Uganda is one of our favourite birding destinations and our July tour once again proved to be very successful. The weather was settled apart from a few afternoon rain showers during the second week. All the major birding specialities were seen including an impressive Shoebill on the first morning, this species can be missed in July when the majority of birds are breeding. The group also managed to observe a good selection of the Albertine Ridge endemics plus many weavers, widowbirds and estridid finches in their splendid breeding plumages. Perhaps our rarest sighting was the recently described Willard's Sooty Boubou which we watched at close range along the main Bwindi track.
I would also like to thank Harriet for her excellent birding skills throughout the tour which helped make it such an enjoyable event. Jack was a kind and considerate driver as we went around Uganda in some testing conditions. Thankfully the road system is gradually being upgraded so future tours should travel on better roads.
July 25th/26th: London, Entebbe, Mbamba, Kyazanga, Mburo National Park.
Weather: Rather mixed with some heavy showers 24 C.
The group met up at Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport for the direct flight to Entebbe in Uganda. Due to congestion we were around an hour late in leaving. Arrived at Entebbe and passed through customs and immigration before meeting up with Harriet our guide and Jack our driver.
On the 26th we met up for breakfast and then made the short journey to Mbamba. Outside the hotel calling Red-chested Cuckoo, Black and White Casqued Hornbills and Hadada Ibis feeding on the grass verges. On arrival at Mbamba I met up with my old friend Hastings who was to guide us around the maze of channels and papyrus marshes of the area. By the quay we observed Red-chested Sunbirds, Black-headed Gonolek, Swamp Flycatcher, Village Weaver and Hamerkops resting on the boats. The first section of water allowed us views of Whistling Cisticola and Fan-tailed Widowbird. In the next area, Black Crake, Yellow-billed Duck, African Marsh Harrier, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Long-toed Lapwing and both African Pied and Cape Wagtails. In a short distance we found our main target species - Shoebill. Close views of this prehistoric bird were made to just a few metres away, everybody was left in awe of this much sought after bird. On the return to the quay we located African and Lesser Jacanas and the first of many flocks of Speckled Mousebirds. In gardens a group of the nomadic and scarce Weyn's Weavers were seen feeding on figs plus Little Bee-eaters and an African Thrush. Back to the main Kampala highway and turned south with lunch being taken at a restaurant on the equator. After lunch Long-crested Eagle and Lilac-breasted Rollers on roadside wires. The marshes at Kyazanga was the next stop a haven for waterbirds. Careful scanning produced a wide range of species; White-faced and Fulvous Whistling Ducks, Comb Duck, Spur-winged Goose, Hottentot Teal, various egrets, African Openbill, Sacred Ibis, Grey-crowned Crane, and overhead Wahlberg's Eagle and African Fish Eagle. On turning into the entrance track to Mburo NP we soon encountered a host of new species with Red-necked and Crested Francolins on the road edge, White-browed Coucal, Ruppell's Starling, African Green Pigeon and Golden-breasted Bunting. A grazed section had Wattled Lapwing and to Lorna's delight a migratory Brown-chested Lapwing a rare inter-African migrant. In the acacia trees Stripe-breasted Kingfisher, Black Cuckooshrike, a pair of range-restricted Red-faced Barbets and a Nubian Woodpecker by the entrance gate. Time was getting on as we entered our accommodation within the park for the next two nights. Later in the evening around the lodge we heard several Black-shouldered Nightjars giving their distinctive songs.
July 27th: Mburo NP.
Weather: Warm and sunny 26 C
The calls of African Fish Eagles resounded around the lodge marking the start of the day. After breakfast we boarded the bus to take a wildlife tour of Mburo an impressive park with high numbers of mammals and birds. By the lake the acacia trees attracted Emerald-spotted Wood-dove, Water Thick-knee and roosting in trees White-headed and Black Sawwings. Before reaching the park camp another stop produced several Broad-billed Rollers with young, Sulphur-breasted Bushshrike, Blue-spotted Wood-dove, Fork-tailed Drongo and a Compact Weaver. A marsh near the camp produced the uncommon Rufous-bellied Heron, White-winged Tit and a pair of White-browed Robin Chats.
