Photos with this report (click to enlarge)
This was a 19 day tour from 29 December 2006 to 17 January 2007.
This 19-day, best-value trip was designed and organised by Birding Africa and led by Michael Mills.
Detailed trip report
Day 1: Entebbe Introduction
Since most participants had arrived in good time, we had a full day to acquaint ourselves with the birds of Entebbe area. At dawn we made our way to the nearby Mabamba Swamps, our progress slowed by roadside Great Blue Turaco, African Pied Hornbill, Black-and-white Casqued Hornbill and White-throated Bee-eater.
Sooty Chat greeted our arrival to the launch site, and we were soon flushing colourful Malachite Kingfisher, which flitted from perch to perch as our wooden canoes ploughed down the narrow channel. Blue-breasted Bee-eater hunted insects from its papyrus-perch, joined by Swamp Flycatcher and Red-chested Sunbird. Also present were Winding Cisticola, African Marsh Harrier, Eurasian Marsh Harrier, Blue-headed Coucal, Northern Brown-throated Weaver, Black-headed/Yellow-backed Weaver and Slender-billed Weaver. Beds of waterlilies attracted African Jacana, Common Squacco Heron, Goliath Heron, Long-toed Lapwing and a pair of shy Allen’s Gallinule. Overhead we spotted Gull-billed Tern, Osprey, Brown Snake Eagle and African Fish Eagle. But alas, our main quarry was nowhere to be found, so we decided to return to Entebbe for a walk around the botanical gardens, and try again for Shoebill the following morning.
On the drive back we paused to admire a pair of perched Angola Swallow. Around Entebbe we added to our growing bird list, with Abdim’s Stork striking the golf course fairways, Broad-billed Roller, Pink-backed Pelican, the unusual Hamerkop, Splendid Starling and Rueppell’s Long-tailed Starling, European Hobby, Lizard Buzzard, Palm-nut Vulture, noisy pairs of Eastern Grey Plaintain-eater, several wader species, including Green Sandpiper, and best of all, a pair of Bat Hawk.
Day 2: Mabamba Swamp to Kibale National Park
With a longish drive to Kibale ahead of us, we made an extra early start for Mabamba, arriving shortly after sunrise. We headed straight out into the swamp, quickly spotting a striking male African Pygmy Goose which had the camera shutters churring away. But again Shoebill appeared to be missing from its usual haunts, so we forged further into the swamps, to where some fishermen had reported seeing a Shoebill earlier.
We flushed a surprise Lesser Jacana as we went, and after some tricky canoe manoeuvring spotted a distant grey mass in the sedges. “Shoebill!” the shouts went out as at heaved into the air and landed some 50 metres on, out of sight. We slowly closed in, this time getting a little closer before the bird again decided to change hunting positions. After four views in flight, those not joining us at Murchison seemed satisfied with their sightings, so we turned happily for the shore and hit the road for Kibale National Park, notching up Short-toed Eagle on our way back to dry land.
With a longish drive ahead we made only occasional stops, the most notable for a pair of elegant Grey-crowned Crane, arriving at our crater-side accommodation just before sunset.
Day 3: Kibale National Park
The mid-altitude forests of Kibale National Park are rich in species and provide an excellent introduction to central African forest birding. We spent the day working the main road through the forest, occasionally stepping into the moist darkness to see a skulker such as Scaly-breasted Illadopsis or White-throated Greenbul.
Things got off to a painfully slow start, but we eventually managed to lure Brown Illadopsis from its tangled lair. Shortly to follow were Chestnut Wattle-eye, Cassin’s Honeybird, Grey-throated Barbet, Purple-headed Starling, Yellow-crested Woodpecker and Yellowbill. As the air warmed, activity picked up and we added to our list morning list Yellow-throated Tinkerbird, the much-admired Black Bee-eater, Superb Sunbird, Slender-billed Greenbul, Masked Apalis, Buff-throated Apalis, an African Crowned Eagle displaying in the distance, Western Black-headed Oriole and Dusky Tit.
Back at our accommodation mealtimes provided excellent views of Orange-tufted Sunbird and raucous Giant Kingfisher. Activity dropped in the afternoon, but with persistence we found Brown-eared Woodpecker, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Red-chested Owlet, Black-billed Turaco, Speckled Tinkerbird and Cassin’s Flycatcher hunting over a small forest stream. A short foray after dark was rewarded with close-up views of African Wood Owl.
