UGANDA PART TWO:

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ITINERARY & DAILY ACCOUNTS

PART THREE

 

 

ITINERARY

 

Friday 13 June                :        Arrival in Entebbe at 20:15 hrs. Transfer to Hotel Central Inn Entebbe

Saturday 14 June           :        Morning birding Mabamba Swamp. Afternoon drive to Lake Mburo for overnight stay.

Sunday 15 June              :        Morning birding Lake Mburo NP. Afternoon drive to Kisoro for overnight stay.

Monday 16 June             :        Drive to Nkuringo and onwards Gorilla trekking. Overnight in Kisoro again.

Tuesday 17 June            :        Birding Mgahinga NP and afternoon transfer to Ruhija for overnight stay.

Wednesday 18 June        :        Whole day birding the trail to Mubwindi Swamp. Overnight at Ruhija again.

Thursday 19 June           :        Transfer to Buhoma birding “the neck” en route. Overnight at Buhoma.

Friday 20 June                :        Whole day birding Bwindi trails. Overnight in Buhoma again.

Saturday 21 June           :        Transfer to Queen Elizabeth NP birding en route. Overnight in QENP.

Sunday 22 June              :        Whole day birding and game drives in QENP. Overnight in QENP again.

Monday 23 June             :        Transfer to Semliki birding en route. Visit Hot Springs. Overnight in Bundibuygo.

Tuesday 24 June            :        Birding Kirumia Trail. Late afternoon transfer to Kibale for overnight stay.

Wednesday 25 June        :        Morning Chimp trekking. Afternoon birding in and around Kibale. Overnight in Kibale.

Thursday 26 June           :        Transfer to Budongo Forest birding en route. Birding Busingiro. Overnight near Budongo.

Friday 27 June                :        Birding the Royal Mile. Afternoon transfer to Murchison Falls NP for overnight stay.

Saturday 28 June           :        Whole day birding and game drives in Murchison Falls NP. Overnight at MFNP again.

Sunday 29 June              :        Transfer to Entebbe birding en route. Evening flight home arriving next day.

 

 

DAILY ACCOUNTS

 

Friday 13 June

Our KLM flight from Dusseldorf to Entebbe via Amsterdam went smoothly and we arrived on schedule at Entebbe Airport at 20:15. We went through customs and walked to the arrival hall where our guide Alfred and driver Gideon were already waiting for us. While Gideon brought our luggage to the car we changed some money at a Forex office in the airport building. We arrived at Hotel Central Inn at around 21:15 which was located only a 5 to 10 minutes drive from the airport. We dropped our luggage in the room and onwards went through the itinerary together with Alfred while enjoying our first Ugandan beer. After Alfred left we watched the EURO 2008 football match between Holland and France which ended up in a spectacular 4:1 victory of our Dutch team. Tired but satisfied because of the Dutch win we went to bad far too late at around 23:30. 

 

Saturday 14 June

We were up already at around 5:30 for breakfast before heading out to Mabamba swamp, our first destination of the trip. Our main target at Mabamba was of course the Shoebill, one of the most sought after birds in Uganda. The drive over sometimes poor unpaved roads took about 1˝ hours. During the drive we spotted our first birds like Common Bulbul, Hadada Ibis, Broad-billed Roller, Ross’ Turaco and Vieillot’s Black Weavers. We arrived at the boat landing of Mabamba at around 8:00 for our onward 2 ˝ hours boat trip into the swamp in a dugout canoe. The papyrus at the boat landing held a nesting colony of Weyns’ Weavers, my first lifer of the trip. During the boat trip we noted amongst African Crake, Lesser Jacana, Long-toed Lapwing, Swamp Flycather and Blue-headed Coucal. After about an hour of peddling we finally found our main target. We had excellent views of a Shoebill fishing for Lungfish which is its main food source. After observing the bird for a few minutes we turned and peddled back to the boat landing stage. Then we headed to a site along Victoria Lake for Orange Weaver but due to the high water level we couldn’t reach the nesting site. It was already 12:00 when we headed further towards Lake Mburo. On the way to the main road we passed an interesting papyrus swamp but we decided to head on because it was already late. Alfred promised we would have another chance the next day at Kaaku Swamp on the way to Kabale. Besides that bird activity was very low at the swamp in the middle of the day. Halfway towards Lake Mburo we had a heavy rain shower and we decided to have lunch at a roadside restaurant. During the onwards drive to Lake Mburo we noted amongst Meyer’s Parrot, Black-headed Gonolek and Fan-tailed Widowbird. Around 4:30 we entered Lake Mburo and did a game drive. Apart from the game (Lake Mburo is the only park in Uganda holding Impala’s) we saw amongst Bateleur, Crested Francolin, Bare-faced Go-away-bird and Black Cuckoo-shrike. Just before dusk we arrived at the excellent Mantana Tented Camp. We had a nice luxury tent with private bathroom overlooking the beautiful park and the lake in the background. At the restaurant we had an excellent dinner. After dinner we made our daily checklist having seen 123 species of which 14 were lifers for me. Bird of the day was undoubtedly Shoebill.

