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WESTERN KENYA & THE MASAI MARA

Sunday 28th October - Saturday 10th November 2012

Pete Morris

Golden-winged Sunbird (Pete Morris)

Golden-winged Sunbird (Pete Morris)

Once again, Kenya lived up to its reputation of being one of the most diverse birding destinations on our planet. This was in effect the first part of our Ultimate Kenya tour (formed by the combination of this tour and our Northern & Eastern Kenya tour) which recorded a mind-boggling total of 817 species, only five of which were heard only, and this despite the fact that we were prioritising Kenyan specialities (a task in which we were extremely successful) rather than going all out for a huge list!!! On this tour, in just 13 action-packed days around some of the prime birding sites in the west of the country, we recorded no fewer than 611 species of birds and 43 species of mammals!

The many and varied highlights are hard to summarise in a single paragraph. They ranged from a superb suite of essentially West African forest species in Kakamega Forest, to a wonderful safari experience through the Masai Mara, where stunning scenery combined with great birds, Lions and Cheetahs, to give a complete African experience. Beginning at the marvellous spectacle that is Lake Nakuru with its throngs of waterbirds we moved on to the dry thorn-bush around the rocky cliffs of Lake Baringo, the aforementioned Kakamega Forest, the remnant papyrus swamps around the shores of Lake Victoria and of course the absolutely amazing Masai Mara. Lake Naivasha and the nearby Aberdares and Kinangop Plateau brought many more Kenyan specialities and we rounded things off with a productive day along the Magadi Road. Amongst so many species, the avian highlights were of course many, but particular mention should go to the tiny and drab Karamoja Apalis, a Birdquest lifer that was a treat for us all. For rarity value, none came any more threatened than the endangered Sharpe’s Longclaw, an attractive specie that gave great views. Other much appreciated species included a stunning Grey-crested Helmet Shrike, glorious Golden-winged Sunbirds, a delightful Abyssinian Ground-Thrush and colourful Bar-tailed Trogons. Noteworthy among the other numerous specialties that we encountered were the endemic Aberdare Cisticola, and the near-endemic Jackson’s Francolin, Jackson’s Hornbill, Usambiro Barbet and Turner’s Eremomela. I could list more and more, such was the quality and quantity of the species that we recorded.

Grey-crested Helmet Shrike (Pete Morris)

Grey-crested Helmet Shrike (Pete Morris)