Fishing Eagle

One of the best reasons why to do a boat tour in Lake Baringo. The photos speak for themselves...... Many thanks to Dominic Bartol for the wonderful photographs of his recent tour with us.

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By Wawire James

This was a long journey that I did embark, from Nairobi, Mombasa, Dar es Salaam to Selous Game Reserve. The date of departure was on the 8th February 2011 with Modern Coast bus. Modern Coast Express Ltd is a luxury coach company operating within Kenya and Uganda.

Time of departure was 1130hrs; en route towards Mombasa I did spot a few of the species (Lilac breasted Roller, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Superb Starling, Pied Crow, Emerald Spotted Wood dove) and the Baobab trees in their blooming stages. Regarded as the largest succulent plant in the world, the baobab tree is steeped in a wealth of mystique, legend and superstition wherever it occurs in Africa. It is a tree that can provide food, water, shelter and relief from sickness.

As one approaches Kibwezi, one has a better view of the Chyulu Hills. Chyulu Hills is located about 150 east of the Great Rift Valley. It consists of several hundreds of small flows and cones. As you approach Mombasa that’s from Mariakani town common species to be seen much is the Indian House Crow. We did arrive in Mombasa at around 1830hrs, where I had overnight at the Bandari Hotel.

On the 9th February 2011, I boarded an early departure Coach bus from Mombasa via South Coast to the border of Lunga Lunga, (Tahmeed Bus, they do operate Mombasa to Dar es Salaam bus), which took as an hour drive on a well tarmac road to the border, We did cross over to Tanzania side, its from here you get a dirt road till you get to Tanga, where we did make a stop for lunch before proceeding to Dar es Salaam.

Tanga was chosen in 1889 as a military post of German East Africa, and became a district office in 1891. The name Tanga comes from the word for farm or cultivated land in several of the local languages

The coach bus did arrive in Dar es Salaam late evening at around 1920hrs, upon arriving I was directed by one of the taxi driver to the Gold Plaza Hotel where I did spend 2 nights. Dar es Salaam translation: "house of Peace", formerly Mzizima, is the largest city in Tanzania.

On the 11th February 2011, I did meet up with the rest of the team( David Gitau, Simone Kombe and Dominic Bartol who was on a 42 Day Bird Photography safari, which covered both Kenya & Tanzania with BSA) we did depart to Selous via Morogoro road, it’s a 6 hour journey and scenic one, one get to have a view of the Uluguru Mountains. The vegetation of the Uluguru main ridge and the outlying blocks is extremely variable. It ranges from drier lowland coastal forest habitats, to transitional rainforests, to sub-montane, montane and upper montane forest types. We did arrive in Sable Mountain Lodge at around 1830hrs, where we were to spend 4 nights.

The Selous Game Reserve is one of the largest faunal reserves of the world, located in the south of Tanzania. It was named after Englishman Sir Frederick Selous, a famous big game hunter and early conservationist, who died at Beho Beho in this territory in 1917 while fighting against the Germans during World War I. Scottish explorer and cartographer Keith Johnston also died at Beho Beho in 1879 while leading a RSGS expedition to the Great Lakes of Africa with Joseph Thomson. The Selous was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982 due to the diversity of its wildlife and undisturbed nature. Habitats include grassland, typical Acacia savanna, wetlands and extensive Miombo woodlands.

Birding in Selous was delightful because we actually spotted some of unique species such as the Bohms, Swallow tailed Bee-eaters, Pale-billed Hornbill, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Crested Barbet, White headed Chat and Retz Helmet Shrike.

The below is list of species that were seen during the birding trip in Selous Game Reserve.

