Saturday, September 15, 2012

Day 17--The Aberdare Mtns

We were up early to walk the grounds of the Fish Eagle Inn.  Down by the lake we saw a gray-hooded gull fly by (photo taken by Bob).  I have also included a photo from the day before that Bob took of both greater (taller with pink and black tipped bills at the back of photo) and lesser flamingos.  We saw for the first time a giant kingfisher, and a new trip bird--a black-lored babbler.

We were on the road at 8:15 AM because we had a lot of ground to cover.  Our main focus for the day would be to cross the Aberdare Mountains.  On our way up to the park entrance, we found one of the most dramatic of the sunbirds--the golden winged (photo taken by Bob--click on any photo to enlarge).  We also saw 3 more new cisticola species--Levaillant's, Hunter's and wing-snapping; the endemic Sharpe's longclaw; and common quail.

We reached the park entrance before noon.  One of the rangers offered to take a photo of the 3 of us, but as you can see he managed to cut part of me and Stu off--oh well.

We slowly drove the gravel road, and over the many kilometers we traveled we ended up finding a few Jackson's francolins.

It was overcast and even spitting rain at times, but we kept finding birds as we went including the eastern double-collared sunbird, and the Aberdare cisticola (both photos taken by Bob).  Some animals we encountered included giant forest pigs, cape buffalo, wart hogs, water bucks, and mountain reed buck.

We stopped at one grassy open area that had some flowers blooming to look for sunbirds, and discovered a scarlet-tufted malachite sunbird that was too far away in poor light to get a photo.  We did have a very cooperative long crested eagle show off for us (photo taken by Bob).

As we were leaving the park it was a bit foggy, and several birds were feeding along the road including 2 new trip birds--scaly francolin, and Ruppel's robin-chat.  It was already late afternoon, and it was threatening to rain.  As a result, rather than taking a detour to try for another endemic--Hinde's babbler--we drove straight to Castle Forest Lodge which is on Mt. Kenya.  The modest stone and wood main building was built 65 years ago for Queen Elizabeth when she came to visit Kenya.

It was all but dark when we started up the dirt road to the lodge.  Suddenly out of the forest walked a mother elephant and her offspring, stopping in the road just in front of us.  We stopped the landcruiser, and even slowly backed up so as not to upset her.  After a minute or 2 they moved on into the forest, but then another adult elephant came out of the forest, crossed the road and followed the first 2.  We waited a couple of minutes to make sure there were no more before driving on up to the lodge.

We were the only guests that night, so our driver, John, joined us for dinner.  John does not talk much when he is driving, so it was a treat to be able to have a lengthy conversation with him about himself and Kenya while we ate. He also told us that last year a mother and her child were walking near the lodge when they came across an elephant.  They tried to run away, but were trampled and died.  As a result, now all guests must be accompanied by local guides.

After dinner we did the bird list update, and found that we had seen 30 more new trip birds.  We walked up the hill in the rain to our cottages to find a fire burning in the fireplaces.  We went to sleep hoping that the rain that had fallen all day at the lodge would stop by tomorrow.  Stay tuned!

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