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Uganda: Birds (and Mammals) Aplenty

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dlo

Looking forward to that and yeah were told to do Mabamba as well. Met someone else in Kibale and they had amazing pictures from there.

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adamt123

As always, many thanks @xelas (and d500 is working great!) :)

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MMMim

dlo - we were in Mabamba on Sept 29 and we unfortunately did not see the shoebill.  We were up and down the channels for several hours, but to no avail.  We did see many other fantastic birds (well, they were to me).  I have since learned that you have to be in the wetlands really early to see them and there are only 9-12 in the entire area, and it is a very big area.  I think our guide, a fantastic birder, did not quite understand that the shoebill was our main target, and that once we had seen that, everything else was just a bonus.  I think we should have been clearer with him.  He stopped for absolutely everything on the way to the wetlands - every bird was a valuable sighting in his eyes - and so we did arrive at Mabamba later in the morning (maybe about 9).  It was too late.  Good luck!

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BRACQUENE

@adamt123

The more I read your excellent report and see the variety of mammals and birds not found in other countries , the more I am tempted to visit Uganda ; carry on !

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adamt123

Many thanks @BRACQUENE. I am certain your Zambia trip will be great too!

 

@MMMim sorry to hear you didn't see the shoebill at Mabamba. One experience can vary so much to the next; the first photo I took of our shoebill is timestamped 08.49 -  luck can be a difficult mistress 

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adamt123

@xelas I almost forgot to say - hope you have a fabulous trip!

 

You are definitely right about memory cards - we stopped in Masindi on the way back from Murchison Falls to Ziwa because I only had about 50 shutters left on my card, but was a Sunday we couldn't find a single memory card in the city. Luckily, I had a micro sd adapter so I took out my phone's micro sd and used that!

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adamt123

Sunrise over the Nile

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The next morning, we headed again into the game viewing area north of the Nile. It was relatively sunny (for once!) and this time we collected a young female guide who was in-training. She was polite and had a good eye. Initial animals included Nubian Giraffe, Lelwel Hartebeest and an excellent number of Uganda Kob – truly a handsome antelope. Of note were two specimens; the first was male which a horn missing; the guide explained that this is was almost certainly from a snare :( . The second was a silvery female, which was apparently a reedbuck (I might be wrong, but I don’t think it is). Many of yesterday’s animals also showed well today, including Cape Buffalo, Warthog and Black-bellied Bustard. We also had excellent views of some new birds - Spotted Palm-thrush, Yellow-Throated Long-claw and Little Bee-eater.

 

Giraffe

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Kob

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Silvery one

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Black-bellied Bustard

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Spotted Palm-thrush

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little Little Bee-Eater

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There more vehicles out this morning and there were reports of some lions further down the road, but we didn’t rush to them (Kenya had produced many lions). Murchison Falls is a birder’s paradise; the list of species goes on and on: Grey-headed Kingfisher, Black-billed Wood-dove, Heuglin’s Francolin, Black-billed Barbet, Grey Kestrel, Rattling Cisticola, African Palm Swift, Vinaceous Dove, Northern Red Bishops, Scarlet Chested Sunbird, Spur-Winged Lapwing, Black Headed-Lapwing, African Fish Eagle, and of course, plenty more Northern Carmine Bee-eaters and Piapiacs, by far the two most common birds we saw.

 

Black-billed Wood-dove

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Heuglin's Francolin

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Black Billed Barbet

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Grey Kestrel

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Bishop

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Northern Carmines

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Piapiac

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We stopped for a short while on the banks of the Nile, towards the Delta were the shoebill tours go, but unsurprisingly the elusive bird was nowhere to be seen. The stop did produce many Cattle Egret, Senegal Coucal, Squacco Heron, Spur-Winged Goose, Black-Winged Kite, Tawny Eagle, Denham’s Bustard in flight and the sole Pink-Backed Pelican of the trip. Turning back towards Paraa, we did manage to spot a Lioness. There were maybe two or three of them, but only one showed – at least she was fairly close to the road. There were 4 other cars at the sighting including (unfortunately) some hooligans.

