Thursday, November 20, 2008

Random, Fun Kenya Pics

*Note: Text and all photos in all Kenya posts are by Shawn Billerman unless otherwise noted.

This post has absolutely no story to it, just a bunch of random pictures that I wanted to share that didn't really fit in with any of my other posts... (if any of these pictures have appeared in other posts, its just because I forgot I've used them)


A tray full of Vitelline Masked Weavers (Ploceus velatus) and Yellow-spotted Petronia (Petronia pyrgita) coming to fruit at our camp; Fork-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis) in camp; Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus) (all 3 of these photos by Jess Marion)

White-throated Bee-eater (Merops albicolis) part of a flock of 3 or 4 birds that moved through camp one day; Another view of camp; View of the Research Center (note elephant poo scattered all over the ground); Namaqua Doves (Oena capensis) part of a group of 7 or 8 individuals that were occasionaly seen at the center

Finally, Jess (click here for her blog), who so graciously provided me with many of the bird photographs I used (and all the good bird photos I used)... Thanks Jess!

If I can get more bird pictures in the coming weeks and months, I will post them. Otherwise, here is a link to our class website.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Final Kenya Blog

*Note: Text and all photos in all Kenya posts are by Shawn Billerman unless otherwise noted.

So, with Nick still away, and me finally having a break from classes, I thought I would finish up some of my Kenya blogging. Hope you have enjoyed these guest posts!

Day 15-16 – July 9-10 2008

I realize that I am jumping ahead multiple days at a time, but, to be honest, not much happened in those other days. I added few new birds in those days, and we pretty much just worked on our final projects and papers. One new bird that I added that requires a bit of recognition though, is the African Green Pigeon. This was a bird that I very much wanted to see, but didn’t think I would. But, one morning, I woke up, and wandered around my tent before breakfast, and noticed a dark lump of a bird in a snag just across the river. I saw it, and thought it looked pigeon like, but hadn’t recalled seeing Speckled Pigeons around camp at all. Since I was looking east, the bird was very silhouetted, so I walked down-river a bit, and looked back, and, lo-and-behold, it was GREEN! As I was watching it, it flew upriver a bit, out of sight. I went back to my tent, and looked up, and there were 2 Green Pigeons right across from my tent. As the sun came up over the hill, I got much better looks at them, and I just sat, staring at these birds for a good 20 minutes. As I was watching, it suddenly got very foggy, and cloudy. With the sun covered, I was able to get more detail on the birds. I finally made my way to the mess tent, elated with my sighting.
African Green Pigeon (Treron calva) (photo by Jess Marion)

Anyway, back to Day 15… this was our last full day in Kenya, our last day at Mpala, and thankfully, we had no work left to do! This was a day for a game drive and some clean-up. We went to the hippo pools again (well, I went again, the class went for the first time), and got to see most of the hippos lounging on the far shore of the pool, some grazing on the bank. Others still were in the water, but most were out on the bank. Surprisingly, I added 4 new species to my trip list that day, including Common Sandpiper (my first, and only Scolopacid for the trip), Red-chested Cuckoo, African Hawk-eagle, and a group of 4 Pink-backed Pelicans that circled overhead. Also around were a group of Green Wood-hoopoes, a flock of 15+ Red-billed Oxpeckers (some foraging on the hippos), and the Malachite Kingfisher I had seen on my birthday. There was also a Hamerkop roosting on the far shore, which was actually one of the few I saw not flying (most mornings I would see a pair flying upriver by camp).

Hippos and hippo watching; Habitat at the hippo pools; Malachite Kingfisher (Alcedo cristata) (really, its there); Hamerkop (Scopus umbretta) (photo by Jess Marion)

From the hippo pools, the plan was to do the typical airstrip loop, but those plans fell through when Dustin’s brakes stopped working. We all then piled into Irby’s van (all 12 of us, plus Harry, Ben, Jamie, and Colistus), and headed back to camp, while Dustin went to the center to get the brakes fixed. We spent the rest of the day packing, cleaning, and just getting ready to leave the next day. After dinner came our last bit of fun. We made smores, and Harry and Irby both sang to us, Harry with his “Be my little Warthog,” and Irby with his rendition of “My Humps,” by the Black-eyed Peas (altered, of course, to the more appropriate, “My Camel Humps”). I was pretty tired that night, since I was still getting over being sick the day before, so I went to bed after the main festivities, missing the planned pranks later in the evening.

Augur Buzzard (Buteo augur) (photo by Jess Marion)

The next day, we left the camp, and Mpala, by 8 in the morning. The ride back to Nairobi was pretty depressing. We made a brief stop on the Equator for some more shopping. Luckily, Dustin had given us a lesson in bargaining, so I did quite a bit better for myself.

Further south along the road, back into the greener forests in the hills, Irby stopped by this marshy pond on the side of the road for me, where I saw dozens of Common Moorhen, a few Grey Heron, Sacred and Hadada Ibis, more Yellow-billed Ducks, 5+ Black Crake, and three new species, Red-knobbed Coot, African Jacana, and White-faced Whistling-duck.

While Irby was traversing the busy streets of Nairobi, trying to get us all to the airport safely, I added my last bird of the trip to the list. Sadly, this was not even a life bird, or even an exciting bird in any respect; last bird to be added to the trip list from my spectacular trip to Kenya was nothing more than Columba livia, the Rock Pigeon. I tried desperately to see something else that would be new… anything, a swallow, a sparrow, anything, but, alas, my last bird was the Pigeon. Back at the airport, we said our goodbyes to the two Kenyan students who joined us, and to Dustin, Irby, and Jamie. Once we were through security at the airport, we had 7 hours to kill, so we did what any sensible tourist would do, and we shopped! We also ate, and sat around, and had a fun time recounting our many adventures. By 11:30 PM Kenya time, I was on a plane, leaving Kenya. But, I had an incredible time, and it was certainly a life changing experience.

For those who are interested, my final tally for the trip was 218 species of bird (of which 214 were new), in 72 families (of which 33 were new). Mammal-wise, my final tally for the trip was approx. 42, with highlights being Aardvark, Leopard, and a pack of 17 African Wild Dogs, along with seeing the classic African megafauna.

Sunset over Mpala

Thanks for reading about my adventures in Kenya! There will be more mini-posts about Kenya in the near future!