Thursday, October 28, 2010

Photo blog on the other wildlife of Kibale & Semuliki Forests (Aug 2010)

Grasshopper in Sebitoli area

Butterfly at Kihingami Wetland

Red Colobus

Black & White Colobus

Red-legged Sun Squirrel

Spider species

Charaxes butterfly

Bigodi Swamp, (Kibale Forest, Aug 2010)

11 Aug: Birding Bigodi (Wetland Sanctuary) Swamp with local guide Julius 15:25 - 18:30

Boardwalk in Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary

We started the walk down the main road to start of the actual trail and got pleasantly distracted by some White-throated Bee-eaters with an immature, a new addition to our trip list. There was also the obligatory Vieillot's Black Weaver colony and Speckled Mousebirds with young, Red-billed Firefinches, Yellow-backed Weavers (P. melanocephalus), Common Bulbul, Grey-headed Sparrows, Red-faced Cisticola and a couple of White-headed Saw-wings.

Onto the trail and along the forest we also encountered our 1st primates for the walk, Black & White Colobus and a little further on some Grey-cheeked Mangabey. The birds were oddly only showing themselves in singles this time and we got Green-headed and Olive-bellied Sunbirds, African Thrush, African Shrike Flycatcher (female), Green Pigeon, Great Blue Turaco, Little Greenbul, Purple-headed Starling and a flyover by an African Grey Parrot.

Great Blue Turaco

Into the more forested areas Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher turned up, Black-necked Weaver, African Blue Flycatcher and we heard Grey-crowned Crane (in the distance over the open areas), Papyrus Gonolek (an individual revealed itself later), Green-backed Camaroptera and Tambourine Dove. With open areas on our left and forest and swamp on the right we had a good array of species although flycatcher species were plentiful with Dusky Blue and Cassin's Grey Flycatchers alternating with the African Blue and Red-bellied Paradise Flycatchers. Great Blue Turaco and Black & White Casqued Hornbills were suddenly all over the shop but Buff-throated Apalis, Snowy-crowned Robin-chat and Brown-crowned Tchagra did get their moment on stage.

Wetland view from viewing platform

The area around the viewing platform wasn't overly active but we added Double-toothed Barbet, Pied Wagtail and Bronze Mannikins. From here we went onto the boardwalk that leads through the swampy areas, also where we eventually got a view of Papyrus Gonolek and an even better close view of Yellow-billed Barbet. White-spotted Flufftails were calling but eluded us - this is fast becoming my bogey bird.

On the far side as we made our way back to the sanctuary office, there was Woodland Kingfisher, more Great Blue Turaco, Eastern Grey Plantain-eater and Western Nicator. A pair of Crowned Hornbills was our last sighting although a Red-chested Cuckoo was still calling its heart out. I would love to come back to Bigodi again but do a long morning walk starting just before first light - there just has to be some awesome birds hiding in here.

Black & White Casqued Hornbills

Green-breasted Pitta found! Kanyanchu, Kibale Forest (Day 2)

11 Aug: Birding from Kanyanchu UWA office, Kibale Forest with UWA guide Gerald T. 06:00 - 11:00

Once again we started off our morning hearing the Wood Owl calling as we left Chimp's Nest, the lodge where we were staying. At Kanyanchu, we set off 6am with Gerald and our head torches to the area where we were hoping to hear (and see!) the Green-breasted Pitta. The waiting was a bit nerve racking as this was our last chance during this visit to find the bird - no pressure! The first forest calls we heard were the Black & White Colobus followed by the Great Blue Turaco and Red-chested Cuckoo.

Green-breasted Pitta
At 6:55 we heard the 1st "prrrrp" of the Green-breasted Pitta's display followed a couple of minutes by a second, although by the second display we were already moving and Gerald was homing in on the display area. It was the 3rd or 4th "prrrrp" when we saw the bird displaying on a branch, doing it's hop into the air and creating the "prrrrp" sound with its wings. This was followed by a second softer version and a few metres away there was another GB Pitta, also displaying in response!! This Gerald explained was most likely the female.

Green-breasted Pitta
There were a few more displays, gradually lower eventually, till the displays stopped and the 2 birds met up on the ground and started moving around foraging for food. Now the challenge was for me to try and get some photos - with some sneaking and staying still alternately, the birds became reasonably relaxed and I managed to get some photos. They seemed to have a knack of finding centipedes under the leaf litter and at times turned the heads like they're listening before a quick move and dart and lifting the head with a centipede in the bill.

