Other participants: Keith Ballard, Nick Wilkinson, Keith Blomerley, Richard Winspear, Chris Dunn, Simon Wotton, Nigel Symes.
General Information: Eight people took part in this trip, which was organised by Simon Wotton, who arranged the itinerary (via e-mail) with Herbert Byaruhanga, the general secretary of the Uganda Bird Guides Club. He acted as our driver and guide for most of our time in Uganda (he had to leave to go to the British Birdwatching Fair for part of our stay), and we also had another guide - Alfred Twinomujuni for all of our stay. Alfred rightly has a very good reputation as one of the country's premier guides. His knowledge of bird identification & calls is superb, and he also has a phenomenal ability to mimic very accurately many bird sounds. He also has an extensive collection of sound-recordings on mini-disc (taken from Chappuis and personal recordings). Both Herbert and himself were also excellent company throughout. The contact details for them are:
Uganda Bird Guides Club
P.O. Box 33164
(General Secretary/Field Guide-based in Kampala)
Mobile: 256 - 77 - 518290 OR 256 - 77 - 468521
E-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
(Field Guide-based in Bwindi)
Mobile: 256 - 77 - 518290
Flights: Several carriers fly to Uganda-British Airways, Kenyan Airlines and Emirates. The only one that goes direct is British Airways, which is also the most expensive. However, the other carriers take double the flight time to get there (16 hrs) due to stopovers etc. whereas BA flights take 8hrs. Our British Airways flights cost £702 inclusive of tax (booked through Trailfinders-020 7938 3939), while the other company's flights would have only saved £60-70 for the added hassle of a 16 hour journey.
Visas: A tourist visa (£25) needs to be obtained in advance (taking about a week by post), from:
Uganda High Commission
58-59 Trafalgar Square
London WC2N 5DX
Money: The Ugandan currency is the Uganda Shilling ($1 = 1800 shillings), although if on a tour like us little extra money is required ($100-200 depending on drinking habits!). We changed this amount into shillings, although for our hotel bill in Kampala shillings OR dollars were accepted.
Transport, accommodation, food costs etc. All the in-country transport and accommodation was arranged by the Uganda Bird Guides Club who acted as our guides and ground agents in-country. The price for the trip was $1580 per person (exclusive of flights) which included all meals (including at least a litre of water each a day), and all lodgings (with the exception of our last night in the Cuba Hotel, Kampala-an additional night due to flight-scheduling was $20 dollars for the night), transport, park fees, gorilla permits and guiding. The gorilla permits needed to be paid and reserved well in advance, so we paid the money for the permits in December ($250, via Western Union money transfer), with another downpayment of half of the remaining cost in March/April and the remainder ($650) paid direct in cash to Herbert on arriving in Uganda. We used a 4-wheel drive mini-bus for transport around, and stayed in low-price community bandas in many places, which were fine. In Semliki and Ruhizha it was necessary to camp-it is only possible to stay at Semliki by camping (there are no lodging facilities), although at Ruhizha there is an option of staying in an expensive ($15 per night per person), but very basic, hostel. We chose to camp (as do Birdquest). For this it was necessary for us to bring tents with us from the UK. A cook was arranged by Uganda Bird Guides to cook for us during our time in Semliki and Ruhizha. Unfortunately the cook failed to meet us for the Semliki section of the trip and so Alfred cooked for us instead (which worked very well).
Timing & Climate It is a popular misconception amongst British birders that the time to go to Uganda (particularly for the African Green Broadbill) is July-August (hence Birdquest tend to go at this time). However, Alfred strongly advises this is a difficult time for the broadbill, as they are more mobile at this time when they are not breeding , and it is also a difficult time for many other species. He advises the best times are May and September (mid-onwards), when many species are much more vocal and tape responsive. Alfred was frustrated at some of the normally easy species which were simply not calling or tape responsive at this time (e.g. Doherty's Bush-shrike, Red-chested Flufftail). This was due to this being the dry season in Ruhizha. For some areas it was the start of the wet season, and we did experience heavy rain at Buhoma and Semliki and light rain at Budongo, although these bouts only limited our birding for a few hours. It was very dry and hot in Queen Elizabeth and Murchison, and all places were warm during the day with a sleeping bag only required at night for Ruhizha (sleeping bag liners sufficed everywhere else).
