Ultimate Uganda Birding Tour – Shoebill, Albertine Rift Endemics and Great Apes


VERY SMALL GROUP SIZE OF ONLY 4-6

Dates and Costs:

 

11 – 29 July 2023

Spaces Available: 2

Price:US$9,400 / £7,963 / € 8,958 per person sharing

Single Supplement: US$736 / £624 / € 701

 

* Please note that currency conversion is calculated in real-time, therefore is subject to slight change. Please refer back to base price when making final payments.

 

1 – 19 August 2024

Price:US$10,528 / £8,919 / € 10,032 per person sharing

Single Supplement: US$824 / £698 / € 785

 

 


Recommended Field Guide

(Please also read our blogs about recommended field guides for the seven continents here)


Tour Details

Duration: 19 days
Group Size: 4 – 6
Tour Start: Entebbe, Uganda
Tour End: Entebbe, Uganda


Price includes:

All accommodation
Meals (from lunch on day 1 until breakfast on day 19)
Unlimited bottled water
Expert tour leader
All entrance & conservation fees
All ground transport, including airport pick-up and drop-off
Boat rides in Queen Elizabeth National Park & Murchison Falls National Park
Canoe fees at Mabamba Swamp (Shoebill)

 

Price excludes:

International/domestic flights (to/from Entebbe)
Visas
Items of a personal nature, e.g. gifts, laundry, internet access, phone calls, etc.
Any pre- or post-tour accommodation, meals, or birding excursions
Soft/alcoholic drinks
Personal travel insurance
Gratuities (please see our tipping guidelines blog)
Optional Gorilla tracking permit ($700 currently)
Optional Chimpanzee tracking permit ($200 currently, note this is included for the 2023 tour)

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Ultimate Uganda Birding Tour – Shoebill, Albertine Rift Endemics and Great Apes

July 2023/ August 2024

 

This Uganda birding and mammal extravaganza allows you to find the most important birds and primates that Uganda has to offer. Shoebill is almost guaranteed. Over 20 Albertine (Western) Rift endemics are also sought, including one of Africa’s most fabulous turacos, Rwenzori Turaco, and of course the “must-see” Grauer’s (African Green) Broadbill. We have not yet missed Green-breasted Pitta on any of our trips – Uganda has become the classic country for finding this otherwise very difficult bird. We also look for other range-restricted birds, such as Red-faced Barbet that is also found in a remote part of Tanzania excluded from most birding tours to that country. Ross’s Turaco, Great Blue Turaco (almost twice the size of other turacos), and various other birds are virtually garden birds here in Uganda, “the Pearl of Africa”. Other highlights of our Uganda birding tour are a great many primates such as Uganda Red Colobus, Guereza, Eastern (Mountain) Gorilla, and Chimpanzee, not to mention the spectacular scenery, including such famous places as Lake Victoria (the continent’s largest lake), Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, and last but not least the Virunga Mountains.

Uganda birding toursShoebill is one of the most sought-after birds in the world, and is one of our special targets on this tour!

 

The latter part of this tour is good for a host of more widespread African birds, Lion, with some luck Leopard, White Rhinoceros, and fabulous sites such as Murchison Falls, where the mighty Nile is forced through a narrow gap.


We have the option to spend some time with Eastern (Mountain) Gorillas on this tour.

 

PLEASE NOTE: This trip is moderate in terms of fitness required, except for some days that are considered quite strenuous, such as the day of gorilla trekking and the day hike into Mubwindi Swamp and back. Chimpanzee trekking and looking for Green-breasted Pitta can also involve quite a lot of walking. You are welcome to opt out of any activities if you don’t feel you’ll manage them. There are also many days of forest birding; please wear appropriate clothing items (dark/neutral clothing and caps instead of very wide-brimmed hats) and be ready to spend good amounts of time on foot with a good chance of soaking rain, so protection for camera gear is advised.

 

Itinerary (19 days/18 nights)

 

Day 1. Arrival at Entebbe International Airport and birding the shore of Lake Victoria

We’ll fetch you from Entebbe International Airport and check in at our guest house before starting the birding. The dazzling Black-headed Gonolek as well as the striking Double-toothed Barbet are both common around Entebbe. Bat Hawk and African Hobby are sometimes seen around town. Broad-billed Roller, Palm-nut Vulture, numerous weavers, and perhaps our first Great Blue Turaco might be seen as we bird the Entebbe Botanical Garden on the edge of Africa’s largest lake.

Overnight: Lake Victoria View Guest House, Entebbe

Uganda birding toursThe Great Blue Turaco is magnificent!

 

Days 2 – 3. Shoebill and transfer to Lake Mburo National Park

Bypassing the bustling city of Kampala (adjacent to the more pleasant small town of Entebbe) we head for Mabamba Swamp, one of Africa’s most accessible sites for the monstrous Shoebill. The papyrus-swamp-loving Red-chested Sunbird, numerous weaver species that build their impressively neat nests in the wetlands, coucals, and many tropical waterbirds such as Lesser Jacana abound as we do a dugout canoe trip into the huge swamp. Swamp Flycatcher is also common here. After seeing Shoebill we continue to our site for Orange Weaver, often seeing Eastern Plantain-eater, Ross’s Turaco, large flocks of the noisy Great Blue Turaco (the far-carrying calls of which are one of the characteristic sounds of Uganda), Grey Kestrel, and a very big, beautiful barbet, Double-toothed Barbet.

We eventually arrive at Lake Mburo National Park (where we’ll spend two nights), which breaks the journey between Entebbe and the southwestern border region of Uganda, where we will look for over 20 Albertine Rift endemics (this, also known as the Western Rift, is a branch of the Great Rift Valley).

The following morning we take a boat trip on the lake, and this is one of the easiest places to find African Finfoot. We sometimes see overwintering Malagasy Pond Heron and Papyrus Gonolek in addition to an array of kingfishers including the likes of Malachite Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, and the rare Shining-blue Kingfisher. In general this park gives us an excellent opportunity to see a lot of arid-country birds, which can include Blue-naped Mousebird, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Golden-breasted Bunting, and the incredibly localized, rather “thin-on-the-ground” Red-faced Barbet, along with a more widespread East African species, Spot-flanked Barbet. Nubian Woodpecker is often heard before it is seen. Like in most arid-habitat parks in East Africa a large bird list can be accumulated very fast, and the above species are just a few of the many goodies we expect to find. This is the only place where we’re likely to see Plains Zebra during our Uganda birding tour, and there are a lot of other mammals as well, such as Hippopotamus, African Buffalo, Defassa Waterbuck, Bohor Reedbuck, Topi, Common Eland, and many more.

Overnight: Rwakobo Rock, Lake Mburo National Park

Uganda birding toursSometimes we see up to five African Finfoots at Lake Mburo.

 

Days 4 – 5. Birding the Virunga Mountains region: Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

The Eastern (Mountain) Gorillas here freely roam into neighboring Rwanda and the DRC, but with extreme luck we might stumble across them (usually we have to wait until we get to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, though). One of the main reasons we include this park on our Uganda birding tour is to look for the gorgeous Rwenzori Turaco. This park has a lot of bamboo forest, in which we search for Abyssinian Ground Thrush. The very rare Shelley’s Crimsonwing is always possible – this Endangered (IUCN) species seems to be declining, and for once not because of humans. We may get a head start with some other Albertine Rift endemics, but most of these will have to wait for Bwindi.

Overnight: Travellers Rest, Kisoro

Uganda birding toursThe beautiful Regal Sunbird is an Albertine Rift endemic.

 

Days 6 – 7. Ruhija, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

We travel to one of Africa’s richest forests for primates and birds, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, and start in its high-altitude Ruhija part. We’ll start birding the forest-covered hills as soon as we arrive, looking for the beautiful Black Bee-eater and also trying to find Grauer’s Swamp Warbler at a roadside site, so that we can reduce the length of the long walk on day 6, this warbler occurring right in the lower reaches of Mubwindi Swamp. Mountain Yellow Warbler might also be seen, nice to compare with Papyrus Yellow Warbler, for which we try another day. A walk most of the way down to this swamp can’t be avoided, though, as Grauer’s (African Green) Broadbill, one of Africa’s most desirable birds, also occurs there.

The good-looking, highly localized Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher also lurks pretty close to the bottom reaches. The walk down to the site for this broadbill (and back) takes a large part of the day, but this is one of the best birding days of the entire tour. Trip participants usually end up getting a constant stream of life-birds throughout the day, mainly Albertine Rift endemics. Banded Prinia, Mountain Masked Apalis, Rwenzori Apalis, Chestnut-throated Apalis, the strange-looking (and dull for a barbet) Grey-throated Barbet, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, and up to four species of quiet, brightly colored forest finches known as crimsonwings (all of them very difficult, though!) are often encountered. There are too many high-quality species to list here, but we hope to find Olive-breasted Greenbul (one of the more attractively colored greenbuls – we’ll see a great many of the duller ones, as Uganda is absolutely full of them, presenting quite an identification challenge). We do need to mention a couple of the other range-restricted species as well, though, – the very long-tailed Blue-headed Sunbird, the dazzling Regal Sunbird, Stripe-breasted Tit, Rwenzori Batis, and also slightly more widespread species like the fabulous Bar-tailed Trogon and Rwenzori Hill Babbler.

Overnight: Trekker’s Tavern Cottages, Ruhija

Uganda birding toursThe highly prized Grauer’s (African Green) Broadbill is another major target.

 

Days 8 – 10. Buhoma, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park: birds and optional gorilla trekking

En route between the higher-altitude Ruhija and the lower-elevation Buhoma sections of the park we stop to bird “The Neck”, which allows us to see quite a number of species we won’t find elsewhere. Black Bee-eater and Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater are both quite easy to see here. Chubb’s Cisticola duets from the thickets. Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher (also known as Vanga Flycatcher) might be seen – this charismatic bird usually moves around (a lot, it’s an extremely lively species) and makes lots of noise as it flies around from one perch to the next. It has a fabulous crest, but the female is chestnut and white, whereas the male is black-and-white with striking yellow eyes. We might also see Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Mackinnon’s Shrike, Bronzy Sunbird and several other sunbirds, African Grey Woodpecker, Augur Buzzard, etc.

Deep-forest birds we’ll seek include many more localized endemics that barely get into neighboring countries – Grauer’s Warbler (not to be confused with Grauer’s Swamp Warbler, which we should have already seen), Bar-tailed Trogon, Petit’s Cuckooshrike, Lühder’s Bushshrike, Brown-capped Weaver and other weavers of the forest canopy, Red-throated Alethe, and lots of others. We’ll be sure to spend time looking for slightly more widespread birds as well, including the skulking White-spotted Flufftail, Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike, Olive-bellied Sunbird, some beautiful forest barbets such as the large Yellow-billed Barbet, the dazzlingly bright and shiny, green-and-yellow African Emerald Cuckoo, and, last but not least, Black-billed Turaco.

Forest-edge birding can be equally rewarding (and often easier for photography!) with such specials as Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, Great Blue and Ross’s Turaco, Grey-winged Robin-Chat, Black-necked Weaver, Red-headed Malimbe, Northern Double-collared Sunbird, Grey-headed Nigrita and many others. Over our two full days here we will spend plenty of time birding the forest trails, forest edge and adjacent agricultural areas.

At Buhoma itself, there is the opportunity for one day optionally trekking for Mountain Gorillas (this is a strenuous activity; if you decide not to join, you’ll be taken birding instead, or you can relax or look at and photograph birds around the lodge).

Overnight: Ride 4 a Woman, Buhoma

Uganda birding tours
Bar-tailed Trogon occurs in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

 

Day 11. Birds and mammals of Queen Elizabeth National Park

We stop over in Queen Elizabeth National Park (often staying on the Mweya peninsula itself, along the Kazinga Channel) en route to Kibale Forest. England’s queen officially opened this national park (well-known for its tree-climbing lions and boasting 100 mammal species and 600 bird species!) in 1954. One of the highlights of our stay here is getting out on the Kazinga Channel by boat and seeing Nile Crocodile, Hippopotamus, and a great many waterbirds. Naturally we also see Common Warthog, African Buffalo, Uganda Kob, and a plethora of other mammals. Forest Hog usually steals the show, however.

Overnight: Bushlodge, Queen Elizabeth National Park

 

Days 12 – 13. Kibale National Park – the Chimpanzee/Green-breasted Pitta combo

The drive from Queen Elizabeth to another fantastic national park, Kibale, is amazing: We traverse the foothills of the “Mountains of the Moon” (the Ruwenzori Range) and cross the equator, eventually arriving at the richest forest for primates on the African continent. Our main avian target is Green-breasted Pitta, which is best found at dawn, when its display call allows us to narrow down its whereabouts (otherwise, despite the jewel-like colors of this bird, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack on the forest floor). While we search for this bird the atmospheric, quite scary noises of large troops of Chimpanzees resonate through the forest. There is also the opportunity for optionally trekking for Chimpanzees. We should also find some other primates such as L’Hoest’s Monkey, Uganda Red Colobus, one of the most striking of all African primates, Guereza (Eastern Black-and-white Colobus), Red-tailed Monkey, Grey-cheeked Mangabey, and other monkeys (not to mention the well-built Olive Baboon, which wanders around in massive groups, usually on the ground). We also have a lot of good birds to see, which might include White-headed Wood Hoopoe, Narrow-tailed Starling, Black-billed Turaco, and Chestnut Wattle-eye.