At the camp a pair of Lesser-striped Swallows perched on wires. Passed through the camp and started an exploration of the track network with the first one adding Splendid Glossy Starlings, Meyer's Parrot and calling Trilling Cisticolas. Overhead a circling flock of White-backed Vultures and an immature Bateleur. Shortly afterwards a Yellow-throated Longclaw singing from a tree plus Chinspot Batis and a single Brubru. On the track itself Red-faced Cordonbleau, African Grey Hornbill and a bonus bird in Crested Barbet a recent colonist to Uganda from further south. The birding was to get even better as Harriet located a Long-tailed Cisticola in an acacia tree with Grey-backed Camaropteras. In the same area Buff-bellied Warbler, Slender-billed Weaver and a female Black Cuckooshrike. On the return journey birdlife had quietened as the temperature rose. Despite this we added Common Scimitarbills, Green Woodhoopoes, Sooty Chat and a male Nubian Woodpecker. Back to the lodge for lunch followed by a boat trip on Lake Mburo in late afternoon. At 1615 hours the boat departed to explore a quiet area of Lake Mburo. Along the banks our first sightings of Malachite Kingfishers and high numbers of Pied Kingfishers. In the dense riverside vegetation a family party of Scaled Francolin, Brown-throated Wattle-eyes and brief views of a Grey-capped Warbler. In the papyrus swamp Northern Brown-throated Weaver, Greater Swamp Warbler and a surprise find in two Little Bitterns. The journey along the shores of Lake Mburo continued with sightings of Squacco and Striated Herons, Common Sandpiper, Snowy-crowned Robin Chat, Little Greenbul and eventually up to eight African Finfoots which allowed close views. On the return journey we recorded similar birds with the addition of Tambourine Dove, African Paradise Flycatcher and Spectacled Weavers nesting near the jetty.
July 28th: Mburo, Kabale, Ruhija.
Weather: Warm and sunny 17 C/32 C
Checked out of Mburo and exited by the south gate. Before arriving at the gate the group located a Tawny Eagle and two Senegal Lapwings feeding on grazed land. Once out of the park we stopped by a village recording Crowned Hornbill and in maize areas Western Citril and Yellow-fronted Canary. In a grassy area used by cattle up to three Crowned Lapwings were noted. Joined the main highway again towards Mbarabara and onto Kabale. The road towards Kabale is being upgraded with Chinese money and has affected the birds using the roadside; Long-crested Eagle, Augur Buzzard, Common Fiscal and Yellow-throated Greenbul were noted. Another stop at a papyrus bed produced the locally common Papyrus Gonolek and a singing Yellow-throated Longclaw. The road climbs high towards Kabale with a habitat of agricultural fields, woodland and cliffs. On the latter we recorded the rare African Black Swift, Eurasian Kestrel and Chubb's Cisticola. Lunch was taken at a roadside restaurant and then onto the regional town of Kabale the centre of Uganda's dairy industry. Our journey took us towards the border with Rwanda and onto Ruhija a hill village adjacent to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. A stop next to a field of sorghum and yams proved to be excellent for birds. In a few minutes we had recorded Dusky Turtle Dove, African Stonechat, Baglafecht Weaver, Bronze and Variable Sunbirds, Streaky Seedeater, Yellow-crowned Canary, Yellow-bellied and Common Waxbills, Dusky Twinspot, Yellow Bishop, and Black and White Mannikin. Time was running out as we entered the forest and a host of new species for the tour. Interesting species included White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher, Grey Cuckooshrike, Black Sawwing, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Collared and Blue-headed Sunbirds, Strange Weaver and two roosting Mountain Buzzards. On arrival at Ruhija we checked in at Trekkers Cottages for two nights.
July 29th: Ruhija.
Weather: Overcast followed by sunny spells 10 C/22 C.
