Garganey in Uganda, 16 days Birding Uganda

16 days Birding Uganda Trip Report

16 days Birding Uganda Trip Report started on 27 August – 11 September 2021

Participants: Paul Larson, Andre Coleman, Thomas Ethan, William Bud, Ted Burger (author).

Why go?

Initially Uganda was not on our list as we looked for our next birding safari. We however were restricted to month of July and August and this is when Uganda popped up. It is one of the countries recommended to visit during these months’ We read a few trip reports and we decided to go to Uganda. It offers some great central-Africa birding,

including some really appealing species like Shoebill, Grauer’s Broadbill and Green-breasted Pitta. In addition, you can do some safari as well, and best of all, you get the chance to see Gorilla’s and Chimpanzees. It is also an ‘easy’ country to visit since eco-tourism is well developed, the country is in general quite safe and most people speak English.

Logistics and hotels

Usually, we organize the trips our self so we first opted to hire a car on self-drive such that we take ourselves around.

We however contacted several agencies and Africa Adventure Vacations(https://africanbirdingtrips.com/) offered us the best deal and therefore we went ahead and booked our birding safari with them.

We therefore didn’t have to worry about choosing hotels, they did everything for us and they choose what we felt were the best hotels for our safari.

Looking back at this decision we were glad we made this choice. Without doubt, having a driver is recommended to everyone in Uganda. It is possible to drive on your own, but some roads are in a bad state, which makes driving difficult and tiring.

Furthermore, any possible difficulties with the car are solved by the driver. We once had an issue with one of the brakes, which was solved when we were out birding. Also, having the hotels, food and park entrances pre-arranged saved us a lot of hassle. Considering the food, it is proper and safe food was guaranteed (as none of us got sick!).

Furthermore, arrangements with the hotel e.g. for dinner times or packed lunch were easily made. At the national parks, especially the arrangements/negotiations with the local guides were useful.

Having these things pre-arranged did however not mean it was completely free of hassle, it took our driver Paul and trainee-guide Allen some effort in a few cases to get things sorted out for us.

Guides

This was our first birding trip to Africa and unlike all the other birding trip elsewhere, this was the first time we hired a birding driver guide who even came with a trainee. So, this whole guide situation was new to us. The trainee was also helping us and she joined us for no extra cost.

With the local guides we had mixed experiences. In Mabira, Mgahinga and Semuliki we got very skilled local guides. In Kibale we joined Alfred for a day, he was there to guide another private tour. In QENP and Lake Mburo we birded on our own.

Bwindi however was a different kind of story. As Gorilla tracking is the main activity there, the UWA-guides have generally limited knowledge of birds. However, there are some good private guides available, we are glad that Robert had included this in our tour.

Itinerary

With the limited time we had, we put our emphasis to the Albertine rift endemics. Because of this, we skipped Murchison falls national park but included the Mgahinga ranges to increase our chances of seeing the Rwenzori turaco and Ruwenzori Double-collared Sunbird. Semuliki was included as none of us had been to Western Africa, so most of the birds here would be new to us.

Our itinerary included:

–           Kibale

–           Semuliki

–           Bwindi Rushaga

–           Mgahinga

–           Lake Mburo

–           Queen Elizabeth National Park

–           Bwindi Buhoma

–           Bwindi Ruhija

–           Mabira Forest Reserve

–           Mabamba Swamp

Weather and season

Uganda has two seasons and they also come in twos. The dry and wet seasons. The dry season comes in June to August and then December to February.

Temperatures varied between 25-35 degrees Celsius and only higher up in Bwindi and Mgahinga the mornings were colder (10-15 degrees Celsius).

Birds usually breed earlier in the year, which means birds are less vocal in July-August, although this differs between species. It is a good period to search for Green-breasted Pitta, while the young of the African Green Broadbills had just fledged.

Trip reports and books

We used ‘The Birds of East Africa’ by Stevenson as our main source of information. In addition, we looked up several trip reports on cloudbirders.com and searched through observations on observation.org and ebird.org.

Some of the more useful trip readings included:

–           Sargeant, 2003

–           Lebrun, 2017

–           Van der Loock, 2015

–           Hendriks, 2016

–           Marques, 2007

–           D’haen, 2017

Gorillas

Gorillas are one of the biggest attractions in Uganda and its basically done is Bwindi Impenetrable national park. There are also habituated gorillas in Mgahinga National Park.

Mountain Gorillas can only be seen in Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC. Chances of seeing them are near to 100%, as trackers go out early in the morning to locate them.

They cost $700 per person, which is a lot, fair compared to the $1500 Rwanda Charges for the permit. One can doubt whether it is necessary to ask such a high price and if all the money gets to the right persons, but it surely does guarantee the protection of the Gorillas and their unique environment.

Safety

For as much as many of the advisories to Africa may tell you how unsafe most areas are, we never felt unsafe at anyone moment. We have actually experienced worse things in other countries like Peru. We didn’t have any scares or near scare experiences. You however have to be careful just like any other countries. Every time we went out birding in the forest, we are required to have an armed guard not that we feared to be attacked but incase we met any wildlife that’s charges, then the ranger would shoot to scare it away.

Day to day itinerary

27-08 Entebbe – Kibale

Our guide and Driver Paul together with the intern were abit late dure to the heavy traffic since they had come from the capital Kampala. As soon as they arrived we were on our way to Kibaale National park which was our first birding spot. The drive was to take us the whole day as we were to do some birding on the way. We had a lot of interesting birds like the Double-toothed Barbet (close to the airport), fly-by Meyer’s Parrots, Pink-backed Pelicans, Sooty Chat, Black-and-white-casqued Hornbills and Crowned Hornbills.

We also saw  our first Olive Baboons, Guereza Colobus and Central African Red Colobus. Highlight of the day for sure were two African Forest Elephants feeding on the edge of the forest in Kibaale as we drove by, providing excellent views!

