Wednesday, 20 July 2022

Kibale Forest - Pittas & Chimps!

An exciting morning lay ahead of us as we left the lodge at 6am and drove to the main reception of the park HQ and picked up our tracker/guide. Then we drove into the forest and walked down a narrow trail which dropped steeply. At the bottom pf this trail we joined a Birdquest group and saw a Green-breasted Pitta feeding further along the path in front of us. Between heads, Tilley hats and an accompaniment of local rangers we managed to scope the pitta in the gloom, but the views were less than satisfactory. When the pitta disappeared, we walked further into the forest and managed to find it again, and at one stage the pitta almost flew into us. It was still dark under the canopy and we craved better views, so returned to the main path where unbelievably we watched an adult and 2 fully grown young feeding right out in the open. 

The best I could do in the gloomy Kibale Forest of Green-breasted Pitta

For the next 15 minutes we soaked up incredible views of the most-wanted bird of the tour (arguably). From here we walked back to the main road, stopping to look at a singing Rufous (Fraser’s) Flycatcher-Thrush along the way, and we also heard Scaly-breasted Illadopsis and Western Black-headed Oriole

Fraser's Flycatcher-Thrush

At the point where Paul was driving to pick us up our tracker/guide pointed out a juvenile Chimpanzee feeding high up in a nearby tree. We then found the mother lower down and watched the young one climb down to join her. Wow! And a short while later a Narina Trogon was seen. So we then drove back along the main forest road and walked into the forest again, this time in search of Chimpanzees. In no time at all we joined quite a few other people in watching a few Chimps feeding high up in the trees. Amazingly, and after a bit of a run around, we had point-blank views of two Chimpanzees feeding on fruits, whilst sat on the forest floor about 15 feet away…… Words cannot do the experience justice and to say we were satisfied with the views is an understatement. 

It was a fantastic experience to see these Chimpanzee's up close

By now it was only 10;40am and still time to nail a few new birds so further along the road we drove and stopped when a Red-chested Cuckoo began calling and after a bit of waiting eventually managed to scope one of three that were continuously calling. A Honeyguide Greenbul was also singing away and we managed reasonable looks at it, scoped an African Shrike-Flycatcher, but only had flight views of Yellow-throated Tinkerbird. 


By now the overcast morning was breaking up into bright blue sky and it became quite hot, so decided to drive back to the lodge. Along the way we stopped to look at a flock of Vieillot’s Black Weavers and a White-browed Coucal, and further scanning produced Fan-tailed WidowbirdCardinal Quelea and Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat.


Lunch on the upper deck of the lodge gave us a splendid view across the treetops of Kibale Forest and the gardens where a Sabine’s Spinetail patrolled the valley below us. There was also African Yellow White-eyeAfrican Pygmy KingfisherAfrican Harrier-HawkLizard BuzzardOlive-bellied and Bronzy SunbirdsMosque and Lesser Striped SwallowsYellow-fronted Canaries, an ultra-brief Black Cuckooshrike, and an African Blue Flycatcher found by Andy. And then a pair of Red-headed Malimbes showed in a big tree, and a pair of Black-and-white Shrike-Flycatchers were spotted in the same tree! Wow! Just before we left for our afternoon excursion a pair of White-chinned Prinias performed admirably to set us off in high spirits. 

Black-and-white Shrike-Flycatcher

We walked around Bigodi Swamp in the afternoon, which was a little quiet. However, we still notched up a number of goodies beginning with a Tambourine Dove perched next to the path, followed by Yellow-throated Tinkerbird, Violet-backed Starling, Grey-winged Robin-Chat having a feast at an ant swarm and a Little Greenbul. We did get brief views of a White-spotted Flufftail, saw a Red-bellied Paradise-Flycatcher, Magpie Manikin and a close pair of Black-and-white Shrike-Flycatchers. Plus some monkeys….!!

