive to the gate we also had multiple groups of Vulturine Guineafowl, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, several White-headed Buffalo Weavers (AKA tomato rumps), Grevy's Zebra, Beisa Oryx, Grant's Gazelle and Thomson's Gazelle.

Beisa Oryx



The drive through the denuded landscape around Archer's Post was an eye-opening experience. Even after the recent rains, not a blade of grass had escaped the constant pressure of so many goats and sheep. Hard to imagine how topsoil could endure there against wind and rain erosion... We had heard from Samburu Simba staff that even this week, there had been coordinated efforts by illegal grazers to make forays into the protected reserves after dark. One wonders how Kenya's natural areas can withstand the ever-increasing pressure from rising human densities...

After entering the gate, we had a pair of Nubian Woodpeckers foraging in an Acacia tree. We also had a Grey Kingfisher not long after a Striped Kingfisher - giving good comparisons between the two.

Early morning female Nubian Woodpecker


Then we had a pair of Golden-breasted Starlings posing in a thorny tangle. I think Golden-breasted are Kenya's most attractive Starling species.

Golden-breasted Starling


Shortly afterwards I finally got one of the ubiquitous Red-billed Hornbills perched close, in decent light, with unobstructed views.

Red-billed Hornbill


Then the action began picking up. We had a pair of African Hoopoes and a pair of Von der Decken's Hornbills. Then we had good looks at more Grevy's Zebras, Grant's Gazelles, and Gerenuks. One of the Grevy's Zebras had a Red-billed Oxpecker hanging upside down on the Zebra's tail. Then the Oxpecker hoped to the Zebra's leg, then to a rightside-up perch on its side.

Grevy's Zebra with Red-billed Oxpecker


Grant's Gazelle


The Gerenuks included a handsome male who stood in front of us, walked forward a bit, stood and posed some more, then walked forward again before starting to browse.

Male Gerenuk standing


Male Gerenuk walking


Male Gerenuk standing again


Male Gerenuk walking forward


Then word came over the radio of a sighting of a mother lion and a young cub. It was not far to the northwest of us, beside a rocky outcrop. So we got underway and drove straight there. When we arrived, there were three other vehicles waiting but the mother and cub had moved down out of view. So we settled in for a wait.

Birding was good while we waited - multiple birds of prey soared above the hills and rocky outcrops. The highlight was a Lanner Falcon - a new bird for the trip and an exciting raptor I had been wanting to see. Before long, one then two then three of the vehicles left. We waited a bit longer, enjoying the pair of Kori Bustards strolling around. Then we too gave up and continued on.

As with our previous time in Samburu, Kirk's Dik Diks were appearing at regular intervals. Despite their abundance, it was surprisingly hard to get a decent photo. Always obstructions in the way, or a "rump view", or backlit in shade it seemed.

Kirk's Dik Dik


Then we came to a spot where the road was blocked by a herd of Elephants. They did not look like they were going to move for a while. John observed that " Elephants have the right of way" so we backed up, turned around and found an alternate road. Winding around and approaching a bluff on the river, we saw a Giraffe watching something intently.

Giraffe watching something


Was this a clue about predators? Rounding a bend, we saw the answer was yes!

Young male Lion overlooking Ewaso Nyiro River


The young male Lion appeared to be watching something down by the riverbed. A sleepy adult female had just noticed it too - a trio of Desert Warthogs coming to drink.

Female Lion overlooking River


Then things got exciting - the adult female stood up and her posture and keen stare meant business! The young male, another young male and two young female Lions excitedly started moving. One of the young males had a leg injury that looked to be mending, but he had trouble keeping pace with the other Lions as they darted off to the west to try and cut off the Warthogs' escape route.

But the Lions had a problem - the wind was blowing from their blufftop overlook towards the Warthogs. As we cranked up to follow the Lions, I saw one of the Warthogs stand up from drinking, its tail rising up in the air like the flag on a mailbox. It turned and began trotting for higher ground and cover. The two others followed suit shortly thereafter.