 

Sunday 15 June

We were up just before dawn for a nice breakfast before heading out for another game drive. During the first 1 ˝ hours we saw quite some good birds like Blue-naped Mousebird, Emerald Spotted Wood-dove, Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike, Grey Tit-flycatcher and finally also one of our aimed targets this morning: Red-faced Barbet. We then went to the park headquarters to pick up a park ranger and the boatman and headed to the lake for an onward boat trip on the lake. We first checked out the papyrus stands along the lake where we found our first target namely Papyrus Gonolek. Heading further we saw at least five pairs of African Fish-eagles. After about an hour we found our second target: a male African Finfoot. It was almost noon when we set foot on land again and decided to leave the park as we still had a long way to go to Kisoro in the extreme south-western corner of Uganda. During the drive we had our packed lunch in the car and noted amongst Woolly-necked Stork, White-headed Barbet and Yellow Bishop which were all new on our trip list. In Kabale we stocked up with provisions for the next couple of days and headed further over an unpaved bumpy road towards Kisoro. Halfway we made a detour for a short visit to Kaaku Swamp. Here we saw amongst Mackinnon’s Shrike, White-tailed Blue Flycatcher and one of the specialties of the site: White-winged Scrub-warbler. Unfortunately we missed the other specialties like Papyrus Yellow-warbler (heard only) and Papyrus Canary. However a nice bonus was a Spot-necked Otter swimming just a couple of meters in front of us. We then headed on to Kisoro where we arrived at the Kisoro Tourist Hotel just before dusk. We dropped our luggage in the room and had a cool beer and later dinner. After dinner we checked off our daily sightings having seen 102 species of which 42 were new on the trip list of now 165 species. Bird of the day: Red-faced Barbet.

 

Monday 16 June

Today is Gorilla day, an experience where my wife has been waiting for since many years. After breakfast we headed out for a 2 hours drive over bumpy roads to the Nkuringo ranger station. We arrived there around 8:00 and after the briefing we were brought to the start of the trail in a mini-van. After an hours descend we crossed a small river and from here the trail went up into the forested mountains. The hike was pretty strenuous so there was not much time to look for birds. The only new bird I could identify was a Regal Sunbird, an Albertine Rift endemic. After 2˝ hours our tracker informed us that we were close to the Gorilla’s. We had to descend into a very steep gully and when we arrived down we were surrounded by a group of about ten Mountain Gorilla’s. What an overwhelming experience this was!! We were allowed to stay near the gorilla’s for an hour, and it was great to see these magnificent creatures in there natural habitat. With pain in our hearts we said goodbye to the gorilla’s. Coming out of the gully we first had a short break before commencing the strenuous hike back to the starting point. When we arrived back we were exhausted but also each one of us was an unforgettable experience richer. Back at the ranger station Alfred and Gideon were already waiting for us. We were supposed to receive a Gorilla certificate but the ranger said they did not have any. Alfred promised us to arrange one for us in Buhoma where we would be staying after a couple of days.

We had a drink at the ranger station when Alfred told us that he had found a nice bird. Well it appeared to be a nice bird indeed. He had called in a beautiful male Doherty’s Bushshrike. It was already 3:30 when we decided to drive back to Kisoro. During the drive back we enjoyed the beautiful scenery of lakes and the Virunga Volcanoes in the back. We arrived back at the hotel around 5:00 where we had a well deserved cold beer in the hotel’s garden. After a hot shower we had dinner, and afterwards made our checklist. As today’s focus was not on birds alone we finished the checklist in just a couple of minutes. Today we saw 29 species of which 8 were new for the trip. Bird of the day was Doherty’s Bushshrike. The highlight of the day was pretty obvious: Mountain Gorilla’s.

