Uganda 2011

...with Mark Finn

December 21st - January 4th

This was the seventh Birdwatching Breaks tour to bird-rich Uganda. The tour was extremely successful for the main target species which included great sightings of Shoebill at three different locations, a wide range of bee-eaters including Black, Red-throated and Swallow-tailed. For many of us the undoubted highlights were the forest species occurring at Bwindi and Budongo comprising of sought after species in Chocolate-backed and Blue-breasted Kingfishers, Dwarf and African Pygmy Kingfishers, a wide range of greenbuls, Equatorial Akalat, Short-tailed Warbler and Snowy-crowned and White-bellied Robin Chats. In addition to these wonderful African birds a healthy number of mammals were encountered including Lowland Gorilla, Chimpanzee (at two different locations), Giraffe, Zebra and a wide range of antelopes.

December 21st/22nd: London, Nairobi, Entebbe, Kampala, Entebbe Botanical Gardens.

Weather: Early rain followed by sunshine 25 C.

We met up at Heathrow Terminal 4 early on the 21st to book in with Kenya Airways to Entebbe via Nairobi. The group were fortunate that the airline was operational and departed on time from Heathrow despite the poor weather conditions affecting the airport. The flight to Nairobi and various connections worked well and we arrived on time at Entebbe on the 22nd. After clearing customs and passport control we met up with Freddie our driver and proceeded to the centre of Kampala. Along the way a few birds were recorded with Hadada Ibis, Cattle Egret, Hamerkop, Pied Crow, African Pied and Western Yellow Wagtails around the airport car park. Kampala is slowly being choked by vehicle pollution and total traffic meltdown. Despite this we booked into the Sheraton Hotel for our only night in the Ugandan capital. Lunch, then a visit to Entebbe Botanical Gardens (EBG) a good place for an introduction to Ugandan birds. On leaving the hotel an African Harrier Hawk was noted in the grounds. On arrival at EBG the first birding stop added a superb Purple-banded Sunbird, Red-billed Firefinch and a singing Tawny-flanked Prinia. The large trees here attracted African Fish Eagle, Crowned and Black and White Casqued Hornbills, Lizard Buzzard, Grey Woodpecker and a Double-toothed Barbet. At lower levels a White-browed Robin Chat, Slender-billed and Baglafect Weavers and wintering Eastern Olivaceous and Willow Warblers. In the next section great views of Klaas’ Cuckoo, Broad-billed Roller and a pair of African Grey Parrots the latter being scarce in the Kampala area. We walked down to the shore of Lake Victoria with its varied bird life. In trees and bushes surrounding the lake White-fronted and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, Pied and Woodland Kingfishers, African Openbill and Swamp Flycatcher. Over the lake wintering White-winged, Gull-billed and a single Common Tern the latter being a major rarity in Uganda. Waders were also in evidence with Marsh, Common and Wood Sandpipers, Greenshank, Spur-winged Lapwing and Black-winged Stilts. Time was running out as we returned to Kampala.

December 23rd: Kampala, Mbamba, Mbarara.

Weather: Overcast then sunny 30 C

Breakfast at 0700 hours and then out of the congestion that plagues Kampala to Mbamba Swamp a section of Lake Victoria. The road to Mbamba is rutted and slow and passes through several villages and smallholdings. Along the road the first Long-crested Eagle of the tour and Grey-headed Sparrows perched on buildings. Puddles along the road attracted Red-rumped and Lesser Striped Swallows collecting nesting material (mud). In a garden we were treated to close views of an African Green Pigeon sitting on a rather flimsy stick nest. The quay at Mbamba was reached an interesting place where vehicles are loaded onto pontoons and fisherman leave to go fishing. By the quay we recorded wintering Whinchat, Red-chested Sunbird, Violet-backed Starling and Black-headed Weaver. Four dug-out canoes were ordered (due to low water levels) and we left to explore the maze of channels. Near the quay Grosbeak Weavers and obliging Malachite Kingfishers. Over the next three hours we managed to find several species of the unique papyrus habitats; Long-toed Lapwings, Blue-breasted Bee-eaters, Winding Cisticola, Papyrus Gonolek and the impressive Shoebill the latter giving long views as it preened. Other birds of note included Black Egret, African Black Crake, African Marsh Harrier, African Snipe, Western Yellow and Black-headed Wagtails, Banded and Sand Martins, Northern Brown-throated Weavers and Fan-tailed Widowbirds. Returned to the quay after an amazing few hours in this unique African habitat. We decided to have lunch further up the road under the shade of some large trees. This proved to be a good move as flowering sections attracted a range of sunbirds; Green-headed, Green-throated, Collared and the Superb Sunbird. Overhead a wintering European Honey Buzzard and a Wahlberg’s Eagle. Just before leaving excellent views of Great Blue Turaco and along the road a colony of Viellot’s Weavers and a single Ross’s Turaco. The road to Mbarara was long and rough in places making it seem a longer journey than it actually was. Little of note apart from our first viewings of Grey-crowned Cranes the national bird of Uganda. Arrived in Mbarara a town famous for its number of petrol stations, banks and mobile telephone stores but little else.

