Visit your favourite destinations
|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Uganda, July 2002,
Murchison Falls National Park, Budongo Forest Reserve,
Kibale National Park / Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary,
Queen Elizabeth National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Kaaku Swamp, Mabamba Wetland
Systematic List of Birds
Systematic List of Mammals
In July 2002 I spent two weeks in Uganda with Vital & Riet van Gorp, Eric Wille and my girlfriend Willemien van Ginneken. The main reason for visiting this country was to observe the enigmatic and endangered Shoebill and to see as many birds as possible. For a birdwatcher the main aim should be to see the so-called Albertine Rift endemics (26 of the 43 can be seen) or other near-endemics, nearly all of which are in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
A bonus was the opportunity to see the rare and endangered Mountain Gorilla in south-west Uganda.
Uganda is a tiny landlocked country supporting more
than 1,000 species and deserves its reputation as "Birders'
The key to Uganda’s diversity is its variety of habitats: arid semi-desert, rich savannahs, lowland and montane rainforests, papyrus-fringed lakes and great swamps, volcanoes and an Afro-alpine zone. Uganda covers an altitude from 650 to 5,000m.
The species list to date of 1,018 birds is the fourth highest in Africa, behind Congo, Kenya and Tanzania, however Uganda is a fraction of the size of any of these countries and fantastic birding is within easy and accessible reach of the capital, Kampala. Given its comparatively small size, Uganda is arguably the richest African birding destination.
Uganda’s excellent infrastructure, short distances, fine landscapes and excellent avifauna, including quite a few birds which are hard elsewhere to see, make it a worthy destination.
Uganda’s ten most commonly sought after birds are:
We travelled to Uganda via Amsterdam and Nairobi (Kenya). It was relatively expensive, as it was the peak holiday period.
Our return-ticket (Kenya Airways) for the air journey cost us about € 900. You do need a visa for Uganda. We applied for one at the embassy at Brussels and the visa cost us € 35.
The Ugandan Shilling is a stable, fully convertible currency, fluctuating very little from day to day. The exchange rate in July 2002 was about 1800 shilling for 1 US$. US$ cash is the best currency, exchangeable in the large towns and major lodges in the National Parks.
There is a very wide variety of accommodation available, from expensive first-class hotels in the main towns and lodges at the national parks to very basic bandas (huts) at Bwindi, as well as campsites in the main national parks.
There is accommodation at all sites, which is convenient to birding early and late in the day (details in Rossouw and Sacchi).
FOOD AND DRINK
Generally quite good. Stay away from uncooked fruits and vegetables that you haven't peeled yourself, and don't use ice.
It is best to avoid drinking the water unless you know it is boiled. Restaurants are available in towns and the national parks
Most of the towns have small supermarkets where you can buy most of your supplies. We also bought mineral water, fanta, sprite and beer (Nile Special). Fresh vegetables can easily be purchased at local markets.
ENTRANCE FEES NATIONAL PARKS
The entrance fees of national parks in Uganda are 15 US$ p.p. per day.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
Uganda's long string of tragedies since independence has been a staple of the Western media so most people still regard the country as a volatile place to be avoided. However, most parts of the country have been stable for several years.
The people are among the friendliest on the continent. Over three years have passed since the Buhoma tragedy in Bwindi Impenetrable NP, which consequently discouraged many tourists from travelling to Uganda. Since then a strong military presence in the border areas has assured the safety of those visiting there. Uganda seems determined to remain peaceful and, with its friendly and welcoming inhabitants, win the tourists back.
Theft is really not a problem in Uganda unless you are careless. We found Uganda to be a friendly and safe country and the worst that the traveller is likely to encounter, is a pickpocket in Kampala.
For vaccinations consult your own doctor for up to date advice. Malaria is a major risk so all precautions against malaria are a must.
The official language, English, is spoken as a second language by most educated Ugandans and is as widely spoken here as in Kenya or Tanzania and even in remote villages you will meet people who speak English.
Its elevated altitude tempers Uganda’s equatorial climate and in most parts of the country, the daily maximum is between 20o C and 27o C. A typically equatorial climate ensures that the weather will be varied, and you are bound to encounter some rain, although July is during the "dry season". Uganda, has two dry seasons, June to September and December to March, both of which are good times to visit, however, June to September is the best time.
The weather was generally pleasant, warm and sunny throughout the trip, although we had a few showers in the late afternoon and during the night.
A small tape recorder and the tape cassette of recordings by Jonathan Rossouw are quite useful for drawing in birds.
A good torch is a must. A telescope is useful at lakes and very useful for viewing canopy species especially from roadsides. Photography is NOT difficult, as birds are easy to approach and light conditions are good.
Clothing can be T-shirt and short anywhere (during the daytime).
TRANSPORT AND ROADS
Road conditions in Uganda vary, but are generally good by African standards, make getting around easy. The main roads are sealed, but elsewhere are poor-quality dirt, where a 4-wheel drive would be a distinct advantage.
In Uganda, it's best to hire a car if you can afford it. For car rental you will need a major credit card.
It is forbidden to alight from one's car away from specified areas in Murchison Falls NP and Queen Elizabeth NP.
This is no great disadvantage as we found most of the birds and animals most confiding and the car provided a superb hide.
We used the Uganda Tourist Map published by A.P. Sharmans in London (1:520,000).
NOMENCLATURE & TAXONOMY
In Africa there is much confusion regarding the English names for birds, and often each author, having their own preferences which results in the same species having up to 3 or 4 different names.
I have decided to follow the English names of James F. Clements (Birds of the World, A Check List, Fifth Edition, 2000).
Most of the birds are fairly easy to identify from the books, but Greenbuls, Cisticolas, Sunbirds and Weavers are very difficult to identify. To identify the more troublesome species we had help from first class Ugandan guides:
Vincent Odama expert in the Budongo Forest Reserve.
Alfred Twinomujuni who accompanied us three days at Bwindi Impenetrable NP. His knowledge of forest birds and their calls was quite extraordinary - and without him we would have not been able to identify half the birds seen and heard.
COMMON BIRD SPECIES
The following list of birds we saw frequently and if you spend any sort of time in the right habitats you will too:
Black-headed Heron, Cattle Egret, Hamerkop, Marabou Stork, Hadada Ibis, Black-shouldered Kite, Black Kite, African Fish-Eagle, Long-crested Eagle, Helmeted Guineafowl, Red-eyed Dove, Ring-necked Dove, Eastern Grey Plantain-eater, White-browed Coucal, African Palm-Swift, Little Swift, Speckled Mousebird, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill, Angola Swallow, Wire-tailed Swallow, White-headed Sawwing, African Pied Wagtail, Common Bulbul, Little Greenbul, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Swamp Flycatcher, Sooty Chat, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Grey-backed Fiscal, Pied Crow, Rueppell’s Glossy-Starling, Grey-headed Sparrow, Baglafecht Weaver, Vieillot’s Weaver, Golden-backed Weaver, Red-billed Quelea, Black-winged Bishop, Orange (Northern Red) Bishop, African Firefinch, Bronze Mannikin, Pin-tailed Whydah, Yellow-fronted Canary.