Day 4: Kibale National Park to Queen Elizabeth
This morning we headed for another section of Kibale, where we were afforded views across the forest canopy. En route we found African Goshawk perched on a roadside pole. Our first stop proved excellent, and we spent almost two hours scanning emergent dead snags, notching up an impressive list. Highlights here included Elliot’s Woodpecker, Yellow-spotted Barbet, African Emerald Cuckoo, Grey-headed Negrofinch, Yellow-whiskered Greenbul and, best of all, the scarce Uganda Spotted Woodpecker. An excited pair of Joyful Greenbul chased each other back and forth, glowing golden in the morning light, as an Afep Pigeon flew overhead. In the dense tangles we spotted White-chinned Prinia and Banded Prinia.
The rest of the morning continued on a similarly impressive vein, with highlights including the scarce White-collared Oliveback(an adult feeding a recently-fledged youngster), Lueder’s Bush-Shrike, a perched pair of Blue-throated Roller, Red-headed Bluebill feeding on the verge of the road, our first Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Narrow-tailed Starling, Tiny Sunbird, our first Little Greenbul, Cameroon Sombre Greenbul and several Sabine’s Spinetail fluttering low overhead.
Eventually the activity started to slow, so we decided to make our way to Queen Elizabeth National Park. A lunch stop turned up Plain-backed Pipit, and as we neared Mweya we slowed to admire Grey-headed Kingfisher, Montagu’s Harrier, Grey-backed Fiscal, Black-lored Babbler, a striking pair of Marsh Tchagra and a bush-top pair of Grey-capped Warbler. We spent the last hour of light strolling around camp, where new birds included Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Buff-bellied Warbler, White-browed Robin-Chat hopping on the lawn, Spotted-flanked Barbet, African Mourning Dove, Red-rumped Swallow and the very popular Black-headed Gonolek.
Day 5: Queen Elizabeth to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
With breakfast disturbed by a Square-tailed Nightjar churring nearby, we got off to a slightly delayed start. But we were soon out in the open grasslands, flushing Red-necked Spurfowl from the road as we went. Busy flocks of Fawn-breasted Waxbill were joined by smaller flocks of Compact Weaver. A Broad-tailed Warbler called from its grass-top perch, whereas several Black Coucal sat in silence as Croaking Cisticola displayed noisily nearby. In areas of shorter grass we found Wattled Lapwing, a displaying White-tailed Lark and striking pair of Temminck’s Courser. More bushy areas held Blue-naped Mousebird and Northern Black Flycatcher. Raptors were conspicuous and included Lappet-faced Vulture, White-backed Vulture and Bateleur.
Before heading for Bwindi there was one last important stop to make – for Papyrus Gonolek. A White-winged Swamp-Warbler called tantalisingly from the overgrown swamp as we waited for our quarry to show itself. Lesser Swamp Warbler was more obliging and nobody had trouble spotting the Comb Duck and Glossy Ibis fly past. After some fleeting glimpses, a single Papyrus Gonolek decided to come in close for a careful look, perching out on the open for the whole group!
Our job done, we continued southwards through Ishasha, pausing only for a picnic lunch with White-headed Sawwing and a fantastic sighting of four lion in a tree. As we neared Buhoma we spotted a sleek Grey Kestrel and Village Indigobird. On arrival we settled in and sat out on the lawn in front of our bandas, enjoying great views of Veillot’s Black Weaver, Baglafetch Weaver and Western Citril.
Day 6-10: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
With five full days at Bwindi, we had ample time to explore its endemic-rich forests. Besides the spectacular birding, this reserve is most famous for its healthy population of gorillas which everyone chose to pay a visit. Most of our time was spent in the mid-altitude forest around Buhoma, where species diversity is higher, although we also visited the higher-altitude forests of Ruhija where most of the endemics are more common.
The main track at Buhoma proved very productive as always, although many species provided a real challenge to the patience and focus of the group. In the end everyone enjoyed views of Equatorial Akalat, Red-throated Alethe, Toro Olive Greenbul, Grey-winged Robin-Chat, Mountain Illadopsis, Grauer’s Warbler and Black-faced Rufous Warbler. Some of the party also saw Cabanis’s Greenbul, White-bellied Robin-Chat, Mountain Sooty Boubou and Red-tailed Bristlebill. Perhaps the greatest success among the skulkers was the notorious Neumann’s Short-tailed Warbler, which the entire party managed to see well!
