Thursday, December 15, 2011

First Africa Post – Masai Lodge in Nairobi

I've been in Africa for 3 days now, and this morning my luggage finally caught up with me so I could upload some photos from the past couple of days. I'm at Masai Lodge on the outskirts of the city, right up against Nairobi National Park, and even this close to the city, it's almost an overwhelming introduction to the continent's bird and mammal life.

Since I've been going to the airport every morning to meet the 1:35 or 2:10 a.m. flight arriving from Istanbul, hoping to meet up with my missing luggage, I haven't gotten on a normal sleeping schedule, but the 3-4 hours of birding I've done the past two days have been plenty. Then early this morning my friend Cat Greene arrived on the same flight that my luggage was on, and we birded six hours starting at dawn around the lodge grounds.

Some photo highlights from the 100 or so species I've seen so far (only 4 of which weren't new):

Rock Hyrax are all over the place, waking up late and feeding on leaves in the bushes and trees planted around the reception and dining building. As I write this one is up in a tree, uttering its harsh, dry scream of a call. They are extraordinarily good climbers with special pads on their feet.

This is a Four-toed Hedgehog, a tiny thing that rolls up into a ball to protect itself. The spines really are quite sharp, and I handled it gently, though they don't come out like on a porcupine. It was in one of the planted circles just outside of reception.

On my first morning, I forced myself to get up at 9:00 a.m. after 4 1/2 hours of sleep, went straight to breakfast, sat down, and saw my first sunbird in the tree next to my table. I had to look it up in the book, of course – Variable Sunbird. It's very common here and one of my favorites.

Today we had great views of Bronze Sunbird too. It was fun to see one foraging as a nectar thief in the giant flowers of a columnar cereus-type cactus. Kind of like the way our American orioles feed in blooming aloe.

Cape Robin-Chat is also common on the grounds, foraging on the ground or sitting on a low perch givings sweet, thrush-like phrases.

At breakfast this morning Cat and I had great views of a foraging Red-fronted Tinkerbird, a member of the African barbet family Lybiidae. It's amazingly similar to Picumnus piculets from South America, but the voice gives away a serious difference. This one sounds more like a pygmy-owl than any barbet.

Finally, one last photo of one of my favorite birds here so far – Purple Grenadier. It was one of four species of ornate little waxbills we saw this morning.

Mammals have been ridiculous too. On the way back from the airport night before last (when my bag didn't arrive again), a Cape Buffalo was on the road. Then last night, on the way to Cat's flight there were three Giraffes and a Springhare! Then on the way back from the airport we saw what I think were Kirk's Dik Diks, a small antelope.

Other highlights from this morning were a mixed herd of 55 Baboons and 25 Impalas just on the entrance road to the lodge. We were already pretty overwhelmed with the morning's birding and thought we should head to lunch when we met one of the lodge staff outside the gate who advised us not to walk any farther as two female lions had been seen in the area. O. K. – to lunch it was!


  1. Awesome! Rock Hyrax is probably my most wanted animal on the planet. I looked for them in Jordan last year, but I guess they're pretty rare there. Anyways, I wasn't able to find one.

  2. Oh, God, don't you love Africa!!!

    And you saw a hedgehog! I never did.

    Love seeing your images, too.

    Love. Beth