A later start today as birdlife becomes active much later at this altitude. The main birding spot was along the track towards the school which overlooks a valley with trees, scrub and ferns. Literally in the first vine laden bush we watched the secretive Grauer's Warbler plus Yellow-whiskered Greenbul and calling Mountain Illadopsis. A flock of Olive Pigeons landed in a bare tree offering us great views. Further along the track we encountered our first Northern Double-collared Sunbirds and a mixed feeding flock of Northern Puffback, Chestnut-throated and Ruwenzori Apalis, Brown-crowned Tchagra and Luehder's Bushshrike. We decided to return back to the main road as Jack had found a substantial flock of birds feeding in fruiting trees. A very enjoyable session produced sightings of Stripe-breasted Tits, Mountain Oriole, Brown-capped Weaver, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Mountain Masked Apalis, Regal Sunbird and a Grey-throated Barbet perched in a distant shrub. Harriet decided to walk back down the track again which proved to be a good move as the group located Ruwenzori Batis, White-chinned and Banded Prinias, and above the valley Mosque Swallow and a party of White-necked Ravens. Back to base for lunch and arranged to go out again at 1530 hours. Destination this afternoon was the bamboo forest and adjacent area. On arrival the road attracted Black-headed Waxbill, Streaky Seedeater and in the ferns Mountain Yellow Warbler. Our attention was focused on three trees which were laden with berries and vines. Our patience was rewarded with sightings of Ruwenzori Hill Babbler, Mountain Greenbul and a Dwarf Honeyguide perched on a dead snag. On the larger trunks a Cardinal Woodpecker, feeding in the vines Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Thick-billed Seedeater, Red-faced Crimsonwing, African Dusky Flycatcher and the rare Western Green Tinkerbird. Birdlife started to slow down with brief views of White-starred Robin and finally a Black-billed Turaco.
July 30th: Ruhija, The Neck, Buhoma.
Weather: Early morning mist followed by sunny spells and cloud 12 C/22 C.
To our surprise the lodge and adjoining village were covered in a cool, low mist which made it feel quite cold. After breakfast we set off to explore the entrance track of the reserve. In a large dead tree we noted a flock of fifty Slender-billed Starlings a scarce bird of the region. Further down the road we located a group of Sharpe's Starlings another rare and nomadic Albertine Rift endemic. The main interest this morning was beyond the bamboo forest and an area of ferns interspersed with large trees. In the ferns we could hear the distinctive calls of Doherty's Bushshrike although it failed to show as it skulked in the undergrowth. We had a little more luck with sightings of an Archer's Robin Chat and a Mountain Sooty Boubou. The older trees attracted White-headed Woodhoopoes and parties of Black and White Casqued Hornbills. Returned to the lodge for lunch and afterwards the decent to The Neck an area of forest which connects the two parts of the forest. Birding was a little slow although African Dusky Blue Flycatcher, White-throated and Honeyguide Greenbuls and a Western Olive Sunbird were seen. High above the forest canopy a Cassin's Hawk Eagle soared with a group of Scarce Swifts brought to lower levels by poor weather. Near the bridge the forest added Dusky Tit and Green Hylia. On the river itself close views of Cassin's Flycatchers, African Pied and Mountain Wagtails. The weather was starting to close in as we left towards Buhoma. Another stop not long after the bridge added a pair of Black Bee-eaters, Narrow-tailed and Purple-headed Starlings and a calling Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo. On reaching Buhoma our accommodation was located a new community run complex in a beautiful surrounding of forest. The gardens were great for birds with sightings of African Thrush, Cape Wagtail, Baglafecht and Black-billed Weavers, Grey-headed Negrofinch and Angolan Swallows.
July 31st: Bwindi.
Weather: Overcast with afternoon thunderstorms and heavy rain 20 C.
