A Birding Day Tour in the Western Mt. Kenya Forests
Located on the Equator, about 200kms North of Nairobi and rising to a towering height of over 5,000 meters, Mount Kenya is Africa’s second-highest mountain. It is a famous site for hiking tours and an excellent site for birding day tours. With its rugged glacier-clad summits and forested middle slopes, Mt. Kenya is one of the most impressive landscapes in East Africa. It is one of the few World Heritage sites in Africa owing to its outstanding and irreplaceable cultural and biological value.
Beyond the striking landscapes, the mountain and its surrounding forest is an Important Bird Area (IBA) supporting a number of Kenyan endemic as well as range restricted species. It is a rich stronghold for a number of the montane bird species of East Africa. A birding day tour spent here will introduce you to some of central Kenya’s unique biodiversity.
In order to sample the forest’s biodiversity, you can access the mountain from several routes. There are routes advancing from virtually all cardinal points of the compass – North, South, East and West. Some of these routes are also used for mountain climbing- Mt. Kenya is a famous location for hiking tours.
Gathiuru and Kahurura Forests are two out of the five forest blocks to the West of Mt. Kenya; and perfect for a birding day tour. These sections of forest cover more than 20,000ha of land and are composed of various habitats including cultivated lands, plantation as well as indigenous trees. The diversity of habitats thus contributes to the many different species of birds in the region. There is a road that links the two forests. Nanyuki and Wathituga Rivers also traverse through these forests whereby the latter forms the natural boundary between the two forests. The Kahurura route (Near Nanyuki town) is less disturbed and has a more pristine forest. African Pencil Cedar, Podo and Brown Olive are some of the most distinct tree species in this site.
Around the Nanyuki River, riverine trees are home to parties of the endemic Mt. Kenya Guereza (a species of Colobus Monkey that is endemic to Kenya). Little and White-rumped Swifts also frequent the area as Cinnamon-chested Bee-eaters swoop up and down for insects. A few individuals of African Pied Wagtails also visit the river edges.
Further along, after passing the gated barrier, the road leads through a planted forest of Cypress trees which resound with calls of Chestnut-throated Apalises and Forest Cicadas. The secondary plantations of flowering bush usually turn up Double-collared Sunbirds (both Eastern and Northern), Yellow-crowned Canaries and African Dusky Flycatchers. Taking the first narrow path on the right, the trail leads you to an open clearing that is edged with indigenous trees. This open field serves as a camping ground for the local forest scouts. Abyssinian Thrush, Yellow-whiskered Greenbul, the Kenyan-endemic Kikuyu White-eye and Yellow-breasted Apalis are common here.
Back on the main track, the road forks after about 2kms. The main road continues on the right side while the left track, in addition to a few more narrower trails lead you to the local farmers’ cultivated fields. Birding alongside these fields can be very rewarding especially for raptors. Black-shouldered Kites, Long-crested Eagles, Mountain and Augur Buzzards normally seek out the rodents that occur on the potato fields. Common Quails frequently call in the grass.
The main track continues further into the heart of the forest. Indigenous trees on both sides of the road characterize the landscape. Due to the fact that the forest still remains relatively intact, birding can be done along as you stop and listen to the birds. Look out for highland and montane species such as Grey Apalis, White-starred Robin, Brown-capped Weaver, African Olive Pigeon, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, Brown-chested Alethe and White-browed Crombec.
Farther along the track, you will pass by the bridge at Wathituga River. Montane Wagtail and Black Saw-wings often occur here. With patience, you might be rewarded with great views of Kandt’s Waxbills; showing up as they forage on the long grass. Another special bird here is the Slender-billed Starling; often seen feeding on the fruiting trees. In the fruiting season, ancient Podocarpus trees attract Red-fronted Parrots that gorge themselves with the fruits.
The track then descends and passes the Kenya Forest Service main office and onwards passing by cultivated fields and forest edges. At this lower elevation, Dusky Turtle and Red-eyed Doves are more common as are Yellow-bellied and Common Waxbills. The forest then gives way to Carissa and Euclea bush. This habitat teems with a number of Bush-shrikes, notably Tchagras, Puffbacks and Boubus. The stunning African Golden-breasted Bunting is also common here.
Though the track meanders frequently, it is surprisingly smooth. However, during the rainy season, it might get muddy and pose a challenge to navigate through. A four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended. The rains are frequent in the afternoon and thus it is recommended that birding starts in the morning and concludes by early afternoon. To avoid getting stuck in the steep terrain, it is best to plan the birding day tour to begin at the Gathiuru forest section and journey through to the other end of the Kahurura forest section.
Plan a Birding Day Tour in the Western Mt. Kenya Forests today
At Cisticola Tours, we have several tours and safaris that visit the Mt. Kenya region. Some of the popular safaris and tours that visit the Mt. Kenya Forest include:-
- Central Kenya Endemics Birding Tour
- Kenya Endemics Birding Tour
- Kenya Birding Safari
- Tanzania and Kenya Birding Safari
- Kenya Highlights Birding Safari
- Kenya Birding Tour
Please contact us today to plan a birding tour to Mt. Kenya forest.