 

Tuesday 17 June

We were up before dusk and after a quick breakfast headed to Mgahinga NP. The drive over bumpy unpaved tracks took about 75 minutes. We arrived at the park entrance at around 7:30 and after a short visit to the beautiful visitor centre we started to walk the Gorge trail up to Mt. Sabinyo accompanied by a park ranger. Mgahinga is really a beautiful and very scenic park. First we passed an area of former farmland, a bamboo zone and then an open heath area before entering the tall montane forest at an altitude of about 2700 masl. Then the trail forks to the left with magnificent views into a forested gully that cuts into Mount Sabinyo. The trail up and down took us about 5 hours and was not only scenically rewarding. We saw a nice set of very good birds of which many were ARE’s. One of the first highlights was an Oriole Finch, which was according to Alfred the first record in Mgahinga. Other goodies we saw included amongst Western Green Tinkerbird, Collared Apalis, Malachite Sunbird and Ruwenzori Double-collared Sunbird. At the gully we found Ruwenzori Turaco and in a flock of foraging Dusky Crimson-wings I noted a very bright coloured bird: the rare and very local Shelley’s Crimson-wing. Back at the visitor centre it was already 1:00 and we decided to head towards the Ruhija section of Bwindi NP. During the 2 ˝ hours drive through beautiful scenery we noted amongst Little Grebe and White-necked Raven, a lifer for me. From the entrance gate we birded our way to the ITFC guesthouse where we arrived around 5:00. We used the last hour of daylight by birding near the guesthouse having amongst Least Honeyguide, Red-faced Woodland-warbler, Stripe-breasted Tit and Ruwenzori Hill-babbler. Back in the guesthouse we had a beer at the fireplace and dinner afterwards. The plan to look for Rwenzori Nightjar unfortunately failed because of the strong wind that blew over the ridge all night. We checked off our bird list having seen 72 species of which 40 were new on the trip list of now 213 species. Bird of the day: Ruwenzori Turaco.

 

Wednesday 18 June

Today the trek to Mubwindi swamp was on the program. After an early breakfast we were off at around 7:00 packed with enough drinking water and lunch in our backpack. We followed the unpaved road for a few hundred meters and then took a trail to the right that leads through beautiful montane forest down to Mubwindi swamp. New birds recorded during the descend included amongst Black-billed Turaco, Dwarf Honeyguide, Yellow-streaked Bulbul, Archer’s Robin-chat, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, White-bellied Crested Flycatcher and Black-tailed Oriole. Just before a stream crossing we reached a clearing which was supposed to be the famous nesting site of the African Green Broadbill. It took Alfred only a couple of minutes to point out a male specimen of this highly sought after bird. From the clearing it was only a 30 minutes walk to the swamp that we reached around noon. We set down along the swamp and scanned the area for birds. We soon found two Grauer’s Scrub-warblers one of the specialties of the area. Other birds noted included Carruthers’ Cisticola, Black-throated Apalis, Bronze Sunbird and Angola Swallows hawking over the swamp for insects. Red-chested Flufftails were calling but unfortunately did now show. We headed back to the clearing to have a break and have our packed lunch. Around 1:30 we started the fairly strenuous ascend back to the main road. New birds that showed up included amongst Grey Cuckoo-shrike, Crowned Hornbill, Grey-throated Barbet and Elliot’s Woodpecker. While walking back over the main road to the guesthouse we noted a Mountain Buzzard souring over the forested mountains. It was 4:30 when we reached the guesthouse and we decided not to go out for more birding. The long hike to Mubwindi was quite tiresome and we decided to relax in the sun outside the lodge while enjoying a nice cool beer. In the trees around the lodge we noted Golden-breasted Bunting and White-headed Woodhoopoe which was new on the list. In the evening we had dinner at the fireplace and afterwards made our daily checklist. Today we saw 63 species of which 30 were new. After only 5 days our trip list is now at 243 species. Choosing the bird of the day was not so difficult: African Green Broadbill.

