|Kenya & Netherlands |
July 6-23, 2000
Allen & Nancy Chartier
|Trip Log |
Day 1 Day 6 Day 11 Day 16 (Netherlands)
Day 2  Day 7 Day 12 Day 17 (Netherlands)
Day 3 Day 8 Day 13 Day 18 (Netherlands)
Day 4 Day 9 Day 14
Day 5 Day 10 Day 15
|In 1985, we had to cancel our plans for a trip to Kenya because Allen became unemployed at that time. In 1999, Allenís unemployment created an opportunity to go to Kenya through an association with Nigel Moorehouse of Sarus Tours (Website: http://www.sarusbirdtours.co.uk). An interesting turn of events. Allen was working on setting up an Arizona tour for Sarus Tours, which ended up being cancelled due to lack of registrations, so Nigel suggested we might want to tag along on a trip to Kenya scheduled for the same time. This was a special trip organized by a group from Minnesota, who mostly all knew each other. Nigel offered to let us join the group, and!
at half the land cost (full price was $2500). We only had to think about it for a minute before saying yes! |
We arranged our airfare through Will Weber, a friend who runs Journeys International, an adventure travel company. In exchange for the lowest possible airfare, we agreed to transport four tents for him to his operator in Kenya, whom Allen had met over the past Christmas, participating in the Monroe Christmas Bird Count. In order to get the schedule we wanted the fare was $2000, but allowed us nearly three full days to stop over in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Since the Kenya trip was scheduled to end on a Thursday, we figured we would find something to do until the following Sunday, since we didnít have to get back to work until that Monday following. We arranged an itinerary with Mark Kuiper, who does nature tours in E!
urope and lives near Amsterdam.
|Day 1, Thursday, July 6, 2000|
|After an extremely chaotic boarding procedure (reminiscent of Latin America), our 747 took off from Detroit at 7:50 p.m., 35 minutes late. We tried to sleep on the 6 hour, 45 minute flight to Amsterdam, but only really got an hour or so.|
|Day 2, Friday, July 7, 2000|
|We arrived in Amsterdam on time, early in the morning. It was unusual to see Eurasian Oystercatchers on the grassy areas adjacent to the airport runways. After a layover of a couple hours, we took off at 11:05 a.m. (30 minutes late) for our 8 hour flight to Nairobi. As we flew over the Nile River on the borders of Egypt and Sudan, we could barely see it due to the haze. Ironic, since the spring rains in April and May never materialized and all of East Africa was experiencing a serious drought. We arrived on time at 8:15 p.m. We met Bob Holtz, the trip organizer, and the rest of the group (there were 14 participants altogether) at the baggage claim area. After a slight mixup where we got separated from the group, we took a taxi to the Fair! view Hotel. We met James Makau from Journeys International and gave him the four tents we had brought over for him. We then met Jeff and Anthony, two of our guides. Jeff was from Gibraltar and Anthony was Tanzanian. The hotel restaurant set out a late buffet dinner for us. Then, at around 11 p.m. we got to sleep in real beds in our hotel room.|
|Day 3, Saturday, July 8, 2000|
|We were out on the hotel grounds at 7 a.m. for some pre-breakfast birding. At 7:30 we met the rest of the group, and Nigel, our primary guide, who had to catch a later flight and just arrived this morning. We had now added three guides and three drivers to our!
group of 14 participants. It was good we had three vans. We birded until breakfast at 8:00. After breakfast, the birding got quite a bit slower, and we checked out of the hotel at 10:00. We departed for Nairobi National Park around 11:00. We had lunch in the park and spent the rest of the day there, departing around 5:45 p.m. |
It was a great day, with our first large mammal experience, with lots of Wildebeest, Thompsonís and Grantís Gazelles, Cokeís Hartebeest, Reticulated Giraffe, Common Zebra, and even a few Black Rhinoceros. We also saw our first Lion, a male resting under a tree in a rather undignified position. There were lots of birds too, and our list for the day was over 100 species, including five new families for us: Ostrich, Guineafowl, Secretarybird, Busta! rds, and Mousebirds. We drove about 50 km north on a good highway arriving at the Thika Blue Post Hotel in Thika around 7:45 p.m. We did our checklist and had a late dinner before turning in for the night.
