As I mentioned in my previous post, this year I was determined to attend all the waterfowl census to be held in & around Nairobi in July. Especially those which I missed in January, like the one at Nairobi National Park. I have been to the Park several times before, but to see the mammals. This would be a different experience no doubt.
On the morning of the census I arrived early at the Museum. There had been a drizzle and it was chilly. I wondered if the rain would fall and interrupt the exercise? We gathered for a briefing and it turned out we were short on transport (again). Sigh. The last time that happened in January, I missed out. Priority was to be given to those with experience but some people who I’d never seen come for bird walks ended up filling the vehicles! I wasn’t going to be left behind this time.
The group I was in left first in a saloon car while those in the Nature Kenya Land Rover followed later. When we got to the Park it was still cold. The cloud cover was intense. The Land Rover group arrived around 15 minutes after us. Surprisingly there was no one from KWS to receive us. We were at the car park for almost an hour before getting someone to clear us to proceed. Also, KWS hadn’t provided a vehicle like they usually do for the census. Yet we were in their domain! The level of disorganisation was incredible.
Anyway, when everything was finally cleared we entered the Park. But not before an extra passenger was added to our car. There were 4 people in the back instead of 3. Talk about being squeezed! Our group proceeded to the first wetland- Nangoromon Dam. It’s the one closest to the main entrance. The sight of numerous waterfowl was welcoming.
There were hundreds of Sacred Ibis nesting. I’d never seen so many of them in one place. And while they’re usually silent unlike their cousins (Hadada Ibis), on this day they were quite vocal. Some were at the shore while others perched on a tree in the middle of the dam. A couple of African Spoonbills and Long-tailed Cormorants mingled with them.
Among the reeds, Black Crowned Night Heron juveniles stood silently, perfectly camouflaged. A python lay motionless a few metres away. Blacksmith Plovers foraged at the shore. An interesting thing about Sacred Ibis is that after they’re done nesting, they will leave the site completely. Not one will be seen.
Tourists would pass by us wondering what we were looking at in the pond, since they were searching for big game. After some time we went towards Hyena Dam, the second wetland. To our surprise there were fewer birds than usual. This is probably because the reeds at the shore had been cleared. We spotted a few Spur-winged Plovers and Egyptian Geese. Two crocodiles lay perfectly still, basking in the sun. A little- known fact about crocs at this dam is that they have brown teeth, unlike those in other wetlands. No one is sure why.
On to the next wetland we went. But we didn’t get there because part of the road was under construction. How disappointing considering the effort we took to get that far. We turned back to check out Impala Lookout. A flock of Superb Starlings appeared, followed by Greater Blue- eared Starlings. As we moved forward, so did the Starlings. More of them kept flying in, stopping in front of the car. They provided such an interesting show. Just when we thought they were done, more came flying from behind. Whether they were following the car or looking for insects in the buffalo dung was left to our imagination.
Another surprise awaited us ahead. A pair of adult Grey Crowned Cranes appeared near Hyena Dam, accompanied by two chicks. What a heartwarming sight! These birds are threatened with extinction due to habitat loss so to see them successfully breeding is always worth a celebration. This was my second time seeing Grey Crowned Crane chicks in my life.
On arriving at Impala Lookout, a foraging Warthog welcomed us. It was interesting getting so close to a wild pig, but I kept a reasonable distance just in case. There’s a small hut looking out over the plains with a spectacular view. Form here you can see some buildings in the CBD. An amazing mix of town and the wild. A herd of Zebra grazed in the distance, as well as a Black Rhino with a young one. Grey Crowned Cranes were present here too. The only eyesore was the pillars for the Standard Gauge Railway. Why must we interfere with animal habitats?
There was one more wetland to get to. The road there was so bad though, we thought about turning back. We proceeded anyway since we were on the way out. It was a small wetland with little activity. Except for a Hippo swimming and Egyptian Geese fighting for territory. We headed towards the main gate when out of nowhere, a giraffe crossed the road. It’s amazing that despite their height, they could be right next to you but almost invisible. What a beautiful ending to the census.
But there was more. We spotted a Verraux Eagle-owl hiding in a tree. A flock of Pied Crows tried to chase it away but gave up after a while. A troop of baboons marched along the road. The dominant male was so huge! That’s what I like about Nairobi National Park- it’s always full of surprises. We were tired but happy. Till next time!