MIKE AND MARGARET IN UGANDAPosted on the 16th July 2014
Mike and Margaret visit Uganda 26th June – 7th July
We broke with tradition having an overnight stop in Joburg and our journey from Cape Town to Entebbe was straight through with just a flight change in Joburg. We arrived at our Guest House, The Boma around 8.30pm. Simply decorated and clean and just 7 minutes from the airport. A nice shower and bed.
Day 1 – 26th June
The Boma has lovely gardens and attracts many birds. Great Eastern Plantain Eater, Scarlet-chested and Northern Double-collared Sunbirds, White-browed Robin-Chat and Common Bulbul – first lifer!!
After breakfast and a meeting with the tour operator on our intinerary, we set off for Masindi, ably driven and guided by Steffie in our Land Cruiser 4x4. Negotiating Kampala is a traffic nightmare and we lost a lot of time despite using short-cuts. Taxis, bikes and motor-bikes swarm the streets. I thought Bangkok was bad!!!!!!
Once away from there it was less hectic and we managed some birding en-route to Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. Long-crested Eagle, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Broad-billed Roller (so many we lost count), Eastern Pale Chanting Goshawk as well as Herons, Swifts, Starlings and Kingfishers.
The Rhino Sanctuary has just 15 animals, 6 donations and 9 born from those donations. We went on a walk to find some and came across Mum and a 3 month old calf with Dad close-by keeping a watchful eye. Nice to get close to these animals – around 15 metres with just a bush or tree between them and you.
After a quick lunch we took a run around the sanctuary as it is known to be a good area for birds. Black-headed Gonolek, Piapiac (like a large Oxpecker), Tawny-flanked Prinia, Sulphur-breasted Bush-Shrike, Village Indigobird, Martial Eagle and Grey Kestrel. Masindi was an overnight stop on our way to Murchison Falls NP. The least said about the Masindi Hotel the better – disgrace sums it up. After The Boma in Entebbe was so nice we were a bit taken aback. Hope the rest of our stops are good.
Day 2 – 27th June
Breakfast was no improvement so it was nice to get on the road again. Diederik’s and Klaas’s Cuckoo, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird and Bronze Mannikins. A short distance from Masindi lies the Budongo Forest, an Eco-centre. The forest boasts some 360 bird species, 9 species of primates and is the largest mahogany forest in Africa and is home to the largest mahogany tree of some 80m high and 20m circumference.
My guide for the morning was Robert as we searched for the ‘specials’ here. Puvel’s Illadopsis is the ‘lifer’ everyone wants here and we were lucky to get it as our second bird. Emerald Cuckoo, Tambourine Dove, Narina Trogon (much softer call than SA’s bird) before we got into the forest specials of White-throated and Honeyguide Greenbul, Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Tinkerbird and Western Black-headed Oriole. I always manage to come up with a bird that a guide has never seen before and to-day was no exception as we got a good view of a Madagascar Lesser Cuckoo, a rare migrant.
This is my first attempt at real ‘forest birding’ and it is hard work when the undergrowth is thick and the trees are tall and photography is a nightmare. Green birds against a green background looking into bright light. Eish!!!!
Still it was really worthwhile and with Yellowbill and Northern Crombec to round off the morning it was most enjoyable, despite the stiff neck!!!!
After coffee we set off for Murchison Falls, still a good distance away. Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Lizard Buzzard, Juvenile European Honey Buzzard (needed Trevor Hardaker’s help on this one as we thought it was Ayre’s or Cassin’s Hawk-Eagle), Yellow-backed Weaver and African Thrush, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater and Lanner Falcon.