My second species of Pitta but by no means a lesser experience. Being able to watch this pair move around and forage was just simply put - amazing! Eventually we left the pair on their own and we walked back to the main trail with huge smiles. Other birds were now heard calling as well and included Yellow-billed and Yellow-spotted Barbets, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Speckled and Yellow-throated Tinkerbirds, and Red-capped Robin-chat; also a great view of a pair of African Shrike Flycatchers. A troop of Baboons moved past and some Grey-cheeked Mangabeys were calling further away.

Butterfly hovering at Kanyanchu, Kibal Forest

Back at the UWA office, a quick coffee and tea and then moved on to some birding down the road. Pied Wagtail, Little Greenbul, Vieillot's Black and Black-necked Weavers, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbirds and an immature Green Crombec were the first batch of sightings from here. Further down onto the main forest road we found Cameroon Sombre Greenbul, Afep Pigeon, Little Green and Collared Sunbird. A White-breasted Nigrita immature was begging food from a parent and was size-wise in stark contrast the large Yellowbill nearby. A pair of White-tailed Ant-thrushes seemed to be nesting.

Two Green Hylia made an appearance followed by Slender-billed Greenbul, Chestnut-fronted Wattle-eye, Speckled, Yellow-throated and Yellow-rumped Tinkerbirds, Purple-headed Starling and good views of Buff-throated Apalis and Cassin's Grey Flycatcher. Moving further along the road the bird traffic continued with White-headed Wood Hoopoe, Green-backed Camaroptera, Black & White Casqued Hornbill and a cracking view of Great Sparrowhawk. A few Red-tailed Monkeys were trying to entertain us nearby.

Epiphytes in Kibale Forest

The final birds were hardly "lesser" species as we ended with brilliant views of a pair of Brown-chested Alethes. I missed out on a Velvet-mantled Drongo but considering the above sightings, there was hardly reason to be complaining - I would just have to come back again.

Around lunchtime back at the lodge, I saw two White-thighed Hornbills flying over the canopy of the forest adjacent to the lodge property.

Both the Green-breasted Pittas

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Search for Green-breasted Pitta, Kanyanchu, Kibale Forest (day 1)

10 Aug: Birding from Kanyanchu UWA office in Kibale Forest with UWA guide Gerald T 06:00 - 12:20

Red-capped Robin-chat
As we were leaving Chimp's Nest to go to Kanyanchu, a Wood Owl was calling but there wasn't time to look around for it, the hunt for the Green-breasted Pitta had to get underway. We set off at 6am from the UWA office with head torches into the forest to get to the location where we'll be hoping to hear the display of the Pitta and then find it from there. 20min into the walk a soft rain started coming down and when we reached the spot where we would wait, there was a good shower underway.

By 7:30 we still hadn't heard any Pitta displaying and started searching on the ground in the areas that Gerald knew as their territories. The rain eventually let up but the forest was still dripping from the rain and it was also strong dusk-type light inside the forest, not making it any easier to find this lovely yet cryptically plumaged bird. Other birds were waking up and the first calls were that of Red-chested Cuckoo, Scaly-breasted Illadopsis, Rufous Flycatcher Thrush and White-tailed Ant-thrush.

Luckily we also eventually started seeing some other birds as well whilst the Pitta eluded us; White-throated Greenbul, Crested Guineafowl, Scaly-breasted Illadopsis, Western Black-headed Oriole, Purple-headed Starling and an immature Narina Trogon were the first sightings.

We slowly worked our way back to the main trail where we encountered a Red-capped Robin-chat busy with its morning song. Perfectly posing, it was ideal (other than the light) for some good photos and I gradually crept closer getting better shots. One moment I paused, shocked/surprised/amazed - the bird had just mimicked my camera shutter! Big smiles all round at this amazing mimic and songster. Still no Pitta yet though - luckily we had booked an extra night at the lodge, so we'll try tomorrow again.

Narina Trogon immature
We reached the office at 10:40 where there was time for a quick coffee and tea. Whilst chatting and seeing what birds were around the UWA office area, 2 large Hornbills flew in rather quietly which seemed a bit odd considering we just randomly put them down to B&W Casqued. Having a closer look with the binoculars though revealed a pair of White-thighed Hornbills! What a bonus - totally an unexpected species here, for us anyway. Gerald then tells us that they haven't been noted there for quite a few years and that it was also his 1st sighting of them there in 7 years!

Little Green Sunbird at nest

Other birds were quite active and Little Green and Collared Sunbirds were nesting and Gerald found us a pair of Buff-spotted Woodpeckers. A Yellowbill also made a brief appearance. Wandering through the campsite and the office approach road, we also found Bronze Mannikin, Olive-bellied (nesting) and Green Sunbirds, Lizard Buzzard and rounded off very nicely with excellent views of a pair of Yellow-billed Barbets (the species I'd missed out on in Semuliki Forest).

