Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Day 30--Nyungwe Forest

We were up and out quickly because we still had to drive some distance to get to the edge of the Nyungwe Forest.  As we neared the forest entrance, we stopped at a wetland and got our first new trip bird for the day--Grauer's rush warbler.  Our second was a Handsome francolin that moved so quickly into the foliage that no photos were obtained. Soon after we saw our first regal sunbird (photo taken by Bob--click on any photo to enlarge).

By 9:30 we had stopped at the office to pay for our entrance pass.  There was a large tea plantation surrounding the office, and many women were walking by to begin picking the tea leaves.  We would spend the rest of our day working our way from east to west on the single road that passed thru the forest.  The road was generally in very good condition because the Chinese contractors, who seem to build most of the roads now in E. Africa, were making improvements.  We would pass several African work crews throughout the day.

One reason to visit the Nyungwe Forest is because of the endemics there, many of which are named for the Rwenzori mountains that are part of the Albertine Rift in Rwanda. As an example, in the photo just above taken by Bob you can see a Rwenzori apalis.  In Kenya we had seen its look alike cousin, the black-collared apalis. We also picked up the white-bellied robin-chat in the morning (photo taken by Bob).

The find of the day was a group of red-collared mountain babblers (photo just below taken by Bob).  Brian told us that he had missed this species on his last trip to the forest.

We stopped to check out a group of L'Hoest's monkeys that were crossing the road, and also found a Rwenzori turaco (photo taken by Bob)).

Our routine would be to stop at good habitat spots, and walk along the roadway.  This was generally productive in finding more birds, but also at times harrowing when medium size buses would come flying by us.  Isaac would wait with the landcruiser, often trying to get cell service including standing on top of the truck to do so.

As the day went along, we kept finding new trip birds such as white-tailed blue-flycatcher; barred long-tailed cuckoo; Grauer's, and red-faced mountain warblers; Archer's robin-chat; mountain masked apalis; mountain iladopsis; many-colored bushshrike; dusky crimson-wing; and mountain sooty and Willard's boubous--the latter being a newly accepted species.  We also found Rwenzori batis (photo taken by Bob).

Later in the afternoon, we walked a narrow gravel side road, and turned up more birds including our first purple-breasted sunbird, a calling red-chested flufftail that was a total surprise given the location, scarce swift, and fleeting glimpses of black-billed turaco.  I was able to get a photo in the waning light of 2 great blue turacos.

As the sun began to set we pulled into the ORTPN resthouse--a very modest place on the west side of the forest where we would spend the night.  Dinner was some kind of pureed vegetable soup, talapia, roast potatoes and rice with a sauce. We updated the trip bird list, adding 23 new birds which took us past 800 different species seen and/or heard.  What a mindboggling number given that we had only been birding for 30 days, and one day was really all about gorillas.  Stay tuned!

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