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Uganda July 2018 (1 Viewer)


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Inspired by the Kenya trip report by lgonz here in the forum, I decided to check my notes and checklists and do a little write down of an Uganda trip I did together with my father in 2018. As it has been some time, some of my memory might not be 100% accurate anymore. But maybe still interesting for some people to read.

This was a packaged tour booked via a “normal” travel agency here in Germany. It was a Uganda tour with nature interest and focus on wildlife in general including Gorilla and Chimp Trekking and several game drives and NP entries.
Because of this, and the limited time of only 10 days special birding arrangements couldn’t be made, and we missed out on some targets like shoebill. But nevertheless, that was a great trip birding wise as well.

We decided to do that trip because the costs were very low for a trip like this. We paid 2700€ covering all expanses excl. drinks during the trip.

Uganda is a great country, and I will certainly return for birding here in the future. let alone for the Shoebill which technically is doable in a daytrip to Entebbe :D.

Day 1) Flight from Frankfurt to Entebbe via Addis Abeba and Entebbe Botanical Gardens

We had a late flight in Germany arriving in Addis Abeba in the early morning. We had some time to wait for our flight to Uganda so a little bit of Birding could be done out of the terminal window.

We saw 8 Species here. For of them were lifers for me in Augur Buzzard, Nyanza Swift, Eastern paradise Whydah and the endemic, White-collared Pigeon.

We arrived in Entebbe on time and got picked up by our guides and met the tour group of 12 people. We got picked up in three Toyota minibuses, so everyone had a window space and good viewing opportunities during the trip.

When leaving the airport, you immediately see, that Uganda is a great country for birding. Birds are everywhere, easy to see and not shy.

At the airport we picked up some of the iconic birds we would also see during most of our trip. Black-headed Heron and Marabou Stork were feeding on the airfield. Cattle Egret and Hadada Ibis are very common and Black Kites and Little Swift were flying overhead. On the wired fence Woodland and Pied Kingfisher were looking for prey and a couple of Gray-backed Fiscal were seen as well while on a grassy patch Spur-winged Lapwing and to our surprise 2 Piapiac were foraging.

We were taken to the Papyrus Guest House in Entebbe, which would be our overnight stay.

The grounds were full of birds. Gray-backed Camaroptera, Tawny flanked Prinia and Green White-eye were singing, while Scarlet-chested and Red-chested Sunbird were feeding at the flowers. Common Bulbul were Common as the name said and an Eastern Plantain Eater also made a visit.

Some Raptors could be seen in the sky. Several Palm-nut Vulture a Wahlberg`s Eagle and a Shikra flew by. While an African Hobby and a Lizard Buzzard were spotted perched in the same tree. On of our target birds a Gray Parrot was also seen as a flyover. Luckily, we got some better views of this beautiful parrot later on.

There was no program today, so we had time to spend the afternoon on our own. We knew about the Entebbe Botanical Gardens which is a nice Birding spot, and the group was interested in the Botanical Garden itself, so our guides took us there. And while the group got a guided walk, we split up to look for some birding.

Red-eyed Dove were very common, and the Swift Flocks contained both Little and African Palm.

The Garden is directly situated at Lake Victoria, where waterbirds were numerous. Long-tailed Cormorant, Little Egret and Cattle Egret were around as well as a couple of Egyptian Goose. A single African Openbill was seen, and African Fish Eagle were looking for a meal.

In the lakeside vegetation Vieillot`s Black Weaver could be seen, accompanied by several Bronze Mannikin and a single Gray-headed Nigrita.

The Garden itself has some nice and high trees. Here we saw a group of the beautiful Ross’s Turaco and a couple Black-and white Casqued Hornbill, which look more like an airplane than a bird, when flying overhead. A calling Klaas’s Cuckoo could be spotted easily, while the Tambourine Dove gave us more trouble and only allowed some glimpses. Same could be said for the two species of Barbet we saw here. The large and colorful Double-toothed Barbet was easy to see. While the small Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird was hard work. We saw five different species of Sunbird, including our only Green-headed Sunbird of the trip and Ashy and Northern Black Flycatcher were hunting for insects in the area. We left the garden with 43 species in a short afternoon session, which was a very good start to our Uganda trip.
Day 2) Transfer to Lake Mburo and Boat ride

In such a short itinerary everything is a bit rushed and sadly you spend a lot of time in transfers. Each of these spots deserves more time than we could have spend in the areas and it always felt that we only scratched the surface of the area.