We board the ‘ferry’ at 4.00pm for the short crossing of the Nile and spend an hour around the park before heading to Paraa Lodge for 3 nights. Some really good birds here. Plenty of Cisticolas, Northern Red Bishop, McKinnon’s Fiscal Shrike, Tchagras, Red-throated Bee-eater and Chocolate-backed Kingfisher.
|Madagascar Lesser Cuckoo|
Day 3 – 28th June
Paraa Lodge is very nice, perched on a hill commanding views over the National Park. The park is some 3800sq.km. and was ravaged during the reign of Idi Amin and has been recovering ever since. It is home to over 70 species of mammals and 450 bird species. This morning we are going down the river to the Delta, where the Nile joins Lake Albert, so our quarry will be water birds. Plenty of Kingfishers, Egrets, Ibis, Herons, Lapwings. Allen’s Gallinule, Purple Swamphen, Swamp Flycatcher, Foxy Cisticola, Little Bittern and Blue-headed Coucal. The highly sought-after Papyrus Gonolek is seldom seen as it skulks in the papyrus reeds but for most it is only a call. We are lucky enough to see one. Little Weaver, Osprey, Palm-nut Vulture, Whistling Cisticola, African Skimmers and a chance meeting with the impressive Shoebill right at the delta end.
In the afternoon we head towards the delta from the landward side. Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Purple-headed Starling, Silverbird, Black-billed Barbet, Spotted Morning Thrush and Black-headed Batis. A Black-bellied Bustard, Yellow-throated Longclaws, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater and Brown Babbler as we near the camp.
The World Cup is on the TV but I need to look at the days results and see what we are missing for tomorrow.
Day 4 – 29th June
To-day we have a full day in the Park. This park is home to Rothschild’s Giraffe and the ‘Big 4’ as no Rhino here. We see a Magpie Starling early on, outside of its usual area so a bit of a bonus. Venaceous Dove, flocks of Red-headed Quelea, a few Vultures and a White-chinned Prinia. Our afternoon safari takes us via the airstrip. Croaking Cisticola, Northern Carmine Bee-eaters, Black-headed Weavers, Cinnamon-breasted and Little Bee-eaters, Blue-naped Mousebird, Rufous Sparrow, Black-shouldered Kite and to finish off the day a pair of uncommon Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weavers. Some Patas monkeys which are uncommon.
|Great Blue Turaco|
Day 5 – 30th June
We leave Paraa Lodge this morning and take the 7.00am ‘ferry’ across the Nile to head South to Kibale Forest. The short-cut through using the back roads for the first 90 minutes proves to be a good birding area and a morning could be spent around here quite easily. But we have to push on. African Firefinch, Martial Eagle, Flocks of Red-billed Quelea, Striped Kingfisher. It is an all day drive so birding opportunities are few. Still a stop at a bridge to stretch our legs offers us Veillot’s Black Weaver and a Common Quail just before we reach Primates Lodge. Kibale Forest is a ‘Chimp-Tracking’ centre (for those who wish to) but it is home to some real special forest birds. Primate Lodge is eco-friendly and uses mainly solar power.
Day 6 – 1st July
Steffie has lined up Gerald as my guide for the forest. Gerald is the best here. 13 years experience of forest birding. So at 6.20am we set off for the forest, Gerald complete with his sub-machine gun (forest elephants can be naughty) and my Green Laser Pen for pointing out where the birds are.
At 6.30am we are walking in the darkness through the forest, no trails but Gerald knows where he is going - the Green-breasted Pitta area. He says it calls twice at 6.45am, drops from the tree it has roosted in and then feeds with no more calls. We hear the call, he gets a fleeting glimpse and it’s gone. We hunt for 90 minutes, he sees it briefly twice in the undergrowth and then nothing. So it wasn’t to be, ‘heard-only’ for the life-list. It’s call is more like Angola Pitta/African Broadbill, nothing like the call registered on the iPhone App!!!!!
|African Blue Flycatcher|
Disappointment but with Chestnut Wattle-eye, Cameroon Sombre Greenbul, White-breasted Negreta, Brown-eared Woodpecker, Grey-throated Tit-Flycatcher, Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Green Hylia, Yellow-billed Barbet, Speckled Tinkerbird, Grey Apalis and African Shrike-Flycatcher as part of 30 lifers in 90 minutes you really couldn’t be disappointed. To make matters worse the forest elephants blocked our way out and we had to walk a large detour. 5 hours in total. You would be amazed at what birds appear if he calls Red-chested Owlet. They hate the bird!!!!!!
