Saturday, 23 November 2019

Kenya 3-15 November 2019. Amboseli, Tsavo W & E. Watamu





Elephants in Amboseli NP

Enjoyed my third trip to Kenya earlier this month with Lynne. This was not a full-on birding trip, but a more paced photographic tour. I did a full-on birding trip in 2013 and saw about 600 species in 16 days. This trip was more about going at our own pace and stopping to take photographs.

Kenya really has everything going for it. Climate-wise, much of the country is on a high plateau. Nairobi is at 1,600 metres. Even though Kenya straddles the equator, the climate is pleasant. Nairobi is often downright cool, especially in the evenings. It gradually gets hotter as you travel down towards the coast, which is hot and humid.

In terms of wildlife, Kenya has many National Parks and reserves, many of them very large. It is possible to see most or all of the large game and many other mammals without too much difficulty. Birds abound, with Kenya's total bird list at about 1,100 species.

Our route was Amboseli National Park, Tsavo West National Park, Tsavo East National Park and finally, Watamu on the coast, just south of Malindi - see map below.




Amboseli is one of the smaller national parks although it is still quite large. There is a lot to see and, with frequent stops, we often didn’t go too far on some outings. Amboseli is known for its elephant population, and we certainly saw very many of them. The elephants spend the night in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Every day they walk to the swamp in Amboseli and return to Kilimanjaro in the evening. That's quite a trek.

The big attraction of Kenya is that, as well as birds, it also has big game and many other mammals. For this reason, my wife, Lynne, agreed to come on the trip with me and she is glad she did!

The good thing about camps and lodges in places like Kenya, is that the grounds of the lodges are often very attractive to birdlife. Many of the sightings were in the grounds.  Here are a few birds seen in the grounds of the lodge (Sentrim Amboseli) :


White-bellied Go-away bird

Spotted Morning Thrush

Green-winged Pytilia

Beautiful Sunbird

Hunter's Sunbird

We also saw some birds just on the way to the park entrance:


Yellow-collared Lovebird - a type of parrot

Lilac-breasted Roller. Common, but lovely!

In the park there was a good selection of birds and mammals. We saw only one lion on this trip and that was in Amboseli. If you want to see plenty of lions, you need to go to the Masai Mara or to Samburu. 


Lion. He looks old and battle-scarred.
There was so much to see, that we often spent much time just on the first 1-2 km of the main track. 


Kori Bustard, the heaviest bird that can still fly!

Dik Dik. A really tiny antelope. Like a life-sized Bambi (OK, without the spots)

Long-tailed Fiscal. A type of shrike. They all have a slightly hooked bill.

Savanna Elephants with Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background. Every day, the elephants walk from the foothills of Kilimanjaro (in Tanzania) to the swamp in Amboseli. Every evening, they tramp back again to roost. It's a long way!


African Hoopoe (usually pronounced Hoopoo). It has a crest that it can raise when it wants to attract a female.

Crowned Plover

Thompson's Gazelle. There are
several species all named after blokes. 
Yellow-throated Francolin. A very noisy bird - I love noisy birds!


African White-backed Vultures. Don't you just love vultures?

Sometimes there was a little action to see. This young Tawny Eagle was happily sitting in the nest.  


Suddenly, an adult (presumably it's parent) flies in and throws him out. 


The juvenile is thrown down from the nest. We lost him from sight temporarily.
Down he goes!



Later, we find him again on the ground, looking rather forlorn!
He's homeless now.










The evening march of the elephants is impressive. They stop at nothing and advance surprisingly quickly.
Resting under a tree during heavy rain.


*   *   *   *   *

More action from everyday life. This African Harrier Hawk is on a mission:

I can see food.


He jumps up to the nest of a Red-billed Buffalo Weaver (quite a large Weaver) and attacks, hanging by his talons! The weaver flies off!


*   *   *   *   *

Soon, it was time to move on to the next park, Tsavo West.

The drive took us through terrain containing a large lava tube  from Kilimanjaro. It's a long streak of lava several kilometres long. Some of it it buried, but sometimes it is starkly exposed.



Lynne on the lava 'tube'

During our visit, there had just been quite a lot of rain. There was also quite a lot of rain while we were there. This rendered the landscape beautifully green. It also meant that water was plentiful. Animals which normally sought out the waterholes in the dry season had no reason to go there now. Most guides rely on finding animals at the watering holes. This explains why we didn't see many big cats - only one lion, but no cheetahs or leopards.


Tsavo East is an open camp. There are no fences and we stayed in glorified tents. These are large tents with some walls for the bathroom, electricity sockets, etc.  Animals roamed freely through the camp, usually at night or early morning. After dark, we had to call for a guard to escort us to and from the restaurant / lounge areas.

Did we get eaten by a hyena?  Find out in the next episode!!













6 comments:

  1. Nice photos Phil. Looks like the gear swap paid off!

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    1. Thanks, Dave. Yes, I'm very pleased with the new lens. I'm planning an article comparing it with my former system. In general I'm very happy with it. Only one or two things I miss. Certainly not the weight.

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  2. Great imagery Phil. Testament to the richness and diversity of life there, by the shear number of critters you snapped. Long may it continue!

    Wonderful memories ready for inward or outward regurgitation, as that’s the thing isn’t it, memories.

    I’d love to see the big cats in their natural environment, perhaps one day. ✌️X

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Paul. I certainly share your sentiments. An unforgettable experience. We are very lucky.

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  3. Beautiful pictures Phil as usual. Look forward to next episode xxxxxxxxx

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    Replies
    1. thanks, Gill. Next chapter is in preparation. xx

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