Birding in Echuya Forest Reserve Uganda

Birding in Echuya Forest Reserve Uganda

March 11, 2024
News Journeys Uganda

Birding in Echuya Forest Reserve Uganda: Birding in Echuya Forest Reserve is a delightful experience for nature enthusiasts and avid birders. The Forest Reserve is in the hilly expanse between Kisoro and Lake Bunyonyi in the Rubanda district of southwestern Uganda. Echuya Forest Reserve is a captivating natural gem that spans approximately 3400 hectares primarily consisting of lush forest particularly bamboo but also harbours a permanent high-altitude swamp known as Machuya. Machuya swamp is situated at an elevation of 2300 meters, stretches about 7 kilometres and is around 750 meters wide. The swamp nestles within a narrow valley surrounded by steep forested hillsides and supports a rich avian population such as the endangered Grauer’s Swamp Warbler.

Echuya Forest Reserve is an Important Birding Area (IBA) hosting an impressive array of birdlife with approximately 150 species calling it home. Among these, 18 species are endemic to the Echuya Forest Reserve with in the Albertine Rift area making it a crucial habitat for conservation. Grauer’s Swamp Warbler is among the most elusive and sought-after birds here. Other notable bird species include: the small and secretive Dwarf Honeyguide that specialises in guiding humans and animals to beehives for honey, the Red-throated Alethe often seen flitting through the forest understory, the melodious Archer’s Robin-chat often found perched on the branches, the beautiful Kivu Ground Thrush often seen foraging the forest floor, the elusive Grauer’s Swamp Warbler that thrive in swampy areas of Echuya, the always loud Red-faced Woodland Warbler among the dense vegetation, the small and insectivorous Rwenzori Apalis with a distinctive white collar around its neck, the Regal Sunbird with iridescent plumage often seen feeding on nectar from flowers, the White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher, Strange Weavers, Rwenzori Blue-headed Sunbird, the beautiful Rwenzori Turaco, Strip-breasted Tit, Doherty’s Bush-shrike, Brown-capped Weaver, the Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Rwnzori Hill Babbler, Remeron Pigeon, Dusky Crimsonwing, Kakamega Greenbul, the high altitude dwelling Olive Woodpecker, Montane Oriole and the Rwenzori Batis among others.

Best Places to sight birds while in Echuya Forest Reserve.

Echuya Forest Reserve in southwestern Uganda offers a captivating blend of natural wonders, especially for birdwatchers. Here are some of the best places to watch birds within this pristine montane rainforest:

  • Muchuya Swamp

This swamp is a hot spot for bird watching. It stretches about 7 kilometres and is surrounded by 4 high altitude lakes of which Kayumba and Chahafi are to the southwest, Lake Bunyonyi to the east, and Mulehe to the north. The swamp boasts a unique vegetation composition dominated by Sedges, tussock vegetation, and impressive giant lobelias. The swamp drains northwest into the Murindi River. The swamp is home to several bird species including the endangered Grauer’s Swamp Warbler where one can spot numerous pairs of this elusive bird here.

  • Bamboo Forest

The Echuya forest is largely covered by bamboo, particularly the Yushania alpine species. The dense bamboo thickets create a magical ambience where one might encounter various bird species such as the Red-throated Alethe, Archer’s Robin-chat, Black-faced, Rwenzori and Chestnut-throated Apalis, Abyssinian and Kivu Ground Thrush, Strange Weaver, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Regal Sunbird, Dwarf Honeyguide, Doherty’s Bushshrike, Mountain Yellow Warbler, Slender-billed Greenbul, White-necked Raven always flies over there thick Echuya Forest, Yellow-streaked Greenbul and many more.

Other activities while in Echuya Forest Reserve.

  • Wildlife

While Echuya’s focus is on birds, the forest hosts a variety of forest-dwelling creatures such as troops of the agile Blue Monkeys swinging through the treetops, the striking Black and White Colobus Monkeys, Olive Baboons, the white bearded L’Hoest’s Monkey,  Antelopes and duikers among others.

  • Butterfly Watching

The vibrant presence of Butterfly species adds a colourful touch to Ehuya’s serene environment. Visitors should keep an eye out for these delicate insects as they flutter among the leaves and flowers mostly the Swallowtails and Euphedreas and Charaxes.

  • Batwa Cultural connection

The Echuya Batwa commonly known as pygmies are an endangered group of people residing around the Echuya Forest Reserve in southwestern Uganda in the districts of Kisoro and Kabale. Originally, the Batwa were forest-dwellers, hunters and fruit gatherers in the Great Lakes region in central Africa and are widely considered the area’s original inhabitants. The  Batwa Pygmies were later evicted from the forests and relocated to areas outside the the different protected areas in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo

They no longer depend on the forest directly however the reserve remains significant for its bamboo resources used for building and crafts; the forest also holds cultural importance for the Batwa people who continually offer religious sacrifices to their gods within its bounds. During an encounter with the Batwa people, expect traditional performances, storytelling, food of Batwa making an authentic cultural experience.

What is the best time to visit Echuya Forest Reserve in Southwestern Uganda?

The best time to visit Echuya Forest Reserve depends on your preference and experience. Some of the considerations are:

  • The favourite time for a bird-watching season is during the dry season usually from June to August and December to February. This is because the forest canopy is less dense making it easier to spot diverse bird species during this time and also less slippery.
  • On the other hand, if you are interested in Cultural experiences, especially interacting with the Batwa community, consider visiting during the wet season.

What to carry for bird watching in Echuya Forest Reserve?

When embarking on a bird-watching adventure in Echuya Forest Reserve, it is essential to be prepared and here is a checklist of items to carry for an enriching birding experience:

  • A pair of binoculars
  • Rain jacket
  • Good Hiking shoes
  • A field Guide book
  • A Camera and extra batteries
  • Hat and Sunglasses
  • Insect Repellents among others

How to access Echuya Forest Reserve?

The Forest reserve can be accessed by both air and road means of transportation. By road, it takes approximately 8 hours from Kampala the capital city to Echuya Forest via the Kabale-Kisoro Road. By air, one can fly from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi Airstrip to one of the airstrips in Kisoro or Kabale before they are transferred by road to Echuya a less that 30 minutes drive from the Kisoro Airfield