Today was spent exploring the vast Bwindi Impenetrable Forest a reserve of international importance with a towards the park gate. The gardens here were good for Red-headed Malimbe, Elliot's Woodpecker, Black-necked Weaver, Slender-billed, White-throated and Red-tailed Greenbuls. A slow walk towards the outlying lodges added further species notably Petit's Cuckooshrike, Pink-footed Puffback, Black and White Shrike Flycatcher, Many-coloured and Grey Green Bushshrikes, Plain Greenbul and White-breasted Negrofinch. By the last lodge a Blue-throated Brown Sunbird was building a nest. Harriet then located the uncommon and skulking Grey-winged Robin Chat singing from a low perch. In the surrounding tangles and vines views of Cameroon Sombre and Toro Olive Greenbuls. The track meanders through dense forest with large trees, scrub, ferns and thick vegetated undergrowth a truly rich-mix of habitats. A party of Great Blue Turaco entertained us as they flew from tree to tree and ran along branches. In the undergrowth we could here Scaly-breasted Illadopsis giving their distinctive songs. Overhead a pair of Grey Parrots and a single Ayer's Hawk Eagle. In the next section of trees with flowers we located Little Grey Greenbul and the warbler like Grey-headed Sunbird. In an open area with extensive undergrowth a group of Mountain Illadopsis and much to our surprise a Willard's Sooty Boubou which was only recently described in 2013 - a real bonus. The group continued the walk with another area adding Yellow-throated Tinkerbird, African Emerald Cuckoo, Stulhmann's Starling, Bar-tailed Trogon, Sooty Flycatcher and Buff-throated Apalis. Lunch was taken by the waterfall trail with several birds in the surrounding trees which comprised of Little Green and Green-headed Sunbirds, Chestnut Wattle-eye, Kakemega Greenbul, Olive-green Camaroptera and Speckled Tinkerbird. The weather started to worsen with thunderstorms, wind and torrential showers which made birding impossible for the next thirty minutes. After this had passed over we walked slowly back to Buhoma adding Rufous Flycatcher Shrike, White-bellied Robin Chat, Black Cuckoo and the distinctive songs of Equatorial Akalat and Black-faced Rufous Warblers. All in all an excellent days birding despite the poor weather conditions.
August 1st : Buhoma, Butogota Bridge, Kahihi, Isasha, Buffalo Lodge.
Weather: Cool at Buhoma and hot at lower elevations 16 C/27 C.
Checked out of our excellent lodge and made our way to the park headquarters for a short walk towards the forest. Similar birds to yesterday morning with the addition of an African Emerald Cuckoo by the main gate and a juvenile Klaas's Cuckoo hiding in the vegetation of a tree infested with vines. Our journey passed through tea plantations with sightings of Mackinnon's Fiscal, Rock Martin, Village Indigobird and a field of Woolly-necked Storks and Black-headed Herons. Our next stop at Butogota Bridge produced Grey-capped Warbler, Black-lored Babbler, African Blue Flycatcher and Purple-banded Sunbird. On the shorter route to Kahihi an area dotted with large trees added the localised Red-throated Wryneck, Double-toothed and White-headed Barbets. Beyond the town of Kahihi the habitat turns into extensive savannah dotted with trees and old buildings left from the war of the 1970's. At the latter we found a female Mocking Cliffchat, Sooty Chat and a few Red-rumped Swallows. Further up the road we flushed a pair of Blue Quails and watched Madagascar Bee-eaters, Tropical Boubou, Plain-backed Pipit, African Black-headed Oriole, Croaking Cisticola and a juvenile Palm-nut Vulture. Lunch taken at Isasha Gate followed by the journey along rutted tracks towards the main highway. A seasonal pool held the commoner water birds and the first Egyptian Geese of the tour, whilst the sky was full of circling White-backed Vultures. A bonus on the road was several pairs of Lions and two under the shade of an acacia tree. It was getting very hot as we approached Buffalo Lodge. From the viewing veranda we added several species to the list; African Spoonbill, Black-necked Stilt, Wood Sandpiper, Three-banded and Kittlitz's Plovers, Piapiac, Greater Painted Snipe and Arrow-marked Babblers. Just before dusk several African Elephants were seen walking through the lodge grounds a fitting end to an excellent day.
August 2nd: QENP, Kazinga Channel.
Weather: Overcast with afternoon showers 22 C.
