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Catching up now and really enjoying your 'whirlwind tour', more like a dust devil in intensity.  I feel tired  just reading it but delighted it produced the goods.

Good to see you hitting your target birds.

As an aside, the cattle raiders are the Karamajong. Where western kids get a Bicycle at say 11 or 12, the karamajong kids get Kalashnikovs.

Keep it coming.

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On 3/29/2022 at 9:57 AM, PeterHG said:

No, I meant the first one of the Papyrus Gonolek. It is hidden behind the reeds, but still perfectly sharp.


Ah! As I remember I managed to get a focus on the papyrus stem leg, and then used F10.


@Hadsa fascinating picture. Made me think of Kyiv though. :(


Thanks @Galana, I had forgotten to note that tribe´s name. Not surprising to hear that about the kids - but just sad and plain wrong. :(


Ok, no more :(s, on with the report!

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Sorry @dlo, still no primates! (Coming soon though). While we did overnight in Kibale we did not see anything of it the next day because we went on a daytrip to Semliki (Forest) National Park.  It encompasses 219 km2 (85 sq mi) of East Africa's only lowland tropical rainforest. It´s basically an extension of Congolese rainforest, and so one can find a lot of birds here from that biozone which are nowhere else to be found in East Africa. I would have loved to spend more time there but we had to compromise - it really is more of a "hardcore birder" destination, and @AndMicwas decidedly less keen on that than me. So it was just a "scratch the surface" visit there, and barely that even. Our local guide Alex at Semliki said at least three full days are needed to properly explore the area which sounds about right.


We started very early, departed our lodge at 06:00 a.m.. Many people already on the road, especially kids. Many of them have a long way to walk to get to school. After passing Fort Portal (where we probably should have stayed this night for logistic reasons but I just said no to the available city hotels there) we used the Lamia Road which felt a bit like home. Very winding "mountain" road with extremely steep slopes left and right - just like on the more fun roads in the Alps!






The pictures are from our way back actually, it was dark in the morning when we passed here. And yes - this is part of the Rift Valley.




We got to the park entrance at about 07:30 am and soon met our local birding guide Alex. He´s also a ranger, and brought his rifle. Which is necessary here because of the danger of Forest Elephants and Buffalo.




The paths were quite well-kept and the terrain is mostly flat, so the going is pretty easy. Just like in Budongo Forest birding here is really tricky, and probably quite a hopeless endeavour without a local birding guide. I mostly wanted to see the "Congo" Hornbills, and we did not fare too badly.




Soon we found a fair of Piping Hornbills, a Western and Central African species. Like with so many other birds here Semliki is the most Eastern point of their entire range. They were reasonably common during our Gabon trip so no lifer here.




Red-Tailed Monkey was our constant companion during the day. We did not see any of the rarer monkeys which are possible here.


It took us a while to get a good look (and again the light was terrible) but I finally managed to get a shot of my "most wanted" bird for this day trip:




White-Crested Hornbill, a lifer for me. Crested Birds are always cool, and especially when they are as big as this one. This Hornbill apparently often follows monkey troops because of the insects they stir up.




Semliki has two hot springs - these are the "female" ones. Quite an unusual setting, and a pretty moody atmosphere here early in the morning.






Rameron Pigeons were very common, and one of the few bird species that were relatively easy to see (=not skulking about behind leaves).




When I said the paths are easy that does not mean walk in the park. :)




When we returned to the main road we got distant glimpses of another of my targets - Black-Casqued Hornbill, a seriously-huge bird.




Fortunately one of the females then decided to cross the road to join the others.




We then drove a bit further South and entered the longest and probably most interesting trail.




This is the Kirumya trail, leading all the way to the Semliki river. The border to the Congo is just about 8 kilometres from here.




Yellow-Throated Tinkerbird




Grosbeak Weaver, one of the few fairly cooperative species. We heard another of my "Most Wanteds", the Red-Billed Dwarf Hornbill, several times, tantalisingly close once, but were never able to locate it despite Alex´s best efforts.






This Owl was almost a disappointment - even Alex (the site guide) was quite excited since he knew an Owl was around here and surmised it could possibly be an Akun´s Eagle-Owl. But those pink eyelids make it very clear this was a good old Verreaux´s.






Western Nicator




Semliki Sabora Squirrel

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The weather made photography very tricky but also worked to our favour - while it got hot not unbearably so, and the humidity was ok as well. Still we drank a lot - we had used up all our water when we finally made it back.