Monday, 18 July 2022


We left our guest house early doors and began on the long drive towards Kibale. We had a lot of birds to find today and a lot of stops to make beginning at a roadside papyrus swamp where a Papyrus Gonolek duly performed rather well. 

Papyrus Gonolek

The same cannot be said of White-winged Swamp Warbler that we only heard here and at the next couple of papyrus swamps. But at this first swamp we also had Spur-winged Goose, Reed Cormorant, Blue-headed Coucal and the common Angola Swallow. Continuing on our journey, Paul (our guide) stopped at another roadside location with a line of large trees where several Black-and-white Casqued Hornbills were flying around and showing rather well. 

Black-and-white Casqued Hornbills

The first of several African Grey Parrots was next up, but despite my love of this species, it just couldn’t compete with a nearby Bat Hawk perched right next to us! A Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike, Broad-billed Roller, pair of Ross’s Turacos, Great Blue Turaco, Olive and Olive-bellied Sunbird were also seen at the same spot. 

African Grey Parrot

Bat Hawk

Ross's Turaco

Driving on we saw Ruppell’s Starling, Meyer’s Parrot & Northern Fiscal, before trying another marsh for White-winged Warblerwithout any luck. So we continued driving and stopped for lunch around 12.30. Whilst eating our picnic lunch we saw Tropical Boubou, Bronze Mannikin, Pin-tailed Whydah, Grey-headed Sparrow, Double-toothed Barbet, Yellow-fronted Canary and Copper Sunbird. 

White-collared Oliveback

A couple of hours later we reached some remnant forest close to Kibale, where we saw Buff-throated Apalis, Bocage’s Bush-Shrike, Cassin’s Flycatcher, Mountain Wagtail, and then drove to Fort Portal Marsh. Unbelievably, Paul found us a White-collared Oliveback we thoroughly enjoyed ticking! There was also Black-headed, Village and Northern Brown-throated Weavers, Vieillot’s Black Weaver and a flock of Black-crowned Waxbills. 

Black-headed Weaver

Northern Brown-throated Weaver

Moving on into Kibale Forest, we quickly notched up Sooty Flycatcher, Grey-throated Flycatcher and White-breasted Negrita before driving a further 20 minutes to our next lodge, arriving at 7.15pm. As we were checking-in a Black-shouldered Nightjar began calling and we briefly saw 2 of them on the roof before spotlighting them flying around the gardens and then seeing one perched on the dirt track outside the lodge.

Tuesday, 12 July 2022

Uganda Pre-Tour Day 3

Entebbe Botanical Gardens was our destination this morning, and to be honest I could list a bunch of really great birds that we saw easily….. Oh well why not?! We began with Grey-backed Camaroptera that showed well in the end, followed by Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat skulking in the shadows of a huge tree that also held Ashy Flycatcher and Red-bellied Paradise-FlycatcherThen we had our first of several amazing encounters with a small group of Great Blue Turacos, quickly followed by a pair of stunning Ross’s Turacos, with African Grey Parrot and several Black-and-white Casqued Hornbills flying over. 

Great Blue Turaco

Walking down to the lake shore was entertaining as we watched a pair of Hamerkops taking sticks from one old nest to their new nest just a few trees away, and as we watched them we saw Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird and Grey-headed Nigrita

The totally weird Hamerkop

Just around the corner we had a pair of fabulous Green Crombecs, African Openbill and a surprise sighting of a Yellow-crested Woodpecker – the first time our guide, Paul, had seen this species here. Along the lake shore we saw Black Crake, lots of egrets, openbills, herons and commoner birds. But it was here that the same group of Great Blue Turacos flew down into a tree next to us and fed maybe 20 feet above ground level, allowing us to get unbelievable views and some pretty decent photos. 

