I went to bed with the feeling that we wouldn’t probably be getting much mist during the night. However I duly woke at 2a.m. and sneaked around the room to not wake the slumbering volunteers and once dressed unzipped the door and stepped out into the cool night air to see… not a wisp of mist but a beautiful star-studded sky. Totally no point in going and sitting for an hour or two with the generator going as there was definitely not going to be any mist! So back to bed and up at just after 5am to go and open all the nets to see what would turn up in the first round.
Al contemplating a mistless morning from the Lions Bluff look out – the nets were positioned just below this.
Titus, Albert and Sam helped open the nets and as we were sitting with a cup of chai waiting to do the first round, Titus appeared with a bird bag saying “I have an African here”… He meant he had an Afrotropical bird, that I knew (he enjoys playing with words as do many Kenyans!) but I thought it would be a Common Bulbul or something like that and so wasn’t prepared to pay that much attention.. Imagine my surprise therefore when he put his hand in the bag and pulled out The Most stunning Beaut of a tiny but fiercely furious owl! There had been an African Scops Owl Otus senegalensis calling every night down just beyond the nets and so our first thought was we’d got it, but on measuring the wing length and checking the wing formula (relative length of each of the flight feathers to give the shape of the wing) we realised it was far rarer than that and was in fact a Eurasian Scops Owl Otus scops – only about my fifth that I’ve ever seen in Kenya. We caught one at Ngulia last year but the one before that had been scooped out of the Indian Ocean by a fisherman c.5-6kms offshore… There’s still plenty we don’t understand about these birds.
Tito having just taken his ‘Afro’ out of the bird bag..
Otus scops – the most beaut of a bird…
Alba holding the Scops Owl with Lions Bluff in the background
There were not many other birds caught, but one of them was another Garden Warbler Sylvia borin which was very nice to get have as they are not common birds this far east in Kenya. It was a good chance to let Sam, Al & Nick have a chance to ring a few birds – good to give them the experience at it (tho’ Sam ringed a fair few in the end, in fact).
Me assisting Al to ring a Marsh Warbler (probably one of those, anyway!). Alba looks like a classic laid-back scribe…
With not much else going on in terms of catching, it was easier to stop and to pack up though it of course took longer than I thought it would. We set off at 11am loaded up in the back of the pickup headed for Voi where Tito was to head to Nairobi and three others would drop to take the bus back to Watamu (we didn’t want to risk headaches with the police about carrying people in the back of an open truck..) Nick drew the ‘long’ straw and got to come with me in the car rather than fight it out on matatus and buses – at least Sam nobly gave up his place for Nick… As it turned out, it probably was the short straw as it was only 25-30kms out of Voi cruising on the main road that a whining sound I’d heard from the car but wasn’t sure if it was something to worry about, got suddenly louder and louder, turned into a shriek and then a scream and the car shuddered to a halt as I managed to pull off the road.
Way out in the middle of the bush. Limited mechanical knowledge. Hot. But at least we had mobile signal and I immediately called trusty Henry back at Mwamba for his very good mechanical knowledge for instructions at a distance. To me sounded like the differential had got chewed up and I wasn’t far wrong. Amazingly, thank God, it had happened only 3-4kms outside of Maungu – the next town from Voi after which there was probably nothing for 50-80kms which would have been much harder. So I started the engine and it moved and we hobbled into Maungu and found a fundi to check it out. “gear box”, he said (of course – the noise was from the front not the back of the car); it turned out the last service hadn’t checked the oil levels in the gear box and it was basically totally dry.
Kiboko – our Landcruiser – stuck at Maungu having some gearbox oil dribbled into it. Hot and dry – plenty of swallows (I was tempted to put up a net for them…)
Gear boxes don’t like being without oil, clearly, so after a very improvised means of getting the oil into the gear box using 3 bits of pipe, a cut in half old oil bottle, and some ‘African welding’ (inner tube strips) – rather than opening up around the gear stick and taking a long time to do it, 2 1/2 litres of oil were added (! it was dry!) and we set off again, at vastly reduced speed though after a while I got used to it and managed to push it up a bit. We finally got home around 8pm – sometime after Sam and Al had made it!
The lorry traffic at the weigh station on the Mombasa road had the most almightly traffic jam queing up to be weighed (and in most cases “allowed” through totally overweight thus destroying the roads…)
Quite an eventful end to a very good two weeks of fieldwork in Tsavo area. Also great news that Lions Bluff does work like Ngulia and it could be an optional spot to take people to ring 1000s of migrants.