Now the question was whether the four Lions would be able to cut off the escape route and spring a trap. The four females were more serious about doing so, but the males were less so. One of the males trotted and one ambled down the road towards the escaping Warthogs.

Lioness pursuing Desert Warthogs



Lionesses pursuing Desert Warthogs


Young male Lion


The females and a young male nosed around in the trees and bushes, working up and down the road. We saw one Desert Warthog dash across the road in a large gap in the "picket line". The young Lions looked a little confused and frustrated.

Young Lioness standing and looking


Young male Lion


Then before long the Lions gave up the chase. One by one, they reassembled to flop down in the shade together. Though it was an aborted and short-lived affair, Tommy and I were very excited to have seen our first Lion hunt.

As we got underway again, a Rosy-patched Bush--Shrike popped up and gave us great views in good light. As I aimed my camera in its direction, it took flight and went behind a bush. Typical. Nothing quite ends a good bird sighting like pointing a camera at the subject...

Next we had a nice visit with a Buff-crested Bustard while watching Black-capped Social Weavers gathering nest material. An Irania (AKA White-throated Robin) also foraged nearby. And then we saw a Common Warthog - the first among several Dester Warthog Sightings in Samburu and Buffalo Springs.

Common Warthog


Winding our way along the dirt track, we passed pairs of Kirk's Dik Dik at regular intervals. Then we came upon a group of Northern Grey Tits - a delightful new species for the trip. Grey Tits are essentially "Kenyan Chickadees" - back home Carolina Chickadees are one of my favorite birds of all. As with other members of their family, Northern Grey Tits proved inquisitive and quick to scold anything they did not like. Charming little creatures.

Northern Grey Tit montage


In a nearby bush, we saw a pair of Grey Wren-Warblers; they are subtly colored, yet attractive birds. Then we had another group of Desert Warthogs not long before the bridge back too Buffalo Springs. Just across the bridge we had a confiding Isabelline Shrike.

Isabelline Shrike


By lunch time, we had built up a good appetite. I had started taking my camera with me, since the day before I missed some photo ops. Today our sightings included a White-crowed Coucal and a more photogenic Spotted Morning Thrush.

Spotted Morning-Thrush


Doum Palms viewed over lunch


We started the afternoon game drive a bit earlier, but Tommy took a little break. He had some head congestion and a headache and the rough ride from the morning had him wanting to rest. So we bid him "good nap" and set out to work along the river heading west. We had some Defassa Waterbuck, Oryx, Impala, Grevy's Zebra and Grant's Gazelle.



Impala female


Though I did not write it anywhere in my field notes, the following photo indicates we had a Shining Sunbird shortly after starting our game drive.

Shining Sunbird


The Sunbird was closely followed by a confiding Little Bee-eater - they turned out to be plentiful for the next few kilometers.

Little Bee-eater


We also had multiple White-throated Bee-eater sightings.

White-throated Bee-eater


Across the river from Elephant Bedroom camp, we found a nice area of extensive sandbars and moist mudflats. There were some shorebirds milling about - good, I thought. It still stung a little not having gotten to Lake Magadi and I was eager for some more shorebird viewing. Next visit to Kenya, I will get some time in on the coast and at some lakes to be sure to "get my shorebird on".

There were multiple Common Sandpipers scattered about - all doing their bobbing little walk. Also scattererd around the margins were four Green Sandpipers. Then I got the scope on a couple of lifers - Common Ringed Plover and Three-banded Plover. Three=banded Plovers were interesting little shorebids - they looked like a Plover but bobbed like a (Common) Sandpiper. Then we saw an immature Little Ringed Plover - another lifer, then an adult to compare to the nearby Common Ringed Plovers.

Tearing my scope away from the new life birds, I took some time to appreciate a Marsh Sandpiper and soak up some of its finrer details. Marsh Sandpipers have a thin, delicate build - in basic plumage they remind me of Stilt Sandpipers from North America - albeit with thinner, straighter bills. "Marsh Sands" might be my favorite shorebird from this Kenya trip, though Somali and Temminck's Coursers are also fantastic birds.