Primates Lodge is only 10 minutes away from Bigodi Swamps. A 2-hour walk around the swamps is a must. Run by the local community and where all the money raised goes to help in funding the schools and hospital. Bernard, trained by Gerald from Kibale will lead me around. It is like a mangrove swamp with palms and pastures for the local cattle. Snowy-capped Robin-Chat, Dusky Blue Flycatcher, Black-crowned Waxbill, Shikra, Great Blue Turaco, a 2m long Green Mamba slithering along a branch, Grey-capped Warbler and Blue-necked Roller. Interesting place and well worth the visit. They have a little shop with gifts/t-shirts as well. Having missed the Green-breasted Pitta today I am cancelling the trip to Semliki Forest which involves more driving and will attempt the Pitta again with Gerald tomorrow.
Day 7 – 2nd July
So it’s back into the forest at 6.30am, pitch black in there again. 6.45am, no call and no bird. Disaster – it was here yesterday and its range for feeding is very small. We try the other known location which is 30 minutes walk away. There are only 4 known birds here in the forest. Bingo – a male and female in the undergrowth and I manage a photograph as well. Gerald was getting stressed as his hit rate is 90% and he had a big group coming and didn’t want to come up empty handed.
We took a stroll out of the forest to the track. White-tailed Ant-thrush, Brown and Scaly-breasted Illadopsis, Black-billed Turaco and Yellow-spotted Barbet. Kibale Forest is a must, so many good birds and with Gerald as a guide you won’t go wrong. This is ultimate forest birding. Today is moving day so we set off for Queen Elizabeth NP but not before going to the shop at Bigodi Swamps to buy a t-shirt with the slogan “Have you seen the Green-breasted Pitta at Kiblae Forest??? I did.”
Queen Elizabeth NP nestles on the eastern shore of Lake Albert which joins Lake George via the Kazinga Channel. We arrived at Mweya Lodge mid-afternoon for our 2 night stay. A nice room overlooking the Kazinga Channel with plenty of gardens to walk. The tree outside our stoep is a busy area. Red-chested Sunbird, White-tailed Blue Flycatcher, African Dusky Flycatcher and White-browed Robin-Chat. I took a walk around the gardens – Black-headed Gonolek, Bronze Mannikins and a pair of Nubian Woodpeckers.
We took a run out around the park during the late afternoon. Red-billed Firefinch, Northern Black Flycatcher, Yellow-fronted Canary, Black-throated Wattle-eye, White-tailed Lark and a beautiful female leopard, looking heavily pregnant. We were the only guests at Mweya to see the leopard. She wasn’t the manager’s best friend as she had eaten his Martial Eagle that he was nursing back to health after breaking its wing. She is a regular visitor to the Lodge gardens along with a family of Banded Mongoose. For the Lepidopterists there are hundreds of butterfly species and 600+ species of birds here.
Day 8 – 3rd July
This morning we will try the southern sector across the main road at Kasenyi. Normally a good lion area but this morning it is lion-free!! White-throated Bee-eater and on the burnt areas – Crowned Plover, Senegal Lapwing, Collared Pratincole, Grey-headed Bush-Shrike and Rufous-naped Lark. Uganda is not known for its Lark population, just 4 species are reasonably common in the main areas with a few in selected habitats.