In our Entebbe Guesthouse we managed to add Black-headed Gonolek and a Northern Gray-headed Sparrow to our list before we were taking the longer drive to Lake Mburo. Luckily a lot of birds in Uganda are quite large and the travel speed is rather slow. So, we could ID birds out of the car. We were driving through the Kampala outskirts, which was a real mess. Outside of this the driving seemed rather easy, though some of the streets were in bad shape. Especially between Bwindi and Queen Elizabeth National Park. The main roads are good though and can probably be an easy selfdrive as well.

Most notable birds were a couple of Spur-winged Goose and a Saddle-billed Stork in a water next to the road. And our only African Pied Hornbills of the trip. In the humid areas Broad-billed Roller were the common wire bird, replaced by Lilac-breasted Roller where it got more arid. And Woodland Kingfisher seem to sit everywhere. Apart from the abundant, Yellow-billed Kites, Long-crested Eagle were the most common roadside raptors, we encountered in Uganda.

We made a short stop at the Equator, where we had a little bit of birding time.
Here we saw Rufous-chested and Angola Swallow, a Trilling Cisticola was singing from a grassy patch nearby. And a small group of trees was home for an African Gray Woodpecker.

We arrived at Lake Mburo in the afternoon and drove through the National Park to our boat ride.

Here we saw our first Gray-Crowned Cranes of the trip. A Gray Kestrel was also added sitting in a tree, while a Sacred Ibis was foraging in a marshy area. Striped Kingfisher and Fork-tailed Drongo were commonly perched birds. While a Black-lored Babbler was very “unbabblerlike” alone. We drove quickly to our accommodation to drop the luggage and were lucky to spot 2 Red-faced Barbet in a tree. This Barbet occurs in a very small area from Southern Uganda to Northern Tanzania only and Lake Mburo might be the best spot to see them.

We also saw a couple of Mammals on our way to the boat. It is the only NP of Uganda were Imapala are the common Antilope. We also saw Waterbucks, Topis, and a couple of Zebra.

Around 3pm we arrived at the boat ride. The ride was excellent and here the focus was also on birds which allowed us to see some of the tough birds, because the boat guide knew what he was doing.

Directly at the pier we could see Hammerkop, a single, Yellow-billed Stork and a couple of Striated Heron. The first stop was in a papyrus patch nearby. Malachite Kingfisher were very common here. Lesser Striped Swallow and White-headed Sawwing were flying around, while Swamp Flycatcher could be observed sitting on overhanging branches. A Papyrus Gonolek was a very good find and, in the reed, we saw Black-necked, Spectacled and Northern Brown-throated Weaver.

The next stop was for African Finfoot. And we could observe a couple of this iconic species close to the boat. But this was not even the best bird of the day. As the guide also knew a spot for White-backed Night Heron and we could enjoy the views of a full family of these birds including two youngsters. Very happy about this unexpected birding tour we returned to our lodge where we arrived already in the dark, because we had some great observations in the park itself.

It started with a couple of Chickens. Helmeted Guineafowl, Crested Francolin and Red-necked Spurfowl made a nice appearance. While a group of Rothschild Giraffe was curious about our cars and approached very closely, looking directly into the car. I love Giraffes and this was easily the greatest observation I have made of them. On a group of Buffalos, Yellow-billed Oxpecker were seen as well.

We also saw some of the typical Savanna birds, in Bateleur, White-backed Vulture Ring-necked Dove, Emerald-spotted Wood Dove and Wattled Lapwing. While spending so much time with the giraffes it got quite dark, which our guide needed to explain to the Rangers at the gate but produced a show in 2 Pennant winged Nightjars flying in the last light of the day. Arriving at our accommodation a calling Fiery-necked Nightjar completed the day.
Day 3) Lake Mburo Safari and transfer to Bwindi Impenetrable NP

The morning started very well with a calling African Scops Owl and a Hunting Square-tailed nightjar before dawn at the camp. Inside the park the mammals encountered today were similar to yesterday’s experience. But a couple of Eland provided great views. Primates were also present in the form of Vervet Monkeys and Olive Baboons. The Birds however had some nice additions. It started on our campgrounds with a couple of Red-headed Lovebird in a small tree. White-browed Robin Chats were seen several times and our first Gray-headed Kingfisher of the trip was seen shortly after.
While everyone was enjoying the Elands, we spotted a couple of Bare-faced Go-away Bird behind us and a juvenile African Harrier-Hawk was seen feeding on something on the ground.