After spending some time with the shorebirds and a Yellow-billed Stork working the shallows, we pressed onwards. A Lesser Kestrel decided to harass a Martial Eagle perched in a tree and a bit further along we had an immature Brown Snake-Eagle perched in another tree. Then we had extended looks at a Green Wood-Hoopoe perched on a dead tree stump. This was followed by a close encounter with a female Somali Ostrich and with an African Mourning-Dove.

Somali Ostrich


African Mourning-Dove


On our way to the bridge to Samburu, we had a new, though common bird - Rufous Bush-Chat. We also had a Red-winged Lark - decidedly less common, particularly here.

Over on the Samburu side, under cloudy weather and poor light we had long looks at a stunning Golden Palm Weaver. Then we had a nice Long-crested Eagle perched in a tree. While we were nosing around a well-vegetated lugga, Francis spotted a Northern Carmine Bee-eater flying overhead. It was most unexpected for that location! Francis said he has seen them at Lake Baringo in recent years but has never heard of one at Samburu. I got a couple of crummy documentary shots of the vagrant Bee-eater.

Northern Carmine Bee-eater documentary photos


By now, it was approaching curfew time and we had to hurry back to Samburu Simba. Our last full day in Samburu and Buffalo Springs had been an exciting and eventful one!

Back at the lodge, we enjoyed the daily ritual of listing bird and mammal species on our checklist matrix before dinner. And we said goodbye to our little Genet friends ;-)

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I am continuing to enjoy your photos and your story telling. The exciting lion hunt, and he photos of the gerenuk, the white throated bee-eaters and the somali ostrich inparticular.

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I am really wondering now how many of the Common Warthogs I saw in Samburu were actually Desert - need to check out my photos. Also I wonder about Kirk´s and Gunther´s - did you see any of the latter? Really like the photo of the Golden-Breasted Starling, such a beautiful bird. And I never tire of Gerenuks.


I think your "Thomson´s" in post #81 is actually a Grant´s. Although some Grant's do have the black stripe running across their sides, the white on their rumps always extends above the tail - with Tommies it never does.

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Great stuff, please keep it coming! I really like the shots of the Nubian Woodpecker, Sunbird and the digidigi.

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You are right, @@michael-ibk - another gazelle aficionado let me know about the mis-identification in post number 84. At first I had it down as Grant's, then edited the post and changed it after a Google image search fed some doubts I had...


I also apologize for some typing errors in the text - made the last two posts in a hurry but will take more care in future.

Edited by offshorebirder
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The close-up head-on of the lion in #88 makes you realized how massive their paws are. That is a stunning shot for that!

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I am really wondering now how many of the Common Warthogs I saw in Samburu were actually Desert - need to check out my photos. Also I wonder about Kirk´s and Gunther´s - did you see any of the latter?


@@michael-ibk - we kept an eye out for long-nosed Dik Diks (Guenther's) but I do not recall seeing any...

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@@offshorebirder - I have booked mark this report for weekend reading - just catching up after my travels....... looks like an amazing trip having had a quick look at the amazing photos.

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Your desert warthog could be part of the Samburu 6 (instead of 5).


The golden breasted starling could send me back to Samburu again, just for that. Is it more common in green season? We saw some in dry season, maybe one, but fleeting.


You really bring out the colors in the Little Bee Eater.

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@@madaboutcheetah - I am gratified by praise coming from such an accomplished photographer and naturalist. The best is yet to come in terms of Cheetahs and the Mara portion of the trip report is about to commence!


@@Atravelynn - I think Golden-breasted Starlings must be easier to observe in Samburu in the green season (since it is also the breeding season). During the breeding season they are doing some combination of: advertising and defending territories, gathering nest material for their tree cavity nests, nesting and constantly bringing food to nestlings and fledglings, etc. All of which make them more obvious to us on Safari.


