There are simply insufficient superlatives to describe Birdfinders first tour to Kenya! The accommodation and food was first class, the mammals amazing, the group fantastic and the birds... well, the 610 species we recorded will have to speak for itself! It is, of course, difficult to pick our favourite moments as there were so many but here is the pick of the highlights: Our arrival day gave us a good introduction with Short-tailed Lark and Grosbeak Weaver being memorable. Moving north to Samburo we caught up with a number of northern specialities including Scissor-tailed Kite, Somali Courser, Liechtenstein's Sandgrouse, Ethiopian Swallow, Red-winged Lark, Somali Crombec, Golden-breasted Starling, Golden Palm-weaver and Somali Golden-breasted Bunting, but our first Ostrich caused the most commotion with the finder ensuring everyone was awake!
Around Mount Kenya we were fortunate to experience good weather, and were able to get all the way up to the meteorological station to enable us to have wonderful views of the endemic Jackson's Francolin, as well as the extremely localised Abyssinian Ground-thrush and Alpine Chat, whilst Scaled Francolin and Waller's Starling were seen from the lodge. En-route to Lake Nakuru we made several excellent stops for Cape (formerly Mackinder's) Eagle-owl and Slender-billed Starlings at Thompson's Falls. At Lake Nakuru 1.2 million Lesser Flamingo's certainly impressed and the Dimorphic Egrets were still present but mammals really stole the limelight here with both Black and White Rhinos and two Leopards. Moving on to Lake Baringo we were treated to the spectacle of an African Fish-eagle chasing a Purple Heron whilst in the lodge grounds, Jackson's Hornbills and Bristle-crowned Starlings were found. Nearby, Rock Kestrel, Hemprich's Hornbill and Brown-tailed Chat provided added interest to the spectacular backdrop of the cliffs and wonderful views of Greyish Eagle-owl, Northern White-faced Scops-owl, Slender-tailed Nightjar and Heuglin's Courser were had at their daytime roost sites.
In western Kenya we stayed for three nights in the wonderful Rondo retreat centre in Kakamega Forest. Here we experienced a feast of greenbuls as well as many other species only found in more remote areas of central Africa. African Grey Parrot, Red-chested Owlet, Blue-headed Bee-eater, Hairy-breasted Barbet (nest building), African Broadbill (displaying), Black-collared and Buff-throated Apalis, Black-faced Rufous-warbler, Turner's Eremomela, Uganda Woodland-warbler, Chapin's Flycatcher, Blue-shouldered Robin-chat, African Shrike-flycatcher, Chestnut, Jameson's and Yellow-bellied Wattle-eyes, Bocarge's and Leuhder's Bush-shrikes and Stuhlmann's Starling were just some of the amazing birds seen here.
On our way south to the Masai Mara, we stopped off at Lake Victoria and managed to see quite a few of the local specialities including Blue-headed Coucal, Black-billed Barbet, Carruther's Cisticola, Papyrus Gonelek and Slender-billed and Northern Brown-throated Weavers. In the Masai Mara, as well as wonderful views of many species of mammals (including a close encounter with a group of Cheetah), we managed to find Fine-banded Woodpecker, Rufous-necked Wryneck, Black-winged Lapwing, Ross's and Schalow's Turacos, Familiar Chat and Rock-loving Cisticola. En-route to our last major site, Lake Naivasha, we made a couple of stops to add Greater Kestrel, Double-banded Courser, Schalow's Wheatear, Miombo Camaroptera, Buff-bellied Penduline-tit, Magpie Shrike and Southern Grosbeak-canary. Lake Naivasha provided us with a wonderful boat trip (great views of the Hippos!) but all too soon it was time to drive back to Nairobi. We did however, make a couple of very successful stops en-route where we experienced amazing views of the highly-endangered Sharpe's Longclaw as well as African Snipe. A roadside pool close to Nairobi also gave us Maccoa and White-backed Ducks.
The last morning was spent in Nairobi National Park where a remarkable number of new species were added given that it was the last day of the tour. Pangani and Rosy-breasted Longclaws and African Yellow Warbler were great, Hartlaub's Bustard spectacular and the soon-to-be-split Nairobi Pipits a great find, but pride of place surely has to go to both Martial and Crowned Eagles seen perched within two minutes of each other! A special thanks must go to not only all the group members but especially to Steve Easley whose knowledge of the country and it's birds is incredible.