African Openbill

Higher up in these huge trees flocks of Splendid Starlings were feeding, whilst African Fish-Eagles, Northern Brown-throated and Golden-backed Weavers, Yellow-billed Kites, Spur-winged Lapwing, Striated Heron, Winding Cisticola, Red-chested Sunbird and Blue-spotted Wood Dove were all seen. We spent a bit more time with the Hamerkops before walking to the far end of the gardens seeing Olive-bellied, Mariqua and Collared Sunbirds, Black-and-white Mannikins, Diederik Cuckoo, Black-headed Weaver,and Vieillot’s Black Weaver were also seen.


After lunch back at the lodge and a siesta Dan & Tricia returned to the Botanical Gardens seeing African Hobby, whilst I collected the rest of our group from the airport and we managed to see the roosting African Wood Owls we had found earlier today, along with African Palm SwiftMeyer’s ParrotGrey-backed CamaropteraSpectacled WeaverGrey-headed Nigrita and other commoner species. 

Monday, 11 July 2022

Uganda Pre-Tour Day 2

This was a day I had longed for and one that is always the highlight of any tour to Uganda – Shoebill day. We began with a 6.30am breakfast before setting out on the bumpy drive to Mabamba Swamp, but we made numerous short stops along the way when we spotted anything interesting beside the road. We began with Lizard Buzzard, followed by Long-crested EagleAfrican Harrier-HawkWoodland KingfisherOlive Bee-eaterStriped KingfisherSooty Chat and Superb Starling. Nice! 

Olive Bee-eaters

Sooty Chat

Striped Kingfisher

Arriving at a little after 9am we saw our first Broad-billed Roller, Lesser Striped Swallow and Village Weavers before setting out in a small boat to search for Shoebill. At first you go along a narrow channel with papyrus either side and we saw several Malachite Kingfishers, Swamp Flycatcher, Winding Cisticola and Fan-tailed Widowbird. African Jacanas were numerous and as we left the narrow channel into more open water we followed the shore closely seeing Reed Cormorant, lots of Purple Herons, Grey-headed Gulls, flocks of White-winged Terns, Pied Kingfishers, Brown-throated Weaver, and many Squacco Herons

Malachite Kingfisher

Swamp Flycatcher

White-winged Tern

We passed a few other boats with tourists who had briefly seen a flighty Shoebill and that kind of dismayed us a little so for the next hour searched in vain, entering narrow channels where we grounded in roughly the area that our quarry had been seen. It was frustrating looking for this bird as you can’t see very far across the swamp but our scanning produced African Marsh Harrier,African Fish Eagle and Yellow-billed Kites. So we decided to try elsewhere and luckily enough, rounding a corner there stood the beast! A prehistoric grey stork with a weirdly hefty bill and Shoebill firmly rammed itself onto all of our life lists. We edged closer and had great views for maybe 2 minutes tops before it suddenly took flight and went away. Bugger! We saw it in flight again before it flew a fair distance away and dropped into an inaccessible area of papyrus swamp. And that was it. 


I must admit I sound a trifle churlish when I say I was a little underwhelmed for a few minutes until realisation sank in and we had had good views although my photos aren’t crisply sharp. Anyway, we carried on seeing Long-toed Lapwing, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, and plenty of previously mentioned species before returning to the car at midday.

Long-toed Lapwing

We drove to nearby Nkima Lodge, set amidst some pretty impressive forest and had lunch. Either side of this we saw Black-and-white Casqued Hornbills, Great Blue Turaco, very impressive Ross’s Turaco, scoped a Red-headed Lovebird for ages and had Angola Swallow. Red-chested Cuckoo, Western Nicator, White-breasted Negrita and Black-and-white Shrike-Flycatcher were all heard but were unresponsive in the early afternoon heat, but we knew we had better chances of these species during the main tour. So we left here and drove back to our lodge, making a couple of decent roadside stops. The first one gave us Bronze and Black-and-white Mannikins, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, Yellow White-eye, Golden-backed, Slender-billed and Thick-billed Weavers. A Klaas’s Cuckoo called in the distance and how about this for frustrating, as a Weyns’s Weaver flew past at Warp Factor 9 and away into the distance. 