Overnight: Kibale Forest Lodge, Bigodi

Uganda birding toursGreen-breasted Pitta is another of Africa’s most sought-after species we’ll be targeting.

 

Day 14. Travel to Masindi

After some final birding around Kibale we head to Masindi. Time-permitting, we can already start birding famed sites nearby such as the Royal Mile.

Overnight: Masindi Hotel, Masindi – Tel. +256-77260420130

 

Day 15.  Birding at Budongo Forest and the beautiful Royal Mile, transfer to Murchison Falls National Park

Budongo Forest is excellent for many special birds we won’t have yet seen during the tour. Chestnut-capped Flycatcher is a star bird – along with two other species: there is a trio of small warbler-like flycatchers that are taxonomically enigmatic, and this is one of them (we usually find the other two on our Tanzania and Mozambique birding tours). Fraser’s Forest Flycatcher is another prized bird here. But it’s the kingfishers (most of them not associated with water!) that make the Royal Mile famous. Chocolate-backed Kingfisher is probably the most popular of them all, but then Blue-breasted Kingfisher, African Dwarf Kingfisher, and others are also completely dazzling. Red-tailed Ant Thrush, Fire-crested Alethe, and Nahan’s Partridge usually stay close to the forest floor. The pretty Rufous-crowned Eremomela, White-thighed Hornbill, and a lot of others inhabit the canopy. Some fantastic forest barbets, tinkerbirds, and woodpeckers abound. There are a great many greenbuls, different species inhabiting different levels of the forest from the undergrowth to the canopy, and these are fun (or, in some people’s opinions, not!) to learn to identify. The Royal Mile is a breathtakingly beautiful forest to spend time in and certainly boasts an extremely rich birdlife. From here we will transfer to Murchison Falls National Park.

Overnight: Twiga Safari Lodge, near Murchison Falls National Park

 

Days 16 – 17. Murchison Falls National Park

We do boat trips and birding/game drives in this area, where we always add a great many new birds to our list. This is also a brilliant place for big and small mammals that might include Lion, Leopard, Rothschild’s Giraffe, Oribi, Lelwel Hartebeest, Common Warthog, the scarce Patas Monkey, and many others. Black-headed Lapwing, Silverbird, Speckle-fronted Weaver, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Red-throated Bee-eater, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Rock Pratincole, White-headed Barbet, Black-billed Barbet, Meyer’s Parrot, and Bateleur are just a few of the species on our rather large menu.

We should of course mention the fact that the massive volume of the Nile River is forced through a narrow gap here at Murchison Falls – while looking at this site there is a small chance that we might also manage to find Pel’s Fishing Owl or Bat Hawk. Where possible we can arrange night drives for some nightjar and owl species in the area; these may include Long-tailed, Plain, and Pennant-winged Nightjars and possibly Greyish Eagle-Owl.

Overnight: Twiga Safari Lodge, near Murchison Falls National Park

Uganda birding toursThe massive Abyssinian Ground Hornbill can be found in Murchison Falls National Park.

 

Day 18. Birding Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary on the way back to Entebbe

Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is the only place in Uganda to see White Rhinoceros and arguably the best place for the incomparable White-crested Turaco. There’s a good variety of other birds as well (as usual), including Bronze–tailed, Purple, Splendid, and Rüppell’s Starlings, Parasitic Weaver, Marsh Widowbird, Weynes’s Weaver, African Hoopoe, African Cuckoo-Hawk, etc. We then transfer back to Entebbe.

Overnight: Lake Victoria View Guest House, Entebbe

 

Day 19. Flights leave Entebbe

Your flight can leave any time today from Entebbe International Airport.

 

 

Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors. In addition, we sometimes have to use a different international guide from the one advertised due to tour scheduling.

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Uganda Set Departure Birding Trip Report, August 2022

1 – 19 August 2022

By Dylan Vasapolli

DOWNLOAD TRIP REPORT

The highly sought-after Green-breasted Pitta was once again seen very well on our tour!

 

Overview

For a long time Uganda has been a popular country for visiting birders, with its high species diversity, notable Albertine Rift endemics, and  easily the most accessible country in the world for the highly-prized Shoebill all contributing to this. Our set departure tour spans 19-days, covering the ‘main’ birding circuit through the western half of the country. This is one of our most popular tours, and a full group was present for our 2022 tour. While this tour took place during the Covid-19 pandemic, worldwide travel restrictions were for the most part tremendously eased – which made transit to, and within the country, smooth and easy. We were fortunate with weather conditions being kind to us – although we do time this tour to take place during the dry season the weather can sometimes be rainy in this equatorial country. We lost neither time nor birds due to inclement weather.

 

Dusky Crimsonwing is one of several Albertine Rift endemics possible on this tour. We were rewarded on several occasions with exceptional views of this shy bird this year!

 

Beginning in Entebbe, on the shores of Lake Victoria, a search for the iconic Shoebill kicked this tour off, before venturing to the first of several excellent national parks – Lake Mburo National Park. Here we got our first taste of more open savanna birding, along with various mammals, and netted some prized birds like Red-faced Barbet, African Finfoot, White-backed Night Heron and Long-tailed Cisticola, amongst others. We then transited to the very south-western corner of Uganda, bordering Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Here we got our first taste of Albertine Rift birding in the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park – a park sadly skipped on most birding tours to the country. This is the only easily accessible area in Uganda, where Rwenzori Turaco and Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird can be found and we did well on both these fronts, obtaining great views of both species. A number of other Albertine Rift endemics were seen here, including the likes of Rwenzori Batis, Mountain Masked Apalis, Strange Weaver, Dusky Crimsonwing, along with the always difficult Lagden’s Bushshrike. In addition, the papyrus swamps in this part of the country are also the best areas to search for Papyrus Yellow Warbler and Papyrus Canary – both decidedly tricky birds missed on most other birding tours to the country. We again hit the jackpot, scoring both species. We found the rare Ruaha Chat  again this year – having successfully found breeding birds on our 2021 tour. A short hop followed, as we spent 5 nights within the incredible Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, exploring both the higher-lying, and lower-lying reaches of the park, searching for yet more Albertine Rift endemics. The highly sought-after Grauer’s (African Green) Broadbill was a major highlight, as were many others including the ultra-shy Doherty’s Bushshrike and Grey-chested Babbler. The higher-lying areas also yielded the likes of Handsome Spurfowl, Dwarf Honeyguide, Purple-breasted Sunbird and the scarce Grauer’s Warbler. The lower-lying reaches of the park were equally successful, if not more so, with both Neumann’s Warbler and Willard’s Sooty Boubou showing themselves, along with many others including Red-throated Alethe, Bar-tailed Trogon, African Broadbill, White-bellied, Blue-shouldered and Grey-winged Robin-Chats. We also enjoyed several primates here, including our first views of Chimpanzees, along with the gentle giants, Eastern (Mountain) Gorillas. Naturally, we incorporated time for folks to track the Eastern Gorillas that call this area home. More game drives and boat trips followed during our brief stop in Queen Elizabeth National Park, where  both Lion and Leopard were major highlights, along with a host of exciting birds from the delightful Blue-breasted Kingfisher to African Skimmer and so many more.

Lion is one of several mammals we always search for in the savanna parks in Uganda. Queen Elizabeth National Park in particular often produces the goods.

 

The Kibale Forest National Park followed, where the mega Green-breasted Pitta was our main target, and was enjoyed at length once again on our tour (we’ve yet to miss this species on our set-departure tours to Uganda). We also got to see Chimpanzees here again, along with other primates, and further exciting birds including the scarce Lowland Masked Apalis and the bright Red-headed Bluebill. A quick stop at the Budongo Forest and Royal Mile broke up our drive to Murchison Falls National Park, where yet more excellent birds were found. Murchison Falls National Park is always a firm favorite amongst the group, with its scenic landscapes, game-filled plains, and bird-rich woodlands keeping everyone on their toes. Here we enjoyed a vast assemblage of birds and mammals, raking up the sought-after Abyssinian Ground Hornbill and Northern Carmine Bee-eater, to more scarce species like Brown-rumped Bunting and Yellow-billed Shrike, amongst so many others. The last stop on our tour was at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, where we undertook rhino tracking, getting up close and personal with White Rhinos – the only place in Uganda where rhinos can be seen. Birding is part and parcel of our tour, and we added the last of our highlights here with Marsh Widowbird and the incomparable Pennant-winged Nightjar being found. The tour ended in Entebbe following a successful 19-day loop through this incredible country!

This tour never fails to produce vast numbers of birds, and 2022 was no different, with the tour falling just shy of 550 species recorded, with an incredible 535 species being seen. A high mammal count was also achieved with more than 40 species being found, including ‘The Big 5’, and a host of primates and Great Apes. The detailed lists can be found at the end of this report.

Detailed Report

Day 1, 1st August. Arrival, and birding around Entebbe

We had a slightly leisurely start to the day, with most folks having arrived in the early hours of the morning. Following breakfast, we set off on a stroll around the grounds of our lodge, and the surrounding area, which was productive. A family of the bright Ross’s Turaco’s started things off, as did noisy Eastern Plaintain Eaters and a few of the sought-after Grey Parrot. We also familiarized ourselves with the more widespread species such as Northern Black Flycatcher, Splendid and Ruppell’s Starlings, African Thrush, Red-chested and Scarlet-chested Sunbirds and Bronze Mannikin. Some careful scrutineering yielded the likes of Meyer’s Parrot, Double-toothed Barbet, snazzy Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher, Grey-headed Nigrita and Grey-capped Warbler. Checking out our Bat Hawk spot produced the goods, and we enjoyed excellent views of a pair of these sought-after birds! A large flock of Piapiacs was the surprise of the morning. Following our last clients’ arrival into Uganda, we headed off to the always-excellent Entebbe Botanical Gardens for the afternoon. Overcast conditions kept activity high, and we began the walk off with a pair of roosting African Wood Owls that showed well. The massive Great Blue Turaco and Black-and-white-casqued Hornbills were also early highlights, before we headed towards the lake edge for a short while. Scarce weavers were our primary goal, and played hard-ball with us – with the hoped-for Orange and Weyne’s Weavers not showing, and us having to settle for the likes of Vieillot’s Black, Black-necked, Village and Slender-billed Weavers. There was a constant hive of activity here, and we enjoyed several waterbirds such as African Fish Eagle, African Openbill, Striated Heron, Pied Kingfisher and Winding Cisticola, amongst others, while some non-waterbird sightings went to African Hobby, Grey Parrot, masses of Broad-billed Rollers hawking insects, Yellow-throated Leaflove, Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher and Olive-bellied Sunbird. We eventually had to tear ourselves away, and settled in for the evening.

Day 2, 2nd August. Shoebill, and transfer to Lake Mburo

As we headed out to the Mabamba Swamps to look for the one-of-a-kind Shoebill – one of the worlds most sought-after birds – a sense of excitement gripped us. Following our arrival, we made our way onto our small boats, and headed off into the swamp. Luck was on our side, as we immediately headed straight out towards a Shoebill, and soon were basking in the glory of this incredible bird! We spent a short while with the bird, following it as it moved deeper into the swamps, and were rewarded with it catching a lungfish, and promptly swallowing it whole! To say we had satisfactory views would be an understatement! We then had a bit of time to try and track down some of the other waterbirds occurring here – chief amongst those being Lesser Jacana. We hunted high and low, and had a few close calls with several juvenile African Jacanas, but failed to find any Lesser’s. We enjoyed a wide range of other waterbirds however, with the beautiful Malachite Kingfishers darting in front of us, while noisy Long-toed Lapwings patrolled the muddy edges, whilst Black Crakes skulked about in the reeds. A Blue-headed Coucal showed well, eventually popping out into the open, while a brief Rufous-bellied Heron flew in and showed to some in the group.

Shoebill is one of the most prized birds in the world, and is readily found in Uganda.

 

We eventually made our way back to land, and set off to our end destination at Lake Mburo. Stops along the way yielded several exciting birds from the massive Great Blue Turaco, to dainty White-shouldered Black Tits, and lovely Blue-spotted Wood Doves. We paused on the equator, not only for lunch, but also to see the Coriolis Effect. We arrived at the turnoff to Lake Mburo in the late afternoon, with enough time left in the day for a few stops. Our first stop in some dry scrub gave us Trilling Cisticola, Black-headed Gonolek and a few Lesser Masked Weavers in amongst hordes of Red-billed Quelea. Another stop produced others such as Crested Francolin, a brief African Pygmy Kingfisher, Cardinal Woodpecker, Little Bee-eater and the delightful Red-billed Firefinch, amongst many others. We checked into our excellent lodge and settled in for a wonderful evening.