December 24th: Mbarara, Mburo National Park.

Weather: Cloudy with sunny periods 32 C

After breakfast we walked down to the lake within the hotel grounds. Although small in size it has a papyrus bed and areas of open water. This proved to be good for birds with sightings of Giant and Pied Kingfishers, Sacred Ibis, Cardinal and Nubian Woodpeckers, European Bee-eaters and Grey-capped Warbler. At 0800 hours we set off through Mbarara to Mburo National Park an important reserve of acacia woodland, swamps and lakes. Along the entrance road Black-shouldered Kite, Arrow-marked Babblers and in rank grasses White-winged and Fan-tailed Widowbirds. Just before the park entrance a White-browed Coucal, Fork-tailed Drongo and a pair of Meyer’s Parrots. Once inside the park we headed to the lake shore to meet up with Moses our guide for the day. Our first excursion was to board a boat and look in and around the lakeside vegetation for birds. In the furthest corner we were treated to close views of White-backed Night Herons roosting in papyrus stems. Nearby, Squacco and Striated Herons and calling Brown-throated Wattle-eyes and Yellow-fronted Tinkerbirds. We continued our boat trip around the lake and eventually found several African Finfoots numbering six individuals in total. A pair of male birds squabbled and fought along the lake edge much to our amusement. Lunch taken in the shade of the riverside restaurant building with soaring White-backed Vultures, Bataleur and Maribou Storks overhead. At 1300 hours we set off again to visit a seasonally flooded area. This proved to be an extremely productive area with the walk in providing us with views of Red-chested Cuckoo, Spot-flanked Barbet and Trilling Cisticola. In the wetter areas several birds from Northern Europe including Wood and Green Sandpipers, Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper and Ruff the latter being a scarce bird in Uganda. Our interest however was in the African birds with sightings of the uncommon Rufous-bellied Heron, Dwarf Bittern, Grey-hooded and Woodland Kingfishers, Black-lored Babblers and Red-necked Francolins. In the air another Shoebill was seen. The walk continued back towards the road recording Mosque Swallow, African Grey and Crowned Hornbills and best of all the rare and localised Red-faced Barbet. Other species present included Striped Kingfisher, White-browed Robin Chat and Helmeted Guineafowl. Boarded the bus to visit another area where a Croaking Cisticola was observed sitting on top of an acacia bush. Suddenly Moses was motivated by the presence of a Long-tailed Cisticola a rare and localised species, after a lot of searching we managed to have great views of this little known and rare bird. On leaving the park a lone White-winged Tit perched in an acacia was a fitting finale to an excellent days birding.

December 25th: Mbarara, Bwindi via Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP).

Weather: Sunny with afternoon showers 30 C.

A later start today as we left Mbarara for Bwindi. Our first birding stop was at a papyrus swamp adjacent to the road with African Stonechats perched on low fence posts. We walked back up the road to look down into the papyrus bed. In a short time a White-winged Warbler came into view and showed well for all of us. Other species present included Grosbeak, Baglafecht, Yellow-backed, Slender-billed and Holaub’s Golden Weavers, Fan-tailed Widowbirds, Papyrus Gonolek and White-browed Robin Chat. After around twenty minutes the scarce Papyrus Canary came into view and perched on dead papyrus stems this was followed by dueting Chubb’s Cisticolas, Yellow-fronted Canary and Streaky Seedeater. Further along the road three Woolly-necked Storks were seen feeding next to a group of cattle. Our journey then took us to higher elevations with fantastic views over the Rift Valley. The road through QENP towards the Congo was simply dreadful and added a lot of time to the journey. Along the route we found an immature Cassin’s Hawk Eagle, Blue-breasted Kingfisher and dozens of Yellow Wagtails and swallows. A late lunch was taken at a small town where Little and White-rumped Swifts were feeding overhead. On the remaining journey to Bwindi we added a few birds including Common and McKinnon’s Fiscals, Yellow Bishop and Village Indigobird. At 1900 hours we arrived at our tented camp and base for the next four nights after a long and sometimes rough (road conditions) travel day.

