Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Expedition to Rwanda and Uganda December 2014 to January 2015 (Part 1)


National Biodiversity Parks, Inc. continues its research on effective conservation business models by traveling to Rwanda and Uganda (12/2014-1/2015). Many international habitats are being degraded or destroyed; sustainable projects need to be developed in unprotected areas or important natural resources will be lost, many forever. Initiatives that would directly preserve select properties or those that would start or support the nascent conservation and ecotourism industry are being considered by National Biodiversity Parks for collaborative partnerships.




Aerial view of the Rift Valley, western branch: the Albertine rift. NASA reconstruction.


Nyungwe Forest in the Kivu Basin of Rwanda is one of the best preserved Afromontane forests. We spent a few days there observing many species.

East-Central Africa was already high on a list of potential project areas hence our visit several years ago to the large Mara-Serengeti ecosystem where we met with the Tanzanian Park Service Minister.


Walking safaris are allowed in some areas of Africa; due to wild animals armed rangers may guide you.




During that visit it became evident that the Rift Valley which slices through several countries, was an important area for wildlife and endemism but governmental and private infrastructure was still developing. Of course any international project must go through careful research and due diligence requiring time, effort and capital; we realized more ground-truthing and meetings were needed.



The two gorilla species of central Africa are a spectacular and popular ecotourism draw.  Unexpectedly this young Mountian Gorilla effortlessly scampered up this vine.


African Lions are getting rare; only 35,000 remain. One stronghold is the Greater Mara-Serengeti ecosystem. In Uganda they can be found in Queen Victoria, Kidepo Valley and Murchison Falls National Parks. 

Hippopatamus are seen often in East Africa.


Variable Sunbird

The two branches of the Rift Valley; the eastern passes through Kenya and Tanzania; western through Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania.
Bronze Sunbird, fairly common in various habitats and gardens.


The rare Golden Monkey of the Virungas (see story and other pictures)  

Concurrent with our interest in the conservation of one of the most iconic and captivating animals on Earth, the Mountain Gorilla, some US based colleagues visited Uganda a few years ago. Besides seeing many keystone primate species including the gorilla, their informal but steadfast field hours had yielded 425 species of birds and many other animals and plants in only 14 field days. 

Ross's Turacos near Masinda, Uganda; this pair was territorial around some large avocado trees near a village; this bird family is related to cuckoos. 
Highlights for them were many large mammals, several Rift Valley (Albertine) bird endemics, several species of hornbills, sunbirds and turacos (colorful, fruit eating  relatives of the cuckoos), the infamous Shoebill, pittas, Mountain Gorillas, Chimpanzees and many more common to endangered species.



Sunbirds are a diverse family of nectar and insect feeders occuring in wamer areas of the Old World; this male Scarlet-chested Sunbird carried its name well. 

It only took a few minutes to decide that National Biodiversity Parks, Inc. (NBP) would survey this area for potential projects and partnerships. Here we present the raw biological and taxonomic results of our recent visit (mainly early 2015) along with brief comments on related long term issues for the areas important resources and assets. More detailed articles about environmental, conservation and sustainable business centric issues facing Africa and especially Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, etc., may appear on our River of Biodiversity journal.



And of course another expedition could just be

a few months of planning away!



Visiting the parks and open spaces supports local and regional communities along with the wildlife.


Feel free to contact us about our upcoming safaris to Africa or inquire on your custom travel ideas that support biodiversity and the local people that showcase and care for these important resources.

Flying In Between the Virunga Mountains of gorilla fame and Lake Victoria (one of the Nile River sources) on the way to a Rwanda landing.
When studying patterns of zoogeography it is evident that both endemism and biodiversity are highest, often dramatically, in areas where temperatures are warm, seasonality is limited, altitudinal variances exist and there are geographic barriers to animal movement. Although the latter impedes animals, over time geographic isolation must be present to create exceptional regional faunal speciation.  
The variable Rift Valley lakes support both species of African flamingo and many other species.


The basic evolutionary mechanisms of mutation, migration, genetic drift, and natural selection — can produce major evolutionary change if given enough time. Geographic isolation can accelerate the effect of these mechanisms and, in some instances exponentially compound the number of species that eventual occur in one region.



Mountain Gorilla - Uganda
East-Central Africa had the raw materials for biotic change and speciation, ----constant warm weather; partitioning of the region by a complex of geological rifts----- and the valleys, mountains, cliffs and escarpments associated with these scisms. Add in some immense lakes and several large tributaries of the longest river system in the world, the Nile, and the result is a spectacular show. 

Enjoy our expedition.

