Ugandan guide to bird watching Safari

Ugandan guide to bird watching Safari

Ugandan guide to bird-watching safari: Journeys Uganda’s team, led by Paul Tamwenya, will assist you in having the best possible birdwatching experience in Uganda. Covering an area of about 90,041 square miles, Uganda’s various ecosystems and habitats provide a birding paradise unmatched anywhere in the world. Paul Tamwenya, who has over 15 years of experience with a checklist of close to 1,000 bird species, has led enthusiastic birders from all over the world, such as Peter Roberts, who authenticated that “there are few destinations where one can mop up all these bird species in a mere three weeks.”.

Habitats of Bird Species in Uganda

Due to its different birding habitats, which include dry to semi-arid regions, woodland and grassland savannahs, mashes to papyrus swamps, tropical to afro-montane rainforests, and clear blue skies, Uganda is a melting pot of diverse resident and migratory bird species. Many easily observed native bird species find refuge in these environments, including winter migrants from the Palearctic, like the Peregrine Falcon and Lesser Spotted Eagle, as well as both vertical and horizontal migrants within Africa (intra-African migrants) and the breeding resident species within the main habitats. These factors elevate Uganda to the pinnacle of birdwatching, with all bird species finding refuge in the high-altitude and low-range forests and swamps, where many rare species can be found.

 Uganda is an important breeding location for various bird species that are rare or nonexistent in other areas of the world, while having only one endemic bird species, the dark-backed Fox’s Weaver. On one of his exploration visits, Paul discovered multiple nests in the Pian Upe game reserve, as well as a pair of dark-backed Fox’s Weavers near Bulambuli. These weavers resemble the Speke’s weaver seen in other parts of East Africa, and they typically breed between January and March.

It is worthy noting that this weaver bears striking similarities to the Speke’s, which live in central and northern Tanzania, as well as in southwestern and northern Kenya. Uganda is a popular birding destination because it is home to a number of easily observed species that are endemic to particular habitats within the Albertine Rift. This area, which stretches from the south of Lake Albert through the southwest corner and connects to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and the Nyungwe forest of Rwanda, is known for its high-altitude lakes, swamps, mountains, and afro montane tropical rain forests.

The giant stork-like grey Shoebill, a globally threatened species that is highly sought after, can be found in the mahogany swamps and Mabamba wetland near the capital, Namugabo swamp, Lake Albert, Lake Bisina, Opeta, Awoja wetland, the Victoria Nile, and some mashes in eastern central Uganda. Other mash birds include the Rufous-bellied Heron, which is charcoal grey, and the Lesser Jacana, which is common but generally scarce and local; Crakes, Moorhens, Ducks, Sandpipers, Shanks, Plovers, Stilts, Papyrus Canary and Yellow Warbler, the large and plain dark brown White-winged Warbler, Carruthers’s Cisticola, the locally common but shy, difficult to observe Papyrus Gonolek, and the grey-eyed Orange Weaver, which is always sighted on the northern beaches of Lake Victoria.

With over 1000 bird species documented in an area the size of Great Britain or the State of Oregon, Uganda is perhaps the best country in Africa, if not the entire globe, for a birding safari. All of the aforementioned factors make Uganda a must-visit birding destination.

Unique Bird Species Found in Uganda

The dark-backed Fox’s Weaver is the only endemic bird species in Uganda. It can be found in the marshes of eastern Uganda near Lakes Opeta and Bisina, as well as in the Awoja swamp. Recently, while driving from Mount Elgon National Park, on one of my discovery trips with my German friend Konrad, we discovered a pair nesting near Bulambuli, a few kilometres from the main road off Mbale Kapchorwa, and several other nests within Pian Upe game reserve. Other birding guides have also seen it in this area, and to the best of my knowledge, it breeds primarily in January, February, and March.

