Monday, October 8, 2012

Day 26--Jinja to Kigali

We enjoyed our breakfast start not because of the average food served, but the view out of the dining room at a large river that ran behind the hotel.  As we were leaving we were able to get some pictures of a piapiac which we had also seen late the day before as we arrived (click on any photo to enlarge).

We drove less than an hour to Mabira forest not far from Kampala to see what new species might be around now that we were in Uganda.  It was overcast initially, and a few birds were either only singing, or quickly flying thru the small opening along a dirt road.  We heard blue-breasted kingfisher calling, but never could locate it in the foliage.  We did see both yellow-throated and speckled tinkerbirds while trying to find the kingfisher.

The sun came out about 9 AM, and it was like a faucet had been turned on.  Suddenly there were birds everywhere high up in the canopy above the road.  We quickly had warbler neck from trying to identify all of them.  We were particularly excited about the 3 red-headed malimbes, and the small group of forest woodhoopoes.  Other new trip birds included dusky long-tailed cuckoo; honeyguide, red-tailed and white-throated greenbuls; white-winged scrub-warbler; yellow-browed camaroptera; green crombec; yellow and gray longbill; blue-shouldered robin-chat; black and white shrike-flycatcher; black-headed paradise flycatcher; gray-headed and blue-throated sunbirds; and sooty boubou.  As we were birding, 2 young boys came up the road and stopped to watch us.  I let them look thru my binos.

We ripped ourselves away from this forest birding frenzy about 10:30 because we still had to drive some distance to meet a local guide, Patrick, who would take us out in a boat to find the shoebill.  While John and Brian sorted out paying the guide fee that had been raised from $20 to $45, we birded.  A lovely Weyn's weaver was feeding on berries (click on any photo to enlarge). 

We all climbed into our boat, and headed down a channel in the marsh.  We immediately saw some swamp flycatchers,  and a bit further out we flushed a lesser jacana--both new trip birds.  Soon after we spotted a shoebill--a member of the stork family (photo taken by Bob).  We wanted to get as close as possible for photos, so at one point Patrick and the boat man stripped down to their skivvies and jumped into the water to be able to pull the boat thru a very shallow and narrow point. 

After several minutes of enjoying viewing this rare and unique bird, we turned around and began to retrace our route.  At one point we went in another direction to see what else we might find, but then the motor died.  It took a few minutes to get it going, but it soon conked out again.  We did get a good view of a long-toed lapwing (photo taken by Bob), but since the heavy clouds did not look so good, and we had to make sure we did not miss our plane to Kigali, Rwanda, Bob and the boat man picked up the paddles and got us back to shore.  We found out later that this was the first time Brian had ever looked for the shoebill in a boat with a motor, so paddling in was normal for him.

We stopped nearby to look for orange weavers, but since breeding season was over, they had dispersed.  We did find slender-billed and yellow-mantled weavers (new trip birds) plus village and black-headed weavers, and a most obliging western banded snake-eagle--also a new trip bird.

On the way to the airport we did find 3 African pied hornbills that we needed to see in Uganda, and ended up having plenty of time to catch our plane.  At the airport we said good-by to John who had taken such good care of us for almost 3 weeks. We checked in 3 hours before the flight, had a very mediocre dinner in the airport cafe, and dozed while waiting for the plane.  We did do the bird list update to find that we had pushed well past 750 trip birds.  We finally took off for Kigali, and arrived there at midnight.  Our new driver, Isaac, and his colleague, Katherine, met us on the curb, and took us to our hotel.  We were in bed by 1:30, knowing that we would be getting up in just over 3 hours to make the drive to Akagera NP.  Stay tuned!

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