Tuesday 22 November 2022

Via Tsavo East to Ngulia - 18th November 2022

To reduce the miles to be travelled and avoid police and lorries for much of the way we opted to pay the park charge and cross through Tsavo East. There had been rain forming torrents in places so the road had been graded the whole way giving a bone shaking, vehicle rattling drive. It wasn’t long before we had to cross an extremely muddied stretch of road, luckily a safari vehicle was crossing the opposite way, so we waited for each other ready to tow if necessary. We only saw two other vehicles on the entire drive through. We didn't divert from the track searching for animals, but still saw a good number.

The worst part of the main track through the park.

Lesser Striped Swallow


Impala with fawn


Cape Buffolo

Large swathes of the habitat had dried to a crisp, looking extremely inhospitable to all but the most specially adapted species. The river was now in spate, starkly contrasting with the arid sections seen.

River in spate

Giraffe with Oxpeckers

There was game to be seen and we enjoyed viewing the species that we found.

One of 3 Lions resting up in the shade


African Elephant

Impala in the arid, near desert conditions

Waterbuck male

Sunday 20 November 2022

Watamu, Kenya 12th - 18th November 2022,

There was only a very brief overnight stay in Nairobi before heading east to Watamu on the coast, adjacent to the Indian Ocean. It's been a week of ups and downs. It was a long drive, over 8 hours, hampered by the clapped out HGVs that trundle along the road between Nairobi and Mombasa. These fume belching hulks are sent over from other non-European countries, once their working lifespan has expired. They are extremely polluting and very slow.

Much of the road has a solid yellow central line, indicating that overtaking is not allowed. It is completely ignored by all, not being a matter of safety. Otherwise it would take much longer to get anywhere. Even the lorries overtake on it when able. So, that was how we became the victims of the Kenyan Police. We crossed the line, were seen and were also white. There are no on the spot fines in Kenya, but we were given the option to pay 15,000 Shillings to avoid appearing at court in 3 day’s time. The court was close to where the offence occurred and we still had a long way to drive.

We began negotiating, making a fuss as we didn’t have enough money on us and eventually got it down to 4,000 Shillings, ‘One note for each of you’ as Chris said, equivalent to about £35.00 and around £900 each. You can buy a great deal with that in Kenya.

We finally made it to A Rocha, Kenya where we were staying and food had been saved for us. We hadn’t eaten since breakfast so were quite hungry.

The area is known for the marine reserve and its coral reef, and the white sand and fossilised coral rocks are beautiful against the azure sea.

Our plan was to go birding, some independent and some with guides. On the first day we looked around the little nature reserve where most of the scientific works takes place, notably bird ringing and moth catching. It was already very hot by 7:30am but we continued on to walk through the coastal scrub. We saw a few different birds but noticed a Mangrove Kingfisher with a data logging backpack. Much of the rest of the day was spent in the shade – it was just too, too hot. There had been no rain there since May. When we mentioned the backpack it was at first thought to be a juvenile that had been processed the week before, but as it was an adult it had been wearing the equipment some time. There were efforts to catch it but no luck unfortunately.

Mangrove Kingfisher

I will not include a full list of sightings but just add some highlights.

A grab and smash episode with a Syke’s Money at breakfast was exciting. It didn’t get much but knocked plates flying in its effort to escape. This bold behaviour was also the reason for a locking hook on the fridge.

Food thief - Syke's Monkey

A personal favourite from a day with Willy the guide was Sokoke Scops Owl. Discovered in the forest reserve in 1965. They were caught in mist nets, in use for a bat survey, and had not been known of before. They are endemic to the 402KM square reserve and to this day a nest has never been found.

Sokoke Scops owls, male and female

The Golden-rumped Elephant Shrew were also fascinating to see, more like a miniature Tapir than a shrew.