Cattle Egret, Grey Heron, Black-headed Heron, Hamerkorp, Marabou Stork, African Open-billed Stork, Sacred Ibis, Hadada Ibis, Eurasian Honey Buzzard, African White-backed Vulture, Bateleur, African Goshawk, Palm-nut Vulture, Wahlberg's Eagle, Eurasian Hobby, Dickinson's Kestrel, Crested Guineafowl, Helmeted Guineafowl Black-bellied Bustard, Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Ring-necked Dove, Brown-headed Parrot, Purple-crested Turaco, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Red-chested Cuckoo, Yellowbill, White-browed Coucal, African Palm Swift, White-rumped Swift, Woodland Kingfisher, Striped Kingfisher, Eurasian Bee-eater, White-throated Bee-eater, Böhm's Bee-eater, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Eurasian Roller, Lilac-breasted Roller, Broad-billed Roller, Green Wood-hoopoe, Southern Ground Hornbill, Crowned Hornbill, Pale-billed Hornbill, Trumpeter Hornbill, Crested Barbet, Nubian Woodpecker Cardinal Woodpecker, Red-rumped Swallow, Lesser Striped Swallow, Zanzibar Sombre Greenbul, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Common Bulbul, Rüppell's Robin-Chat, Spotted Flycatcher, Dusky Flycatcher, Pale Flycatcher, Singing Cisticola, Rattling Cisticola, Red-winged Warbler, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Red-faced Crombec, Chin-spot Batis, Retz's Helmet-Shrike, Black-crowned Tchagra, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Tropical Boubou, Black-backed Puffback, Common Drongo, Eurasian Golden Oriole, House Crow, Black-bellied Starling, Greater Blue-eared Starling, Violet-backed Starling, Red-billed Oxpecker, Collared Sunbird, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Variable Sunbird, Golden Palm Weaver, Black-headed Weaver, Dark-backed Weaver, Cardinal Quelea, Yellow Bishop, Green-winged Pytilia, Red-billed Firefinch, Crimson-rumped Waxbill, Common Waxbill, Southern Cordon-bleu, Yellow-fronted Canary, Golden-breasted Bunting

All photos taken by Dominic Bartol

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By Wawire James

This was our second trip back to Baringo this year– a true trip worth it. Lake Baringo is, after Lake Turkana, the most northern of the Great Rift Valley lakes of Kenya; with a surface area of about 130 km² and an elevation of about 970 m. (Lake Baringo is located at 0° 36' N and 36° 04' E, 60 km north of the equator)

Water flows into the lake from the Mau Hills and Tugen Hills. It is a critical habitat and refuge for more than 500 species of birds and fauna, some of the migratory waterbird species being significant regionally and globally. Also of interest are paleontological deposits in the area of the Lake Baringo and the nearby Tugen Hills.

Our mission was to see the Star spotted Nightjar which is a unique species. This species has a geographical range Kenya, Sudan and Ethiopia, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion. Nightjars are medium-sized nocturnal birds with long wings, short legs and very short bills that usually nest on the ground. Nightjars are sometimes referred to as goatsuckers from the mistaken belief that they suck milk from goats (the Latin for goatsucker is Caprimulgus).

Tour itinerary 27th November 2010 28th November 2010

Day by Day report

27th November- Nairobi-Lake Baringo We departed Nairobi as early as 0700hrs, with a distance of 290km from Nairobi to Lake Baringo to be covered, to the Great Rift Valley. The Great Rift Valley is a name given in the late 19th century by British explorer John Walter Gregory to the continuous geographic trench, approximately 6,000 kilometres (3,700 mi) in length that runs from northern Syria in Southwest Asia to central Mozambique in East Africa.

From Nakuru the terrain quickly becomes more arid, and the bush thornier and thicker. We arrived in Baringo, got our local guide (Francis who is highly trained and particularly good at helping you locate nocturnal species.) and he took us first to the roosting site of the African Scops Owl and later we proceed to the location where the Nightjar is, we spotted two birds with different morphs.

The Star spotted Nightjar is similar to Plain Nightjar but best identified from Plain Nightjar by smaller white corners to tail on both sexes and by voice. Roosting day time birds show white patches on either side of throat, and very small black spots on the crown and scapulars. Within the same location we cited the Slender-tailed Nightjar and Heuglin’s Courser. Birding in around the compound of Robert’s Camp and Lake Baringo Country Club, produced regular species such as Superb Starling, Common Bulbul, Northern brown Bul, Pied Kingfisher, Striated Heron, Common Squacco Heron, African Jacana, Blue cheeked Bee-eater, Spotted morning Thrush, Rüppell’s longtailed Starling, Red & Yellow Barbet, Beautiful Sunbird, Rufous Charterer, Common Drongo, Black Crake, Pearl spotted Owlet, White billed buffalo Weaver, Buff bellied Warbler, Green Wood hoopoe, White bellied Canary, Woodland Kingfisher, Morning Dove, Red fronted Barbet, Jackson’s Hornbill, Eastern violet-backed Sunbird, White browed Sparrow Weaver, Brown Babblers, Black headed Weaver, Speckled Mousebird, Speckled Pigeon, Hammer Korp, Bristle crowned Starling and the White faced Scops Owl.