|Day 4, Sunday, July 9, 2000|
|Once again we were out early (6:30) on the hotel grounds for pre-breakfast birding near one of the two waterfalls on the river behind the hotel. There were a lot of good birds right in the hotel area, plus the two scenic waterfalls. We checked out of the hotel at 10:00 and began the drive north to the Naro Moru River Lodge with a few birding stops along the way. |
It was a rather long two-hour bumpy ride in a crowded jeep, with six of us altogether including Jeff, who was to be our guide for the next day on Mt. Kenya. We "camped" in the bunkhouses at the Met Station at 10,000 feet for the night. All of us, men, women, and couples, slept in the one large room which had bunk beds. Sleeping bags were provided and there was a one-inch thick foam matress on the wooden beds. No electricity, just a gas lamp, and the outhouse (ju! st a hole to squat over with a shack around it) was down the path a short distance from our accommodations. What luxury! Jeff suggested we shine the gas lamp around on the porch area before heading down to the outhouse in case there was a Spotted Hyaena, Cape Buffalo, Elephant, or Leopard out there! There were a few interesting noises during the night, some natural, some not! One that was recognizable was the low growling of the Guereza (Black-and-white) Colobus Monkeys. We also briefly heard a Spotted Hyaena.
|Day 5, Monday, July 10, 2000|
|After a night of food poisoning and no sleep for Allen (and not much sleep for the others either), we started !
early in the morning for the hike up the trail toward the summit of Mt. Kenya. The temperature was in the low 50s at the most when we started out at 7:00 a.m., but warmed to the 70s by mid-day. We walked up until 10:30, rested, then turned back. The last ľ mile or so was pretty rocky and steep. We ended up getting to the dwarf forest zone, but not up into the lobelia heathlands. We got about 3 kilometers up the trail, and the lobelias were at least another 2 kilometers farther on. |
We apparently gained only 500 feet elevation, to 10,500 feet, but it seemed like more. It was often very quiet for birds, although a few were heard singing. The habitat made it tough to see anything. There were lots of sunbirds and almost every other bird seemed to be a Br! oad-ringed White-eye. Despite the fact that we didnít get up to the lobelia zone, we did see a lot of interesting plants on our hike, including some of the Senicios. At least we had seen one of the Giant Lobelias in the gardens at the Naro Moru River Lodge before we headed up yesterday afternoon. The trees were laden with epiphytes, and we even saw some orchids but not in bloom. It was everything we expected from a cloud forest, it was really nice. On our hike up, Nancy spotted a Tree Hyrax snuggled into a hollow in a tree and we all had great looks at it.
We got back down to the Met Station at around noon, and the group had a boxed lunch (Allen skipped). We then got into the jeep and headed back down the mountain to the Naro Moru River Lodge, ma! king several birding stops along the way. We got back to the lodge late for lunch (3:00 p.m.!). Some afternoon birding on the grounds of the lodge produced a few more lifers. After dinner, we turned in early and slept rather soundly in the nice accommodations (a real bed, and air conditioning too!). Tree Hyraxes calling loudly outside our room confirmed that one of the strange sounds heard last night was this species.
|Day 6, Tuesday, July 11, 2000|
|Some pre-breakfast birding on the grounds of the lodge produced a few more birds. We then checked out and began our drive north to the Samburu Game Reserve. But first, Nigel had to stop in the first town to change some money, as the northern provinces would only be able to accept Kenyan Shillings and not !