 

Senegal Coucal

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Tawny Eagle

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Denham's Bustard

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Lion

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"the ugly sisters" (no offence intended - buffalos are magnificent)

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Continuing further down, we saw Black-Rumped Waxbill, an immature Jacobin Cuckoo, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Rüppell’s Starling and Speckle-Fronted Weaver. A further highlight was another Martial Eagle – three in two game drives! Looking at their feathering, I’m pretty confident they are all different birds. There were also plenty of Oribi and Patas Monkey to admire, as well as some final Elephants and Palm-nut Vulture. Turning back into Paraa, we also found a Leopard Tortoise as it had just finished crossing the road.

 

Ruppell's Starling

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Jacobin Cuckoo

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Martial Eagle

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Oribi

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Patas Monkeys

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Elephants  

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Palm-nut Vulture

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Leopard Tortoise

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Edited by adamt123

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adamt123

As this is the last post on Murchison Falls, a selection of final scenic shots from the park follow.

 

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I have already mentioned the high levels of construction going on south of the Nile, predominantly on rebuilding the road which cuts through the park. However, this isn’t limited to the south - the below image was taken about five minutes further in from the Nile's north bank. Not sure what the future holds. 

 

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xelas
11 hours ago, adamt123 said:

Luckily, I had a micro sd adapter so I took out my phone's micro sd and used that!

 

This is a great idea, @adamt123. In fact, using microSD with adapter is safer that using normal SD. Whenever I have had a SD card failure, it was always something with the plastic past. If I would have used microSD, buying a new adaptor would be much cheaper than buying a new card. And the content of the microSD can also be transferred without an adapter.

 

Thanks for good wishes, it will be our first visit to Uganda, very excited about it. 6 more weeks ....

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ELIL

Great report with fantastic pictures. We will be in Uganda soon in February and plan to stay overnight at Ziwa for the Shoebill. Your statement raised some concerns now regarding the Shoebill sightings there, but we hope to be lucky. Looking forward to the rest of your report.

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adamt123

@ELIL Thanks for your kind words and I hope you will have an awesome trip!

 

Sorry for worrying you about Ziwa - I can only say what was reported to me, and maybe the situation has improved since June. 

 

Not sure if you are familiar with ebird.org, but on their website someone has reported a shoebill sighting at Ziwa from October this year (with a nice pic too). https://ebird.org/bcn/species/shoebi1/L3982011. So they are still being seen there and I have my fingers crossed for you. :)

Edited by adamt123

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adamt123

Our game drive concluded at around 11.30; we crossed the river and drove down to Ziwa, the journey taking about 3h. We decided to spend a night at Ziwa mostly because it provided an opportunity to see Shoebill and because it very conveniently split the drive from Murchison Falls to Entebbe. Amuka Lodge was superb, with a quiet, relaxed atmosphere and friendly staff. We arrived in the late afternoon and after a quick freshen up we were out on our evening walk with Martin, our guide for the evening from Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary.

 

Amuka

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Martin was knowledgeable and we had a fantastic evening. We started walking from our room at Amuka and there were an abundance of Common Bulbul and Broad-billed Roller – Ziwa is definitely the place to see large numbers of this latter bird. We had excellent views of Helmeted Guineafowl, Eastern Grey Plantain-eater, Vinaceous Dove, African Grey Hornbill, and Hadada Ibis. The area was also teeming with Cape Bushbuck and Grey Duiker; the former being universally recognised as one of the handsome-most antelopes, and the latter a personal favourite of mine. Martin had a brilliant eye and also spotted Defassa Waterbuck, Tantalus Monkey, Striated Heron, White-fronted Black Chat, and a Nile Crocodile, which are apparently rarely seen here. Two other highlights were my first African woodpecker – a Nubian, and my first ever cuckooshrike – a Red-shouldered.

