Friday, June 9, 2017


Not a ringing trip for a change, but spent a lovely 2 weeks taking a group of 5 South Africans round this magical country, so bio-diverse and so welcoming.
setting off into the Shoebill swamp

We did the usual circuit starting the day at the Shoebill swamps where we found this huge and enigmatic bird, before finding another two in the swamps just before Masindi later that day (Hartlaub's Marsh Widowbirds in full breeding plumage too!)!

The Royal Mile, Budongo Forest
We did the Royal Mile in Budongo Forest where I even got a lifer in the form of Lemon-bellied Crombec! We were also lucky to find Ituri Batis and good views of Chocolate-backed Kingfisher among the many other birds we saw here. A bonus was finding a Tree Pangolin in a hollow tree as well as an Angola Blind Snake!

the mighty falls
On to Murchison Falls National Park where dropping down the escarpment,got White-shouldered Tit, Black-billed Barbet and Rufous Sparrows, indicators that we had reached the Northern Savannah biome.
Game drives the following day produced more specials such as Brown-backed Woodpecker, Pygmy Sunbird, Black-billed Wood Hoopoe, Red-necked Falcon, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, and a first for me in this park, European Hoopoe!

We were very fortunate to come across a herd of buffalo with a swirling accompaniment of Cattle Egrets, when suddenly out of nowhere, a huge Martial Eagle plummeted out of the sky and grabbed one! We watched the big eagle fly to a tree and begin to pluck the bird. 

Semuliki Forest
Next was this special forest, special as it is the only representative of the great Ituri forest and Congo Basin rain forest biome. as such there are some 140 species found here and nowhere else in East Africa. Dropping down to 700m, we set off into the forest getting Red-billed Dwarf, Piping and White-thighed Hornbills, Yellow-throated Green Cuckoo, Red-billed Helmetshrikes, Yellow-throated Nicator and many more.

Kibale Forest
Next stop was to this lovely forest, one of the most diverse in Africa including a primate list of some 14 species! Here we were to trek the Chimpanzees in the forest and were not disappointed when we came across a small group including a mother and tiny baby! Watching these awesome primates clamber around with ease 40m up in the canopy is a really humbling experience.

Next up we went in search of the jewel of the forest, Green-breasted Pitta! We went to a few usual haunts and before long were rewarded with not one but a pair of these amazing birds!
I did manage to put a couple of nets up one afternoon and got a Snowy-crowned Robin-chat and a Cameroon Sombre Greenbul, before the rain set in.

one of the many crater lakes in and around Kibale Forest
On to my old stomping ground of Queen Elizabeth National Park, a place where I spent 5 wonderful years ringing palearctic migrants! We stayed on the Kazinga channel, which connects lakes George and Edward. We had a rewarding view of several Giant Forest Hogs near our chalets, so cool to see these huge beasts!
Over on the Kiseny track we saw Lions, White-tailed Larks, European Hobby, Beaudouin's Snake Eagle, Verreaux's Eagle Owl and Spotted Eagle Owl.

the group getting onto a skulker!
Then it came the moment that everyone had been thinking of, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the Mountain Gorillas.
the Old Boy
We set of one morning into the forest in search of these incredible creatures and before long, our trackers found a group of subordinate males with the silverback. They were in a disgruntled state, as one of the younger males had been caught out covering the silverbacks main female, and there was a fair amount of charging and chasing among them, some coming quite close.  30 metres above us in the canopy, were the restive the clan, females, who were picking figs and dropping them to the forest floor for their men (who were too large to scale the finer branches of the fig tree) who collected the fruit. We were rewarded when the 4 females climbed back down, one of whom was carrying a 2 day old baby!!

Ruhija, coming out of the bamboo zone
We moved on to another site in the forest, this time to the higher region of Ruhijia at 2300m. We birded this area for some of the higher Albertine Rift Endemics and were rewarded with Ruwenzori Batis, Ruwenzori Apalis, Strange Weaver, Regal, Purple-breasted, Ruwenzori Double-collared and Blue-headed Sunbirds, Montane-masked Apalis, African Hill Babbler and had a flyover African Green Broadbill!!! We also had good views of the endemic L'Hoest's Monkey, Ruwenzori Duiker and a Side-striped Jackal!

On the way back to Kampala we stopped in the lovely park of Lake Mburo, this park, along with Kidepo, are unique in Uganda for being part of the greater Akagera-Serengetti savanna system, and as such hold Impala, Zebra and Eland.
There are also some very localised endemics which we got, namely the Red-faced Barbet. The evening saw us get Freckled, Black-shouldered and Pennant-winged Nightjars. The boat trip round the lake produced Papyrus Gonolek, White-winged Warbler, Carruther's Cisticola and  Finfoot.

All in we saw 480 species of Birds, not bad going!

the team on the equator


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