British Pounds or American Dollars. This process took a very long time, which seemed even longer as we were all cooped up in the warm vans, with dozens of people accosting us to sell us absolutely everything imaginable. Most of us werenít interested in buying, but they were very persistent, and we ended up having to close the windows and endure even warmer conditions. When they realized they couldnít sell anything, they began asking for pens (for their school work, a reasonable request, any visitor to Kenya should bring lots of pens to give to the kids), or some were just begging for money outright. |
Nigel returned, and we drove a few kilometers to a small monument near the town of Nanyuki, which is where we crossed the Equator. Unlike the nice park-like monume! nt north of Quito, Ecuador, this was more like a row of shops with lots of people selling things. The blow-up 15-foot tall Coca-Cola balloon was much more apparent than the monument itself! A couple of people were "demonstrating" the Coreolis Effect by showing that water apparently rotates in a different direction on either side of the Equator. This was accomplished by walking about 10 yards on either side of the granite monument. Of course, this effect isnít so pronounced that it can be demonstrated in this way; these were basically "magicians" doing their trick for entertainment (and of course money). It was interesting to see that this group of people and shop owners seemed to actually own a piece of the Equator at this point!
From here it was a long, dusty ride on a dirt road to the town of Isiolo, where there was another checkpoint ! where we had to sit in the vans for about 30 minutes, all the while being the center of attention for every vendor in the town. We had to close the windows again and endure the heat. Then, yet another long, dusty stretch, this time on a dirt road under construction (!) to the final checkpoint at the entrance to the Samburu Game Reserve, again with the persistent vendors and the requisite 20-30 minute wait while paperwork was sorted out. At this last checkpoint, we had raised the roof of our van, designed for game viewing. One of the vendors had his hand inside the top, holding a bracelet, and when we drove off he dropped it inside at Allenís feet. Allen surprised him by quickly picking it up off the floor and tossing it back to him. He was yelling "give me money" over and over, and didnít look happy to get the bracelet back.
Once inside the reserve, we started seeing lots of mammals and birds. It was nice that the trip had been arranged so that everyone could have a window seat, and of course the pop-up roofs made it even nicer. Most of the National Parks and Game Reserves in Kenya donít allow visitors to get out of their vehicles due to the many potential dangers, so these vans were ideal. Of course, we couldnít really savor the birds and mammals on the way in, because we were late for lunch again, which would be a recurring theme of the entire trip. We raced past Beisa Oryx, Gerenuk, and Grevyís Zebras, slowing down only a few times for better looks. Once we arrived at the Samburu Lodge (around 3:00), they had taken down the lunch buffet, but served us a specially prepared lunch on short notice. One of the vans had been delaye! d, as their rear hatch had popped open in one of the dustiest areas of the road under construction, and most of the luggage fell out!
After "lunch", we got back into the vans for an afternoon drive. We had good looks at many of the birds and mammals we had sped by on the way in, and saw many others as well. We returned to the lodge for dinner at around 7:30, but barely got started on the buffet when someone yelled that there was a Leopard at the bait that had been set out! The entire dining room cleared in a matter of seconds as we all raced to the viewing area, which was dimly lit on the shore of the dry riverbed. Across the river, there was the Leopard tugging at some meat left on a platform by the hotel staff. A Leopard at a feeder! Now weíve see! n everything! A Slender-tailed Nightjar in the lights in the riverbed was the last bird of a long, dusty, tiring, and great day.
|Day 7, Wednesday, July 12, 2000|
|Nancyís birthday. Nancy and I went to the overlook at the dry riverbed at 6:00 a.m. in the hopes of seeing something interesting. One of our participants had seen an Elephant across the river the afternoon of our arrival, but it didnít stick around for everyone else to see it. We met the rest of the group for some birding on the grounds of the lodge before breakfast. The best bird here was a Narina Trogon that one participant spotted behind us, and Nancy identified immediately, as we all turned around!
to see it briefly before it flew off under the pressure of 17 pairs of eyes. |
After breakfast we loaded up the vans and headed out to spend most of the day in the game reserve. There were lots of interesting birds here, including some near their southernmost limit in Kenya. There was also a medium-sized Nile Crocodile at one spot with very little water. We had been warned not to walk out onto the dry riverbed, as the crocodiles bury themselves in the dirt and mud to hibernate until rains come, and it is easy to step on one. That would be your last mistake! On a drive along a river, this one with water in it, we saw a total of 16 Elephants! None were particularly close, but they were our first ones, and some even had babies with them.