 

Broad-billed Roller

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Bulbul

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Plantain Eater

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Grey Hornbill

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Bushbuck

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Duiker

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Striated Heron

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Chats

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Nubian Woodpecker

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Red-shoulderd Cuckooshrike

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Following this, we went further into a slightly boggy area were Martin located a pair of Abyssinian Ground Hornbill. Seeing them at Murchison Falls was great, but to encounter them (and all the above-mentioned animals) on foot was something special. The other “main-event” was seeing White-crested Turaco, for which Ziwa is a known hotspot. We saw two birds, but both were exceptionally camera shy; Martin noted that from all the animals at Ziwa, the turaco is infamously skittish. We also happened to come across some of the white rhinos kept at the reserve; Martin was very reluctant that we should see them, as he would be in serious trouble if his superiors were to find out that we had seen rhino without paying for the rhino walk. It was a very peculiar moment indeed. Regardless, we finished another successful evening with some backlit African Green Pigeons and called in for the night.

 

Ground Hornbill

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White-crested Turaco 

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Edited by adamt123

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adamt123

The following morning, we woke we left the lodge at around 6.30 and drove for 15 minutes from Amuka to Lugogo Swamp, a marshland located outside the sanctuary, but managed in coordination with locals. As the photos illustrate, it was a little hazy to begin with, but this soon cleared up. We were taken to a grassy section of the bog were we began walking; it was a cool morning and the walk was pretty fun and filled with anticipation for the key target bird of the trip. We had another guide, who spotted some interesting birds including Wattled Lapwing, Pin-tailed Whydah, Spur-winged Goose, Black-headed Gonolek, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Speckled Mousebird, Fawn-breasted Waxbill, Grey-headed Kingfisher and a distant Rufous-bellied Heron. However, there was no sign of shoebill, so after about 1h 30m, he advised we should leave and look for elsewhere.

 

Swamp

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Pin tailed Whydah

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Spur winged Goose

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Grey headed Kingfisher

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Longclaw

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Returning to the car we saw many Blue-Breasted Bee-eaters, Little Bee-eaters, Fork-tailed Drongo, Bronze Mannikin and Eastern Grey Plantain-eaters as well as the odd Double-toothed Barbet, White-headed Barbet and Fan-tailed Widowbird. Another interesting sighting was a herd of local long-horned cattle which we got pretty close to. Unfortunately, the second location, about five minutes drive away, wasn’t at all better for shoebill, and we nothing save a Winding Cisticola and a few Yellow-throated Leafloves. 

 

Bee-eater

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Double toothed Barbet

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Cattle

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Cisticola

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Leaflove

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By now, it was 9am, we were close to certain there would be no shoebill sighting this morning. Nonetheless, we boarded a canoe and set off for a 15 minute ride amongst the papyrus in our final opportunity to get the shoebill. This, however, proved most disappointing of all and other than some human traffic, all we had were fleeting glimpses of African Jacana and Pied Kingfisher

 

Canoe 

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Pied Kingfisher

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Of course failing to see the shoebill was disappointing, but it was still a nice few hours worth of birding - I think the barbets and whydah showed particularly well. However, before leaving the UK I had prepared for this eventuality. As soon as we got back to Amuka, we called a Mabamba swamp tour company and quickly confirmed our trip for the next day. In case this should happen at Ziwa, I had the contact details ready and knew that we had to confirm before midday - fortunately they had no other bookings and we were all set. The drive back to Entebbe was uneventful and we went to bed praying that, after the day's failure, Mabamba would produce the elusive bird. 

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BRACQUENE

@adamt123

 

No shoebill true but what an incredible display off bird sightings and that Grey Duiker  ; Uganda here I come !

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adamt123

Our final day in Uganda would be busy one. We had originally intended to go the Botanic Gardens in the morning then relax in the afternoon, but as were going to Mabamba in the morning, the Botanic Gardens were moved to the afternoon. Our Brussels Airlines flight was at around 11pm that evening, so all in all a very packed day.

