Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Elephants on the Mara

Megan with elephants - Megan is in the foreground

Giraffes on the Mara

Giraffe eye
Giraffe in its complete context
Pattern detail
Head semi close up
Yellow-billed Oxpeckers on giraffe
Yellow-billed Oxpecker on Giraffe back

More Masai Mara

Grey Kestrel - the name Grey Falcon has been taken!
The Masai Mara is a must. It is a huge wilderness area which runs unfenced southward into the Serengeti of Tanzania. Here thousands of animals call home. This is the Africa of BBC fame and Elephants, Giraffes, Buffalo, Lion and Leopard and other equally impressive mammals not-of-the Big five status survive. In the grassland various cisticolas, pipits, larks, widowbirds, weavers and whydahs compete with queleas for attention in addition to sandgrouse and ornamental oxpeckers. The traditional human occupants of this region, the Masai, have been moved to the park’s edges with their herds of cattle and goats but can still be seen following their traditional ways of life – walking with their animals, bright red blanket wrapped around their waists, wooden club firmly held in hand and a mobile phone pressed firmly against their elongated ear lobes.  At a tented camp in Mara West I fulfilled a small dream of being woken, around midnight, by the roaring of lions. I was reminded that canvas is quite a thin material.  

Male Yellow-throated Sandgrouse
Female Yellow-throated Sandgrouse
White-bellied Bustard
Secretary Bird collecting nesting material
Zebras on the Mara
Helmeted Guineafowl

Our guide, our main man, our big bwana - Chege Wa Kariuki III

Lappet-faced Vulture

Hooded Vulture
African White-backed Vultures


Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Masai Mara

a Mara view
the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended

on our first day we saw elephants

Add caption
Tawny Eagle nest on Euphorbia


Saturday, 5 July 2014

Lake Naivasha boat trip

One of the things to do on Lake Naivasha is to take a boat trip on its rapidly rising waters*. Much of the broad expanse of water in this large freshwater lake is lifeless save the abundant fish below its surface. I make the judgement about abundant fish through the enormous numbers of both species of African Cormorant  - Great and Reed - resident and breeding on the lake's edge.

Half of the crew  - 
A bad photo of a great bird - my Black Heron lifer!
Glossy Ibis silhouette 
The oddly named Pink backed Pelican
A groovy juvy African Jacana
A late leaving Wood Sandpiper
Perfectly poised and posed Pied Kingfisher on a prickly Acacia
Yellow-billed Duck
*The Rise Of Lake Naivasha
They say nature has a way of giving back to its own. This seems to be the case as both wildlife and residents of Naivasha are reaping the benefits from the significant rise of water levels in Lake Naivasha. The lake is today an essential resource providing water for domestic use as well as irrigation. The lake is also home to a diverse range of wildlife. The location of Lake Naivasha is along the main road to Nairobi, not too far from the city makes it an ideal stop-over for weekend getaway to relax and experience the magic of one of East Africa’s finest lakes.

Back in 1932, the lake was at its highest level of approximately 1890.98 metres. The wildlife and marine life thrive within the LakeNaivasha ecosystem. Over recent years, however, the lake’s level has dropped drastically. Prof Jan Porkony, an expert from the Czech Republic reported that research done on the lake’s sediment had indicated that the lake had dried on three previous occasions. Porkonysaid between 1900 and 2013, the lakes levels had fluctuated by a range of 10m, a move he attributed to climate change.The drop in lake levels was blamed on the flower-vegetable farms whose business expansion  in the 1980s to 2008 seemed to coincide with the reduction in the lake’s water levels and quality of ecosystem.

However, a closer and more careful examination of the situation reveals that the reasons for the problems facing Lake Naivasha were more complex. According to renowned biologist Dr. David Harper of the University of Leicester, three factors led to the decline of the lake. Dr. Harper is an authority on Lake Naivasha having researched the lake ecosystem for close to two decades. According to him, more than a dozen invasive species were introduced to the lake and these restructured and altered the original ecosystem. The destructive Louisiana crayfish for example, ate every blade of greenery and the slow moving animals under the surface of the water. Add to the mix the increased demand for water created by rapid urbanization and population growth of Naivasha, it was inevitable.