December 26th: Bwindi.

Weather: Sunny spells with afternoon showers 18 C.

Today was spent walking slowly along the main trail at Bwindi. Breakfast at 0715 hours with birds in the gardens including African Thrush, Yellow-throated Leaflove, African Dusky and White-eyed Slaty Flycatchers, Black and White Mannikin, and a male Golden-breasted Bunting by the restaurant. At 0800 we entered the impenetrable forest with birding by the entrance track. This produced several interesting birds notably African Shrike and Vanga Flycatchers. Luhder’s and Grey-green Bushshrikes, Slender-billed Greenbul, Black-necked Weaver, Thick-billed Seedeater and a Tambourine Dove. On entering the forest we quickly located Yellow-rumped and Yellow-throated Tinkerbirds, Elliot’s Woodpecker, White-tailed Ant-thrush, Grey-throated Tit Flycatcher, and a pair of Black-faced Rufous Warblers skulking in the undergrowth. A feeding flock was located with species present being Honeyguide, Red-tailed, Yellow-whiskered, Kakamega and Toro Olive Greenbuls, White-breasted Negrofinch, Buff-throated Apalis and Brown-capped Weaver. Overhead a pair of Crowned Hawk Eagles hunting over the forest canopy. At 1100 hours we entered a slightly more open habitat dominated by huge trees cloaked in lichens and flowering shrubs. In the larger trees Chestnut-winged and Stuhlman’s Starlings, Red-headed Malimbe, White-headed Woodhoopoe and Yellow-spotted Barbet. By the trail close views of Red-faced Woodland Warbler and Black-throated Apalis. Lunch taken along the trail followed by birding for a further few hundred metres. Bird life was quiet apart from Grey-throated Barbets, Olive-green Camaroptera and a calling Bronze-naped Pigeon. The heavens then opened for the next forty minutes bringing birding to a complete halt. On the return walk a group of Scaly-breasted Illadopsis, and slightly off the trail the sought after Short-tailed Warbler and the uncommon White-bellied Robin Chat. The finale for many was a pair of Black Bee-eaters perched on an exposed dead snag and a male Bar-tailed Trogon sitting quietly on an exposed branch. Returned to base a happy but tired group.

December 27th: Ruhija.

Weather: Sunny spells 20 C.

An early start was essential to visit the hill town of Ruhija which is reached along some of the most atrocious roads in Uganda. On the ascent a few birds were seen; Augur Buzzard, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Olive Pigeon and Brown-crowned Tchagra. At the ranger station African Rock Martins and Angolan Swallows nesting under the roof. Our first walk produced Chestnut-throated Apalis, Olive Thrush, Mountain Oriole and calling Grauer’s Warbler and Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo. We turned off to walk along a path straddling a wooded ridge and valley below us. This was an extremely productive area for birdlife. Mountain Masked and Rwenzori Apalis, Regal and Blue-headed Sunbirds and a stunning Yellow-billed Barbet were quickly found. Other species included Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk, Grey Cuckooshrike, Thick-billed Honeyguide and calling White-headed Woodhoopoes. Retraced our walk back to the main track with a Mountain Buzzard, and Twinspot Batis in dead trees. On the way back down an area of overgrown plants produced the scarce Doherty’s Bushshrike and Northern Puffback. Lunch taken followed by a slow walk down ‘The Neck’ an extremely productive place for birds. New species for the trip included White-chinned Prinia, Little Green Sunbird, Dusky Blue Flycatcher, Pink-footed Puffback and the poorly known Lagden’s Bushshrike. In the forest canopy Waller’s, Narrow-tailed and Chestnut-winged Starlings. Roadside plants added the ‘warbler like’ Grey-headed Sunbird and a Common Waxbill the latter a rarity of the area. On the river a pair of Mountain Wagtails and Cassin’s Flycatchers. Returned to base after a long day in the field.

December 28th: Bwindi.

Weather: Sunny with heavy afternoon showers 20 C.