At around 3:00 p.m. we headed out of the reserve and back to the Naro Moru River Lodge, along the sa! me dusty, under construction road we came in on. This time it wasnít as bad, probably because the wind was from a different direction and the dust wasnít blowing back into the van. It also seemed that less of the road was under construction. As we climbed higher in elevation, back into the central Kenyan highlands, one of the vans began overheating repeatedly. This van had overheated in the game reserve also. Eventually, it was clear that this van had to be abandoned. Our van had had a flat tire on the way also, but that was easily repaired as each van was carrying two spare tires. So, we doubled-up and took everyone back to Naro Moru in two vans, while the driver tried to figure out a way to get the stranded van fixed, or to get a replacement driven up from Nairobi. We arrived back at the Naro Moru River Lodge after dark and had a rather late dinner. The people from the broken down va! n had to do without their luggage for the night.
|Day 8, Thursday, July 13, 2000|
|Birding before breakfast at the Naro Moru River Lodge produced a few more trip birds. We then packed everyone into two vans and put some of the luggage (now reunited with those that had to do without last night) into a rented old Mercedes that they had brought to help out. We drove across a dusty shortcut road to Thompsonís Falls, where we birded a little in some rice fields, viewed the falls, and had lunch. We then drove to Lake Elementaita Lodge, !
birding along the way, with a brief stop at the scenic Timau Escarpment. There were several spectacular breeding-plumaged male Pin-tailed Wydahs, Long-tailed Widowbirds, and Red-collared Widowbirds along the roadsides. |
From the lodge, we walked a little less than a mile down to the shore of Lake Elementaita, which is all private property that can only be visited by people staying at the lodge. As we neared the shore, we saw a pink rim around the edge that could only be flamingos. When we got down on the shore, we could see that there were at least 50,000 Lesser Flamingos and a few Greater Flamingos feeding in this soda lake. What a great sight! It started raining while we were on the shore waiting for any rails that might walk out of the reeds near dusk. ! It was a rather long, wet walk back to the lodge. They badly needed the rain, and it was a warm rain anyway. One of the people at the lodge brought umbrellas out for us, a very nice gesture. We had an excellent dinner. People, including the President of Kenya, come from as far as the coast of Kenya to eat at this restaurant, which is possibly the best in the country. After dinner there was a 30-minute Masai dancing show, which was pretty neat.
|Day 9, Friday, July 14, 2000|
|We did some pre-breakfast birding on the groun!
ds of the lodge, but didnít find much. There was a great view of the lake from the lodge and the flamingos were particularly well lit in the morning. A brand new van had been brought up from Nairobi overnight, but something had broken on the front suspension, which was apparently a fairly frequent occurrence with new vehicles here. They had to take the van into the nearest town to have some parts of the suspension welded together while most of the rest of us piled into the two vans and headed for Lake Nakuru National Park. |
The repair took longer than anticipated, and the rest of us were stranded at the entrance to the park, as we wanted to redistribute ourselves to each have a window seat, and didnít want to get split up. After waiting about an hour, the other van showe! d up and we went into the park. Lake Nakuru National Park is completely fenced around its perimeter to keep the animals in and the poachers out. They have reintroduced a number of animals here, including White Rhinoceros and Rothschildís Giraffe, both of which we saw. There seemed to be quite a few African Buffalo carcasses laying around, and it seemed like there had been quite a die-off either due to the drought or to disease.
We had lunch at the "Baboon Rocks" which had a nice overlook of the flamingos on the lake, of which there were undoubtedly at least 75,000. The rocks harbored a number of interesting creatures, including Rock Hyraxes, Agama Lizards, and Mocking Cliff-Chat.