Health & Safety We never experienced any problems, although check when planning a trip if any areas are closed (e.g. Semliki ha been closed for extended periods in the past). There was talk of us not doing a game drive north of the Nile at Murchison due to safety concerns, although we eventually did one anyway, after we badgered Herbert into agreeing. Thus it is good to know they are unwilling to take groups into areas where there are any hints of trouble. Armed guides/rangers accompanied us at most sites. Lariam/doxycycline/ needs to be taken as a malaria prophylactic, and the usual jabs etc. required (Hepatitis/polio/tetanus etc.) Yellow fever is also recommended if entering from an infected area.
Recommended Reading & Sound Guides
Where to Watch Birds in Uganda (1998) by J. Rossouw & M. Sacchi (published by the Uganda Tourist Board). £7.49-14.99
This is an excellent site guide, with good maps and a useful species checklist at the back for cross-referencing certain species to specific sites.
Field Guide to the Birds of East Africa (2001) by T. Stevenson & J. Fanshawe (published by T & A D Poyser). £29.95
The most comprehensive field guide for Uganda. Generally good, although we found it to be misleading with identification in some species (e.g. White-browed Scrub-robin) and found (where relevant) Nick Borrow & R. Demey's Birds of Western Africa (2002) to be a useful back-up. £55.00
Field Guide to the Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania (1996) by D. Zimmerman, D. Turner et al.
(published by Helm) Although none of us used this guide out there, we thought that it would be very useful for additional information on difficult species which are covered by both guides. £16.99
The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals (1997) by Jonathan Kingdon (published by Natural World). £29.95
The most comprehensive field guide to the mammals in the region, and essential for anyone with an interest in mammals.
The Impenetrable Forest (2001) by Thor Hanson (published by Writer's Showcase). An enjoyable, account of his time at Bwindi, as a Peace Corps volunteer training guides (including Alfred) and habituating gorillas-good for a background read on Uganda and Bwindi. c.£20 from NHBS.
African Bird Sounds. Volume 2 by C. Chappuis. An 11 CD set covering West and Central Africa (1043 species), including most of the Albertine Rift endemics (it does NOT include recordings of Dwarf Honeyguide, African Green Broadbill, and Dusky & Shelley's Crimsonwing, although ALL other Ugandan Albertine Rift endemics are covered). The British Library of Wildlife Sounds (BLOWS) has a recording of African Green Broadbill, which can be purchased by contacting Richard Ranft on ?????. There is also Volume 1, a 4 CD set covering North West Africa, the Canaries and Cape Verde. There is often a discount if all 15 CDs are purchased together. Volume 2 only £115-125; both volumes £139.95-159.95
All prices taken from the latest Wildsounds catalogue (01263 741100/www.wildsounds.com), with the cheapest prices being special offer prices which may change.
August 4th Flight: London Heathrow to Entebbe 21.20
August 5th Arrive Entebbe 07.55am: Portebelle, Kampala area.pm: Mabamba Wetland
August 6th Mabira Forest all day.
August 7th am: Mabira Forestpm: Travelling to Budongo
August 8th Budongo-Royal Mile area all day
August 9th am: Budongo-Kaniyo Pabidepm: Travelling to Murchison Falls
August 10th Murchison Falls all dayam: Boat trip to bottom of falls pm: birding between Paraa Camp & Nile Safari Lodge
August 11th Murchison Falls all dayam: Game drive north of the Nilepm: Birding top of falls area
August 12th Travelling to Semliki National Park (all day)
August 13th Semliki National Park-Hot Springs area all day
August 14th Semliki National Park-Kirumia Trail all day
August 15th am: Semliki National Park pm: Travelling to Queen Elizabeth National Park
August 16th Queen Elizabeth National Park-Mweya area all day
August 17th Queen Elizabeth National Park-Maramagambo Forest all day
August 18th Travelling to Buhoma, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
August 19th Bwindi Impenetrable National Park-Buhoma Gorilla tracking
August 20th Bwindi Impenetrable National Park-Buhoma Birding the main trail
August 21st Bwindi Impenetrable National Parkam: Travelling from Buhoma-Ruhizha (including a stop at The Neck) pm: roadside birding Ruhizha
August 22nd Bwindi Impenetrable National Park-Ruhizha Mubwindi Swamp Trail
August 23rd Bwindi Impenetrable National Park-Ruhizha Bamboo zone
August 24th Travelling to Lake Mburo National Park
August 25th am: Lake Mburo National Parkpm: Travelling to Kampala
August 26th Flight Entebbe to London Heathrow 09.40Arrive London Heathrow 16.25
For more detailed site information and maps, see the excellent Where to Watch Birds in Uganda by Rossouw & Sacchi (1998).