Hotel: Isunga Safari Lodge

28-08 Kibaale

Our first full birding day in Uganda was a long awaited one. The search for the green breasted Pitta was on. We were divided into two groups such that we increase our chances of seeing this rare bird. In just about 20mins, one group had spotted the Pitta and the day begun on a high.

We left this spot to reserve the bird for other birders and we walked back to the park headquarters and on our way, we could hear chimpanzees screaming but we were not allowed to reach where they were as it pass not part of the activities we had paid for. But on the lucky day, you can actually see them while just doing your birding.

Here is what the forest produced that day: Red-tailed Bristlebill, Speckled Tinkerbird, Dusky Tit, Pale-breasted Illadopsis, Blue-throated Roller, Grey-throated Tit-Flycatcher,  Little Greenbul and White-throated Greenbul, Scaly-breasted Illadopsis, Fire-crested Alethe (HO), Afep Pigeon (HO), Black and Red-chested Cuckoo, Purple-headed Starling, Red-capped Robin-chat (HO), Blue- shouldered Robin-chat and Vieillot’s Black Weaver.

In the afternoon we headed out to Bigodi Swamp but the birding was just basic although we had read from some birders about how good they had birded here. We saw only common birds that included the Baglafecht Weaver, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Lüdhers’s Bushshrike (HO), Bocage’s Bushshrike, Toro Olive Greenbul and Joyful Greenbul.

After that  we are birding along the main road through the forest, and start birding a few km’s past the HQ. We see Sooty and Cassin’s Flycathers, but we arrive quite late at the real sweet spot. The road offers here a good vantage point to scan for Afep Pigeons, which we unfortunately do not see. However, many other good birds are around. We see White-headed Wood Hoopoes, Petit’s Cuckooshrike, Willcocks’s Honeyguide, Red-headed Malimbe,

Sabine’s Spinetail and Scarce Swift. We managed to see the chimps on the forest edge with the park headquarters. This was a good way to end out day.

Hotel: Isunga Lodge

29-08 Kibale – Semuliki

We woke up very early for our breakfast and later head to Semuliki national park. We went with hopes of getting some views of the Afep Pigeon.Birding was nice again, seeing Elliot’s and Brown-eared Woodpecker, but none of our target birds.

We took a de tour to the northern sector of the Kibale forest national park with hopes of finding the Lowland Masked Apalis but during the search we managed to see the Grey-capped Warbler but failed to see the Apalis.

It was time for lunch and we headed to Fort portal town for our lunch. With Ross’ Turaco next to the restaurant, we continued to Semuliki. The road is in good condition and we arrive at 6 pm, with just enough time left to do some roadside birding and soon it gets dark.

Semuliki is famous for its Hornbills and in the evening we already have nice views of birds flying to their roosting trees. We see Piping, Crowned and Black-and-white-casqued Hornbills. After diner we have nice views of the resident African Wood Owl and a larger fruit bat spec hanging upside down near the Bandas.

Hotel: Park Bandas

30-08 Semuliki

We were escorted by a local guide; Justice and he is the most recommended here. Semuliki is a large and quite remote reserve and one of the easternmost parts of the Congo basin.

Much is still unknown and some birds visit the area as a seasonal migrant, e.g. Capuchin Babblers. It is a very exciting birding spot as one can see some good birds found nowhere else in the country, with even a possibility to find new species for Uganda. Before we start, Justice insists on renting rubber boots as according to him, these would be necessary in the forest.

We manage to see more Hornbill species, the Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, Black-casqued and White- crested Hornbills (a real gem). In the forest next to the road we hear Forest Robin and White-tailed Ant-Thrush singing.

We also pay a visit to the Male Hot Springs, a truly magical place with steam rising from the soil, a rising sun against a backdrop of rainforest, while large groups of African Green Pigeons are flying around. It is at this magical place where we also see the rare De Brazza’s Monkey, acting very shy while moving through the palm trees.

In search for the kingfisher, a duck flies by and briefly lands in an overhanging tree over one of the pools, a Hartlaub’s Duck! As soon as we see the duck, the duck sees us as well, takes off and disappears as soon as it appeared in the first place. As we walk back to the car, some serious rain- and thunderclouds develop and we hurry back, walking the last kilometre in heavy rain and consequently see few birds.

Hotel: Park Bandas

31-08 Semuliki – QENP

We start our day with calls from the Yellow-throated Cuckoo at our lodge. We are going to do birding enroute Queen Elizabeth National Park. We try to look around to see if we could find anything exciting before we leave but we don’t find anything.

We have our breakfast and by 10am, we hit the road. We make very many interesting stops. We manage to see the White-headed Barbet, African Marsh Harrier, African Openbill, a nice group of Piacpiac, Grey Kestrel, Moustached Grass-Warbler, Crested Malimbe, Yellow-billed Stork, Little Bittern, Blue-breasted and Grey-headed Kingfisher.

We stop again in Fort portal for our lunch and still meet the Ross’ Turaco and also more than 1000 Yellow-billed Kites on migration.

Around 5pm we arrive in QENP and start seeing our first game and birds, such as White-headed Vulture, Brown and Black-chested Snake Eagle, Brown-crowned Tchagra and White-browed Robin-Chat. Highlight of the day are two female African Lions resting in a tree near the main road. At the Pumba Safari Cottages we enjoy a nice sunset over the vast savanna.

Hotel: Pumba Safari Cottages

01-09 QENP

Today we were going to have a full day of birding in Queen Elizabeth National Park. We stopped at the bridge to see the Papyrus Gonolek.

The grasslands were a bit dry, some burnt intentionally to create fresh green grass when the rains come. The fresh grass had not yet come and the number of animals here was low. After 30mins of driving, we find an African Leopard. This day started with birds like: Brown-chested Lapwing and Temminck’s Courser. Other birds we see include Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike, Common Buttonquail, Red-capped and Flappet Lark, Trilling Cisticola and White- Backed Vulture.