Uganda was once very rich in wildlife, but much of the larger game was killed during Idi Amin’s rule and the war to oust him in the late 1970s. However, wildlife populations are returning.
For a detailed report of species and numbers of birds and mammals please refer to the systematic lists at the end of this report.
Many thanks to Jon Hornbuckle who always helps me and who sent me tapes of Ugandan bird calls right away when I asked for them and also of course to my friend Mark van Beirs, with whom you can always talk about travelling and birdwatching, for providing useful information.
Ber van Perlo. Collins Illustrated Checklist: Birds of Eastern Africa.
James F. Clements. Birds of the World. A Check List.
Jonathan Kingdon. The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals.
Jonathan Rossouw and Marco Sacchi. Where to watch birds in Uganda * essential site guide.
Terry Stevenson and John Fanshawe. Field Guide to the Birds of East Africa * essential field guide.
E.K. Urban, C.H. Fry, S. Keith. The Birds of Africa, volumes I – VI * excellent reference when at home.
Michael Walters. Complete Checklist. Vogels van de Wereld.
Nigel Wheatley. Where to watch birds in Africa * useful at the planning stage.
Dale A. Zimmerman, Donald A. Turner, David J. Pearson. Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania.
REPORTS AND ARTICLES
Henk Hendriks. Uganda 30th of June – 7th August 1995.
D.G. Barnes. Uganda February 9 – March 2 1997.
Jon Hornbuckle. Uganda 25 July – 17 August 2001.
I found the detailed notes by Henk Hendriks most useful, with additional information from the report by Jon Hornbuckle.
Access Uganda Tours, Uganda House, Shop No. 5, Partition 2, P.O. Box 26286, Kampala, Uganda
Hassan Mutebi, manager of this company, organised an almost perfect trip for us and I can recommend this company.
We stayed most of the time at very luxurious hotels and lodges, only the community bandas at Buhoma were very basic, but clean. We had to pay 1300 US$ per person for the whole trip, including transport, accommodation, food, park entrance, boat rides, park & ranger guides in each park. The gorilla permits (275 US$ per person) were not included in this price.
Mozes Lubega Musa was our driver and a good birder in the savannahs. Vincent Odama also accompanied us the whole trip and was our expert at Budongo.
Uganda Bird Guides Club, P.O. Box 33184, Kampala, Uganda
BIRDBASE & BIRDAREA
I use this software to keep track of the birds I have seen and to make lists of any country, labelling endemics and birds previously seen in that country, outside it, or both. BirdArea can produce checklists of the birds of any country of Clements’ world birds.
July 16/17 Chaam * Amsterdam * Nairobi * Entebbe
* Kampala * Mabamba Wetland * Kampala * Entebbe
July 18 Entebbe * Masindi * Budongo Forest Reserve
July 19 Budongo Forest Reserve * Masindi
July 20 Masindi * Murchison Falls National Park (Sambiya River Lodge)
July 21 Murchison Falls National Park (Sambiya River Lodge)
July 22 Murchison Falls National Park * Fort Portal
July 23 Fort Portal * Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary * Kibale National Park * Fort Portal
July 24 Fort Portal * Queen Elizabeth National Park (Mweya Safari Lodge)
July 25 Queen Elizabeth National Park (Mweya Safari Lodge)
July 26 Queen Elizabeth National Park * Kabale * Bwindi Impenetrable National Park - Buhoma
July 27 Bwindi Impenetrable National Park - Buhoma
July 28 Bwindi Impenetrable National Park – Buhoma
July 29 Bwindi Impenetrable National Park - Ruhizha * Kabale
July 30 Kabale * Kaaku Swamp * Kampala * Entebbe
July 31 Entebbe * Nairobi * Amsterdam * Chaam
Rossouw and Sacchi’s “Where to watch birds in Uganda“ is an excellent and essential guide to all the bird sites and so the notes on the sites are only an update. They do list key birds for each site but some of these are highly unlikely to be seen.
We had a very limited time for birding. Inevitably, it was a rush and more time could have been spent everywhere, especially at Budongo Forest Reserve and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. We did not visit Lake Mburo National Park, so we dipped Brown-chested Lapwing,
MURCHISON FALLS NATIONAL PARK
Accommodation: Sambiya River Lodge in the park only 30 minutes by car from the top of the falls, a very luxurious lodge.
This park is possibly more interesting for mammals and the famous falls than for birds. The park is named after the falls where the Victoria Nile rushes through a ten-metre-gap with tremendous force to crash on the rocks 40 metres below, before continuing on its journey to Lake Albert. Murchison Falls NP is the largest game park in Uganda and one of the most spectacular in Uganda, indeed, in all Africa.
Probably the most heavily marketed area for the Shoebill is this park. Nile Safari Camp, outside the park, just west of the Bugunga Gate, offers short boat trips to look for the bird. Within the park, launch trips ply up and down the Nile River from the main camp at Paraa. We did not do the trip to the Falls, but did the downstream delta trip and had good views of three Shoebills.