Our itinerary included several days in western Rwanda followed by 2 weeks in mostly southwestern and western Uganda. This route  highlights the Albertine Rift which has more endemic vertebrate species than any other region of mainland Africa. There are 42 species of endemic birds found in this rift; our itinerary gave us a chance at seeing many of them. Rwanda, south of Uganda was added in order to hopefully see conservation efforts there and species that are either not found or are not as accessible in the western Ugandan section of the rift.

The Albertine Rift and the adjacent forests and plains are sometimes referred to as the Greater Virunga Landscape.  This area  contains a large variety of habitats and with an altitudinal range of 600-5,100 metres above sea level (1,900-16,575 feet).  The variances result in more vertebrate species than any other landscape in Africa and perhaps the entire planet. Thirteen protected areas make up the landscape: Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of Congo), Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda), and several parks and reserves in Uganda: Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park; Echuya Forest Reserve; Queen Elizabeth National Park; Kigezi Wildlife Reserve; Kyambura Wildlife Reserve; Kalinzu Forest Reserve; Kasyoha-Kitomi Forest Reserve; Rwenzori Mountains National Park; Rwenzori Forest Reserve; Kibale National park and Semuliki National Park and together these cover 13,800 km2 (Figure 1). We visited most of these parks/areas.

At least 1,409 terrestrial vertebrates (mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles) are known from the landscape and 3,755 plant species with probably at least another 100 fish species. Of these, 100 terrestrial vertebrates are endemic to the Albertine Rift and 56 terrestrial vertebrates are globally threatened. Most of these species can be effectively conserved by conserving the habitats within the landscape and ensuring the area is not significantly altered. 


The Albertine Rift is the western branch of the East African Rift, covering parts of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. It extends from the northern end of Lake Albert to the southern end of Lake Tanganyika.

We flew from New Jersey via Brussels to Kigali, Rwanda.  It is a small and pleasant city of twenty square miles. 
Kigali, Rwanda is a pleasant, small city where most trips to this area begin.

The first animals of the trip were Black Kites; this is likely the most common accipiter in the world.  They migrate S to winter in Africa and will often communally roost in developed areas; these were near the Urban Hotel, Kigali but we saw a few hundred of them throughout the trip.  We also had the similar resident Yellow-billed Kite.


Yellow-billed Kite, close relative to the most common raptor species in the world, the Black Kite. 

Yellow-billed Kite. 40 feet away.




Typical retail area near Kigali, Rwanda.


Overlooking Kigali, Rwanda.

Heading west out of  Kigali towards the animals.


Grosbeak Weaver (male) is one of the many true Old World weaver species.


 
Grosbeak Weaver (female).
Typical small town in Rwanda.
Here you can see the mosaic pattern of subsistance agriculture that is prevalent in these countries. Compare the tilled area to the left to the preserved forest border on the right


Weavers typically construct basket nests that protect the eggs and nestlings from predators.   


We drove west for five hours with a few birding stops between Kigali and the Nyungwe rainforest. After scores of miles the theme of the landscape becomes evident----an endless quilt of small family farm plots typical of extensive subsistence agricultural. Most familys' in these countries rely on very modest plots for their food. The productivity is rainfall dependent although near streams, rivers and lakes gravity irrigation is employed. There is little electrical infrastructure and few pumps or solar powered equipment.

If and when agrarian modernization arrives crop yields will increase but suburban and rural water tables will certainly drop. Wetlands are already being encroached and drained outside of the few preserved areas; drops in water tables will no doubt accelerate the loss of riverine and palustrine habitats.

Regardless of modernization the increasing pressures of population demographics will undoubtedly drop the water table in most areas; most wetland obligate species of plants and animals will decline in numbers.

Male Pin-tailed Whydah, but most of the 8 inch tail is not visible. It is the most widespread whydah; the female parasatizes waxbill nests with its own eggs.



Male Common Kestrel.

Here is a distant male Variable Sunbird, Cinnyris venusa igneiventris, which has a yellow-orange belly rather than the other subspecies yellow or white belly.

A close Variable Sunbird.


Distant immature Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater 
Cinnamon-chested Bee-eaters live on forest edges but can persist in more developed areas if there are some flying insects.

A male Grosbeak Weaver gathering nest material.
The Nyungwe rainforest is located in southwestern Rwanda, on the border with southerly Burundi,  and Lake Kivu and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. The Nyungwe rainforest is probably the best preserved montane rainforest in Central Africa. It is located in the watershed between the basin of the river Congo to the west and the basin of the river Nile to the east. At least the east side of the Nyungwe forest drains to form one of the Nile River's sources. Nyungwe Forest National Park was established in 2004; it is approximately 970 km² of rainforest, bamboo stands, grassland, swamps and bogs. As I recall there are no accommodations for visitors inside the park and we stayed near the closest town, CyanguguMount Bigugu is located within the park borders.


