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xelas

It was almost 9 o’clock when we boarded our two boats; Jo and Zvezda shared one, and Fred and me the other. There was the captain and the guide in each boat. While from the size of the boat one might think 6 persons could share it, we were glad to be only 4; and for some time, only 2. Yet that story is to be told later.

 

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The start of the boat ride was relaxing, slowly gliding on the flat waters of Lake Victoria. Some birds sightings along the route, yet we were all into finding the elusive bird. To give some context on the rarity of this bird, they believe that only about 12 shoebills are resident at Mabamba. It is a wide area covering 2424 ha with thick marshes of papyrus, water lilies and other wetland grasses. Those 12 birds can play hide-and-seek all day long! While local guides did not use radio or phone to exchange the bird’s position, they do know about their preferred locations. And, another boat not moving around can only mean one thing. 

 

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Shoebill likes to eat lung fish … but has to compete with local fishermen for it. Years ago, when the bird population was much higher, a weird superstition was alive around local villages, saying that if a fisherman sees a Shoebill while going on the lake, the catch will be bad. So they kill the birds, almost to their extinction. Only when in 2006 the swamp was declared a RAMSAR site, situation for Shoebill improved. As with similar stories, soon enough fishermen has understood that renting a boat and a hand to birdwatchers can bring them more (much more) money than fishing can.

 

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xelas

Moving around … here we came to the story of the day. As Fred has anticipated already, those boats have been recently upgraded with outboard engines. Smooth move … as long as you are in deep waters. But shoebill is no duck; it needs a nice raft of floating greenery to stand on it. Here the engine does not help. The greenery is so dense a man can stand on it and do not submerge. As we have to move from one body of “clear” water to another, both captain and the guide has to jump into the water (well, on the thick marsh) to push the boat to the other side. It was a heavy task for them.

 

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All that hard work needed to be rewarded. About 1 hour after departing the dock, our guide has spotted another boat; once close enough to exchange info, we turned around, crossing some more thick marsh …

 

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... and there it was!

 

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xelas
Posted (edited)

Boat with Jo and Zvezda took a closer position, but the sun was behind the bird. We have stopped at a distance yet the sun position was more favourable. Then the clicking started. OK, clicking started only from Zvezda’s and mine cameras, as Jo has a mirrorless aka noiseless camera. 

 

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About 100 clicks down the road, big bird was intrigued by the sounds or the sights coming from “ladies boat” and has decided to move closer! What a sight!! For a moment folks in that boat thought that the bird might land on it. It has happened before. Luckily not this time as otherwise the bird would be too close for focusing. 

 

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Edited by xelas

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xelas

Not many have the good luck of being so close to this iconic bird, and the bird almost flirted with ladies, showing why it is a must see attraction!

 

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xelas

Happy birders on their way back. And some photos of water lilies. However, there was still the difficult task to cross the thick marshes on our way back. It was hot already, and our guides were wet both from the sweat and the lake. Always a gentleman, Fred helped when needed. 

 

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xelas

It was almost midday so time to have a lunch or snack. Close by is Nkima Forest Lodge - http://nkimaforestlodge.com. Forest is a bit optimistic description but there is enough of trees to attract birds. Yet more importantly, it is located about 15 min by car from the dock, so staying overnight there will give you the chance to be on the boat at first (and best) light in the morning. 

 

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xelas

Final word: indeed it is a must-do attraction! Even if not lucky as we were, the boat ride on the lake is pleasant experience, and there will be other birds to see as well. Highly recommended. But do get up early and catch that ferry ride.

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kittykat23uk
Posted (edited)

We certainly were very lucky! Initially when our guide said he could see the bird, Nether Zvezda nor I could see it and I was worried that we would not be able to get any closer. But thankfully the guides slowly manoeuvred us towards our quarry, and then the bird itself obliged us by flying right up to us!. A fantastic sighting! 

 

49636964812_bc49c586a2_b.jpgP2100006 Winding Cisticola (Cisticola marginatus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49636693816_f654144b15_b.jpgP2100117 Getting to the Shoebill is not easy by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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IMG_20200210_093117 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49517060201_e8bfe86baa_b.jpgIMG_20200210_090042 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49636691561_f2773ebe9a_b.jpgP2100391 Water lilly by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P2100620 Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

It was a bit of a shame we got there so late as the light was pretty harsh and it was hot out on the water, but you take what you can get, so I experimented with some high key shots.