Birds of the mid- and upper-storey were generally more co-operative, with favourites including Bar-tailed Trogon, Many-coloured Bush-Shrike, White-browed Crombec, African Broadbill and Red-headed Antpecker. Other species worth a special mention included Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo (which almost drove us insane before we spotted it), Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo, Elliot’s Woodpecker, Fine-banded/Tullberg’s Woodpecker, Willcock’s Honeyguide (brief views), Thick-billed Seedeater, Ruwenzori Blue-headed Sunbird, Green-throated Sunbird, Northern Double-collared Sunbird, Brown-capped Weaver, Montane Oriole, Shelley’s Greenbul, Red-tailed Greenbul, Black-throated Apalis, Mountain Masked Apalis, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Dusky-blue Flycatcher, Grey Apalis, Ansorge’s Greenbul, Grey-throated Tit-Flycatcher, Pink-footed Puffback, White-bellied Crested-Flycatcher, Grey-headed Sunbird, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Honeyguide Greenbul, Red-headed Malimbe, White-breasted Negrofinch, Petit’s Cuckooshrike, Western Bronze-naped Pigeon, Sooty Flycatcher, Stuhlmann’s Starling, Waller’s Starling and Slender-billed Starling. A Black Sparrowhawk was spotted perched in the forest canopy.
More disturbed habitat around accommodation and in the farmland nearby was good for Grey-green Bush-Shrike, Black-and-white Shrike-Flycatcher, White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher, Bronze Sunbird, Black-billed Weaver, White-tailed Blue Flycatcher, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Magpie Mannikin, Cape Wagtail, Mackinnon’s Fiscal, Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat and Yellow-throated Leaflove.
From Buhoma we made our way to Ruhija, stopping en route to admire a soaring Augur Buzzard, a singing Red-chested Cuckoo, dainty flocks of Yellow-bellied Waxbill and Black-crowned Waxbill, Yellow Bishop, striking Black Bishop, Brown-backed Scrub-Robin, African Firefinch, Brown-crowned Tchagra, a confiding pair of Dusky Twinspot, Yellow-crowned Canary and Variable Sunbird. A short stop at The Neck added Rufous Flycatcher Thrush, Olive-green Camaroptera and Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat (for some) to our list, but the most noteworthy sighting was White-spotted Flufftail, which the more eager-eyed of the group managed to spot calling from the forest floor.
Our arrival at Ruhija was met with a flurry of activity, and we notched up Chestnut-throated Apalis and Stripe-breasted Tit before dashing indoors for lunch. After lunch we set off for the bamboo zone, although a displaying Northern Puffback first kept us enthralled with its antics in the car park. In the bamboo zone our first stop revealed Collared/Ruwenzori Apalis, followed by Sharpe’s Starling, a shimmering Regal Sunbird, Ruwenzori Batis, Mountain Yellow Warbler, Mountain Greenbul, Black-headed Waxbill, and a striking pair of Ross’s Turaco. The evening was capped off with a confiding Handsome Francolin feeding in the road, which allowed us all to follow slowly on foot.
Our final full day at Bwindi was spent walking down to Mabwindi Swamp, a tough but very rewarding trail passing over a series of ridges before dropping steadily to a large upland swamp. On the initial stretch of the walk we found a cackling pair of White-headed Woodhoopoe, White-starred Robin, Yellow-billed Barbet, Cabanis’s Greenbul, Mountain Illadopsis and, in a foraging flock, Grey Cuckooshrike and Yellow-streaked Greenbul.
About halfway down we were notified that the birding group ahead of us had encountered elephants on the trail and were already on their way back. We continued with caution, our guards forging ahead to assess the real danger. Fortunately the elephants had moved some distance off the trail, their trumpets betraying their whereabouts, so we continued towards the swamp, pausing to watch a pair of Strange Weaver, to draw out a skulking Evergreen Forest Warbler, and to admire a pair of Cassin’s Hawk Eagle and dark-headed Ruwenzori Hill Babbler hopping in a dense vine-tangle.
At the swamp Dusky Crimsonwing shot past, and we could hear nearby calls from Grauer’s Rush Warbler. With much persistence, and briefly distracted by a Carruther’s Cisticola, we eventually managed to spot a warbler briefly on top of a sedge head and then in flight.
After lunch we started the slow ascent back up to camp. Going slowly we listened carefully for the inconspicuous calls of African Green Broadbill. At one stage we thought we heard them but nothing, and then suddenly they were there. Three African Green Broadbill perched directly above the trail! We admired them for about 15 minutes until they eventually disappeared over a ridge and we continued happily on our way, having seen one of Africa’s rarest birds. Just beginning to think that large mammals were no longer an issue, there was a loud crashing of branches just ahead of us. We carefully stalked forward, to find to our great delight a troop of gorillas beside the track. We waited for them to move, but after an hour we had to backtrack and take a detour through the tangled forest understorey to make it back before dark. A great ending to a memorable day.
