SYKE’S MONKEYS AND GIANT LOBELIAS IN MOUNT KENYA

 

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Mount Kenya, standing at 5199 meters above sea level , is the highest mountain in Kenya and the second highest in Africa, after Kilimanjaro.It’s an ancient extinct volcano and it contains twelve small glaciers that are receding rapidly due to global warming.

It hosts a diverse flora  that varies with altitude and rainfall : forest, bamboo, timberline forest, chaparral and heathland are disposed in that order as altitude increase until 3000 m.The Afro-Alpine zone, above 3000 meters, offers a diversity of ecosystems including grassy glades, moorlands, tussock grasslands and sedges.There are many endemic species in that zone.Giant Groundsel and different species of Lobelias are found here.

Most of its mammals are found in the lower forested areas of the mountain.African Elephants, African Lions, Giant Forest Hogs, Tree Hyrax, White-fronted duikers, mongooses, hyenas, leopards and different species of monkeys and antelopes inhabit this area.Mole Rats, Mouse Shrew, Mount Kenya Hyrax and Common Duikers are found at higher altitudes up to 4000 meters.

Birdlife is varied and abundant, which includes sunbirds, alpine chats, swifts, Augur Buzzard, Green Ibis, Verreaux Eagle, Lammergeier, Ayres Hawk Eagle, Abyssinian Long-eared Owl, Scaly Francolin, Rüppell’s Robin Chat and the near endemic Alpine Swift.

To get there i went from Isiolo to Nanyuki by bus.In Nanyuki i booked a taxi to the park for next morning.I planned to see the amazing lobelias and groundsels that can be found in higher altitudes. Although it’s not the main purpose of my blog to talk about botany i considered quite interesting to talked about it.

Next morning he took me to the park via Naro Moru, we passed the gate and we reached the station located about 3000 meters above sea level.Then we followed the road that continued until a medium-sized house where we stopped the car and started walking.We went through a forest area and then we started to climb along a steep trail till we reach the heathland area where Juniperus Procera were  abundant.The first Giant Groundsels were seen along this area.

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Further uphill we reach a moorland area where we could also see Giant Groundsels, Senecio Brassica.However these plants didn’t reach the larger size of individuals of its counterparts in higher altitudes.You can appreciate its yellow inflorescence and the rosette disposition of its leaves.This disposition allows them to avoid freezing and loss of water, while its whitish back part of the leaves reflect the ultraviolet rays.

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At 3200 meters i began to feel a bit of altitude sickness. I barely could follow my guide but finally we could manage to arrive to an altitude of about 3300 meters where i could see the amazing views of some Giant Lobelias, Lobelia telekii, that is endemic of Mount Kenya.The furriness of the bracts of the huge inflorescence protect their flowers from freezing.It also contains an internal hollow pith to store water.

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We descent quite fast and returned to the car.Afterwards we stopped for a while in the Nano Moru Station where i saw a group of Syke’s Monkeys late morning.

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Syke’s Monkeys are mainly found in Eastern Africa.They are similar to Blue Monkeys although they are easy to distinguish from them by its white large collar in its chest and neck.The Mount Kenya subspecies of Syke’s Monkey, see picture above, inhabit this area, where they are found up to 3000 meters.

These monkeys were seen in a group of four individuals feeding on the leaves and grass on the ground.They stayed in the station area eating and running for quite a while.These monkeys are very nice to observe and i got entertained taking pictures of them for almost an hour.

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It was a nice experience to expand my knowledge about a very unique flora and wildlife !

Next stop in Jinja, Uganda, with many pictures of birds in the source of the White Nile !!

See you soon my friends !!!

 

 

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SAMBURU AND BUFFALO SPRINGS RESERVE.INTO A UNIQUE WILDERNESS

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Samburu National Reserve is one of my favourite national parks in Kenya.It’s not as well-known and visited as other national parks but it’s totally worth to visit due to its unique wildlife.It’s a semi-desert reserve located alongside the Ewaso Ngi’ro river.On the other side of the river is the Buffalo Spring National Reserve.The reserve is mainly open savannah with scattered groups of acacia trees, forest and grassland vegetation.

The park hosts a unique and rich wildlife: Beysa Oryx, Grevy’s Zebra, Gerenuk, Somali Ostrich and Rothschild giraffe are its main attractions,also referred as Samburu Big Five.African Elephants, Impalas, Grant’s Gazelle,Waterbucks, Warthogs, Kirk Dik-diks, Olive Baboons and Nile Crocodiles are frequently seen in the park. All there big cats are also found here: African Lions, Leopards and Cheetahs but not as in high numbers as in other national parks.The river attract many wildlife and it hosts a remarkable population of Nile Crocodiles.See a picture that i took of the Ewaso Ngi’ro river below.

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Birdlife is abundant as well, with about 450 species recorded.Some of the most remarkable are Grey-headed kingfisher, White-throated Bee-eaters, Kori Bustards, Yellow-billed and Red-billed Hornbill, Tawny and Verreaux’s eagle, Bateleur,Palm-nut Vulture, Vulturine Guineafowl, Yellow-necked Spurfowl, Lilac-breasted Roller and Secretary bird.