A Lappet-faced Vulture was flying overhead and when we reached some areas with recently burned grass a couple of Senegal Lapwings and a single Brown-chested Lapwing were seen. Especially Senegal Lapwings are specialists for these recently burned areas.
After this productive morning session we would leave the park and make our transfer to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, famous for its gorillas.

We made a short lunch stop at one of the crater lakes.
Here we could see some White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher, and Streaky Seedeater. We reached Bwindi quite late in the day. Birding from the car was of course very difficult. We luckily saw a birding group on the road, which were watching an Albertine Boubou, we could convince our guide to do a short stop for us and enjoyed this Albertine Rift endemic. Monkey watching however was possible and we could see Black-and white Colobus as well as L’ Hoests and Ugandan Blue Monkeys here.

We passed through the NP and hat our accommodation closely outside of the Park next to the Ruhija Section.
On the grounds here, several Chubbs Cisticola were present, Yellow crowned Canary were Common and a Golden breasted Bunting was perching in a top of a tree. And Northern Double-collared Sunbirds and Purple-breasted Sunbirds were feeding at some flowers.

We went to bed early. Tomorrow was the big day, why people from all over the world are coming to Uganda.
Very interesting report, especially in how different some species are, even when going by locations that are pretty similar in general habitat.

Seeing that Impala was only common in one of the parks is a surprise, since for us in Kenya, if we had open habitat, we had Impala; and the fact that African Gray Parrot and Ross's Turaco could be seen in the capital is something we couldn't even dream of, even in Kakamega Forest we were told that less than 10 parrots remain due to the lack of proper habitat, while being told that Uganda is much better for them!
Day 4) Gorilla Trecking and Birding afternoon

We started early, arriving around dawn at the start of the gorilla trekking.

We saw some birds here including Black-tailed Oriole and a flying Mountain Buzzard.

This was the most amazing thing I have ever experienced in my life. The whole process is very professional, you are put into smaller groups considering a maximum of 6 people and go with rangers and trackers into the forest to follow the several habituated families of Mountain Gorillas which are luckily increasing in numbers again in Bwindi National Park. Apparently they look a bit for physical conditions of the participants when selecting which group goes to which gorilla group here. We apparently got the hardest track of the day, which led to basically no birds seen and identified at all, as we walked directly through the forest going steep and slippery downhill and you really have to watch what you are doing rather than to worry for any birds.

Some thoughts on the permit. For us it was obviously included in the price of the tour, if you get this permit individually it costs around 600$ which is a lot. But the whole community around the forest is living basically because of that tourism. As long as people earn more money with protecting the forest instead of cutting the forest down it works well. The Ugandan Wildlife Management seems to work well and, on our group, alone 2 soldiers 2 ranger 3 tracker and 5 people helping us with the backpack + assisting at the slopes were living from that.

When we arrived at the Gorilla group we got a short explanation what we are allowed to do and not allowed to do and that we shouldn’t go closer than 3m to a gorilla.

The gorillas didn’t get those explanations and approached us closely, a female even touching some people’s legs when going closeby.
We first saw the silverback which was already impressive and following that we were somehow really a part of this Gorilla group with the Silverback, 5 females a young 2-3year old and a baby. It was just amazing. Usually you have around 30min with the group before continuing. The gorillas however took the same path as we did, which extended our time to around 50 minutes.

Very exhausted and extremely happy we arrived back at the starting station around midday.

We made some arrangements here to get a short birding walk with one of the stations guides, who was surprisingly good at birds. I thought without arrangements we wouldn’t be able to get a birding specialised guide here.

So we went with him + an armed soldier (mandatory because of occasional elephants) into the forest.

