Saturday, October 21, 2023

Kenya part 1 - Arabuko-Sokoke and coast, October 6-8

The first leg of our Rockjumper tour to Kenya took us to the east coast. We flew from Nairobi to Malindi, where me met our excellent driver-guide Lenard Korir. Already at the airport carpark we had Coastal Cisticola and Ethiopian Swallow, demonstrating how special this part of Kenya is. Without further ado we drove to the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, where we met up with legendary Willy, our local guide. Practically the first bird we saw in birding mode was a stunning African Wood-Owl, day-roosting near the park headquarters. What a start!

The first pre-lunch session in the park was amazing. The forest was full of good birds, including Red-capped Robin-Chat, Narina Trogon, several greenbuls. But the highlight was without doubt a breathtaking orange-morph Sokoke Scops-owl, expertly found by Willy in its day roost site. We couldn't have asked for a better start to our tour, enjoying an intimate encounter with this globally Endangered beautiful Owl. I have seen it in the past, but this close encounter, at eye level, provided me and the clients with the best photo opp ever.

Over the next two days we spent much time in different sections of the forest. Forest birding is usually quite difficult, dependent on calls. Often the forest was very quiet, then suddenly we found a purple patch or a nice mixed feeding flock, and it felt like birding in a candy store. 

Our main targets were the endemic or near-endemic species of Sokoke forest. The main target after the owl was the globally Endangered Sokoke Pipit. It took us a few attempts down different trails, until on our final morning we had a magical time with them. As soon as we stepped off the vehicle we heard their soft, high-pitched contact calls. Bingo!

It took us a while to get good views of them - they were very shy, moving secretly between trees. Eventually we found a pair walking quietly on the dark forest floor. They walked down to few meters from us, to our complete awe. 

The same site with the pipits had also a good number of another rare species, Amani Sunbird. We have seen them before but over there they performed really well, males and females. They are difficult to photograph...

The list of quality species we had over the days we spent in the Sokoke forest is too long. Fischer's Turaco, Black-headed Apalis, Spotted Ground-Thrush, Scaly Babbler, Chestnut-fronted and Retz's Helmetshrikes, Scaly-throated and Pallid Honeyguides, Red-tailed Ant-Thrush, Malindi Pipit, Forbes-Watson's Swift, Mottled Spinetail, Fasciated Snake-Eagle, Lizard Buzzard, Mombasa and Bearded Woodpeckers, Green Barbet and Green Tinkerbird and more - really excellent haul for our three days there.

Spotted Ground-Thrush (globally Vulnerable)

Black-headed Apalis

Malindi Pipit

Mottled Spinetails and Forbes-Watson's Swifts were flying over the Elephant Swamp

Fasciated (AKA Southern banded) Snake Eagle showed beautifully

Eastern Crested Guineafowl (recent three-way split)

White-browed Coucal - common and stunning show-off

Mammal watching in the forest isn't easy because of the thick cover. Still, we had Suni (small and rare forest antelope), Golden-rumped Sengi (Elephant-Shrew) and Northern Lesser Galago on a night drive we did.

The coastal region provided excellent birding opportunities too. I have fond memories from the region, working with A-Rocha on exciting projects out of the Watamu Field Study Center. Mida Creek mudflats held huge numbers of shorebirds. The main attraction there was Crab-Plover of course - such unique and curious-looking quality shorebirds. Among the migrant shorebirds were Greater and Tibetan Sand-plovers and Terek Sandpipers.

Sabaki River Estuary held large numbers of gulls and terns. Most sought-after was Sooty Gull that showed in various plumages. 

The tern concentration attracted quality species including White-cheeked, Roseate and Great Crested.

We stayed in Turtle Bay Resort, where there was an active breeding colony of African-Golden and Golden Palm Weavers. The walk between the rooms and dining hall couldn't have been more golden.

Golden Palm Weaver

African Golden-Weaver

Next up - Tsavo East NP!

No comments:

Post a Comment