Saturday, 31 July 2010

Birding in Buhoma (3) & "the Neck", Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (Uganda)

Alex (local guide) & Byron in the forest
After our little forest-based lunch snack, we set off back to the main trail where we were immediately met by an extremely obliging Red-throated Alethe and even more obliging pair of White-tailed Ant-thrushes with their youngster. The latter were hawking and foraging from an exposed branch just inside the forest and giving us spectacular views - the photos were average as the birds didn't sit still for too long at a time but certainly one those "pleasurable" sightings. Shortly after this the Mountain Sooty Boubou and Red-tailed Ant-thrush followed suit.
White-tailed Ant-thrush (adult)

White-tailed Ant-thrush (juvenile)

At the "end" of our forward section of the day's walk we were looking for, and found, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher - an Albertine Rift Endemic. The Hairy-breasted Barbet was calling nearby but remained hidden as we slowly started wandering back to the lodge. A couple of bird parties within the space of about 50m produced a bonanza of note; 3x male and 2x female Purple-breasted Sunbirds (in the sun!), Montane Oriole, Grey Apalis, Slender-billed Greenbul and a little further a party of 4 White-headed Wood-hoopoes and at least 6 Grey-throated Barbets. Between us and the latter, the stunning Purple-headed Starling made an appearance, well, a few brief ones but enough to appreciate the iridescence.

Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo decided to grace us with another very quick flyover after calling whilst we were watching a Dusky Tit removing a faecal sac from its nest. Black Bee-eaters did not disappoint and were back at their perches like yesterday after which we got cracking views of Buff-throated Apalis again, Little Green Sunbird and Red-tailed Greenbul before we added an Elliot's Woodpecker (photo on right) to the list too.

Back at the lodge, Byron and I decided to do the little circular "waterfall" trail and see what we can find. This started with an African Goshawk and Dusky Blue Flycatcher (photo on left). Other species along the trail were Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Little and Cabani's Greenbuls, Baglafecht and Black-necked Weavers, Yellow-spotted Barbet (excellent views), 7 Black Saw-wings, Little Green Sunbird and Tambourine Dove. The walk ended at the lodge with extended views of another Albertine Rift Endemic, the Blue-headed Sunbird.

The next morning we wanted to leave early for the trip back to Rwanda so we could still do some birding at the Neck and the School Trail at Ruhija. As we were about to set off, African Grey Parrot flew over, what a send-off! getting to the Neck and the bridge there over the water we kicked off with a pair of Petit's Cuckoo-shrike, Cassin's Grey Flycatcher and Byron got the Mountain Wagtail at the river. Greenbuls were in full supply with Little, Little Grey, Yellow-whiskered and Red-tailed recorded. Our little stop here was way too short for the time it deserves but we had to push on. About halfway to Ruhija from here, a Doherty's Bush-shrike called from the roadside depths of vegetation but refused to show itself.

The stream long the circular "waterfall" walk we did
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Butterflies & other Insects of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (Uganda)

Of course one cannot ignore the host of other wildlife around whilst birding, especially the more prominent little "critters" like butterflies and dragonflies. During our birding in Buhoma, I managed to get a host of photographs of these "critters", some of which I've been able to add ID's too and others where experts have kindly contributed their knowledge with the ID's. I'll also post some of the photos where I've not confirmed an ID, so feel free to comment and/or e-mail with an ID.

To view the rest of the butterflies, visit my Flickr "Butterflies of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest" album.

First a dragonfly and a damselfly with ID's provided by "XKD" on my Flickr account;

(possibly) Orthetrum julia

Umma saphirina

A fairly commonly seen butterfly is the Blue Salamis Salamis temora but certainly not a boring butterfly to look at as a bit of sunshine brings out a lovely spectrum of iridescent blues.

The Dark Pansy Junonia stygia is another regularly seen species which highlights the intricacy of the patterns and designs on butterflies.

A stunning member of the Acraea genus is the Acraea peneleos with its transparent forewings often glinting in the sun like here.

Another Acraea posed beautifully on the shell of a Giant Land Snail - the Acraea uvui

This small deep blue butterfly with its elongated "tails" I think is one of the "Hairstreaks" of the Lycaenidae family.

A possible member of the Junonia/Precis genus also never failing to catch one's eye as it's usually the larger of the butterflies in a 'gathering'.