Pink-backed Pelican, Great Cormorant, Darter, Grey Heron, Black-headed Heron, Goliath Heron, Purple Heron, Great Egret, Little Bittern, Hamerkop, African Openbill, Saddle-billed Stork, Shoebill, Hadada Ibis, Fulvous Whistling-Duck, White-faced Whistling-Duck, Egyptian Goose, Comb Duck, Osprey, Bat Hawk, Black-shouldered Kite, African Fish-Eagle, Palm-nut Vulture, Hooded Vulture, White-backed Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, White-headed Vulture, Brown Snake-Eagle, Bateleur, African Harrier-Hawk, Lizard Buzzard, Dark Chanting-Goshawk, Augur Buzzard, Tawny Eagle, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Long-crested Eagle, Grey Kestrel, Red-necked Falcon, Crested Francolin, Heuglin’s Francolin, Helmeted Guineafowl, Black Crake, Stanley's Bustard, Black-bellied Bustard, African Jacana, Senegal Thick-knee, Temminck’s Courser, Rock Pratincole, Long-toed Lapwing, Spur-winged Plover, Wattled Lapwing, Red-eyed Dove, Ring-necked Dove, Vinaceous Dove, Laughing Dove, Black-billed Wood-Dove, Blue-spotted Wood-Dove, Bruce’s Green-Pigeon, Meyer’s (Brown) Parrot, Eastern Grey Plantain-eater, Yellowbill, Senegal Coucal, White-browed Coucal, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Long-tailed Nightjar, Square-tailed Nightjar, Pennant-winged Nightjar, African Palm-Swift, Speckled Mousebird, Blue-naped Mousebird, Malachite Kingfisher, African Pygmy-Kingfisher, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Woodland Kingfisher, Striped Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Red-throated Bee-eater, Little Bee-eater, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Northern Carmine Bee-eater, Broad-billed Roller, Eurasian Hoopoe, African Grey Hornbill, Abyssinian Ground-Hornbill, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Spot-flanked Barbet, Black-billed Barbet, Double-toothed Barbet, Greater Honeyguide, Flappet Lark, Angola Swallow, Wire-tailed Swallow, Lesser Striped-Swallow, Mosque Swallow, White-headed Sawwing, African Pied Wagtail, Plain-backed Pipit, African (Grassland) Pipit, Common Bulbul, African Thrush, Rattling Cisticola, Winding Cisticola, Croaking Cisticola, Foxy Cisticola, Zitting Cisticola, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Red-winged Grey Warbler, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Buff-bellied Warbler, Red-faced Crombec, Silverbird, Northern Black-Flycatcher, Swamp Flycatcher, White-browed Robin-Chat, Spotted Morning-Thrush, Sooty Chat, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Chinspot Batis, Black-headed Batis, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Arrow-marked Babbler, Western Violet-backed Sunbird, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Beautiful Sunbird, Copper Sunbird, African Yellow White-eye, Grey-backed Fiscal, Common Fiscal, Black-crowned Tchagra, Black-headed Gonolek, Fork-tailed Drongo, Pied Crow, Lesser Blue-eared Glossy-Starling, Rueppell’s Glossy-Starling, Violet-backed Starling, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Grey-headed Sparrow, Speckle-fronted Weaver, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver, Village Weaver, Vieillot's Weaver, Golden-backed Weaver, Red-billed Quelea, Black Bishop, Black-winged Bishop, Orange Bishop, Yellow-shouldered Widowbird, Grosbeak Weaver, Red-winged Pytilia, Brown Twinspot, Bar-breasted Firefinch, African Firefinch, Red-cheeked Cordonblue, Black-crowned Waxbill, Bronze Mannikin, Pin-tailed Whydah, Yellow-fronted Canary.
BUDONGO FOREST RESERVE
Accommodation: Nyabyeya Guest House at the Nyabyeya Forest College, only 5 minutes by car to the Royal Mile. The Guest House was basic but okay. The Masindi Hotel is also an option of course.
Budongo Forest lies to the South of Murchison Falls National Park, between the town of Masindi and Lake Albert. The lush tropical forests of Central Africa are known as the "Central Refugium". Not only do they offer a unique and fast disappearing habitat that is home to many endemic birds, but also they are also home to an exceptional range of primates. Whilst only 435 square kilometres in extent, and small by Amazonian standards, Budongo is nonetheless one of the largest and most beautiful forests in Uganda.
The birds in Budongo FR and at Kibale NP are virtually the same but this is definitely the better site to see the specialities.
We visited the Busingiro Forest (including a small lake, where we did see Shining-blue Kingfisher and Sabine’s & Cassin’s Spinetail) and the Royal Mile. Budongo Forest is also famous for its Chimpanzees, although they can be hard to see.
Hadada Ibis, African Goshawk, Black Goshawk (Great Sparrowhawk), African Hawk-Eagle, Cassin’s Hawk-Eagle, Crowned Hawk-Eagle, White-spotted Flufftail, Afeb Pigeon, Blue-spotted Wood-Dove, Tambourine Dove, African Green-Pigeon, Red-headed Lovebird, Meyer’s (Brown) Parrot, Great Blue Turaco, Black-billed Turaco, Eastern Grey Plantain-eater, Red-chested Cuckoo, Black Cuckoo, Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, Klaas’ Cuckoo, Yellowbill, Senegal Coucal, Spotted Eagle-Owl, Sabine’s Spinetail, Cassin’s Spinetail, African Palm-Swift, Little Swift, White-rumped Swift, Speckled Mousebird, Narina Trogon, Shining-blue Kingfisher, Dwarf Kingfisher, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Blue-throated Roller, Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill, White-thighed Hornbill, Speckled Tinkerbird, Yellow-throated Tinkerbird, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Yellow-billed Barbet, Bearded Woodpecker, Golden-crowned (Yellow-crested) Woodpecker, Wire-tailed Swallow, Lesser Striped-Swallow, White-headed Sawwing, African Pied Wagtail, Red-shouldered Cuckoo-Shrike, Common Bulbul, Little Greenbul, Grey Greenbul, Plain (Cameroon Sombre) Greenbul, Slender-billed Greenbul, Yellow-whiskered Bulbul, Honeyguide Greenbul, Spotted Greenbul, White-throated Greenbul, Common Bristlebill, Yellow-spotted (Eastern) Nicator, Red-tailed Greenbul, Red-tailed Ant-Thrush, Fire-crested Alethe, Whistling Cisticola, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Black-throated Apalis, Buff-throated Apalis, Grey Apalis, Green-backed Camaroptera, Yellow-browed Camaroptera, Rufous-crowned Eremomela, Green Crombec, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Yellow Longbill, Grey Longbill, Green Hylia, Northern Black-Flycatcher, Sooty Flycatcher, Grey-throated Tit-Flycatcher, Forest Robin, Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat, Black-and-white Shrike-Flycatcher, Chestnut Wattle-eye, Jameson’s Wattle-eye, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Black-headed Paradise-Flycatcher, Puvel’s Illadopsis, White-winged Black-Tit, Little Green Sunbird, Green Sunbird, Collared Sunbird, Green-headed Sunbird, Blue-throated Brown Sunbird, Olive-bellied Sunbird, Western Black-headed Oriole, Tropical Boubou, Splendid Glossy-Starling, Purple-headed Glossy-Starling, Black-necked Weaver, Vieillot’s Weaver, Yellow-mantled Weaver, Crested Malimbe, Grey-headed Negrofinch, Red-headed Bluebill, Red-billed Firefinch
KIBALE NATIONAL PARK/BIGODI WETLAND SANCTUARY
Accommodation: Kahangi Estate, P.O. Box 282, Fort Portal (very good and is – now - noted for the excellence of its food) or Ruwenzori Guest House at Fort Portal.
The birding at Kibale NP was disappointing, although our search for the Chimpanzees was very successful.