Next we drove north a couple of hours to Lake Baringo and birded the Lake Baringo Club grounds and the shore of the lake. There were l! ots of birds around, and we shared the sunset with a few grunting Hippopotamus just offshore. We went back south about 30 minutes to the Lake Bogoria Hotel, which isnít really very close to Lake Bogoria.
|Day 10, Saturday, July 15, 2000|
|There were quite a few interesting birds on the grounds of the Lake Bogoria Hotel before breakfast. After a 7:00 breakfast, we headed back north toward Lake Baringo, but this time to bird an area of cliffs on the west side of the road, west of the lake. This is the prime habitat for Hemprichís Hornbill, which we saw in a tree next to the road immediately when we pulled up. There were a number of other special birds in this area, and we met a local guide, William, who knew the area quite well, including the roosting !
sites of all the White-faced Scops-Owls in the area. The "dependable" scops-owl wasnít on its roost due to a Verreauxís Eagle-Owl roosting nearby with its African Hedghog prey. We did find another pair of scops-owls roosting in another spot in the area, thanks to William and his local "connections." Several of the children that were following us around as we birded here uncovered a small (12") snake they called a "Carpet Viper," most definitely poisonous. |
After this long, hot walk it was good to get moving in the vans again, this time for a long drive southwest toward Kakamega. We took a longer route to the south, then west, passing through the town of Kapsabet. There werenít many birds along this drive, but as we got closer to Kakamega it got greener and greener. Obviously, this area wasnít suffering as much from the drought ! as the rest of Kenya. We spent about an hour birding the road at the southern end of the Kakamega Forest before heading to our hotel. There were lots of butterflies here, and lots of tall forest, which meant that all the birds were up in the treetops! There were lots of interesting birds in this area, including African Broadbills almost right off the bat. We thought this bird would be more difficult, or impossible, to find. Another interesting bird was Great Blue Turaco, which flew across the road, giving us fairly good views. The Black-and-white Casqued Hornbills were large and spectacular too, in addition to being the sixth species of hornbill tallied for the day. We arrived at the Kakamega Golf Hotel just at dark. There isnít a golf course anywhere around here, so the name of the place is a bit puzzling!
|Day 11, Sund! ay, July 16, 2000|
|Birding the hotel grounds before breakfast produced a couple new birds. After breakfast, we headed to the central areas of the Kakamega Forest for a full day of birding there. We met Wilberforce, the local expert on this forest, and the principal promoter of preserving the area. He was an excellent guide and birder. |
At one point, he asked if anyone wanted to see a snake. Most of the group said yes, and Nancy and I enthusiastically said yes. We didnít know what to expect when Wilberforce took a couple steps forward and pointed about 10 feet up into a shrub next to the narrow dirt road we were walking on. He said "Rhinoceros Viper," and sure enough there was a large, possibly 7-8 foot, snake coiled up in the shrub. This is a species that is camouflaged for ! waiting in leaf litter on the ground, and can be easily stepped on. We didnít think it was possible for one to drop down from the trees! Wilberforce said that they go up into the trees after theyíve had a meal in order to digest it in peace.
We walked probably 4-5 miles along trails and dirt roads, and saw a lot of new birds, including 13 species of bulbul (most were rather nondescript greenbul species). Wilberforce was selling postcards to help with the preservation of the forest. They were mostly drawings made by the children of some of the birds and animals in the forest. He has certainly gotten a lot of young people interested in the Kakamega Forest and its creatures, as there were several children around, and many of them knew the names of the birds and monke! ys, and could point them out. Wilberforce is to be highly commended for his efforts. We returned to the hotel fairly early, at around 6:30 p.m. and had dinner.