Day 3, 3rd August. Birding Lake Mburo National Park

We awoke to a dense fog covering the area – a result of the recent heavy rains that had fallen prior to our arrival. The first part of our morning was spent in the fog, as it gradually thinned out, before totally disappearing. We found ourselves birding along the road to the entrance of Lake Mburo National Park, where we enjoyed a few species such as Red-headed Lovebird, Orange-breasted Bushshrike, Grey-capped Warbler, Southern Black Flycatcher and White-winged Black Tit, amongst others. Whilst completing the formalities at the gate, our searching finally paid off and we added a fine pair of the highly sought-after Red-faced Barbets. We enjoyed the birds for a while, before they were joined by a Black-collared Barbet – a widespread species in southern Africa, but very scarce in this part of the world. We were bound for the lake within the park, where we had a late morning boat ride. We slowly birded our way to the lake, with several exciting birding stops along the way. We added some typical bushveld birds like Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Red-headed Weaver, while also finding some more special birds like Long-tailed Cisticola, Crested Barbet (another localized bird in Uganda and East Africa generally) and Little Weaver. Our raptor list also began growing, with us adding White-backed and Lappet-faced Vultures, Bateleur and a close-up Wahlberg’s Eagle.

We eventually arrived at the lake, and set off on our cruise, which was excellent! It was virtually within the first minute when we latched onto our first African Finfoot, swimming in between a pod of Hippos. This species is arguably the main attraction for the lake, as it is surely the easiest place in the world to find this normally secretive bird. While the bird kept its distance, we enjoyed a good sighting, before moving on. The papyrus birds proved difficult with only brief views of Papyrus Gonolek leaving us wanting more, while Greater Swamp and White-winged Swamp Warblers remained hidden. Carruthers’s Cisticola was also present in the area. A wide range of swallows were seen drinking, and we added the likes of Red-rumped, Red-breasted, Mosque and Lesser Striped Swallows, along with many of the snazzy White-headed Saw-wings. We also struck gold finding a pair of nesting White-backed Night Herons, that showed amazingly well. We were sure to keep our distance, so as to not disturb the birds, and left them in peace. The rest of our cruise saw us enjoying a few more African Finfoots, including a fine male, along with many African Fish Eagles, Malachite Kingfishers and several shorebirds such as Water Thick-knee and Common and Wood Sandpipers. We also notched up some of our first plains game, with the likes of Plains Zebra, (Rothschild’s) Giraffe, African Buffalo and Impala being seen. Following a midday break, we resumed our birding in the afternoon where cool and overcast conditions rolled in, and kept the bird activity high. No less than four White-headed Barbets were an early highlight, before a group of Black-lored Babblers flew in and stole the show. We had great looks at the normally secretive Slate-coloured Boubou, and after a bit of a search, we were also finally rewarded with the sought-after Brown-chested Lapwings, with some Senegal Lapwings nearby for comparison. Two rival pairs of Wahlberg’s Eagles interacting provided some good entertainment with lots of aerial maneuvering, and several of the brightly colored Golden-backed Weavers were another highlight. As it started to get dark we enjoyed both Freckled and Black-shouldered Nightjars around the lodge, while Square-tailed Nightjar called in the distance. Following which we set off on a night drive, which was marred with rain for the first half – but did produce excellent sightings of an African Civet and Central African Large-spotted Genet. A lovely dinner rounded off a truly superb day!

A fine male African Finfoot patrols the edges of Lake Mburo.

 

Day 4, 4th August. Lake Mburo to Kisoro

Armed with a full day of travel ahead, we began early in the day with a short walk around the lodge to start our morning off. It was incredibly birdy, and we notched up the likes of Klaas’s Cuckoo, Black Cuckooshrike, Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat, Brown-throated Wattle-eye and the tricky Striped Pipit. We also enjoyed several other species such as Ross’s Turaco, before we gathered our things and set off – bound for Kisoro, in the very south-west of Uganda. Our primary reason for visiting this part of the country, which is often missed on conventional birding tours, is to visit the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and try for several Albertine Rift Endemics (AREs) that are not easily possible elsewhere. It is a long drive, and our route was punctured with a stop for the rare Ruaha Chat, which showed brilliantly well, and a stop at Lake Bunyonyi, where we would try for a few rare papyrus birds.

Our lunch break along the lake was very birdy and we quickly added the likes of Brown-backed Honeybird, White-tailed Blue Flycatcher, Bronzy Sunbird and the smart Black-crowned Waxbill. Our actual papyrus birding proved more difficult and we had to go away largely empty handed, having only heard White-winged Swamp Warbler, and not even had a sniff of either Papyrus Yellow Warbler or Papyrus Canary. We made our final stop for the day at the Echuya Forest Reserve, where we had some extremely productive birding, and got introduced to the first of our AREs. Almost immediately after hopping out the cruiser, we had our eyes locked on the difficult Archer’s Ground Robin, before a Rwenzori Apalis showed up. Before long we had also added the spectacular Regal Sunbird, along with Rwenzori Batis, Mountain Masked Apalis, Red-faced Woodland Warbler and Strange Weaver as yet more AREs, and an honorable mention to Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater and Mountain Yellow Warbler. A pair of White-collared Olivebacks inspecting some old weaver nests rounded off the day in style!

Day 5, 5th August. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park An exciting day awaited us, as we ventured to the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. This park gives birders access to a few AREs not easily possible elsewhere in the country, in particular, Rwenzori Turaco and Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird. Shortly after arriving and completing all the formalities, we started off up the slopes of Mount Sabyinyo, and immediately were halted with our first major target – Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird. We took in our first views, and as it would turn out, we would see many individuals throughout the day with the many flowering plants attracting good numbers of them. Further stops yielded Rwenzori Hill Babbler, along with providing us repeat views of Rwenzori Batis and Mountain Masked Apalis. Rwenzori Turaco was proving hard to get, with us having heard several birds early on in the hike, but failing to see any of them. Eventually, our patience and persistence was rewarded as we found an individual that wanted to be seen, and after a bit of back and forth, we tracked the bird down, perched in the open, and enjoyed sublime views of this handsome and very special bird!

Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird is a species missed on most birding tours to Uganda – however, a trip to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park will change that.

 

With our two main targets out the way, we could concentrate on some of the many other species found here. Doherty’s Bushshrike and Albertine Sooty Boubou played hard ball, with only the latter being briefly seen by some, before some excitement ensued when we located the difficult Lagden’s Bushshrike, which unfortunately disappeared before everyone could get onto it. Our spirits were lifted soon though with a bird party that produced Chestnut-throated Apalis, along with several others like Northern Puffback, Mountain Masked Apalis, Rwenzori Batis and Strange Weaver, before we picked up on a pair of the decidedly tricky Dusky Crimsonwings. After some initially brief views, we were blown away when the pair popped out into the open and gave us the most incredible sighting. With spirits firmly high, we broke for lunch, before resuming our hike back down to the gate. Initial stops along the way gave us White-bellied Crested Flycatcher, Kandt’s Waxbill and Mountain Buzzard. While more dedicated stops produced a showy Western Tinkerbird, along with some much better views of Albertine Sooty Boubou and several Cinnamon Bracken Warblers that actually popped out for us (after having heard many throughout the morning and only seen bushes moving). More widespread species such as Olive Woodpecker, White-starred Robin and Dusky Turtle Dove were also seen during the course of our hike. We made it back down to the bottom, and called it a day – with a bit of free time in the afternoon.

Day 6, 6th August. Kisoro to Ruhija, birding en route

Our morning began off in the Echuya Forest Reserve, en route to Ruhija, where we spent a short while. Bright Mountain Orioles sat in the treetops, while skulking White-browed Crombecs bounced about in the vine tangles, before a strange sound led us to a party of Sharpe’s Starling. These scarce birds showed very well, giving us views at length. We also did well notching up Grey Cuckooshrike, Northern Puffback, Abyssinian Thrush and Northern Double-collared Sunbird while a few of the tricky Horus Swifts gave us looks overhead. Various other species we’d become acquainted with over the past few days showed well again. We then turned our attention to the papyrus wetlands around Lake Bunyonyi where we’d spend some time. Papyrus Yellow Warbler was our first target, and unlike a few days ago, we managed to find a pair very soon after arriving at our site. There were a few nervous moments when only some in the group could see the birds, but we didn’t have to worry as a short while the bird hopped out into the open and we had great looks! A vocal African Rail showed only to some, as did White-winged Swamp Warbler – while a calling Red-chested Flufftail refused to come out for us, despite a concerted effort. Following a break for lunch (where delightful Bronzy Sunbirds and two Spotted-necked Otters kept us company), we resumed with some further papyrus birding. We struck gold almost immediately once more, finding the tricky Papyrus Canary, which also showed remarkably well! Some further exploration of the area yielded a skulking Greater Swamp Warbler, repeat views of Carruthers’s Cisticola, along with a host of seedeaters – Common, Fawn-breasted, Black-crowned and Yellow-bellied Waxbills and Black-and-white Mannikin. Following our successful birding, we made our way to Ruhija, set in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. A confiding Handsome Spurfowl was the only sighting of note along the way. After checking into our lodge set in the highlands, we headed out for our afternoon birding. The afternoon was a bit slow, but we did enjoy sublime views of both Great Blue and Black-billed Turacos, along with our first Grey-throated Barbets and Thick-billed Seedeaters, while repeat views of Sharpe’s Starling were welcomed. A Purple-breasted Sunbird seen by me sadly refused to cooperate, but a pair of Grey-chinned Sunbirds gave us scope views. Before long, it was dusk, and we began searching for Montane (Rwenzori) Nightjar – which took a little while of searching, but showed well in the end!

 

Papyrus Canary is a scarce species, regularly missed on tours to Uganda.

Day 7, 7th August. Birding on the Mubwindi Swamp walk

This was one of the most anticipated days of the tours, as we made the rather arduous hike down to the Mubwindi Swamp (and back again), in search of a heap of Albertine Rift Endemics (AREs) and in particular Grauer’s Broadbill (African Green Broadbill). This is one of the only sites in the world, and the only ‘easily’ accessible site for this species, which is only possible during a short period around their breeding season, when they stay relatively localized in a small area. The day began early, when we started the walk down to the swamp, with early stops yielding a lively party of Mountain Illadopsis along with some skulky Black-faced Prinias. We tried to keep our stops brief on the way down, in favor of reaching the site for the broadbill and focusing the bulk of our time on this species. This was done, as the birds had left the nest several weeks prior to our visit, and were beginning to range more widely in the area, and becoming trickier and trickier to find. Despite this, we did stop whenever we found an interesting birds, and stops were made for the stunning Blue-headed Sunbird, shy Red-throated Alethes, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatchers, snazzy Stripe-breasted Tits a fine Bar-tailed Trogon, and for the skulking Grey-chested Babbler. The latter in particular is a scarce and infrequently-seen species, and we spent a while working this vocal individual. Sadly, we were only rewarded with brief views that left us wanting a bit more. We eventually arrived into the area for the broadbill, and were soon shepherded up the surrounding hill slopes, where we soon found a pair of Grauer’s Broadbills. We spent some time with the birds, and watched as they gradually moved closer to where we were stationed – with the birds eventually settling just above us, giving spectacular views! This area was also alive with activity, and we enjoyed heaps of other birds, such as Brown-capped Weaver, Waller’s Starling, White-headed Wood Hoopoe, Fine-banded (Tullberg’s) Woodpecker, Black-throated Apalis and Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, amongst others. With smiles still brimming, we made our way to the actual swamp where we quickly managed to get the Grauer’s Swamp Warbler, along with a bonus Cassin’s Hawk-Eagle. Following lunch, we began the ascent back to the top, pausing for bouts of bird activity. We did well, with several exciting stops that produced the scarce Dwarf Honeyguide and a very showy Doherty’s Bushshrike – the latter was much-welcomed, as we had heard many over the preceding days, but not seen any of them. A final stop gave us another excellent view of Dusky Crimsonwing, before we finally reached the top. We could not have asked for a better trip down to the swamp, and enjoyed a well-earned afternoon’s rest.

Grauer’s Broadbill is one of a few mega species that this trip aims to find!

 

Day 8, 8th August. Ruhija to Buhoma, birding en route

Although this day was set aside as a travel day, we transited only a short distance, from Ruhija set in the high altitudes of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, to Buhoma, set in the lower lying parts of Bwindi – and as such, we had essentially the entire day to cover the short distance. We began our morning off birding the School Trail, at Ruhija, where we were hoping to clean up on some of our missing targets. Purple-breasted Sunbird proved quite easy to find, with two large flowering trees hosting a great deal of sunbirds. We had to be a bit patient, but we were eventually rewarded with good looks at this often-tricky species, in amongst the hordes of Northern Double-collared and Regal Sunbirds, with a few Blue-headed Sunbirds spread in between. Grauer’s Warbler too, didn’t present too much of a challenge, and coincidentally right when we found our Purple-breasted Sunbirds, we heard the tell-tale call, and were soon enjoying excellent views of this skulking species! We then set off, bound eventually for Buhoma, with a few obligatory stops along the way. Our first stop to look for Dusky Twinspot was a roaring success, and almost immediately after arriving on site, latched onto a single Dusky Twinspot, which paused for all to enjoy good scope views! We spent a short while longer here, enjoying repeat and better views of the twinspots along with a great sighting of a pair of courting African Harrier Hawks. Our next stop was at “The Neck”, where we spent a few hours birding in the late morning. As always, birding here can be tricky especially given the time of day, but we managed to find a few feeding flocks, and raked up a few birds in the process. One bout of activity had us all struggling to keep pace with the new birds flooding in. A Red-tailed Greenbul hopped into the open, before a Grey-headed Sunbird zipped into view, when a Buff-spotted Woodpecker stole the limelight for a bit. The shy Black-faced Rufous Warbler showed well, and a pair of Black Bee-eaters, with a sub-adult bird, took our breath away, with some further birding in the area yielding Many-colored Bushshrike, the scarce Kakamega Greenbul and a fantastic aerial displaying Crowned Eagle.