We had dusk drive back to the location of the Nightjar but we found that they had already taken flight, eventually we took our night drive to the airstrip, which was amazing, we spotted a number of the Slender tailed Nightjars, Fishers Sparrow lark and Spur winged Plover

28th November-Lake Baringo-Sunbird Lodge (Lake Elementaita) Early morning birding in around again on the said grounds, we quickly added the Northern Masked, Lesser Masked, Jackson’s golden-backed, Little, Vitelline Masked Weaver, Hunter’s Sunbird, and Crested Francolin Soon after having the morning breakfast, we drove back again to the same location area where the nightjars were, just to have a quick ID, before driving back to Nairobi, enroute we saw the Long-legged Buzzard-uncommon migrant from the Palearctic.

A stop at the Sunbird Lodge, some of the species that we saw while having lunch are Purple Grenadier, Variable Sunbird, Brimstone Canary, Baglafecht Weaver, Rufous Sparrow, in flight was the Common Buzzard, we later proceeded to Gatamayu forest, which is just north of Nairobi.

We actually cited the Black & White Colobus monkey’s, bird species were the White browed Crombec, Grey Apalis, Grey Cuckoo-shrike, Montane White-eye, Cabanis, Yellow whiskered Greenbul, Tullsberg Woodpecker, African hill Babbler, Black Sawing, White eyed Slaty, African Dusky flycatcher, White starred Robin. There were also great sounds of, the Chestnut-throated Apalis (just like a telephone)

The last stop was at the Manguo Ponds, water fowls were in plenty-Red billed Teal, Glossy, Sacred Ibis, Red Knob Coot, and White-backed Duck, as we ended up arriving in Nairobi late evening.

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Trip report compiled by Wawire James

Our trip total of 82 species in 2 day birding in Nyahururu-South Marmanet Forest, Manguo Ponds(Nyahururu), Kinangop Grassland and Manguo Ponds(Limuru).

Our safari departure was from Nairobi to Nyahururu, a stop at Cape Eagle Owl site, where we guided by Paul to site the owl, roosting on the cliff; A population of Mackinder’s eagle owls in central Kenya has been the focus of ecological research in since June 2004. Darcy Ogada of the National Museums of Kenya and Paul Muriithi have been studying this population of approximately 16 pairs to determine the impacts of farming practices on the ecology and conservation of the owls. The owls’ nest and roost on cliffs adjacent to small farms in the lower reaches of the Aberdare Mountains, among the species seen here were Nyanza Swift, Greater-Blue eared Starling, Grey headed Woodpecker.

An evening nature walk in South Marmanet Forest, we were treated to some forest jewels including Hartlaub’s Turaco, magnificent Narina Trogon, Grey, Yellow-breasted and Chestnut-throated Apalis, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, and Hunter’s Cisticola and Brown throated Wattle eye. Early morning while birding around the grounds of the Thompson’s Fall Lodge, we actually sited the Slender-billed Starling, Northern Double Collared, Tacazze and Bronze Sunbird.

Thereafter we traveled to the Kinangop Plateau that produced the rare Sharpe’s Longclaw; Sharpe’s Longclaw is a bird endemic to Kenya. The Kikuyu people call it gathonjo ka werũ-ini, meaning "a weaver-like bird that lives only in the grasslands". The English name was chosen in memory of the British 19th century ornithologist Richard Bowdler Sharpe, other species spotted on site were the Red-capped Lark, Red-throated Wryneck, Levaillant Cisticola and Yellow Bishop, from Kinangop, we made a stop at the Manguo Ponds in Limuru, where we spotted several water fowl birds such as the, White-backed Duck, White-faced Whistling Duck, and the Grey Crowned Crane with juveniles.

In spite of the heavy down pour of rain, over the 2 days, we had great birding trip, we did arrive in Nairobi nearly dusk.

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By Wawire James

02nd-11th November 2009

The geography of East Africa is often stunning and scenic. Shaped by global plate tectonic forces that have created the Great Rift Valley, East Africa is the site of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya, which have the two tallest peaks in Africa.

Our safari took us to Tanzania-Ngorongoro Crater,Tarangire National Park,amazingly within the crater I did record upto over 10 Kori Bustard and as well we did spot the Lesser Kestrel, White Backed Vultures, Lappet Faced Vulture, Tawny Eagle, African Spoonbill, Red Billed Buffallo Weaver among other species.

Aside from herds of zebra, gazelle, and wildebeest, the crater is home to the "big five" of rhinoceros, lion, leopard, elephant, and buffalo. The crater plays host to almost every individual species of wildlife in East Africa, with an estimated 25,000 animals within the crater.

Tarangire park is famous for its huge number of elephants, baobab trees and tree climbing African pythons, birdlife is also prolific Ashy Starling, Yellow Collared Lovebirds, Black Stock among other species.