Day 11: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to Entebbe
With a long drive ahead of us we had only a couple of hours of final birding in Bwindi. The morning was off to a bright start with a Doherty’s Bush-Shrike calling from its conspicuous perch. On our way out we paused to call out a cooperative Cinnamon Bracken Warbler. Next we watched a Dusky Crimsonwing flitting back and forth across the track, carting nesting material to its well concealed nest site. Finally we managed to lure an Archer’s Robin-Chat into view, before commencing our long journey back to Entebbe. Stops en route revealed comical Bare-faced Go-away-bird, a perched Black-chested Snake-Eagle, Marico Sunbird and roadside Lilac-breasted Roller.
Day 12: Entebbe to Murchison Falls National Park
With some of our party heading home today, we headed to Entebbe Botanical Gardens for some last-minute birding. Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher was one of the first birds seen, followed shortly by a bright male Orange Weaver, a shrieking pair of African Grey Parrot, Meyer’s Parrot, Jackson’s Golden-backed Weaver, Grey Woodpecker and Double-toothed Barbet. After bidding our departing companions goodbye, the rest of us started for Murchison Falls where we commenced the northern segment of the tour. Birds were rather inactive for most of the drive, although we did enjoy close-up views of Western Banded Snake Eagle over lunch, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill along the road, Grasshopper Buzzard and several Eurasian Woodhoopoe.
Day 13-14: Murchison Falls National Park
With two full days to explore the grasslands and woodlands of Murchison Falls, we made an early start on our first morning, crossing the Nile on the morning’s first ferry. As we waited we watched Collared Pratincole and African Skimmer over the river, as hippos frolicked in the water. On the north bank a White Wagtail welcomed us, but we didn’t pause long before heading towards the delta of Lake Albert.
En route the whistling acacia thickets held Shelley’s Rufous Sparrow, Speckle-fronted Weaver, Silverbird and Little Weaver. A Denham’s Bustard was a welcome sight in the grasslands, alongside Yellow-billed Oxpecker-clad giraffe, piapiac-clad buffalo, Jackson’s hartebeest, Uganda kob, ourebi, Isabelline Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Pallid Harrier and displaying Flappet Lark. As we neared the lake, large trees were home to Black-billed Barbet, Black Scimitarbill and Nubian Woodpecker. On reaching the delta we carefully scanned the lake shores and papyrus beds.
Our first couple of stops were unrewarded, but soon we spotted a large, grey object in the distance. Shoebill! We slowly crept forward until we were not more than 40 m away. Fortunately the bird was completely relaxed and absorbed in its breakfast activities. After nearly half-and-hour of watching it stalk, wait, stalk and lunge, it decided to try another hunting spot and flew to a nearby spot. Elated with our views and in awe of the strange bird, we continued along the lake shore, finding Black-headed Lapwing, Senegal Lapwing, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater and bright Northern Carmine Bee-eater on the back of a warthog. We turned back towards camp, stopping for lunch on the way and finally crossing back to the south of the river in the early afternoon.
After a short siesta we strolled in the acacia thickets near camp where additions to our list included Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver, Black-rumped Waxbill, Spotted Mourning Warbler, a colourful White-crested Turaco, Crested Francolin, Bar-bellied Firefinch and Red-winged Grey Warbler. Just before sunset we drove a short way south, finding Heuglin’s Francolin along the track, plus Brown-backed Woodpecker and African Cuckoo. As the sky started to turn pale, a magnificent duo of male Standard-winged Nightjar took to the air, flying up and down a grassy drainage line, giving us repeated views of their strange silhouettes. Our drive back to camp was rewarded with a Greyish Eagle Owl in the road.
On our second morning we concentrated on the woodlands to the south of the Nile. We had to contend with incredibly tiresome tsetse flies, but were well rewarded with several Guinea Woodland specialists, such as Brown-rumped Bunting, a shining male Pygmy Sunbird, Cabanis’s Bunting, Red-winged Warbler and the surprise of the trip, a pair of very scarce Emin’s Shrike. Our afternoon was spent on the Nile, taking a boat trip to the bottom of the falls. Red-throated Bee-eaters lined their breeding sandbanks, a pair of Senegal Thicknee crouched near the water’s edge, a scarce White-backed Night Heron was spotted hiding in the shade, a striking pair of Saddle-billed Stork were admired at close range, and several elegant Rock Pratincole were seen on the rocks below the falls.
