Friday, July 30, 2010

Birding in Buhoma, (1) Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (Uganda)

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest probably first became famous for it's population of Mountain Gorillas that can be visited. It has also become arguably one of the premier birding destinations in East Africa as well with a host of Albertine Rift Endemic and special species that can be seen here.

Mid-June 2010 I had the privilege of experiencing Bwindi for myself with a client, Byron (from the USA). Everyday was a birding bonanza and without even "trying" too hard. We spent 3 nights in the Buhoma area of the park and one night near Ruhija. For the purposes of the blog I'll just cover these 2 areas and what is known as "the Neck" which is en-route between Buhoma and Ruhija.

13 June found us entering the park at Ndege gate where the bird party commenced almost immediately. Having signed in, we walked a bit down the road where we came across a pair of Montane Oriole's busy nesting - an auspicious start to say the least! Driving on with short stops here and there, we added Grey and Black Cuckoo-shrikes and Sharpe's Starling. One stage we stopped for a francolin ahead of us in the road - a relaxed Handsome Francolin (photo on left) foraging along the roadside! Enjoying brilliant views of this elusive bird, I also managed to get a few shaky photos of it; suppose the excitement was a bit much for the old steady hand trick. This was rather rapidly followed by Black-billed Turaco, Kandt's Waxbill and a 50+ strong flock of Slender-billed Starlings.

The other inhabitants of Bwindi didn't remain hidden with a good view of Black-fronted Duiker and a slow moving Ruwenzori Three-horned Chameleon (Large photo link). The rest of the drive also produced Crowned as well as Black & White Casqued Hornbills.

Needless to say by the morning we were rearing to go and breakfast took 2nd place to birding in and around the Buhoma Community Camp & Lodge. As our local guide Alex arrived, the species were coming thick and fast and to the accompaniment of the Black Cuckoo call; we had 4 Brown-throated Wattle-eyes with an immature, Northern Double-collared, Collared, Bronze, Green-headed and Green-throated Sunbirds, Luhder's and Bocage's Bush-shrikes, African Thrush with a juvenile, and a lot of Little Greenbuls, to name but a few.

Walking on toward the start of the main trail through the forest at Buhoma, nothing slowed down and our heads were almost spinning as we tried to take it all in. Dusky Blue Flycatcher and Grey-throated Tit-Flycatcher quietly watched us while a White-spotted Flufftail out of reach (and sight) teased us with its call. This first part of our walk was turning into a cuckoo and greenbul party with Emerald and Levaillant's Cuckoos providing cracking views and the Cameroon Sombre, Ansorge's, Yellow-whiskered and Honeyguide Greenbuls added their names to the list. Snowy-crowned Robin-chat gave a lovely rendition of its song while posing followed by a troop of L'Hoest's Monkeys (photo below) in the trees. It is only at this stage that we reached the start of the trail!

The next 2 hours produced even more specials in addition to more sightings of some of the above-mentioned species. Bar-tailed Trogon tantalised us with on-going calls, but sightings were had of Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Blue-throated Brown Sunbird, Red-tailed Greenbul, Red-throated Alethe, Mountain Illadopsis, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Black-necked Weaver and only brief glimpses of the Crested Guineafowl on the forest 'floor' following the monkeys foraging overhead.

White-breasted Nigrita

We had excellent views of a little group of Red-headed Malimbe followed by sightings of Chestnut Wattle-eye, Grey and Buff-throated Apalis, White-breasted Nigrita, Grey-throated Barbet, Green-headed, Olive-bellied and Little Green Sunbirds. The calling Bronze-naped Pigeon and the Many-coloured Bush-shrike was to elude us for the whole trip as the Black-throated Rufous Warbler almost succeeded in doing but after awhile showed itself. Speckled Tinkerbird was also playing hard to get as opposed to elegantly, albeit distant, posed Black Bee-eater. Brown-capped Weaver put in a brief appearance before we hit the final stretch back to the camp for lunch.

More mammals for the morning included the Boehm's and Red-legged Sun Squirrels, Red-tailed Monkeys and even better views of the Black-fronted Duiker.

Red-tailed Monkey


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