Samburu was my next destination after visiting Uganda,Rwanda and Tanzania ( i will give you information of these countries on my following posts ).I reentered Kenya and arrived in Nairobi.From Nairobi i took a bus to Isiolo and spent five hours.Once in Isiolo, i checked-in in Josera Guesthouse for about 10 euros per night and i took a stroll around the town.People were surprised to see a tourist and  they were staring at me all time.There is an important population of Somali people and several tribes around this area.Unfortunately there are sometimes tribal clashes in this area so you should better get the latest news before venture in here.Afterwards I headed towards Bomen Hotel where i was told they can arrange a safari tour for me.I talked to a guy that contacted Mr Matet Erupe.After discussing the price i arranged a safari with him for next morning.I paid about 130 euros for entrance fees,car,driver and guide.

Next morning we headed towards the park in a comfortable four wheels car.I was very excited to see the Samburu Big Five and other wildlife.Once inside we could spot Beysa Oryx in groups of one or a few individuals.You can see a Beysa Oryx and a Red-billed Oxpecker on its back on the picture that i took below.

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These animals live in near-desert areas and are  unmistakable by its dark brown marking in the face and its almost straight permanent horns.They can use its sharp horns when they feel threatened and even sometimes kill lions.Males also use the horns to compete for the females.See the picture that i took on the top of the post.

The next animal we saw was a colourful Red and yellow Barbet on its nest.Notice the red and yellow head with a white patch beside its ears and the reddish beak.

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Later on, we spotted an individual of Black-backed Jackal on a narrow trail.

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A solitaire Kori Bustard also appeared early morning.This bird is the largest flying bird native to Africa.They are omnivorous: feeding on grass, seeds, small vertebrates like lizards, snakes and rodents and insects.

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Somali Ostrich,one of the Big Samburu Five was our next sight.This vulnerable species of bird is found mainly in Ethiopia,Somalia and Kenya and it lacks, unlike the Common Ostrich, the pinkish coloration of neck and legs  and the tail is white.See the solitary male we saw in the first picture below.We saw females in a group of six, see second picture below.

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Rothschild’s Giraffe, a subspecies of Nubian Giraffe and one of the most endangered types of giraffe, was another rewarding animal to see in the park.

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A single colorful Grey-headed Kingfisher was seen perched on a branch.

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We saw Vulturine Guineafowls in a group of few individuals. It’s the largest species of Guineafowl and its diet consists mainly in seeds and small invertebrates.Notice the conspicuous bluish chest and long bare neck and head that makes him resemble a vulture.

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After a while we found out the gracile and slender Gerenuk, another of the Samburu Big Five.Notice its long neck adapted to reach high branches while standing erect.See the Gerenuk feeding on an Acacia tree on the second picture below.

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We also saw a Black-faced Sandgrouse, with its brownish camouflage colours that make it difficult to distinguish among the ground.

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Along the park we could see scattered groups of single or just a few individuals of Grevy’s Zebra.This animal is the largest and most threatened species of zebra.Notice the lack of black stripes in its belly and flanks,unlike other zebras.I took a photo of a male,as you can appreciate in the picture below.

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White-headed Mousebird were found sometimes perched in dry vegetation.Notice its long tail and white crown on its head.

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We watched a D’Arnaud Barbet perched on an Acacia tree late morning.It’s one of my favourite barbets due to its yellow colourful plumage  splashed with black dots and bars in chest, head and tail.

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White-throated Bee-eater was an amazing and regular bird seen in the park perched on dead trunks and dried bushes and shrubs.

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Other interesting birds seen in the park were the Red-billed and Yellow-billed Hornbill, perched on the top branches of trees and sometimes walking on the ground, the always solitaire Secretary Bird hunting on the ground, a group of Helmeted Guineafowl crossing a track, Yellow-necked Spurfowls, a terrestrial bird that seems quite common in the park, a  single Lilac-breasted Roller on a shadow area on the ground and White-headed Buffalo Weavers moving among the branches of trees.

Once we reached Ewaso Ngi’ro river we could spot groups of African Elephants drinking and crossing the river.See picture on the top of the post.These African Elephants were larger in size than those seen in Masai Mara.

We spent the full morning spotting amazing wildlife.Afterwards we head towards Archer’s Post area where we contact Samburu and Turkana tribes.It was a quite interesting experience as well and i recommend you not to miss it. See a Turkana women below,with its distinctive silver leaf earrings and colourful necklace.

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I could see the Big Samburu Five in only one morning !!! Mr.Matet was very knowledgeable of the animals and tribes of this area and i totally recommend him for any safari in this area.

Next post I will talk about my last stop in Kenya: Mount Kenya, with Syke’s Monkeys and some of the most interesting vegetation adapted to the extreme conditions near the summit of this mountain.

See you soon my friends !!