We did a boat cruise after lunch down to the kazinga Channel. We saw after Elephants,Hippo’s, Buffalo’s and Waterbucks are numerous. Birds are not the main attraction but we do see Black Crake, Water Thick-knee’s, lots of Pied Kingfishers, Madagascar Bee-eaters and our only Red- throated Bee-eater of the trip. A persistent downpour makes us return a little early. For the rest of the afternoon we drive on the North Kazinga Plains/Crater Drive. Again, the animals we see are in low numbers but the number of species is good. We all enjoy sightings of the African Bush Elephants, Olive Baboons, Hippo’s, Nile Crocodiles, Nile Monitor, Bushbuck, Waterbuck, Buffalo’s, Uganda Kob, Banded Mongoose, Common Warthogs and its imposing brother the Giant Forest Hog. Lappet-faced Vultures fly around and we find a Black-bellied Bustard, White-headed Barbet, Black-lored Babbler and Levaillant’s Cuckoo.

Hotel: Pumba Safari Cottages.

02-09 QENP – Bwindi Buhoma

We shall be driving towards the Bwindi Impenetrable national park through the Ishasha sector. We shall do a game drive of about four hours before we drive out of the national park. We still have some birds we have to see here and so we drive with the eyes keen on the species that we could have missed out.

We manage to pick up a nice set of Cisticola’s, including Croaking, Stout, Carruther’s and Wing-snapping. Other birds en route include Green Wood-Hoopoe, African Crake, African Spoonbill, Marsh Tchagra and 3 gorgeous Black Bee-eaters.

Regarding the mammals, this is the region where we see Topi’s, apparently they are absent in QENP itself. At 4pm we arrive at the Buhoma Community Rest Camp, meaning we still have some time to go birding here on the entrance road. It is exciting to finally be here at the Bwindi NP, but some rain makes it difficult to do some proper birding. Best birds we encounter are Grey-winged Robin-chat, Pink-footed Puffback and Many-coloured Bushshrike.

Hotel: Buhoma Community Rest Camp

03-09 Bwindi Buhoma

We go through the target list for today and realized that it was going to be a tough day. Buhoma being a dense forest, it was going to be quite raining to get to see the ground birds in this area.

We were required to have both knowledge of the calls and the patience both of which we didn’t have and this became a little frustrating. Our day begun with quick finds of birds like

Red- capped Robin-chat, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Equatorial Akalat, Black Bee-eater, Kakamega Greenbull, Black-faced Rufous Warbler, Rwenzori Batis, Purple-breasted Sunbird, Yellow-whiskered Greenbul, Oriole Finch and the Red-throated Alethe and White-bellied Robin-chat are heard only.

We get to a spot where we are told that we can have views of the Neumann’s Warbler, which is only known from this place. When we heard our first Neumann’s Warbler calling in the distant, we come across an interesting flock and pick-out a very sweet Jameson’s Antpecker.

We stop for lunch at about 2pm and continue to search for other target birds. We are on a tight schedule and time is running out but we do have some remaining target birds… as soon as we go out, we sight the Willard’s Sooty Boubou. We can still hear the bird calling when walking back. On our way back we hear a Bar- tailed Trogon and African Broadbill, and see Brown-capped Weaver. Back at the entrance we find 2 nice White-tailed Ant-Thrushes. In the forest we encounter African Giant Squirrels, Smith’s Bush Squirrel, Blue Monkeys and a Rwenzori Red Duiker. Despite our good score, we end the day with some mixed feelings as we have some target birds remaining or only heard them. There is no second chance for us in Buhoma because tomorrow we have to continue to Ruhija.

Hotel: Buhoma Community Rest Camp

04-09 Bwindi Buhoma – Ruhija

Our early morning birding doesn’t produce any new birds to our list but of course we see some other birds. We continue towards ‘the Neck’, about half way between Buhoma and Ruhija. At the Neck, we stop and walk regularly. Afep Pigeon is being heard only again btu we still can’t see it, but we see Red-tailed Ant- Thrush, Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Black-faced Prinia, and Black Bee-eater.

We have our packed lunch at the bridge we have lunch and enjoy Cassin’s Flycatchers down the river. We make another stop that delivers us Golden-breasted Bunting and while searching for Dusky Twinspot, we find a Rwenzori Hill-Babbler.

At Ruhija we check in at the Ruhija Community Rest Camp and quickly continue towards the site for Grauer’s Warbler. In just a short while, we hear the bird calling. Eventually, with a lot of patience we manage to see one. It’s a small track, but it is a nice spot to see some of the target birds. We find White-browed Crombec, Rwenzori Batis, Mountain Masked Apalis, Stripe-breasted Tit and Kandt’s Waxbill. At night we make a small game drive in search for the Montane Nightjar (ssp. Ruwenzorii). No Nightjar was found due to windy conditions but several Lesser Galago’s spec. and an Cat spec. (maybe a Serval) make the day to a very happy ending!

Hotel: Bakiga Lodge

05-09 Bwindi Ruhija – Rushaga

Just like yesterday, we have a big list for the target birds today. We go with a sighted guide to the forest to try and catch a few species that we could have missed before we head to another sector of the park.

The forest in this sector of Bwindi is more open, quite a difference with Buhoma. We pick up target birds quickly thanks to our guide. We see a nice Mountain Sooty Boubou, Rwenzori Hill Babbler, Blue-headed Sunbird, White-headed Wood-Hoopoe, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Black-faced Prinia, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher and hear Strange Weaver (later we see it) and Red-throated Alethe. Dusky Crimsonwings are heard close by, but do not show.

Late we hear the Dusky Crimsonwings and now we have brief views as they cross the track. Archer’s Ground-Robin is heard and eventually seen, just like Rwenzori Apalis, Mountain Illadopsis and Mountain Yellow Warbler. We continue with nice birds like Bar-tailed Trogon and White-starred Robin.

