East Africa – Day 37

Kenya 24 August 2015

I have not been able to upload photographs to my blog as we haven’t had any wifi or decent band width but will add my photographs to my blog post as soon as I can.

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

Our driver was Maxwell, who drove a 7 seater Toyota Landcruiser with a pop-up roof. We chatted to him about Rwanda and he explained that the national language was now English and then Swahili. He said that there was a lot of bad feeling toward the French after the genocide, because of the way French peacekeeping troops had pulled out. We had wondered why no one seemed to speak French and “bonjour” got no response but “hello” did.

Maxwell also told us that once a month in Rwanda everything shut down for half a day, and everyone (including the president) went out and picked up rubbish for the morning and they weren’t allowed to re-open until the road by them was clean. It seems like a good idea to me, as you are less likely to litter yourself or let someone else do it if you have to then pick it up.

We stayed at the Thompsons Falls Lodge and went for a quick bird around the falls area after a 6.30 am breakfast, which was actually 6.45 am before it was ready. It was really cold, even in my fleece. The falls were named in 1883 by a Scottish explorer named Joseph Thompsons.

We then drove to meet Paul Muaihu Ibuthu, so that he could take us to see Mckinnleys Eagle Owl. Paul has been studying and conserving these owls for years. He works with the local subsidence farmers to make them appreciate how useful the owls are to them, for keeping rodent levels down. He then encourages them to keep the shrubs close to the cliffs that give them coverage. Last week the Birdquest tour group had seen one in a quarry next to the road, where the farmer had burnt everything on the ground with a pair of eagle owls sitting above it, the female sitting on the nest, which has now been abandoned. Paul said that the tenant farmer had left and a new one had come in, who didn’t know about the owls. He said that he had to work closely with all the farmers. The issue that makes conservation difficult is that the local people think that owls bring bad luck and so they kill them and the young. Paul explained that he submitted his statistics to Nature Kenya, which recorded the figures but did nothing else. They are affiliated with Birdlife International but don’t seem to get involved. He said there had been DNA work, but needed to see what the outcome was in terms of a split from Cape Eagle-owl.

We then went to Bogoria Nature Reserve where we were looking for Longclaw, without luck. We looked into a private reserve and saw 18 white Rhino. Apparently, they are breeding well there.

From here we went to Nyeri to check into our hotel and had lunch. It was pretty cool in the shade here again.

Straight afterwards, we drove the thirty minutes to meet Lazarus at the Hinde’s Babbler sight at Mukuruweini. Normally they are quite showy, but today they were really hard to pin down. Eventually, after a bit of running around, we got some decent views of them. Lazarus told us his that he had met Noah Stryker here, who was doing the Big World Year, but he had missed it which was a shame.

From here, we returned to the hotel, going straight to dinner followed by a bit of inefficient Internet surfing by me and bed.

Trip List – We also had an amazing Trip list – 585 birds for Uganda, 183 birds for Rwanda, a total trip list of 612 for Uganda and Rwanda, 297 trips for Kenya, 701 total trip lists and 355 lifers for me.

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