It's interesting to note that the literature says Golden-breasted Starlings can breed in Kenya around either rainy season. But in Ethiopia and Somalia a single season (March-May for Ethiopia and April-June in Somalia).


-- For what it's worth, I understand there are higher densities of Golden-breasted Starlings in Tsavo than Samburu.



Thanks also for the kind words regarding the Little Bee-eater photo - but I don't think it holds a candle to the one @@TonyQ just posted in his trip report. His makes the colors pop!

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-- For what it's worth, I understand there are higher densities of Golden-breasted Starlings in Tsavo than Samburu.

Now that's an interesting tidbit!


Thanks for all the GBS info.

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~ @@offshorebirder


Your sincere enthusiasm for wildlife observation is a JOY to read!

The high level of relevant detail combined with superb imagery results in a delightful trip report.

As you visited areas where I've been, it was especially meaningful to read your interpretation of the sightings there.

What strikes me as wondrous is how your preparation in South Carolina enabled you to step into Kenya, observing and documenting at such a professional level.

Traveling with your family friend, Tommy, and your highly skilled guide, Francis, enriched your safari by having others around you who shared your appreciation of the rich biodiversity.

More than anything else what comes through in your posts is the happiness you felt and the respect for the areas in which you birded and observed mammals.

Thank you so much for posting such a superb trip report which is pure pleasure to read.

Tom K.

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Thanks ever so much for the kind words @@Tom Kellie. Your ever-positive attitude is a boon to the Safaritalk community.


I hope people do not think that I walked into Kenya an instant bird expert - far from it. So many times all I could do is narrow down a given species to "Cisticola" or "Warbler" before Francis or Ben called out the precise species. I could hold my own in terms of spotting birds, but identifying them exactly often fell to the guide.


Learning Kenya's avifauna from afar is a daunting task indeed. I certainly have a ways to go before I know them in any sort of comprehensive manner. Certainly I had strengths going into the visit - shorebirds, waterbirds, etc. But groups like swifts, old-world warblers, and cisticolas take in-person experience (and lots of it) to master.


And you are most welcome for this trip report. I am working on it in such detail for myself almost as much for my beloved fellow Safaritalkers. It is a wonderful way to seal the memories in one's mind and to come to new insights about one's experiences.

Edited by offshorebirder
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February 16, 2016.

Yet another sleepless night after 2am. I should have arranged to be paid by some researcher studying the effects of sleep deprivation...

After a 6am bite of toast and a cup of coffee, I birded the grounds of the lodge with Francis until the front desk opened at 7:00 for us to check out of Samburu Simba. It was a very agreeable stay in all respects - no complaints about the lodge, food, room, etc. I had several very good conversations with staff members about their home areas in Kenya, the current state of wildlife conservation, challenges in terms of human/wildlife conflict, and more. As always I tried to be a humble, good ambassador for NorteAmericanos.

We took a brief game drive for just under two hours on our way out of Buffalo Springs. It was a wonderful outing. Not far outside the compound we had good looks at a Crested Francolin and Yellow-necked Spurfowl.

Crested Francolin - 'spilogaster' subspecies I believe



Then we had an amazing experience - one of my favorites of the trip. There was a group of Vulturine Guineafowl foraging and we noticed streaky brown little chicks semi-hidden in the tall grass. They were very young and their camouflage was exquisite! Note the reddish patches on the chick's plumage - a perfect match for the reddish soil at Samburu and Buffalo Springs.

Then a mother and one of her brood wandered closer. Suddenly the mother Guinea Hen started making a soft, squeaky little clucking noise while she bent down to inspect something. "Food, Child" she was undoubtedly saying. The chick came hustling forward to see. Then the mother picked up a little arthropod of some kind from a depression in the ground. It might have been partly buried. The chick was studying it all very intently.

Then the hen dropped the food item and the chick immediately picked it up. The chick whacked it on an adjacent rock a couple of times and gulp! The mother hen watched the chick's performance closely and seemed satisfied. I am not sure if the whacking behavior was taught previously, instinctive, or a bit of both...