The birding is so far not bad but we are here for mainly the Grauer’s Broadbill which can only be found here. Most of the birders that has been here a few days before us had failed to see it but we still had to try our luck. We join another group of birders (Birdquest) and our guides make a plan to search for the birds. The guides split up, to look for the birds in the adjacent hills, while the rest waits at the site of the abandoned nest, in case the birds return to the vicinity of their nest. After about an hour of searching one of the guides hears a bird calling.

The guides communicate by shouting to one another and one of the guides rushes down to get the group. What follows is a long and exhausting climb through the forest, a real track is absent. When we arrive at the spot, we hear a bird calling. The next 30-45 min. we can hear a bird calling from a tree top, but is does not show itself. While we are afraid of losing the bird, more birds turn up and we finally get to see the birds.

After some chaos and panic among the birders, everyone gets to see the birds and many hugs and high-fives follow. Imagine 20 birders going crazy somewhere on a hilltop in a huge rainforest, deep down in Central Africa… The birds (about 3) gave exceptional views and we eventually leave the birds as not all targets are in the bag yet.

On our way down we pick up White-bellied Crested Flycatcher. At the swamp we have a late lunch and, in the meantime, we try for Grauer’s Swamp Warbler. It is already past 2 pm and it takes some effort, but we eventually hear a bird calling and shortly see it flying. On the way back we don’t see anything exciting, except from some very fresh Gorilla tracks. But, the fun

isn’t over yet. We continue by car to Rushaga and scan the road for another target. And yes, a Handsome Francolin is foraging next to the road, not taking notice of passing cars or excited tourists

Hotel: Wagtail Eco-Safari Camp

06-09 Rushaga – Mgahinga

Today we take a little bit of break from birding as we all look forward to the famous gorillas. We are going to go deep into the forest to track the endangered mountain gorillas. This sector of Bwindi has six Gorilla families and each family can only be visited by 8 people maximum per day.

Instead of going into the forest, like the other groups, we take the car to a nearby village. We ascent a big hill, walking through agricultural fields. On that hill we have to wait because trackers are still trying to locate our group. After about an hour we get the message that the group has been found, and we start to descend the hill on the other side.

Although we are walking through cultural fields, it is difficult terrain with some very steep slopes. Alwin even slips away, sliding down the slope a few meters. Eventuallyz we reach the Gorilla’s, which are on the very edge of the park, marked by a stream. Seeing a Gorilla is a truly unique experience! With their human-like hands, faces, eyes and expressions you really feel as being their guest.

We spent about an hour with the group and especially a curious and playful young Gorilla at close range is a feast to witness. At some point the silverback makes a charge towards us, apparently because we are in his way as he wants to get to some tasty plants… A pretty exciting moment for all of us, as one can imagine. After an hour we leave the group behind and work our way up the hill again. As we spent little time in the park, no birds of interest were seen today.

Hotel: Danita House, Kisoro.

07-09 Mgahinga – Kabale

The road to and from Mgahinga is really one of the worst you encountered on this trip, we however since we had a 4X4, we somehow didn’t have a problem to navigate through this area.

Even before we reached the park, we had already gotten one of our major targets, the Cinnamon Bracken Warbler. We meet our guide and start walking towards the gorge. We are surprised to see how different the landscape is here compared to other areas we have visited. Lots of bamboo, no big trees and quite some open grassy areas. It takes not long before we see another target, Rwenzori Double- collared Sunbird.

There is quite some activity and we see other birds like Doherty’s Bushshrike, Chubb’s Cisticola, Blue-headed Sunbird, Rwenzori Batis, White-starred Robin, Kandt’s Waxbill, Variable Sunbird, Regal Sunbird, Mountain Yellow Warbler, Western Green Tinkerbird and Archer’s Ground Robin. It takes a bit longer to find the other star bird of Mgahinga, but eventually we all see a nice Rwenzori Turaco and later on we will see more birds.

In the meantime, as we continue down the gorge we encounter more nice birds such as White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, Abyssinian Thrush, Rwenzori Apalis and Rwenzori Hill-Babbler. We also see the park’s specialty, the Golden Monkey. With all targets in the bag, we are exciting to find out what’s more to see on these volcano slopes. We are especially excited about ‘the gorge’ a site where Shelley’s Crimsonwing can be found.

We are heading to the gorge today, one can continue higher up, to heath- like vegetation, which must be very interesting as well. While having lunch in the gorge we look out for crimsonwings. Along the stream is the best place to look for crimsonwings as they can come out of the thick vegetation here occasionally to drink. At some point we hear the soft calls of crimsonwings and after some patience we see a nice family of Dusky Crimsonwings. No other crimsonwings were found today. Stripe-breasted Tits are present in the gorge and some naughty but insanely clever White-necked Ravens plundered our bags for food and left them meters away from where we had left them in the first place. When descending again, we take a more westerly route through thick bamboo forests. According to our guide this is a good site to look for Abyssinian Ground Thrush.

The forest is monotonous and extremely quiet. We only see a few birds such as Strange Weaver and Stripe-breasted Tit. We try to tape-lure the bird, but it seems useless and after some time hope fades away. But then, after 2 hrs walking we hear a bird singing! It is in the distant, and we cannot get closer, but at least we found a singing bird.

After 30 mins of looking we find a much closer bird and manage to locate it. We flush the bird, but we all have good views of the bird as it flies past us. Wow! Before leaving the park we admire a beautiful Johnston’s Chameleon at the information centre.

Our first chameleon ever for all of us. On our way to Kabale we make a quick stop at Lake Bunyonyi to see if we can pick up some Papyrus species. It’s not very spectacular, but we find Purple Herons, African Yellow Wabler, Grey-crowned Cranes and a nice Spotted-necked Otter.