Our lunch stop.




Here we managed another good tick, Nahan´s Francolin, a very shy forest species with an unusually beautiful (for Francolins) song. You only ever seen them when they - whoosh* - run across the path.








One of the more fun bridges we had to cross. B)




This was a lovely area, very Tarzan-like . Very tempting to just jump and gracefully slide through the jungle on these lianas. A good thing I resisted thoses urges - knowing my acrobatic prowess I would have only hurt and embarrassed myself.:D




Elephants were very present - I was actually quite happy we did not encounter one, but there were lots of very fresh tracks. And dung. What about other mammals? Obviously there are plenty of Duikers here, Bushbuck, Bushpig. Water Chevrotain does occur but is hardly ever seen. Wiki claims Leopard is also still around but Alex said there haven´t been signs of them for decades now.




On the way back we found quite a cooperative Black-Casqued Hornbill. I was quite delighted about that.


After we got back to the main road we decided to also visit the "male" Hot Springs. We were a bit tired but it´s not like we could just pop back to Semliki anytime soon. So better to make the most of our (very limited) time here.






Blue-Cheeked Bee-Eaters really liked this area.








Orange-Cheeked Waxbill. Interesting bird to see here - according to "Birds of East Africa" they do not occur in Uganda at all. Which is definitely not correct - ebird does not have many but quite a few records in Semliki and QENP.




Pygmy Kingfisher


We followed the "Red Monkey" trail a bit into the forest but did not find much - at least nothing photographable.




Except a clearly very suspicious Palm-Nut Vulture.




And then it was time to leave again.




Good Bye Alex - a very good birding guide.




I really enjoyed Semliki, such a great forest. Would love to return for a few days. For a more in-depth-look at the area please have a look at @adamt123´s excellent TR here. Although it´s fairly basic, it is possible to stay in Semliki at Bumaga Camp, all covered in detail in that report. And just to be clear, while I haven´t posted many pictures of them we did see quite a lot of birds, more than 60, and heard way more.


Up next: Chimps!

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Excellent, informative, with great photos. Just as doctor has prescribed for those that are not travelling (yet). I really like what I have seen so far of the portion of Uganda that we have skipped. 

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semliki sounds almost idyllic for birders. 

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I am enjoying this report very much. Your scenes of the road to Semliki brought back memories as before the 'improvements' a few years ago this stretch of road around the Rwenzoris was one of my favourites drives in all of East Africa.

Great Hornbill portraits and of course Alex's day glo green wellies.

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Thanks @xelas, @Kitsafariand @Galana!


Chimp Day! After breakfast we left at about 07:00 a.m. for the Visitor Centre where we had to present our permits (they cost USD 200,-- pp) and the briefing took place.





Mobile snap


It was quite busy, about 30 visitors - in general there were more tourists around than I had expected. Quite absurdly we all had to go into the building for the briefing, into a pretty small room. Quite avoidable IMO in COVID-times, could have just as easily be done outside, and it´s not like they used multimedia or anything like that.




A Wagtail singing his heart out. Which meant it would be a good day. Wagtails are a symbol of luck for the locals, so a good sign.  People are not so fond of Black Cuckoos (=bad luck) and Owls (=death) btw..


We were grouped with a very nice German/Argentinan couple, drove a short distance with our respective guides and then entered the forest with our armed guide. Just like in Semliki, Forest Elephants and Buffalos do occur here and can be dangerous.



Mobile Snap


The going was pretty easy, on decent paths like this and rarely much steeper than seen here. It became a bit trickier once we were closer to the Chimps, had to leave the path and go through the thickish for a short while. All in all this was not strenuous at all, and I think we got there after not much more than 20 or 30 minutes.




We were lucky that some of them were on the ground. It was a pretty dark and gloomy day (again), and the ones up in the trees were just dark shadows. Our first wild Chimps - we were delighted! :D




We visited the "Kanyatale community", one of five habituated ones in Kibale. The locals pronounce it something like "Gebala" btw.




Chimps are tougher to habituate than Gorillas since their communities have more members and are more spread out than Gorilla families. We were told it took 9 years to bring this community to be so absolutely blasé about their human visitors.


Like I said we were just four people when starting the trek. But not to give the impression that it stays that way - regular Chimp treks are a bit of a circus. While you start going in small groups a lot of people come together again where the chimps are.



Mobile snap


Everybody masked up as you can see here - this was compulsory.