The ranger who accompanied us told us he had seen African Pitta this week, when he was with a few tourists searching for the Chimpanzees. The tourists were not interested in the birds. Of course we searched in vain for the Pitta, although we eventually did see White-naped Pigeon. Our visit to the Bigodi WS was good, where we had good looks at White-collared Oliveback.
Hadada Ibis, Lanner Falcon, Crested Guineafowl, White-naped Pigeon, Red-eyed Dove, Blue-spotted Wood-Dove, Tambourine Dove, African Green-Pigeon, Grey Parrot, Great Blue Turaco, Black-billed Turaco, Eastern Grey Plantain-eater, African Emerald Cuckoo, Yellowbill, White-browed Coucal, Speckled Mousebird, Narina Trogon, Woodland Kingfisher, Grey-throated Barbet, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Double-toothed Barbet, Willcock’s Honeyguide, Green-backed Woodpecker, Brown-eared Woodpecker, Cardinal Woodpecker, African Pied Wagtail, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Common Bulbul, Little Greenbul, Slender-billed Greenbul, Common Bristlebill, Red-tailed Ant-Thrush, White-tailed Ant-Thrush, African Thrush, Red-faced Cisticola, Tawny-flanked Prinia, White-chinned Prinia, Buff-throated Apalis, Grey-capped Warbler, Green-backed Camaroptera, White-winged Scrub-Warbler, Green Hylia, Swamp Flycatcher, Dusky-blue Flycatcher, Grey (Lead-coloured) Tit-Flycatcher, Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat, Black-and-white Shrike-Flycatcher, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, African Blue-Flycatcher, Black-headed Paradise-Flycatcher, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Green-headed Sunbird, Blue-throated Brown Sunbird, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Bronze Sunbird, Olive-bellied Sunbird, African Yellow White-eye, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Papyrus Gonolek, Grey-green (Bocage’s) Bushshrike, Black-necked Weaver, Vieillot’s Weaver, Red-headed Malimbe, Black Bishop, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Grosbeak Weaver, White-breasted Negrofinch, Grey-headed Negrofinch, White-collared Oliveback, Red-headed Bluebill, Black-crowned Waxbill, Pin-tailed Whydah, African Citril.
QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK
Accommodation: Mweya Safari Lodge in the park. VERY luxurious and the best lodge I have ever visited.
This is Uganda’s most popular and accessible game reserve. The park contains about 2000 km2 of tremendous scenic variety, including crater lakes, grassy plains, rivers, swamps, lakes and tropical forest. The snow-capped Ruwenzori Mountains lie to the north and are not part of the park itself. Queen Elizabeth National Park has a bird list of more than 600 species the highest for any protected area in Africa, although most of the birds are widespread East African species.
We only explored the open savannah here, seeing many animals (Lion, Leopard, Giant Forest Hog, Spotted Hyena, Python) and had good views of Harlequin Quail, Blue Quail, Small (Common) Buttonquail, African Crake, but no Hottentot Buttonquail, my only potential tick.
Great White Pelican, Pink-backed Pelican, Great Cormorant, Grey Heron, Black-headed Heron, Goliath Heron, Purple Heron, Great Egret, Intermediate Egret, Little Egret, Little Bittern, Hamerkop, African Openbill, Saddle-billed Stork, Marabou Stork, Hadada Ibis, African Spoonbill, Egyptian Goose, Black-shouldered Kite, African Fish-Eagle, Palm-nut Vulture, Hooded Vulture, White-backed Vulture, Brown Snake-Eagle, Bateleur, Gabar Goshawk, Augur Buzzard, Tawny Eagle, Long-crested Eagle, Red-necked Francolin, Harlequin Quail, Blue Quail, Helmeted Guineafowl, Small (Common) Buttonquail, African Crake, Black Crake, Black-bellied Bustard, African Jacana, Water Thick-knee, Spur-winged Plover, Senegal Lapwing, Crowned Lapwing, Wattled Lapwing, Kittlitz’s Plover, Three-banded Plover, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Grey-headed Gull, African Mourning Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Ring-necked Dove, Laughing Dove, Blue-spotted Wood-Dove, Tambourine Dove, African Green-Pigeon, Eastern Grey Plantain-eater, Klaas’ Cuckoo, Dideric Cuckoo, Black Coucal, White-browed Coucal, Swamp Nightjar, Slender-tailed Nightjar, Square-tailed Nightjar, African Palm-Swift, Little Swift, White-rumped Swift, Speckled Mousebird, Blue-naped Mousebird, Malachite Kingfisher, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Little Bee-eater, Madagascar Bee-eater, Broad-billed Roller, Eurasian Hoopoe, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Spot-flanked Barbet, Rufous-naped Lark, Flappet Lark, Plain Martin, Rock Martin, Angola Swallow, Wire-tailed Swallow, Lesser Striped-Swallow, Rufous-chested Swallow, White-headed Sawwing, African Pied Wagtail, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Plain-backed Pipit, African (Grassland) Pipit, Common Bulbul, African Thrush, Trilling Cisticola, Winding Cisticola, Croaking Cisticola, Siffling Cisticola, Zitting Cisticola, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Grey-capped Warbler, White-winged Scrub-Warbler, Lesser Swamp-Warbler, Buff-bellied Warbler, Red-faced Crombec, Northern Black-Flycatcher, Swamp Flycatcher, White-browed Robin-Chat, Sooty Chat, Black-headed Batis, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Black-lored Babbler, Red-chested Sunbird, African Yellow White-eye, Grey-backed Fiscal, Common Fiscal, Black-crowned Tchagra, Tropical Boubou, Black-headed Gonolek, Papyrus Gonolek, Fork-tailed Drongo, Pied Crow, Wattled Starling, Greater Blue-eared Glossy-Starling, Rueppell’s Glossy-Starling, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Grey-headed Sparrow, Village Weaver, Vieillot's Weaver, Slender-billed Weaver, Golden-backed Weaver, Red-billed Quelea, Red Bishop, African Firefinch, Common Waxbill, Black-crowned Waxbill, Bronze Mannikin, Pin-tailed Whydah, Yellow-fronted Canary, Brimstone Canary, Golden-breasted Bunting.
BWINDI IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK
Accommodation: the community bandas at Buhoma.
Bwindi is believed to hold the richest faunal community in East Africa, including over 214 species of forest birds (336 species in total). Highly diverse, this park supports 24 of 26 Albertine Rift endemics that occur in Uganda
The park covers 330 km2 in the south-west of the country, very close to the Congo border. It encompasses one of the last remaining habitats of the Mountain Gorilla, and is home to half of the surviving Mountain Gorillas in the world - an estimated 320 individuals. Because of the unrest in Rwanda and Eastern Congo, Bwindi has become the main place in East Africa to see the gorillas. Three of the family groups living close to the park headquarters at Buhoma have now been successfully habituated to allow human approach. Each day, 15 visitors - split into three parties - are allowed access to these gorillas for up to an hour's viewing often in exceptionally dense cover. You should be warned, however, that it can take up to 6 hours of tracking in the most arduous of terrain in order to find the gorillas, and such conditions are only likely to be tolerated by the fit, adventurous and, above all, masochistic people!
