Ololokwe is a mountain in northern Kenya. Simon did work there in the early nineties and knows it to be a particularly good spot for raptors, particularly rare ones such as Barbary and Taita Falcons and Egyptian Vultures. We found John Lesepe, our guide, who was to take us up the mountain and he helped us to organise the donkeys to carry up our equipment and food. We also needed a guard to watch the car at the bottom of the mountain and a guard to take us up. We camped at the base of Ololokwe ready to start the climb at first light.
In the morning, our donkeys arrived and we packed them up. I felt really bad about making them do our heavy lifting and tried to compensate by feeding them some carrots. The donkey handlers laughed at me, saying their donkeys didn’t know what a carrot was. I decided to try anyway and sure enough, they had no idea what to make of it and just turned their heads away.
We reached the top to find a Eurasian Sparrow-hawk, a Peregrine and a Booted Eagle all flying within good photographing range. Unfortunately, the cameras were packed on the donkeys. By the time I had the camera off the donkey and ready, all the birds had mysteriously vanished. We walked to the edge of the cliff where we found ourselves a nice spot and sat waiting for the raptors to emerge. It was pretty cloudy and the photo opportunities weren’t great. Good sightings included two Tawny Eagles having a fight right by the cliff, a Peregrine attacking a young Verreaux’s Eagle, an Egyptian Vulture and lots of Ruppell’s Vultures.
I slept in my sleeping bag on soft straw in a cave and it was quite pleasant. In the morning, we walked over to the other side of the mountain, to see if the light and quantity of raptors were better. We sat on top of the cliff, watching the vultures go about their morning routines. It was very cloudy all day and the best opportunity I got was of Augur Buzzards stooping down the side of the cliff.
Another night in the cave over, we went back to our cliff site from the first day but, again, it was very cloudy and not many birds were around. Just as we turned our backs to leave, a Peregrine shot past at eye level. We went back to our caves and packed up all our stuff onto the donkeys. It took a while getting the camera equipment balanced on the donkey but it was finally done and we were ready to set off when an Egyptian Vulture flew low and came down to drink some water. We couldn’t believe it! Just when everything was packed! All Simon had was the video camera so he managed to get some footage but what we had been waiting for had finally happened and we didn’t have a camera. Gggrrrr! To make it worse, we saw a Mountain Kestrel and a Booted Eagle after that too.
It was a great few days at the top of Ololokwe and we did see plenty of raptors, though not as many as Simon used to see. I’m sure he’ll write his own blog entry of how he found this experience in comparison to his visits almost two decades ago.