|Day 12, Monday, July 17, 2000|
|This morning we had the earliest breakfast yet, at 6:45, so there wasnít any pre-breakfast birding. Instead, we headed right out after breakfast for the northern areas of the Kakamega Forest, where the trees were taller and the forest largely in a virgin state, for some final birding there. We did see a few new species, but some specialties that the guides hoped would be around didnít show (such as the Mackinnonís Fiscal and the Blue-headed Bee-eater). It was much quieter than yesterday. |
Around 9:30 we went back to the hotel and got packed up for the drive to Kisumu on the shore of Lake Victoria. Kisumu is only about 60 kilometers south of Kakamega on a good paved road, but of course weíre birders to we didnít go that way. Instead, we headed west about 60 kilometers through the town of Mumias to within a mile or two of the border with Uganda on a very bumpy road, passing through Busia and Nangina. Then, we went south along some rather bad roads into areas of papyrus looking for some special birds in this habitat. We then returned back east to the main north-south road near Yala, toward Kisumu, where we had about 30 more kilometers to go. Near Kisumu, we went to the shore of Lake Victoria where we eventually did see some of the local specialties before it got dark. We then headed back into town to the rather ni! ce (air-conditioned) Kisumu Imperial Hotel.
|Day 13, Tuesday, July 18, 2000|
|After a 7:00 breakfast, we departed on what was essentially a travel day to get to the Masai Mara Game Reserve. For about the first 1/3 of the way the road was well paved, but suddenly the road turned bad. It would have been better if it was dirt, but it was pavement with huge holes and ruts in it. A large truck in front of us hit some holes and rocked to one side with the wheels on the other side coming off the ground. When it rocked back, the wheels on the other side left the ground. We backed off a little! Just as we were about to turn off onto dirt for the last 70 kilometers or so into the reserve, we had to stop at a service station in a small town because one of the vans had!
a bad (clogged) filter in the fuel pump. |
Since it was lunchtime, and there was no way we would get to our hotel in time for lunch, we decided to eat lunch there. We overwhelmed them a bit, with 20 of us suddenly all wanting chicken, spaghetti, ham sandwiches, etc. Once underway, we got to the turnoff a few kilometers down the road near the town of Sotik, only to find it blocked. A local group of people was demanding money to travel the road! Our drivers and guides argued a bit, but we ended up backtracking a short distance to another dirt road into the reserve, this route of course was longer! The road in was very rough in spots, and we ended up getting slightly lost. While we were in the process of getting "unlost," we got a flat tire. We all had to pile out, get the luggage out of the back, push the van down to a level spot, and help rock it sidewa! ys so our driver, Paul, could get the jack under it. Luckily, no Lions, Hyaenas, Leopards, or Cobras found us while we were out of the vehicle!
It was late afternoon when we got to the entrance to the Masai Mara Game Reserve, and we had a long way to go. About half way to our lodge, it was dark, and a park ranger in a van was escorting us all the way to the lodge. In addition to not being allowed out of your vehicle, youíre not supposed to be out in the Game Reserve after dark. It was an interesting, bumpy 15 kilometers in the dark to the Mara Serena Lodge.
We dumped our baggage in our room, and headed straight back to the din! ing room for dinner. When we got back to our room, there were two Rock Hyraxes, one on either side of the porch leading to our room. They were like miniature gargoyles, and quite tame too!
|Day 14, Wednesday, July 19, 2000|
|After a quick 6:30 breakfast, we went out on a short drive in the Masai Mara GR, then returned in mid-morning to check out. We then headed southeast to the Mara River and a picnic area near the border with Tanzania where we had lunch. This was no ordinary picnic area. There were many Hippopotamus and large Nile Crocodiles in the river here, with armed guards to protect people from these animals. Less dangerous, bu!
t as pesky as mosquitoes, were the Tantalus Monkeys that surrounded us once we all sat on the ground and got our box lunches out. They were quite bold, and one stole a sandwich from Allenís lunch while the box was sitting between the two of us! As we were finishing our lunch, Jeff yelled out that there were Elephants approaching the picnic area. We watched a group of about 10, including a couple of very large females, as they moved to a mud wallow. At one point, they were within 50 yards of us and the biggest female threatened us by shaking her head and flaring her ears, causing us to retreat hastily! After lunch, we continued on the road which dipped into Tanzania and the Serengeti National Park, an unexpected visit to a new country for us! We only saw five or six birds while we were in Tanzania, so our list isnít much, but we can add a new country to the list of those weíve visited. !
