Uganda – Pearl of Africa – 9 June – 25 June 2012
This was a first visit to Africa, and it exceeded expectations. It was a custom trip for one participant Robert L. Dix (firstname.lastname@example.org), the author. The trekking, boat excursions, and wildlife safaris provided sufficient variety to make the visit a great adventure. Paul Tamwenya of www.birdinginuganda.com met me as I exited Entebbe International Airport late on the night of the 9th of June. Paul was my driver and guide for the trip. The first night was at The Lodge which is between Entebbe and the capital city, Kampala.
It was easy for me to wake up early on the 10th of June, and I immediately looked around the grounds of The Lodge. Since I was alone at first, I took photos of the birds that I saw in order to get Paul’s confirmation. The Lodge’s grounds provided Ring-necked & Red-eyed Doves, Double-toothed Barbet, Common Bulbul, African Blue-flycatcher, Yellow White-eye, Bronze & Copper Sunbirds, and Ruppell’s Long-tailed & Splendid Starlings. This exciting quick event was just before breakfast. Shortly after breakfast we departed for Murchison Falls NP. Since it was Sunday, Kampala was very quiet; so, Paul showed me around the city. In addition to the stores & government buildings, I noticed Marabou Storks everywhere as well as Pied Crows, Black Kites, and of course Feral Pigeons. Paul was exceptional at being a good driver and being quick to spot birds worthy of a stop. Soon after leaving Kampala, he stopped the car for Palm-nut Vulture, Lizard Buzzard, Shikra, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Eastern Grey Plantain-eater, and Spot-flanked Barbet. Most all of those were in one great stop. We had very good lunch at a nice roadside restaurant owned and operated by a lady from Dallas, Texas. The combination of more great stops and early arrival at Murchison Falls NP produced Black-headed Heron, Hamerkop, Woolly-necked & African Open-billed Storks, Western Banded Snake-Eagle, Long-crested & Martial Eagles, Grey Falcon, Helmeted Guineafowl, White-crested Turaco, Red-chested & Diederik Cuckoos, White-rumped, Mottled, & African Palm Swifts, Striped, Grey-headed, Woodland, & African Pygmy Kingfishers, Red-throated Bee-eater, Broad-billed Roller, Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill, Speckled Tinkerbird, Black-billed Barbet, Lesser Striped & Wire-tailed Swallows, Sooty Chat, Tawny-flanked Prinia, White-shouldered Tit, Olive-bellied, Scarlet-chested & Collared Sunbirds, Common Fiscal, Black-headed Gonolek, Piapiac, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver, Grosbeak, Village, & Compact Weavers, Fantailed & White-winged Widowbirds, Black-winged Red Bishop, Pin-tailed Whydah, Brimstone Canary, and Western Citril. The mammals were Scrub Hare, Common Warthog, African Civet, and African Buffalo. That made a total of 65 bird species for the first day and most of the day was spent driving to the NP. The nights of June 10 & 11 were at Sambiya River Lodge in Murchison Falls NP.
After a wonderful first day June 11 proved to be another bird & mammal filled day at Murchison Falls NP. In the morning & early afternoon we spotted Cattle Egret, Black-shouldered Kit, Bateleur, Grey Crowned Crane (National Bird), Spur-winged, African Wattled, & Black-headed Lapwings, Black-billed Wood-Dove, Vinaceous Dove, Black-and-white Cuckoo, Speckled Mousebird, Swallow-tailed & Northern Carmine Bee-eaters, Abyssinian Gound-hornbill (wonderful find), Flappet Lark, Banded Martin, African Moustached Warbler, Zitting, Croaking, Whistling, Siffling, & Foxy Cisticolas, Black-headed Batis, African Paradise-flycatcher, Silverbird, Beautiful Sunbird, Grey-backed Fiscal, Black-crowned Tchagra, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Shelley’s & Grey-headed Sparrows, Speckle-fronted, White-browed, Yellow-backed & Little Weavers, Red-billed Quelea, Northern Red Bishop, African Firefinch, and Yellow-fronted Canary. The mammals were Olive Baboon, Petas Monkey, Striped Ground Squirrel, African Elephant, Rothschild’s Giraffe, Busbuck, Oribi, Uganda Kob (National Mammal), Defassa Waterbuck, and Hartebeest. Then it was time for the boat trip to near the bottom of the falls. The birds seen from the boat included Long-tailed Cormorant, African Darter, Common Squacco & Purple Herons, Little, Intermediate, Great, & Black (special find) Egrets, Yellow-billed Stork, Sacred & Hadada Ibises, Spur-winged & Egyptian Geese, White-faced & Fulvous Whistling Ducks, African Fish Eagle, African Jacana, Denham’s & Black-bellied Bustards, Water Thick-knee, Rock Pratincole, Spur-winged & Long-toed Lapwings, Grey-headed Gull, Gull-billed Tern, African Skimmer, and Pied Kingfisher. This was complemented with a couple of Nile crocodiles resting under a tree. Later in the evening while driving near the lodge Swamp, Plain & Pennant–winged Nightjars showed in the car’s headlights.