 

Thursday 19 June

Up early again and after a quick breakfast we packed our luggage and dropped it in the car. Before leaving we decided to do some birding on the “school” trail near the ITFC guesthouse. New birds we found here included amongst Lanner Falcon, Olive Thrush and Sharpe’s Starling. We then headed out towards the “Neck” making several stops en route. New birds included Singing Cisticola, Copper Sunbird, Brown-crowned Tchagra and Red-collared Widowbird. A stop at a tea plantation produced Yellow-bellied Waxbill, Brimstone Canary and one of our main targets this morning: Dusky Twinspot. Around 8:30 we reached the “Neck” that we birded for about 3 hours. Here we found some excellent birds like Black Bee-eater, Slender-billed Greenbul, Ansorge’s Greenbul, African Shrike-Flycatcher, Many-coloured Bushshrike and Crested Malimbe. A bit of a surprise was the sighting of a Greater Honeyguide, wrong habitat one would say. We left the forest of the “Neck” behind us around noon and decided to have our packed lunch. The onward drive to Buhoma took about one hour arriving at the Bwindi View Banda’s around 2:00. It was fairly hot today and we decided to have a break until 4:00. While enjoying a cold beer we noted Green-throated Sunbird, Magpie Mannikin and Village Indigobird. We then headed out again birding the wide trail towards Bwindi NP before taking a left turn to the Munyaga river trail. We birded until dusk having new birds like Cassin’s Hawk-Eagle, Tambourine Dove, Petit’s Cuckoo-shrike, Red-capped Robin-chat, Cassin’s Grey Flycatcher, Tiny Sunbird and Black-and-White Shrike-flycatcher. Back at the lodge we had shower and onwards had an excellent dinner. Today’s checklist showed us that we had seen 96 species of which a remarkable 52 were new for the list, with a trip list of now 295 species. Bird of the day: Black Bee-eater.

 

Friday 20 June

Today we have a full day to explore Bwindi. Accompanied by a park ranger we headed out into the park. After a couple of hundred meters over the main trail we took a left into the forest along the waterfall trail. We had some great birds this morning of which several were ARE’s. Highlights included Red-throated Alethe, Short-tailed Warbler, Chapin’s Flycatcher, African Broadbill, Red-headed Malimbe and Red-fronted Antpecker. Around noon we walked back to the lodge to have lunch. During the midday break we noted African Blue-Flycatcher. Around 3:30 we headed out again for our second birding session of the day. This time we stayed on the main trail, and again we found some great new species like Crowned Hawk-Eagle, Bronze-naped Pigeon, Bar-tailed Trogon, Yellow-throated Tinkerbird, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Willcock’s Honeyguide, Red-tailed Greenbul and Equatorial Akalet. Before heading back to the lodge we went to the Park Headquarters where Alfred picked up our Gorilla certificates. Back at the lodge we had a shower and an onwards dinner. Today we saw 67 species of which 24 new on the list having a trip total of now 319 species. Bird of the day: African Broadbill.

 

Saturday 21 June

After an early breakfast we packed our luggage and left Bwindi. During our drive over unpaved roads towards the Ishasha section of Queen Elizabeth NP we made a few stops for birds which included new ones like Klaas’ Cuckoo, Double-toothed Barbet, Rufous-necked Wryneck, Banded Martin, Northern Crombec and White Helmetshrike. Around 10:00 we reached the Ishasha gate and entered the park for a game drive and several birding stops. New birds noted included amongst Rueppell’s Griffon, Woodland Kingfisher, White-throated Bee-eater and Wire-tailed Swallow. One of our targets of this morning where the famous Climbing Lions which we found after an 1 ˝ hours drive. Back at the gate we took a left turn along the park’s border to the northern section of the park which was another 90 km drive. During the drive we had our lunch in the car. After crossing the Kazinga Channel we took a left turn heading to the Hippo Hill Camp where we arrived around 2:00. As it was quite hot today we decided to have a break until 4:00 before heading out for a game drive in the Crater area, a scenically beautiful section of the park. During the two hours drive we noted new birds like Little Sparrowhawk, Alpine Swift, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Hoopoe, Compact Weaver and Black-headed Gonolek. The grassy area’s produced typical species like Common Quail, Croaking Cisticola, Long-billed Pipit, Red-billed Quelea and Red-billed Quailfinch. Back at the lodge we had a nice shower before having dinner. Despite being a “luxury” camp the lodge was not able to serve a cold beer and the food was of a mediocre standard. Besides that their TV wasn’t working and we had to go to the village to watch the quarterfinal match between the Dutch and Russia. Before heading to the village we made our checklist having 102 species with 40 new ones having a trip list of 359 species. Bird of the day: Common Quail, a species that I have never seen before in Europe. Around 8:30 we went to the village to watch the football match in a local bar. Unfortunately the Dutch lost after extra time (3:1). We arrived back at the lodge far too late around midnight.