We continued northeast, stopping to see many heards of Wildebeest, which were migrating into the area from the south. We stopped briefly at the Keekorok Lodge for a cold drink and a walk along their short boardwalk for a couple of new birds for the trip (Senegal Plover and Red-necked Spurfowl). We finally reached our destination, at the far eastern end of the Reserve, in late afternoon. The Mara Sarova Camp was the first and only tented camp we stayed in on the trip, but it was a luxury tented camp. The very large tent was on a concrete slab and had a shingled wooden roof overhead. There was also an attached bathroom with a real toilet. Add to this the African Scops-Owl at its daytime roost just a couple rooms away, and youíve got real luxury! A few of us did some bi! rding on the grounds before dark, while others rested.
|Day 15, Thursday, July 20, 2000|
|Our last day in Kenya. We walked the grounds of the Camp from 6:30 Ė 7:30, not finding much and calling it quits earlier than planned. After breakfast, we departed the Camp, and within a couple of kilometers we were outside of the Masai Mara Game Reserve. There were still a few Wildebeest and Zebras along the dirt roads for at least 20-30 kilometers. |
After lunch at a small town at a crossroad near the main north-south highway north of Nairobi, we made our way to Lake Naivasha to the grounds of a small lodge where we had a! ccess to the lake. There were a number of waterbirds present, but some of the ones we hoped to find, including Long-toed Lapwing and Saddle-billed Stork, were not to be found. Nigel had arranged two rooms with lots of towels where the men and women could shower separately, and we could rearrange our luggage for the flights home.
Heading back south toward Nairobi, near dusk, we stopped at a small pond near Limuru, a suburb of Nairobi. Nigel had told us that in more than 20 trips he had never missed White-backed Duck or Maccoa Duck at this pond. Unfortunately, he shouldnít have jinxed it like that, as the drought had reduced the pond to less than 25% of its normal size. Needless to say, this was the first time he (and we) missed these species.
Arriving in Nairobi after dark, we stopped at a very nice hotel near the airport ! so we could have our farewell dinner. We got to the Nairobi airport in plenty of time, and our flight departed about 45 minutes late, at around 11:00 p.m.
|Day 16, Friday, July 21, 2000|
|We apparently made up some time in the air, as we arrived right on schedule in Amsterdam at 6:15 a.m. Of course, we got nearly two hours of sleep on the 8 hour flight as expected. Mark Kuiper met us just outside of the customs area, and we were on our way at 7:15 despite an extremely long wait for our luggage. Immigration was a breeze, and customs was almost nonexistent. We went straight to our hotel in Amstelveen, the Hotel DeVeenen. Luckily, our room!
was ready and we took our stuff upstairs and got out what we thought we would need for a day of birding. It was quite a contrast to Kenya, with water everywhere and the temperature only in the 60s. Kenya wasnít nearly as hot as we were expecting, largely due to most areas being at relatively high elevation (3500-5000 feet most places), but we were still a bit shocked by how cool it was in The Netherlands. Luckily, Mark had an extra coat for just this situation! |
Our destinations today were two reserves in the Flevopolder. A polder is an area of reclaimed land, and this area was almost like a large island east of Amsterdam. The first reserve, the Lepelaar-plassen Reserve near Almere-Stad, was named after the Eurasian Spoonbills which were relatively easy to see here. We walked a bit through marsh and woodland, finding a few interesting birds, a couple of ! frogs, and quite a few plants in bloom, some of which were quite familiar and probably similar to plants at home in Michigan. There was also a nice blind where we could overlook a small lake. The next reserve, the Oostvarders-plassen Reserve, near Lelystad, was larger and had more areas to walk, including a very nice blind. We saw both Tarpan and Aurochs, which have been back-crossed to near pure strains, and are being reintroduced here. Mark dropped us back at the hotel around dinner time, but being well north of the equator it was still light, another reminder that we werenít in Kenya anymore! None of the nearby restaurants had chicken on the menu, the Chinese place was all seafood, and the Indian restaurant looked too expensive. The Argentinian restaurant looked like the best bet, but when we went inside they asked if we had a reservation. Without one it would be a one-hour wait, so we ! went into a small burger joint we had passed on the way. Not much, but at least it was dinner.