The Nyungwe rainforest is fantastic Afromontane habitat with a high density and diversity of plants and animals.
This Grey-winged Robin Chat forcefully checked us out.

White-naped Ravens prefer the vicinity of cliffs and mountains.
Grey-winged Robin Chat is a nice bird.
The Nyungwe forest has a wide diversity of animal species, making it a priority for conservation in Africa. The forest is situated in a region in which several large-scale biogeographical zones meet and the variety of terrestrial biomes provides a great span of microhabitats for many different species of plants and animals.



This is the endemic Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird although the bill is short for the nominate subspecies. It is likely the shorter-billed graueri which is expected in this area of Southern Rwanda.
Hiking on the steep hills of the spectacular Nyungwe forest allows you to see some upper canopy birds closeup or even from above.  But don't ignore the understory.
Another Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird.  
L'Hoests Monkeys are fearless.


Yellowbill, a large tropical cuckoo somewhat intermediate to coucals.
The park contains 13 different primate species (25% of Africa's total), 275 bird species, 1068 plant species, 85 mammal species, 32 amphibian and 38 reptile species. Many of these animals are restricted-range species that are only found in the Albertine Rift montane forests ecoregion in Africa. In fact, the number of endemic species found here is greater than in any other forest in the Albertine Rift Mountains that has been surveyed. The forest, which reaches its maximum altitude of 3000 meters above sea level, is of particular interest for the presence of colonies of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes - Blumenbach, 1775) and Angola colobus (Colobus angolensis - Sclater 1860), the latter now extinct in Angola for the intense hunting pressure they were subjected to.

L'Hoests Monkey.
Female Blue-headed Sunbird.
The hills of Nyungwe forest have occasional open areas caused by logging or landslides. These are good areas to see wildlife.  From here we heard Chimpanzees.
White-naped Raven.
This White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher, immature, was still associating with its nearby parents. 

Hiking through this steep, virgin montane forest for a few days proved eventful as a bird or primate was encountered every few minutes or so. Here we had several sought after Albertine bird endemics, near endemics or just a plain old life or trip species. Highlights were a few Purple-breasted Sunbirds (see distant pictures of at least one), Ruwenzori Batis, Ruwenzori Turaco, Grauer's Warbler, Kivu Ground Thrush,  Mountain Sooty Boubou, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, ....
Olive Thrush is the most common Turdus of the Rift highlands.





This impressive aerial foot bridge was narrow......and over 200 feet up.  Its not for the  acrophobic. Paradise Flycatchers and many other species were in the canopy but difficult to photograph.

wcs website





Variable Sunbird 
Twenty foot tall tree ferns (Cyathea manniana) occured sporadically
Chestnut-throated Apalis, a warbler, was seen several times



This sedge filled bog was an uncommon habitat type.  Here we had Reed Bush Thrush and Grauer's Warbler.   Sabrewings are the blurry birds in flight.
A special place. The park offers opportunities for studies and discoveries. 
The Yellow White-eye is found throughout most of Central Africa; there are several races.
Variable Sunbird, with multiple races, is found in most of East Africa .
In a stream gap along the park road to Congo, a wet reedy area of several acres (see picture), yielded good looks at Reed Bush Thrush and Grauer's Warbler.  At our small lodge in the tea plantations on the SW side of the park we had a few sunbird species including the endemic Ruwenzori Double-collared Sunbird.




One of the many spectacular and sought after species in this forest is the Kivu Ground-Thrush. The most accessible birds in its small range are here. There are substantial authorities that believe it to be a subspecies of the  Abyssinian Ground-Thrush. Some authorities however (Birds or East Africa (2002), T. Stevenson and J. Fanshawe, believed it to be a full species. So its is either Zoothera piaggiae tanganjicae (a subspecies of Abyssinian Ground-Thrush) or a full species Z. tanganjicae. Below are some technical details.  I will try and get an update on the status of these taxa upon request.  


This speciation discussion is brought up here only as an example of the many complex ecological and evolutionary issues that are still unsolved in biodiverse areas like this. Some discoveries may not be made before extirpations or even extinctions occur.


Regardless of how you treat the thrush taxa both are found in the western branch of the Rift Valley. The Abyssinian Ground-Thrush is found N of the Kivu Ground Thrush in a small part or SW  Uganda.