Hotel: White Horse Inn.

08-09 Kabale – Lake Mburo

It is quite a drive from Kabale to Lake Mburo, so we take a break somewhere at a large patch of Papyrus .Here we find Papyrus Gonolek and Holub’s Golden Weaver while 3 Woolly-necked Storks are flying over. It is already past noon when we reach Lake Mburo, but we still enjoy birding along the road while entering the park. We see our first Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, as well as Red-billed Quela, African Dwarf Kingfisher, Rufous-bellied Heron, Water Thick-knee, Common Scimitarbill, Lilac-breasted Roller and White-winged Black Tit.

We do not have packed lunch today, so we have lunch at the park’s restaurant at the lakeside. It’s the only restaurant in the park and their service is very slow, we spent more than 2 hours in the restaurant, wasting valuable time, as we only have one afternoon and one morning in the park. Moreover, we are sleeping in the Park’s banda’s, which is not very tactical as the best birding is done just outside the park.

We decide to go back to the entrance road again to look for Red-headed Barbet. We find Crested Barbet, Red-headed Lovebird and Brown-necked Parrot. We visit the stunning Kwakobo Rock Lodge, a friend of us (Arjan Dwarshuis) has seen Red-faced Barbets in a fruiting tree in front of the lodge. We do find the tree filled with Baboons and doves, but no Barbets. At some point we probably do hear the Red-faced Barbets, but not convincing enough for a tick.

However, missing these birds is compensated at dawn, when Freckled and a stunning male Pennant-winged Nightjar start flying around. A spectacular sight! We have diner at the lodge, willing to pay a bit extra, instead of having dinner at the park’s restaurant again at the lakeside. Driving through the park at night is actually not allowed, but thanks to Bridget’s smile we have a nice night drive while driving back to our cabins. Mammals seen during day and night include Common Dwarf Mongoose, Impala, Giraffe, Zebra, Eland, Bushbuck, Bunyoro Rabbit, a Duiker spec., Galago spec., Buffalo, Topi, Hippo’s and some extra species of monkeys and deer.

Hotel: Rwakobo Rock

09-09 Lake Mburo – Mabira

We wake up at first light, just in time to hear and see some Black-shouldered Nightjars flying round the Banda’s. We start the day with a boat ride on the lake. We are actually just around the first corner when we see our first African Finfoot. After that, we continue to the Papyrus reed beds.

Here we search for White-winged Warbler, and after hearing several birds we finally manage to see a bird. Other birds around the Papyrus are Greater Swamp Warbler, Swamp Flycatcher, Northern Brown-throated Weaver, Holub’s Golden Weaver and Papyrus Gonolek. On another part of the lake we visit the roost of White-backed Night Herons and see a juvenile bird. Also here is another pair of Finfoots, who show pretty well.

Tens of Hippo’s and three small Nile Crocodiles are a nice bycatch. After breakfast at the park’s restaurant we can only have a short game drive through the park as we have to get to Mabira. The only Lion of the park and the rare Hyena’s are not encountered but theGiraffe’s, Zebra’s and a big African Rock Python were pretty nice as well.

During this game drive we manage to find a Long-tailed Cisticola, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Striped Kingfisher, Sulphur-breasted Bushshrike, Spot-flanked Barbet, White-winged Tit and Rüppell’s and Lappet-faced Vulture. But that’s it, we leave without a Red-faced Barbet on our list. The rest of the day we spend driving towards Mabira, arriving at Griffin Falls Camp after dawn.

Hotel: Griffin Falls Camp

10-09 Mabira – Kampala

We have to make a choice, as we stay at Griffin Falls Camp we can either walk at the trails around the camp, or go to Mabira Forest trails, at the information centre. We choose for the latter, although wasting some valuable time in the morning.

Around the Griffin Falls Camp three of us see a Green Twinspot but lose the bird before the others can catch up. We stop every now and then and at we find a Brown-chested Alethe, African Pied Hornbill, Grey Parrot. Some of hear Nahan’s Partridge but this cannot be confirmed by all of us. At the information centre guide Herman joins us and we walk one of the trails. Birding here is not bad, although you can hear cars and trucks passing in the distant.

We find Forest Wood-Hoopoe, as well as Least Honeyguide, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Great Sparrowhawk, Forest Robin, Green Hylia and Weyn’s Weaver. An Elephant-shrew spec. forages silently on the forest floor. In the afternoon we try two tracks (dirt roads) more to the east, which start from the main road. Our guide manages to tape-lure a White- spotted Flufftail to the other side of the road, giving us brief but good views of the bird.

Other birds here include Red-headed Bluebill and White-throated Bee-eater. We take another side road, were we finally find one of the target birds, Lowland Sooty Boobou. We also encounter our only Superb Sunbird of the trip. We decide to give a last try to find Tit Hylia, but to no avail.

According to our guide the tracks here are especially good in the early morning, as groups of birds moving through the forest can be seen here as they cross the road. A pity we have only one morning left in Uganda. After saying good-bye to our guide we continue to Kampala for the night.

Hotel: Nob View Hotel

11-09 Kampala – Mabamba – Home

Our final day in Uganda, and there is still one big bird on the wish list, the Shoebill! We leave Kampala early, but not as early enough to beat all the traffic jams. At the boat ramp of the Mabamba Swamp Bridget has a long discussion with the parking guard, apparently they introduced an extra fee recently. Around 9 am we can finally depart in two motorised boats.

While cruising on one of the bigger canals we start to see a big bird on the left side of the canal, that must be a Shoebill! As we are getting closer, our guide notices a Blue Swallow, which is also on the target list. This bird is more difficult to get into view, so we first focus on the Blue Swallow. The bird is flying around in a group of Barn Swallows and after everyone has seen the bird, we can finally turn towards the Shoebill.