White-throated Bee-eaters

The next stop was really good as Paul spotted some White-throated Bee-eaters perched beside the road, so we hopped out and took a few photos. As we were watching these, a pair of Long-crested Eagles were seen, followed by a close overhead African Harrier-Hawk, African Openbill, Vieillot’s Black Weaver, Golden-backed Weaver, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Broad-billed Roller, White-headed Saw-wing and a cracking Double-toothed Barbet. Phew! Leaving here we made good time to the lodge where another Double-toothed Barbet seemed to be sharing a telegraph pole with a pair of Meyer’s Parrots. What a day!

Thursday, 7 July 2022

Uganda pre-tour Day 1

This year’s ever-popular Uganda tour started a little earlier than normal, as a few of us decided to fly in ahead of the start of the main tour and do some extra birding, as well as giving ourselves a bit of a chance to recover and rest from the flight. Well, there wasn’t much recovery this evening as when we eventually left the airport formalities behind us and were being transferred to our guest house on the outskirts of Entebbe, our list started with Northern FiscalAfrican Openbill and a Hamerkop. Once we had our rooms sorted out at the guest house we met in the garden around 5pm and had a nice 90 minute session before it became dark during which time we saw Red-billed FirefinchWhite-browed Robin-ChatAfrican Green-Pigeon, a few Eastern Plantain Eaters and several Red-chested Sunbirds. A pair of African Wood Owls really stole the show as we watched them being mobbed by numerous birds and were instantly praised as our ‘Bird of the Day’, although a pair of African Hobbies graced the skies above, a Meyer’s Parrot called from on top of a telegraph post and a superb African Grey Parrot flew in to a tree right in front of us, in my opinion vied with the owls for bird of the day.

African Grey Parrot

Wednesday, 6 July 2022

Epic USA DAYS 14 - 17

 Going to have to speed this up as i'm currently in Uganda.... 

So yes, we headed to SaxZim Bog and well and truly nailed Connecticut Warbler after a few hours of worry as we waited for one to start singing. The wellies we bought came in handy as we had to walk inside the Tamarack bog and hike over the moss-covered floor that acted like a bouncy sponge but we got the warbler. Result! There was also a crackling LeConte's Warbler, Black-billed Cuckoo and a Great Grey Owl to keep us entertained over 2 days. Down near Minneapolis we targeted Blue-winged Warbler and found one after a longish walk and also saw a close Henslow's Sparrow and a family of Barred Owls. There were plenty of other birds but those are the main highlights.... And here's a few photos from these days.......

Barred Owl

This Black-throated green Warbler was very inquisitive

Saw a family of Canada Jays along...... the Canada Jay trail at SaxZim Bog!

Cedar Waxwing from Murphy-Hanrehan Park

Connecticut Warbler sings from high up in the pine trees at SaxZim Bog

Connecticut Warbler - seeing them on their breeding grounds in Minnesota is the only way...

LeConte's Sparrow is a little beauty

The shy and retiring Mourning Warbler near the Canadian border

Olive-sided Flycatcher was seen twice on the trip

Epic USA Day 13

Headed out into the prairies once again, this time our main focus was on finding Greater Prairie Chicken in the vast open landscapes of prairie, dotted with lakes. It’s no mean feat but we actually scoped a pair of males at a good distance displaying and could hear their calls. What a show they put on and we celebrated our major find vigorously with high fives and even hugs! 

Greater Prairie Chicken......

The lake beside us held drake Wood Duck (much to Brian’s delight) and a cracking drake Hooded Merganser right in front of us, with a group of Ring-necked Ducks, a few Canvasbacks and the usual assortment of other wildfowl, which made for quite a spectacle. Skeins of Canada Gees flew overhead migrating to more northern climes, whilst we watched a family of Canada Geese below us with 6 cygnets. Weird huh? Buoyed by our success we spent some time driving and birding the prairies without finding anything new before returning to the hotel for breakfast.


