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KENYA 2006

Birdfinders exceeded 600 species of birds for the fifth successive Kenya tour as well as seeing all of the major mammals. This year we flew from Nairobi to Samburu enjoying stunning views of Mount Kenya en-route. Highlights in Samburu were Somali Bee-eater, Magpie and Fischer's Starlings and Somali Long-billed Crombec as well as our only Leopard of the tour. Heading south, not only did we see the extremely localised Boran Cisticola at its usual site but also a group of Orange-winged Pytilia, a rarely-seen species in Kenya and Stripe-breasted Seedeaters. Our time around mount Kenya was rewarded with the virtual endemic Jackson's Francolin, Alpine Chat, Kendrick's Starling and Abyssinian Ground-thrush although the spectacle of a Crowned Eagle passing low overhead eclipsed even these birds. At Lake Baringo we found most of the northern Kenya specialities including Somali Golden-breasted Bunting, Bristle-crowned Starling, Brown-tailed Chat, Hemprich's Hornbill and Green-winged Pytilia although a spectacular surprise was an immature Verreaux's Eagle sat on the cliffs. Also welcome were stunning views of African Scops-owl, Northern White-faced Owl, Greyish Eagle-owl, Slender-tailed Nightjar and Heuglin's Coursers all at daytime roost sites!

The sheer spectacle of the 1 million plus Lesser Flamingo's at Lake Nkuru will never be forgotten whilst on the avian front, a flock Grey-crowned Helmet-shrikes was an excellent find. So on to the wonderful Kakamega Forest stopping for goodies like McKinder's Eagle-owl, African Black Duck, Ross's and White-crested Turacos, Black-throated Wattle-eye and Slender-tailed Starling en-route. Had it not rained so much in Kakamega (well it is a rainforest!), we would probably have reached a group total of over 625 species but despite the conditions we enjoyed wonderful views of White-spotted Flufftail, Stuhlmann's Starlings, African Grey Parrots, Bocage's Bush-shrike, Turner's Eremomela, Chestnut and Jameson's Wattle-eyes, Blue-shouldered and Grey-winged Robin-chats, Blue-headed Bee-eater, Bar-tailed Trogon, Yellowbill, African Shrike-flycatcher, Least Honeyguide, African Broadbill, Brown-eared and Golden-crowned Woodpeckers and Great Blue Turaco to name but a few. A new feature of this year's tour was to travel further west then spend a night at Kisumu and this worked extremely well with such rarely-seen Kenya birds as Rock Pratincole, Locust Finch, Hartlaub's Marsh Widowbird, Bar-breasted Firefinch and Compact Weaver all showing well. Our morning on the shores of Lake Victoria yielded Papyrus Canary, Northern Brown-throated and Slender-billed Weavers, Sharpe's Pied Babblers, Eastern Grey Plantain-eater although White-winged Scrub-warbler and Papyrus Gonolek were only heard.

And so on to the Masai Mara and the Wildebeest was a real spectacle this year with herds of thousands migrating across the plains. We found many of the speciality birds including Rufous-bellied Herons, Black-winged Lapwings, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Little Spotted Woodpecker, Schalow's Turaco, Rock-loving Cisticola and Familiar Chat as well as seeing all the common mammals and some extremely uncommon ones such as Bat-eared Fox. The mammal prize didn't go to the Lions however, it went to the Cheetahs with multiple sightings including of young cubs. So on towards Lake Naivasha adding Greater Kestrel, Magpie Shrike, Red-throated Tit, Buff-bellied Penduline-tit, Capped Wheatear, Grey-rumped Swallow and Silverbird en-route. The boat trip on the lake the next morning gave us close up and personal views of Hippos and whilst adding some good birds the best species came in the form of two Heuglin's Gulls, quite a rarity inland. Heading back towards Nairobi we had a number of stops to make en-route staring with Tabora Cisticola and Schalow's Wheatears in a nearby canyon. Next we headed into the highlands where we enjoyed some great views of the rare endemic Sharpe's Longclaw before heading into a remnant patch of forest. Specialities here included Abyssinian Crimson-wing, Black-fronted Bush-shrike, White-tailed Crested-flycatcher and Cameroon Scrub-warbler. Our final stop of the day was at a roadside pool where we recorded the first recent Kenyan breeding of White-backed Duck as well as Maccoa Ducks.

Our final day was spent at leisure in Nairobi National Park. Despite having spent over two weeks in the country we continued to add new species including the recently described Nairobi Pipit, Hartlaub's Bustard, Pangani Longclaw and best of all, an African Finfoot. What a spectacular end to a fantastic tour!

Violet-backed Starling

Violet-backed Starling