 

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P2100702 Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P2100716 Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P2100726 Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P2100749 Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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IMG_20200210_103410 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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IMG_20200210_103924 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

We also saw some other birds in and around the swamp.

 

49636685971_943de94987_b.jpgP2100021 (2) Yellow-billed Duck (Anas undulata) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49636120118_b83228046d_b.jpgP2100788 (2)  Malachite Kingfisher (Alcedo cristata) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49636958802_38c064aa57_b.jpgP2100832 Search Results Web results  Long-tailed (Reed) Cormorant (Microcarbo africanus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49636958417_084927f6a0_b.jpgP2100845 African Dusky Flycatcher (Muscicapa adusta) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P2100862 Red-headed Lovebird (Agapornis pullarius) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P2100055 (2) African jacana (Actophilornis africanus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49636159243_ac79e994e3_b.jpgP2100886 Sooty Chat (Myrmecocichla nigra) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49636957517_0f58f9e40d_b.jpgP2100893 Blue-headed Agama by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49636686611_aa9d9e3d2c_b.jpgP2100933 Cardinal Woodpecker (Dendropicos fuscescens) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49636918502_38e754d1c4_b.jpgP2100971 Cardinal Woodpecker (Dendropicos fuscescens) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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IMG_20200210_172232 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

Edited by kittykat23uk

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pedro maia

Following the report with great interesting, that shoebill is quite creepy, I like that kind of bird.

 

And great pictures from everybody!

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mtanenbaum

Love the shoebill photos! It looks like it is about to wink at you--reminds me of the "smiling" dolphins--I know the Shoebill isn't smiling, but it sure seems to be!

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Galana

Those close ups of the Shoebill by the ladies team are some of the best I have ever seen. The one on 'final approach' was particularly impressive.

Of course I don't arrange this for all my guests but after the long bumpy drive I felt you deserved it!

 

Great photos all round.

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janzin

Amazing Shoebill sighting!! Incredible flight shots, that's something I've not seen before.

 

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Kitsafari

awesome shoebill sighting, and some brilliant shots too. one of my top must see must-see birds .

 

so pleased you ticked that special off. 

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xelas

Thanks for all the kind woks, and likes. And thanks to @Galana for arranging such a special encounter.

 

@mtanenbaumis right; this bird was almost like flirting with ladies, showing them different poses, and finally decided to come close, really close. With that huge and pointed-down beak, one would think the bird would look very fearsome. But in reality, it indeed was almost smiling.

 

 

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Towlersonsafari
Posted (edited)

Hurrah  a splendid  smirking shoebill what a great sighting

Edited by Towlersonsafari

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Soukous

A wonderful Shoebill encounter, beautifully documented. 

That bird looks prehistoric; I wouldn't turn my back on it.

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PeterHG

Wow, those Shoebill photos! Magnificent bird.

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Hads

Red cheeked Cordon Bleu photo is awesome @xelas.

Great report thanks mate.

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Zim Girl

Fantastic Shoebill pictures, what a great encounter!

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ELIL

Great report with excellent photos. My wife an I were in Uganda in February as well and enjoyed it very much. Looking at your itinerary and the photos, I am pretty sure that Jo was part of our group during the chimps trecking in Kabale.

@kittykat23uk The name of our guide for the chimp trecking was Anette ( if I am not completely wrong). Have you been the one who took videos on a tripod?

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kittykat23uk

Hi @ELIL yes I had a travel tripod with me 😁, so nice to see you on here! I wonder if you happened to note the names of any of the chimps? I didn't take down any notes unfortunately. 

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xelas
1 hour ago, ELIL said:

Looking at your itinerary and the photos, I am pretty sure that Jo was part of our group during the chimps trecking in Kabale.

 

I have a couple of photos of the group before entering the forrest. That might refresh your memory. Stay tuned, Kibale is coming soon!

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Galana
1 hour ago, ELIL said:

I am pretty sure that Jo was part of our group during the chimps trecking in Kabale.

This must be you.

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:)

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michael-ibk

Wow, what a fantastic Shoebill sigthing, great stuff!

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ELIL
1 hour ago, Galana said:

This must be you.

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:)

Yep, I am on the left, Ghada is behind Jo.

Note to myself: work on better posing for unexpected photographs

 

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