The journey also tooks us through to Kenya to Amboseli National Park famous for being the best place in Africa to get close to free-ranging elephants and spectacular views of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world. All members of the "Big Five" are found in the Maasai Mara, the Great Migration is one of the most impressive natural events worldwide, involving an immensity of herbivores some 1,300,000 wildebeests, 360,000 Thomson's gazelles, and 191,000 zebras.Additionally, over 450 species of birdlife have been identified in the park

On the last day an excursion to Nairobi National Museum,Daphene Sheldrick located south west from the city centre, a small, flexible charity, established in 1977 to honour to memory of a famous Naturalist, David Leslie William Sheldrick MBE, the founder Warden of Tsavo East National Park in Kenya.

A guided tour at Kazuri Bead Works-Situated on what was once a part of Karen von Blixen's coffee plantation there is now a small workshop where ceramic jewelry and beads are made by Kenyan women.Many of the beads and necklace components are tiny. Each one has to be shaped carefully, polished, fired, painted and fired again. The result is KAZURI, the Swahili word for "small and beautiful."

All the way from Central America Haslene & Yury from Costa Rica, not forgetting our experienced drivers Amos-TZ and Martin-KE who drove us through the terrains.

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I wanted to tell you how very much we enjoyed our time with you fellows for the past two weeks. It was just one super day after the other. David, our guide, was out of this world - has to be one of the nicest people and was so into his birds and, i should add, really anything alive.(which was great for me as I'm not the birder in this duo). Both of the drivers, each very different from the other, were excellent - I can't believe how they managed the roads with mishap. Very best to everyone and thank you all.


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Recent Safari Images by DG

When the heat of the day is too excessive in the Serengeti National Park,some pride of lions usually take to the trees to doze and while away the noon time hours.

A lone Hyena though has a different view about that, why not soak your behind in a nice pool of water?

Up above on a high perch,The Whalberg's Eagle view all this with calm indifference.

Meanwhile the Hadzape Pygmy hunters are taking it easy after a hefty meal of grilled (Burned) Dik Dik from their morning hunting foray.

The heat of the day does not deter one among a flock of Abdim's Stork from foraging for a tasty morsel of grasshopper.

The Buffalo though is not amused by all this going ons.

A Basra Reed Warbler checks out the situation with a keen eye.

And what does the Kori Bustard has to say?

Tree_climbing_lions Hyena Whalberg_s_eagle Hadzape Abdims_stork Buffallo Basra_reed_warbler Kori_bustard
Common Ngulia Migrants and the ringing team
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BSA members at Ngulia Tsavo West

As our web describes, our guides are eco-friendly and they do actually participate in work meant to benefit conservation. This is why since 1996 the guides - David Gitau, Bernard Amakobe [posting article], Nicodemus Nalianya and Sylvester Karimi have been regular participants on the great Ngulia Palaearctic Migrant bird ringing project which has been ongoing since 1969.

This year, the ringing managed to capture and ring over 20,000 birds over a 15 day period. And we were excited when among all the migrants we managed to get two recoveries or controls of birds ringed in France and Slovenia. Both were Marsh Warblers. In fact the control from France was the first ever for the group

BSA Stand at the Know Kenya Course

27th October-01st November 2008, By Wawire James

The Know Kenya Course (KKC) is an annual event of the Kenya Museum Society, open to everyone living in Kenya, newcomers and residents alike. The only requirement for attending is that you're keen to learn more about this exciting country of ours! Many embassies and international organisations make the Know Kenya Course part of their newcomer orientation programme.

The KKC presents a varied programme of morning and evening lectures, behind-the-scenes visits to Museum departments and an all-day fieldtrip on the final day.

Topics and Presenters for 2008

  • Sacred Sites and Monuments – Dr. Mzalendo Kibunjia
  • Prehistory in Kenya – Dr. Meave Leakey
  • Challenges of Nationhood and Identity in Kenya – Mr. John Sibi- Okumu
  • Whose Kenyan: – Ms. Joyce Nyairo
  • Human Rights/Gender Issues – Ms. Muthoni Wanyeki and the Honourable Njoki Ndung’u
  • Political Cartoons and the Media - Gado
  • Economic Development in Kenya: The Real Issues – Mr. Sunny Bindra
  • Elephant Conservation – Ms. Paula Kahumbu
  • The African Baobab Tree – Mr. Rupert Watson
  • Kenya: A Country in the Making 1880-1940 – Mr. Nigel Pavitt
  • Birds of Kenya – Mr. Munir Virani
  • Sports Panel - Moderated by Martin Keino and featuring Mr. Paul Tergat and Ms. Tegla Lorupe
  • 'The Building of the Uganda Railway - Otherwise known as the Lunatic Line' - Mr. Bryan Harris

The Films include:

  • Queen of the Trees – presented by the film makers Victoria and Mark Deeble,
  • Echo of the Elephants: The Last Chapter to be introduced by Dr. Cynthia Moss and
  • World on a String: The Eternal Bead - introduced by Mr. Alan Donavan.