This black and white hornbill species is found in humid forests of central and west Africa, ranging from Senegal-Congo east to Uganda and south to Angola.(Congo-Guinea Biome)

Albertine Rift Endemics Uganda

Uganda’s Endangered Rift Species African Birding Expeditions Semilki National Park, which contains the only Guinea Congo Biome endemics in Central East Africa, Rwenzori Mountains National Park, which is part of Queen Elizabeth, the second largest park in Uganda, and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, which is bordered by extremely productive birding forests like the Echuya Forest Reserve and eventually Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, make up this exhilarating birding area with unique bird species. The typical leaf Red-faced Woodland Warbler, which has an unmistakable brick-faced wash to the supercilium, the gorgeous leafy African Green Broadbill, which is marked with a pale blue throat and is always highly sought after by birders of all walks, and the extremely shy species on the African continent are the following: the reticent Neumann’s Warbler, which is always seen along the swiftly flowing rivers in the Buhoma section of Bwindi; the Grauer’s Swamp Warbler, which lives in swamps between 1950 and 2600 metres above sea level; the eerie Strange Weaver; the largest Shelley’s Crimsonwing, which I was fortunate enough to see recently with twitcher Henk from the Netherlands around the neck of the Mgahinga gorge; the dark grey and reddish plumaged Dusky Crimsonwing, which is easily seen crossing back and forth around the Mgahinga gorge; and a shy hard find in the Ruhija part of Bwindi is primarily known for its walk to the swamp. If you drive slowly, you can frequently see it making quick crossings of the main road approximately three kilometres to the Ruhija park offices. Other notable sightings include the iridescent dark Rwenzori Blue Headed Sunbird, the Regal Sunbird, which is easily seen in highland forests, including edges and clearings; the superb painted Rwenzori Turaco, which is easily seen on the Rwenzori mountains and Mgahinga National Park; the Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird and the unique Purple-breasted Sunbird, which shines an amazing variation of violet, gold, purple, copper, and green colorations; the handsome pairs and small flocks of Francolins easily seen on the drive between the Ndego and Ruhija gate of Bwindi along the bamboo thickets; Black Faced Apalis, the Rwenzori Batis, which inhabits in the undergrowth of high altitude forests, Kivu Ground Thrush, the orange-brown, rather dull, melodious Archer’s Robin-Chat, which is easier to see in Mgahinga than in Bwindi, the Stripe-breasted Tit with soft, muffled tit-like calls, the Collared Apalis, and other species can be combined with visiting wonderful parks, such as Kidepo Valley National Park, which best captures the essence of Africa’s natural habitats, Murchison Falls National Park, Semliki National Park, which is home to a variety of Hornbills, Greenbuls, Bluebills with Malimbes, and Lake Mburo, which is well-known for its Red-faced, Crested, Black-collared, White-headed, and Spot-flanked Barbets. Not to be overlooked is the Livingstone’s Turaco, which was recently spotted around the fig trees near the Rwakobo Rock Lodge with their important birding areas and less frequented areas to maximise the variety of bird species while seeing a lot of wild game.

Best times to go on a bird watching safari in Uganda

Uganda is a bird-watcher’s paradise, offering a plethora of avian species that can be seen all year. However, if you’re interested in seeing some of the African migrants that arrive in Uganda, plan your trip between July and September. During this time, you can catch a glimpse of several cuckoo species, including the Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, which spends most of the summer in the southern countries of Malawi and Mozambique.

If you’re looking for highly sought-after birds in Uganda, you should visit between June and September, with July and August being the most popular months for birding. The Grauer’s Broadbill is a highly localised species that nests from late May onwards. To catch a glimpse of this incredible bird, head to the Mubwindi Swamp in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The African Green Broadbill can also be found in mixed flocks, and you can hear its highly pitched hissing and rhythmical call as it gleans for insects.

The green-breasted Pitta is another bird that bird-watchers flock to Uganda to see. This stunning species starts its hunt as early as 6:00 in the morning and makes a display call that can be heard from afar. Although it mostly displays between 6:15 and 7:15 am, you might hear it around 10:45 am, mostly in March and April.

