Best time for bird watching in Murchison Falls

Best time for bird watching in Murchison Falls

What is the best time for bird watching in Murchison Falls? Murchison Falls National Park is a paradise for birding enthusiasts due to its varied ecosystems, which include savannah grass and woodlands, rainforests, and riverine vegetation. This diverse habitat provides a unique selection of bird species, with over 450 species calling the park home. Some of these species are endemic to the Albertine region only, while others are endangered. One such bird is the shoebill stork, which is prehistoric and can be spotted during a boat cruise down the river in the Albert Delta, where the Nile flows into Lake Albert.

Bird watching is a popular activity that can be enjoyed while taking part in various activities offered at Murchison Falls National Park. You can spot a wide range of inland birds, including the open-billed stork, Abyssinian ground hornbill, secretary birds, black-bellied bustards, the widow bird, and the Marabou stork, among others. You can either go birding on a vehicle or take a guided nature walk along the Nile, up the falls, through Budongo forest, or on a boat cruise to see various bird species.

Uganda’s Climate and Weather Conditions

Being the pearl of Africa, Uganda has a pleasantly warm and conducive tropical climate, which makes it one of the most eminent birding destinations in Africa.  The country’s tropical climate primarily has two seasons: the wet season and the dry season. The dry season in northern Uganda ranges from December through February, and the wet season is from March through November. This period encompasses Murchison Falls National Park, Kidepo Valley, Pian Upe Game Reserve, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, and others.

Which season is favourable for birding in Murchison Falls National Park.

Bird watching in Uganda can be enjoyed year-round, regardless of the season, whether it’s wet or dry. However, the best time to go bird watching is during the dry low season, which is from January to March and November to April. During these months, you can observe a wide variety of bird species, including migratory birds. If you’re interested in birding in Murchison Falls, you can do it at any time of the year, depending on your specific wish list or preferences.

Bird watching in Murchison Falls National Park-Wet Season

The best time for bird watching in Murchison Falls is during the wet season, where it receives heavy rainfall with two rainy seasons throughout the year, starting from March to May and also from October to November. This rainfall boosts the growth of the vegetation cover, and increases the food supply, especially fruits for birds, flowering plants with bright colours, native flowers, trees, and shrubs, which attract both insects and birds with enough water points for most of the living organisms, hence boosting the ecosystem. Additionally, the plant cover also acts as a territorial ground for birdlife, especially during breeding and nesting periods. Nevertheless, bird watching during the wet season has its disadvantages since it is considered a low season with fewer visitors and little chance to spot migratory birds. It is worth noting that accommodation is cheaper during the low season in the parks, and the best birding safaris in Murchison Falls National Park are open and welcome visitors all year round.

Bird Watching in Murchison Falls National Park: Dry Season

The best time to do birding in Murchison Falls National Park is during the dry season, particularly from December to March and from June to September, which is also the peak season. This is attributed to the winter season in Europe During this time, the skies are clear, and the birds are most active, making it easier to spot them. This also attracts more migratory birds because they tend to run away from their home countries during winter periods, such as African Wattled Lapwing, Ground Hornbills, Goliath Herons, Secretary Birds, and African Darters, among others. This dry season naturally trims the vegetation cover and the birding trails, making it easier for visitors to clearly spot these beautiful, multicoloured birds. Depending on the nature of our roads, during the dry season the circuits are less muddy, which helps visitors travel long distances in search of birds since sightings of these birds are always located in remote areas such as Budongo Forest and Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary compared to the wet season with heavy rains, where trails and roads (circuits) are always slippery and impassable.

 Bird watching in Murchison Falls National Park (morning and evening)

The prime time for avid birders to go birding is always early morning or dusk, often before dawn or about 11:00am when conditions are calm. This is after birds are active and feeding as they sing, making swirling melodies in preparation for the early morning catch along the rivers and lake shores, especially on the Nile Delta. These birds communicate through those songs, especially during the mating season, when they make duetting calls to attract birds of the opposite sex. If your wish list has an owl, nighttime is always the best. Unlike diurnal birds such as the Blue Tit and the Collared Dove, which are accustomed to sleeping as the sun sets and often wake up when the sun rises,.

Cost for bird watching in Murchison Falls National Park

If you’re interested in bird watching and planning to visit Murchison Falls National Park, here’s some useful information for you. The cost of bird watching in the park varies based on the type of visitor. Foreign non-residents are charged 30 USD per person; foreign residents pay 25 USD per person; and East African citizens can enjoy bird watching for just 20,000 UGX per person. It’s important to note that these rates exclude park entrance fees and other activity fees, such as the nature walk fee and boat cruise fee. Therefore, visitors should budget accordingly to cover all the necessary costs associated with visiting the park.

A fleet is waiting for visitors at the lodge.

How to access Murchison Falls National Park for bird watching

To reach the park, you can use either air or road transport. If you opt for air transport, you can book scheduled or charter flights with Aero Link Uganda or Bar Aviation from Entebbe Airport or Kajjansi Airfield to Pakuba, Chobe, or Bugungu Airstrips. Upon arrival, you can connect to the park headquarters by road.

If you prefer road transport, you can drive from Kampala via Masindi to the park headquarters. The journey takes approximately 5 to 6 hours in a safari vehicle. The road trip is an adventure in itself, as you get to experience the Ugandan countryside and observe the local way of life.

Once you arrive at the park, you can embark on a thrilling game drive to spot the wildlife. You can also go on a boat cruise along the Nile River to witness the breathtaking Murchison Falls, where the Nile forces its way through a narrow gorge before plunging 43 meters below.

What to carry for your bird-watching safari in Murchison Falls National Park.

If you’re planning to go on a bird-watching safari in Murchison Falls National Park, there are some essential items you should carry. These include a waterproof rain jacket, hiking shoes, a long-sleeved shirt and trousers with neutral colours, a warm sweater, a pair of binoculars, a field guidebook, a camera with extra batteries, drinking water, a wide-brimmed hat, a flashlight, and insect repellent.

Where to stay on a bird watching safari in Murchison Falls National Park.

Additionally, there are various accommodation options available in the park, ranging from budget to luxury. Some of these options include Paraa Safari Lodge, Twiga Safari Lodge, Red Chilli Rest Camp, Fort Murchison Lodge, Murchison River Lodge, Pakuba Safari Lodge, Murchison Falls Bamboo Village, Sambiya River Lodge, Budongo Eco Lodge, Parkside Safari Lodge, Bar Lyec Safari Lodge, Nile Safari Lodge, Tilenga Safari Lodge, and Chobe Safari Lodge.

Bird watching in Uganda can be done all year round, depending on the season, not only in Murchison Falls National Park but also in other parks like Semliki National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, and Kibale National Park, among others. Therefore, Uganda is a must-visit birding destination for any bird and wildlife enthusiast.