N.B. Night-birding is very difficult in almost all parks in Uganda as it is prohibited to be on game-drives/birding after dark. Therefore, to get around this it is worth coming back late from some sites to allow unofficial night-drives to be done (e.g. Come back late to Paraa Camp from the falls at Murchison or from Maramagambo back to Mweya etc.) This gives the added opportunity of seeing game in addition to nightjars on the tracks.
MABAMBA WETLAND 5th August
1½-2 hour drive from Kampala, this papyrus wetland is a good site to try for Shoebill, especially if arriving on a morning flight, giving the opportunity of seeing one of the main target species within hours of landing!
We stayed in Kampala, at the Red Chilli Hideaway in double rooms with shared washing facilities. Food was all western fare (chilli, chips etc.)
Key species recorded:
Shoebill 1 seen at close range from the boat after searching for c. 1 hour.
Blue Swallow 1 flew over the boat by the area where alight from the boat.
Weyns's Weaver Several flocks of c.20 birds seen flying around the swamp.
MABIRA FOREST 1070-1340m 6th & 7th August
Approximately an hours drive from Kampala, this forest reserve is a good area for the threatened Nahan's Francolin, Cassin's Hawk-Eagle, Forest Wood-hoopoe, Purple-throated Cuckoo-shrike & is one of the only areas in East Africa for Tit-Hylia.
We stayed in the bandas (huts) which are dotted around the forest edge near the HQ. These sleep 2-6 people, and all bandas have toilets built alongside them. The food is cooked at the HQ itself, where it can be eaten on outside tables at the edge of the forest (allowing views of Forest Wood-hoopoes and Tit-Hylias etc.!)
Key species recorded:
Nahan's Francolin Unfortunately only heard here once, in the primary forest across the road.
White-spotted Flufftail 1 G seen extremely well when taped in close by the trail, which leads left from the car park.
Forest Wood-hoopoe 2 small groups of this localised species seen on the forest edge by the HQ clearing.
Yellow-billed Barbet 1 seen here was the only site where we recorded this species.
Purple-throated Cuckoo-shrike 2 E seen here.
Tit-Hylia We were very lucky to see 2 perched in a tree in the HQ clearing itself.
BUDONGO-THE ROYAL MILE & KANIYO PABIDI 700-1270m 7th - 9th August
THE ROYAL MILE at Budongo runs through an area of forest allowing good group access to forest along an easy, flat, wide trail. This is also a good area for the threatened Nahan's Francolin, the localised Black-collared Lovebird, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Ituri Batis and Brown Twinspot; and provides a good opportunity to see normally difficult-to-see forest species such as Chocolate-backed Blue-breasted & African Dwarf Kingfishers, Blue-throated Roller, Spotted Greenbul, Lemon-bellied Crombec, and Rufous-crowned Eremomela.
KANIYO PABIDI (about an hours drive from the Royal Mile area) is most notable for holding East Africa's only known population of Puvel's Illadopsis, which are fairly common and readily seen in the area. It is also a fairly regular site for sightings of Green-breasted Pitta, and also holds Rufous-sided Broadbill. Chimpanzee-tracking is also possible from here.
We stayed in a good-quality hostel (with on-site restaurant and en-suite rooms) at Busingiro. Some people stay in Masindi, although there seems little point as the food and accommodation are good here and the Royal Mile is closer.
Key species recorded:
Bat Hawk 1 flew over the hostel (near the Royal Mile) at dusk.
Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo 1 seen when taped-in (identified on call), in a roadside patch of forest, near the Royal Mile.
White-crested Turaco 2 by the road at Kaniyo Pabidi (between the gate and the car park).
Sabine's Spinetail 1 seen low in the evening, by a small pool in the vicinity of the Royal Mile.
Cassin's Spinetail 1 seen by the same pool as the Sabine's-they are both regularly seen there.
Blue-breasted Kingfisher Very good views of several pairs nesting close to the trail at the Royal Mile.
Chocolate-backed Kingfisher 1 seen in the forest canopy near the start of the Royal Mile (several others heard there).
African Dwarf Kingfisher 3-5 seen along the Royal Mile.
[Blue-throated Roller] Several sightings of a roller in silhouette over the forest near the Royal Mile were probably this species.
White-thighed Hornbill Seen regularly around the Royal Mile (7+).
Yellow-spotted Barbet 1 seen along the Royal Mile.
Rufous-sided Broadbill 1 G of this rarely seen species taped-in at Kaniyo Pabidi when trawling for African Broadbill, and later the G was seen with a E which was carrying nesting material.