Easy to forget all the other people when you´re up close with them.




Photography in here was quite tricky, even with extremely low shutter speeds (less than 1/100) it was difficult to bring ISO much lower than 8000 or so.




And pretty much impossible to get anything from the dark blobs moving about higher. So I can imagine a Chimp trek without any of them on the ground would probably be quite frustrating.




I tried many, many shots to get something recognizable with this high up, impossibly cute baby:






I had also brougth a 50 mm lens which I could shoot wide open with (f 1.8). That was quite useful.




I was not impressed with the dental hygiene here. :D






The hour just flew by, and way too soon our ranger asked to leave again. We lingered for a few minutes - it was very enjoyable being with the Chimps for a short while without all the other people.


And Mum also came out of the leaves a bit, granting us a glimpse at her little one.






A magical hour - even when we were back at the car we were grins all over.




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Since it was still quite early we decided to do Bigodi Swamp before (a latish) lunch. This is a small wetland area just outside the forest. Its name “Bigodi” was "derived from a local Rutooro word, “kugodya”, that means ‘to walk tiredly / wearily’. It is supposed that when visitors reached the Bigodi swamp on foot, they actually were at all times too tired to go on and visit the jungle; and for this reason they decided to rest there."


On the way there we found this Speckled Tinkerbird on the road which really was not looking well - must have been a sick bird, and I had the impression it was blind.




After we paid the fee (about USD 20,-- pp IIRC) we set off with local birding guide Roger Uzuri had employed for us here. Another very nice chap and really good birder, unfortunately I did not take his picture. (Tel ‭00 256 783 506 705‬ email aralirodger@gmail.com according to a TripAdvisor review I found.)




Since it was now about 11:00 a.m. the time was obviously not ideal but we still picked up a lot of nice stuff - like this Bocage´s Bushshrike (apparently renamed now to the much more boring Grey-Green Bushshrike).




At first the path just follows the edge of the swamp, where it´s bordered by farmland.




Rubbish photo against the light but our only sighting of Ugandan Red Colobus.




Great Blue Turaco, really one of Africa´s most wonderful birds in my opinion. Good thing they are quite common and not too shy in Uganda.




African Green Pigeon




Grey-Winged Robin-Chat was a good tick here - it´s more of a true forest bird so surprising to see it. But Roger told us it´s a regular.






Green Crombec




Böhm´s Bush Squirrel, the Squirrel we saw the most during our trip.




The bird I was most happy about - White-Spotted Flufftail, a shy and incredibly skulky bird. Spent quite some time trying to get it, it´s beautiful distinctive call easily gives away its presence but you need a bit of patience to actually see it.




The path then leads through the swamp. Roger warned us to be careful, the wood ledges have seen better days, some of them were missing, some were rotten. We actually did not see much within the swamp but it´s a nice walk we enjoyed.






TR_0309_0743_Bigodi Swamp.jpg






Black-Headed Heron




I was happy to get a somewhat better look at a Blue-Throated Roller than we had enjoyed (or suffered) in Budongo.




We then went back to the visitor centre to buy some T-Shirts (yes, to brag with those "I trekked Chimps in Kibale" things!) and had a very nice sighting of this Ugandan Mangaybey family.


After a late lunch at 14:00 a.m. and some rest (or running around in the garden for me) we did some more birding with Roger along the main road. Which can often be very productive as I was told - but the weather took a turn to the worse, and we soon had the worst light of the trip which was a bit dispiriting, and did not find that much noteworthy, and even less worth photographing.






Brown-Eared Woodpecker




White-Breasted Nigrita




Tinkerbird with a kill!




African Shrike-Flycatcher




Black-Billed Turaco crossing the road


Despite a somewhat lacklustre afternoon activity, a really great day, and we were sorry we did not have another full day in Kibale!

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Chimps trek is a great introduction to later gorilla trek. Bigodi swamp walkway looks as dilapidated as in 2020, but you have collected a nice selection of birds there, despite of heavily overcast sky.

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36 minutes ago, xelas said:



Do admit you googled that complicated word - I just did. ;)




Can´t leave Kibale without mentioning our "home" here - Chimpanzee Forest Guesthouse. We enjoyed our stay very, very much. Extremely helpful and friendly staff, good food, and nice rooms with a beautiful view - would happily return.






Olive-Bellied Sunbird




Our cottage.






The best thing about the Guesthouse was the garden - a (not so) small birding paradise, and I found it impossible to rest on our veranda, just had to explore in the little time we had there.