Collared Sunbird with nesting material

As we were leaving the office, we found a pair of Little Green Sunbirds with a juvenile, Black-necked Weaver and White-winged Widow, the latter being as we left the main Kibale Forest along the road to the lodge.

Other species heard (some seen) included; Blue-spotted Wood Dove and Tambourine Dove (seen), Yellow-throated and Speckled Tinkerbirds (both only heard), Yellow-crested Woodpecker (heard), Black & White Casqued Hornbill (heard).

Afternoon birding at Chimp's Nest Lodge (Kibale Forest, 9 Aug 10)

9 Aug: birding around property of Chimp's Nest (Lodge) including forest edge, main approach road and adjacent agricultural land. 12:40 - 18:20

View from Chimp's Nest dining area over garden edge toward Kibale Forest
Arriving at the lodge we were very glad to see the property was indeed adjacent to Kibale Forest and there was quite a variety of habitat around which would make for some good birding. Our biggest jaw-dropping moment was the two Acacia trees with colonies of Vieilot's Black Weavers - one tree alone had 50+ nests and weavers were flying to and fro in something that made Heathrow seem like a little backwater airport.

Vieillot's Black Weaver colony

Between getting our room sorted and having lunch, we were birding as well and it was all happening pretty rapidly with the more common being (in addition to the Vieillot's Black Weavers of course) Blue-spotted Wood Dove, Bronze Mannikin (with young), Speckled Mousebirds (with young), African Paradise Flycatcher and Thick-billed Weaver (nesting). A pair of Grey-headed Sparrows had chicks in a nest under the restaurant eaves and a lone Crowned Hornbill briefly perched in one of the garden trees. From the direction of the forest there were the calls of Red-chested Cuckoo, Black & White Casqued H0rnbill, Great Blue and Black-billed Turacos.

Vieillot's Black Weaver (breeding male)

Walking out to the forest edge and the campsite areas was a treat and we found Brown-crowned Tchagra, Red-faced Cisticola, African Harrier-hawk, African Black Swifts, Black-necked and Village Weavers, Pin-tailed Whydah, African Thrush (immature) and the ever present Little Greenbuls. Also good views of Green-headed Sunbirds, Snowy-crowned Robin-chat, Pale-chinned Prinia and White-browed Coucal (that subsequently called every morning at 4:30am!).

The primates could be heard from the forest edge and included Black & White Colobus, Red-tailed Monkey and Grey-cheeked Mangabey.

Compact Weaver

A pair of Compact Weavers were obliging enough to give us prolonged views just before we got some tantalising quick views of an African Pygmy Kingfisher. The fun wasn't over yet and closer to 6pm we got Speckled Tinkerbird, Cardinal Woodpecker, Alpine and Palm Swifts, Woodland Kingfisher and Red-billed Quelea. Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird was calling but remained unseen the afternoon.

Grey-headed Sparrow chick in nest

Kibale Forest (Sebitoli and Kanyanchu) (Aug 2010)

8 Aug: birding around Sebitoli campsite & approach road 17:40 - 19:00
9 Aug: Drive to Kanyanchu (mid-Kibale Forest); birding in forest along drive, UWA Kanyanchu office and Primate Lodge 07:45 - 12:15

Having waited out the afternoon rain at Sebitoli after returning from Semuliki, we decided to see what we could find around the campsite and along the approach road, the latter proving very productive the last couple of days. We didn't a huge quantity of species but what we found was certainly some quality species with good views.

It started off with the resident African Dusky Flycatcher and then a pair of Brown-eared Woodpeckers that we got good views of but the dark forest interior was not conducive to good photos. Both Northern Double-collared and Green-headed Sunbirds were out feeding as was a pair of Buff-throated Apalis. In the same party and/or nearby were also African Yellow White-eye, Slender-billed Greenbul, Dark-backed (Forest) Weaver, Shrike Flycatcher and a Rufous Flycatcher Thrush.

Further down the road we found Purple-headed Starling, Grey-throated Barbet, White-headed Saw-wings, Speckled Mousebird and Joyful Greenbul. Just before dinner, the Black-shouldered Nightjar started calling.

African Shrike Flycatcher

(9 Aug) This morning we set off for Kanyanchu which is located approximately in the middle of Kibale Forest and further south from Sebitoli. A large part of this drive goes through the forest and we were hoping to do a few spots of birding. Before we even got to that area, we added Grey-crowned Cranes to the list followed by a Scaly Francolin flushed near agricultural land. We also passed Baglafecht Weaver, Blue-spotted Wood Dove, Yellow-throated Longclaw and a small Black-headed Heron breeding site (heronry) with 3 nests.

