Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Day 18--Castle Forest Lodge to Samburu

Our hopes of a dry morning were dashed when we awoke to mist and light rain.  As we walked up to the lodge for breakfast we found a Hartlaub's turaco (photo taken by Bob), and a red-fronted parrot.  Once we were on the covered porch, we birded for a bit while they made us breakfast.

The next new trip bird after the parrot was a pair of blue-headed coucals that flew thru the thick foliage below the porch.  Then Kandt's waxbill showed up and a northern double collared sunbird (photos just below taken by Bob--click on any photo to enlarge).  As we kept scanning the foliage several birds would make fleeting appearances.  Way down in the valley we also had a group of elephants slowly come into view and then walk on into the forest.

Breakfast proved to be the best of our trip--lovely crepes with real maple syrup accompanied by fresh squeezed oj, fried eggs, sausage and bacon.  This boded well for the prospects of our box lunch later in the day.   After eating we drove a short distance back down the road, and then got out to walk back up the hill in search of new birds.  Unfortunately not long after beginning the walk it began to rain in earnest, so after getting pretty wet, we gave up.  Just as we returned to the lodge area, an olive ibis flew over much to the surprise and delight of Brian (photo taken by Bob).

We walked back up to the "huts" to collect our baggage and found a rufous-chested sparrowhawk perched in a tree.  The rain continued to fall as we began the drive to Samburu.  The weather improved once we got down off the base of Mt. Kenya.  As we were heading north we passed one of the many signs all over Kenya where you cross the equator.

The drive to Samburu was fairly leisurely.  We located a few new trip birds like Boran cisticola, and little rock thrush (photos taken by Bob).

The highlight was a malachite sunbird (photo taken by Stu), which we had missed in the Aberdares where Brian would normally have expected to find it.  Our box lunch proved to be the 2nd best of the trip.

We had been at 7-8,000 ft elevation at Castle Forest, but by the time we reached Samburu we had dropped to between 3-4,000 ft.  As we entered Buffalo Springs, which is one of 3 national parks that is generally called Samburu, we saw our first reticulated giraffes ambling along.  Notice the 2 birds feeding on the back of the giraffe on the right.

Soon after we found a Wahlberg's eagle down on the ground, and close by was a Grevy's zebra.  Brian told us that the Grevy's is related to horses, but the much more common Burchell's zebra is related to donkeys.

We slowly worked our way thru the park in search of animals and birds.  The Donaldson-Smith's sparrow-weaver was a new trip bird that is a park speciality.  In the photo just above a white-browed sparrow-weaver is perched on the left side, and on the right is a white-headed buffalo-weaver.  Just below is a weaver nest.  This tree had 20+ nests hanging in it.

We found a large herd of Oryx feeding in the grass, and a Ruppell's long-tailed starling, a species we had first seen a few days earlier.

The sun was beginning to drop low on the horizon when we pulled up to the Simba Lodge that had been open only for a couple of years.  The place was easily one of my 3 favorite places that we stayed.  The rooms were large with balconies to sit and watch the wildlife.  The bathrooms were as nice as any you would see at a deluxe hotel in the U.S., and there was lots of hot water.

We had a good buffet dinner, and our table was near the lighted waterhole so we could watch the birds and animals that came in.  A slender-tailed nightjar would fly up every now and then from a hidden perch to catch bugs.  A gray-headed kingfisher perched in the open would make occasional forays.  Straw colored fruit bats would fly in and out of view.  Two waterbucks came to get a drink, and 2 white-tailed mongoose as well.  An elephant was bugling in the distance. We updated the bird trip list before heading to our rooms.  Tomorrow we got to spend the day wandering thru this magnificent NP.  Stay tuned!

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