At the end of the day you will certainly appreciate why this forest has earned its name. Not only will you be moving, off-trail, through dense forest all day, you will be continually moving up and down on the steep, humus-covered slopes of very rugged hills. Intense humidity and regular heavy rainfall add to the challenge!
Willemien and Riet were exhausted when we finally returned at the park’s headquarters, while Eric, Vital and I just back from a trekking in the Himalayas, were not tired at all. Do not underestimate the challenge of gorilla-tracking in this ultimate of gorilla territories.
We were fortunate in having Alfred Twinomujuni (E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org), without a doubt Uganda’s best bird guide with us here. He had to come from Kampala in a hurry from a Birdquest trip.
The two main areas to visit are:
1. BUHOMA (1550m):
The park headquarters are at Buhoma, on the northern edge of the park, and it's here that gorilla visits start and where you'll find the park's only accommodation.
The most interesting species here are:
Handsome Francolin, Rufous-chested Flufftail, (Western) Bronze-naped Pigeon, Red-chested Owlet, Willcock’s Honeyguide, Toro Olive-Greenbul, Red-throated Alethe, Grauer’s Warbler, Neumann’s (Short-tailed) Warbler, Chapin’s Flycatcher, Equatorial Akalat, White-bellied Robin-Chat, Pale-breasted Illadopsis, Grey-headed & Blue-headed Sunbird.
2. RUHIZHA (2300m):
The Ruhizha highland forest has a different nature and avifauna and it is also the site with most of the Albertine endemics.
The star attractions here are Collared Apalis, African (Ruwenzori) Hill Babbler, Grauer’s Warbler, Shelley’s Crimsonwing, Dusky Crimsonwing, Archer’s Robin-Chat, Regal Sunbird, Blue-headed Sunbird, Dwarf Honeyguide and many others.
The trail to Mubwindi Swamp is the best for some of the most difficult to find of all rift-endemics including Grauer’s (African Green) Broadbill. Mubwindi Swamp holds Grauer’s Scrub-Warbler and Carruthers' Cisticola.
Fraser’s Eagle-Owl and Ruwenzori Double-collared Sunbird were seen here the week before we were there, but are very difficult.
Birds seen at Bwindi Impenetrable NP:
Woolly-necked Stork, Mountain Buzzard, Augur Buzzard, Ayres’ Hawk-Eagle, Long-crested Eagle, Handsome Francolin, Rameron (Olive) Pigeon, (Western) Bronze-naped Pigeon, Dusky Turtle-Dove, Great Blue Turaco, Black-billed Turaco, Levaillant’s Cuckoo, Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, African Wood-Owl, Red-chested Owlet, Speckled Mousebird, Bar-tailed Trogon, Black Bee-eater, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, White-headed Woodhoopoe, Crowned Hornbill, Grey-throated Barbet, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Willcock’s Honeyguide, Dwarf Honeyguide, Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Elliot’s Woodpecker, African Broadbill, Grauer’s (African Green) Broadbill, Angola Swallow, White-headed Sawwing, Black Sawwing, Cape Wagtail, Grey Cuckoo-Shrike, Petit’s Cuckoo-Shrike, Common Bulbul, Shelley’s Greenbul, Little Greenbul, Plain (Cameroon Sombre) Greenbul, Slender-billed Greenbul, Yellow-whiskered Bulbul, Eastern Mountain-Greenbul, Honeyguide Greenbul, Yellow-throated Greenbul, Toro Olive-Greenbul, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Red-tailed Greenbul, White-tailed Ant-Thrush, Olive Thrush, Red-throated Alethe, Chubb’s Cisticola, Tawny-flanked Prinia, White-chinned Prinia, Banded Prinia, Ruwenzori (Collared) Apalis, Black-faced (Mountain Masked) Apalis, Buff-throated Apalis, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Grey Apalis, Green-backed Camaroptera, Olive-green Camaroptera, Grauer’s Scrub-Warbler, Cinnamon Bracken-Warbler, Black-faced Rufous Warbler, Mountain Yellow Warbler, Grauer’s Warbler, White-browed Crombec, Neumann’s (Short-tailed) Warbler, Red-faced Woodland-Warbler, White-eyed Slaty-Flycatcher, Chapin’s Flycatcher, African Dusky Flycatcher, Cassin’s Flycatcher, Grey (Lead-coloured) Tit-Flycatcher, White-starred Robin, Equatorial Akalat, White-bellied Robin-Chat, Archer’s Robin-Chat, Black-and-white Shrike-Flycatcher, Ruwenzori Batis, African Blue-Flycatcher, White-bellied Crested-Flycatcher, White-tailed Crested-Flycatcher, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Pale-breasted Illadopsis, Mountain Illadopsis, African (Ruwenzori) Hill-Babbler, Grey-chested Illadopsis, Dusky Tit, Stripe-breasted Tit, Grey-headed Sunbird, Green Sunbird, Collared Sunbird, Blue-headed Sunbird, Blue-throated Brown Sunbird, Western Olive-Sunbird, Green-throated Sunbird, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Olive-bellied Sunbird, Northern Double-collared Sunbird, Regal Sunbird, Variable Sunbird, African Yellow White-eye, Black-tailed (Montane) Oriole, Mackinnon's Shrike, Pink-footed Puffback, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Luehder’s Bushshrike, Tropical Boubou, Sooty Boubou, Mountain Sooty Boubou, Grey-green (Bocage’s) Bushshrike, Many-coloured Bushshrike, Slender-billed Starling, Waller’s Starling, Stuhlmann’s Starling, Black-necked Weaver, Vieillot’s Weaver, Brown-capped Weaver, Grey-headed Negrofinch, Yellow-bellied Waxbill, Magpie Mannikin, Streaky Seedeater.
En route from Mbarara – Masaka, 5 km west of Mbirzi, it is worthwhile to make a stop at this swamp, where you can find many waterbirds and where we saw our only Papyrus Canary of the trip.