Guineafowl school 1


Guineafowl school 2 - zoomed


Guineafowl school 3 - zoomed


Guineafowl school 4 - zoomed





I will never forget that sound the Guinea Hen made. I have heard food chuckles / feeding chatter vocalizations of other gallinaceous bird parents (like Wild Turkeys and Northern Bobwhite Quail) and the purpose was obviously similar. Everyone in the vehicle was entranced by "Vulturine Guineafowl School". As I sat there blissfully watching other parent/chick interactions and listening to other soft vocalizations, I put down my camera and drifted into deep contemplation. Parent and chick Vulturine Guineafowl must have been holding such lessons here for eons. Probably tens of thousands of years at a minimum. "Been around for a long, long year" as Mick Jagger would say. It seems like the height of presumptuousness for our species and its inexorable overdevelopment to wantonly displace such long-term residents.

I could have sat and watched them all morning, but after a bit longer we decided to move along. We visited the productive little watercourse one more time - this time taking a track up the eastern side. It was even birdier first thing in the morning. Sandgrouse, Egyptian Geese and shorebirds occurred at regular intervals - we enjoyed Spur-winged Lapwings, Green Sandpipers, Common Sandpipers and a Wood Sandpiper. In trees along the watercourse we had 3 African Hoopoes, African Cuckoo, Marico Sunbird and a new species for the trip, Grey-headed Silverbill.

Female Black-faced Sandgrouse


Then in a somewhat distant tree atop a small rise, an African Grey Hornbill was displaying. It stood up tall in the top of the tree, facing this way and that to show off its bill. Then every so often it would throw its head back, spread its tail, raise its wings and turn to and fro to show off its underwing and undertail pattern. It was a very impressive show. I really like the serrated bill on African Grey Hornbills.

African Grey Hornbill montage


Then we had a new species for the trip - a Eurasian Hoopoe. Upupa epops was one of my most-wanted birds for Kenya! It was a treat to see both Hoopoe species in less than an hour.

Upupa epops - note the whitish patches below the dark tips of the crown feathers which distinguish it from African Hoopoe.


We finally had to leave the watercourse and head for the gate. On our way, we saw Beisa Oryx, Grant's Gazelle and Grevy's Zebra. One of the Grant's Gazelle was a strapping male at the height of his game.

Male Grant's Gazelle in top form


Not far from the gate, we had two groups of Warthogs on either side of the road. There were 8 Common Warthogs (6 of them young) on the left side of the road, and 7 Desert Warthogs farther away on the right side of the road. The Desert Warthog group consisted of two adults and five young.

Common Warthogs


We had two for one sightings of Desert Warthog to Common Warthog during our time in Samburu + Buffalo Springs. I am not sure if this was due to the El Nino influenced green season or if that ratio would also hold during the dry season...


Just past the warthogs, we had a cooperative Kori Bustard strutting and foraging slowly near the road.

Kori Bustard


Then it was time to bid Buffalo Springs and Samburu farewell. I will definitely be back - both in green season and dry season. I urge fellow Safaritalkers to visit Samburu + Buffalo Springs in the green season – it is amazingly vibrant and bursting with wildlife activity. At this point in our Safari we had seen 352 bird species, with an additional three dozen or so "heard only" species.

We got underway and passed through Isolio heading south. After a while, we stopped at a roadside spot on the Laikipia plateau to try for a rare and declining endemic - Boran Cisticola. Unfortunately we missed seeing or hearing Boran Cisticola. But we did pick up two new species - Northern Anteater Chat and Black-crowned Chagra. We also had good looks at a pair of Rattling Cisticola. And it was neat to see Euphorbia trees at close range - they are such strange looking cacti-trees.