Taxonomic note

Zoothera piaggiae and Z. tanganjicae (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) have been lumped under Z. piaggiae following Dowsett and Forbes-Watson (1993) who include tanganjicae as a subspecies of Z. piaggiae on the basis that morphological differences are slight, vocal characters are of little help in determining species limits in Zoothera, and, pending evidence that the parapatry claimed by Prigogine exists between breeding populations of the two in eastern DRC (rather than being influenced by the altitudinal movements of one or the other), the two are best treated as conspecific. BTWG adopts this position.


Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Zoothera tanganjicae. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 03/02/2015. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2015) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 03/02/2015.

This early successional habitat of hedgerows, tussocks and grasses was rumored to have flufftails. We occasionally played a tape and worked a calling bird for 45 minutes. It finally flew up from one side of trail to the other in a shallow arc. 
 This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.







Variable Sunbird
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Nyungwe Forest of SW Rwanda in the Kivu Basin is perhaps the best preserved Afromontane forest. We spent a few days there observing many species.



Can you see this endemic bird that was180 feet from us?  It's small but right in the middle.
It's a Purple-breasted Sunbird found only in the Albertine Rift.
Again the distant Purple-breasted Sunbird.  We observed 6 but only in this park. 


 
Variable Sunbird






The rangers  in this park were excellent; they were laid back and knew their biology. Between laughs at someone's antics we saw many insects, birds and primates 

Typical rural area that depends on rain fed agriculture.



Many of the streambeds are lined with papyrus beds where many unusual species live.  Unfortunately in unprotected areas the increasing human population is encroaching, filling and draining the wetlands.  More wells lower the watertable. 
There aren't many vehicles and few traffic jams; people often walk long distances



The first look at the cloudy Virunga Mountains infamous for Mountain Gorillas.
Some small towns in Rwanda and Uganda are close to the gorillas' last remaining strongholds. Agricultural lands delineate the park's border
Willow Warblers are a common Old World migrant from the N.  First year birds have yellow underparts.
Streaky Seedeaters are very common relatives of canaries.

Your gettting close to the lodges and park trailheads when you see a corner with ten signs. 

Collared Sunbirds were gittery; we had several.
Typical Rwandan landscape view of a "gorilla" peak

Diederik Cuckoo from 150 feet away, named for its onomatopoeic song, dee-dee-dee-dee-derik... 
Diederik Cuckoo....named for its onomatopoeic song, dee-dee-dee-dee-derik...
Red-eyed Dove is one of five species in East Africa with black nape stipes.


Bronze Sunbird, fairly common in various habitats and gardens.
This Double-toothed Barbet, darker eyes indicating an immature, was in a roost or former hatching tree. Barbets are basal to woodpeckers on the evolutionary tree.  
Grey-headed Sparrows prefer higher rainfall areas of East Africa; they are related to English Sparrows.
Cinnamon-chested Bee-eaters live on forest edges but can persist in more developed areas if there are some flying insects.
Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater.
At certain times of the year gorilla silverbacks can lead their group high up on the volcanic peaks, requirying a strenuous hike for visitors.   








The border of Rwanda and Uganda was mostly empty except for foot traffic. We were on our way in 30 minutes
In 2001 the gorilla complex was interpreted this way.


Here is a general listing of our itinerary.



Dec 30: Arrive in Rwanda. Stay at Urban Boutique Kiyovu (Kigali)
Dec 31: Morning transfer to Nyungwe.
Nyungwe forest is situated in south-west Rwanda between Lake Kivu and the international border with Burundi. Nyungwe is divided north–south by a line of mountains that reach 2,600–2,900 m and which form part of the Congo–Nile watershed. As a result, Nyungwe is composed of two areas differing in pedology, vegetation, water-flow and biodiversity. This wonderful birding area lies west of Butare, with the Butare to Cyangugu road passing straight through the middle, providing excellent roadside birding. A total of 275 species have been recorded in Nyungwe, reflecting the wide habitat diversity and altitudinal range. These include, all the 25 species of the Albertine Rift mountains Endemic Bird Area that occur in Rwanda, Chapin’s Flycatcher and Rockefellers’ Sunbird (both globally threatened, restricted-range and biome-restricted). In addition, 11 of the 23 species of the Guinea–Congo Forests biome and 71 of the 74 species of this biome of Afrotropical Highlands that occur in Rwanda have been recorded at this site. Generally, Nyungwe is certainly the most important forest for the conservation of montane birds in the region.


