Birding ol Donyo in 88 species

Birding is a fantastic way to experience the bush. You drive slowly and look carefully at each movement and can be rewarded with the most amazing scenes and the excitement of seeing something you’ve never seen before. You can do it out on a drive, whilst walking, cycling, horse riding or even while sitting and eating a delicious lunch.

Because ol Donyo has so many activities and so many different ways of exploring this vast, wild landscape, we thought we’d attempt one more and see how many bird species we could identify in one day. The guide James is a very keen birder and jumped at the challenge. It is dry season at ol Donyo at the moment so we wouldn’t expect any water birds, however there are a couple of hundred species waiting in the canopies of Acacias or the open grasslands so we thought we could probably do quite well.Helmeted guinea fowl at ol Donyo

Birding is best in the early morning so we set off at sunrise, a packed breakfast tucked away in the car and binoculars at the ready. We were soon ticking off numerous species. We skirted the lava flow and slowly meandered our way through thickets and grassland. Ten species identified in double quick time. Then, another ten. We were doing well and seeing wonderful secretary birds, honey guides, pygmy falcons, numerous waxbills and barbets.Secretary bird at ol Donyo

Of course we also saw the wonderful bigger game. Giraffes watched silently, elephants made our heart quicken as they investigated the car, eland and oryx cantered away and we even saw a lone cheetah resting in the shade.

The morning passed in a flash and we broke for lunch, sitting watching the elephants dominating the waterhole. Of course any birds were quickly noted and we added African harrier hawk, blue-naped mousebirds, blue-eared starlings and a stunning Eastern violet-backed sunbird.

We left the hottest hours of the day for a brief rest as there wouldn’t be much happening and then headed out once more. To keep the challenge…challenging we decided to keep to the same habitats – the grassland and savannah surrounding the lava flows. As the sun finally dipped down below the horizon it was time for a well-earned drink and a totting up of what we had seen.

One day at ol Donyo in the dry season had brought us 88 identified bird species. Not bad in the slightest. Perhaps it is a challenge that you could beat?White crested helmet shrike at ol Donyo

The identified birds

Green backed camaroptera

Common bulbul

Southern black flycatcher

Striped kingfisher

Secretary bird

Chin spot batis

Pangani longclaw

Spot flanked barbet

Northern white crowned shrike

Red headed weaver

Tiny cisticola

White crested helmet shrike

Long tailed fiscal shrike

Von den decken hornbill

Red billed buffalo weaver

Vitiline masked weaver

Yellow bellied eremomela

Common drongo

Slate coloured boubou

White bellied go away bird

Yellow necked spurfowl

Pale flycatcher

Crested frankolin

Red cheeked cordon bleu

Golden breasted bunting


Nubian woodpecker

White bellied bustard

Lessor honeyguide

Grey wren warbler

Gabar goshawk

Northern wheatear

Cardinal woodpecker

Little bee-eater

Red fronted tinkerbird

White browed coucal

Blue napped mousebird

Yellow breasted apalis

Red faced crombec

Pygmy falcon

Taita fiscal

Abyssinian scimitarbill

Grassland pipit

Lilac breasted roller

Lappet faced vulture

White backed vulture

Red winged lark

Barn swallow

Red billed oxpecker

Superb starling

Temminks courser

Crowned lapwing

White headed buffalo weaver

Short toed lark

Augur buzzard

White browed sparrow weaver

Yellow spotted petronia

Fawn coloured lark

Grey capped sociable weaver

Red billed hornbill

African grey hornbill

Purple grenadier

Red winged starling

Greater blue eared starling

African Harrier hawk

Yellow rumped seed-eater

Speckled mousebird

Blue capped cordon bleu

Common waxbill

Helmeted guineafowl

Eastern violet backed sunbird

Namaqua dove

White browed scrub robin

Verreaux’s eagle owl

Rufous chatterer

White bellied tit

Yellow throated petronia

Red-eyed dove

Rattling cisticola

Black-crowned tchagra

Banded parisima

Rosy patch shrike

Black faced waxbill

Hartlaub’s bustard

Kori bustard


Red-billed quelea

Martial eagle