Birds seen in both areas:
Goliath Heron, Purple Heron, Squacco Heron, Rufous-bellied Heron, African Openbill, Woolly-necked Stork, Saddle-billed Stork, White-faced Whistling-Duck, Spur-winged Goose, Yellow-billed Duck, Black-shouldered Kite, African Fish-Eagle, African Marsh-Harrier, Long-crested Eagle, Grey-crowned Crane, Black Crake, Purple Swamphen, Common Moorhen, African Jacana, Blue-spotted Wood-Dove, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Dideric Cuckoo, Blue-headed Coucal, Speckled Mousebird, Malachite Kingfisher, Woodland Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Angola Swallow, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Greater Swamp-Warbler, Brown-backed Scrub-Robin, Variable Sunbird, Papyrus Gonolek, Black-headed Weaver, Fan-tailed Widowbird, African Firefinch, Fawn-breasted Waxbill, Black-crowned Waxbill, Bronze Mannikin, Papyrus Canary, Yellow-fronted Canary.
Accommodation: Victoria Inn at Entebbe or a hotel in Kampala.
This large and accessible wetland on the shores of Lake Victoria is only 45 minutes from the hustle and bustle of central Kampala and a reliable site to find the Shoebill. We took a boat into the papyrus swamp and had good views of two birds.
We also made a few stops on the way to the swamp.
Birds seen/heard at the swamp and in the vicinity of the swamp:
Long-tailed Cormorant, Darter, Black-headed Heron, Squacco Heron, Cattle Egret, Hamerkop, African Openbill, Marabou Stork, Shoebill, Hadada Ibis, White-faced Whistling-Duck, African Pygmy-Goose, Yellow-billed Duck, African Fish-Eagle, Palm-nut Vulture, African Marsh-Harrier, Lizard Buzzard, Martial Eagle, Long-crested Eagle, Black Crake, Purple Swamphen, Common Moorhen, African Jacana, Gull-billed Tern, Long-toed Lapwing, African Mourning Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Ring-necked Dove, Great Blue Turaco, Eastern Grey Plantain-eater, Dideric Cuckoo, Yellowbill, Blue-headed Coucal, White-rumped Swift, Speckled Mousebird, Malachite Kingfisher, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Little Bee-eater, White-throated Bee-eater, Broad-billed Roller, Crowned Hornbill, African Pied Hornbill, Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Spot-flanked Barbet, Wire-tailed Swallow, Lesser Striped-Swallow, Mosque Swallow, Golden-crowned (Yellow-crested) Woodpecker, African Pied Wagtail, Common Bulbul, African Thrush, Carruthers' Cisticola, Tawny-flanked Prinia, White-winged Scrub-Warbler, Swamp Flycatcher, Grey (Lead-coloured) Tit-Flycatcher, Sooty Chat, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, African Blue-Flycatcher, White-winged Black-Tit, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, African Yellow White-eye, Tropical Boubou, Papyrus Gonolek, Pied Crow, Grey-headed Sparrow, Baglafecht Weaver, Village Weaver, Slender-billed Weaver, Golden-backed Weaver, Grey-headed Negrofinch, African Firefinch, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Bronze Mannikin, Pin-tailed Whydah
Tuesday/Wednesday 16/17th July
Our trip started with a Kenya Airways flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi. An hour flight from Nairobi took us to Entebbe airport at 7.45 a.m. local time (one hour time difference with the Netherlands). The new airport at Entebbe - rebuilt since the Israeli raid on the hijacked airliner - was small, quiet, and idyllically situated on the shores of Lake Victoria.
From the airport we drove straight to the Victoria Inn Hotel and here we met Hassan Mutebi, the organiser of our trip.
Hereafter we headed to Mabamba Swamp where we had a first flavouring of Ugandan birds. We spent the whole afternoon in that area and made a boat trip into the swamp.
The main prize sought here was a sighting of the bizarre Shoebill. Unfortunately, we came across the first one too suddenly and, as surprised to see us as we were to see it, the bird flushed immediately. We were left with a snapshot image of this huge creature as it lifted on heavy wings and disappeared deep into the swamp. However the second Shoebill was seen quite well standing only 20 metres from us in the papyrus. In the dense stand of papyrus we also had superb close-up views of the secretive White-winged Scrub-Warbler, Carruthers' Cisticola, but only heard the noisy Papyrus Gonolek.
The woodland surrounding the swamp harboured Martial Eagle, Eastern Grey Plantain-Eater, Grey Tit-Flycatcher, the enormous Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill and Grey-headed Negrofinch. We spent the night at the Victoria Inn in Entebbe.
Thursday 18th July
The next morning we set off on a travel day to Masindi with some birding opportunities en route. Our large bus gave us ample room and the wide windows ensured that we fully enjoyed the views of the lakes and the secondary rain forest.
Showy Great Blue Turacos, and brightly coloured, breeding plumaged Golden-backed Weavers and Black Bishops, Marsh Widowbird, Black Goshawk and Lizard Buzzard all showed well.
We had lunch at the Masindi Hotel and hereafter we headed to the small village of Nyabyeya and put our luggage at the guesthouse only a few kilometres from the Budongo Forest.
The afternoon we spent at Busingiro in Budongo Forest Reserve. Vincent, born in a near-bye village, proved to be a very good birder and knew every squeak and whistle in this forest. New birds cane thick and fast. Chocolate-backed Kingfisher was seen in my brand-new telescope, as well as an Afeb Pigeon while walking on the middle of the road. With the tape we lured in the secretive White-spotted Flufftail, a bird I had only seen once before at the Ngaoundaba Ranch in Cameroon.
A wealth of other species quickly expanded our list and most noteworthy of these birds were Black-billed Turaco, White-thighed Hornbill, Spotted Greenbul, Red-tailed Ant-Thrush, Rufous-crowned Eremomela, Green Hylia, Sooty Flycatcher and Little Green Sunbird.
We then spent quite a while along a forest pool and above our heads Cassin's & Sabine Spinetails fluttered like strange bats over the pool that was also home to a few Blue-throated Rollers and a pair of the beautiful Shining-blue Kingfishers.
While having dinner at the guesthouse a night-time bonus was a splendid Spotted Eagle-Owl on the roof of a near-bye building!
Friday 19th July
Dawn next morning found us at the Royal Mile, a wide pathway through level forests where the canopy towered far overhead. Canopy flocks supported Rufous-crowned Eremomela, the elusive Lemon-bellied Crombec, Grey Longbill and Yellow-mantled Weaver, while in the dark undergrowth we saw fleeting glimpses of the Forest Robin.
Easier to find were the diminutive Dwarf Kingfisher, Yellow-browed Camaroptera, Green Crombec and Yellow Longbill.
It also was our chance to get to grips with a confusing array of Greenbuls and Vincent was a great help in identifying these troublesome species, amongst them Little Greenbul, Slender-billed Greenbul, White-throated Greenbul and Plain Greenbul. Every now and then we heard explosive hoots and screams from Chimpanzees shattering the peace of the forest. We also had good views of more colourful species like Black-headed Paradise-Flycatcher, Crested Malimbe and Red-headed Bluebill.