Our last full day at Bwindi started at 0800 hours with a walk into the forest. Before reaching the main track we encountered several birds of interest. The first being a White-tailed Blue Flycatcher fanning its tail as it pursued insects. A bonus came in the form of an Equatorial Akalat which showed well in the undergrowth. Our attention then focused on a Levaillant’s Cuckoo perched high in a leafy tree, a regular but scarce inter-African migrant. Further along the track we heard a Blue-shouldered Robin Chat singing from dense cover. The real rarity was to come as a pair of Grey-winged Robin Chats sang and showed well in a tangle of vines. At 1000 hours we entered the main track although bird life was unusually quiet to start with. Very good views of Scaly-breasted Illadopsis, and brief ones of Mountain Sooty Boubou, and overhead a group of Scarce Swifts. After an enjoyable hot lunch the weather turned for the worse and birding stopped for the best part of two hours. The rain finally relented although bird sightings included a pair of Chestnut Wattle-eyes, Grey Greenbul, Purple-headed and Chestnut-winged Starlings and a Cassin’s Honeyguide searching for food on a tree-trunk. On our return to towards the park headquarters a pair of Yellowbills showed in hanging vines with Black-billed Weavers. A calling Black Cuckoo failed to show but a Green Hylia searching for insects was a fitting end to the day. Tomorrow we head to QENP and a different set of habitats for a two night stop.

December 29th: Bwindi, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Myewa Lodge.

Weather: Hot and sunny with afternoon lightning 35 C.

After spending our last night in the tented camp at Bwindi we set off towards Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP). Today was basically one of travel along some of the worst roads in Western Uganda. Our first birding stop was in an area of farmland bordered by rivers, cliffs and scrub. By the road a Snowy-crowned Robin Chat, African Blue Flycatcher, Grosbeak Weaver and a singing Red-faced Cisticola. By the river itself Lesser Striped Swallows collecting mud and a group of Woolly-necked Storks feeding among the cattle. Larger trees around the fields attracted a fine Black Sparrowhawk, Ross’ Turaco, Black-lored Babbler and Grey-crowned Cranes, for a lucky few a Little Sparrowhawk was also noted. Our journey continued past small villages with plots of maize and coffee until we had a stroke of bad luck with a puncture. A short walk followed with fallow ground and long grassy areas attracting Red and Black Bishops, White-winged and Fan-tailed Widowbirds. In the eucalyptus groves a Northern Black Flycatcher. The puncture and new tyre were proving hard to find in this remote area so we hitched a lift in a pick-up truck to the hotel we used on Christmas Day. This was a great experience and it was good to escape the harsh rays of the sun. Cold drinks and a leisurely lunch followed before Freddie turned up with the bus and a new tyre in place. Most of the afternoon was spent on the rough road towards the northern sector of QENP with new birds along the route including Yellow-throated Longclaw and Senegal Coucal. After a few hours we rejoined the ‘major highway’ and entered through the park gates. Driving slowly along the track added typical birds of this dry habitat including Grey-headed Kingfisher, Crested and Red-necked Francolins, Wattled Lapwing, Black-headed Gonolek, Spot-flanked and Double-toothed Barbets, Blue-naped and Speckled Mousebirds, Red-billed Firefinch and Brown-crowned Tchagra. We cancelled our boat trip and rescheduled it for tomorrow morning. Checked in at Myewa Lodge for the next two nights a welcome place to stay.

December 30th: QENP including Kazinga Channel and Maramagambo.

Weather: Hot and sunny 35 C.

Due to the van problems of yesterday we had to cram in an additional tour to make up for the lost time. We met up at 0630 and set off on one of the many tracks to the main gate. New birds along the way included Ring-necked Dove and Blue-spotted Wood-doves, Zitting Cisticola, African Moustached Warbler, and a Flappet Lark perched in a low bush. Lunch taken by the park gate followed by a slow drive back to Myewa Lodge. A large tree held a roosting Verraux’s Eagle Owl which showed well before flying off into cover. Further along the track a Tawny Eagle and a group of Green Woodhoopoes. At 1100 hours we boarded a boat for a cruise down the Kazinga Channel an exceptional area for wildlife. After crossing the channel we quickly located White-headed and White-backed Vultures, a large flock of African Skimmers and the huge Goliath Heron sitting quietly on a mud bank. In the first sector of mud we recorded Egyptian Goose, Water Thick-knee, African Spoonbill and wintering waders from further north; Greenshank, Marsh, Wood, Common and Curlew Sandpipers, Black-tailed Godwit, Kittlitz’s, Common Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers and Little Stint. Abundant species included Pied and Malachite Kingfishers, Great, Squacco and Grey Herons. In the reeds Black Crakes, and Yellow-billed Oxpeckers the latter feeding on the backs of large mammals. A bonus came in the form of a White-headed Sawwing. Near the end of the channel a huge roost of White-breasted Cormorants, Gull-billed Terns, Grey-hooded Gulls and scarcer species in Lesser Black-backed and Heuglin’s Gulls. Among these birds were Saddle-billed and Yellow-billed Storks, African Openbill and Maribou Storks. Returned to the quay with Lanner Falcons circling high overhead. Lunch taken, and then meeting up at 1530 hours to visit the Maramagombo Forest a remote part of the park. On arrival we walked down the main track although birdlife was quiet to start with. Our journey paid off in the end as we recorded Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Red-capped Robin Chat and an Ashy Flycatcher. On the return journey Marsh Tchagra in long grasses. Dusk had started to fall as we joined the dirt track back to Myewa Lodge with added bonus of Swamp Nightjars on the track a fitting end to a great birding day in QENP.