Stay at Gisakura Guest House


Jan 1: Birding and canopy walk Nyungwe Forest National Park

We have an early morning breakfast then set out to Uwinka for the Albertine Rrift endemic birds search. Among the many we look out for, include; Kivu Ground-Thrush, White-tailed Blue-flycatcher, Red-chested Sunbird, Regal Sunbird, Rockefeller’s Sunbird, Miombo Rock-Thrush, Mountain Masked Apalis, Black-faced Apalis, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Collared Apalis, Grauer’s Warbler, few Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Stripe-breasted Tit, Purple-breasted Sunbird, Red- throated Alethe, Archer’s Robin-Chat, Ruwenzori Turaco, Great Blue Turaco, Handsome Francolin, White-headed Wood-hoopoe, Olive Woodpecker, Mountain Greenbul, Rwenzori Hill-babbler, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, Mountain Yellow Warbler, Northern Puffback, White-starred Robin, Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird, Dusky Crimsonwing, Thick-billed Seedeater, Streaky Seedeater, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Variable Sunbird, Waller's Starling, White-bellied Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, just to mention but a few. We can also Go on an escorted walk in search of the large groups of colobus monkeys and birds including the Red Collared Mountain Babbler, Kungwe Appalis, Sherry’s Crimson-wing, Regal Sunbird, Rwenzori Turaco.

Stay at Gisakura Guest House


Jan 2: Another Day Birdwatching Nyungwe Forest

We look for species probably missed the previous day, we hope to tick-off Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Mountain Sooty Boubou, Rwenzori Batis, Blue-headed Sunbird, Sharpe's Starling, White-tailed Blue Flycatcher, Evergreen Forest Warbler, Dusky Tit, Doherty's Bush-shrike, Siffling Cisticola, Bronze Mannikin, Golden-breasted Bunting, Neumann's Warbler, Red-throated Alethe, Mountain Wagtail, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Equatorial Akalat, Black Cuckoo, Kungwe Apalis, White-bellied Robin-chat, and many more. We try our luck and listen out at night fall for the Rwenzori Nightjar (a nocturnal species), Albertine Owlet and Red-chested Owlet.


Stay at Gisakura Guest House


Jan 3: Birding to Ruhengeri

Early start for Kinigi. The journey north goes through the beautiful terraced

Hillsides that characterise much of Rwanda’s landscape, gradually climbing to the

Base of the awesome volcanoes, sometimes with as many as five peaks visible. Late

Lunch enroute.


Stay at La Palme Hotel


Jan 4: AM Birding to Kisoro and PM golden monkeys.


Stay at Kisoro Travellers Hotel


Jan 5: Birding Mgahinga National Park 
Mgahinga is Uganda's smallest and arguably most scenic national park situated in the extreme southwestern corner of the country. With more than 115 recorded bird species, including some Albertine rift endemics, we shall traverse a variety of montane habitats as we explore treasures of this park along the excellent Gorge trail, which loops half way up Mt. Sabinyo.
  From Ntebeko Camp, the trail winds up through former farmland where regenerating vegetation has a semi natural health character. Dusky Turtle Dove, Cape Robin-chat, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Bronze Sunbird, Black-headed Waxbill and Streaky Seedeater favour the scrubby vegetation in this area. As we enter the bamboo belt at about 2500m, we may encounter the Handsome Francolin, Kivu Ground Thrush and Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, White Starred Robin, Greater Double collard Sunbird, Rwenzori Turcaco, Rwenzori Batis, Shelly's Dusky Crimsonwing, Archer's Robin Chat, Olive Pigeon, Western Green Tinkerbird, Malachite Sunbird, Cape Robin, and many others. Between the bamboo zone and the edge of the forest, we shall cross several hundred metres of open heath with the appearance of alpine moorland. The flowering red-hot Pokers attract both Malachite and Scarlet-tufted Sunbirds.
Stay at Travellers Hotel Kisoro.


Jan 6: Birding to Bwindi Ruhiija through Echuya forest.


Bwindi is excellent habitat for approximately 360 Mountain Gorillas - half of the world's population. The avian llist for the park currently totals 347 species. The forest has 10 of the 26 globally threatened species in Uganda, five of which are vulnerable. It boasts of 24 of the 25 Albertine Rift endemics and some, such as African Green Broadbill, Chapin's Flycatcher and Shelley's Crimson-wing
 which have limited distributions elsewhere in their range.


Bronze Sunbird, fairly common in various habitats and gardens.

