Uganda, January, 2005 Jan 20—Feb 08, 2005
Posted by Adam Riley
By all accounts, our recent tour through the east African country of Uganda was a fantastic experience. From cruising on the Nile River searching through a myriad of wildlife for one of Uganda?s star birds, the Shoebill, driving through dusty rural villages with local shepherds tending their herds of bizarre Ankole cattle, spotlighting at night in hopes of encountering nocturnal African predators, and trekking through the rainforests of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park following the steep trails of endangered Mountain Gorillas, it was truly unforgettable. In all, we found almost 600 species of birds and a wealth of other wildlife in this, one of Africa?s most biologically diverse countries.
We began by heading north through the sprawling capital city of Kampala where Marabou Storks and Hooded Vultures lined the rooftops through a crowd of hustled noises and a haze of vehicle exhaust and burning piles of litter. Rumor has it that there were no storks or vultures within the cities until the corrupt and despicable acts of General Idi Amin, former head of Uganda, who slaughtered literally hundreds of thousands of innocent lives during his time in power, and turned much of the country to ruin. Luckily, the political situation in Uganda has significantly stabilized under the remarkable leadership of Museveni using a clever strategy of benevolent dictatorship. We continued through dry savannah to the town of Masindi where we enjoyed an afternoon birding along a dirt road and airstrip which hosted a plethora of Palaearctic migrants such as the Eurasian Wryneck, Isabelline Wheatear, and Upcher?s Warbler.
The following day we spent exploring the riches of Budongo, a large isolated forest patch with a well-known section often referred to as “The Royal Mile” where the trees tower above the pathway and the screams of Chimpanzees can be heard echoing through the forest. The morning was alive with song as we optically peeled back layer by layer of vegetation to uncover an impressive selection of Central African bird species, some of which, in cases such as the bold Ituri Batis and diminutive Uganda Woodland Warbler, have geographic distributions that are otherwise virtually restricted to inaccessible taboo regions of the Congo Basin! Kingfishers were particularly obliging and we obtained scope views of four different species including the secretive canopy dwelling Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, found many days later during a return to Budongo after extensive searching. Besides four species of monkeys throughout the day, we were extremely pleased to find the first of two great apes possible during our tour. After a relaxing picnic lunch we were delighted to observe a large assemblage of over 40 Chimpanzees as they watchfully crossed the path. The sentinel male kept careful watch as we approached closer to the apes who were gradually crossing one by one and climbing back into the trees. It was remarkable to observe the subtle behavioral details of these primates such as the care the mothers gave to their babies and how the younger individuals would playfully interact.
(See the 2005 Uganda bird list for David’s full report!)