Puvel's Illadopsis 1 G watched singing from a perch 3-5 feet of the ground at the start of the trail at Kaniyo Pabidi (a short way from the car park, where they are also regularly seen!)
Spotted Greenbul A group of 5-7 seen in forest alongside the road in the Royal Mile area.
Fire-crested Alethe 1 watched for 5 mins perched on a dead log at Kaniyo Pabidi.
Yellow Longbill 1 G watched singing in the canopy at Kaniyo Pabidi.
Lemon-bellied Crombec 1 seen singing in the forest canopy along the Royal Mile.
Rufous-crowned Eremomela 3+ feeding in the forest canopy with a Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, near the Royal Mile.
Chestnut-capped Flycatcher 1 seen in the forest canopy near the Royal Mile.
Crested Malimbe 3 seen along the Royal Mile.
Brown Twinspot 2 in a very productive cultivated area near the Royal Mile.
Cabanis's Bunting 1 G near the Royal Mile, in the same area as the Twinspots.
Chimpanzee was also recorded at Kaniyo Pabidi.
MURCHISON FALLS NATIONAL PARK 619-1292m 9th-11th August
A short way from Budongo, this area of acacia savannah is popular among tourists for the opportunities to see game such as Giraffe and African Elephant on drives north of the Nile. It is still also one of the most reliable sites in Uganda to see Shoebill (either by the Nile Safari Lodge, or on launch trips to the top/bottom of falls, depending on water levels). Bat Hawks regularly hunt bats as they emerge from the caves at the top of the falls, and around the car park there is also a good area for Bruce's Green Pigeon and Red-winged Grey Warbler. Other key species are: Heuglin's Francolin, Denham's Bustard, Senegal Thick-knee, Rock Pratincole, Northern Carmine, Swallow-tailed & Red-throated Bee-eaters, Black-billed Barbet, Spotted Morning-Thrush (around Paraa Camp itself), White-fronted Black Chat, Silverbird, Beautiful Sunbird, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaver and Bar-breasted Firefinch. The localised White-rumped Seedeater occurs alongside the road near the Paraa Camp and ferry.
We stayed at the excellent Paraa Camp, in 2-bedroom, en-suite bandas. The on-site restaurant was also very good (Spotted Morning-thrushes & Silverbirds can be seen by there).
Key species recorded:
Bat Hawk 1 seen at dusk hunting bats by the top of the falls.
Martial Eagle 2 immatures seen perched while on the game drive.
Red-necked Falcon Several sightings on the game drive north of the Nile.
Heuglin's Francolin 1 seen well on the game drive.
Senegal Thick-knee Several seen from the boat trip to the bottom of the falls.
Rock Pratincole 20+ seen by the top of the falls.
Black-headed Plover 2 seen on the game drive.
Bruce's Green Pigeon 2 seen briefly flying to roost, from the car park at the top of the falls.
Vinaceous Dove Seen alongside the road to Nile Safari Lodge.
White-crested Turaco 1 seen by the top of the falls.
Long-tailed Nightjar 1 seen hunting at dusk alongside the Nile Safari lodge road.
Pennant-winged Nightjar At least 4 G (and another dead G) seen sitting on the road to Paraa Camp from the falls, in the car headlights.
Red-throated Bee-eater Recorded daily, and seen in all areas.
Swallow-tailed Bee-eater A few sightings along the Paraa Camp approach road.
Northern Carmine Bee-eater Only recorded north of Nile (5+), on the game drive.
Abyssinian Ground Hornbill 1 E seen beside the road to the falls, near Paraa Camp.
Black-billed Barbet 1 sighting near Nile Safari Lodge, and another on the game drive.
Brown-backed Woodpecker 1 seen by the Paraa Camp road, near the camp itself.
Spotted Morning-thrush 6+ sightings around Paraa Camp itself.
White-fronted Black Chat 1 G seen alongside the road on the way in to Paraa Camp.
Silverbird A few seen along the road to Paraa Camp and around the camp itself.
Red-winged Grey Warbler 1 sighting of this highly localised species near the falls car park and 1 by Nile Safari Lodge.
Beautiful Sunbird A few seen around the top of the falls.
Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaver A few seen around Paraa Camp.
Northern Red Bishop Recorded along the road to Nile Safari Lodge.
Bar-breasted Firefinch 1 seen very well by the Paraa ferry jetty.
White-rumped Seedeater 1 seen by the Paraa ferry jetty, and 2 seen by the road a short way from Paraa Camp (towards the falls).