Our 1st stop along the forest road was a nesting colony in a large dead tree of Narrow-tailed Starlings and at least 6 nests that we could see but 20+ birds. At the river bridge we stopped and had short but cracking views of the stunning Shining Blue Kingfisher. Not much else was visible here other than Black & White Casqued Hornbills and Little Greenbuls. We heard Black-billed Turaco though between the Yellow-throated, Yellow-rumped & Speckled Tinkerbirds' calling. Mammals weren't left lagging as Red-tailed Monkeys and Grey-cheeked Mangabeys came to watch the crazy humans.

Just before Kanyanchu we found a colony of Vieillot's Black Weavers (turned out to be the most common weaver in the area over the next few days) as well as a nesting pair of Thick-billed (Grosbeak) Weavers. At Kanyanchu we organised things for our next day's birding and the hunt for the Green-breasted Pitta and then went to enjoy some welcome coffee at Primate Lodge. The manager kindly also invited us to do some birding around the lodge grounds which borders the forest. This proved to be my best photo opportunity of Western Nicator after great views of a pair of Olive-bellied Sunbirds. We bumped into Gerald with some clients, our guide for the next day, and finalised the early morning times i.e. starting before sunrise for the next day. Whilst talking to him we had cracking close views of Green Crombec and I also managed to get very good call recordings.

From here, we set off to the nearby Chimp's Nest Lodge, our accommodation for the next few days.
Western Nicator

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Semuliki Forest, Uganda (Aug 2010)

Kirumira Trail
7 Aug; Drive Fort Portal to Sempaya UWA office, Semuliki NP 05:54 to 07:00
Guided walk in Semuliki Forest along Kirumira Trail. (Local guide - Alex and UWA guide Jessica) 08:10 - 12:40
Guided walk in Semuliki Forest to Male Hotsprings. (Local guide - Alex and UWA guide Jessica) 13:30 - 14:10

The drive from Fort Portal was largely uneventful and rather dusty but a Black-shouldered Nightjar did briefly grace us with its presence. Arriving at the Sempaya UWA office, the bird activity was in full swing with madly trying to focus binoculars everywhere at the same time. The party was off with Piping Hornbill, Purple-headed Starlings and a couple of Rufous Flycatcher-thrushes.

We set off for the Kirumira Trail which we reached at 8am and started our walk into the forest. There didn't seem to be heaps of activity but we were trying to be optimistic and hoped for some goodies to pop up. Red-tailed Bristlebills remained annoyingly invisible albeit the calls all over the shop, this later proved to be a similar modus operandi to that of the Yellow-billed Barbet (I think Jason got a view of it once though). Some obliging African Pied Hornbills were welcome and Western Nicator provided excellent views and the opportunity to record both its calls.

Meanwhile, the Red-tailed Monkeys and Grey-cheeked Mangabeys were out foraging and playing whilst I found an immature Jameson's Wattle-eye. Black & White Casqued Hornbills arrived and announced by their unmistakable calls. Almost dwarfing them, the Black-casqued Wattled Hornbills arrived with noisy wingbeats with the much smaller Piping Hornbill watching the whole hornbill circus.

Blue-headed Agama (photographed at UWA Sempaya office)

At this stage we stumbled across a feeding frenzy of at least 35 African Green Pigeons while an immature Palm-nut Vulture idled over and higher still some Palm Swifts were dashing about. It seemed that everything was calling and frustratingly refusing to show themselves whilst Jason was being attacked by some ants resulting in him doing some rather entertaining (well, to the rest of us anyway) dances. Western Bronze-naped Pigeon (which we managed to see later though), Ross' Turaco, Yellow-throated & Speckled Tinkerbirds and White-spotted Flufftail continued calling and we didn't get any closer to sightings.

We eventually turned around and started making our back down the trail to car and a few more good sightings rolled/flew in; African Harrier-hawk, Green Crombec, Grey-headed Nigrita, Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher, Tambourine Dove and a surprise (I don't think anybody was really expecting them as we were hoping for Crested GF) sighting of Helmeted Guineafowl. A pair of Western Bronze-naped Pigeons eventually gave good views and I managed to hammer off a poor record photo of one. I came across an injured (seemed like the wing was injured) African Green Pigeon next to the trail and got some cracking photos of this lovely bird.

Back at the Sempaya UWA office for lunch, a Yellow-throated Tinkerbird obliged and presented itself for cracking views. From here we did the short walk to the female hotsprings, an incredible site (and sight) also adding Spur-winged Lapwings and Common Sandpiper to the list.

The afternoon we got back to Sebitoli at Kibale Forest and had some short, but productive stints of birding. (see next post)

Female Hotsprings