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SHOEBILLS & GORILLAS OF UGANDA

Thursday 19th July - Sunday 29th July 2018

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 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, a huge colony of 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 a close encounter with Chimpanzees and obtained marvellous views of a Green-breasted Pitta and were privileged to be able to follow it through the forest as it foraged just metres ahead of us. The Bigodi Wetland walk produced fantastic views of pairs of 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 to see Common Buttonquail, Black Coucal, glorious Red-throated Bee-eaters and some impressive Giant Forest Hogs whilst the boat trip along the Kazinga Channel that produced a large flock of African Skimmers 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 fledged youngster. These steep hills and beautiful forests also held a whole host of Albertine Rift endemic specialties that included the gorgeous Doherty’s Bushshrike, Regal and Purple-breasted Sunbirds as well as Handsome Francolin, Dwarf Honeyguide, Ruwenzori Batis, Stripe-breasted Tit, 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, 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 Black-billed Turaco, Montane (Ruwenzori) Nightjar, Elliot’s Woodpecker, Lagden’s Bushshrike (heard only), Mountain Sooty Boubou (heard only), Mountain Oriole, Kakamega, Olive-breasted, Joyful, Toro Olive and White-throated (heard only) Greenbuls, White-browed Crombec, Mountain Yellow Warbler, White-winged Swamp Warbler, Trilling, Chubb’s and Carruthers’s Cisticolas, Black-faced Prinia, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Scaly-breasted and Mountain Illadopsises, Black-lored Babbler, Ruwenzori Hill Babbler, Grey-chested Babbler, Stuhlmann’s Starling, Oberländer’s Ground Thrush (heard only), Chapin’s Flycatcher, White-bellied, Grey-winged and Blue-shouldered Robin-Chats, Equatorial Akalat, Grey-headed Sunbird, Red-chested Sunbird, Red-headed Bluebill, Dusky Twinspot, Kandt’s Waxbill and Western Citril.

Papyrus Gonolek (Nik Borrow)

Papyrus Gonolek (Nik Borrow)