SEMLIKI NATIONAL PARK 670-760m 12th-15th August
Semliki is one of Uganda's least explored parks, with a number of typically west African species occurring here, many of which are recorded from nowhere else in East Africa. Some of the key species are: Spot-breasted Ibis, Long-tailed Hawk, Forest Francolin, Nkulengu Rail, Western Bronze-naped Pigeon, Black-throated Coucal, Yellow-throated Cuckoo, White-crested, Piping Black-Casqued Wattled, Red-billed Dwarf & Black Dwarf Hornbills, Red-rumped Tinkerbird, Rufous-sided Broadbill, Swamp Palm Bubul, Ituri Batis, Blue-billed & Crested Malimbes.
There are 2 principal areas to go birding-in the area of good secondary forest around the Ntandi HQ and the Hot Springs (good for White-crested. Piping, Red-billed Dwarf & Black-casqued Wattle Hornbills); and along the Kirumia Trail, which begins in secondary forest and leads into primary after some time. The difficulty in Semliki is a lack of well-maintained trails so that when we were there the Kirumia Trail was heavily flooded along much of it and therefore progress along it was very slow (involving wading thigh-deep!). Thus it is difficult to reach the primary forest at certain times of year (we didn't), where many of the more specialised birds are thought to be. Semliki is wet for much of the year although it is perhaps most accessible after Jan-Feb. at the end of the 'dry' season. Unfortunately this is not the best time for birds in other areas of Uganda, so Semliki is probably best visited as part of a more focused trip to this region (a week could easily be spent here, with a good chance of making new East African discoveries). The best option would be to camp along the Kirumia Trail, if possible (these camps were flooded out and closed when we were there), as this would allow quicker access to good forest.
There are very few facilities here-the only option currently to camp by the Ntandi HQ, or camp along the Kirumia Trail (there are several designated camping areas). There are concreted pit-latrines at the Ntandi HQ but little else.
Key species recorded:
Western Bronze-naped Pigeon Only heard here-the birds not coming into any attempted playback!
Yellow-throated Cuckoo 1 G seen in secondary forest, between Ntandi HQ and the Hot Springs. This very localised species is only known from Maramagambo and Semliki forests in East Africa.
Black-throated Coucal Frustratingly, only heard calling from dense cover alongside the Kirumia Trail on 3 occasions.
African Wood-Owl 2 taped in by Ntandi HQ, and another flushed from its day roost along the Kirumia Trail.
White-crested Hornbill 2 taped in along the secondary forest trail between Ntandi HQ and the Hot Springs.
Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill 2 seen briefly by a few in the group, in the forest canopy along the Kirumia trail. Despite the birds calling backed to taped calls, they remained in the distant forest canopy and could not be seen! They are also regularly seen in the roadside forest, near the start of this trail and near Ntandi HQ.
Piping Hornbill Recorded regularly around Ntandi HQ.
Black-casqued Wattled Hornbill At least 3 (including 1 G), seen in the secondary forest between Ntandi and the Hot Springs.
Red-rumped Tinkerbird 1 taped-in along the Kirumia trail (beyond the first oxbow lake). N.B. In East Africa this species is only known from Semliki forest
Willcock's Honeyguide 1 taped in near the start of the Kirumia trail.
Rufous-sided Broadbill 1 G by the Kirumia trail.
Swamp Palm Bubul 2 seen in the secondary forest trail between Ntandi and the Hot Springs, where they are regularly seen by the park rangers.
Leaf-love 1 by the Kirumia trail.
Crested Malimbe 2 sightings along the Kirumia Trail.
Cabanis's Bunting 1 by the road to Fort Portal, on the way out.
De Brazza's Monkey was also recorded here (near the Hot Springs)-a threatened species in Uganda.
QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK-MWEYA & MARAMAGAMBO FOREST 15th-18th August
Queen Elizabeth National Park, the most long-established park, has a mosaic of habitats ranging from savannah woodland in the game-driving areas around Mweya, which provide good opportunities for seeing large game such as Lions, Leopards, Elephants and Hyenas, to moist semi-deciduous around Maramagambo. The moist forest at Maramagambo (c.900m) is a good site for the highly sought-after Black Bee-eater, in addition to Shining-Blue Kingfisher and Grey-winged & Red-capped Robin-Chats. The savannah areas around Mweya are important for the localised White-tailed Lark, Martial Eagle, Black-rumped Buttonquail and Verreaux's Eagle-Owl, while African Skimmer is regularly seen from boat trips along the nearby Kazinga Channel.