If you’re planning a bird-watching trip to Uganda between December and February, you’re in for a treat. During this time, the weather is dry, and trees are shedding their leaves, making it easier to spot high canopy dwelling species like the rare Ituri Batis and the constantly moving Uganda Woodland Warbler. This is also the best time to see Uganda’s only endemic species, the Fox’s Weaver. The Kidepo Valley National Park is also worth a visit during this time of year, as you might get to see a variety of birds, including the Stone Partridges, Black-breasted Barbet, Grasshopper Buzzard, and other endemic species.

What to pack on an African bird watching Safari

Selecting Uganda as your birding destination is a huge decision that could significantly impact the experience you will gain. It is a destination that offers unique and diverse birdlife that attracts birdwatchers from all over the world. However, to make the most of your Uganda birding trip, you need to be well-prepared both psychologically, physically, and financially, as it involves travel expenses, time, and other expenditures. Our birding safaris in Uganda are conducted in remote rural areas, mostly in forests where you will walk on foot, or mash in canoes or small boats to explore the wildlife. It is important to pack all the essential gear to enhance your experience, as birding equipment may not be readily available in towns.

Choice of clothing to select on an African Birding Safari

If you want to discover the amazing birdlife of Uganda, you need to pack the right clothing and equipment for your birding safaris. Uganda is a tropical country, so you should dress appropriately for the warm weather and humidity that you are likely to encounter. Bring light-weight long-sleeved shirts and nature-friendly pants made of breathable materials that will allow you to move freely and stay comfortable throughout the day. You will need 3 to 4 pairs of quick-drying long pants and 3 to 4 quick-drying long-sleeved shirts, as well as 2 short-sleeved shirts/t-shirts, 2 pairs of shorts/capris, and 1 sleeveless shirt to keep you cool in the heat of the day.

The weather in Uganda can be unpredictable, so it’s essential to pack a fleece pullover or light jacket that you can wear in the early morning or late afternoon when the temperature drops. You should also bring a rain jacket and rain pants to protect you from sudden downpours. Don’t forget to pack 4 pairs of mid-calf socks (long enough to tuck pants into) to keep your feet dry and comfortable during long walks and open boat rides. A wide-brimmed hat is also essential to protect your head from the strong tropical sun.

Some of the recommended hiking boots for birders.

Hiking boots/Shoes

If you want to see more birds in Uganda, you should go on long and short walks through different places where you can easily find various bird species. These places include wetlands, forests, and savannah plains. To make birdwatching more comfortable, it is recommended that you wear strong walking shoes, rain boots, or gum boots, especially in marshy areas like Semliki. When it’s raining, it’s best to wear waterproof boots when birding in the Mubwindi Swamp.

A Field Bag

When bird watching in Uganda, you always need a waterproof backpack to store essential accessories such as cameras, spare batteries, binocular cases, laser pointers, readers, insect repellent, sunscreen, and others.

Field Manual

These are very important items to take with you on your next bird watching safari in Uganda. It all depends on how many days you spend bird watching. Birds of Africa South of the Sahara by Ian Sinclair and Peter Ryan and Bradt’s Uganda Travel Guide by Philip Briggs and Andrew Roberts will be very helpful as they go into detail about tourism and everything you need.

 Safari Companion: A Guide to Observing African Mammals by Richard D. Estes. Illustrations: Daniel Otte (Russell Friedman Books, JHB 1993) This book has been described as a tool that will make us all instant experts in animal behaviour and should quickly become the leading source of information on animal behaviour for gamekeepers, safari guides, and enthusiasts. Nature. The book enables participants on a safari in Uganda to recognise and understand interesting behavioural phenomena such as courtship rituals, territory marking, aggression, and offspring care. Recommended only for serious naturalists, the book is rich in detail, and much of it is presented in a “difficult to digest” scientific format that makes frequent use of symbols and symbolism. By digitalizing, you can download the guide to avoid carrying bulky items.