Day 15: Murchison Falls to Budongo Forest
Our final morning at Murchison saw us back in the Guinea woodlands, watching Black-billed Wood Dove, Green-backed Eremomela, Black-headed Batis, White-shouldered Tit, Lesser Blue-eared Starling and a magnificent African Cuckoo Hawk. A large, unusual plumage Tawny Eagle created some excitement as we initially suspected Imperial Eagle. After breakfast we hit the road to Masindi, first visiting the top of the falls before heading on to Kaniyo Pabidi. Here some of the group successfully went looking for chimpanzee, while the rest of us looked for birds, finding White-thighed Hornbill, Grey Longbill, the localised Puvel’s Illadopsis and Buff-spotted Woodpecker.
Days 16-17: Budongo Forest
The final destination of our trip was Budongo Forest, where we spent two full days. The forest was dry, and bird activity slow, but we managed to rack up a respectable list. The highlight of the first day was spotting the diminutive Ituri Batis singing from the top of a large, bare tree. Other memorable sightings included Chocolate-backed Kingfisher in the scope, Cassin’s Spinetail flying low over a forest clearing, excited parties of Chestnut-capped Flycatcher and Brown-crowned Eremomela, Yellow-mantled Weaver, Green Hylia, Ashy Flycatcher, Grey Tit-Flycatcher, Little Grey Greenbul, noisy parties of Spotted Greenbul, a particularly bold Western Nicator, Little Green Sunbird, a very bright Jameson’s Watte-eye and several pairs of tail-twitching African Shrike Flycatcher. Our second day was spent on the Royal Mile, where a troop of chimpanzee was rather attention-grabbing. However, we did manage to notch up Uganda Woodland Warbler, Lemon-bellied Crombec (watched nest-building at eye level!), Brown-eared Woodpecker, African Dwarf Kingfisher, Forest Flycatcher, Yellow-browed Camaroptera and striking Crested Malimbe.
Day 18: Masindi to Entebbe
Our final full day was spent driving back to Entebbe. During the early morning we made several stops in farmland near Masindi. Our first stop was memorable for White-headed Barbet, Brown Twinspot and Moustached Grass-Warbler. Later we found Grey-headed Bush-Shrike, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Violet-backed Starling and Brown Babbler. Eventually we reached Entebbe, going for our last walk and being rewarded with views of a perched Red-headed Lovebird.
Day 19: Departure
With a couple of the group waiting for flights in the evening, we decided on a last visit to the Botanical Gardens. Here we added Common Snipe to our trip list, and found Orange Weaver and Ross’s Turaco.
Birding Africa http://www.birdingafrica.com
Total number of bird species recorded: over 530 species
Please contact Birding Africa at email@example.com for a full list of species recorded.
The participants chose these favorite birds: Emin’s Shrike, Standard-winged Nightjar, Papyrus Gonolek, Shoebill, Black Bee-eater, White-thighed Hornbill and Malachite Kingfisher.
Top birds seen on this trip include Shoebill, African Green Broadbill, Standard-winged Nightjar, Papyrus Gonolek, Neumann’s Short-tailed Warbler and a surprise Emin’s Shrike. Other birds of special mention include White-backed Night Heron, African Pygmy Goose, Bat Hawk, African Cuckoo Hawk, Grasshopper Buzzard, Cassin’s Hawk Eagle, Handsome Francolin, White-spotted Flufftail, Lesser Jacana, Denham’s Bustard, Temminck’s Courser, African Skimmer, White-crested Turaco, Red-chested Owlet, Cassin’s Spinetail, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, White-headed Woodhoopoe, Uganda Spotted Woodpecker, White-tailed Lark, Toro Olive Greenbul, Red-throated Alethe, Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat, Archer’s Robin-Chat, Grauer’s Rush-Warbler, Uganda Woodland Warbler, Grauer’s Warbler, Carruther’s Cisticola, Red-winged Grey Warbler, Ruwenzori Apalis, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Ruwenzori Batis, Ituri Batis, Jameson’s Wattle-eye, Puvel’s Illadopsis, Stripe-breasted Tit, Ruwenzori Blue-headed Sunbird, Regal Sunbird, Orange-tufted Sunbird, Marsh Tchagra, Many-coloured Bush-Shrike, Doherty’s Bush-Shrike, Orange Weaver, Strange Weaver, Black Bishop, White-collared Oliveback, Dusky Twinspot, Brown Twinspot, Dusky Crimsowing and Red-headed Bluebill.
Add to this five separate sightings of Gorilla, prolonged views of Chimpanzee and tree-climbing Lions!