The Know Kenya Course is a major fund raising event of the Museum Society, and the speakers, lecturers and presenters all generously share their knowledge free of charge. The funds raised support the National Museums through the KMS grant programme.

All proceeds from the Know Kenya Course goes to the National Museums of Kenya.

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The Taita hills lie in South-eastern Kenya about 150km inland from the coast and cover an area of about 250 square km. They hold a series of tropical montane cloud forests. Geologically,these hills are the northernmost part of the eastern Arc mountains, a global biodiversity hotspot.Recently, a member of BSA has been collecting ornithological data from two of the fragments, he managed to get nice shots of the flora and fauna of the area, here are some samples.

1)Lanner Falcon 2)Lemon Dove 3)Ruppell's Robin Chat 4)Taita Thrush 5)Taita White-eye 6)White-starred Robin 7)Vereaux Eagle 8)Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler

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BSA On Safari in Tanzania

30th July-13th August 2008 By Wawire James

This was one of the most fascinating safaris, a 15 day safari that took us to some spectacular places in Tanzania. I n and around Arusha, a visit to the Arusha Park, to Lake Manyara, to the Great Plains of Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Tarangire National Park.

Arusha town is better known as the safari capital of the world, it truly has a wealth of experiences to offer visitors: safaris in Arusha National Park, the birdlife, wildlife and the landscape are astonishing, Hartlaubs Turacos fly from tree to tree flapping their red wings, Spur-winged Geese in the savannah and moorland, the Momella Lakes with pink Flamingos and hikes to the breathtaking views on Mount Meru.

Lake Manyara National Park is home to large numbers of bird species, among these, both species of flamingos, Pink Backed Pelican, storks, and other species, as well as Hippos that can be observed at a close range. We were lucky to spot a leopard on a early morning game drive and the amazing tree climbing lions of Lake Manyara.

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania’s first and most famous park, is renowned for it’s wealth of leopards and lions, wildebeest, zebra and Thompson’s gazelle.Birdlife is very abundant in the Serengeti, over 400 species have been recorded. In the Northern part of Serengeti towards the border of Kenya, we were able to spot one of the endemics, the Grey Breasted Spurfowl.

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area blends the finest landscapes, wildlife, culture and archeological sites in Africa. Ngorongoro is a huge Caldera, 250sq km in size and 600m deep, the Crater alone has a variety of different species, large animals including some of endangered species the Black Rhino. At the crater's wetlands we spotted the Black Crowned Night Heron, Purple Heron and the Fan-tailed Widowbird among other species.

Tarangire National Park's most celebrated feature is the numerous herds of elephants and gigantic, squat baobab trees. Birdlife is just amazing, from the flocks of the Yellow Collared Lovebirds to the endemic Ashy Starling and other variety of bird species.

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BSA Guide Wawire James was sent to the Western Region to Cherengany Hills and Kitale,on a project attachment which was funded by the Tourism Trust Fund,EU,Birdlife International and Nature Kenya.The project was mainly focused on"Developing a National Avitourism product for Kenya".

The Cherangany forests are important for water catchment, and sit astride the watershed between the Lake Victoria and Lake Turkana basins. Streams to the west of the watershed feed the Nzoia river system, which flows into Lake Victoria; streams to the east flow into the Kerio river system.

The avifauna of the Cherangany is characteristic of the highland forests of Kenya west of the Rift Valley, comprising both central highland species and western species. 121 species of birds were recorded for the two weeks that he was there!

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Early this morning (26.06.08), two members of BSA joined the Nairobi Ringing Group in their weekly ringing efforts at the NMK grounds. Although it was quite a chilly and overcast morning, 25 birds of 10 different species were caught within the 4 hours the nets were run. It was very interesting to control the new net rides which caught the Cisticolas which have been absent for quite a while. check out the images of some of the birds caught today.

Captions of the Images

  1. Nico and David
  2. Singing Cisticola
  3. Streaky Seedeater
  4. Variable Sunbird
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