Sunday, December 26, 2010

Birding Tsavo West NP

This long post is dedicated to my dear friend Thomas Krumenacker, whom I am doing my best not to disappoint...
During the week of ringing at Ngulia, we had most of the afternoons free for Safari birding in the park. Tsavo West is a true birding national park, as it has much less game observable compared to other NP's in Kenya like Masai Mara. This is because the park is covered in dense bush, that makes spotting wildlife very difficult. But birding was excellent, with a great variety of species. Most of the birding is done from the vehicle of course, with a few specific spots where walking is permitted.
Unfortunately, weather was pretty bad for photography during most of our stay - rainy and cloudy. That's why I have so few (dark) images, and the background is so lush green, which is quite unusual for the semi-arid Tsavo West. So here we go:
Quite close to the lodge a pair of Wahlberg's Eagles held territory, and this was their favorite perching tree. Here one of the pair is being mobbed by a Northern White-headed Shrike:
White-winged Widows are very common in the grassy bits of the park:
Red-and-Yellow Barbets are pretty birds! This one posed nicely in the rare golden afternoon sun:

Any casual drive through the park produces millions of weavers, starlings and finches. Among the more local species were these Black-headed Social Weavers:

Rodents and reptiles must have a hard life in the park, as predators are perched on almost every bush. Pale Chanting Goshawk is the commonest raptor in the park:
Long-tailed Fiscals are very obvious, perched high on top of bushes:
Apart for offering very good birding, Tsavo West is simply beautiful! This is the view out of my room window:

This is my gang birding out of the car while I was being a bad boy:

And Ron giving a detailed description of we he had just seen. By the hand movement I can guess it was a rhino:

One amazing thing about Africa is that birds are often so tame there. Our jeep had a hole in the exhaust pipe the size of a tennis ball. One of the park rangers said he could hear us approaching from 10 kms away... But still birds were totally oblivious towards us. Here are a few close-ups. First, a male Golden Pipit that appeared in one of my earlier post, one of the better passerines in this part of the world. Note the moulted mantle feathers, contrasting to the older scapulars:

In Israel they're so shy! In Africa they are so tame, and common too. On some days we witnessed active migration of hundreds of these guys.
Eurasian Roller
These are among the commonest birds in the park, but a close-up reveals how stunning they are:
Yellow-necked Spurfowl
In the slightly more arid and open parts of the park we encountered Seceretarybirds, or as Jonathan described them well "vulture-stork-eagle-heron-something":

Despite the thick cover, we found some Hartlaub's, Black-bellied and Crested Bustards.
Black-bellied Bustard
Crested Bustard

And we had also a few encounters with Black-faced Sandgrouse. The red soil is just fantastic!
Even though the whole park was very wet with water puddles everywhere, permanent water sources were very attractive. The pools along Rhino Valley offered the best birding in the park. The had many kingfishers, crakes and many water-related passerines. A selection of Palaearctic waders added volume to our list, and besides them we had this couple of Water Dikkops:

Grey-headed Kingfisher was the commonest among the four species we had:
This Tawny Eagle sat very close to us:
Even the tiny pool at the lodge attracted many birds. On our first day this Hamerkop arrived, and enjoyed the many tadpoles in the small pool:

This is a crop of the above image, showing the last seconds in the life of a tadpole that will never metamorphose into a frog:

Mzima Springs, in the south of the park, are an important water source for the human population of SE Kenya. But at the source, a beautiful aquatic habitat is well preserved, and holds a large variety of mammals and birds. African Golden Weavers were building their nests above the water:

And we had close views of African Darter:

And Long-tailed Cormorant:

A small group of Vervet Monkeys accompanied us during our walk at the springs:

This lactating baby had a nasty-looking sore on its shoulder:

Birding at Mzima Springs:

And just a few more animals of the park. Tsavo West is known for its Leopards, and indeed we had daily encounters with these majestic stalkers; often too brief and too dark, but always breathtaking:
This is a Gemsbok, a large Oryx-like antelope:
Red-headed Rock Agamas are very common everywhere:
And of course, Elephants, always amusing until they charge at your vehicle:

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful photos. They really revved up my enthusiasm for my upcoming trip to Uganda in Feb.