We eventually had to move onwards, arriving at our great lodge in Buhoma – Ride 4 a Women. This establishment has strong ties to the community, and contribute directly to a number of excellent community initiatives and projects, many of which they run. Following a bit of a break, we set off for the nearby forest, where we started off birding the forest edges. The mass of flowering plants on the outskirts proved to be extremely productive, with Green-throated and Blue-throated Brown Sunbirds as new species, along with several other species we had become used to, such as Bronzy, Collared and Green-headed Sunbirds. Here we also did well finding the scarce Green Twinspot, along with Red-headed Malimbe, while Luhder’s Bushshrike showed only to some. It took quite some effort, and a great deal of careful scanning, but we eventually managed to lay our eyes on a calling Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat, which seemed rather unconcerned with our presence. A Red-capped Robin-Chat also showed well, though also took some effort to track down. A flock of Scarce Swifts reeling about overhead brought our day to a close, and we settled in for the evening.

Day 9, 9th August. Birding the Buhoma Main Trail

Ready for a full day of forest birding, we set off on the Buhoma Main Trail early in the morning, bound for the depths of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The morning started off a bit slow, with us adding the likes of Rufous Flycatcher Thrush and Sooty Flycatcher, before we found a pair of the scarce Chapin’s Flycatchers feeding a youngster. While enjoying the flycatchers, things picked up with a nearby fruiting tree producing Elliot’s Woodpecker, Chestnut Wattle-eye, Ansorge’s Greenbul and the snazzy Yellow-spotted Barbet, while the shy White-tailed Ant-Thrush showed lower down in the forest. White-bellied Robin-Chat showed well nearby, while the similar Equatorial Akalat played hide and seek with us, showing well to most in the group, and offering the rest only brief views. Further stops were made where we enjoyed a fine displaying African Broadbill, along with a lovely Bar-tailed Trogon. One of our main targets for the day was the recently described Willard’s Sooty Boubou,  a shy and down-right difficult species. Fortunately, luck was on our side as we found a vocal and showy pair without major difficulty, and enjoyed great looks at this rare species. The equally difficult Neumann’s Warbler was another major target, and it took a great deal of effort and patience before we were all rewarded with some good views of this shy species – which is no small feat given the nature of this species! In fact, we had all but given up, having only heard the bird, and seen a few branches shaking after a lengthy search, and were starting to make our way back to the main trail, when we lucked into the bird hopping near to the ground around a bend. We carefully positioned ourselves, and had enjoyed our views a short while later – truly fortuitous!

Some final late afternoon activity yielded a plethora of species, and we added Grey-throated Tit Flycatcher, African Shrike-Flycatcher, Bocage’s Bushshrike and the shy Grey-winged Robin-Chat, while a large party of Scaly-breasted Illadopsis bounding through the thickets left us wanting more. As always, many other species were seen and further highlights during the day went to Black Bee-eater, Luhder’s Bushshrike, Dusky Tit, Olive-green Camaroptera, Red-tailed Greenbul, Cabanis’s Greenbul, Red-throated Alethe and Grey-chinned and Blue-throated Brown Sunbirds. Despite our best efforts to try and see them, we also only heard a number of species, including Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, Western Bronze-naped Pigeon and Willcock’s Honeyguide. An early mammal highlight was a few Chimpanzees that were seen running across the trail in front of us!

Day 10, 10th August. Gorilla trekking, and birding Buhoma

This day was set aside for Gorilla trekking, with some in the group venturing into the hills of Bwindi to see these gentle giants – more specifically Eastern (Mountain) Gorilla. Those that took part in the gorilla trekking came back regaling fine stories of their incredible encounters with these animals. The remainder of the group opted not to go Gorilla trekking, and along with them we once more set out for the morning,  birding the Buhoma Main Trail and surrounds. While we didn’t venture as deep into the forest as previously, the area was bustling with life this morning, and we barely made any ground, with early bird parties giving away new species such as Black-billed Weaver, Yellow-throated Tinkerbird, Green Hylia and Red-tailed Bristlebill. Of course, a great deal of other species were seen, and we far improved our views of several species such as Many-colored Bushshrike, Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Pink-footed Puffback, Bocage’s Bushshrike, and enjoyed repeat views of others like Black-faced Rufous Warbler, Red-throated Alethe, Ansorge’s Greenbul and Chestnut Wattle-eye. Mountain Wagtail was eventually found along a stream, and a last-gasp bit of activity gave us Petit’s Cuckooshrike and Toro Olive Greenbul, along with others such as White-headed Wood Hoopoe, Black Cuckooshrike, Luhder’s Bushshrike, Black-throated Apalis and Brown-capped Weaver. Just as we were rounding things off some grumbling close by put us on full alert, as it belonged to a Gorilla, and as if on cue, we picked up on a few Eastern Gorillas climbing up into the trees (well spotted, Rosy!). We enjoyed the animals for a short while, before they soon disappeared from sight. We caught up with the rest of the group who had been out trekking gorillas at lunch, and regaled stories from the two encounters. A break during the heat of the day allowed us to catch up on some rest before we resumed with some farmland birding in the late afternoon. We centered our time on trying for Red-chested Flufftail in some wetland areas, and while we spent a long while working various calling birds, we went without a sighting of this elusive species. A number of other birds were around to keep us distracted, and we enjoyed bright Double-toothed Barbets and African Golden Orioles, along with many Bronzy Sunbirds, while also netting others like Woolly-necked Stork, Black Sparrowhawk, Mckinnon’s Shrike, Yellow-throated Leaflove and Black-and-white Mannikin. We rounded our day off with views of the shy Highland Rush Warbler moving about in the surrounding marshlands.

Comical White-headed Wood Hoopoes were a highlight of our time in the forests of Bwindi.

 

Day 11, 11th August. Birding Queen Elizabeth National Park

Having satisfied our Bwindi birding desires, we set off this morning bound for the more open savannas of Queen Elizabeth National Park. We started off in the Ishasha sector of this massive park . Here a wide range of more open-country birds kept us going, along with a mix of mammals. Early highlights went to the likes of Croaking Cisticola, Moustached Grass Warbler and Crimson-rumped Waxbill, along with our first herd of African Elephants. In no time, we had stumbled into some of the famous Ishasha Lions, as they were camped up in the branches of a fig tree. Our bird list rapidly rose as we added many other species. Notable sightings went to our first group of migrating White-throated Bee-eaters, along with a few groupings of White-headed Barbets, a surprise Brown-backed Honeybird, tiny Grey Penduline-Tits and lively Purple-banded Sunbirds. Wetland areas held yet more widespread species along with others like Grey Crowned Crane and Long-toed Lapwing. With the mercury rising, raptors also started becoming more obvious and several kettles of vultures and other birds of prey were obvious. Small numbers of White-headed and Lappet-faced Vultures were seen amongst the more common White-backed Vulture. While masses of Bateleurs cruised overhead,  we also did well notching up Brown Snake Eagle, Martial Eagle and Shikra, amongst others. Just as we were on our way out, we ran into a glorious Leopard perched up in a tree, right next to us (well spotted, Rosie!). We spent a short while with this beautiful cat, before she grew tired of us and disappeared into the vegetation. Following a short break at our lodge, where we would spend the evening, we resumed our birding later in the day with the temperature more reasonable, along the Kasenyi Track sector of the park. While things were quiet initially, activity picked up and we had a great evening drive. Scanning open areas revealed dainty Red-capped Larks and Kittlitz’s Plovers, while grassy areas held the likes of Flappet Lark and the tricky Stout Cisticola. A mass of cars piled up meant there was something of interest, and sure enough, it was Lions. We hung back away from the masses, and as if on cue, one of the Lionesses, walked right up next to us, and along the side of the vehicle, giving us excellent views – all the while the other cars scurried around. Needless to say, we moved on quite quickly, leaving the melee of cars behind us, and soon found a Black-bellied Bustard, which was followed by many more individuals throughout the rest of the drive. Lapwings were also well represented, with Senegal and Brown-chested being notable finds, with African Wattled and Crowned also present. A stop at one of the crater lakes gave up numbers of Lesser Flamingos, along with others like the massive Great White Pelican and Black-winged Stilt, before we found ourselves making our way out the park. Just before we exited, two Small Buttonquails slowly crossed the road, giving us excellent views as well! A short night drive followed, where we managed a Square-tailed Nightjar, while the hoped-for Pennant-winged Nightjar sadly didn’t materialize for us. Content and slightly tired from a good but long day out, we settled in for the evening.

This was a two-cat day, with this glorious Leopard sighting, accompanied by two separate Lion sightings during the day.

 

Day 12, 12th August. Queen Elizabeth to Kibale

We set off for a half-day in the park shortly after dawn, with our first stop coming in the papyrus along the Kazinga Channel. Here our two targets, Papyrus Gonolek and White-winged Swamp Warbler showed remarkably well for all to see. We were soon heading on our way into the Mweya Peninsula where we would eventually join a boat cruise on the Kazinga Channel. With overcast conditions, the activity level was high, and we enjoyed a very birdy morning. A Grey Tit-Flycatcher played hide and seek with us for a bit, before a pair of the stunning Blue-breasted Kingfishers flew in and gave us great views. We also finally managed to get good looks at Buff-bellied Warbler, while further views of White-throated Bee-eaters followed and were appreciated by all. A lovely pair of Western Banded Snake Eagles calling to one another was another major highlight, whilst other interesting birds went to Western Black-headed Batis, Grey-headed and African Pygmy Kingfishers, Red-headed Lovebird and Copper Sunbird. Soon it was time for our boat cruise and we enjoyed a very productive spell on the Kazinga Channel. Aside from the many African Buffalos and Hippos, and other mammals, a large flock of African Skimmers and the beautiful Red-throated Bee-eaters were big highlights. We also enjoyed a wide range of other more widespread waterbirds, with notable species being Goliath Heron, Yellow-billed Stork, Water Thick-knee and a large mixed flock of Great White and Pink-backed Pelicans. Try as we might, we couldn’t pull out any rare species on the cruise. After a hearty break for lunch back at our lodge, we loaded our things and set off to Kibale – our next destination where we would be based for the next two nights. A brief Chimpanzee sighting on our way through the forest halted us, before we arrived at our comfortable lodge.

A pair of Western Banded Snake Eagles calling to one another with their very strange call was a firm highlight.

 

Day 13, 13th August. Green-breasted Pitta at Kibale

Another highly anticipated day lay in wait, as we set out to track down the scarce and spectacular Green-breasted Pitta. This is still the only easily accessible site in the world for this rare and poorly known species. Rain earlier in the morning, together with a spate of recent sightings of the pitta, boded well. Following some early excitement with a large Chimpanzee and both Red-tailed and White-tailed Ant Thrushes we arrived in the forest. Fortunately, luck was on our side and we soon found ourselves in the right area and then right on cue, watching two Green-breasted Pittas. We spent a while with the birds, and enjoyed simply superb views as they bounded around the floor eating a wide array of worms and insects, and also perching atop logs and branches. The birds were totally unphased by us, and came within a few meters at times, and after having our fill, we left the birds in peace and continued on with our birding. Aside from the incredible success with the pitta, it was a tricky morning with only a few birds cooperating. A Brown-chested Alethe paused long enough for some views, while a Blue Malkoha sat uncharacteristically out in the open for all to admire it! White-throated Greenbul took a while to track down, but we eventually managed good views, while a Western Oriole left us wanting a bit more. The forest edge proved slightly better, as we quickly notched up the scarce Lowland Masked Apalis, while the tricky Jameson’s Wattle-eye was nowhere to be found. Yellow-billed Barbet and the shy Western Nicator were also enjoyed by all.

Following a midday break, we resumed in the afternoon with a walk through the forest. This was incredibly productive with heaps of birds moving about, and we made little progress due to the virtually constant stream of birds. Some early excitement came with both Mottled and Sabine’s Spinetails moving overhead, before a pale-morph Ayres’ Hawk Eagle came into view, giving us a good flyby and even stooping. Bare trees held numbers of Narrow-tailed Starling, and some careful watching saw us locate their nests, and we even noticed a sneaky Least Honeyguide visiting the nest, and disappearing into the cavity nest for periods of time – all without the starlings being the wiser. Some careful scanning revealed new species such as Velvet-mantled Drongo, Purple-headed Starling and a brief African Emerald Cuckoo, whilst we also enjoyed repeat views of others like the gorgeous Black Bee-eater, Sooty Flycatcher and Petit’s Cuckooshrike. Vast numbers of Thick-billed Weavers and Violet-backed Starlings moved overhead, while we also tracked down others like Hairy-breasted Barbet and Toro Olive Greenbul, amongst others. Kibale is also renowned for being home to many primates, and we added Grey-cheeked Mangabey and Ashy Red Colobus to our list. Eventually, we had to tear ourselves away with the light fading, and we settled in for a wonderful evening following another successful day out!

