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SHOEBILLS & GORILLAS OF UGANDA

Wednesday 19th July - Saturday 29th July 2017

Nik Borrow

Shoebill (Nik Borrow)

Shoebill (Nik Borrow)

Uganda is famously quoted as being the ‘Pearl of Africa’ and although neither Henry Morton Stanley nor Winston Churchill had birders and ecotourists in mind when they awarded the country this title, it is most certainly an appropriate one! Uganda is surely an essential destination for any world-travelling birdwatcher as it is home to the incredible Shoebill, a good number of Albertine Rift endemics and is also an excellent place to see a few otherwise difficult western African forest species. A visit to this friendly and welcoming country also offers a great mammal-watching experience and primates in particular with 13 species seen on this tour with Eastern Gorilla and Chimpanzee obviously at the top of the list! It is not often that the mammals get a mention before the birds, but on this occasion it is apt, as our encounters with the incredible Eastern Gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park were truly unforgettable! The incomparable Shoebill was a worthy rival and fortunately surrendered to our collective gaze on day one when we were also lucky to find Lesser Jacana, the often-elusive Weyns’s Weaver and several ‘wintering’ Blue Swallows nearby. Brightly coloured Papyrus Gonoleks allowed amazing views in a swamp en route to Kibale National Park where we enjoyed marvellous views of a pair of Green-breasted Pitta and were privileged to be able to follow them through the forest as they foraged just metres ahead of us. Our ‘pitta trek’ then turned into a ‘chimp trek’ and we soon came face to face with a troop of these great apes that allowed themselves to be studied at unbelievably close quarters. A super little Red-chested Owlet hooting in the trees above us followed by an unusually confiding Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat in the undergrowth topped the morning. The Bigodi Wetland walk produced brief looks at two White-collared Olivebacks for some but everyone saw White-spotted Flufftail and Speckle-breasted Woodpecker. Our stay in Queen Elizabeth National Park was most enjoyable although the recent drought meant that conditions were incredibly dry. Despite the dust we managed good looks at African Crake; a breeding plumaged male Pennant-winged Nightjar was dressed to impress and the boat trip along the Kazinga Channel was most definitely a trip highlight. In the wonderfully named Bwindi Impenetrable Forest we spent a magical hour with a family of Eastern Gorillas and scored enormously with excellent views of a pair of the little-known and decidedly rare Grauer’s (or African Green) Broadbill feeding their almost fledged youngsters in the nest. There was also a whole host of Albertine Rift endemic species that included gorgeous Doherty’s Bushshrikes and Regal and Purple-breasted Sunbirds as well as Handsome Francolin, Ruwenzori Batis, Stripe-breasted Tit, Neumann’s Warbler, Grauer’s Warbler, Grauer’s Swamp Warbler, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Ruwenzori Apalis, Mountain Masked Apalis, Red-throated Alethe, Archer’s Ground Robin, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Willard’s Sooty Boubou, Lagden’s Bushshrike (heard only), Blue-headed Sunbird, Jameson’s Antpecker, Dusky Crimsonwing and Strange Weaver. We finished our African adventure with a splendid flock of Brown-chested Lapwings near Lake Mburo. Amongst the many other mouth-watering specialities that we encountered were Mountain Buzzard, Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle, Black-billed Turaco, Ruwenzori Nightjar, Scarce Swift, Elliot’s Woodpecker, Montane and Lowland Sooty Boubous, Mountain Oriole, Kakamega, Olive-breasted, Joyful, White-throated and Yellow-streaked Greenbuls, White-browed Crombec, White-winged Swamp Warbler, Trilling, Chubb’s and Carruthers’s Cisticolas, Black-faced Prinia, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Grey-capped Warbler, Scaly-breasted and Mountain Illadopsises, Black-lored Babbler, Ruwenzori Hill Babbler, Stuhlmann’s Starling, Oberländer’s Ground Thrush (heard only), Chapin’s Flycatcher, White-bellied and Grey-winged Robin-Chats, Equatorial Akalat, Red-chested Sunbird, Golden-backed Weaver, Red-headed Bluebill (heard only) and Western Citril.

Eastern Gorilla (Nik Borrow)

Eastern Gorilla (Nik Borrow)