 

Everything went smoothly for our Mabamba Swamp pick up; our driver arrived on time and we were at the boat terminal by about 8am. The journey from the Protea to the terminal took 5-10 minutes and was interesting with plantains overflowing onto the streets pretty much throughout the whole city. It was a glorious day, hot and sunny; we boarded a larger boat (it was just the two of us and the steersman) and headed into Lake Victoria. After about thirty minutes of relaxed cruising on the lake, we arrived at the papyrus. Still on the larger boat, within 15 minutes we had observed an absolute abundance of Malachite Kingfisher, as well as Pied Kingfisher, Black Crake, Common Moorhen, African Jacana, Swamp Flycatcher, Reed Cormorant and a stunning, ruffled-up Blue-headed Coucal.

 

Lake Victoria

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Malachite Kingfishers Abound

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Black Crake

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Swamp Flycatcher

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Reed Cormorant

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Blue-headed Coucal

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Then after seemingly out of the blue, the steersman said, “are you ready to see the Shoebill?”. We were somewhat taken aback, this was only the boat to take us the swamp, and we already had shoebill? Yes, and what a splendid sighting it was. The shoebill was calm and still, allowing for excellent photo opportunities, and we even had the ability to move the boat to a few different positions to capture the bird in all its glory from various angles. I must say, the shoebill was exceptionally cooperative, and we were maybe 15-20m away. There were no other boats, no other people, just the shoebill and us. We were fortunate enough to spend half-an-hour in its company; eventually we decided to leave and let it get on with its hunting in peace. This was the sole shoebill we saw, but one superb sighting like this is always better than many distant or fleeting glimpses.

 

Shoebill

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We swapped boats and moved onto the smaller craft to go further into the swamp. Here, we were afforded excellent views of Squacco Heron, Purple Heron, Goliath Heron and Little Egret. As well as smaller birds including Winding Cisticola, Bronze Mannikin, Broad-billed Roller, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Fan-tailed Widowbird and Northern-brown Throated Weaver. This culminated in our arrival at a clearing, where we were greeted by White-headed Whistling Duck, Yellow-billed Duck, Grey-headed Gull, Long-toed Lapwing and a distant Saddle-billed Stork.

 

Squacco Heron

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Purple Heron

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Little Egret

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 Northern-brown Throated Weaver

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Yellow-billed Duck

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Grey-headed Gull

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Long-toed Lapwing

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As we were leaving, we found two more highlights – a soaring African Marsh Harrier and the uncommon Marsh Tchagra! After thanking our guide, we headed back onto the larger boat and towards Entebbe. But the sightings were by no means over; this journey produced awesome views of African Fish Eagle, as well as many Black and Yellow-billed Kites flying overhead and our only African Openbill in Uganda. All in all, it was a marvellous morning – one of my favourites spent in Africa.

 

Marsh Tchagra

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Harrier

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Fish Eagle

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Openbill

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Edited by adamt123

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adamt123

We returned to the Protea and had a few hours there before going to the Botanic Gardens. Because it was a sunny day, there were an abundance of agamas basking on the rocks on the shores of Lake Victoria – from what I can tell they are Finch’s Agamas. Other animals observed on site included Brimstone Canary, Pied Crow, Northern Brown-throated Weaver, African Palm Swift and Yellow-billed Kites.

 

Finch's Agama

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adamt123

In the late afternoon we set off for the Botanic Gardens – it was very warm, but better for it to be a bit hot than raining. On this trip to the Botanic Gardens sightings were quite different to the first; the great blue turaco pair didn’t show at all, and there were no tantalus monkeys either. The different trips really show that it was well worth coming twice.

 

Close to the entrance we found a Striped Ground Squirrel - this was a nice surprise sighting, and means I have now "collected" three members of the Xerini tribe. From here we made our way down the shores of Lake Victoria. Immature Gymnogene was circling ahead and we had close views of Yellow-billed Kite and many Hammerkop. Both Reed and White-breasted Cormorants were present, as well as the common species – Pied Kingfisher, Winding Cisticola, Hadada Ibis, Black-headed Heron, Little Egret and Cattle Egret.