|Day 17, Saturday, July 22, 2000|
|Mark met us at the hotel at 6:30. The staff had kindly set out a breakfast for us, since we wouldnít be around when the dining room opened at 8:30. We drove a couple of hours north to Den Oever, where there was a long (20 km) causeway across the former Zuider Zee, to the town of Zurich. We were now in the region known as Friesland, and Mark said the language here was significantly different from the rest of The Netherlands. We passed through Harlingen (pronounced differently from the Texas town of the same name) and Leeuwarden on our way to Ferwerd where there had been a Cinereous (Eurasian Black) Vulture reported for !
the previous week or so. We looked for over an hour, but never saw the bird. |
We continued northeast to the Lauwersmeer Reserve, where we planned to spend most of the day birding. This is a rather large reserve, situated on both sides of a river estuary, and containing lots of marsh, mudflat, and some forested areas. There had been two Pectoral Sandpipers reported here, and we managed to find them among other shorebirds that were more interesting to us, but not to the several Dutch birders that were excitedly looking at the Pectorals. We were much more interested in the many Ruffs, Curlew Sandpipers, Black-tailed Godwits, Spotted Redshanks, and the Black-winged Stilts which are rare in northern Europe.
Probably the highlight of the ! day was not bird-related at all. We drove past a small meadow and there seemed to be a sign with orchids on it. We asked Mark to stop, which he did quite happily. Mark said that most birders he guides arenít interested in other things, but Nancy and I tapped into Markís knowledge and his tailgate library of plants, butterflies, amphibians, and dragonflies. This meadow was absolutely covered with thousands of orchids. There were six or seven species shown on the sign, and we found three of them plus a smaller, rarer species that wasnít on the sign.
At our lunch stop, Mark called the birding hotline and found out that the Cinereous Vulture had moved about 20 kilometers to the west of where we were looking, and had been seen this morning. So, we headed back west to a small town north of St. Annaparochie. We didnít find the bird here either, but it was a wonder! ful coastal area with thousands of Common Shelducks, Northern Lapwings, Black-tailed Godwits, and Pied Avocets, with a few other species mixed in as well. From here we found a place to have dinner (they had chicken!), then drove back to the hotel, arriving around 10:30 p.m.
|Day 18, Sunday, July 23, 2000|
|Mark picked us up at the hotel again at 6:30, with all our luggage packed in the back of the van. This morning we checked out a couple of larger lakes nearby to the southeast where Red-crested Pochard had been reported. Unfortunately, they werenít in evidence. Near Vinkeveen, we found White Stork walking in the farmersí field!
s, then we continued west to a rather large wooded estate near the town of Graveland. There were lots of trails and bike paths in this area, and we walked quite a ways. There was a good mixture of habitats, from small pastures to wooded creeks and tall deciduous and coniferous woodlands. We walked probably 3-4 miles in this area. Next, we went to another wooded area near Sjoestdjik that also had an area of heath in a large sandy area. The plants here were fairly interesting, and we saw a few more birds including an unexpected pair of Northern Ravens. In a large sandy area we found the last life bird of the trip, a Tree Pipit. |
Mark drove us to the airport, arriving at about 4:00 p.m. for our 6:15 flight. The flight was about Ĺ hour late taking off, but we still arrived in Detroit right on time at about 8:30 p.m.