Palm-Nut Vulture




Vieillot´s Black Weaver




Grey Kestrel




Black-Crowned Waxbill




Green-Headed Sunbird




African Blue Flycatcher - particularly delighted about this one.




Bronze Sunbird, very common during the trip.




Lesser Striped Swallow




My favourite sighting - Grey Parrots are such iconic birds, and I was very happy to see them here.




They were ... ahem, happy with each other. :wub:




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Great photos of the Chimps and description of the experience.

It brought back many memories! You got some beautiful bird photos (as expected!). The Turaco crossing the road is superb.

Your guesthouse looks a good choice. How did you get out of the garden?

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More great stuff and I'm so glad you enjoyed Kibale. To this day I'm still torn between whether gorillas or chimps is my favorite experience. When in doubt why not both🤔

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Your post is bringing out too many memories.

Invidious to specify photos but mention has to be made of your Flufftail. The times I have stood and called them only to see a fleeting glimpse scoot across the open space. Nice BB Turaco too.

Chimpanzee Forest Guesthouse is one of my favourite places too with their very helpful staff and nice cottages. I think you had 'mine'.

More please. I need another fix soon.

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I just want to agree with @Galanamore please. I am impossibly bored with an annoyingly bad case of covid and need something other than Netflix to pass the time  Michael so get to it if just for my sanity😁

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Commiserations @dloGood wishes for a speedy recovery.

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@dlo sorry to hear. speedy and full recovery and more than netflix to cure the boredom. 


@michael-ibk gorgeous photos of the chimps! note to myself - that seems a decent trek that I think I can undertake. do you know if all the chimp treks are moderate like yours, or are they more difficult? is that the  only family that's habituated and the reason why most of the groups converged on the same habituated group?


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With Grey Parrots, overcast sky was your friend! I can see you have also explored the gardens extensively.

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23 hours ago, TonyQ said:

The Turaco crossing the road is superb.


Fortunately for me you must be reading this on Ipad or phone Tony. :D


23 hours ago, TonyQ said:

Your guesthouse looks a good choice. How did you get out of the garden?


I almost did not, we had a much later start than planned next day because of it! :)


22 hours ago, Galana said:

Chimpanzee Forest Guesthouse is one of my favourite places too with their very helpful staff and nice cottages. I think you had 'mine'.


We really liked it! Our cottage was named "Chimpanzee" - very fitting.


22 hours ago, dlo said:

I am impossibly bored with an annoyingly bad case of covid and need something other than Netflix to pass the time  Michael so get to it if just for my sanity


Very sorry about that, wish you a speedy recovery. And working non-stop now for your well-being!


19 hours ago, Kitsafari said:

note to myself - that seems a decent trek that I think I can undertake. do you know if all the chimp treks are moderate like yours, or are they more difficult? is that the  only family that's habituated and the reason why most of the groups converged on the same habituated group?


Please Kit, you can do all of these treks without a problem. Certainly easier than Ivindo for example. Sorry, I really have no idea if that was typical. I do think that the guide said it was a fairly quick one, and Emma agreed. But like I said, the terrain is not steep, so I guess in general all these treks must be easier than gorillas - on average at least.


There are four habituated Chimp communities in Kibale. I really don´t know if it´s always like this, many people converging like that, but that was my impression. Not really sure if there are different starting points for the other communites. Not much help here, I know, useless as usual. :D


Maybe some of the repeat visitors can advise on this?


There´s also the option of doing the (only slightly) more expensive Chimp habituation experience - this lasts all day, and it seems the group is only 6 people. @paultdid that IIRC.


9 hours ago, xelas said:

I can see you have also explored the gardens extensively.


You know very well I´m physically unable to sit still in a garden like that - I´d get fits not running around. B)




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After I winced and winced to just get "15 minutes more" in the Guesthouse´s garden we finally left at about 09:00 a.m. for Queen Elizabeth National Park further South. Another nice drive, and of course ever so often Emma stopped to satisfy my birding craze.




White-Browed Robin-Chat




Yellow-Throated Greenbul




We tried to withdrew money in Kasanga but failed. The ATM did not even say "Card not working" or something like that, it just kept ejecting the card. When Emma then tried himself in vain and then found out the ATM was malfunctioning we were a bit concerned it if maybe had just "eaten" out money. But our bank statements back home proved all was fine.




