Sunday, September 30, 2012

Day 22--Nakuru NP and Lake Baringo

We were up and out quickly after consuming a passable breakfast.  It was Sunday morning, so we had no traffic while making the short drive to Nakuru NP which has at its center Lake Nakuru--a soda lake that recently has risen above its normal level killing many trees along its shoreline.  We immediately found some waterbucks resting in the grass.  Nearby we spotted a red-throated wryneck (photo taken by Bob--click on any photo to enlarge), and then found a second a bit further along the road.

The lake edge was teeming with birdlife including pink-backed and great white pelicans (new trip bird), 1000's of white breasted cormorants, and many yellow-billed storks.

We found a troop of yellow baboons hanging out along the road.

Cape teals were seen at many stops along the way, along with hottentot and red-billed teals.

The lake normally would have 100's of thousands of lesser flamingos, but with the high water there were only a few hundred lesser, and even fewer greater flamingos.  Marabou storks populated the shoreline (largest bird with black wings).

Shorebirds were feeding in the wet areas.  I was thrilled to see several hundred ruffs in various sizes and breeding plumages (photo just above--click on any photo to enlarge).  Finding a ruff during my big year in 2010 consumed many birding hours at several locations before I finally saw one at the Salton Sea.  We saw our first green (photo taken by Bob) and marsh sandpipers.

We were able to enjoy both blacksmith (just above) and spur-wing lapwings (just below), and saw our first long-toed lapwing mostly buried while feeding in the grass.  We also got to watch a black heron do its hooding feeding routine in the shallow water (photo taken by Bob).  It bends low over the water and spreads its wings in front of its head to better see its food moving about in the water.  Other herons seen included striated, squacco, gray and black-headed.  Great white, intermediate, cattle and little egrets also were abundant.

In the larid family we saw gull-billed, white-winged and whiskered terns, plus 100's of gray-hooded gulls with 2 black-headed fly bys.

The cape buffalo were spread around the lake, as were many other tourist groups.  The Japanese were often wearing small white masks, and the teenagers, traveling in large camping "overlanders", all seemed to be having a great time.

White-fronted bee-eaters (photo just above) were flycatching all along the road.  We found our first and only Eurasian hoopoe as well.

Just past the hoopoe we came across a magnificent white rhino.  Within minutes we were surrounded by 7 vehicles full of  big game "hunters" who had been radioed about the rhino.  The crush of excited people hardly diminished the joy of observing such a wild creature.  We spent several minutes watching it munch its way thru the vegetation.

We extricated our vehicle from the mob and proceeded to continue our drive around the lake, finding birds like the African spoonbill and the yellow-billed duck.  We had an Ovampo sparrowhawk and a peregrine falcon fly past us--both new birds for the trip.

Near the end of the loop road we found some black and white colobus monkeys.

Early in the afternoon we had to tear ourselves away from the park to make the drive up to Lake Baringo, another soda lake.  As we left the park we stopped briefly at the exit gate to use the bathroom.  There was a shop with 1000's of animal carvings done by the local people.  I was overwhelmed with the shear number of fine carvings, but gathered my wits long enough to pick out a black rhino sculpted from teak.  It now sits in my living room to give me fond memories of Lake Nakuru.

We needed to reach Lake Baringo by late afternoon to have a chance to find a grayish eagle-owl, which would be the the last of the eagle-owl species for us to see in East Africa.  We arrived at 4:30 and picked up Willie, another local guide.  We were pumped up about seeing this bird because Brian had told us that he had never had a trip where he saw all 5 eagle-owl species.  Our expectations were immediately dashed when Willie said the pair of eagle-owls had not been seen for almost 2 months.  Why Brian had not been apprised of this fact I don't understand because when we asked him about other places to see this 5th species, he said he knew of none because he always had been able to see it at Lake Baringo.

We did get to see several other new trip birds before the sun went down including Heuglin's courser (photo just above), 3 striped tchagra, mouse-colored penduline tit, gray-headed bushshrike, Wahlberg's honeybird, and Hemprich's hornbill. We also found one of the bee hive structures hanging in a tree that the locals build to be able to gather honey.

We checked into the Lake Baringo Lodge where I had to take a picture of the sign at the desk informing customers about hippo and wake up calls.

Lake Baringo is also way above its normal water levels which has made 10 of the 42 rooms at the lodge unusable.  What is even stranger is that the lake just 3 years ago was so low that it was a 2 km walk from the lodge to the edge of the lake. 

We did see 2 more new trip birds--northern masked weavers (an endemic), and white-billed buffalo-weavers that nest right behind the main lodge area.  Before sitting down to dinner, we chatted with a fellow from Michigan St. University who is doing doctoral research on the introduction of mesquite as a firewood source.  It has proven to be a disaster as it has become a horrible invasive plant species much like kudzu in the U.S. Dinner proved to be pretty good, and our review of the day's birding gave us just over 170 bird species seen for the day with 25 being new trip birds.  Stay tuned!

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