Today we concentrated on the Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP) with its variety of habitats and birdlife. Before breakfast a short watch over the scrape area added an Intermediate Egret to the birdlist. The first birding stop of the day was on the road towards the Congo where a dead tree attracted Banded and Black-chested Snake Eagles, Wahlberg's Eagle, Laughing Dove, and in the long grasses an African Moustached Warbler. Near the police checkpoint another stop was productive for Crimson-rumped Waxbill and a juvenile Black Coucal. Jack turned off the main road to travel along tracks traversing the reserve. A large dead tree attracted White-backed and Lappet-faced Vultures whilst recently burnt areas were a magnet for Senegal Lapwings, Red-capped, Flappet and Rufous-naped Larks. In the longer grass singing Zitting Cisticolas. We then entered an area of heavily grazed grassland where Temminck's Courser, Crowned and Wattled Lapwings were observed. On another track luck was with us as an African Crake crossed and scuttled for cover (another was later seen in the morning), African Pipit, Collared Pratincole and a juvenile Palm-nut Vulture perched in a tree. A large, dead tree was attractive to a pair of White-headed Vultures and an adult and juvenile Martial Eagle. Before the main road an African Pygmy Kingfisher was seen perched low in an acacia bush. In the afternoon our birding was by boat along the Kazinga Channel which links lakes Albert and George. The entrance track was good for birds as Grey Kestrel, Pied Cuckoo and White-rumped Swift were seen. Once aboard the boat we went across to the other side recording African Skimmer, White-winged Tern, Marsh and Curlew Sandpipers, Lesser Sandplover, Common Greenshank, Ruddy Turnstone and the common egrets, herons and waterbirds of Uganda. Towards the fishing village Pink-backed and Great White Pelicans, Long-tailed and Great Cormorants, colonies of Pied Kingfishers, Water Thick-knee and a single Woodland Kingfisher. Back to the quay after this great experience. On the return journey a group of Black-crowned Tchagra, Northern Black Flycatcher and a perched Banded Snake Eagle. Last bird for the day was a pair of House Sparrows in the village before the bridge.
August 3rd: QENP, Fort Portal, Bundibugyo.
Weather: Overcast with sunny spells in the afternoon 26 C.
The usual birds were around the lodge gardens and viewpoint. After breakfast we headed to another area of QENP stopping at the bridge for Slender-billed Weaver, Lesser Swamp Warbler and Carruther's Cisticola, A diversion down one of the parks roads produced the now familiar grassland species with the addition of Lesser Masked Weaver, White-winged Widowbird, Copper Sunbird and singing Red-faced Cisticolas. The journey to Fort Portal was largely uneventful. Lunch taken in the centre of town. Afterwards the journey down towards the Rift Valley and the border town of Bundibugyo. On the way we located a Red-throated Bee-eater, Northern Red Bishop, Crowned Hornbill, and Rattling and Whistling Cisticolas. A fruiting fig tree was a magnet for birds: African Pied and Piping Hornbills, African Green Pigeon and around the palms African Palm Swifts.
August 4th: Bundibugyo, Semiliki.
Weather: Overcast with late afternoon rains 25 C.
Semiliki Forest is usually an excellent place for birding but 2015 has seen unseasonal weather patterns which have affected the birds within the forest itself. Outside the hotel a Tawny-flanked Prinia and a singing Winding Cisticola. The journey to the forest entrance took around twenty minutes with sightings of Orange-cheeked Waxbills along the way. A walk down the main track gave us brief views of Red-tailed Ant-thrush, Icterine Greenbul and Western Nicator. Walking along the tracks looking for birdlife was hard work on this occasion although we located Sooty Boubou and Crested Malimbe. Probably the best bird of the morning was a displaying Fire-crested Alethe on the crest of an elevated section of trail. The calls of Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoos could be heard all through the forest. Just before our lunch break we heard the beautiful song of a Blue-shouldered Robin Chat but this ultimate skulker could not be tempted into view. The group were contented with sightings of Jameson's Wattle-eye, Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher and Red-rumped Tinkerbird, the latter only being found at Semiliki within Uganda. After lunch birdlife became even quieter with Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, Yellow-throated Nicator and Xavier's Greenbul being added to the list. The heavens opened just after 1600 so we called it a day and returned to the van.
August 5th: Bundibugyo, Fort Portal, Toro Botanical Gardens.
Weather: Overcast with late afternoon thunderstorms and rain.