Day 14, 14th August. Birding Bigodi, and transfer to Masindi

Faced with a long transfer to Masindi, we gave ourselves the morning to bird in and around Kibale, and focused our efforts at the locally run Bigodi Swamp, with Roger, a local guide joining us. Although we accumulated quite a high birdlist, nearing 100 species for the morning, the new species were rather few and far between, and it was a fairly slow morning. A very responsive White-spotted Flufftail kicked things off, and we barely had to wait 5 seconds, before the male appeared and crossed the track in front us! As if in direct comparison, a Brown-eared Woodpecker proved to be extremely elusive, and took a while to obtain good views of. A displaying African Goshawk showed well, as did the mighty Superb Sunbird. We put in a lot of time trying to track down several local specialties such as Jameson’s Wattle-eye, Compact Weaver, Speckle-breasted Woodpecker and Joyful Greenbul, amongst others, but were unsuccessful. A large group of Magpie Mannikins was also eventually tracked down and showed well.

Following lunch, we loaded up, and set off on the long drive to Masinid, which has become much quicker in recent years with the newly paved road all the way. Several stops were made along the way where we enjoyed Alpine and Mottled Swifts and hordes of Village Indigobirds. Easily the highlight of the day came when a Red-headed Bluebill crossed the road right in front us and we screeched to a halt and piled out of the car. Fortunately, the birds stuck around and we enjoyed the most spectacular views of this normally shy species as two males chased one another, almost in slow motion, while a female sat perched close by. After having had our fill, we shifted our focus to some nearby Afep Pigeons which showed well, while groups of Narrow-tailed Starlings passed by overhead. We eventually arrived at our comfortable hotel in the early evening, where we settled in and prepared for the exciting day ahead.

Day 15, 15th August. Birding the Royal Mile, and transfer to Murchison Falls

This was another much-anticipated day, as we visit the famous ‘Royal Mile’. This section of the Budongo Forest is so named because it refers to the old 1-mile portion of track where the kings of the Bunyoro Kingdom used to hunt wildlife. Fortunately, though, in today’s era this is a formally protected patch of mature forest that houses some excellent birds, and is a must-visit site for any birder. After an early breakfast, we loaded up, and set off, and were soon birding in the agricultural lands surrounding the forest. As usual, this was extremely birdy, and we eventually had to tear ourselves away after a brief period of time. Small groups of Grey-headed Olivebacks flitted about, while the also skulking Brown Twinspot eventually showed well to all. A Marsh Tchagra crept about in the grass, in between bouts of various waxbills, mannikins and widowbirds, while a vocal Whistling Cisticola called from the treetops. Male Yellow-mantled Widowbird and Black Bishop were both noted displaying in the area, and several groupings of Compact Weaver were also enjoyed.

Proceeding into the forest, we made slow progress along the exactly 1-mile piece of dead-straight track, with regular interludes for various birds. Lively groups of Rufous-crowned Eremomelas and Chestnut-capped Flycatchers kept to the canopies, while Little Grey Greenbul crept about in the thickets. Noisy and fast-flying Spotted Greenbuls gave us good, albeit brief views, before we lucked into a beautiful African Dwarf Kingfisher that showed remarkably well! A vocal Ituri Batis eventually showed to all, while a few different Lemon-bellied Crombecs also obliged. A fast-moving Uganda Woodland Warbler kept to the upper canopy as well. Paying attention to the lower strata eventually rewarded us with excellent views of the shy Forest Robin. Hulking White-thighed Hornbills showed, with the similar Black-and-white-casqued Hornbills nearby for comparison, and we also found a lovely Narina Trogon that gave us excellent views. Fraser’s Forest Flycatcher was eventually found, and we were also very fortunate to run into an ant swarm that was attended by both Fire-crested and Brown-chested Alethes – both of which showed very well, feeding in the open road right in front of us. Try as we might though, we just couldn’t locate Chocolate-backed Kingfisher – despite hearing birds virtually throughout the morning during our time in the forest. We also had to pull ourselves out of the forest, following a mightily successful morning, and continue on our way to Murchison Falls National Park. A stop off at the Butiaba Escarpment along the way was incredibly productive despite the searing temperatures. A large party of Green-backed Eremomelas obliged soon after we left the van, while the new birds came in thick and fast. A trio of Black-billed Barbets called from the treetops, whilst flowers held a few Beautiful Sunbirds. Delightful Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters hawked insects from the treetops, whilst both Foxy and Short-winged Cisticolas were also seen well. Several Black-winged Red Bishops were never far away, and we also eventually managed to see one of the many calling Vinaceous Doves. A Lesser Blue-eared Starling was picked up, and we also enjoyed prolonged views of a pair of the scarce Yellow-bellied Hyliotas. Many other birds were present in the area, and as became a trend during the day, we had to pull ourselves away and proceed onwards. Short stops on the way produced dainty Namaqua Doves and a pair of the rare Cut-throat Finches, while a few bright Northern Red Bishops showed well. In the late afternoon, following a most successful day out with a day list nearly reaching 150 species, we arrived at our comfortable lodge, where we would spend the next 3 nights!

The tiny African Dwarf Kingfisher is one of many sought-after specials that we found in the Royal Mile section of the Budongo Forest.

 Day 16, 16th August. Birding Murchison Falls National Park

Another majorly exciting day lay ahead as we explored the northern reaches of Murchison Falls National Park, from Paraa to the Albert Nile. Some vehicle issues delayed us for a short while, but we made lemonade from the situation and found ourselves our first Spotted Palm Thrushes and Silverbirds in the process. Once we got going, early highlights went to the prehistoric-looking Abyssinian Ground Hornbill and a surprise Yellow-billed Shrike, and once we got north of the Nile River and into the plains, the new trip birds flowed. Patches of acacia scrub held Shelley’s Sparrow, and the surrounding open plains were littered with the likes of Piapiacs, Croaking and Zitting Cisticolas and Rufous-naped and Flappet Larks, along with a very vocal Brown-rumped Bunting. An old carcass still held masses of vultures, and here we enjoyed several of the rather attractive Ruppell’s Vulture, along with a Tawny Eagle. We were never far from birds, and as we slowly worked various tracks we added the likes of Black-billed Wood Dove, Jacobin Cuckoo, Speckle-fronted Weaver, White-browed and Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weavers, groups of the delightful Black-rumped Waxbills, amongst others. Indeed this strip was very birdy, and we also thoroughly enjoyed repeat views of numerous Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters, noisy Black-billed Barbets, along with slightly less impressive species such as Buff-bellied Warbler, Familiar Chat and Little Weaver. Bright Northern Red Bishops perched conspicuously atop the bushes, and a stop for lunch along the Nile River added further species including Black-headed Lapwing and Senegal Thick-knee. Further exploration along the Nile River and the delta with Lake Albert gave us our first Saddle-billed Storks, along with many other waterbirds. Northern Carmine Bee-eater had only given us brief views earlier in the day, and we were rewarded with excellent views of an entire tree filled with them on our way back out of the northern section. Indeed, our drive out was as excellent as the drive in, and we also found further specialties like Denham’s Bustard, Heuglin’s Francolin and the scarce Red-necked Falcon. Of course, this is just a small sampling of the species seen during our time in the northern part of the park, and with our tally reaching nearly 150 species, once again, just for this portion, it is always difficult to list all the species. Raptors were well represented with many species, and a wide range of various passerines were seen including many weavers, sunbirds, flycatchers, robins, starlings, cisticolas and so many more. Of course, mammals were part and parcel, and we had a healthy stream of various large herbivores such as Kob, Hartebeest, Oribi, Waterbuck and African Buffalo, whilst also enjoying other large mammals like Giraffe and African Elephant, and many Hippos near the Nile River. Several groups of Patas’s Monkeys were seen on the plains and we also did well adding Side-striped Jackal and Slender Mongoose. A massive thunderstorm brought our afternoon to a close. Things settled down later in the afternoon back at the lodge, and we did well, adding extraordinary views of White-crested Turaco, along with others such as White-shouldered Black Tit, Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike and Western Violet-backed Sunbird. We had a great evening following another immense day out in the field.

The prehistoric-looking Abyssinian Ground Hornbill was a major target for the group, and put on a good show for us, with several excellent sightings in Murchison Falls.

Day 17, 17th August. Birding Murchison Falls National Park

Our last full day in Murchison Falls saw us focusing on the south bank of the Nile River, where we’d explore the more broad-leafed dominant woodland – in stark contrast with other sections of the park. While it was quite a birdy morning, we were familiar with many of the species seen and only managed to add a handful of new species. A beautiful African Cuckoo Hawk glided in and gave us good views, while a party of the comical White-crested Helmetshrikes showed well also. A small group of Pale Flycatchers cooperated, as did a Grey-headed Bushshrike. We also enjoyed repeat views of several species we had only seen a few times before such as Brown Twinspot, Green-backed Eremomela, Lesser Blue-eared Starling, Red-throated Bee-eater, Nubian and African Grey Woodpeckers, Moustache Grass Warbler and Black-rumped Waxbill. We also enjoyed a close-up sighting of a rare cream-backed Bateleur. We also devoted some time this morning to tracking down Red-winged Grey Warbler, which had frustrated us yesterday, along with Dusky Babbler, and while we saw a few birds that may have been the babblers, we unfortunately didn’t come close to either of these two targets.

Red-throated Bee-eater is one spectacular-looking bird, and occur along the Nile River and surrounding woodlands.

 

Before we knew it, late morning had arrived and we boarded our boat as we headed up to the base of the Murchison Falls. As always, boat trips are a great way of getting close to waterbirds and we had a productive boat trip. The river level wasn’t high this year, as it has been in some years, and as such meant the sought-after Rock Pratincoles were present in good numbers. An open sandbar also held a flock of African Skimmers. The riverside vegetation held a number of more widespread waterbirds, including various ducks and geese, herons, egrets, storks and shorebirds. A brilliant Saddle-billed Stork showed well, and we also enjoyed several raptors such as Western Banded Snake Eagle and Grey Kestrel. We also finally tracked down Giant Kingfisher. Following a late lunch and a bit of a snooze, we resumed our birding in the late afternoon with a visit to the top of the Murchison Falls. It was a rather slow afternoon, with a Black-headed Oriole and many Rock Pratincoles about the only birds of interest about.  We consoled ourselves with the splendid environment, and the somewhat relaxing nature of watching the Nile River plunge through this tiny gap that forms the falls. A night drive on the return journey to the lodge was sadly unsuccessful, and a few brief mammal sightings and some owls that all got away before we could get good looks were all that we could muster.

Day 18, 18th August. Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, and transfer to Entebbe

This was our last full day of the tour and saw us exiting Murchison Falls National Park in the morning, before we transited to Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. Here we would participate in the rhino tracking, along with doing some birding in the process, of course. We arrived in good time, were soon off and in no time had wonderfully up-close views of these gentle giants that sadly face an unnecessary fight for survival. As the time went along, we found no less than thirteen of the White Rhinos that inhabit Ziwa. This is indeed the only place in Uganda where one can see these animals in the wild, though there are plans to reintroduce these White Rhinos back into Murchison Falls National Park in the coming years. Of course, birds were part and parcel of our time in Ziwa as well, and we started off with a bang, finding a lovely male Pennant-winged Nightjar on the ground, which gave views to all. We also did well to find several of the difficult Marsh Widowbirds, and enjoyed repeat views of many species such as Western Banded Snake Eagle, Bateleur, Dark Chanting Goshawk, African Marsh Harrier, White-headed Barbet and Yellow-throated Longclaw, amongst others. After lunch, we settled in for the long drive to Entebbe, where we arrived in the late afternoon and settled in for the evening, reminiscing about all the many good times and birds we had on the trip.

Day 19, 19th August. Departure from Entebbe

With the group only leaving later in the day, we opted to spend a bit of time this morning exploring the Entebbe Botanical Gardens. It was a birdy morning, and we enjoyed seeing many of our favorite birds from the trip like Ross’s and Great Blue Turacos, Black-and-white-casqued Hornbills, to other attractive birds like Grey-capped Warbler and Klaass’s Cuckoo. Raptors were well represented throughout the morning, and in between the throngs of Yellow-billed Kites and Palm-nut Vultures, we also found African Goshawk, Shikra, African Cuckoo Hawk and African Hobby. One of our missing targets, Orange Weaver, required a concerted effort to track down, but we were eventually rewarded with good views of this scarce species. We retired back to our comfortable lodge for lunch,and enjoyed our final meal together before afternoon and evening departures took us all home.

I would like to thank all the participants who joined this set departure tour for contributing to making this tour the success it was. Thanks must also go to our excellent ground operator for ensuring a smooth tour, with hitches few and far between.