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Friday, 30 July 2010

Birding in Buhoma, (2) Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (Uganda)

African Dusky Flycatcher



The afternoon at the lodge was not wasted with stacks of species coming through and/or flitting about here and at the adjacent UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority) offices. Olive-bellied and Northern Double-collared Sunbirds seemed frantic in their search for nectar whilst the Bronze Mannikins, Bronze Sunbirds, Vieillot's, Baglafecht and Black-billed Weavers were all working on their nests. Brown-capped Weaver was rather active but there were no obvious indications of nesting.


Luhder's and Bocage's Bush-shrikes were calling constantly in competition with the Black Cuckoo (later sightings confirmed it as the gabonensis race) and Speckled Tinkerbird. Around the UWA offices the Blue-spotted Wood Dove (photo on right), African Dusky (photo above) and White-tailed Blue Flycatchers were posing for photos. Red-capped Robin-chat made a brief appearance but refused to pose long enough for a 'good' photo. The lunchtime line-up was completed by Cape Wagtail, Cabani's and Cameroon Sombre Greenbuls, Black-necked Weaver, Yellow White-eye, Tambourine Dove and Thick-billed Seedeater.


The afternoon walk (all along the same trail as in the morning) kicked off with a proverbial heavy-weight in the form a very obliging Bar-tailed Trogon, (photo below) even allowing for photographs and more time for other birders to join in the great views. This was only beaten by yet another Bar-tailed Trogon 10 minutes later perching along the trail!


Our sightings of cuckoos weren't over, however brief, as an Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo flew over our heads (was this the one that flew over the cuckoo's nest??) after much and constant calling, as they do! It only got better with an Olive Sunbird appearing and a great view of a nesting Red-tailed Greenbul followed by Narrow-tailed and Waller's Starlings, Yellow-throated Tinkerbird, Grey-throated Barbets and White-headed Wood-hoopoes - the latter 2 species in close proximity to each other. The Black-billed Turaco was calling from some trees but seemed adamant that it would remain hidden from Byron.


Bar-tailed Trogon


African Shrike Flycatcher was a welcome addition to our lists with an African Broadbill displaying, ending the walk on a very high note. Relaxing stroll uphill to the showers before dinner was interrupted by a cracking view of Ross' Turaco - never a dull bird at the best of times!


The next morning kicked off with pretty much the shed load of species mentioned before, around the lodge. We did add some of the more "common" species to the list like Grey-capped Warbler, Red-billed Firefinches with young and Black-crowned Waxbills. Early morning bonus was the Bocage's Bush-shrike that was out and about with a juvenile and only bettered (relatively speaking of course) by a fantastic view of an African Wood Owl at the Buhoma Homestead (thanks to the lodge staff for kindly allowing us to go and see & photograph it).


African Wood Owl


Entering the forest on our now 'known' trail, was like running into nature's own peak hour traffic with L'Hoest's Monkeys all over the place, another brilliant sighting of Black-fronted Duiker and Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo calling. We heard at least 3 African Broadbills displaying (sightings eluded us today) and then a Buff-throated Apalis provided an eyeful after which the huge, slightly ungainly but great Great Blue Turacos, 5 of them, made an entrance. Red-tailed Monkeys and Red-legged Sun Squirrels added to the mammal activities.


During this all, Dusky Tits and a pair of Petit's Cuckoo-shrikes showed well and a Black-throated Apalis added itself to the warblers list which was built on again with better views of Black-throated Rufous Warbler and Red-faced Woodland Warbler. Not to be outdone, Equatorial Akalat and Mountain Illadopsis showed up but a calling Scaly-breasted Illadopsis pointedly refused to make itself visible to us mere humans.


The award for the show of the day goes to the magnificent Purple-breasted Sunbirds feeding in the sun, highlighting their spectacular array of colours. Nobly trying to compete were the Green-throated, Collared and Olive-bellied Sunbirds with another pair of Petit's Cuckoo-shrikes watching from a distance. An Olive-green Camaroptera started calling and obligingly showed itself although not long enough at a time for photos. Black & White Colobus monkeys were calling deeper inside the forest.


After a Red-throated Alethe and a Yellow-backed Duiker made sure we had good views, we set ourselves down for a lunch snack.


Yellow-backed Duiker


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

White-breasted Nigrita

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

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

Red-tailed Monkey
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