We left the border town of Bundibugyo and literally birded along the road towards Fort Portal. Our first stop was an area of long grasses where we located the uncommon Marsh Tchagra and showy Red-faced Cisticolas. Further along the road by the forest colonies of Maxwell's Black and Viellot's Black Weavers allowed us a close approach. In roadside tangles a Grey Longbill was seen whilst a Little Sparrowhawk flew towards village gardens. Our journey basically followed the bottom of the rift valley passing by small farms and a habitat of scrub and lush farm meadows. A pair of Brimstone Canary showed well in a bare shrub and at least two African Firefinches were seen in roadside grasses the latter being quite a shy species. A dead tree proved to be a magnet for Double-toothed and Black-billed Barbets and a showy Ross's Turaco. The road started to climb steeply as we stopped to observe Singing Cisticolas and low White-rumped Swifts. Lunch was taken in Fort Portal, afterwards checking into the Mountain of the Moons Hotel. I arranged a visit to the Toro Botanical Gardens at 1600 hours. Although we expected nothing new good views of the common birds, Black and White Flycatcher Shrikes, Mackinnon's Fiscal and Great Blue Turaco made it worthwhile.
August 6th: Fort Portal, Kibali.
Weather: Clear and sunny with occasional cloud 26 C.
An earlier departure today as we headed towards Kibali and the forest reserve of the same name. Our first stop was near the reserve entrance with a walk along the road. In the undergrowth calling Brown Illadopsis and views of Olive-bellied Sunbird, Honeyguide and Slender-billed Greenbuls, Speckled and Yellow-rumped Tinkerbirds. On the road we watched a White-tailed Ant-thrush catching ants, in a nearby tree excellent views of Yellow-spotted Barbet, Green Sunbird and brief views of a male African Shrike Flycatcher. In the canopy we could hear the distinctive calls of Western Black-headed Oriole. The group walked towards the bridge with Little Green Sunbirds feeding in roadside trees and a party of Sabine's Spinetails feeding over the forest canopy. By the bridge we recorded Cassin's Flycatcher, Superb Sunbird, Western Nicator, Grosbeak Weaver, Green Crombec and fleeting views of Yellow-mantled Weaver. Lunch was taken at a lodge beyond Kibali where the grounds were good for birdlife. After lunch we visited Harriet's house for drinks with an African Harrier Hawk on the village boundary. The day ended by walking down the road again with sightings of Hairy-breasted Barbet, Black Bee-eater, Crowned Hornbill, Yellowbill and finally a Narina Trogon which showed in flight. The icing on the cake was a small party of Chimpanzees feeding in the canopy a species for which Kibali is famous for.
August 7th: Fort Portal, Hoima, Masindi.
Weather: Warm and sunny 26 C
A later start today as it was essentially a transfer to Masindi via Hoima on probably one of the worst roads in Uganda. Thankfully our journey went well with a lunch stop in Hoima and we arrived on time in Masindi. Birding was restricted to an area of the Kibali forest reserve which just reaches the outskirts of Fort Portal. The first bird observed was a Black Sparrowhawk sitting on a dead tree snag which offered great views from the roadside. Fruiting fig trees attracted Grey-throated Barbets, Great Blue Turaco, Grey-headed and White-breasted Negrofinches and Yellow-mantled Weavers. Another large tree which was infested with caterpillars attracted a range of cuckoos; Dusky Long-tailed, Olive Long-tailed, African Emerald and Dideric. In the tangles a Western Black-headed Oriole, White-chinned Prinia and Olive-bellied Sunbirds. Down by the river a pair of Hamerkop, Cassin's Flycatcher and singing Black-faced Rufous Warblers. Jack turned off the main highway and headed to Hoima with a short stop at a river bridge where Mountain Wagtail was seen on rocks and Black-and-White Casqued Hornbills flew over the forest.
August 8th: Masindi, Budongo (Royal Mile), Escarpment, Murchison River Lodge.
Weather: Warm and sunny with a few showers 20 C/30 C.