We stayed at the Institute of Ecology Hostel at Mweya and day-tripped Maramagambo from there, allowing us to return in darkness and do an unofficial night-drive (ordinarily prohibited). We ate at the Tambo canteen, which had good-tasting food, but unfortunately it made 2 of us very ill for 24 hours!
Key species recorded:
African Skimmer 3 seen (by only one of us recovering from illness!), from a boat trip along the Kazinga Channel (to the left of the launch jetty); none seen on our first boat trip along there.
Verreaux's Eagle-Owl 2 sightings of birds perched on top of cactuses alongside the Mweya approach road at dusk.
Black Bee-eater 5+ seen around Maramagambo Forest (2 by the bat cave).
White-tailed Lark 3 seen on the game drive around Mweya (unlikely to be seen elsewhere in Uganda-only listed to occur at Murchison & Semliki Wildlife Reserve in Rossouw et al.)
Brown-chested Alethe 1 feeding on an ant swarm at the start of the trail at Maramagambo.
Grey-winged Robin-Chat 1 in forest on the edge of the crater lake at Maramagambo.
Red-capped Robin-Chat 1 taped in at the edge of the road by Jacana Lodge, Maramagambo.
African Penduline-Tit 1 seen on the game drive around Mweya.
Southern Red Bishop Several along the road between Mweya and the main gate.
Brimstone Canary 2 sightings-around the hostel and from the Kazinga Channel boat trip.
Giant Hog, Lion and Spotted Hyena were also recorded here.
BWINDI IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK-BUHOMA & RUHIZHA
The premier site to visit in Uganda as it holds 23 of the 24 Albertine Rift Endemics in Uganda, and is also the safest, most reliable site for gorilla tracking in East Africa.
BUHOMA 1550m 18th-20th August
Buhoma is the base from where all gorilla tracking begins, and there are many lodges/bandas in the village for this. We stayed in the Bwindi View community bandas, consisting of 4-bed huts and shared 'bush-shower' facilities. The site also had a good restaurant (which prepares basic packed-lunches for the tracking or for all-day birding), and bird t-shirts for sale (Grauer's Broadbill, Short-tailed Warbler etc.)
There is a good open trail into the primary forest from here (shortly after the gate on the right from the bandas), which is good for Red-throated Alethe and Short-tailed Warbler, both endemics unlikely to be encountered higher-up at Ruhizha. The waterfall trail is said to be good for Kivu Ground-thrush. Mountain masked Apalis is easy along the main trail, and Grauer's Warbler, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Collared Apalis, Rwenzori Batis, Blue-headed Sunbird and Strange Weaver also occur along there although most of these endemics are easier to see at Ruhizha. Other key non-endemics in the area are Western Bronze-naped Pigeon, Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo, Fraser's Eagle Owl, Black Bee-eater, Mountain Illadopsis, White-bellied Robin-chat, Black-faced Rufous Warbler, the threatened Chapin's Flycatcher, Many-coloured Bush-shrike, Brown-capped Weaver, Woodhouse's Antpecker & Oriole-Finch. It is also a good site for Ansorge's Greenbul, a recent discovery in Uganda (Borrow 2002).
Key species recorded:
Western Bronze-naped pigeon Frustratingly only heard here, never coming into tape.
Black Bee-eater Heard regularly and seen a few times along the main trail.
African Broadbill 1 taped in along the main trail, when watched displaying.
Ansorge's Greenbul 1 seen along the main trail, where they are apparently fairly common.
Equatorial Akalat 3 seen near the start of the main trail
Red-throated Alethe (ARE) 2 watched feeding on the main trail after a rain storm (they, like other Alethes, follow ant-swarms).
White-bellied Robin-Chat 2 seen near the start of the main trail (perching higher in the trees than the Akalats)
Red-faced Woodland Warbler (ARE) Several sightings in mixed feeding flocks along the trail.
Short-tailed Warbler (ARE) Probably the bird of the trip-with 3 seen, but only seen well at the third attempt, due to the bird being highly mobile, continually circling rapidly in response to the tape. Alfred advised they are mostly just a short way off the trails in slight depressions with thick ground cover (the trail is slightly raised).
White-browed Crombec 2-3 seen feeding in vine tangles beside the trail.
Black-faced Rufous Warbler Heard frequently along the trail, with a pair eventually being taped in-the birds always keeping very low to the ground, in dense vegetation.
Grauer's Warbler (ARE) 2 heard calling from high in a vine tangle were taped-in low.