First aid kit and medication

Bird-watching trips in Africa A safari or trip to Africa/Uganda requires good general health. All guests should be aware that while a high level of fitness is not required, some physical activity should be included on all African safaris and tours, and remember that bird hunting in rural Uganda requires access to good hospitals, pharmacies, and doctors. For the few weeks you will be in Uganda, bring a long and small kit that includes lip balm, sunscreen, pipe, aspirin, ibuprofen, plasters/products, tape, antihistamines, antibacterial gel/wipes, cream antiseptic, Imodium, etc. It should contain similar tablets for mild diarrhoea, moisturising powder, insect repellent, a sewing kit, other prescription medications that you can take as directed by your doctor, and iodine and hydrogen peroxide, among others, for minor injuries.

Drinking Water bottle

Uganda is an equatorial and generally warm country. So, if you go on a bird watching expedition, be sure to bring a bottle of water to stay hydrated throughout the trip. At Birding Journeys Uganda, we recommend having 1-2 litres of water available in the car per day. Since bird watching mainly involves nature walks and runs that usually require physical exertion, it is advisable to always have drinking water with you.

Flashlight/Torch

Flashlights are very important during nighttime and planned walks where you can observe nocturnal bird species, especially owls and nightjars, without forgetting predators such as leopards, genets, hyenas, and lions.

Essential documents and Particulars

Passport (with copies), travel insurance (with copies), visa pre-approval required (available online; see visa information), flight itinerary (with copies), proof of yellow fever vaccination (with copies)

Toiletries

In addition to the usual basic needs like clothes, shoes, and cameras, other things like lotion, toothpaste, toothbrushes, hand sanitizer, and hair gel are also important on a safari in Uganda.

Uganda tours are aimed at all bird watchers and naturalists, as most of our guides are young, passionate, and energetic people who can mentor and accompany both experienced and inexperienced guests. You don’t have to be an expert or a super-tacker to have fun with our team. Our tours are aimed at enthusiastic travellers who want to spend most, if not all, of their vacation exploring nature. Our goal is to take birders to the most incredible places in the world and observe the world’s most incredible birds in the most comfortable way possible because we take the time to select real and beautiful locations, with exceptional guides who then create unforgettable memories.

Cameras

To bring on a birding trip to Uganda I’m not very good with cameras, but I always interact with photographers and listen to their discussions. If you’re a geek, you need different cameras and lenses for different habitats and species. One with additional batteries and memory cards. Simple photography accessories are essential for bird watching in Uganda. Nikon, Canon, and Sony are very easy to use and common. Imagine the moment when a shoebill is about to take off or catch a lungfish, its favourite food! What a million-dollar photo you will capture! Other moments included green-breasted pitta displays, chimpanzee grooming, hippos yawning, and giraffe neck slitting, to name a few. Make sure the camera you choose offers the perfect combination of capacity, weight, and portability and also has a superzoom that can neutralize areas of strong or low light.

Spotting scope and a pair of binoculars

Uganda has from the largest ostrich 2.5 metres high to the smallest 8cm tits, which makes them really tiny to be easily spotted at a distance, but with your binoculars in possession, you will be able to capture every moment during your birding safari in Uganda. Swarovski, Zeiss, Leica, and Branton are good examples, Some birders even go the extra mile to bring 2 pairs of binoculars in case the main pair is damaged in the course of the trip. Telescopes are very good aids to great views into detail of some forest species as they spell out all the details of a particular species, I always see scopes make a birding trip to Uganda easy and enjoyable if you are swift to land it on the bird.

Our scenic tours in Uganda range from day trips to full scenic tours lasting up to 4 weeks, primarily in Uganda and Rwanda. Just let us know, and we’ll get you exactly what you need! Book your African bird-watching trip with Journeys Uganda today and become captivated by the beauty and diversity of Uganda’s birdlife.