Ex Askari Thunder 3, Oct-Nov 2011

Post interesting sightings here - note: Do NOT post grid references for breeding birds - thank you.

Moderator: roger dickey

Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Oct 14, 2011 11:41 am
Location: South East

Ex Askari Thunder 3, Oct-Nov 2011

Postby Watchkeeper » Mon Nov 07, 2011 11:26 am

I deployed to Kenya to support Ex Askari Thunder 3, which ran from late-October to early November 2011. Although all too often stuck in the EXCON tents, I managed to get out most days, if only for a brief walk, and had a fantastic time racking up 69 “lifers”, and seeing many more species (e.g. Hobby, Barn Swallow and House Martins, as well as Greenshank, Little Stint and Common Sandpipers) on their wintering grounds rather than as UK residents or passage migrants.

Species seen around Nanyuki Show Ground included:
Superb Starling
Cattle Egret
Sacred Ibis
White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher
Common Fiscal
Hadada Ibis
Black-shouldered Kite
Speckled Mousebird
Black Kite
Common Bulbul
Rock Martin
Hooded Vulture
Barn Swallow
White-bellied Canary
Tropical Boubou
Gabar Goshawk
Red-cheeked Cordon Bleu
Various unidentified Sunbird sp.

On the main training area just to the north of NSG (rolling hill country, with some watering holes, and lots of thick acacia scrub) I identified:
Pink-backed Pelican
Augur Buzzard
Red-billed Hornbill
Yellow-billed Stork
Spotted Flycatcher
Egyptian Goose
Greater Blue-eared Starling
Northern Anteater Chat
African Dusky Flycatcher
Rufous Chatterer
Rattling Cisticola
Fan-tailed Raven
Lanner Falcon
Pallid Harrier
Yellow-rumped Seedeater
Long-billed Pipit
Long-crested Eagle
Hartlaub's Turaco
House Martin
Miombo Rock Thrush (probably the single most interesting bird of the trip: FAR out of the range stated in my guide, but clearly identifiable, and two separate individuals seen)
Northern White-crowned Shrike
Yellow Bishop.

Finally, a couple of colleagues and I took the opportunity post-Endex of a quick overnight trip to Sweetwaters/Ol Pejeta Reserve, which was closer to savannah in many areas, but also included some terrific marshes and streams This gave:
Black-headed Heron
Spur-winged Goose
Yellow-billed Duck
African Fish Eagle
African Brown Parrot
African Pied Wagtail
White-bellied Go-away Bird
Laughing Dove
Lesser Striped Swallow
White-browed Sparrow-Weaver
White-browed Robin-Chat
Red-capped Lark
Grey Heron
Yellow-naped Spurfowl
African Spoonbill
White-bellied Bustard
Helmeted Guineafowl
Black-headed Weaver
Yellow-billed Oxpecker
Blacksmiths Lapwing
Yellow Wagtail
Secretary Bird
Rufous Sparrow
Grey Crowned Crane
Crowned Lapwing
Burchall's Coucal
Green Wood Hoopoe
Fork-tailed Drongo
Lesser Masked Weaver
Saddle-billed Stork
Little Swift
Malachite Kingfisher
Snipe sp
Little Stint
Three-banded Plover
Red-billed Teal
Common Sandpiper
Marsh Sandpiper
Marabou Stork

One of the challenges that I found of birding in an entirely new area was identification overload: look up a “straightforward Spotted Flycatcher” and you are presented with up to 9 possible alternatives! I reckon I firmly identified only around half the birds that I saw, heard or glimpsed, a sometimes distressingly low ratio compared to back in the UK. Three things helped me in this regard, and overall:

- Having a colleague on the Ex who is similarly into birds, and had done a previous Ex AT.
- The Helm guide to the area, which is good, and the maps particularly useful. The downside is its sheer mass: the price of c.1500 species; ironically it (just) fits in CS95 trouser pockets, but will certainly not fit in the current design of MTP. If going out for a longer deployment, especially over the winter, I would, however, take the 2nd Edition of the European Collins Bird Guide in addition: it really would help with the migrant waders and passerines.
- Tremendous help from Lesser Spot Finder, who was generous with suggestions by email, and whose lists on the AOS Forum from his longer deployment gave me a good idea of where to go, and what to look out for. Many thanks, Rich.

roger dickey
Posts: 100
Joined: Mon Mar 05, 2007 9:58 pm
Location: Somerton, Somerset

Ex Askari Thunder

Postby roger dickey » Sun Nov 13, 2011 9:51 pm

At this rate we are going to have to produce our own bird guides to popular excercise venues!

Many thanks for the comprehensive report - some great birds there. Any photos?


Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Oct 14, 2011 11:41 am
Location: South East

Postby Watchkeeper » Fri Nov 18, 2011 2:41 pm

Alas, no photos. Stuff has to be large, slow and close for me to photo it properly, so elephant, impala and giraffes only.
I am waiting for a disc from one of my colleagues, and will post any acceptable photos.
I agree that a pre-deployment guide to popular Ex areas and operational areas has real merit for birders who want to know what guides to take and what they might see.

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