Our next stop was some 3 hours away amidst a fantastic mixture of conifer and alder forest, dotted with lakes. One such body of water held over 30 Common Loons, making for quite a spectacle. At the appointed place we parked and straight away saw American GoldfinchEastern PhoebeSand Martin and Ruby-throated Hummingbird – the latter showing well perched on a telegraph wire in the scope. A short walk was productive with a few Red-eyed VireosSwamp SparrowChestnut-sided WarblerGreat Crested Flycatcher and a Green Heron. Back at the car, a Veery called and was lured into view for very nice scope views – a much-wanted lifer for Graham. And then we were off to Sax-Zim Bog, a little short of 90 minutes away where the grounds of our lodge had several Purple Finches visiting the feeders, plus a flock of Cedar Waxwings was present. A good day!

Saturday, 2 July 2022

Epic USA Day 12

Left at 5.30am on our Sprague’s Pipit hunt. Had some recent info from a friend and headed off in search of the correct site, and after a slight error caused by Google Maps taking us 14 miles the wrong way we eventually arrived a little later than we should have! This section of shortgrass prairie looked perfect but I was a little worried we couldn’t hear any pipits singing when we pulled up. So we decided to split up and walk across the prairie in search of this ever-elusive pipit , as this was one of the few areas that we had come across that wasn’t fenced off. Within a few minutes a pipit began songflighting and it proceeded to fly right overhead before dropping like a stone into the grass in front of us. We had pretty decent views of it skulking in the grass before it flew around us twice and then rose high overhead for another songflighting session. Wow what a result!

Sprague's Pipit songflighting right over our heads

During the morning we were amazed at the sheer number of ponds and lakes out here in the prairies where we saw good numbers of all the usual wildfowl, as well as an American Bittern, Great Egret, a late lingering Snow Goose, with another in a northbound migrating flock of Canada Geese flying overhead. So we then drove to a Nelson’s Sparrow site but drew a blank, although our second American Bittern of the morning was seen feeding right out in the open. We had thoroughly enjoyed driving round the prairies seeing numerous species on the multitude of lakes and ponds that dominate the prairie landscape here. 

American Bittern

 We then drove a couple of hours to Grand Forks for the night and headed out into the prairie in search of Nelson’s Sparrow once again, but this time we had much more success and finally tracked down a singing bird at 9pm with the sun just about to set below the horizon to round off a good day.

Friday, 1 July 2022

Epic USA Day 11

Well, finally we found ourselves out on the famous Bentonite Road shortly after sunrise. Our list of targets was small to be honest and we quickly nailed Ferruginous Hawk, which despite numerous reports all along our route, was the only confirmed sighting of the entire trip. Phew! A couple of Brown Thrashers were a surprise here and a new addition to our list but it wasn’t until we were driving back towards the motel that Graham spotted our other main target along here, with a pair of Greater Sage Grouse skulking about 200m away. Scope views followed and another ‘chicken’ safely tucked under the belt.


Headed out on yet another long driver, stopping to look for a reported Wood Duck without any luck. And then we headed further east towards Jamestown, calling in to the wonderful landscape of Theodore Roosevelt National park where American Bison stole the show. Or maybe the stunning Red-headed Woodpecker that was continually flycatching high in the air above us. Amazing! 

American Bison

Red-headed Woodpecker

We walked a little bit and saw an Alder Flycatcher, Orchard Oriole and heard a Great Horned Owl calling. So we left and drove to Jamestown, calling into great prairie habitat where our main target was Baird’s Sparrow. We tried a few places and had a number of false starts you might say but when it was just about time to leave as we still had 3 hours left of the journey, a superb little Baird’s Sparrow decided to sing from a low fence wire and I screeched to a halt when I heard the song, half expecting it to be a Savannah Sparrow but no! There it was. Almost a Holy Grail bird in the breeding season. We had chased a few without luck but here managed to find our own. Result! We were very tired but exceedingly happy when our motel was finally reached I can assure you…!