Here in the high-elevation bamboo forests, keep an eye out for African Black Duck and Mountain Wagtails in the small fast-flowing streams. Other local specialties include Mountain and Augur buzzards, Ayres's Hawk-Eagle, Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk, Brown-necked Parrot, Black-billed Turacco, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, White-headed Wood-hoopoe, Western Tinkerbird, Olive Woodpecker, Thick-billed, Least, and the elusive Dwarf honey-guides, Black Saw-wing, Gray Cuckoo-shrike, Eastern Mountain, Honeyguide, Red-tailed, Shelley's and Yellow-streaked Greenbuls, Olive Thrush, White-starred Robin, Stripe-breasted Tit, Mountain and the beautiful Gray-chested Illadopses, African Hill Babbler (the local form often treated as a full species, the Ruwenzori Hill Babbler), Black-faced, Ruwenzori, and Chestnut-throated Apalises, Red-faced Woodland-Warbler, White-tailed Blue-Flycatcher, Yellow-eyed Black-Flycatcher, Ruwenzori Batis, Mountain Sooty Boubou, the rare Lagden's Bushshrike, Sharpe's Starling, Black-tailed Oriole, Strange Weaver, and Oriole Finch.  Flowering trees attract the incredible Purple-breasted Sunbird as well as Blue-headed and Regal Sunbirds, all three being extremely beautiful Albertine Rift Endemics.
 Dusky, Red-faced and the elusive Shelley's Crimson-wings, amongst the most beautiful and sought-after of African seedeaters, are possible at Ruhija. 

Stay at Gorilla Mist Camp.

Jan 7: Gorilla Tracking.

After an early breakfast, you will report to the park headquarters for briefing prior to the gorilla tracking excursion. This introduction is short but the tracking may take anywhere from 1 to 8 hours so a reasonable degree of fitness is required. It is a wonderful experience to stare in to the eyes of these gentle giants; watch them in awe as they play and go about their daily activities. It is indeed a "once in a lifetime" experience; some ecotourists return multiple times. If you are in Uganda you should seriously consider this day trip. Each encounter is different and has its own rewards, but you are likely to enjoy the close view of adults feeding, grooming and resting as the youngsters frolic and swing from vines in a delightfully playful display.

Stay at Gorilla Mist Camp.

Jan 8: Birding to Buhoma.
Drive to Buhoma through the "Neck." Evening birding around the margins of the forest is productive. The park lies in the rugged Kigezi Highlands of southwestern Uganda, protecting a continuum of forest that ranges from lowland to montane areas. It is this altitudinal variation, combined with its location within the Albertine Rift that results in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest being the richest forest in East Africa in terms of its trees, butterflies and birds.

 Stay at Buhoma Community Rest Camp

Jan 9: Birding the Main Trail.

Today start after a warm breakfast and carry packed lunch for forest birding. One of Bwindi's star avian attractions is the diminutive, Pitta-like Neumann's Warbler, a vocal yet very secretive bird!
 

Other understory birds we hope to see include
 displaying African Broadbill, Pale-breasted and Mountain Illadopsis, African Hill-Babbler, Red-throated Alethe, Black-faced, Black-throated and Mountain Masked Apalises, Banded Prinia and the handsome Black-faced Rufous-Warbler. The mid-storey and canopy supports Elliot's and Tullberg's Woodpeckers, Cabanis', Toro Olive, Shelley's and Ansorge's Greenbuls, the strange Grauer's Warbler and White-browed Crombec, Yellow-eyed Black, Ashy, Dusky-blue, Chapin's and Cassin's Grey Flycatchers, Chin-spot and Rwenzori Batis, Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher, White-bellied Crested-flycatcher, Dusky Tit, Blue-throated Brown, Blue-headed, Northern Double-collared and Grey-headed Sunbirds, Mackinnon's Fiscal, Sooty Boubou, Pink-footed Puffback, Doherty's Bush-shrike. The rare Jameson's Ant-pecker may also been seen probing under moss on dead branches or gleaning warbler-like in the canopy along with Strange, Brown-capped and Black-billed Weavers. Overhead, Scarce Swifts forage over the forest. Birding at Buhoma is a truly magical experience. Other wildlife that we may be fortunate enough to find here include the huge Yellow-backed Duiker, Guereza, Colobus, L'Hoest's, Blue and Red-tailed monkeys, Chimpanzee and several species of squirrels including Fire-footed Rope, Carruthers' Mountain, Ruwenzori Sun and Red-legged Sun Squirrel.

Stay at Buhoma Community Rest Camp.

Jan 10: Birding to Kibale through Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Stay at Chimpanze Guest House. 


Jan 11: Drive to Murchison Falls National Park.

We take a long drive to Murchison Falls National Park. If time allows, we may bird along the way arriving late evening.

Stay at Sambiya River Lodge.

Jan 12 - 13: Birding, game drives and Boat cruise to the bottom of the falls.