December 31st: QENP, Fort Portal, Kabale Forest, Bogodi.

Weather: Hot and sunny 35 C.

This morning we checked out of Myewa Lodge to travel onto Fort Portal a major town in Western Uganda. Before going to Fort Portal a visit to another sector of QENP beyond the main entrance track. En route Grey Kestrel, Rufous-chested Swallow and Brimstone Canary. The shorter grasses on the opposite side of the road attracted migrant Eurasian and Pallid Harriers, Rufous-naped Lark and Plain-backed Pipit. Probably the most interesting bird was an African Crake which was flushed by Harriet in long grasses. The journey to Fort Portal passed through many small villages and a large town dominated by a concrete works. In the centre of Fort Portal we made a stop for supplies and fuel and headed towards the Kibale Forest a relict area of forest surrounded by tea plantations and farms. Within the forest habitats a pair of Black Bee-eaters, Great Blue and Ross’ Turacos. Checked in at a new lodge before departing to Bogodi and its swamp further up the road. From the information centre we embarked on a walk around the swamp and associated community lands. Our first stop was for the secretive White-spotted Flufftail which showed for a few of us before disappearing into the dense, dark undergrowth. Time was pressing so a short cut to the village was made through fields of maize and vegetable crops. This habitat attracted the shy Snowy-crowned Robin Chat, Splendid and Purple-headed Starlings, African Green Pigeon, Grey-headed and White-breasted Negrofinches, African Thrush, African Blue Flycatcher, Red-faced Cisticola, Double-toothed Barbet and a Dideric Cuckoo calling from high up in an eucalyptus tree. Back to base followed by dinner and an evening entertainment by local people doing traditional Ugandan dances and poems. At 2200 hours we visited a stake out for African Wood Owls which showed well in tall trees a fitting way to end 2010.

January 1st: Bogodi, Fort Portal, Hoima, Masindi

Weather: Early rain followed by sunny period’s 20 C/30 C.

Breakfast was taken at 0645 followed by the long journey to Masindi along some more horrendous roads. The first birding stop in Kibale provided views of Rufous Flycatcher Thrush singing from high up in a mature tree. Another bonus here was a group of Chimpanzees feeding on fruits. The road to Fort Portal is bad in places and this morning it was made worse by heavy rains. We joined the main Kampala road and made a brief stop for Harriet to meet her son and family. At Kyenjojo a stop for water and turned onto the Hoima road, after a few kilometres we had to stop as heavy rains had turned the road into a sticky, muddy mess making driving impossible. Following a delay of forty minutes a stop for birding produced views of Yellow-crested Woodpeckers, Yellow Wagtail, Willow Warbler and Violet-backed Starlings the latter being an inter African migrant. Before lunch another roadside stop added a singing Brown-backed Scrub Robin and a Shikra. Our lunch stop was by a river and papyrus swamp the latter having the commoner birds of this unique habitat. Lesser-striped, Barn, Angola and two immature Wire-tailed Swallows were also noted perched on wires. The journey to Hoima and Masindi seemed to take an age along poorly maintained roads it was a relief to arrive at the hotel in Masindi for the night.

January 2nd: Masindi, Budongo Forest, Rift Valley, Murchison.

Weather: Hot and sunny 40 C.