Getting underway again, we continued south until reaching Nanyuki town. Tommy and I wanted to take home some Kenyan coffee and tea for presents, so we stopped at the Nakumatt in Nanyuki. It was a more interesting shopping experience than the Nakumatt in Karen. People in line were a mix of Kenyans, UK soldiers and a handful of tourists like us. I had a nice brief chat with one of the soldiers - he said he was enjoying his deployment a lot and was getting in as much wildlife viewing as he could.

Back on the road, we continued a short distance to Naro Meru and turned right onto a small dirt track leading to Naro Meru River Lodge. As with everywhere we stayed, there were not many other guests while we were there. The short walk to our room was delightful - tall trees and lush vegetation surrounded the cold, rocky Naro Meru river flowing down from Mount Kenya. After dumping our luggage in the room, we proceeded to lunch. It was a buffet affair but with very good food.

After lunch, clouds started building and a very light drizzle came and went. So I left my camera and scope+tripod in the room and "birded light". It was a relief to simply concentrate on getting good looks at birds and wildlife - and not have to worry about light, angles, obstructions, etc.

Down by the river we enjoyed watching a couple of Tree Hyrax sleeping in large riverside trees. Common Bulbuls came and went, and Yellow-whiskered Greenbuls and Tropical Boubous foraged in the canopy. Malachite Sunbirds and Bronze Sunbirds competed for our attention while an immature African Dusky Flycatcher orbited the garden area. Then down on large rocks in the river we had a new species - a pair of Cape Wagtails. They flitted around eating aquatic insects - some sort of emergence seemed to be taking place.

Proceeding around the corner, away from the river and uphill a bit, we entered a more open area with tall grasses and a mix of young shrubs and semi-mature trees. We had nice looks at a male Red-cheeked Cordon Bleu and Bronze Mannikin while Banded Martins circled overhead. We heard a Red-chested Cuckoo calling but could not get good looks into its hiding place. Then the birds started coming quickly - Tawny Prinia, Streaky Seedeaters, Speckled Mousebirds, Baglafecht Weaver, Rattling Cisticola, Yellow-breasted Apalis and Variable Sunbird. Soon we saw an adult African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene) circling high overhead. What an impressive, yet primitive-looking raptor!

Passing through the camping area (open mowed grassy area surrounded by taller grasses and shrubs), we started walking on an overgrown dirt track beside a disused railway line. The railway ran along the edge of the river lodge property; it was now a thoroughfare for local walkers, bicycle riders and moped riders. A long narrow wetland ran between the dirt track and the railway line - it was full of frogs making an interesting whistle vocalization. It was very birdy habitat; despite its ruderal nature - the mature grasses, profuse wildflowers and shrubs attracted many grassland and early-successional bird species.

As the clouds gave way to a clearer sky, we enjoyed good looks at Yellow-crowned Canaries, Yellow Wagtails, Rufous Chatterer, Northern Pied Babbler, Purple Grenadiers, Yellow-rumped Seedeaters and Red-cheeked Cordon-Blues. Several Red-eyed Doves were constantly vocalizing at various distances. Then we had a delightful new species - White-browed Robin-Chat. It was quickly followed by Brown-crowned Chagra (new species), a male Scarlet-chested Sunbird (such stunningly beautiful birds), and Kenya Rufous Sparrow. Then we were treated to a new species and an amazing sight - a displaying male Yellow Bishop close at hand. Wow!

Then we worked back towards the lodge - enjoying African Green Pigeons, Olive Sunbird (new species), Common Fiscal and Pied Crow along the way.

Back at the lodge we enjoyed a delicious dinner and a nice relaxed visit with Francis. He really has me wanting to visit the Lake Baringo area (his home county) on my next Kenya trip. Conversely, the description Tommy and I gave of our home county, with its forests, swamps and marshes - had Francis wanting to visit the USA. Tommy and I both told Francis that he MUST come stay with us and he agreed to some day.

After dinner I had a good conversation with James the barkeep. He is from Isolio and was very interested in hearing about the USA. I tried not to paint things or people with too broad a brush, but I did let slip that sometimes I was embarassed of my fellow U.S. citizens...

Edited by offshorebirder
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