 

Sunday 22 June

In the early morning we headed out towards the main asphalted road. We crossed the road and onwards birded the Kasenyi Track in the northern-eastern section of the park. It was a cloudy morning and the bird activity was fairly low. Nevertheless we managed to see some new species like African Harrier-Hawk, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Martial Eagle, Rufous-naped and White-tailed Lark, Marico Sunbird and Red Bishop. Around noon we headed back to the lodge for lunch. At 2:00 we left the lodge again because we had booked a boat trip on the Kazinga Channel at 2:30. The boat trip on a fairly large boat was quite touristy, but nevertheless produced some nice new birds for our trip list like Great White & Pink-backed Pelican, Squacco Heron, Goliath Heron, African Spoonbill, Water Thick-knee and Dideric Cuckoo. Two lifers for me were Collared Pratincole and Kittlitz’s Plover. After embarking the boat we decided to do a game drive over the Mweya peninsula which produced amongst Plain Martin, White-headed Vulture, the beautiful Green-winged Pytilia and a flock of about 50 African Skimmers foraging over the Kazinga Channel. It was nearly dark when we arrived back at the lodge. After heaving a nice hot shower we had dinner, and afterwards made our daily checklist. Today we saw 111 species of which 27 were new on the trip list which ended up at 386 species after 9 days of birding. Bird of the day: African Skimmer.

 

Monday 23 June

After having an early breakfast we packed our luggage and headed out for our next destination. We birded our way out of the park via the Crater Track. The only new birds we noted during the 2 1/2 hours of birding were African Hawk-Eagle and a brief view of a Harlequin Quail. We paid a short visit to a visitor centre close to the main road before heading out on an excellent asphalted road towards Port Fortal. Here we had lunch at a local restaurant after which we started the last leg to Semliki over an unpaved road. Halfway we stopped for Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird a new bird on our trip list. During the descend towards Semliki we had a great view over the vast lowland rainforest. We made a brief stop because Alfred heard a flock of Green-backed Twinspots but unfortunately we did not manage to locate them. We arrived at the ranger station around 3:30 and accompanied by a park ranger we took the trail towards the Sempaya Hot Springs. According to the ranger there had been almost no rain the last 3 to 4 weeks which proved to be a bad sign for the bird activity. Nevertheless we saw some new birds along the forest trail towards the hot springs like Scaly Francolin, Toro-olive Greenbul, Red-tailed Ant-Thrush and Rufous Flycatcher-Thrush. At the springs we also found Three-banded Plover. We were back at the car around 5:45 and decided to head on to our hotel in Bundibugyo which was another 45 minutes drive. When we arrived at the Vanilla Hotel it was already dark. The hotel appeared to be fully booked and they first tried to give us a room not much bigger then a toilet room. We refused the room and in the end we got a somewhat bigger room which was acceptable. After refreshing ourselves we went for a beer and dinner. However it appeared that they had meat only for one of us. The meat appeared to be some kind of rubbery chicken while my dinner and Alfred’s consisted of beans only. On top of that the waiter was apparently very surprised that I complained which turned me a bit angry. I really cannot recommend Vanilla Hotel but unfortunately it’s the only hotel option in the area. We went to our room where I made today’s checklist. Because most of the day consisted of travelling we only saw 38 species of which 10 were new on the list of now 396 species. Bird of the day: Harlequin Quail despite the brief view. Getting asleep wasn’t easy with the constant noise of the generator next to our room.

