Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Thursday, March 31, 2011

More From Mburo

Lake Mburo National Park is the only place in Uganda where we saw Impalas. Only the males have horns. The are the definition of graceful when they run and leap.
Just one of many species of swallows that are widespread in Africa. These Lesser Striped Swallows are more confiding around humans than most swallows.
The male Village, (Black-headed) Weavers build nests by weaving grass together to form a tight ball. They usually build several nests in the hopes that a female will choose one and become his mate.
There are many species of weaver and many regional variations of the Village Weaver. The form that occurs in Uganda is particularly attractive.
These Water Thick-knees were on the shore of Lake Mburo itself. They are large, nocturnal shorebirds. We took a boat along the shores of the lake to get views of wildlife that otherwise would be hard to see, or approach closely.
Somehow this Nile crocadile managed to climb onto a limb overhanging the water.
One of these Hippos made a half-hearted charge at our boat. Luckily the boat was fast and manueverable so we easily avoided it.
Malachite Kingfishers are tiny and particularly beautiful. Even this photo does'nt do it justice. I was nevertheless happy to get the photo.
For me the best part of Lake Mburo National Park were two rare bird species. One was the hard to find African Finfoot.  We saw several on Lake Mburo.
The other rare bird was the even harder to find White-backed Night Heron. They are incredibly shy. We saw a pair of them hiding deep in the shadows beside a narrow channel. As we entered the channel a huge crocadile swam alongside our boat just beneath the water's surface and finally dived underneath the boat. What I worried about was meeting an angry hippo in the tight channel. 
Wattled Lapwings, (plovers) are shorebirds that are often found away from shorelines.
This bird is not rare, but it is outside it's natural range. We were surprised to find a Red-faced Barbet in Mburo.
Our visit to Lake Mburo NP ended on a bit of a sour note when we saw many hundreds of Ankore Cattle grazing inside the national park. Not only is there the problem of disease being passed back and forth between wild animals and domestic cattle, but herdsmen do not tolerate the presense of large predators. That helps explain why we saw none in Mburo.
I realize that the Ugandan Government should consider the needs of local people, and respect traditional grazing rights, but I dont like paying such high prices to visit compromised park lands. It was still well worth the money.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mpanga Forest and Lake Mburo National Park

After we left Entebbe we headed to the southwest and stopped overnight at the small, Mpanga Forest Reserve. The place did'nt have much wildlife but it had extremely wide, well maintained trails. Gary peers up at the large trees while standing on the main trail.
A beautiful Lizard Buzzard. The term buzzard is often used to describe vultures in North America but it is properly applied to 'buteo'-type hawks.
There were good numbers of hornbills in Mpanga Forest, but there are lots of hornbills just about everywhere in that part of Uganda. The bird above is an African Pied Hornbill.
This spider seems to have a face with a moustache on it's back.
When you can't find a bird to photograph, you turn your attention to butterflies.
Tom, (right) and Gary, (left) search out the birdlife in the scrub habitat in Lake Mburo NP. We got lectured for walking along the road without an armed guide. We would have been hanged for that offense in Kruger NP in South Africa.
Topi is an antelope species that is related to the Hartebeest clan. The pile to the left is a termite mound.
Lake Mburo is the only place where we saw Zebras.  National parks in Uganda have been ravaged by war and poaching in past years. Now they suffer from being woefully underfunded. Poaching is still a major problem in some areas as well. That is one reason that there is not a full compliment of species in any of the national parks.
Red-necked Spurfowl and other francolins were far less prevalent in Uganda than in South Africa, but I should quit comparing the two countries.
Striped Kingfisher is a new species that we picked up in Mburo. It is a relative of the Woodland Kingfisher and also does not fish.
We also first saw Olive Baboons in Lake Mburo.
They were not at all shy, and did'nt hesitate to make use of our rental car.
A Black Kite rummages through trash like the Ravens do around my part of the world.
A Dung Beetle doing it's thing.
Stay tuned because the best is yet to come from Lake Mburo.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mabamba Swamp

There is one bird species that is the main target of virtually every birder that comes to Uganda. It is a very uncommon, and unique bird that basically can be seen nowhere else. Mabamba Swamp, about 40 km out of Entebbe is the most reliable and accessible place to see it. Local entreprenuers have taken note of that fact and set up a small industry that caters to visiting birders.
They see you coming down the bumpy dirt road leading to the swamp, and race ahead of you on their motorcycles. At the end of the road is a small collection of rickety wooden boats. The several competing guides eagerly try to win you over by bragging about their expertise as bird guides. I believe they have a set, (reasonable) price and I imagine that any one of them would be an excellent guide. You actually get two guides for your money, one to talk, the other to paddle the boat.
I'll get to THE BIRD later but first you have to read about some of the more common denizens of Mabamba Swamp, like the African Jacanas trotting atop the lily pads in the above photo.
A Squacco Heron also forages amoung the lillies.
Another view of a Squacco.
A bird that I first saw in Cambodia, where it is quite rare, Purple Heron. Bigger than a Squacco, but smaller than the Black-headed, and Grey Herons that share the same habitat.
The Purple Heron, closer to our boat.
A new bird for me, Black Crake. It is less shy than other rails and crakes.
Another new one, Long-toed Lapwing, (plover).
Here it is, the Shoebill. It looks like a cartoon version of a heron to me. Shoebills are like California Condors in that they are scarce, long-lived and slow to breed. They specialize in eating mainly lungfish. They are quite large. I got to witness one of them catching and eating a fish. It took several tries to get the fish down it's throat.
This bird is worth a second look. This is a male.
The common bee-eaters around the swamp were Blue-breasted Bee-eaters. They really only have a small dark patch below their throat that looks bluish in certain light conditions.
After we disembarked our guide showed us some local land birds like this African Pied Wagtail on a termite mound. One very odd behavior we noticed on our trip was that wherever we parked our silver colored rental car, a Pied Wagtail would land on out roof almost immediately. This happened virtually everywhere. We never saw them on top of other vehicles.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Entebbe and the Kingfisher Tree

Entebbe lies on the shore of Lake Victoria.  The lakeshore is very much like being on the beach. The town itself is very green with many large trees and many, many birds. There are also Vervet Monkeys, and Black and White Colobus Monkeys around town.
Aquatic birds abound along the lakeshore. Above are a pair of Spur-winged Plovers and Black-winged Stilts.
Little Egret
Yellow-billed Ducks

African Fish Eagles patrol the lakeshore.
Walking along the shore we came to this tree growing out over the water. We counted more than 50 Pied Kingfishers perched in that tree. Most were resting deep in the foliage.There were several species of weavers nesting in the same tree.
Pied Kingfishers hover above the water before they strike, like most kingfishers.
Orange Weavers were nesting in the kingfisher tree. I did not see Orange Weavers anywhere else on the trip.
Woodland Kingfishers do not associate with water. They are forest dwellers that do not eat fish.
African Firefinch
Common Bulbuls were so common they almost clogged up our binoculars so we could'nt see the other bird species.
An odd little bird, Black and White Shrike Flycatcher. This is the female. Next we will visit the destination of many birders, Mabamba Swamp.