We quickly saw our first Great Blue Turacos here. Amazing and impressive birds and best observed in Uganda. We then saw a small group of Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater a montane specialist of East Africa. Before finding a small flock. Here we could see Brown-throated Wattle Eye. Several Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird and an inconspicuous Gray-throated Barbet. Our guide also spotted a Least Honeyguide, which we could see well, and a Flycatcher turned out to be a In the canopy a Dusky-blue Flycatcher. Gray Apalis and the endemic Rwenzori Apalis were seen in the Canopy and Red-faced Woodland-Warbler were commonly heard and sometimes seen. A flowering tree held a pair of Regal Sunbird, another Albertine rift endemic.

Close to the ground we also saw a couple of Banded Prinia, Lühders Bushshrike and 2 Northern Puffback, while Yellow-whiskered Greenbul and Mountain Greenbul were frequently seen during the 2 hours.

Bwindi is great. We obviously missed out on a lot of birds here. I am very keen to return to this place.
Day 5) Transfer to Queen Elizabeth Nationalpark

Today contained a long transfer through Bwindi downhill to Queen Elizabeth National Park.

We did some stops inside the forest, where we could spot a pair of Mountain Wagtail and a Cassin`s Flycatcher at a small river. We also found a mixed species flock, where we could add Speckled Tinkerbird and White-bellied Crested-Flycatcher to our list. Outside of the forest, a flying Black Goshawk with a Dove in its claws was the only notable addition.

Around 11:30 am we arrived at the Ishasha section of Queen Elizabeth NP, where we would do a short drive to reach our accommodation at the other side of the park.
Mammal wise this drive wasn’t too interesting, though we saw our first Uganda Kob here. The most common antelope in the park.
Birding was good though, we saw our only Long-toed Lapwing close to the road here and a Black-bellied Bustard was even walking on the road itself. Here we also saw our first Brown Snake Eagle and Sooty Chats were sitting on almost every termite hill. In the grass patches we heard our only Zitting Cisticola of the trip and Yellow-throated Longclaws were seen at a couple of places. We made a short stop at a picknick place where Blue-spotted Wood Doves were common and a small colony of Village Weaver could be observed very well. African Thrush and Pin-tailed Whydah were foraging on the grounds here and a pair of Green Woodhoopoe were present, while a Nubian Woodpecker was climbing upwards in the same tree.

We arrived late at our accommodation. Tomorrow we would go for a full day in Queen Elizabeth NP.
Day 6) Queen Elizabeth National Park
The morning was spent with a long game drive in the Northern sector, before we would have a boat tour on the Kazinga Channel in the afternoon.

QENP has a lot of mammals. Uganda Kob being the most common species, we also saw several Bushbuck, Warthogs and Waterbucks. Buffalos are very common here and there is also a healthy population of African Elephants. We were lucky to see a lioness with her cubs during our drive and found a Spotted Hyena.

We saw a lot of birds during our drive through the national park. Birds contain a lot of the typical savanna birds we saw before in Lake Mburo but Mburo is more a bushy area, while QENP has opener areas with more grasslands. White-rumped Swift were commonly seen here, and Crowned Lapwing were also regularly seen from the Window. Collared Pratincoles were seen flying around in dry areas where Rufous-naped Lark was very common and and Flappet Lark less common. Raptors included White-backed Vulture, Black-chested Snake-eagle and Bateleur. In the grassy areas large flocks of Red-billed Quelea and White-winged Widowbird were present. And a flock of finches contained African and Red-billed Firefinch.

We made several stops one of them had a very interesting tree where in quick succession first a group of Blue-naped Mousebirds, then a Red-faced Crombec and directly afterwards a Chinspot Batis were present.

Around noon we spent some time on one of the lakes.

Several weaver species were present here. With Black-headed and Lesser Masked Weaver being the most common species but also Slender-billed and Holubs Golden Weaver were present. On the lake itself was a flock of Great White Pelican and a small group of Lesser Flamingo. Black winged Stilt, and Three-banded Plover were around among a single Kittlitz`s Plover. A Common Sandpiper and a Wood Sandpiper in July were also quite far away from their breeding grounds.

In the afternoon we arrived at the boat station for the Kazinga channel trip, but we still ahd some time left to spare for birding.
Here we had a great show of a Diederic Cuckoo. African Pied Wagtail were common around the house and a group of three Buff-bellied Warbler was an unexpecting find. Even more unexpected was a Wahlbergs Honeyguide which gave us some real headache at first but was observed well enough by both of us to confirm that species. This bird is actually widespread in Sub-Saharan Africa but apparently never common and only rarely observed.