A great disappointment to us was that we were not able to find Nahan’s Francolin, a speciality of Budongo.
When it was almost dark we left the Royal Mile and drove to the Masindi Hotel, where an ample supply of Nile Special Beer and many small, but very nasty flies were waiting for us.
Saturday 20th July
En route to Murchison Falls we made a stop at the forest of Kaniyo Pabidi, where it took us more than one hour before we had good looks at Puvel’s Illadopsis, a bird I had dipped in Cameroon a few years back. In the dark forest we also noted Honeyguide Greenbul, Fire-crested Alethe, Yellow Longbill and Red-chested Cuckoo.
We then headed to the national park and checked in at the comfortable Sambiya River Lodge, where only a few tourists stayed.
In the afternoon we drove to the top of the falls, a wonderful area for photography. As well as being a dramatic place in their own right, the falls also held a range of good birds including many White-headed Sawwings and Rock Pratincoles.
We made a stroll in this area and amongst the birds seen were Red-throated Bee-eater, Red-shouldered Cuckoo-Shrike, Western Violet-backed Sunbird, Black-headed Gonolek, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver, Brown Twinspot, Bar-breasted Firefinch, Red-winged Pytilia and Red-winged Grey Warbler.
The sheer cliff face above the falls is home to thousands of bats and as dusk fell it was quite a spectacle when the bats emerged en masse from their daytime darkness and Grey Kestrels, Wahlberg's Eagles and Bat Hawks had easy pickings. There were so many bats that it would have been difficult not to catch one. The whole spectacle, with the backdrop of a setting sun, was quite memorable. On our way back to the lodge both Long-tailed and marvellous Pennant-winged Nightjars appeared and we also had a huge Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl in the headlights of our car.
Sunday 21st July
After a comfortable night at the lodge next morning found us at 6.45 at the ferry, where we made the crossing to the north side of the park. In the company of an armed ranger-guide, who obviously knew a lot about the birds in the park, we spent all morning north of the White Nile.
The grasslands and riverine thickets supported many species amongst them White-headed Vulture, Small Buttonquail, Stanley’s Bustard, Temminck’s Courser, Blue-naped Mousebird, Northern Carmine-Bee-eater, Flappet Lark, Croaking Cisticola, Buff-bellied Warbler, Spotted Morning-Thrush, Piapiac and Black-winged and Northern Red Bishops all in fine breeding plumage. Best of all for the ranger was the sighting of two White-browed Sparrow-Weavers, a species he had never seen before at Murchison Falls.
In addition to the birding, which was good, Murchison Falls was also great for game-viewing. This was 'classic' Africa with large concentrations of game, Elephants, several large herds of Buffalos, Rothschilds Giraffes, a dozing pride of Lions, Waterbucks, Warthogs and ever alert Oribis and Kobs.
We had lunch along the White Nile and then made a boat trip down-stream to the delta and within 15 minutes we found our first Shoebill here. Hundreds of Hippos and many enormous Nile Crocodiles as well as many Pied Kingfishers and beautiful Red-throated Bee-eaters lined the banks.
Other birds we noted were Goliath Heron, Little Bittern, two more Shoebills, Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Osprey, Red-necked Falcon, Senegal Tick-knee, Blue-breasted Bee-eater and Grosbeak Weaver to name but a few.
Hereafter we drove back to the lodge and en route we added Heuglin’s Francolin to our list.
Monday 22nd July
Today was largely a travelling day as we set out to drive to Fort Portal. We made a short stop at the dramatic Butiaba escarpment, overlooking Lake Albert, where we had good views of Scaly Francolin, Foxy Cisticola, Brubru and Black-rumped Waxbill. The rest of the journey was straightforward on the fairly good dirt road all the way to Fort Portal, only the last 50 km was tarmac. In the late afternoon we arrived at the Kahangi Estate, our base for the next two nights, and a wonderful place to stay.
We made a walk on the estate and saw amongst others Mackinnon's Shrike, Chestnut-winged Starling and Scarlet-chested Sunbird, but the Papyrus birds we only heard. Fiona and Haifa, the two female servants at the estate, had made a wonderful dinner for us and we had a very pleasant evening sitting next to a log fire.
Tuesday 23rd July
The following day involved an early start as we visited the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary in extensive, mid-montane Kibale National Park. We did the guided walk in this papyrus and swamp forest. Amongst the highlights seen here were Willcock’s Honeyguide, Brown-eared Woodpecker, Red-headed Malimbe, White-breasted Negrofinch and White-collared Oliveback.
In the afternoon we did the Chimpanzee trek in Kibale Forest and we found no less than ten and had a particularly close encounter with this primate!
Our stroll in the forest proved once again that birding in African rainforest can be the most frustrating branch of the hobby.
The bird walk was very disappointing although we did see Crested Guineafowl, Narina Trogon, Red-tailed Ant-Thrush, White-tailed Ant-Thrush and, at the very last moment had a poor flight view of White-naped Pigeon.
With a spectacular thunderstorm and torrential downpour we headed back to the estate complete with hot fire, cold drinks and BBC World News and where Fiona and Haifa had made an excellent dinner.
Wednesday 24th July
Not having completely achieved our objectives at Kibale NP we set off for the famous Queen Elizabeth NP. En route to this reserve we made a few roadside stops and noted amongst others Lilac-breasted Roller and Black-lored Babbler.
At mid-morning we arrived at “QE” ", as it is affectionately known, and at our luxurious lodge overlooking the Kazinga Channel we shared our lunch with tame Swamp Flycatchers, Slender-billed and Golden-backed Weavers and enjoyed a swimming pool.
An afternoon boat trip on the Kazinga Channel, the narrow neck of water that connects Lakes George and Edward, was relaxing and offered excellent photographic opportunities for waterside birds and abundant Hippopotamus. Amongst the birds seen were Striated Heron, African Spoonbill, Water Thick-knee, Three-banded Plover, Lesser Swamp-Warbler and Yellow-billed Oxpecker.
In the late afternoon we made a drive in this typically East African reserve and saw a few Giant Forest Hogs - so shy and elusive elsewhere in East Africa – and a host of common savannah birds, amongst them Golden-breasted Bunting.
As dusk fell Slender-tailed & Swamp Nightjars emerged in the lights of the lodge.
Thursday 25th July
The wild yelp of the fish eagle was our daily alarm clock. From the luxury of the Mweya Safari Lodge we ventured out into the bush and Queen Elizabeth NP was simply bursting with wildlife. We made scenic drives around the extinct volcanoes and searched the scrub and lakeshore for the many birds and mammals that live here. Indeed, the recovery made by its animal population since its wholesale slaughter at the hands of the invading Tanzanian army in 1979 was remarkable.