Masindi was soon left behind as the group headed to Budongo and the Royal Mile. The route passes through sugar cane country interspersed with patches of grassland and shrubs. Yellow-mantled and Red-collared Widowbirds were seen well and a Yellow-crested Woodpecker was observed drumming on a telegraph pole. We picked up our local guide and proceeded to the forest. Around the entrance gate birds included Cassin's Honeyguide, Little Grey Greenbul and a pair of Red-capped Robin Chats chasing each other across the track. A slow walk was to prove successful as a Brown Illadopsis was observed climbing up a hanging vine. A scan down the track provided views of African Pygmy and Dwarf Kingfishers and White-thighed Hornbills. High in the canopy a party of Rufous-crowned Eremomelas and a pair of Ituri Batis the latter a scarce regional endemic. A Crowned Hawk Eagle flew above the canopy whilst a pair of Forest Flycatchers put on a great display at low elevations. Just before lunch luck was with us as Uganda Woodland Warbler and Forest Robin were added to the list. After lunch we dropped the guide off and headed to the escarpment of the Rift Valley with views over Lake Albert in the distance. The habitat changed to one of farmland, acacia trees and scrub with patches of grassland. Lorna located the uncommon Green-backed Eremomela feeding in a leafy tree followed by great views of Foxy Cisticola. Our short walk allowed sightings of Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Fawn-breasted Waxbill, White-rumped Seedeater and Violet-backed Starlings. We also watched Mosque Swallows collecting mud and grasses for nest building. Back on the main road and it was time to watch Silverbird and Chestnut-crowned Sparrow Weaver. The road along the bottom of the valley was bad in places but we managed to find Dark Chanting Goshawk, Banded and Brown Snake Eagles, Grey Kestrel, several species of estrildid finches and dozens of Vinaceous Doves. Ended the day at our delightful lodge overlooking the Albert Nile and excellent birding opportunities within the garden.
August 9th: Murchison River Lodge, Paraa, Murchison National Park, Murchison Falls.
Weather: Hot and sunny 34 C.
Breakfast was taken at 0630 hours with a White-browed Scrub Robin singing in the gardens. The lodge managers informed us that the ferry across the Nile was now operational so we headed to the departure point. By the park entrance Spotted Mourning Thrush feeding on the grass edge. Arrived at the ferry to be informed a delay was possible due to fuel supplies. Despite this delay birds from the quay included a juvenile Goliath Heron, Black-headed Weaver, Black-headed Batis and a fly-by Giant Kingfisher. Above the river a constant stream of African Darters, herons, egrets and Pied Kingfishers. Once on the northern banks of the river we turned west on one of the many tracks which traverse the reserve. In the first patch of scrub we located Vitteline Masked Weavers, Pale Flycatcher and the first of many Speckle-fronted Weavers. Once in the savannah which is dotted with palms abundant game plus the delights of the declining Northern Ground Hornbill and colonising Shelley's Rufous Sparrows. Passed the airport and entered an area of scrub and large trees with Black-billed Wood-doves, Black-billed Barbet and Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters. In the more open grass areas which were well grazed by animals White-browed Sparrow Weavers, Wattled, Spur-winged and Black-headed Lapwings, Northern Carmine Bee-eater and eventually a Denham's Bustard resting under an acacia bush. On the return journey a wetland held Glossy Ibis, Long-toed and a roosting Spotted Thick-knee by the track. Our final birds of the morning were a party of Brown Babblers passing through the bush. Back to the ferry and lodge for lunch followed by a short trip to Murchison Falls. Along the road Yellow-billed Shrike, Heuglin's Francolin and Yellow-mantled Widowbird. After an hour we reached the falls and embarked on a walk to observe this natural wonder of the world. The main species was Rock Pratincole which nests on the rocky ledges of which eight birds were observed. Unusually on this visit a distinct lack of swifts and bats, hence no sign of any Bat Hawks. On the return journey back to base we were lucky to observe Spotted Eagle Owl and a little later a Greyish Eagle Owl sitting in the middle of the dirt track.
August 10th: Murchison, Masindi, Kampala, Entebbe.
Final species total: 467.
Weather: Warm and sunny 26 C.
Today was a travelling one back to Kampala and then onto Entebbe where the flight to Europe was due to depart in the early hours. Despite the travel the group managed to add a few new species to the list including a pair of Saddle-billed Storks feeding in a degraded marsh off the main Kampala road, Marsh Widowbird near Masindi, a pair of Cinnamon-breasted Buntings on the escarpment. At Entebbe as dusk fell a single Bat Hawk and Pennant-winged Nightjar were outside our accommodation. An evening meal was followed by the short transfer to the airport for the BA flight back to London.
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