In the afternoon we take a cruise on the Kazinga Channel. Yellow-billed Stork and African Openbill, Kittlitz's Plover, Comb Duck, Spoonbill, White-headed and Black Saw-wing, Ethiopian Swallow, Double-toothed Barbet, hundreds of Great and Long-tailed Cormorants and Great White Pelicans at the fishing village and a lone Curlew Sandpiper. It is a very enjoyable 90 minute cruise. Margaret takes a couple of hours away from ‘birding’ and Steffie and I try the Queen’s Mile again for some birds. Common Fiscal, our first one, Madagascar Bee-eater, African Pygmy Kingfisher and African Blue Flycatcher.
Day 9 – 4th July
We head off today for the Ishasha Sector of QENP and make a small detour to Marabigambo Forest via the Katunguru Bridge. This bridge is known for Carruther’s Cisticola and Papyrus Gonolek but they are away from home this morning. Marabigambo Forest is exceptionally good for Barbets but we stayed on the forest edge. Whilst checking a Great Eastern Plantain Eater we see Northern Puffback, Black Cuckoo, Red-headed Lovebird and Black-headed Batis. Along the road - Siffling and Trilling Cisticola and Augur Buzzard.
Birding the main road to the Ishasha Sector Gate is not bad. African Crowned Eagle, after much discussion and review of photographs a Long-billed Pipit, again after much discussion of photographs and viewing in a spotting scope Velvet-mantled Drongo. A Namaqua Dove takes us by surprise along with a White Stork. It’s been a long day and when we arrive at Ishasha Sector we find it has been torched under controlled burning. Looks like some 50% is laid black. Not good for animals or birds.
Ishasha Wilderness Camp is truly a wilderness camp. Only solar power, showers by hot water delivered in a 20l container, chemical toilet but it is a great location on the river bank with peace and quiet disturbed only by birds and the Colobus Monkeys. Just 20 people can stay here in 10 luxury tents. Food is wonderful and so are the staff.
Day 10 – 5th July
We head out this morning for the Edward Plains. It is just getting light. Verreaux’s Eagle- Owl (2 of them) perched in dead trees as we leave the camp. On the marshy plains there are 2 African Marsh-Harriers and Three-banded Plovers. A Brown-backed Scrub-Robin on our way back. The camp can be useful for birds too. Crowned Hornbill and Speckle-breasted Woodpecker at our tent plus Green Crombec, White-throated Greenbul and Grey-backed Cameroptera.
Day 11 – 6th July
The morning wake-up call is a Red-Chested Owlet and Colobus Monkeys. The burnt areas are hard work and the morning is very quiet with Banded Martin and Western Banded Snake-Eagle being the only new birds. Marico Sunbird at the tent. A relaxing afternoon to-day.
Day 12 – 7th July
This morning we leave for Entebbe by charter flight from Kihihi Airstrip. Still 2 more new birds with Ross’s Turaco and Black-shouldered Nightjar. Our flight to Entebbe is 80 minutes and we head for the Mabamba Swamps north of the city. Again, this is run by local community guides and they do a great job. The swamps are a little like Banguela Swamps in Zambia. Plenty of Weavers – Northern Brown-throated, Village and Black-headed. Orange Weaver eludes us, as does Shoebill. But we add Yellow-billed Duck, Black Kite and Common Moorhen to the list. Whilst enjoying a G & T with ice and a slice at our garden cottage in Boma Guest House the bird-bath attracts many species, including Green-headed Sunbird, African Thrush, Red-chested Sunbird, Bronze Mannikins, Common Bulbul and Black and White Casqued Hornbills fly from tree to tree.
Day 13 - 8th July
Early start at 05h20 for the 07h25 flight to Joburg. It has been a great trip, so many birds and we have only scratched the surface. Uganda is a birder's paradise. I had 320 species on my ‘life-list’. I got 88 from a total of 289 species seen. The highlight must be the rare Green-breasted Pitta and the lowlight the Masindi Hotel. Uganda should be on everyone’s bucket-list – great people, great country.
Next up – the Congo in September for Gorillas and whatever I missed in Uganda.