We start birding after an early breakfast. we may choose to take a boat along the Victoria Nile or game drive to the delta.Special birds to look for include Shoebill, Secretary Bird, Abyssinian Roller and Ground Hornbill, Pied Kingfishers, Red-throated Bee-eaters, Goliath Heron, Saddle-billed Stork, Sacred Ibis, Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Senegal Thick-knee, Water Thick-knee, Black-headed Lapwing, Long-toed Lapwing, Little Bittern, Osprey, Red-necked Falcon, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Vinaceous Dove and Grosbeak Weaver. Other specials include Buff-bellied Warbler, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Bar-breasted Firefinch, Red-winged Grey Warbler, Spotted Morning-Thrush, Marabou Stork, Red-throated Bee-eater, Silver Bird, Beautiful Sunbird, Black-headed Gonolek, Speckle-fronted and Golden-backed Weavers, White-rumped Seedeater, Pel's Fishing Owl, White Crested Turacco, Bruce's Green Pigeon, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow Weaver, Carmine Bee-eater, Night jars (Pennant-winged & Standard-winged), White rumped canary.


Stay at Sambiya River Lodge.

Jan 14: Bird watching to Masindi through - Budongo Forest.

After an early breakfast, we bird through woodlands southwards toward the Kanio Pabide section of Budongo Forest. Birding in the forest and along Masindi Road is impressively productive. Special birds at Budongo include Rufous-sided Broadbill, the very rare Puvell's Illadopsis, Red-tailed Ant-thrush, Yellow and Grey Long bills, Whistling Cisticola, Black Bishop, Red-headed and Red-billed Quelleas, Magpie Mannikin, Blue-throated Roller, Yellow-billed Shrike, Pygmy Sunbird, African Harrier Hawk, Blue Sunbird, Olive-bellied Sunbird, Chestnut Wattle-eye, Brown-eared Woodpecker, Rufous Flycatcher Thrush, Forest Robin, Red-headed Bristlebill, Paradise Flycatcher, Emerald Cuckoo, Double-collared Sunbird, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Little Greenbul, Slender-billed Greenbul, Buff-throated Apalis, Icterine Greenbul, Xavier's Greenbul, Cameroon Sombre, Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo. The forest is also home to Chimpanzes.

Stay at Masindi Hotel.

Jan 15: Birding the Royal Mile.
A short drive from the hotel at dawn will take us to one of Uganda's best bird watching sites, the Royal Mile. The Royal Mile is so called because this has historically been a leisure spot for the traditional King.

Here the main trail in this excellent forest has been cut back a few meters along both sides which makes for particularly good viewing. Specialty birds in Budongo include White-thighed and Black-and-white-casqued Hornbills, Yellow-spotted and Yellow billed Barbets, Western Black-headed Oriole, along with Red-tailed and Blue Monkeys. Overhead, Sabine's and sometimes Cassin's Spinetails soar over the clearings. As we walk quietly along the trail, Red-tailed Ant-Thrushes skulk in the shadows, as do Red-tailed Bristlebill, Scaly-breasted, Pale-breasted and Brown Illadopsis. Greenbuls are ever a challenge and include Cameroon Sombre, Slender-billed, Honeyguide and Spotted, whilst other regular species are Speckled Tinkerbird, Yellow-crested Woodpecker, Green Crombec, Rufous-crowned Eremomela, Yellow-browed Camaroptera, Buff-throated Apalis, and both White-breasted and Grey-headed Negrofinches. Lower down we should see Chocolate-backed and African Dwarf Kingfishers, White-spotted Flufftails and the elusive Nahan's Francolin. Other possibilities here are Great Sparrow-hawk, Cassin's Hawk-eagle, Crested Guinea-fowl, Tambourine Dove, Grey Parrot, African Emerald and Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoos, Yellowbill, White-throated Bee-eater, Yellow-throated Tinkerbird, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Yellow-crested Woodpecker, Dusky Tit, Western Nicator, Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat, Forest Robin, Black-throated and Black-capped Apalis, Yellow-browed Camaroptera, Brown-crowned Eremomela, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Sabine's and Cassin's Spinetails, Wilcock's Honeyguide, Yellow and Grey Longbills, Jameson's Wattle-eye, Blue-throated Brown and Little Green Sunbirds, Rufous Flycatcher Thrush, Yellow-mantled Weaver, Red-headed Malimbe and Uganda Woodland Warbler, Ituri Batis.

 Stay at Masindi Hotel.


