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Uganda: Kibale

August, 2019


After leaving Murchison, we headed south to Kibale. Kibale, pronounced locally with a "ch" instead of a "k" sound, is where we would be doing our chimpanzee walk. The forest here is also home to a number of forest elephants. Because of this, we would need an armed ranger to accompany us.


Carmen was excited, because Kibale is billed as the monkey capital of Uganda. My purpose here was dual. Kibale is also home to the Green-banded Pitta. This was our only shot for this bird, and we needed to be out early. The bird displays for a short while after sunrise and then goes quiet; skulking along the forest floor for the remainder of the day. The ranger was to be our local guide for the day. As an expert of the forest, he was to guide us. It just did not work out that way. We arrived at the visitor's center at 6; as arranged by our guide. Our ranger was not there. After much waiting and several inquiries, a ranger showed up 40 minutes late. He lead us off into the forest with hardly a word. The sun was already up, and I had a bad feeling about everything. Our guide seemed a bit off-guard as well. We walked for quite a distance and saw nothing. We stood for long periods of time with nothing happening. In short, the day turned into a complete disaster. No pitta. No monkeys. After several times of asking about chimpanzees, our ranger told us we had plenty of time later. Finally, we passed another group that had been viewing chimpanzees for a while and then left. Finally, our ranger took us to see the chimpanzees.


We watched them feed in a large fig tree for a while and then tracked down an individual that had descended to the ground. We got lucky and had a small window in the undergrowth. An incredible experience.


And that pretty much covered our time in Kibale. We had an hour's hike back to the center. Along the way, we stopped to photograph a few of the butterflies along the trail.

Rattray's Forester, Kraka Glassy Acraea, Blood-red Glidder, and Neave's Banded Judy were but a few of the many colorful butterflies we saw.


Back at the visitor's center, Carmen was finally able to see a few Red-tailed Monkey. They've become her new favorite monkey, and it was good that she finally got to see some up close.



The rest of the day was spent back at the hotel. Were were plagued with rain, yet again. Earlier in the trip, we were introduced to this bird.

This is the Red-chested Cuckoo. It's known as the "oracle bird". It's said it's call is "it will rain", and when you hear it call, it will rain. We laughed about it at first. As the days pile up and we kept getting rained on, it seemed like there might be some truth to the myth. Unfortunately, where we stayed, there was a family of these birds living there.


Where we stayed was the Chimpanzee Forest Guesthouse. The place was amazing, and I could have stayed there for a day just birding the grounds.

The place was absolutely alive with birds. We spent a lot of time just trying to bird the grounds of the place. The evening after our chimpanzee walk, we headed out to bird the grounds in the fading light. There was still a bit of light rain at times, but we made the best of a fairly poor day. We spent a long time just watching the sunbirds battle in the hibiscus bushes.

The view was not bad, either. As cloudy as it was this night, the pre-dawn morning was clear.

Carmen had set hear alarm early, and I got up to check the skies. I didn't really know what direction were were facing, but I took a chance and setup the camera on the porch of our room for an hour of star shots. There was not a way to really capture any landscape in the shot. It's simply a record of time flowing by. Turns out, I was mostly facing north.

The stars rain down on the horizon

Our time here was bookended by two smaller excursions. On the way in, we stopped to bird a bit of the forest along the highway. It was an area that overlooked a gorge. We had a few nice birds here. We also got our first looks at Red Colobus here. They were fairly distant.

Highlights for us were close Black-and-white Colubus, a displaying Olive-bellied Sunbird, and a surprise appearance by a Giant Kingfisher! For our guide, the highlight was probably the bird he didn't expect to see. Our guide was playing for a bird, and, as usual, I asked him about the call. He said it was a Forest Weaver. We heard one respond and started looking across the gorge. Carmen suddenly asked if the bird was yellow with a black head. Our guide got really excited. We all finally got a look, and all three of us gained a lifer that day.

Forest Weaver. Our guide's lifer for the trip.

The evening of our chimpanzee trip, we were supposed to do a walk at a local swamp. Instead, we did it the following morning on our way to Queen Elizabeth National Park. Bigodi Swamp is located nearby and helps support a local community. It's about a 3 hour hike around the papyrus swamp. You walk the edge for most of it, followed by a somewhat treacherous walk on a boardwalk through the swamp, and then a gentle hike through community farmland. There are various places where people have trinkets for sale. Carmen always offered to take pictures of the kids with her polaroid camera. The joy on their faces when they saw their picture starting to appear is priceless. It's the best idea ever. We also, finally, got to see a lot of monkeys. While it didn't really make up for the day before, I was glad she got to see and photograph them.


After the hike, we loaded back into the van and headed to Queen Elizabeth National Park. Home of the tree-climbing lions. But, that is a tale for the next post.


Thanks for reading,

Mike



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