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Uganda: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

August, 2019


After leaving Queen Elizabeth National Park, we headed to Bwindi. I've got to tell you, I was a bit fascinated to see what this place looked like. I've seen it on maps, and the name sounds amazing. Of course, we wouldn't really be going into the forest. We'd get to peak in from around the edges.


Here is where we did our gorilla hike, and you can read about that in a separate post. We also did a bit of birding here. It was not the birding I'd hoped for, though. We did not make any effort at all for the Albertine Rift endemics. We were told that it was a day-long hike through the forest on a lot of up-and-down trails. We'd need porters. I'm pretty much guessing that it was our guide's way of saying that we were not in shape for it. This would be yet more birds that I would miss out on this trip.


We did a bit of birding near the visitor's center the evening after our gorilla walk. We also returned there two more times the following day. Once, we walked down to the waterfalls, and the second time we birded the area near the center again. We did manage to pick up quite a few birds on these walks. We always managed something new.


As I've mentioned before, photography in the forest is a bit different and difficult. I wasn't carrying a flash, and I didn't really have a way to get it off-camera, anyway. Just for fun, here's a few shots of what I ended up with.

Bar-tailed Trogon, Black Bee-eater, Slender-billed Greenbul, Bocage's Bush-Shrike, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, White-headed Wood-Hoopoe, Mountain Wagtail, and White-tailed Ant-Thrush. Confusing backgrounds and, overall, not very good lighting. Interestingly, the Ant-Thrush is actually eating ants. If you look in the photo, you can see the line of them. These are Safari Ants.

Safari Ants

Here is where a macro lens would have come in handy, but I didn't really want to get too close anyway. The ants have actually worn a trench into the dirt. smaller ants are carrying eggs in the center of the channel. The outer edges are lined with large soldier ants, and they are all standing there with their jaws open and facing upwards. They were not to be messed with. The number of ants moving through was incalculable. The bite of a soldier is said to be quite strong, and it is said that they can be used for emergency sutures for cuts; as the head is strong enough to hold a cut closed and will remain closed after the body is removed. Not something I want to test.


So, on to something nicer! Like sunbirds! There was a large bottlebrush tree near the visitor's center, and there was a constant stream of sunbirds in and out of it.

New for the trip were the Northern Double-collared and the Green-throated. The Green-throated was high on my list of birds I wanted to see this trip.


The highlight here for Carmen, aside from the gorillas, was the walk to the waterfalls. She loves waterfalls. It seemed like a long and hard hike. I'm sure we were a bit worn-out still from the previous day's hike. We saw a good number of birds and even scored a few other animals.

The Black-fronted Duiker was quite a surprise; as it initially poked it's head out onto the trail and then burst across. The snail was as large as my fist. We had a lot of butterfies on the way back, and even some somewhat-cooperative L'Hoest's Monkeys. We were told the bat was a Mountain Fruit Bat.


The waterfalls themselves were a bit underwhelming. I saw the first two and started the hike for the third, but I grew tired and told Carmen to go on without me. I was carrying my Sony and a tripod to make sure I could get good photos of the falls. I probably should have put in the effort to get to the third, but I'd tweaked my knee and did not want to risk issues. Here are falls 1 and 2.

I'd put away all my camera equipment in my pack to make the hike back a bit easier. Of course, this is when all the cooperative birds came out. Dusky Tit lead a mixed flock of Gray Cuckoo-Shrike, Black Sawwing, and other birds across our path. Further back up the trail, we were treated to a Red-throated Alethe sitting on an open perch. Frustrated, I opened the pack back up and pulled my camera out. Amazingly, it sat through the whole thing. A little further down trail, a White-bellied Robin-Chat similarly obliged.


There was probably a lot more birding that we could have done than the area we focused on. In just driving to and from places, we had quite a few birds. I would have loved to try birding up where we did the gorilla hike. On the way back from there, we had an Augur Buzzard sitting at the edge of the road.

Even just driving through the village, we found a number of new species.

I'm happy to have seen what I did though. Our last evening here, we made one final trip down the road to look for Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat. It was another bird high on my list of "wants". We did not find one, though. We finished out on a bit of a slow evening, but it was nice to be birding and get a few more photos.


Our final stop of this trip was coming up next. It's amazing how quickly two weeks moves by. We were up early the next day and headed to Lake Mburo.


Thanks for reading,

Mike



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