June 12 we birded the southern sector of Murchison Falls NP and drove through Budongo Kaniyo Pabid with stops. A special stop was made at Busingiro, a Chimpanzee trekking area. Early in the drive a Verreaux’ Eagle-Owl (pink eyelids) crossed the road and perched in a nearby tree. Other birds were Dark Chanting Goshawk (see photo at right), African Crowned Eagle, Tambourine & Laughing Doves, Spotted Morning-Thrush, Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, Scarce Swift, Madagascar Bee-eater, African Pied Hornbill, Angola Swallow, White-headed Saw-wing, Yellow-whiskered Greenbul, Red-capped Robin-Chat, Yellow Longbill, Chestnut Wattle-eye, Red-bellied Paradise-flycatcher, Puvel’s Illadopsis (a target bird), Western Black-headed Oriole, Vieillot’s Black Weaver, Red-collared & Yellow-mantled Widowbirds, Black Bishop, Red-winged Pytilia, Green-backed Twinspot, Red-cheeked Cordon-blue, Bronze Mannikin, and Village Indigobird. Just after we arrived at the Court View Hotel in Masindi, an African Thrush was in the parking lot across from my room, and an African Harrier-Hawk was perched on the roof. Mammals of the day included Black-and-white Colobus, Red-tailed Monkey, and Hippopotamus.
We departed early June 13 for the nearby Budongo Forest’s Royal Mile. Heuglin’s Francolin, Grey-headed Oliveback, Back-bellied Firefinch, Black-crowned Waxbill, Black-and-white Mannikin, and White-breasted Negrofinch were noticed along the road to the Royal Mile. The Royal Mile had Narina Trogon, Chocolate-backed & African Dwarf Kingfishers, Yellow-throated Tinkerbird, White-thighed Hornbill, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Willcock’s Honeyglide, Slender-billed, Little Grey & Yellow-throated Greenbuls, Fire-crested Alethe, Red-tailed Ant-Thrush, Rufous Flycatcher-Thrush, Brown-backed Scrub-Robin, Green Hylia, Nothern Crombec, Rufous-crowned Eremomela, Lead-coloured, Forest, & Gray-throated Flycatchers, Olive Sunbird, and Lesser Blue-eared & Purple-headed Starlings. A Blue Monkey and Alexandra’s Ground Squirrel were also seen. We stopped at a nearby pond for Knob-billed Duck and Blue-breasted, Shining-blue, & Malachite Kingfishers. On the road back to Masindi a perched Lizard Buzzard was scoped eating an Egyptian Cobra.
June 14 was a long drive day to the Kibale Forest NP area via Holma with stops including at a few papyrus swamps. It was interesting for me to notice that when I was about to point out a bird on a telephone wire or elsewhere that I thought Paul did not see, he would say the name of the bird and usually add that we already saw the bird. Many times Paul would stop the car for a new bird. He is an excellent driver who can bird at the same time. The new birds we saw were Osprey, African Green Pigeon, Great Blue Turaco, African Emerald Cuckoo, Alpine Swift, Blue-naped Mousebird, Crowned Hornbill, Speckled Tinkerbird, Grey-throated Barbet, Mosque Swallow, Yellow-throated Longclaw, White-winged Warbler, Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher, Dusky Tit, Papyrus Gonolek, Velvet-mantled Drongo, Northern Brown-throated & Holub’s Golden Weavers, Red-headed Malimbe, Grey-headed Nigrofinch, and Red-billed Firefinch. A Variable Sunbird was spotted at out stop for the night, Ataco Country Resort.
Chimpanzee tracking day (actually a few hours in the morning) 15 June at Kibale NP provided great views of the Chimps as I had an excellent park guide for an easy walk amongst them. At times we were very close to them. The guide told me not to eat anything around them; so, I immediately lost my snack appetite. A Grey-cheeked Mangabay (monkey) and a Red-legged Sun Squirrel were also seen during the day. After lunch (at the park restaurant) Paul showed me Gabar Goshawk, Black Bee-eaters, Black-casqued Wattled Hornbill, Yellow-spotted Barbet, African Pied Wagtail, Western Nicator, Red-tailed Bristlebill, White-tailed Ant-Thrush, Cassin’s Grey & Sooty Flycatchers, Scaly-breasted Illadopsis, and Green Sunbird. A dedicated trek in the forest lead us to find a special bird of the day, a Green-breasted Pita.
While driving to Semliki Forest NP on 16 June a Saddle-billed Stork was scoped. Others along the road included Ross’s Turaco, Nubian Woodpecker, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Slender-billed Weaver, and Cabanis’s Bunting. During the walk in the park there was Western Bronze-naped & Olive Pigeons, Levaillant’s Cuckoo, Yellowbill, White-browed Coucal, African Grey & Piping Hornbills, Yellow-crested, Grey & Cardinal Woodpeckers, Yellow-billed Barbet, Toro Olive, Cameroon Sombre & Red-tailed Greenbuls, Gray-capped Warbler, Northern Black Flycatcher, Blue-headed Crested-flycatcher, Black-lored Babbler, Green-throated & Little Green Sunbirds, Black-winged Oriole, Crested Malimbe, and Southern Red Bishop. Central African Red Colobus was the only new mammal and was seen in the forest.