Sunday, October 7, 2012

Day 25--Kakamega to Jinja

We awoke to an overcast morning still pumped up over the huge number of new species we had seen the day before. We birded the lodge grounds a bit before heading in to have a breakfast similar to yesterday.  One of the birds we saw was the northern black flycatcher (click on any photo to enlarge). Our accommodations and food at the Rondo Retreat ranked in the top 5 of the trip, so we reluctantly waved good-by to our cottage and started our drive to the Uganda border.

We would stop occasionally at promising spots along the highway that Brian thought might have some new birds for us.  We found our first yellow-throated greenbuls, and a pair of Senegal coucals who obligingly sat up for us, and red-chested sunbird (photo taken by Bob).

Brian found a place that was a mixture of cultivated fields, pastures and wetlands.  We spent about 2 hours traipsing thru the area.  Fortunately, it was mostly overcast because it was fairly warm and if the sun had been out it would have been very hot.  We found several more new trip birds including a pair of northern brown-throated weavers (photo just above); an unexpected orange tufted sunbird; a hoped for blue-breasted bee-eater; a short-toed snake-eagle; a fly over red-headed lovebird; yellow-shouldered and marsh widowbirds; bar-breasted firefinch; and western citril (photo just below taken by Bob).

We would occasionally see villagers working in the cultivated fields, and pass by some of the traditional huts.

Near the end of our walk we found a black bishop as well.

Our next stop was the border crossing which provided a bit of drama.  After dealing with our passport paperwork, John, our driver, was told by the local "expediter" that in the last 90 days Uganda had changed its car insurance laws.  In the past tour groups could buy a 1 month policy, but now the country was requiring that tour operators buy a full year policy.  Instead of being a minor expense, it was going to cost $400 for us to cross into Uganda.  This meant having to talk with the "main office back in Nairobi" which delayed us for a bit until it could be sorted out.  The fee was finally paid, and now our specific landcruiser was insured for a year which meant they would need to make some more tour trips into Uganda to defray the cost of our entry.

We proceeded towards Jinja where we would be spending the night.  Along the way we found 2 more good places to bird in what had turned into a beautiful afternoon weatherwise.  New trip birds included purple swamphen; compact, veillot's, parasitic and black-headed weavers; splendid starling; red-headed quelea; black-crowned waxbill; greater swamp warbler; and eastern plantain eater.

We arrived in Jinja a bit before dusk, and John had to find our hotel which led to a bit of wandering around.  Once it was located, we had to walk thru a security portal to get to the reception desk.  After dropping off our bags in our rooms, we gathered for dinner and all concluded that the hotel was "past its prime".  We sat down alone to eat, but soon after a large group of raucous English kids swooped in to have dinner and wrap up their visit to Uganda.  The restaurant in the hotel had chinese food on its menu, so I had a very nice lo mein dish as a change of pace.  We updated the bird trip list, adding another 25+ birds to it. Tomorrow's main bird target would be the unique and very rare shoebill.  Stay tuned!

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