 

Tuesday 24 June

Up early for a poor breakfast and left the hotel around 6:00. We drove back towards Semliki for about 15 km where we parked the car near the bridge at the start of the Kirumia Trail. Packed with enough drinking water and lunch we headed into the forest. From 7:00 in the morning until 4:00 in the afternoon we birded the trail until the first oxbow lake about 5 km from the main road. The bird activity was extremely low apparently because of the dry conditions in the forest. On our way to the oxbow lake we noted new birds like Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, Piping Hornbill, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, Red-rumped Tinkerbird, Xavier’s Greenbul, Green-tailed Bristlebill, Chestnut-breasted Negrofinch, Black-bellied Seedcracker and a very hard to localize Yellow-throated Nicator. When we arrived at the first oxbow lake it was already past noon and decided to have our packed lunch there. Here we heard Shining Blue Kingfisher which we couldn’t localize. We crossed the oxbow lake where we found a displaying Rufous-sided Broadbill just about 100 meters after the oxbow lake. As it was already 1:00 PM we decided to walk back to the main road as we still had to drive to Kibale. On our way back we noted amongst Black-throated Coucal, Brown-eared Woodpecker, Plain Greenbul, Scaly-breasted Illadopsis and Blue-headed Crested-Flycatcher. Pretty exhausted because of the long walk and high temperature we arrived back at the car around 4:00 and headed back to Kibale via Fort Portal. It was already dark when we arrived at the excellent Chimpanzee Forest Guesthouse near Kibale. Because of yesterday’s misfortune at the Vanilla Hotel Alfred had arranged a spacious bungalow with private bathroom. After a hot shower we went for dinner in the main house and afterwards enjoyed a cold beer on the terrace while making our daily checklist. We saw 55 species of which 22 were new resulting in a trip list of 418. Bird of the day: Rufous-sided Broadbill.

 

Wednesday 25 June

Up again early and after a good breakfast we headed out towards Kibale. When we walked outside to the car we realized what a marvellous location the lodge had. It was located on top of a hill and surrounded by a nice big garden and tea plantations. The view from it was really outstanding with on one side Lake Nyabikere and Kibale NP on the other. We followed the main road through the park and made a few stops for birds which included Narina Trogon, Blue-breasted Kingfisher (near the bridge), Ashy Flycatcher and Velvet-mantled Drongo. Around 8:00 we arrived at the visitor centre. Next on the program was Chimpanzee tracking. In parties of six people we were brought to the start of a forest trail by car around 9:00. From there we headed into the forest accompanied by a park ranger. The ranger had radio contact with the other rangers and after about an hours walk we ran into a large group of chimps. It was a phenomenal experience to observe our closest relatives. During an hour or so we enjoyed watching their natural behaviour like climbing around in trees, feeding, communicating with each other, responding to us, caring for their young and even mating. We arrived back at the visitor centre around noon and decided to have a break and lunch at the nearby Primate Lodge. We then headed out to a swampy area located near the former Mantana Camp outside of the park and birded there for about an hour. Here we saw amongst Yellowbill, Elliot’s Woodpecker, White-throated Greenbul and a beautiful White-spotted Flufftail which was taped in by Alfred. We then went back to Kibale and birded the main road through the park making several stops en route. New birds included amongst Crested Guineafowl, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Cabanis’ Greenbul, White-tailed Ant-Thrush, Chestnut Wattle-eye and a flock of Grosbeak Weavers in flight. Back at the lodge we made a short stroll through the garden having Speckle-breasted Woodpecker new for the list. While sitting on the terrace we enjoyed a beautiful sunset while sipping on a nice cool beer. Life’s good!! In the evening we again had an excellent dinner and a beer on the terrace. The day list produced 59 species, 18 new ones and a trip list of now 436 species. Bird of the day: White-spotted Flufftail.