SAMBURU AND BUFFALO SPRINGS BIRD CHECKLIST.FEBRUARY 2016

Somali Ostrich

Black-headed Heron

Sacred Ibis

Hadada Ibis

Black Kite

Secretary Bird

Vulturine Guineafowl

Helmeted Guineafowl

Yellow-necked Spurfowl

Kori Bustard

Spur-winged Lapwing

Black-faced Sandgrouse

Namaqua Dove

White-headed Mousebird

Grey-headed Kingfisher

White-throated Bee-eater

Lilac-breasted Roller

Red-billed Hornbill

Yellow-billed Hornbill

D’Arnaud Barbet

Red and yellow Barbet

Red-billed Oxpecker

Common Bulbul

African Paradise Flycatcher

Fork-tailed Drongo

Superb Sunbird

White-headed Buffalo Weaver

Other animals:

Beisa Oryx

Rotchild’s Giraffe

African Elephant

Grevy’s Zebra

Olive Baboon

Gerenuk

Impala

Kirk’s Dik Dik

Black-fronted Jackal

SAIWA NP, FINDING THE RARE SITATUNGA

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Saiwa Swamp National Park is the smallest national park in Kenya.While It’s not one of the most famous national parks in Kenya it’s one of the best places in the world where to see the rare Sitatunga and De Brazza Monkey.Birdlife is abundant, with 372 species of birds, being some of its highlights the Lesser Jacana, African Black Duck, Narina Trogons, Collared and Orange-tufted Sunbirds, Yellow Bishop, Hatlaub’s Widowbird and Ross’s Turacos.

The vegetation is a mixture of forest and swamp habitat with tall bushes and reeds along its marshy edge.There are several platforms where to observe birds and Sitatungas in the swamp and walking trails that meander around and across the swamp area.In the picture you can see the swamp and the forest that surround it.

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To get there i traveled from Kakamega to Kitale.From there i took a motorbike that drove along Kapenguria Road and then took a detour towards the national park.The infrastructure was limited: no restaurants available and only a camping and some huts although with great views of the swamp.I paid 25 euros per day for the entrance fee, 50 euros per night for the accommodation at Treetop house, the huts that i mentioned before, and some extra for the food that rangers prepared for me.I also arranged a bird guide by hiring a ranger of the park for next day.It costed me about 15 euros.

Around 5 o’clock i could see a male Sitatunga from the balcony of the hut.I was thrilled by this view.He was staring at me while feeding on grass.

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Next morning i went with the ranger along the trail that meander around the swamp and pass through a forested area.

In this area I saw the little and beautiful Black-throated Wattle-eye perched on a branch in the shadow.

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We spotted a Scaly Francolin walking and digging into the ground on the left side of the trail early morning.

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Ross’s Turacos were seen in this forest as well.They flew over the trail and skulked among the foliage of the trees.

We located an individual of De Brazza Monkey in the same area.It’s a colourful monkey with a distinctive white muzzle and beard.Unfortunately it was too dark to take a decent shot of this animal.We also observed Vervet Monkeys and Black and White Colobus were seen as well on the top of the trees.

On the wet mud we could see recent tracks and hair of bushpig.In the picture, you can see the hoof of the wild pig and the hole he did while searching for roots and tubercles on the right.

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The rangers told me that Spotted-necked Otters can sometimes be seen in the park and Aardvarks and Pottos are also found  at night around the forest area.However i didn’t explore it at night.

We heard some birds as the Woodland Kingfisher,Yellow-rumped Thinkerbird and Yellow-whiskered Bulbul.Other interesting birds that we spotted in the morning were Hadada Ibis, Grey-crowned Crane, African Fish Eagle, Tambourine Dove, Black-collared Apalis, Green-headed Sunbird, Black-billed Weaver, White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher and Bronze-tailed Starling.

Late afternoon I saw again my friend, the male Sitatunga around the same area in front of my hut.I think we establish a good “connection” as he seemed undisturbed and even curious of my presence.

Next morning i went again with the ranger to explore other part of the forest and the swamp area.In the forest we saw the white and brown morph of the African Paradise Flycatcher, African Blue Flycatcher and African Dusky Flycatcher, African Pigmy Kingfisher, Snowy-headed Robin Chat, Black-collared Apalis, Yellow-whiskered Greenbul, Tropical Boubou, African Pied Wagtail, Ross’s Turaco and Yellow-rumped Thinkerbird among others.

Afterwards we got along the trail that crosses the swamp.We got excellent views of the Woodland Kingfisher perched on a dead branch,see first picture below.Red-faced Cisticolas appeared on the reeds of the swamp,see second picture below.

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Hadada Ibis, Sacred Ibis, Black-headed Heron and Knob-billed Duck flew over the swamp early morning and late afternoon.Eurasian Curlew was another bird seen here and we also heard an African Finfoot in that area.

Late morning we saw an individual of Bushbuck grazing on the bushes and reeds of the swamp.

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It was a very rewarding and relaxing experience, out of the hordes of other touristy national parks.The friendly rangers were a great help to spot lots of birds.

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Next stop Samburu National Park, with many pictures of exclusive mammals and some interesting birdlife !!!

See you soon my friends !!!