Mountain Masked Apalis (ARE) Seen 3-4 times along the trail, generally in the canopy (in mixed flocks), but could be taped lower down.
Chapin's Flycatcher 2 seen along in the canopy and sub-canopy along the main trail.
Mountain Illadopsis 1 small group (2+) near the start of the trail.
Blue-headed Sunbird (ARE) 2+ (1 G) seen in a mixed feeding flock, keeping low in the understorey and calling frequently.
Lüdher's Bush-shrike 1-2 in secondary forest by the road, just before the main, primary forest trail.
Many-coloured Bush-shrike 1 immature in a mixed feeding flock after a rain shower.
Brown-capped Weaver Several seen along the road to the main trail (very near the gate itself, a short way from the hostel).
Woodhouse's (Red-fronted) Antpecker 1 lone E by the gate at the start of the main trail.
Oriole-Finch 1 G seen feeding along a mossy branch in the forest canopy.
Mountain Gorilla was also recorded here.
RUHIZHA (& THE NECK) 1190-2607m 21st - 24th August
Ruhizha is the main site for many of the Albertine Rift Endemics, and home to one of the star attractions in East Africa-the threatened African Green Broadbill. The long trail to Mubwindi Swamp is good for this species, especially in open forest around the swamp itself where they breed in April and September. The threatened Shelley's Crimsonwing and Dusky Crimsonwing also occur around the swamp, in dense undergrowth. Other endemics which are more readily found at Ruhizha are: Handsome Francolin (along the road in the bamboo zone); Rwenzori Nightjar (around the village itself, or around the first road junction left of the ITFC); Dwarf Honeyguide; Archer's Robin-Chat; Yellow-Eyed Black Flycatcher, Grauer's Warbler, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, the highly localised, threatened Grauer's Rush-Warbler (at the Mubwindi swamp itself); Mountain Masked & Collared Apalises; Stripe-breasted Tit; Rwenzori Batis; Blue-headed & Regal Sunbirds (the latter especially common) and Strange Weaver. Kivu Ground-thrush occurs in the bamboo zone and Purple-breasted Sunbirds are generally easy here when the trees are in flower (they weren't when we were here).
The Neck (1550m) can be birded on the way up to Ruhizha from Buhoma (but not on the way down if heading to Lake Mburo). It has a number of the endemics (Dwarf Honeyguide, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Blue-headed & Regal Sunbirds and Strange Weaver), in addition to key non-endemics such as Black Bee-eater and Bar-tailed Trogon, and the bridge over the Ihihizo River is especially good for Cassin's Grey Flycatcher.
We brought our own tents and camped by the Institute for Tropical Forest Conservation (ITFC) at Ruhizha, and Uganda Bird Guides also brought a cook for the duration of our stay. This worked out well, the only alternative being to stay in basic bunks at the ITFC centre for $15 per night. Either way it is necessary to bring in food (and a cook), and the basic bucket shower/pit latrine facilities are available for campers/lodgers alike.
Key species recorded: (Unless stated, all sightings refer to Ruhizha)
Handsome Francolin (ARE) After playing their calls on-and-off all day, a single bird crossed the road in the bamboo zone and then ran in-and-out of the verge in response to playback, giving excellent views.
Black-billed Turaco Although widely heard in Uganda, we only saw them well on the swamp trail.
Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo 1 taped in (and several others heard), in the bamboo zone.
Rwenzori Nightjar (ARE) 1 seen near the first road junction left out of the ITFC centre.
Narina Trogon 1 G by the ranger post, near the start of the Mubwindi Swamp trail.
Black Bee-eater 2 seen at The Neck.
Western Green Tinkerbird 1 taped in near the start of the bamboo zone.
Dwarf Honeyguide (ARE) 1 seen at The Neck and several others on the swamp trail.
Red-throated Wryneck 2 (in the same area as Dusky Twinspot) between The Neck and Ruhizha.
African (Grauer's) Green Broadbill (ARE) 2 seen on the Mubwindi Trail was one of the highlights of the trip. They were initially picked up, from their high-pitched calls, beside the trail on the steep downhill section shortly before the open, flat section of forest on the edge of the swamp itself. Alfred showed us a mossy nest in this open forest where the birds had nested in April and when sightings could be guaranteed for over 3 weeks!
Archer's Robin-Chat (ARE) Several taped in within the dense undergrowth around this open section of forest near the swamp edge.
Grey-chested Illadopsis 1 seen, very briefly, as it circled us in response to playback, in the bamboo zone.
