Birding Safari with Terry Stevenson10/05/2021
Remembering a memorable safari to Moyale , Northern Kenya when Caragh and Andy Roberts joined Terry Stevenson, a renowned ornithologist (and co-author of Birds of East Africa) on a birding safari to discover the endangered Brown Faced Go Away Bird and the Black Fronted Franklin.
This is an extract from Caragh’s journal on the trip:
We headed up to Northern Kenya in a quest to find two special birds. The brown faced go away bird which Terry had seen on the 28 May, 1988 previously in the forest trees at the top of a valley in a small town called Uran, and the Black Fronted Franklin, which has been recorded only once spotted in June 1975 by Don Turner and Alec Forbes Watson in the hills below Moyale town. This bird is normally only found on the Ethiopian side of the border.
A stunning drive on a perfect tarmac road across a vast expanse of natural landscape for 400kms snaking our way through hills and vast plains, scrubland and desert. We saw a smattering of wildlife en-route – Zebra, Grant’s gazelle , Ostrich and large herds of Camels, donkeys and goats. 60 kms short of Moyale, we turned off the main road toward the hills which run along the border of Kenya and Ethiopia. By permission of the chief and the local police, we set up camp under a stunning outcrop of basalt in the shade of some Tortilis trees and on the edge of a small sand lugga not far from the village of Uran.
The following morning, we ventured along the range of hills that separated us from Ethiopia, enjoying the empty bush and lack of human habitation. We saw lots of Vulturine Guinea Fowl, Golden Breasted Starlings, Shelley’s Starling, Fisher’s Starling, White Crowned Starling , Magpie starling, and Swainson’s Sparrow.
We returned to camp and in rested up in the afternoon. We described the Franklin to the locals and they assured us that there were resident in the area we were camped by, so decided to wander along the hills and play a recording of the bird to see if it would respond before last light. We scrambled about with no luck so resigned ourselves to drinks and a delicious supper by the camp fire with a serious plan for the morrow!
The following morning after breakfast we headed to the same valley where Terry spotted the go away bird 33 years previously, and after a little bit of uncertainty of the way , we found a track up the valley. We left the car and wandered along the river listening for calls. After 30 mins or so, further up the valley, we heard the distinctive call of the go away bird high up in a Tamarind tree and moving around we eventually got a good sighting of a pair of them. Before long another couple of birds joined them and within 15 minutes we had 7 brown faced go-away birds flopping about in the trees. What a fantastic sight. Satisfied that we had accomplished one of our finds, we felt renewed in our search and decided to head towards the hills on the outskirts of Moyale town where the only sighting of the other bird – the blacked fronted Franklin had been recorded. The trip took little over an hour and after a hearty lunch in a local lodge we headed into the hills. We searched in all the likely places playing a recording in hopes of getting a response but to no avail. As the day drew to a close we headed back to camp.
The following morning we packed up the camp and headed south and rather than head to civilisation we headed east at Serolippi, to the Sera Conservancy. Here we stayed with Fuzz Dyer in his Mobile Camp and visited the Sera Rhino Sanctuary and the wonderful flights of literally thousands of birds – sandgrouse, doves and sparrows and seed eaters that come into the waterholes – a stunning spectacle but this is a story for next time… …
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