Migrant Birds and a generous donation

First I would like to thank a very kind person named Sonja P for making a donation toward conservation in our area. The money will go toward scouts that are currently assisting the neighboring community ranch to patrol their large area. We appreciate your generosity very much Sonja.

Also we have had an influx of migrant birds in the past few weeks arriving from Europe, Asia and norhtern Kenya. Among the species that have been passing by, Long-legged Buzzard, Common Kestrel, Common Rock-thrush, Whitethroats, Willow Warblers, Isabaline Shrike, Red-backed shrike, Pied Wheatear, Northern Whetear, Isabaline Whetear. Below is a picture of a non-migrant resident bird, our friend the Scops Owl.

scops owl
scops owl
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Drought Sensitive Species Beginning to Return

In the drought of 2000/2001 the species that were hit the hardest in Laikipia were the following mammals: Warthog, Waterbuck, Hippo, and Buffalo. Since then it has been the warthogs that have sustained the best rebound with waterbuck following. Buffalo in our area have been greatly helped by larger herds that live south of us on higher ground near the Loldiga mountains. Still we only see Buffalo in small herds of threes and fours and typically they are all bulls with family herds only coming onto us occasionally. Hippos have taken a very long time to return. Every once and a while we have a couple pass by Tumaren but the do not seem to stay for very long. Evidently there are nice deep pools that the few individual that are still around prefer. Despite that we have seen young hippos with mothers and waterbuck these days are frequently encountered in groups of 6 or 7. Its nice to see all these guys beginning to return.

waterbuck
waterbuck
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Oryx Kills Oryx

Our rangers this morning came back to the office to report that they had found a dead Oryx. From the tracks they could see that the fatality was not from poaching or predation. The Big Male Oryx had been killed by another Male. A deep puncture wound pierced his chest and blood had flowed from his mouth so we suspected that he had been hit in the lungs. There was no other marks on the animal besides some horn scratches on its face.
I look at Oryx every day but when i went to the scene and saw the animal lying there I was shocked by how big Oryx actually are. I have heard stories of Oryx even killing lion. Despite that I have noticed that they are generally not terribly aggressive – A cheetah that I found in Samburu National Reserve with a baby Oryx kill consumed his prize while the entire herd of more than 30 watched from within 50 feet. They could have easily driven the cheetah away but appeared spooked and didn’t bother.

0ryx
0ryx
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21 WildDogs with Waterbuck Kill

On Nov. 13 th while on safari on the Ewaso Nyiro river we ran into 21 WildDogs hunting. They were in the process of harassing a group of four Waterbuck that seemed very frightened and stressed. The Waterbucks would run and then turn to face the dogs. The dogs would then back down and look for another opportunity. At one point a Dikdik sprang from a bush behind the dogs and 4 engaged it in chase. Luckily for Mr. Dikdik he made a safe escape. Meanwhile several dogs kept returning to a certain patch of bush. As we watched the area with our binoculars we realized that they were eating and that they had a kill. When 2 young dogs began playing with a leg we decided that it was a young Waterbuck that they had taken. Very exciting and great to be able to watch the dogs for a good half hour as they played and chased each other.

wilddog
wilddog
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Wildcats Like Wildfire

In the past 2 weeks we have had 4 sightings of wildcats. Wildcats are the original tabby cat – the species that people first domesticated and bred into all the forms we now find in the domestic pussy cat. We are having a huge boom in the rat population and it appears that the wildcats are reaping the benefits. We also had a caracal on a night drive about two weeks ago.
cheers, james

wildcat
wildcat
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Elephants beginning to disperse finally

After about 6 months of large herds of elephant on us the groups are beginning to disperse with only the odd bull passing through. this is in a way a relief. our poor trees need some time to grow a bit and recover from all the damage. pictured below is the big boss bull we call rob with some females behind.
cheers, james

big bull elephant
big bull elephant
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Fishing Spider Found on Ewaso Nyiro River

While swimming down on the river I ran into this interesting fishing spider in a small pool of water in a large rockoutcrop. the pool had mosquito larvae and when i found the spider he was totally submerged trying to hid underneath a rock. his movements under water were identical to a crab and when he emerged to the surface after some coaxing he appeared totally dry. Very Cool.

water wolf
water wolf
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Are Tortoises in Northern Kenya Dying from Dissease?