Cassin's Grey Flycatcher 1 watched fly-catching from rocks by the bridge over the Ihihizo River, at The Neck (a regular spot for this species).
Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher (ARE) 3-4 sightings in the open forest around the swamp.
Red-faced Woodland Warbler (ARE) Several sightings of small groups (2-3) in mixed species flocks along Mubwindi Swamp trail and in mixed forest near the ITFC.
Grauer's Rush-Warbler (ARE) 4+ seen at the Mubwindi Swamp (readily taped out to the top of the reeds).
Mountain Masked Apalis (ARE) Regularly seen in mixed feeding flocks around Ruhizha.
Collared Apalis (ARE) 3+ seen near the first road junction on the left, along the road towards The Neck, from the ITFC centre (readily taped out).
Stripe-breasted Tit (ARE) Seen near the ITFC (by the first road on the left towards the Neck), and also seen several times along the Mubwindi Swamp trail (in mixed flocks).
White-tailed Crested-Flycatcher 1 in dense bamboo, in the bamboo zone.
Rwenzori Batis (ARE) 2 seen by the road left out of the ITFC (near the first junction on the left), and another single seen near the bamboo zone.
Montane Sooty Boubou Several heard on the edge of the bamboo zone, with 1 seen briefly there.
Regal Sunbird (ARE) A fairly common sunbird at Ruhizha, recorded at the ITFC camp and regularly at throughout our stay there.
Blue-headed Sunbird (ARE) 1 sighting in dense undergrowth at The Neck (just beyond the bridge over the river), and a G in the bamboo zone at Ruhizha.
Strange Weaver (ARE) 1 by the first left road towards the Neck from the ITFC, and 1 seen along the road near the start of the bamboo zone.
Dusky Twinspot 3 sightings-2 adults between Buhoma and The Neck; 2 imms between the Neck and Ruhizha and 1 seen from the car near Kabale on the way from Ruhizha.
Dusky Crimsonwing (ARE) 2 imms seen feeding at the road edge, left from the ITFC (towards The Neck), just beyond the first left-hand junction. An adult also seen feeding on the Mubwindi Swamp trail, on the steep descent to the forest at the edge of the swamp.
LAKE MBURO NATIONAL PARK 1220-1828m 24th-25th August
An acacia savannah site, convenient to visit between Bwindi and Kampala, which holds good populations of Common Zebra and Impala (both of which cannot be found elsewhere in Uganda). This is one of the only places to find the elusive East African endemic Red-faced Barbet, in addition to being one of the most reliable sites in Uganda for African Finfoot (either hire a boat or look right from the shore at dawn/dusk at campsite 3 in Rossouw's book), and the only site in Uganda for Long-tailed Cisticola. It is also a reliable site for wintering Brown-chested Plovers from July-December (on burnt areas alongside the road). Papyrus Yellow Warbler & White-winged Warblers also occur in the papyrus on the edge of the Lake but are difficult.
We stayed in the tented camp in the acacia woodland itself near the HQ, which was excellent and ate at the very good restaurant on the lake shore.
Key species recorded:
African Finfoot 1 G seen from campsite 3 (as illustrated in Where to Watch Birds in Uganda), at dawn at the edge of the papyrus on the right-side of the camp.
Martial Eagle 1 immature seen perched by the Zebra track.
Brown-chested Lapwing 16 non-breeding/immatures seen on an extensive burnt area alongside the road which leads out of the park through the Nshara gate towards Kampala.
Common Scimitarbill 2 in acacia woodland by the road here were the only ones recorded on the trip.
Spot-flanked Barbet Seen on both days here (up to 7), the only site recorded on the trip.
Long-tailed Cisticola 2 seen alongside the Zebra track. This is a very localised species known only from here, although not illustrated to occur in Uganda in the East Africa Guide.
SITES NOT VISITED
KIBALE The most reliable site in Uganda for Green-breasted Pitta (although still very difficult), which is also good for chimp-tracking. We chose against visiting this site for the added promise of visiting Semliki instead, particularly as many of the species there are also found at Budongo.
MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK With more time worth a visit, as it holds many of the rift endemics and is particularly good for seeing Rwenzori Turaco and Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird which are unlikely to be seen at Bwindi. Gorilla-tracking can also be done here, although this gorilla group can be less reliable as they sometimes cross the border into Congo.
LAKE BISINA & LAKE OPETA (between Moroto & Mount Elgon) The only site for Uganda's only endemic species-the globally threatened Fox's Weaver. Can be done as a two-day trip from Kampala, with time.
Click here for full species list