Destruction of forest cover in the catchment areas for charcoal and firewood or to pave the way for farming was an additional problem which undoubtedly had a hand in the dry weather which affected the region and further contributed to the ‘shrinking’ of Lake Naivasha. It is clearly apparent that multiple factors have created the changing water levels and condition of the lake.

The recognition of the problems facing Lake Naivasha led to a number of efforts and initiatives to address the problem. These included efforts by the Green Belt movement, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the Lake Naivasha Growers Group (LNGG) and Lake NaivashaRiparian Association (LNRA).

More recent developments with coordinated actions by IMARISHA and the development of an inclusive management plan are leading to positive results within the Lake Naivasha catchment area and basin. The flower companies are working together to motivate all growers via the LNGG to adopt sustainable practices. A system of self-regulation and standards has been created by such bodies as the Kenya Flower Council. As a result some of the leading companies operating such as Oserian development Company and Finlay’s have adopted water-saving and environmental measures which have been recognized internationally as best of practice. The government’s actions in tackling the thorny issue of encroachment of forest reserves by people and action in taking back forest land and replanting trees was another noteworthy factor. Local small holding farmers also agreed to work with the government and NGOs on projects that helped reduce siltation into the lake by adjusting their agricultural practices. Pollution by fertilizers used by small holders who farmed extremely close to the river banks in the catchment areas was also tackled through the Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) program designed to promote sustainable agriculture programs in the hills surrounding Lake Naivasha. The scheme that has been initiated in theAberdare area has seen farmers abstain from farming near river banks. Net effect of these efforts and the good rainfall witnessed recently have undoubtedly been the defining factor in the rise of the level of Lake Naivasha to record levels. By early December 2013, the lake’s level was reported to be 1,889 metres- a situation not witnessed since the El Nino rains of 1998 or earlier still in 1982.

At an international conference on the status of Lake Naivasha in December 2013, Dr. Harper commented that “the sharp rise in water levels is due to the impressive work being carried out in the catchment area and there is very little siltation.”

Certain riparian areas which have not been covered by the lake’s water for the past three decades have now been flooded over again by the resurgence of the lake. Indeed, nature reclaiming its own. There is still need to carefully monitor the dynamics of the lake’s ecosystem and to ensure that all the organisations involved in environmental conservation work in the area pull together to set a strong foundation for sustained life of the important water body.
The original Maasai name given to Naivasha “Nai’posha”  translates to rough water or changing water. The history of the lake has certainly been characterized by many sudden storms and changing conditions from droughts to floods. The rise in the levels of LakeNaivasha is a chance for all concerned to write a new chapter by ensuring that the future of the lake for decades to come are more stable and efforts to ensure its sustainability and well-being are carefully thought out and logically implemented. If this chance is taken well, Lake Naivasha will continue to be a wetland of global thriving significance. 

Day 8 & 9 - Lake Naivasha

Lake Navaisha words
Full Mat crew waiting for tyres; Russ, Steve, Glenis, Norma, Bob, Marie, John, Gary [behind John], Megan, Paul and Lucille

Chege Kariuki - proud owner of a Toyota Landcruiser [modified in Tanzania] and new tyres!

Hammerkop down by the waterside
Some of the local hippo that wander the grounds of athe country club of an evening necessitating escorts to return to rooms.
A species far more often heard than seen - Red-chested Cuckoo
A female waterbuck; in other words - not a Waterbuck buck. 
White-browed Robin-chat
White-fronted Bee-eater
Black-lored Babbler
Bronze Sunbird male
Giant Kingfisher
Superbly named Superb starling
Crowned Cranes and chicks
Russ and Megan, looking bold in modern orange, introducing you know Gnu.