A couple of Slate-colored Boubou finished our stay before the boat drive.

The Kazinga Channel hosted a lot of water bound birds. Pink-backed and Great White Pelicans were around as well a almost the full set of Herons and Egrets, including Squacco Heron and a couple of Intermediate Egret. On a bank at the end of the channel a large group of Great Comorant were present as well as a lot of gulls mainly Gray-hooded and Lesser-black backed gull (fuscus and heuglini type) there was also one pale mantled bird which might have been a Caspian Gull but was not seen and photographed well enough to give a definitive id here.

Here we also saw a couple of Plain Martin and several Wire-tailed Swallow. Several Winding Cisticolas could been heard from the vegetation. However the most common species were Pied Kingfisher, where we counted at least 500 birds.

This was a “century day” with over 100 species observed.
Day 7) To Kibale

We had some time in the morning to bird around our accommodation. Which was a very productive spot.
An African Hoopoe was feeding on the ground, while a White-headed Barbet sat in a tree overhead.

Bagaflecht Weaver were breeding around the pool and 2 Crimson-rumped Waxbill were present. We found some flowers where Copper, Bronze and Mariqua Sunbird could all be observed very well.

We arrived at 2pm at the Kibale Guest Kottages, which are located directly at the edge of the Kibale forest so the grounds were very birdy, including some typical forest birds as well.

Great Blue Turaco were very common here and could be observed very well. Several Cuckoo species were present, among some we have already seen, a calling Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo was a welcome addition.
A pair of African Blue Flycatcher was building a nest, and we could also see a pair of the stunning Black-and-white Shrike-Flycatcher as well.

For the afternoon a walk around the Bigodi Swamp was planned.
Here se saw several Red-tailed Monkeys and a couple of Red Colobus. Chimpanzees are also regular visitors here, but we had no luck today.
Apart from primates, the Bigodi Swamp is also famous for birds.
Especially Barbets were numerous. We saw our first Yellow-billed Barbets, a Yellow Spotted Barbet and several Yellow-throated Tinkerbird here. We also saw a Lesser Honeyguide here as well as a single African Shrike-flycatcher who looks almost as good as the Black-and-White ones. We tried for the Flufftails, which are regularly seen here, but had no luck.
More luck we had with a singing Western Nicator and several Little and Plain Greenbul.

In an opener area a African Pipit was present as well as a pair of Gray Crowned Crane and a couple of Crowned Hornbill. Two Red-cheeked Cordonbleu next to the car finished a productive day.
Day 8) Kibale

Today was Chimpanzee Tracking. And while it was also nice to see and experience the chimps it does not have the same vibe as the gorillas.
Chimps are loud and chaotic. They live in large groups and are not really paying attention to us “visitors” in their forests.

The walk to the chimps was easy and we had a bit of time for birding here.

Blue-breasted Kingfisher were calling frequently in the forest as well as Red-chested Cuckoo.

Some Buff-throated Apalis were seen very well and a pair of Green Crombec was a nice find. Deeper in the forest we could observe 2 Rufous Flycatcher-Thrush while our Chimp guide pointed out the song of the Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat which is copying whistles if you whistle the sound for it.

We arrived around noon at the Guest Cottages and had the afternoon to bird on our own. We explored the hotel grounds and walked a bit along the streets.

On the grounds we could see a Green Hylia in a mixed species flock, which also held a Black-headed Paradise-Flycatcher. We also saw some of the more common birds in the area, when suddenly a Gray-green Bushshrike appeared and gave some nice views. Along the road we first found a Mackinnon’s Shrike and then a very productive tree. On our way up we saw a Green Sunbird in it and on our way back a group of White-breasted Nigrita. Back at the guest cottages we found a group of Grosbeak Weaver and a single Blue-throated Brown Sunbird. At night we decided to try for some owls and got rewarded by a couple of African Wood Owl and a calling Swamp Nightjar.
Day 9) Transfer to Entebbe
On our next day, we would leave Uganda and the drive back to Entebbe held a lot of the more common species we encountered during our stay in this beautiful country.
We could still add 2 more species with African Wooly-necked Stork and Black-crowned Chagra en route.

We finished the trip with 265 species in 9 days. 147 of them were lifer. The Birding potential of this country as absolutely amazing with a birding centred tour you should probably score well over 400 species in two weeks, I guess.


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