I have noticed more and more carapaces of dead tortoises in our area in Laikipia. They range in size from medium to large and show no signs of physical trauma. I’m wondering if there could be a fungus that could be spreading between them that may have originated from captive animals. I understand that tortoises in the states have had problems like this.???

tortoise
tortoise
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Sugarcane Plantation to reclaim 33,000ha of Kenyan Wetlands

The Following Appeal was made by colin Jackson of Mwamba Bird Observatory and while it is a bit off topic for Laikipia i still think it is a pending disaster that more people need to know about.
Cheers,James

—————————————————–
This is a plea to raise serious concerns and put pressure on the Kenya government to not go ahead with the plans to turn 33,000ha of one of our most important wetlands in Kenya into sugarcane plantations.

The Tana River Delta is one of Kenya’s largest and most important freshwater wetland systems with a significant local community of cattle herders and others dependent on it and having been so for centuries. As a wildlife refuge it is particularly important site for thousands of breeding birds as well as a feeding site many more – with 15,000 water birds of 69 species counted on just one day in January 2007including 1,600 herons, a flock of 1,400 Open-billed Stork, 58 Allen’s Gallinules, a single flock of 2,500 Ruff, 3,200 terns, a flock of 76 African Skimmers etc…, – and that was only covering a small proportion (c.15% max) of the whole delta on a random day. Systematic observing would produce many more valuable sightings. There is a major heronry in the delta, the only one for some 100s of kms, it is a highly important breeding site for fish and there are still elephant, lion, quite a lot of plains game and probably 800+ hippo in the delta (a count of 400 together in just one pool was made in 2006).

The Tana Delta is under serious threat of destruction from a proposed sugar plantation development that will cover an area of 33,000ha (80,000acres – about the same size as Amboseli National Park) and will have massive environmental and social impacts on the area. The plantations will stretch right into the heart of the main wetland area and not be restricted to the bush area to the north as previously thought.

River deltas are known for being fragile, dynamic and extremely rich and important wetland systems, flooding in times of good rain and later drying out again. Any small amount of playing with the hydrological systems will upset the delicate natural balance and wreak havoc on the ecosystem. To put sugar plantations right into the heart of the Tana Delta will spell the end of the delta. Sugar is widely known as an ecological desert in itself and the effluent and pollution from the processing plants in Africa is highly damaging as will be the impact of the many 100s (1,000s?) of workers and others who will be attracted to the area and who will need food, water and somwhere to rid their sewage and rubbish.

It will be a national natural disaster if this development is allowed to go ahead the way it is currently planned. The local community living in the delta, represented by the Lower Tana River Delta Conservation Trust, are fighting it hard and need all the support they can get.

Please write an email of even a single line to the following addresses expressing your concern about the project – this needs to be done by the closing date for comments which is 28th August:

TISP EIA Team Leader:

and cc to:

Thank you for your support.

— — — — — — — — — — – — — — — — — — — — – — — —
Colin Jackson
Mwamba Bird Observatory & Field Study Centre,
A Rocha Kenya
PO Box 383
Watamu, 80202
Kenya

Tel: +254-(0)42-32023 (O), 32037 (H)
Mobile 0722-842366
eml: colin.jackson@arocha.org
see also

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7 Elephants Poached on Koija Group Ranch

Today it was reported that 7 elephants were poached on Koija Group Ranch not far north of us. This morning it was also reported that KWS officers were flying the area and were in pursuit of the poachers. This is very abnormal for this area and i imagine that KWS and the police will find the culprits quickly. More reports as we get them. Jamie

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