 

Striped Ground Squirrel

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Yellow-billed Kite

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Winding Cisticola

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Hadada Ibis

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Hammerkop

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Heading back towards the forest area, we were amazed to see a flash of ruddy tail hoping from tree to tree – a Red-tailed Guenon! I had read somewhere that this adorable monkey is present here, though I wasn’t expecting to see it. It was gliding through the trees and getting some good shots was tough, but fortunately it stayed still a couple of seconds and I was able to get a few photos. This sighting was soon followed by Ross’s Turaco, another top target bird; on the first trip they were somewhat obscured, but today they showed well. Other new species included Vieillot’s Weaver, Northern Black Flycatcher and Northern Puffback.

 

Red-tailed Monkey

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Ross's Turaco

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Vieillot’s Weaver

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Northern Puffback

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Now there was only one major animal left on the checklist – African Grey Parrot. We ventured further into the forest area, which is home to a significant number of Crowned Hornbill, Black-and-White Casqued Hornbill and Eastern-grey Plantain-eater – all of which are very noisy and disorientating when searching for a medium sized grey bird. Nonetheless, a pair of Grey Parrots did show; the shots aren’t great but with the sun setting and the forest’s poor visibility, I was happy. We left the gardens satisfied, with Blue-spotted Wood-dove and African Thrush concluding the trip.

 

African Grey Parrot

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Blue-spotted Wood-dove

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Plantain-eater

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We flew home that evening pretty tired after a day overflowing with excellent sightings. Overall, Uganda was stunning; this was my first trip to the “Pearl of Africa” and that is surely a fitting epithet. As I have briefly hinted at, we did not get along with our guide and the organisation at Grassrootz should have been much better. However, retrospectively, even a sour guide couldn’t take away from the awesome experience we had in Uganda. I look forward to hopefully returning one day. For any further questions about the trip, feel free to ask.

 

Many thanks for reading this short report and merry Christmas everyone!

Here’s to great things in 2020!

Edited by adamt123

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BRACQUENE

@adamt123


This morning I thought I had seen it all but you saved the best part for the end and not exclusively because of that awesome Shoebill so close by but for splendid sightings like the Marsh Chagra and the Ross’s Turaco!

Merry Christmas to you

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TonyQ

Fantastic sighting of the Shoebill, and indeed wonderful sightings throughout.

It really does look an excellent place for birds as well as the mammals.

Excellent report, thank you for posting 

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dlo

Thanks for taking the time to do this excellent "short" report. Uganda is probably my favourite place to visit so its always nice to see such a positive impression. 

Out of curiosity how were the elephants in murchison for you? We got charged by 3 out of nowhere though it was more of a message to leave them be. Our guide had also been charged previously and had to reverse for half a km.

Also I absolutely live my guide so if you decide to return he works freelance. I will say he's my favourite more because of a personal nature though as we just vibe very well.

Again thanks for the report.

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xyz99

Wonderful TR and photos, thank you so much for sharing. Such a variety of birds and animals, I had no idea. That last shoebill was amazing, such a thrill!

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adamt123

Thank you for your kind words everyone.

 

@dlo I would say the elephants were shy and reserved. We only saw a handful and they kept their distance, but they were by no means aggressive. This was quite a contrast to Masai Mara were some of elephants were very aggressive (I think some of the bulls might have been in musth) and our guides had to change route to avoid them. 

Edited by adamt123

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Alexander33

What a way to end the trip!  Fantastic experience with the shoebill. What a dream come true. 
 

But, as mentioned, you had so many other good sightings as well. That photo of the red bishop is just about as perfect as one could hope for. 
 

I do hope you’ll consider at least a short report of your time in Kenya, especially Samburu if you must be selective. I know there seems to be a feeling that there already are so many reports from this popular destination that we don’t need another, but I do value and enjoy them. 
 

in any event, thanks so much for sharing your experience in Uganda with us. 

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xelas

Many thanks for this excellent trip report filled with great photos, specially of birds. I can only hope that Santa Claus will hear my wish to see the Shoebill, and all other colorful birds you have encountered during this relatively brief visit to the Pearl of Africa.

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adamt123

Thanks @Alexander33. Ill try for Samburu, but no guarantees :)

 

 

@xelas I do hope you will get the shoebill - where do you plan on looking for it - Mabamba or somewhere else?

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