 

Thursday 26 June

 

A very early start because we had to travel a fairly long distance to Budongo today. After breakfast we left the lodge at around 6:30 and headed towards Port Fortal. Just before town we took a shortcut to the right over an unpaved road leading through an area of cultivated fields alternated by large grassy patches which produced new birds like Western Banded Snake-Eagle, African Harrier-Hawk, Siffling Cisticola and African Firefinch. We arrived back on a paved road leading along Kibale Forest Reserve. Here we stopped several times having some excellent new birds including White-chinned Prinia, Masked Apalis, Little Green Sunbird and Buff-spotted Woodpecker. Besides we finally managed to have brief views of a flock of Green-backed Twinspots. We then headed on taking a left onto the long and unpaved road to Masindi via Hoima. After a long and dusty drive we arrived in Masindi at around 2:00 and had lunch in the garden of a local restaurant. The onwards drive to Budongo Forest Reserve took about one hour arriving there around 4:15. We decided to do some birding along the road in the Busingiro section of the reserve which produced birds like Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, Dwarf Kingfisher, Blue-throated Roller, White-thighed Hornbill and Spotted Greenbul. Just before dusk we went to the Nyabyaya Forestry Guesthouse located near the “Royal Mile”. The place was pretty basic and the bathroom did not look very inviting. We went for a beer at the restaurant and after the onwards dinner did our daily checklist. Today we saw 79 species including 17 new ones which resulted in a trip list of 453 species. Bird of the day: Chocolate-backed Kingfisher.

 

Friday 27 June

 

First on the program was a visit to the famous “Royal Mile” which was only about 2 km from our guesthouse. The open area towards the forest produced Whistling Cisticola. We arrived at the entrance gate of the royal mile around 7:30 and started birding the wide track through the beautiful forest. New birds we noted included amongst Sabine’s Spinetail, Golden-crowned Woodpecker, Grey Greenbul, Forest Robin, Rufous-crowned Eremomela, Black-capped Apalis, African Forest Flycatcher, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Superb Sunbird and Yellow-mantled Weaver. Nearly at the end of the track we finally managed to see Nahan’s Francolin, and near the river crossing we tried to tape in White-spotted Fluftail but this time we did not succeed. We arrived back at the entrance gate around 11:30 and drove for a couple of hundred meters before getting out of the car. From there we birded the agricultural fields on foot. Within half an hour we found three new species for the trip list namely Red-headed Quelea, Bar-breasted Firefinch and Brown Twinspot. Back at the car we drove back to the lodge where we had lunch. Around 1:30 we packed our luggage and left for Murchison Falls our next destination. Our car got overheated on the road towards Busingiro. While Gideon checked what the problem was we tried for Ituri Batis but unfortunately we were not successful. However we were lucky that the problem with the car was soon fixed and we headed on to the more open area just past the Busingiro Tourist Centre. Here we found Black-headed Batis and White-rumped Seedeater which were new for the list. We approached Murchison Falls via the escarpment along Lake Albert where we had quite a nice list of some excellent new species like Black-billed Barbet, Cliff Chat, Yellow-bellied Hyliota, Foxy Cisticola, Silverbird, Beautiful Sunbird, Red-winged Pytilia and Brown-rumped Bunting. We then headed on towards Murchison Falls. New birds noted en route included Dark Chanting-Goshawk, Black-billed Wood-dove, Vitelline Masked Weaver, Orange Bishop and Black-rumped Waxbill. We arrived at the entrance gate around 5:30 and continued to the Red Chilly Rest Camp just before dusk. We dropped our luggage in our nice and spacious bungalow and went to the bar to order dinner and drink a nice and cool beer. The camp was very busy with mostly young American and European backpackers. Tomorrows plan was to do a game drive in the morning and the boat trip to the falls in the afternoon. However Alfred informed us that the afternoon boat was fully booked so we decided to swap the program and do the boat trip first. We then had a hot shower before having dinner. Today’s checklist produced 111 species of which 28 were new, resulting in a trip list of 481 species. Bird of the day: Red-winged Pytilia.

 