An early start from Masindi in order to reach Budongo Forest Reserve one of the best birding sites in Uganda. We picked up Raymond our local guide from a village on the way. At the entrance gate the walk along the Royal Mile started an impressive track surrounded by mature trees and an undergrowth of scrub. In the first few metres an immature Green-backed Twinspot was found jumping up to take seeds from grass stems. Nearby a Dwarf Kingfisher was located sitting quietly on a trackside branch. Further along the track Grey Longbill, Rufous-crowned Eremomela, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Brown-eared and Yellow-crested Woodpeckers and over the trees African Black Swift and Cassin’s Spinetails. Back in the forest a party of White-thighed Hornbills, Western Black-headed Oriole, Western Nicator and a White-throated Greenbul searching for insects in a hanging vine. Luck was on our side when Jen spotted a Chocolate-backed Kingfisher sitting quietly on a horizontal branch high in the tree canopy. This is an extremely difficult bird to see well so everybody was pleased to have scope views of this impressive bird. Down the track a close Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Black Cuckoo, Blue-throated Rollers and a calling Jameson’s Wattle-eye. Lunch taken under the forest canopy. At 1300 we left Budongo and headed towards the Rift Valley and a stop on a steep embankment. This proved to be an extremely good spot for birds as we recorded Dark Chanting Goshawk, Black-crowned Tchagra, Lesser Blue-eared Starling, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow Weaver, African Penduline Tit and the scarce and localised Foxy Cisticola. A pool by the road attracted Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, Black-billed Wood Dove, Black-faced Waxbill and Red-cheeked Cordonbleau down to drink. We quickly dropped down to the rough road adjacent to Lake Albert with a patch of dried ground attracting Shelley’s Rufous Sparrow, Namaqua Dove and in nearby bushes Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters. Birds by the road included a Black-bellied Bustard, Brown Snake Eagle, Isabelline Wheatear and Crested Francolins. Time was running pretty tight as we entered Murchison Falls National Park. Luckily the ferry was delayed and we crossed over to Paraa for the last two nights in Uganda.

January 3rd: Murchison National Park

Weather: Hot and sunny 38 C

Breakfast taken at 0630 hours followed by a boat trip towards Lake Albert along the White Nile. The commoner birds were present around the gardens and by the quayside. Once on board the boat we chugged slowly along looking for bird and mammal life. A bonus came when a flock of Black-winged Pratincoles were located sitting quietly on a muddy piece of ground. Further along the river we encountered new birds in African Darter, Senegal Thick-knee and a bonus in the form of a White-crowned Lapwing which usually occurs in southern Africa. In an area of palms a pair of Red-necked Falcons was seen pursuing prey plus hundreds of African Palm Swifts hunting insects. The water levels on approaching Lake Albert drop sharply which meant we had to turn around and go back. Before this happened Mimi located another Shoebill, and in the same marsh Spur-winged Geese, Long-tailed Lapwings and a juvenile Dark Chanting Goshawk. The return boat journey was notable for bee-eaters with Blue-cheeked, Swallow-tailed, Blue-breasted and Red-throated all being seen well. Back to base for lunch and a break of over three hours. At 1500 hours we set off again to visit another sector of Murchison. The habitat is dominated by acacia, grasses, palms and areas of large trees adjacent to the river. The first new birds were Speckle-fronted Weavers, Silverbill, Eurasian Kestrel and Grasshopper Buzzard the last species being associated with fires. By the river we located Common Scimitarbill, Spotted Palm Thrush, Brown Babbler and the smart White-browed Sparrow Weaver. A little more scanning and searching produced Stanley Bustard, Black-billed Barbet and Jacobin Cuckoo. Returned to the main gate with sightings of Heuglin’s Francolin, Slender-tailed and Plain Nightjars and a group of Giraffes walking through the long grasses.

January 4th: Murchison, Murchison Falls. Masindi, Kampala, Entebbe.

Final species total: 430

Weather: Hot and sunny 37 C.

After breakfast we crossed the White Nile and onto Murchison Falls. The road was poor in places and we arrived at 0930. From the car park we made the short walk to the viewpoint where the exposed rocks held the localised Rock Pratincole. Over our heads wintering House Martins and parties of African Palm Swifts. At 1000 we headed back to Masindi where we stopped for our picnic lunch. Freddie headed off to a garage as one of the tyres needed changing. The afternoon was largely uneventful as we journeyed to Kampala and its manic traffic. Eventually we made it to Entebbe Airport and checked in with Kenya Airlines for the flight to Nairobi and onto London.

For details of the full species list or to request further information about the next time we will be offering this trip. Contact us at

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