Unfortunately we picked up a puncture in the forest and a flat tyre next morning meant that we didn’t make it to the high tide wader count at Mida Creek. After getting help at the lodge the tyre was removed for repair, but because the spare had been chained under the car to prevent theft, we lost most of the morning. So glad not to have been on the side of the road trying to find someone with a hacksaw to release the spare! Crab Plovers were the star attraction when we eventually got there, accompanied by a nice mix of other waders. The Mangroves were also interesting to see as was the rickety board walk with the planks of different sizes, and spacing, some missing altogether and the peculiar single rope on either side that differed in height depending on which section you were crossing.

Boardwalk at Mida Creek

There was a lake that we went to look across, but some much needed rain made the tracks slippery, and the dry tracks around the shrunken pool, swelled by the rains were submerged. We didn’t get too close but Chris managed to find some ducks and waders.

African Wild Cat

The second guided trip was to the river mouth at Sabaki, again lots of waders, gulls and terns. Jarou, our guide, wasn’t a patch on Willy and he didn’t know about the birds, but was paid mainly to ensure the safety of the vehicle and for showing us the place where we could see birds. Later he took us to see Hippos and Flamingoes(that we’d noticed from the bridge) and there we were very pleased to see African Wild Cat. Of course, not being as large as the Hippos, Jarou couldn’t see it.

The other highlight was returning to the accommodation to be called to see 3 birds disappearing into the distance. They turned out to be three Lesser Frigate birds only 3 or 4 previous records.

Record shot Lesser Frigate Bird. 

On 18th November we were all packed up, including equipment for the ringing camp, and left for Ngulia.

Monday 7 November 2022

Little Snoring Garden - November 2022

We were away from the 10th onwards so had a very limited time to ring in the garden this month. It was still possible to ring 48 new birds and recapture 27.

There was an influx of Blackbirds, some with continental features, that matched the number of new Blue Tit. Also 2 Blackcaps, most likely European birds that have migrated to the UK to over winter.

Male Blackcap

Goldfinch numbers visiting the feeders are tailing off while we have started to see more House Sparrows.

Total: 48 (27)

Blackbird - 10 (1)
Song Thrush - 1
Dunnock - 1 (6)
Blackcap - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 1
Blue Tit - 10 (13)
Coal Tit - 2 (1)
Great Tit - 4 (4)
Goldfinch - 9 (1)
Greenfinch - 3
House Sparrow - 5

Farm in West Norfolk - 6th November 2022

 Today was the first day mist netting at the farm. The chosen site, close to farm buildings incorporates the hedgerow and buffer strip planted especially to feed wild birds with additional supplementary feeding. We hope this will work, both as a winter Constant Effort Site and for capture of Tree Sparrows.

It was a problematic session, with heavy, threatening clouds that brought one heavy shower before the expected downpour late in the morning. It was necessary to close the nets once before nets were taken down for 11:30am. However, a catch of 43 birds, albeit no Tree Sparrows as yet, proved this to be a good choice of location for the new CES.

Leading species was Dunnock, including the retrap of a juvenile bird with a UK ring. 

Total: 42 (1)

Wren - 3
Robin - 6
Dunnock - 9 (1)
Blackbird - 3
Long-tailed Tit - 7
Blue Tit - 7
Great Tit - 3
House Sparrow - 4

Wednesday 2 November 2022

Little Snoring Garden - October 2022

 There was a definite trend of more birds passing through the garden this month. Blackbirds, Greenfinch and Goldfinch being the species with the greatest increase in visits, in fact most numerous species captured was Goldfinch, well ahead of  Blue Tit.

The House Sparrows have started using the feeders from time to time and least expected species was a single Starling.

A couple of retraps reappeared after 11 months without a capture at the feeders, Goldfinch S489843 and Blackbird LC56849.

Totals: 167 (76)

Great Spotted Woodpecker - 0 (1)
Woodpigeon - 3
Robin - 1 (3)
Dunnock - 0 (16)
Blackbird - 7 (3)
Long-tailed Tit - 3 (1)
Blue Tit - 38 (23)
Coal Tit - 6 (4)
Great Tit - 17 (16)
Chaffinch - 4 (1)
Greenfinch - 16 (2)
Goldfinch - 56 (4)
House Sparrow - 15 (2)
Starling - 1