What a bird…! So big, and so prehistoric. At a distance of 20 meters, we can observe the bird, which does not seem to bother much. After a while we leave this bird and find another one a bit further on. Again, we have incredible views. After the Shoebill-show we look around for other marsh birds. Blue-breasted Bee-eaters are common and an African Marsh harrier is flying around. Other birds we encounter are Winding Cisticola, Yellow-billed Duck, Blue-headed Coucal, Long-toed Lapwing, Fan-tailed Widowbird and Broad-billed Roller.

We leave Mabamba and have lunch in a lake-side restaurant near the airport. And then it is time to say good-bye to our guide Allen and driver Bridget. We had a great time together but the fun had come to an end. 16 days of birding in Uganda was such fun and we would do it again.

List of observed birds

  1.  Egyptian Goose
  2. Hartlaub’s Duck
  3. African Black Duck
  4. Yellow-billed Duck
  5. Helmeted Guineafowl
  6. Crested Guineafowl
  7. Nahan’s Partridge
  8. Coqui Francolin
  9. Crested Francolin
  10. Handsome Francolin
  11. Yellow-billed Stork
  12. African Openbill
  13. Woolly-necked Stork
  14. Marabou Stork
  15. African Sacred Ibis
  16. Hadada Ibis
  17. African Spoonbill
  18. Little Bittern
  19. White-backed Night Heron
  20. Black-crowned Night Heron
  21. Striated Heron
  22. Squacco Heron
  23. Rufous-bellied Heron
  24. Western Cattle Egret
  25. Grey Heron
  26. Black-headed Heron
  27. Purple Heron
  28. Great Egret
  29. Intermediate Egret
  30. Little Egret
  31. Hamerkop
  32. Shoebill
  33. Great White Pelican
  34. Pink-backed Pelican
  35. Reed Cormorant
  36. White-breasted Cormorant
  37. Black-winged Kite
  38. African Harrier-Hawk
  39. Palm-nut Vulture
  40. Hooded Vulture
  41. White-backed Vulture
  42. Rüppell’s Vulture
  43. White-headed Vulture
  44. Lappet-faced Vulture
  45. Black-chested Snake Eagle
  46. Brown Snake Eagle
  47. Bateleur
  48. Crowned Eagle
  49. Long-crested Eagle
  50. Wahlberg’s Eagle
  51. Tawny Eagle
  52. Verreaux’s Eagle
  53. Cassin’s Hawk-Eagle
  54. Lizard Buzzard
  55. African Goshawk
  56. Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk
  57. African Marsh Harrier
  58. Yellow-billed Kite
  59. African Fish Eagle
  60. Augur Buzzard
  61. Black-bellied Bustard
  62. White-spotted Flufftail
  63. African Finfoot
  64. African Crake
  65. Black Crake
  66. Grey Crowned Crane
  67. Common Buttonquail
  68. Water Thick-knee
  69. Black-winged Stilt
  70. Long-toed Lapwing
  71. Spur-winged Lapwing
  72. Senegal Lapwing
  73. Crowned Lapwing
  74. African Wattled Lapwing
  75. Brown-chested Lapwing
  76. Kittlitz’s Plover
  77. Three-banded Plover
  78. African Jacana
  79. Common Sandpiper
  80. Wood Sandpiper
  81. Temminck’s Courser
  82. Collared Pratincole
  83. Grey-headed Gull
  84. White-winged Tern
  85. Speckled Pigeon
  86. Afep Pigeon
  87. African Olive Pigeon
  88. Western Bronze-naped Pigeon
  89. Mourning Collared Dove
  90. Red-eyed Dove
  91. Ring-necked Dove
  92. Emerald-spotted Wood Dove
  93. Blue-spotted Wood Dove
  94. Tambourine Dove
  95. African Green Pigeon
  96. Great Blue Turaco
  97. Black-billed Turaco
  98. Rwenzori Turaco
  99. Ross’s Turaco
  100. Bare-faced Go-away-bird
  101. Eastern Plantain-eater
  102. Senegal Coucal
  103. Blue-headed Coucal
  104. White-browed Coucal
  105. Blue Malkoha
  106. Levaillant’s Cuckoo
  107. Klaas’s Cuckoo
  108. Yellow-throated Cuckoo
  109. African Emerald Cuckoo
  110. Black Cuckoo
  111. Red-chested Cuckoo
  112. African Cuckoo
  113. Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl
  114. African Wood Owl
  115. Red-chested Owlet
  116. Black-shouldered Nightjar
  117. Freckled Nightjar
  118. Pennant-winged Nightjar
  119. Scarce Swift
  120. Mottled Spinetail
  121. Sabine’s Spinetail
  122. African Palm Swift
  123. Alpine Swift
  124. White-rumped Swift
  125. Speckled Mousebird
  126. Blue-naped Mousebird
  127. Narina Trogon
  128. Bar-tailed Trogon
  129. Lilac-breasted Roller
  130. Blue-throated Roller
  131. Broad-billed Roller
  132. Grey-headed Kingfisher
  133. Striped Kingfisher
  134. Blue-breasted Kingfisher
  135. Woodland Kingfisher
  136. African Dwarf Kingfisher
  137. African Pygmy Kingfisher
  138. White-bellied Kingfisher
  139. Malachite Kingfisher
  140. Pied Kingfisher
  141. Black Bee-eater
  142. Little Bee-eater
  143. Blue-breasted Bee-eater
  144. Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater
  145. Red-throated Bee-eater
  146. White-throated Bee-eater
  147. Olive Bee-eater
  148. Forest Wood Hoopoe
  149. White-headed Wood Hoopoe
  150. Green Wood Hoopoe
  151. Common Scimitarbill
  152. Crowned Hornbill
  153. African Pied Hornbill
  154. African Grey Hornbill
  155. Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill
  156. Piping Hornbill
  157. Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill
  158. Black-casqued Hornbill
  159. White-crested Hornbill
  160. Grey-throated Barbet
  161. Speckled Tinkerbird
  162. Western Tinkerbird
  163. Red-rumped Tinkerbird
  164. Yellow-throated Tinkerbird
  165. Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird
  166. Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird
  167. Yellow-spotted Barbet
  168. Hairy-breasted Barbet
  169. Spot-flanked Barbet
  170. White-headed Barbet
  171. Double-toothed Barbet
  172. Yellow-billed Barbet
  173. Crested Barbet
  174. Willcocks’s Honeyguide
  175. Least Honeyguide
  176. Lesser Honeyguide
  177. Nubian Woodpecker
  178. Buff-spotted Woodpecker
  179. Brown-eared Woodpecker
  180. Speckle-breasted Woodpecker
  181. Cardinal Woodpecker
  182. Elliot’s Woodpecker
  183. African Grey Woodpecker
  184. Olive Woodpecker
  185. Grey Kestrel
  186. Grey Parrot
  187. Brown-necked Parrot
  188. Meyer’s Parrot
  189. Red-headed Lovebird
  190. African Broadbill
  191. Rufous-sided Broadbill
  192. Grauer’s Broadbill
  193. Green-breasted Pitta
  194. Rwenzori Batis
  195. Chinspot Batis
  196. Western Black-headed Batis
  197. Chestnut Wattle-eye
  198. Brown-throated Wattle-eye
  199. Jameson’s Wattle-eye
  200. Many-colored Bushshrike
  201. Bocage’s Bushshrike
  202. Orange-breasted Bushshrike
  203. Doherty’s Bushshrike
  204. Marsh Tchagra
  205. Brown-crowned Tchagra
  206. Black-crowned Tchagra
  207. Pink-footed Puffback
  208. Northern Puffback
  209. Lowland Sooty Boubou
  210. Mountain Sooty Boubou
  211. Willard’s Sooty Boubou
  212. Lühder’s Bushshrike
  213. Tropical Boubou
  214. Papyrus Gonolek
  215. Black-headed Gonolek
  216. African Shrike-flycatcher
  217. Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher
  218. Grey Cuckooshrike
  219. Black Cuckooshrike
  220. Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike
  221. Petit’s Cuckooshrike
  222. Mackinnon’s Shrike
  223. Grey-backed Fiscal
  224. Northern Fiscal
  225. Western Oriole
  226. Mountain Oriole
  227. Black-headed Oriole
  228. Fork-tailed Drongo
  229. Velvet-mantled Drongo
  230. Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher
  231. African Paradise Flycatcher
  232. Piapiac
  233. Pied Crow
  234. White-necked Raven
  235. African Blue Flycatcher
  236. White-tailed Blue Flycatcher
  237. Dusky Crested Flycatcher
  238. White-bellied Crested Flycatcher
  239. White-tailed Crested Flycatcher
  240. White-winged Black Tit
  241. Dusky Tit
  242. Stripe-breasted Tit
  243. Western Nicator
  244. Rufous-naped Lark
  245. Flappet Lark
  246. Red-capped Lark
  247. Dark-capped Bulbul
  248. Kakamega Greenbul
  249. Olive-breasted Greenbul
  250. Slender-billed Greenbul
  251. Little Greenbul
  252. Little Grey Greenbul
  253. Plain Greenbul
  254. Yellow-whiskered Greenbul
  255. Honeyguide Greenbul
  256. Joyful Greenbul
  257. Toro Olive Greenbul
  258. Xavier’s Greenbul
  259. White-throated Greenbul
  260. Yellow-streaked Greenbul
  261. Red-tailed Bristlebill
  262. Yellow-lored Bristlebill
  263. Red-tailed Greenbul
  264. White-headed Saw-wing
  265. Black Saw-wing
  266. Banded Martin
  267. Barn Swallow
  268. Angolan Swallow
  269. Wire-tailed Swallow
  270. Blue Swallow
  271. Rock Martin
  272. Lesser Striped Swallow
  273. Red-breasted Swallow
  274. Mosque Swallow
  275. Red-rumped Swallow
  276. Moustached Grass Warbler
  277. Grey Longbill
  278. Red-faced Crombec
  279. Green Crombec
  280. Lemon-bellied Crombec
  281. White-browed Crombec
  282. Neumann’s Warbler
  283. Chestnut-capped Flycatcher
  284. Grauer’s Warbler
  285. Green Hylia
  286. Red-faced Woodland Warbler
  287. Greater Swamp Warbler
  288. African Reed Warbler
  289. African Yellow Warbler
  290. Mountain Yellow Warbler
  291. White-winged Swamp Warbler
  292. Grauer’s Swamp Warbler
  293. Cinnamon Bracken Warbler
  294. Red-faced Cisticola
  295. Trilling Cisticola
  296. Chubb’s Cisticola
  297. Winding Cisticola
  298. Carruthers’s Cisticola
  299. Stout Cisticola
  300. Croaking Cisticola
  301. Short-winged Cisticola
  302. Long-tailed Cisticola
  303. Zitting Cisticola
  304. Wing-snapping Cisticola
  305. Black-faced Prinia
  306. White-chinned Prinia
  307. Rwenzori Apalis
  308. Buff-bellied Warbler
  309. Yellow-breasted Apalis
  310. Lowland Masked Apalis
  311. Mountain Masked Apalis
  312. Black-throated Apalis
  313. Chestnut-throated Apalis
  314. Buff-throated Apalis
  315. Grey-capped Warbler
  316. Grey-backed Camaroptera
  317. Yellow-browed Camaroptera
  318. Olive-green Camaroptera
  319. Black-faced Rufous Warbler
  320. Scaly-breasted Illadopsis
  321. Pale-breasted Illadopsis
  322. Mountain Illadopsis
  323. Black-lored Babbler
  324. Brown Babbler
  325. Rwenzori Hill Babbler
  326. African Yellow White-eye
  327. Grey-chested Babbler
  328. Wattled Starlin
  329. Purple-headed Starling
  330. Greater Blue-eared Starling
  331. Splendid Starling
  332. Rüppell’s Starling
  333. Superb Starling
  334. Violet-backed Starling
  335. Stuhlmann’s Starling
  336. Narrow-tailed Starling
  337. Sharpe’s Starling
  338. Yellow-billed Oxpecker
  339. Red-tailed Ant Thrush
  340. White-tailed Ant Thrush
  341. Fraser’s Rufous Thrush
  342. Abyssinian Ground Thrush
  343. African Thrush
  344. Abyssinian Thrush
  345. Fire-crested Alethe
  346. Brown-backed Scrub Robin
  347. Grey-throated Tit-Flycatcher
  348. Grey Tit-Flycatcher
  349. White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher
  350. Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher
  351. Northern Black Flycatcher
  352. Swamp Flycatcher
  353. Cassin’s Flycatcher
  354. African Dusky Flycatcher
  355. Dusky-blue Flycatcher
  356. Sooty Flycatcher
  357. Red-throated Alethe
  358. Brown-chested Alethe
  359. White-bellied Robin-Chat
  360. Archer’s Ground Robin
  361. Cape Robin-Chat
  362. Grey-winged Robin-Chat
  363. Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat
  364. White-browed Robin-Chat
  365. Red-capped Robin-Chat
  366. Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat
  367. White-starred Robin
  368. Forest Robin
  369. Equatorial Akalat
  370. African Stonechat
  371. Sooty Chat
  372. Familiar Chat
  373. Grey-headed Sunbird
  374. Little Green Sunbird
  375. Grey-chinned Sunbird
  376. Collared Sunbird
  377. Green-headed Sunbird
  378. Blue-throated Brown Sunbird
  379. Blue-headed Sunbird
  380. Olive Sunbird
  381. Green-throated Sunbird
  382. Scarlet-chested Sunbird
  383. Purple-breasted Sunbird
  384. Bronzy Sunbird
  385. Olive-bellied Sunbird
  386. Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird
  387. Northern Double-collared Sunbird
  388. Regal Sunbird
  389. Red-chested Sunbird
  390. Purple-banded Sunbird
  391. Superb Sunbird
  392. Variable Sunbird
  393. Copper Sunbird
  394. Northern Grey-headed Sparrow
  395. Thick-billed Weaver
  396. Baglafecht Weaver
  397. Slender-billed Weaver
  398. Spectacled Weaver
  399. Black-necked Weaver
  400. Strange Weaver
  401. Black-billed Weaver
  402. Holub’s Golden Weaver
  403. Northern Brown-throated Weaver
  404. Lesser Masked Weaver
  405. Village Weaver
  406. Vieillot’s Black Weaver
  407. Weyns’s Weaver
  408. Black-headed Weaver
  409. Compact Weaver
  410. Brown-capped Weaver
  411. Red-headed Malimbe
  412. Crested Malimbe
  413. Cardinal Quelea
  414. Red-billed Quelea
  415. Black Bishop
  416. Southern Red Bishop
  417. Fan-tailed Widowbird
  418. Marsh Widowbird
  419. Jameson’s Antpecker
  420. White-breasted Nigrita
  421. Chestnut-breasted Nigrita
  422. Pale-fronted Nigrita
  423. Grey-headed Nigrita
  424. Green Twinspot
  425. Dusky Crimsonwing
  426. Black-bellied Seedcracker
  427. Red-headed Bluebill
  428. Dusky Twinspot
  429. Red-billed Firefinch
  430. African Firefinch
  431. Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu
  432. Yellow-bellied Waxbill
  433. Orange-cheeked Waxbill
  434. Common Waxbill
  435. Black-crowned Waxbill
  436. Kandt’s Waxbill
  437. Black-faced Waxbill
  438. Bronze Mannikin
  439. Black-and-white Mannikin
  440. Pin-tailed Whydah
  441. Cape Wagtail
  442. Mountain Wagtail
  443. African Pied Wagtail
  444. Yellow-throated Longclaw
  445. African Pipit
  446. Plain-backed Pipit
  447. Oriole Finch
  448. Western Citril
  449. Yellow-fronted Canary
  450. Brimstone Canary
  451. Thick-billed Seedeater
  452. Streaky Seedeater
  453. Golden-breasted Bunting