Without further ado, here are the top birds on the trip, as voted for by the participants:

    • Green-breasted Pitta

    • White-crested Turaco

    • Ross’s Turaco

    • Shoebill

    • Grauer’s Broadbill

    • Great Blue Turaco

    • Red-headed Bluebill

    • Regal Sunbird

Some honorable mentions go to:

    • Lilac-breasted Roller

    • Yellow-billed Barbet

    • Abyssinian Ground Hornbill

    • Grey Crowned Crane

    • Papyrus Gonolek

    • African Dwarf Kingfisher

 

 

The stunning Grey Crowned Crane is the National Bird of Uganda, and occurs widely throughout the country.

Bird ListFollowing IOC 12.2

Birds ‘heard only’ are marked with (H) after the common name, all other species were seen.

The following notation after species names is used to show conservation status following the IUCN Red List:
CR = Critically Endangered, EN = Endangered, VU = Vulnerable, NT = Near Threatened. Albertine rift endemics are bolded.

Common name Scientific name
Ducks, Geese, Swans (Anatidae)
White-faced Whistling Duck Dendrocygna viduata
Spur-winged Goose Plectropterus gambensis
Knob-billed Duck Sarkidiornis melanotos
Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca
Yellow-billed Duck Anas undulata
Guineafowl (Numididae)
Helmeted Guineafowl Numida meleagris
Pheasants & Allies (Phasianidae)
Crested Francolin Ortygornis sephaena
Handsome Spurfowl Pternistis nobilis
Heuglin’s Spurfowl Pternistis icterorhynchus
Red-necked Spurfowl Pternistis afer
Nightjars (Caprimulgidae)
Black-shouldered Nightjar Caprimulgus nigriscapularis
Montane Nightjar Caprimulgus poliocephalus
Freckled Nightjar Caprimulgus tristigma
Square-tailed Nightjar Caprimulgus fossii
Pennant-winged Nightjar Caprimulgus vexillarius
Swifts (Apodidae)
Scarce Swift Schoutedenapus myoptilus
Mottled Spinetail Telacanthura ussheri
Sabine’s Spinetail Rhaphidura sabini
Cassin’s Spinetail Neafrapus cassini
African Palm Swift Cypsiurus parvus
Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba
Mottled Swift Tachymarptis aequatorialis
Common Swift Apus apus
Little Swift Apus affinis
Horus Swift Apus horus
White-rumped Swift Apus caffer
Turacos (Musophagidae)
Great Blue Turaco Corythaeola cristata
Bare-faced Go-away-bird Crinifer personatus
Eastern Plantain-eater Crinifer zonurus
Rwenzori Turaco Gallirex johnstoni
Ross’s Turaco Tauraco rossae
White-crested Turaco Tauraco leucolophus
Black-billed Turaco Tauraco schuettii
Bustards (Otididae)
Denham’s Bustard Neotis denhami
Black-bellied Bustard Lissotis melanogaster
Cuckoos (Cuculidae)
Senegal Coucal Centropus senegalensis
Blue-headed Coucal Centropus monachus
White-browed Coucal Centropus superciliosus
Blue Malkoha Ceuthmochares aereus
Jacobin Cuckoo Clamator jacobinus
Diederik Cuckoo Chrysococcyx caprius
Klaas’s Cuckoo Chrysococcyx klaas
African Emerald Cuckoo Chrysococcyx cupreus
Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo (H) Cercococcyx mechowi
Red-chested Cuckoo Cuculus solitarius
African Cuckoo Cuculus gularis
Pigeons, Doves (Columbidae)
Rock Dove Columba livia
Speckled Pigeon Columba guinea
Afep Pigeon Columba unicincta
African Olive Pigeon Columba arquatrix
Western Bronze-naped Pigeon (H) Columba iriditorques
Dusky Turtle Dove Streptopelia lugens
Mourning Collared Dove Streptopelia decipiens
Red-eyed Dove Streptopelia semitorquata
Ring-necked Dove Streptopelia capicola
Vinaceous Dove Streptopelia vinacea
Laughing Dove Spilopelia senegalensis
Emerald-spotted Wood Dove Turtur chalcospilos
Black-billed Wood Dove Turtur abyssinicus
Blue-spotted Wood Dove Turtur afer
Tambourine Dove Turtur tympanistria
Namaqua Dove Oena capensis
African Green Pigeon Treron calvus
Finfoots (Heliornithidae)
African Finfoot Podica senegalensis
Flufftails (Sarothruridae)
White-spotted Flufftail Sarothrura pulchra
Red-chested Flufftail (H) Sarothrura rufa
Rails, Crakes & Coots (Rallidae)
African Rail Rallus caerulescens
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
African Swamphen Porphyrio madagascariensis
Black Crake Zapornia flavirostra
Cranes (Gruidae)
Grey Crowned Crane – EN Balearica regulorum
Flamingos (Phoenicopteridae)
Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor
Buttonquail (Turnicidae)
Common Buttonquail Turnix sylvaticus
Stone-curlews, Thick-knees (Burhinidae)
Senegal Thick-knee Burhinus senegalensis
Water Thick-knee Burhinus vermiculatus
Spotted Thick-knee Burhinus capensis
Stilts, Avocets (Recurvirostridae)
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Plovers (Charadriidae)
Long-toed Lapwing Vanellus crassirostris
Spur-winged Lapwing Vanellus spinosus
Black-headed Lapwing Vanellus tectus
Senegal Lapwing Vanellus lugubris
Crowned Lapwing Vanellus coronatus
African Wattled Lapwing Vanellus senegallus
Brown-chested Lapwing Vanellus superciliosus
Kittlitz’s Plover Charadrius pecuarius
Three-banded Plover Charadrius tricollaris
Jacanas (Jacanidae)
African Jacana Actophilornis africanus
Sandpipers, Snipes (Scolopacidae)
Ruff Calidris pugnax
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
Coursers, Pratincoles (Glareolidae)
Rock Pratincole Glareola nuchalis
Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)
African Skimmer Rynchops flavirostris
Grey-headed Gull Chroicocephalus cirrocephalus
White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus
Storks (Ciconiidae)
Yellow-billed Stork Mycteria ibis
African Openbill Anastomus lamelligerus
Woolly-necked Stork Ciconia episcopus
Saddle-billed Stork Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis
Marabou Stork Leptoptilos crumenifer
Anhingas, Darters (Anhingidae)
African Darter Anhinga rufa
Cormorants, Shags (Phalacrocoracidae)
Reed Cormorant Microcarbo africanus
White-breasted Cormorant Phalacrocorax lucidus
Ibises, Spoonbills (Threskiornithidae)
African Sacred Ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus
Hadada Ibis Bostrychia hagedash
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus
African Spoonbill Platalea alba
Herons, Bitterns (Ardeidae)
White-backed Night Heron Gorsachius leuconotus
Striated Heron Butorides striata
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides
Rufous-bellied Heron Ardeola rufiventris
Western Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Black-headed Heron Ardea melanocephala
Goliath Heron Ardea goliath
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea
Great Egret Ardea alba
Intermediate Egret Ardea intermedia
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Hamerkop (Scopidae)
Hamerkop Scopus umbretta
Shoebill (Balaenicipitidae)
Shoebill – VU Balaeniceps rex
Pelicans (Pelecanidae)
Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus
Pink-backed Pelican Pelecanus rufescens
Kites, Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)
Black-winged Kite Elanus caeruleus
African Harrier-Hawk Polyboroides typus
Palm-nut Vulture Gypohierax angolensis
African Cuckoo-Hawk Aviceda cuculoides
Hooded Vulture – CR Necrosyrtes monachus
White-backed Vulture – CR Gyps africanus
Rüppell’s Vulture – CR Gyps rueppelli
White-headed Vulture – CR Trigonoceps occipitalis
Lappet-faced Vulture – EN Torgos tracheliotos
Black-chested Snake Eagle Circaetus pectoralis
Brown Snake Eagle Circaetus cinereus
Western Banded Snake Eagle Circaetus cinerascens
Bateleur – EN Terathopius ecaudatus
Bat Hawk Macheiramphus alcinus
Crowned Eagle Stephanoaetus coronatus
Martial Eagle – EN Polemaetus bellicosus
Long-crested Eagle Lophaetus occipitalis
Wahlberg’s Eagle Hieraaetus wahlbergi
Ayres’s Hawk-Eagle Hieraaetus ayresii
Tawny Eagle – VU Aquila rapax
Cassin’s Hawk-Eagle Aquila africana
Lizard Buzzard Kaupifalco monogrammicus
Gabar Goshawk Micronisus gabar
Dark Chanting Goshawk Melierax metabates
African Goshawk Accipiter tachiro
Shikra Accipiter badius
Little Sparrowhawk Accipiter minullus
Black Sparrowhawk Accipiter melanoleucus
African Marsh Harrier Circus ranivorus
Black Kite Milvus migrans
Yellow-billed Kite Milvus aegyptius
African Fish Eagle Haliaeetus vocifer
Mountain Buzzard Buteo oreophilus
Augur Buzzard Buteo augur
Barn Owls (Tytonidae)
Western Barn Owl (H) Tyto alba
Owls (Strigidae)
Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl (H) Bubo lacteus
African Wood Owl Strix woodfordii
Mousebirds (Coliidae)
Speckled Mousebird Colius striatus
Blue-naped Mousebird Urocolius macrourus
Trogons (Trogonidae)
Narina Trogon Apaloderma narina
Bar-tailed Trogon Apaloderma vittatum
Hoopoes (Upupidae)
African Hoopoe Upupa africana
Wood Hoopoes (Phoeniculidae)
White-headed Wood Hoopoe Phoeniculus bollei
Green Wood Hoopoe Phoeniculus purpureus
Common Scimitarbill Rhinopomastus cyanomelas
Ground Hornbills (Bucorvidae)
Abyssinian Ground Hornbill – VU Bucorvus abyssinicus
Hornbills (Bucerotidae)
Crowned Hornbill Lophoceros alboterminatus
African Pied Hornbill Lophoceros fasciatus
African Grey Hornbill Lophoceros nasutus
White-thighed Hornbill Bycanistes albotibialis
Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill Bycanistes subcylindricus
Rollers (Coraciidae)
Lilac-breasted Roller Coracias caudatus
Broad-billed Roller Eurystomus glaucurus
Kingfishers (Alcedinidae)
Chocolate-backed Kingfisher (H) Halcyon badia
Grey-headed Kingfisher Halcyon leucocephala
Striped Kingfisher Halcyon chelicuti
Blue-breasted Kingfisher Halcyon malimbica
Woodland Kingfisher Halcyon senegalensis
African Dwarf Kingfisher Ispidina lecontei
African Pygmy Kingfisher Ispidina picta
Malachite Kingfisher Corythornis cristatus
Shining-blue Kingfisher (H) Alcedo quadribrachys
Giant Kingfisher Megaceryle maxima
Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis
Bee-eaters (Meropidae)
Black Bee-eater Merops gularis
Swallow-tailed Bee-eater Merops hirundineus
Little Bee-eater Merops pusillus
Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater Merops oreobates
Red-throated Bee-eater Merops bulocki
White-throated Bee-eater Merops albicollis
Olive Bee-eater Merops superciliosus
Northern Carmine Bee-eater Merops nubicus
African Barbets (Lybiidae)
Grey-throated Barbet Gymnobucco bonapartei
Speckled Tinkerbird Pogoniulus scolopaceus
Western Tinkerbird Pogoniulus coryphaea
Yellow-throated Tinkerbird Pogoniulus subsulphureus
Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird Pogoniulus bilineatus
Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird Pogoniulus chrysoconus
Yellow-spotted Barbet Buccanodon duchaillui
Hairy-breasted Barbet Tricholaema hirsuta
Spot-flanked Barbet Tricholaema lacrymosa
White-headed Barbet Lybius leucocephalus
Red-faced Barbet Lybius rubrifacies
Black-billed Barbet Lybius guifsobalito
Black-collared Barbet Lybius torquatus
Double-toothed Barbet Lybius bidentatus
Yellow-billed Barbet Trachyphonus purpuratus
Crested Barbet Trachyphonus vaillantii
Honeyguides (Indicatoridae)
Brown-backed Honeybird Prodotiscus regulus
Dwarf Honeyguide Indicator pumilio
Willcocks’s Honeyguide (H) Indicator willcocksi
Least Honeyguide Indicator exilis
Lesser Honeyguide Indicator minor
Greater Honeyguide Indicator indicator
Woodpeckers (Picidae)
Red-throated Wryneck Jynx ruficollis
Buff-spotted Woodpecker Pardipicus nivosus
Brown-eared Woodpecker Pardipicus caroli
Nubian Woodpecker Campethera nubica
Little Spotted Woodpecker Campethera cailliautii
Fine-banded Woodpecker Campethera taeniolaema
Yellow-crested Woodpecker Chloropicus xantholophus
Cardinal Woodpecker Dendropicos fuscescens
Elliot’s Woodpecker Dendropicos elliotii
African Grey Woodpecker Dendropicos goertae
Olive Woodpecker Dendropicos griseocephalus
Caracaras, Falcons (Falconidae)
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Grey Kestrel Falco ardosiaceus
Red-necked Falcon Falco chicquera
African Hobby Falco cuvierii
African & New World Parrots (Psittacidae)
Grey Parrot – EN Psittacus erithacus
Meyer’s Parrot Poicephalus meyeri
Old World Parrots (Psittaculidae)
Red-headed Lovebird Agapornis pullarius
Typical Broadbills (Eurylaimidae)
Grauer’s Broadbill – VU Pseudocalyptomena graueri
African & Green Broadbills (Calyptomenidae)
African Broadbill Smithornis capensis
Pittas (Pittidae)
Green-breasted Pitta Pitta reichenowi
Wattle-eyes, Batises (Platysteiridae)
Rwenzori Batis Batis diops
Chinspot Batis Batis molitor
Western Black-headed Batis Batis erlangeri
Ituri Batis Batis ituriensis
Chestnut Wattle-eye Platysteira castanea
Brown-throated Wattle-eye Platysteira cyanea
Bushshrikes (Malaconotidae)
Grey-headed Bushshrike Malaconotus blanchoti
Lagden’s Bushshrike Malaconotus lagdeni
Many-colored Bushshrike Chlorophoneus multicolor
Bocage’s Bushshrike Chlorophoneus bocagei
Orange-breasted Bushshrike Chlorophoneus sulfureopectus
Doherty’s Bushshrike Telophorus dohertyi
Marsh Tchagra Bocagia minuta
Brown-crowned Tchagra Tchagra australis
Black-crowned Tchagra Tchagra senegalus
Pink-footed Puffback Dryoscopus angolensis
Northern Puffback Dryoscopus gambensis
Albertine Sooty Boubou Laniarius holomelas
Willard’s Sooty Boubou Laniarius willardi
Slate-colored Boubou Laniarius funebris
Lühder’s Bushshrike Laniarius luehderi
Tropical Boubou Laniarius major
Papyrus Gonolek Laniarius mufumbiri
Black-headed Gonolek Laniarius erythrogaster
Brubru Nilaus afer
Vangas & Allies (Vangidae)
White-crested Helmetshrike Prionops plumatus
African Shrike-flycatcher Megabyas flammulatus
Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher Bias musicus
Cuckooshrikes (Campephagidae)
Grey Cuckooshrike Ceblepyris caesius
Black Cuckooshrike Campephaga flava
Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike Campephaga phoenicea
Petit’s Cuckooshrike Campephaga petiti
Shrikes (Laniidae)
Yellow-billed Shrike Corvinella corvina
Mackinnon’s Shrike Lanius mackinnoni
Grey-backed Fiscal Lanius excubitoroides
Northern Fiscal Lanius humeralis
Figbirds, Old World Orioles, Piopios (Oriolidae)
Western Oriole Oriolus brachyrynchus
Black-headed Oriole Oriolus larvatus
Mountain Oriole Oriolus percivali
African Golden Oriole Oriolus auratus
Drongos (Dicruridae)
Velvet-mantled Drongo Dicrurus modestus
Fork-tailed Drongo Dicrurus adsimilis
Monarchs (Monarchidae)
Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone rufiventer
African Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone viridis
Crows, Jays (Corvidae)
Piapiac Ptilostomus afer
Pied Crow Corvus albus
White-necked Raven Corvus albicollis
Fairy Flycatchers (Stenostiridae)
African Blue Flycatcher Elminia longicauda
White-tailed Blue Flycatcher Elminia albicauda
White-bellied Crested Flycatcher Elminia albiventris
Tits, Chickadees (Paridae)
White-shouldered Black Tit Melaniparus guineensis
White-winged Black Tit Melaniparus leucomelas
Dusky Tit Melaniparus funereus
Stripe-breasted Tit Melaniparus fasciiventer
Penduline Tits (Remizidae)
Grey Penduline Tit Anthoscopus caroli
Nicators (Nicatoridae)
Western Nicator Nicator chloris
Larks (Alaudidae)
Rufous-naped Lark Mirafra africana
Flappet Lark Mirafra rufocinnamomea
Red-capped Lark Calandrella cinerea
Bulbuls (Pycnonotidae)
Slender-billed Greenbul Stelgidillas gracilirostris
Red-tailed Bristlebill Bleda syndactylus
Yellow-throated Leaflove Atimastillas flavicollis
Spotted Greenbul Ixonotus guttatus
Honeyguide Greenbul Baeopogon indicator
Kakamega Greenbul Arizelocichla kakamegae
Olive-breasted Greenbul Arizelocichla kikuyuensis
Red-tailed Greenbul Criniger calurus
Little Greenbul Eurillas virens
Yellow-whiskered Greenbul Eurillas latirostris
Plain Greenbul Eurillas curvirostris
Little Grey Greenbul Eurillas gracilis
Ansorge’s Greenbul Eurillas ansorgei
White-throated Greenbul Phyllastrephus albigularis
Cabanis’s Greenbul Phyllastrephus cabanisi
Yellow-streaked Greenbul Phyllastrephus flavostriatus
Toro Olive Greenbul Phyllastrephus hypochloris
Dark-capped Bulbul Pycnonotus tricolor
Swallows, Martins (Hirundinidae)
Black Saw-wing Psalidoprocne pristoptera
White-headed Saw-wing Psalidoprocne albiceps
Banded Martin Neophedina cincta
Brown-throated Martin Riparia paludicola
Rock Martin Ptyonoprogne fuligula
Wire-tailed Swallow Hirundo smithii
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Angola Swallow Hirundo angolensis
Red-breasted Swallow Cecropis semirufa
Mosque Swallow Cecropis senegalensis
Lesser Striped Swallow Cecropis abyssinica
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica
Crombecs, African Warblers (Macrosphenidae)
Moustached Grass Warbler Melocichla mentalis
Northern Crombec Sylvietta brachyura
Red-faced Crombec Sylvietta whytii
Green Crombec Sylvietta virens
Lemon-bellied Crombec Sylvietta denti
White-browed Crombec Sylvietta leucophrys
Cettia Bush Warblers & Allies (Cettiidae)
Neumann’s Warbler Hemitesia neumanni
Yellow Flycatchers (Erythrocercidae)
Chestnut-capped Flycatcher Erythrocercus mccallii
Hylias (Hyliidae)
Green Hylia Hylia prasina
Leaf Warblers (Phylloscopidae)
Red-faced Woodland Warbler Phylloscopus laetus
Uganda Woodland Warbler Phylloscopus budongoensis
Reed Warblers & Allies (Acrocephalidae)
Grauer’s Warbler Graueria vittata
Greater Swamp Warbler Acrocephalus rufescens
African Yellow Warbler Iduna natalensis
Mountain Yellow Warbler Iduna similis
Papyrus Yellow Warbler – VU Calamonastides gracilirostris
Grassbirds & Allies (Locustellidae)
Evergreen Forest Warbler (H) Bradypterus lopezi
Cinnamon Bracken Warbler Bradypterus cinnamomeus
White-winged Swamp Warbler Bradypterus carpalis
Grauer’s Swamp Warbler – VU Bradypterus graueri
Highland Rush Warbler Bradypterus centralis
Cisticolas & Allies (Cisticolidae)
Red-faced Cisticola Cisticola erythrops
Singing Cisticola (H) Cisticola cantans
Whistling Cisticola Cisticola lateralis
Trilling Cisticola Cisticola woosnami
Chubb’s Cisticola Cisticola chubbi
Rattling Cisticola Cisticola chiniana
Winding Cisticola Cisticola marginatus
Carruthers’s Cisticola Cisticola carruthersi
Stout Cisticola Cisticola robustus
Croaking Cisticola Cisticola natalensis
Short-winged Cisticola Cisticola brachypterus
Foxy Cisticola Cisticola troglodytes
Long-tailed Cisticola Cisticola angusticauda
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis
Tawny-flanked Prinia Prinia subflava
Black-faced Prinia Prinia melanops
White-chinned Prinia Schistolais leucopogon
Rwenzori Apalis Oreolais ruwenzorii
Red-winged Grey Warbler (H) Drymocichla incana
Buff-bellied Warbler Phyllolais pulchella
Yellow-breasted Apalis Apalis flavida
Lowland Masked Apalis Apalis binotata
Mountain Masked Apalis Apalis personata
Black-throated Apalis Apalis jacksoni
Chestnut-throated Apalis Apalis porphyrolaema
Buff-throated Apalis Apalis rufogularis
Grey Apalis Apalis cinerea
Grey-capped Warbler Eminia lepida
Grey-backed Camaroptera Camaroptera brevicaudata
Olive-green Camaroptera Camaroptera chloronota
Black-faced Rufous Warbler Bathmocercus rufus
Green-backed Eremomela Eremomela canescens
Rufous-crowned Eremomela Eremomela badiceps
Sylviid Babblers (Sylviidae)
Rwenzori Hill Babbler Sylvia atriceps
White-eyes (Zosteropidae)
Green White-eye Zosterops stuhlmanni
Northern Yellow White-eye Zosterops senegalensis
Ground Babblers (Pellorneidae)
Brown Illadopsis (H) Illadopsis fulvescens
Mountain Illadopsis Illadopsis pyrrhoptera
Scaly-breasted Illadopsis Illadopsis albipectus
Laughingthrushes & Allies (Leiothrichidae)
Brown Babbler Turdoides plebejus
Arrow-marked Babbler Turdoides jardineii
Black-lored Babbler Turdoides sharpei
Dapple-throat & Allies (Modulatricidae)
Grey-chested Babbler Kakamega poliothorax
Hyliotas (Hyliotidae)
Yellow-bellied Hyliota Hyliota flavigaster
Starlings, Rhabdornises (Sturnidae)
Wattled Starling Creatophora cinerea
Purple-headed Starling Hylopsar purpureiceps
Lesser Blue-eared Starling Lamprotornis chloropterus
Splendid Starling Lamprotornis splendidus
Rüppell’s Starling Lamprotornis purpuroptera
Violet-backed Starling Cinnyricinclus leucogaster
Waller’s Starling Onychognathus walleri
Stuhlmann’s Starling Poeoptera stuhlmanni
Narrow-tailed Starling Poeoptera lugubris
Sharpe’s Starling Poeoptera sharpii
Oxpeckers (Buphagidae)
Yellow-billed Oxpecker Buphagus africanus
Thrushes (Turdidae)
Fraser’s Rufous Thrush Stizorhina fraseri
White-tailed Ant Thrush Neocossyphus poensis
Red-tailed Ant Thrush Neocossyphus rufus
African Thrush Turdus pelios
Abyssinian Thrush Turdus abyssinicus
Chats, Old World Flycatchers (Muscicapidae)
Fire-crested Alethe Alethe castanea
Brown-backed Scrub Robin Cercotrichas hartlaubi
White-browed Scrub Robin Cercotrichas leucophrys
Fraser’s Forest Flycatcher Fraseria ocreata
Grey-throated Tit-Flycatcher Myioparus griseigularis
Grey Tit-Flycatcher Myioparus plumbeus
White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher Melaenornis fischeri
Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher Melaenornis ardesiacus
Northern Black Flycatcher Melaenornis edolioides
Southern Black Flycatcher Melaenornis pammelaina
Pale Flycatcher Melaenornis pallidus
Silverbird Empidornis semipartitus
Ashy Flycatcher Muscicapa caerulescens
Swamp Flycatcher Muscicapa aquatica
Chapin’s Flycatcher – VU Muscicapa lendu
African Dusky Flycatcher Muscicapa adusta
Dusky-blue Flycatcher Muscicapa comitata
Sooty Flycatcher Muscicapa infuscata
Red-throated Alethe Chamaetylas poliophrys
Brown-chested Alethe Chamaetylas poliocephala
White-bellied Robin-Chat Cossyphicula roberti
Archer’s Ground Robin Cossypha archeri
Grey-winged Robin-Chat Cossypha polioptera
Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat Cossypha cyanocampter
White-browed Robin-Chat Cossypha heuglini
Red-capped Robin-Chat Cossypha natalensis
Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat Cossypha niveicapilla
White-starred Robin Pogonocichla stellata
Forest Robin Stiphrornis erythrothorax
Equatorial Akalat Sheppardia aequatorialis
Spotted Palm Thrush Cichladusa guttata
African Stonechat Saxicola torquatus
Sooty Chat Myrmecocichla nigra
Ruaha Chat Myrmecocichla collaris
Familiar Chat Oenanthe familiaris
Sunbirds (Nectariniidae)
Grey-headed Sunbird Deleornis axillaris
Western Violet-backed Sunbird Anthreptes longuemarei
Little Green Sunbird Anthreptes seimundi
Grey-chinned Sunbird Anthreptes tephrolaemus
Collared Sunbird Hedydipna collaris
Green-headed Sunbird Cyanomitra verticalis
Blue-throated Brown Sunbird Cyanomitra cyanolaema
Blue-headed Sunbird Cyanomitra alinae
Olive Sunbird Cyanomitra olivacea
Green-throated Sunbird Chalcomitra rubescens
Scarlet-chested Sunbird Chalcomitra senegalensis
Purple-breasted Sunbird Nectarinia purpureiventris
Bronzy Sunbird Nectarinia kilimensis
Olive-bellied Sunbird Cinnyris chloropygius
Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris stuhlmanni
Northern Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris reichenowi
Regal Sunbird Cinnyris regius
Beautiful Sunbird Cinnyris pulchellus
Red-chested Sunbird Cinnyris erythrocercus
Purple-banded Sunbird Cinnyris bifasciatus
Superb Sunbird Cinnyris superbus
Variable Sunbird Cinnyris venustus
Copper Sunbird Cinnyris cupreus
Old World Sparrows, Snowfinches (Passeridae)
Shelley’s Sparrow Passer shelleyi
Northern Grey-headed Sparrow Passer griseus
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Weavers, Widowbirds (Ploceidae)
White-browed Sparrow-Weaver Plocepasser mahali
Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver Plocepasser superciliosus
Speckle-fronted Weaver Sporopipes frontalis
Thick-billed Weaver Amblyospiza albifrons
Baglafecht Weaver Ploceus baglafecht
Slender-billed Weaver Ploceus pelzelni
Little Weaver Ploceus luteolus
Spectacled Weaver Ploceus ocularis
Black-necked Weaver Ploceus nigricollis
Strange Weaver Ploceus alienus
Black-billed Weaver Ploceus melanogaster
Holub’s Golden Weaver Ploceus xanthops
Orange Weaver Ploceus aurantius
Northern Brown-throated Weaver Ploceus castanops
Lesser Masked Weaver Ploceus intermedius
Vitelline Masked Weaver Ploceus vitellinus
Village Weaver Ploceus cucullatus
Vieillot’s Black Weaver Ploceus nigerrimus
Black-headed Weaver Ploceus melanocephalus
Golden-backed Weaver Ploceus jacksoni
Compact Weaver Ploceus superciliosus
Brown-capped Weaver Ploceus insignis
Red-headed Malimbe Malimbus rubricollis
Red-headed Weaver Anaplectes rubriceps
Red-billed Quelea Quelea quelea
Black Bishop Euplectes gierowii
Black-winged Red Bishop Euplectes hordeaceus
Southern Red Bishop Euplectes orix
Northern Red Bishop Euplectes franciscanus
Yellow Bishop Euplectes capensis
Fan-tailed Widowbird Euplectes axillaris
Yellow-mantled Widowbird Euplectes macroura
Marsh Widowbird Euplectes hartlaubi
Red-collared Widowbird Euplectes ardens
Waxbills, Munias & Allies (Estrildidae)
Bronze Mannikin Spermestes cucullata
Magpie Mannikin Spermestes fringilloides
Black-and-white Mannikin Spermestes bicolor
White-collared Oliveback Nesocharis ansorgei
Yellow-bellied Waxbill Coccopygia quartinia
Green Twinspot Mandingoa nitidula
Dusky Crimsonwing Cryptospiza jacksoni
Jameson’s Antpecker (H) Parmoptila jamesoni
White-breasted Nigrita Nigrita fusconotus
Grey-headed Nigrita Nigrita canicapillus
Grey-headed Oliveback Delacourella capistrata
Black-crowned Waxbill Estrilda nonnula
Kandt’s Waxbill Estrilda kandti
Fawn-breasted Waxbill Estrilda paludicola
Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild
Black-rumped Waxbill Estrilda troglodytes
Crimson-rumped Waxbill Estrilda rhodopyga
Quailfinch Ortygospiza atricollis
Cut-throat Finch Amadina fasciata
Orange-breasted Waxbill Amandava subflava
Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu Uraeginthus bengalus
Red-headed Bluebill Spermophaga ruficapilla
Green-winged Pytilia Pytilia melba
Dusky Twinspot Euschistospiza cinereovinacea
Brown Twinspot Clytospiza monteiri
Red-billed Firefinch Lagonosticta senegala
African Firefinch Lagonosticta rubricata
Indigobirds, Whydahs (Viduidae)
Village Indigobird Vidua chalybeata
Pin-tailed Whydah Vidua macroura
Wagtails, Pipits (Motacillidae)
Cape Wagtail Motacilla capensis
Mountain Wagtail Motacilla clara
African Pied Wagtail Motacilla aguimp
Yellow-throated Longclaw Macronyx croceus
African Pipit Anthus cinnamomeus
Plain-backed Pipit Anthus leucophrys
Striped Pipit Anthus lineiventris
Finches, Euphonias (Fringillidae)
Western Citril Crithagra frontalis
Papyrus Canary Crithagra koliensis
Yellow-fronted Canary Crithagra mozambica
Brimstone Canary Crithagra sulphurata
Thick-billed Seedeater Crithagra burtoni
Streaky Seedeater Crithagra striolata
Yellow-crowned Canary Serinus flavivertex
Buntings (Emberizidae)
Cinnamon-breasted Bunting Emberiza tahapisi
Golden-breasted Bunting Emberiza flaviventris
Brown-rumped Bunting Emberiza affinis
Species seen: 535
Species heard: 13
Total recorded: 548