Saturday 28 June

The day started with a nice breakfast at the bar before heading to the Paraa boat landing where we arrived around 7:30. Here we embarked the boat for a 2 ˝ hours trip over the Victoria Nile towards the falls. New birds noted during the boat ride included amongst Tawny Eagle, Senegal Thick-knee, African Darter, Giant Kingfisher and several Red-throated Bee-eaters. On the rocks near the falls we had four Rock Pratincoles. Unfortunately the view on the falls was very poor because of the glare of the low sun. We were back around 10:00 and disembarked on the northern side of the river where Alfred and Gideon were waiting for us. We then decided for a game drive and birding in the northern section of the park following the Albert Nile Track and returning via the Victoria Track. The game drive produced a nice set of new birds like Blue Quail, Spotted Thick-knee, Black-headed Lapwing, Northern Carmine Bee-eater, Abyssinian Ground-Hornbill, Grey Woodpecker, Green-backed Eremomela, Rattling Cisticola, Pale Flycatcher, Gambaga Flycatcher, Brubru, Rufous Sparrow, Black-headed Weaver and African Quailfinch. We had our packed lunch in the shade under a big tree before heading towards the northern Tangi Gate birding en route. We had a refreshing beer in Pakwach village before heading back to the ferry at Paraa. The northern section consisted of open dry savanna with Borassus palms and produced some specialties for the area like Senegal Coucal, Sun Lark, Yellow-billed Shrike, Piapiac and Red-billed Hornbill of which Alfred thought it was the first record in the park. We planned to take the 4:00 ferry for an onward visit to the top of falls but when we arrived it appeared that the 4:00 crossing was cancelled. That’s Africa too! The next ferry was at 5:00 only so unfortunately there was not enough time left to visit the falls. Because we had another hour for birding we decided to go for another short game drive which produced White-crested Turaco new for the list and back at the ferry we had Red-winged Grey-Warbler. In the end the ferry finally crossed at 5:15. Back at the lodge we had a beer before heading out for an evening drive to the air strip for nocturnal birds. Nightjarring as I always call it is one of the delights of birding. The sight of several Pennant-winged Nightjars flying around us was really spectacular. Besides we saw other goodies like Swamp Nightjar and Fiery-necked Nightjar. On our way back to the lodge we had a Greyish Eagle-Owl which is sometimes considered a split of the Spotted Eagle-Owl. Back at the lodge we had dinner and made our daily checklist having 112 species,   32 new ones and a trip list of now 513 species. Bird of the day: Pennant-winged Nightjar.

 

Sunday 29 June

Our last day of the trip has arrived. After breakfast we packed our luggage and headed out for a long drive back to Entebbe. We planned to do a birding stop at the Kaniyo Pabidi Forest to try for the very localized Puvel’s Illadopsis. En route to the forest we stopped for new birds like Heuglin’s Francolin and Fan-tailed Grassbird. We arrived at the newly built visitor centre at Kaniyo Pabidi around 9:30. We decided to have a drink first at the visitor centre but before coffee was served Alfred already had taped in Puvel’s Illadopsis at the trail head next to the visitor centre. After having coffee we went into the forest accompanied by a local bird guide who was another student of Alfred. The only new birds we found were Brown-chested Alethe and Grey Longbill, but we saw some other good birds as well like Narina Trogon and Forest Robin. Around 11:00 we headed on towards Masindi where we picked up a packed lunch at the Masindi Hotel. While we waited for the packed lunch to be prepared Gideon informed at the bus station what the best route was back to Kampala. Apparently the direct route had been improved a lot which saved us some 1 ˝ hours extra driving time via Hoima. Around 00:30 we headed towards Kampala. Just outside Masindi we stopped for Red-headed Lovebird. Other new birds we saw en route included Eastern Chanting-Goshawk, Lizard Buzzard, Shikra and Marsh Widowbird which was a lifer for me. Approaching Kampala we saw a familiar bird from home: Eurasian Kestrel. After finally leaving the busy Kampala behind us we arrived back in Entebbe around 4:30. Reliable as always Alfred had arranged a hotel for us near the airport where we could take a shower and have dinner. After dinner I made my checklist having seen 38 species, 11 new for the trip resulting in an excellent final trip list of 524 species. Bird of the day: Red-headed Lovebird. Around 6:30 Alfred returned back at the hotel accompanied by Gideon, another driver from AWU and Emmanuel, the man who had arranged everything so well at the AWU office. We had a last beer together and said farewell to Emmanuel and the other employees from AWU. Alfred and Gideon accompanied us to the airport where we arrived at around 7:30. We thanked Gideon and Alfred for taking care of us so well the last 16 days and for making the trip an unforgettable experience. Our flight to Dusseldorf via Amsterdam departed 20 minutes before schedule at 10:00. After a 3 hours stopover in Amsterdam we arrived in Dusseldorf at 8:45 the next morning. Another excellent holiday has come to an end….. 

   


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