Lions, Spotted Hyena’s, Elephants, Bushbucks, Defassa Waterbucks, Kobs and a host of other animals were seen.
The open savannahs of Queen Elizabeth National Park were lush and green and Black Coucal and African Crake were all easy to see. We even flushed Harlequin Quail, Blue Quail and Small Buttonquail, although we failed to find Hottentot Buttonquail. Other birds seen included Saddle-billed Stork, Senegal Lapwing, Red-necked Francolin, lots of Plain-backed Pipits, Rufous-naped Lark, several Cisticola species, Black-headed Gonolek and Streaky Seedeater.
Particularly thrilling was our encounter with a 4 metre long Python with a large prey in its belly.
Friday 26th July
When leaving “QE” we had excellent views of a hunting Leopard. Just outside the park we made a stop at the river with the papyrus stands. Here we had finally for the first time good views of the skulking Papyrus Gonolek and I also had good views of the even more skulking White-winged Scrub-Warbler.
We spent all day travelling to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The dirt road from Kabale to Buhoma was at some places very bad, but the drive proved less of an ordeal than we thought it would be. We climbed up out of the heat and made a few stops in the mountains and had good views of Bar-tailed Trogon, Cape Wagtail, Chubb’s Cisticola and Cassin’s Flycatcher. After a long and tiring drive we arrived at Buhoma and put our luggage in the bandas.
We then made a short stroll with Alfred in the valley of the Munyaga River and amongst the birds seen were Black Bee-eater, Petit’s Cuckoo-Shrike, Yellow-throated Greenbul, White-chinned Prinia, White-eyed Slaty-Flycatcher, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Pink-footed Puffback, Luehder’s Bushshrike and Magpie Mannikin.
Saturday 27th July
We spent all day with Alfred, our talented local guide and four armed guards in Bwindi Impenetrable NP searching for the Albertine Rift endemics.
Amongst the endemics we did see were Handsome Francolin, Toro Olive-Greenbul, Red-throated Alethe, Black-faced Apalis, Grauer’s Warbler, Red-faced Woodland-Warbler, Dusky Tit, Neumann’s Warbler (ran rings around us, but we had good views), Chapin’s Flycatcher, Ruwenzori Batis and Blue-headed Sunbird.
Other goodies included (Western) Bronze-naped Pigeon, Red-chested Owlet, Elliot’s Woodpecker, Equatorial Akalat, White-bellied Robin-Chat, a ridiculously confiding Pale-breasted Illadopsis, Dusky Tit and African Broadbill that whirled and twirled upon its perch.
Like all rain forest inhabitants mammals are difficult to see, but we managed to find L'Hoest Monkey and Ruwenzori & Yellow-backed Duiker.
In the late afternoon when we searched for the elusive Kivu Ground-Thrush, it started raining with a vengeance which made birding virtually impossible. The rain drove us back into he cover of our camp, but not before we had a close encounter with a Green Mamba, one of Africa’s most poisonous snakes.
Sunday 28th July
The next morning offered clear skies and this was a day we would never forget, especially the women. In the company of more then 10 people the five us started the gorilla tracking. After one hour we moved off-trail and it took us more than five hours before we found the group of 9 Mountain Gorillas. Willemien and Riet were exhausted, not used to continually moving up and down on the steep, humus-covered slopes of very rugged hills and the intense humidity. We spent an hour with these immense but placid creatures and it was an experience never to be forgotten, especially when the "silverback " came out of the bushes, only three metres from us.
The way back to the camp was a nightmare for the women, but eventually we arrived at Buhoma at 18.00 p.m.
After a shower and a glass of cold white wine the women were glad that they had made the trip. However when I told them that our trekking in the Himalayas in April was much more difficult and that I was not tired at all, they were very angry and they still have not forgiven me.
Monday 29th July
We were not allowed to leave Buhoma before 7.00 a.m., so we arrived rather late at Ruhizha, some 800 m higher than Buhoma. The Ruhizha forest had a dramatically different nature and avifauna and it was also the site with most of the Albertine endemics and ….. we did not have much time.
The main reason for coming here was to trek down to the Mubwindi Swamp. Walking down we saw amongst others Dwarf Honeyguide, Stripe-breasted Tit, Ruwenzori Apalis and African Hill Babbler, the last one sometimes treated as a separate species, Ruwenzori Hill Babbler.
At the swamp itself we found the rare and localised Grauer's Scrub-Warbler. The species surrendered itself immediately and we were treated to some great views as the birds flipped from clump to clump. Other Albertine Rift endemics we saw in this area were the beautiful Regal Sunbird and Archer's Robin-Chat.
We were in prime habitat for the rarely seen Grauer’s Broadbill and when I was almost convinced we would dip the species, Alfred heard their high-pitched “see see see” call. and we had excellent views of a group of 6 birds amongst the similarly coloured leaves.
In the late afternoon we left Ruhizha and headed to Kabale en route searching in vain for Dusky Crimsonwing and Doherty’s Bushshrike. The luxurious White Horse Inn was a welcome change to the Buhoma bandas.
Tuesday 30th July
The final day of the trip began with the discovery of large colonies of Straw-coloured Fruit-Bats Bats in the trees around our hotel. Even the drive back to Entebbe added some new birds. The route took us via Kaaku Swamp, where we had superb views of the very difficult to see Papyrus Canary. The swamp was alive with waterbirds such as Rufous-bellied Heron, Saddle-billed Stork, Spur-winged Goose, Grey-crowned Crane and Papyrus Gonolek
In the late afternoon we arrived at Entebbe and again spent the night at the Victoria Inn.
Wednesday 31st July
The following day we flew back to Nairobi and then to Amsterdam. At 5.00 p.m. we arrived at Schiphol airport and three hours later my father was waiting for me and Willemien at Breda railway station.
The final total for the two weeks trip was 453 species of birds. I finished the trip with 61 lifers, mostly of birds found elsewhere only in Congo and Rwanda. In addition to all these birds 35 species of mammal were identified on the trip.
My ten best birds of the trip? Shoebill, Pennant-winged Nightjar, Shining-blue Kingfisher, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, Dwarf Honeyguide, Grauer’s (African Green) Broadbill, Red-throated Alethe, Neumann’s (Short-tailed) Warbler, Papyrus Gonolek and Papyrus Canary, as always lifers all of course.
Chaam, 31 August 2002,
If you need any help or further information, contact me at the following address and I'll try and help if I can!
Jan Vermeulen, Bredaseweg 14, 4861 AH Chaam, The Netherlands, telephone 0161 – 491327
Birds and Mammals