 

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This is a sample trip report. Please email us ([email protected]) for more trip reports from this destination.

HEALTH AND SAFETY

Please read the Centers for Disease Control website’s section on Uganda (https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/uganda) very carefully, noting that anti-malarial drugs are needed and that a yellow fever vaccination certificate is needed to enter the country. Insect repellent and quick-drying long-sleeved shirts are a good idea, not only to help prevent mosquito bites but also to protect against other (simply pesky) insects such as biting flies.

Avoid travelers’ diarrhea by never drinking tap water or eating unpeeled fruit or salads. Unlimited bottled water is provided free of charge throughout the tour in the vehicles (we purchase this inexpensively at grocery stores; bottled water bought at restaurants is not covered).

In Uganda large animals such as elephants, hippos, lions, leopards, gorillas, chimpanzees, crocodiles, and others pose a risk and need to be treated with extreme respect. Small animals such as spiders, snakes, etc. can also, of course, pose a safety risk.

You’ll find the people of Uganda to be extremely friendly and helpful, but (like in most parts of the world) crime is possible (especially in the big cities). Always watch your valuables (although we certainly have never had any problems on any of our tours to Uganda).

Steep trails (see for example the part on gorilla trekking below) can also be a hazard.

 

GENERAL

Uganda, “the Pearl of Africa” is about the same size as the state of Oregon, yet boasts over 1000 bird species and Africa’s greatest concentration of primate species! This spectacular faunal diversity is partly explained by the dramatic variety of habitats that change constantly (and sometimes rapidly) as one drives across the country. This diversity of terrain and habitats also means that birders visiting Uganda need to be prepared for all kinds of different temperatures and weather patterns. At arrival in the hot and humid Entebbe airport one does not necessarily realize that a couple of days later one will likely be wearing fleeces high in the volcanic mountains straddling the border with Rwanda and the DRC; despite being equatorial, it can get cold in both Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (not usually quite as low as freezing point, though). It’s best to bring many layers; while quite often conditions will be unpleasantly hot and humid, at other times people get surprised how cold it is. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (especially its higher-altitude Ruhija section) and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park often leave people feeling markedly chilly.

The country of Uganda is full of water and has vast papyrus swamps (inhabited by an exciting variety of spectacular birds including Shoebill), shares a large part of Africa’s largest lake (Victoria) with its neighbors, and has some verdant forest thanks to the good amount of rain it receives. This also means that one has to be prepared for the possibility of rain, drizzle, and mist, although often this does not pose a major problem as we do run our set departure Uganda tours in the dry season, which covers the months from June to August. This is also when birds are in breeding plumage and singing and the intra-African migrants are present.

The “take-home” message is to bring layers, including waterproofs (which hopefully you won’t actually need, but which you certainly should carry, just in case, while gorilla trekking or on long birding walks). A nominal fee can be paid to porters for carrying gear during the longer birding walks and gorilla/chimp trekking. A waterproof day backpack is advised (whether you carry it or the porter does, during the birding and primate walks) – for waterproof layers, your water bottle, etc. Waterproof bags for placing cameras, cell phones, etc. into, in case that it does rain, are recommended.

Accommodation is by no means luxurious, and “load-shedding” is common – this is when the electricity supply is interrupted because of Uganda’s limited capacity for power generation. At other times electricity at some hotels will be from generators that are switched off at certain times (e.g. between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.). The guides will advise on the exact details/generator times during the tour. Rooms are not always heated and can actually get slightly chilly at night up in the mountains. At other times heat and humidity will of course be more of a problem.

Electricity in Uganda is 220 V and with UK-type plug sockets – full details are shown at https://www.power-plugs-sockets.com/uganda/ . Please do bring adapters (and in some cases a currency converter in order not to damage camera or other equipment, noting that voltage is twice that in North America).

The Ugandan Shilling (see https://www.xe.com/currency/ugx-ugandan-shilling for exchange rate, etc.) is the currency. You can draw this local currency using major credit cards (especially Visa and Mastercard) at ATMs (which can be found at the airport and in towns along the way – please do ask the guides a couple of days in advance when you need another ATM stop to replenish cash!). Major credit cards can be used for some purchases and to buy drinks and get laundry done at some hotels – but a supply of local cash is also essential, as some of the accommodations are remote and do not take cards (and neither do folks selling gifts and souvenirs along the route). US dollar cash is easily exchanged for local currency. Traveler’s checks are no longer used much, are extremely difficult to cash, and are not advised.

In terms of books, “The Birds of East Africa” field guide and the associated app (detailed in our African field guides blog) are highly recommended for Uganda.

 

PARTICULARS OF THE SHOEBILL AND ALBERTINE RIFT ENDEMICS TOUR

Most of the trip is not very strenuous. However, there are several walks that take at least half a day, sometimes the whole day. Gorilla trekking can take 2 to 14 hours, depending on where the gorilla family is on the day you do the trekking (it’s all about luck, or lack thereof!). The gorilla trekking is in a mountainous area, so expect to walk up and down a lot.  Most of the time one has to leave the trail completely to get to where the gorillas are. This can involve some serious “bush-bashing” through the undergrowth; proper hiking boots with good grip are essential. Snakes and forest elephants lurk in the area; this is wild Africa. So be prepared, with proper clothing. For those folks who have problems walking, if you’re willing to pay at very least double the price of the gorilla trekking, you can be carried on a stretcher to see these great apes! So, if money is less of an issue, even this day does not have to be strenuous as the porters will prepare a stretcher for you on the spot. Strictly one hour is spent with the gorillas after meeting up with them – this is to keep disturbance to a minimum.

Chimpanzee trekking is usually quite a lot easier, as it is over flatter terrain. Of course, it still can involve quite a walk through a humid forest.

Those opting out of the gorilla and chimp trekking can catch up on rest and “regroup” at the lodge or will be taken birding if preferred.

The birding hike down to Mubwindi Swamp is one of the most exciting birding walks of the entire trip, as one often sees a constant stream (kept up through much of the day) of Albertine Rift endemics, the top one being African Green Broadbill, which is unfortunately right at the bottom around the swamp. One spends the whole morning slowly walking down; some people then struggle, as the entire afternoon is spent walking back – a long uphill for several hours! Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (near the start of the trip) is also strenuous but involves walking uphill first, then downhill later. The extension is not particularly strenuous but a moderate level of fitness is ideal nevertheless for birding walks at the Royal Mile and other places.

Those folks who are unfit (or who prefer just to have more of a vacation) can certainly feel free to opt out of the strenuous activities. The lodges are pleasant places to spend the occasional day relaxing, and we have found that photographers sometimes get quite good bird pictures by staying behind at the accommodations while the others embark on long walks. Some folks also opt out of pre-breakfast birding or night owling if they want a less tiring trip. We have found that a mix of hardcore birders and relaxed birding spouses have thoroughly enjoyed this trip to Uganda in the past since it is, on most days (except when driving between sites), easy to opt out of activities (for the less hardcore folks) and to enjoy “off” time around the hotels.

There are some boat trips on this tour. The trip to look for Shoebill at the Mabamba Swamp is in small dugout canoes (due to limited space in each “mokoro”, the group splits up into different canoes, which, however, stick close together as they travel out onto the water to seek Shoebill). Other wildlife-viewing boat trips such as on the Nile at Murchison Falls are on larger boats with cabins.

Sun protection (sunglasses, sunblock, hats/caps) are essential on the boat trips and on some of the walks.

A change of shoes is always good in case your boots get soaked from rain or walking through damp areas – a pair of lighter walking shoes is good to have along on the trip as a backup and for shorter walks. A third pair of shoes in the form of flip flops is nice to have for longer vehicle journeys and for relaxing around the lodges.

There might be swimming pools available, so swimwear can also be packed.

There are a few long drives during the tour that can take half a day or more between sites. Road work has been ongoing for several years in Uganda, so do be prepared to travel along the unpaved side of the road for many miles at times – this gets dusty.

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‘This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. The birding was intense but fun. There was a relaxed atmosphere despite the intense birding. My partner, a birding novice, loved the trip. We did the optional gorilla and chimp trekking – both well worth doing.’

Ira

‘An excellent tour with a great range of activity from easy roadside birding to a couple of good long day walks. I
enjoyed the whole thing and particularly like it when the accommodation lends itself to birding in the gardens.’

Rosemary

‘This was my first trip to Africa and my longest birding trip ever. The itinerary was excellent, the accommodations were
pleasant, and the guides were outstanding. Compared to other birding tours I’ve been on, this was orders of
magnitude better. Kudos to Dylan and William for the support they gave to a visually- and hearing-impaired birder!’

Rob

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