We crossed the equator after two hours or so and reached Queen Elizabeth NP. Although it´s kinda difficult to tell where the park starts. The main road just cuts through, and you only need permits when using the actual safari tracks. This is the bridge across the famous Kazinga Channel, linking Lake Edward to Lake George.


Originally we had been booked at Queen Elizabeth Bush Lodge. But since we changed our itinerary last-minute Uzuri Safaris had to shuffle around some nights, and could not get a room there anymore. Not a problem, we then stayed just "next door", at Buffalo Safari Lodge.




Our cottage. The lodge was ok. Not great, not bad. Nice surroundings (although with just one night we barely had time to explore) and a good amount of birdlife.




Arrow-Marked Babbler




Pin-Tailed Whydah




Lesser Striped Swallow




The rooms were spacious and clean. It´s one of those places however that for some reason seems to think that having lights at night is not very sexy and people feel much more on safari when it´s dim and the few lightbulbs lit the ceiling and not the area where you´d actually need to see. Oh well.






Staff wasok (but just ok), and food was a gamble. Some was very good, some not so. And the eggs at breakfast was cold. It was fine for a night but I would not be too keen on returning.

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Michael's right @Kitsafarithe trek is not a problem at all. The habituation is much more difficult because you have no choice but to follow and basically chase them down until they decide to feed and rest. I've done both and while I much preferred the habituation you can't go wrong either way. 

If fitness is a real issue just do the regular trek as you are guaranteed chimps.

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Getting to one of my favourite afternoons of the trip now - boating the Kazinga Channel!




It´s a place just teeming with life, and I had been looking forward to this very much. Again we asked Edris if we could upgrade to a private boat. Had to chip in more for this since there were no small shared boats around, but not regretting the extra USD 190,-- at all. Always good if you can make your own pace, and it also meant we could stay on the Channel for a long time - from 14:00 to nearly 19:00 p.m. (You might notice we really did not get much rest, we had a pretty quick lunch after arrival at the lodge and then were off again.)




Great Egret




Pied Kingfisher - there is about a gazillion of them on the channel.




And Elephants just love it.




So do Jacanas!




Black-Winged Stilt




Also an almost absurd concentration of Hippo.






The Oxpeckers certainly appreciated them.




This Elephant was very proud of its water-plant prey. :D




Spur-Winged Lapwing




Reed Cormorant






I quite regret I never noticed the jumping Hippo - would certainly have zoomed in.




Malachite - dozens of them to be seen.




Swamp Flycatcher - just the perfect habitat for it.




A young one.

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Not much storytelling for this part -  can only say it was an immensely pleasant afternoon, and I happilyhappilyhappily clicked away. There was not a single moment we did not see something.




Water Thick-Knee




Black-Headed Weaver








Young African Fish-Eagle




This Pied was racing us - he won!




The more West we got the sandier the banks became - and even higher concentrations of wildlife assembled.












Goliath Heron







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I absolutely love, love and love Skimmers!




So imagine my delight when we saw this huge colony - hundreds of birds. We stayed quite some time with them, also on the way back, I just could not pass.




And the Crocs were pretty cool as well - some good-looking monsters there.




TR_0449_Uganda_1904_Nile Crocodile (Nilkrokodil)-Bearbeitet.jpg






This is a near-threatened species, their total population is probably lower than 20,000 birds now.




This Tern also seemed to think that Skimmers are so much cooler than its own kind!




Whenever I see Skimmers I just need to try to get them in flight, and - even more important - skimming. Highly addictive for a photographer.






They are pretty mean - most of the time they don´t touch the water, and when they do they definitely will do it far away from the boat.




Almost, almost ...




Arghlasdf+"$/()"§/$, just for once did not appreciate @AndMic´s face here. :D









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The end of the Channel must be the land of milk and honey for birds - the density here was mind-blowing.






Gull-Billed Terns mostly









The only Great White Pelicans we saw during the trip.






Grey-Headed Gull






Pink-Backed Pelican








I think this is where everybody leaves the boat normally (if not before further East), we had the pleasure of doing all the way back by boat again.




Where the channel meets Lake Edward.




Yellow-Billed Stork. The only one of the trip - but the bird made up with being extra-approachable.




Squacco Heron






The way back was a bit tricky - fishermen were out now:




And our skippers had to be very careful not to get entangled in their nets - we were a couple of times.




More Pink-Backeds.






















A really not-to-be missed Uganda highlight - the Kazinga Channel had certainly lived up to my expectations. :D

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