Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Adventure in Uganda, it starts in Entebbe

On the evening of Feb. 16th, 2011, Gary Lyon, Tom Choate, and myself arrived in Entebbe Airport from Amsterdam. Since it was dark I was very anxious for morning to come so I could see what the place looked like. I was especially excited to see the birds of Uganda.
It was mostly a sleepless night but I dropped off to sleep towards dawn. When I did wake up I could hear vigorous bird song outside our hotel. I stepped out onto the balcony of my room and shot the above photo.
There were birds flitting in the trees below but it was hard to get decent views of them in the thick foliage.
     Uganda is a small country in the middle of the African continent. It is right on the Equator, wedged between Sudan to the north, Kenya to the east, Tanzania to the south, and the DRC to the west. It is densely populated, 34+ million people, most of them living in small, rural villages that lack electricity and running water. There are relatively few paved roads in the country. The people we encountered were universally friendly and helpful.
The highest mountain range in Africa, the Rwenzoris, border western Uganda. The Nile River starts in Lake Victoria, (Africa's largest lake), in Uganda. There are comparatively few tourists in Uganda, and most of them come to Uganda to see Mountain Gorillas. There are many species of primates in the country. We saw 11 species on our month long trip. Uganda has amoung the highest bird diversity in the world with a good mix of East African, and West African birds.
Before I go to a new country I spend months studying the birds that occur there. Some of those birds really stand out for one reason or another and I hope to see them most of all. One bird that I missed seeing in South Africa last year was the stunning, Scarlet-chested Sunbird. From my hotel balcony it was the first bird I could see well enough to identify. We ended up seeing many of them in various parts of Uganda.
Hammerkops were abundant near water everywhere we went. This individual was on the roof of the giftshop in the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre in Entebbe where we spent several nights.
Ring-necked Doves are everywhere.
There were many Broad-billed Rollers around Entebbe. The photo does not adequately depict it's striking pattern, especially when it flies.
Viellot's Black Weaver is an unusual example of the many weaver species that we saw. It looks like a North American grackle or blackbird although there is no relation.
Crowned Hornbill is one of nine species of hornbill that we saw. These guys were very shy when I first saw them in South Africa, but much more approachable in Uganda. Hornbills look especially pre-historic to me.
A large and common hornbill was the Black and White Casqued Hornbill.
Another of my target birds was the very exotic Ross' Turaco. They were easily seen at the Wildlife Education centre. This bird was in a tree right next to our banda,(hut).
Years ago I was fascinated by a documentary about an expedition into the most remote region of the Congo. The wildlife film makers got great footage of many strange and beautiful jungle creatures. The thing that impressed me the most was the wonderful, Great Blue Turaco. How I longed to go on an expedition someday to see the Great Blue Turaco. I first saw them in the park across the street from the Wildlife Centre. So much for a trek into the unknown wilds of West Africa. They turned out to be very common. The bird above was in a tree above the road. More about them later.
Another target bird that I missed in South Africa, but saw on this trip. The elegant, Lizard Buzzard.
Not a new bird, but a welcome sight, Collared Sunbird. There is more to come on Entebbe's birdlife soon. Also I need to mention that because of the altitude, about 1500 meters or more, Uganda was warm, but not hot. The exception being our last stop, Murchison Falls National Park.

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