List of observed mammals

  1. Red-legged Sun Squirel
  2. Alexander’s Bush Squirrel
  3. Forest Giant Squirrel
  4. Smith’s Bish Squirrel
  5. Boehm’s Bush Squirrel
  6. Carruther’s Mountain Squirrel
  7. Striped Ground Squirrel
  8. Eastern Chimpanzee
  9. Mountain Gorilla
  10. Ashy Red Colobus
  11. Guereza
  12. Olive Baboon
  13. Blue Monkey
  14. Red-tailed Monkey
  15. Uganda Mangabey
  16. De Brazza’s Monkey
  17. Tantalus Monkey
  18. L’Hoest’s Monkey
  19. Golden Monkey
  20. Giraffe
  21. Forest Elephant
  22. African Bush Elephant
  23. Common Hippopotamus
  24. Lion
  25. African Leopard
  26. Cat spec.
  27. Cape Buffalo
  28. Waterbuck
  29. Bushbuck
  30. Kob
  31. Topi
  32. Impala
  33. Common Eland
  34. Plains Zebra
  35. Common Warthog
  36. Giant Forest Hog
  37. Common Slender Mongoose
  38. Banded Mongoose
  39. Common Dwarf Mongoose
  40. Bunyoro Rabbit
  41. Black-fronted Duiker
  42. Lesser Galago spec.
  43. Spot-necked Otter

List of observed reptiles

  1. Nile Crocolide
  2. Nile Monitor
  3. Johnston’s Chameleon
  4. African Rock Python
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