Jan 16: Birding Busingiro Section.
On this day, we bird in the Busingiro section of Budongo forest. Specialties here include Red-headed Malimbe, Sooty Flycatcher, Ituri Batis, Tit Hylia, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Buff-throated Apalis, Black-throated Apalis, Chestnut Wattle-eye, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Green Sunbird, Superb Sunbird, Tambourine Dove, Golden-breasted Bunting, Rufous Flycatcher Thrush, African Jacana, African Fish Eagle, Sabine's Spinetail, White-rumped Spinetail, Pied Kingfisher, Angola Swallow, Purple-headed Starling, Hamerkop, White-headed Saw-wing, Cassin's Spinetail, Osprey, Black-shouldered Kite, Senegal Coucal.


Stay at Masindi Hotel.


Jan 17: Drive to Entebbe for evening departure.


Baglafecht Weaver is common in Uganda.

Bronze Sunbird, fairly common in various habitats and gardens.


Common Bulbuls are numerous in East Africa. 
Swamp Flycatcher; they are found around lakes, ponds, swamps and papyrus beds.
Swamp Flycatcher
Yellow-backed Weavers are found in various habitats near water. 
Yellow-backed Weavers are found in various habitats near water.



The Great Cormorant of Africa is the same species found on multiple continents including N. America and Europe.
The Great Cormorant of Africa is the same species found on multiple continents including N. America and Europe.
Grey Crowned Crane is fairly common in Uganda; it evidently is not commonly shot for food.
Grey Crowned Crane
Swamp Flycatcher
This Lesser Jacana was over 200 feet away. Its larger relative was more common. 
This Red-throated Wryneck is evidently uncommon in SW Uganda. We found a breeding pair not far from the Rwandan border.  
Baglafecht Weaver is common in Uganda.
Baglafecht Weaver is common in Uganda.



This Red-throated Wryneck is evidently uncommon in SW Uganda. We found a breeding pair not far from the Rwandan border. 
Streaky Seedeater
Giant Sparrowhawk, adult, sometimes a common species. 
Dusky Turtle Dove in SW Uganda




The endemic Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird; note the large stout size and long bill compared to similar sunbirds. The bill is relatively long indicating the nominate subspecies of the Rwenzori Mountains.


Note this Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird's shorter bill than the nominate (above) subspecies. It is likely the shorter-billed graueri which is expected in Southern Rwanda where this individual was found.
Ugandan children
Red-eyed Dove




Mgahinga Gorilla National Park sits high in the clouds, at an altitude ranging between 2,227m and 4,127m. As its name suggests, it was created to protect the rare Mountain Gorillas that inhabit its dense forests, and it is also an important habitat for the endangered Golden Monkey. As well as being important for wildlife, the park also has a huge cultural significance, in particular for the indigenous Batwa pygmies. This tribe of hunter-gatherers was the forest’s “first people”, and their ancient knowledge of its secrets remains unrivalled. Mgahinga’s most striking features are its three conical, extinct volcanoes, part of the spectacular Virunga Range that lies along the border region of Uganda, Congo and Rwanda. Mgahinga forms part of the much larger Virunga Conservation Area which includes adjacent parks in these countries. The volcanoes’ slopes contain various ecosystems and are biologically diverse, and their peaks provide a striking backdrop to this gorgeous scenery. - See more at: http://www.ugandawildlife.org/explore-our-parks/parks-by-name-a-z/mgahinga-gorilla-national-park#sthash.v25qXn41.dpuf




The golden monkey (Cercopithecus kandti) is a species of Old World monkey found in the Virunga volcanic mountains of Central Africa, including four national parks: Mgahinga, in south-west Uganda; Volcanoes, in north-west Rwanda; and Virunga and Kahuzi-Biéga, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. It is restricted to highland forest, especially near bamboo.
This species was previously thought to be a subspecies of the blue monkey (Cercopithecus mitis),[1] and the two are similar overall, but the golden monkey has a golden-orange patch on the upper flanks and back.
Not much is known about the golden monkey's behavior. It lives in social groups of up to 30 individuals. Its diet consists mainly of leaves and fruit, though it is also thought to eat insects.
Due to the gradual destruction of their habitat and recent waes in their limited habitat, the golden monkey is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List.[2]


Due to its diet the golden monkey prefers a habitat with abundant fruit and bamboo. The golden monkey will move in between areas depending on the season. During the season where ripe fruit is available they will remain in those areas. When the rainy season begins this causes bamboo shooting to occur and the golden monkeys are found more in these areas. Studies have found that if there is an area consisting of mixed fruit and bamboo, the monkeys will tend to frequent that area more than an area of just bamboo.[3] One study reported that golden monkeys are most frequently seen in forests with bamboo, and this may suggest that this is one of the major preferences of the species.[4]


The golden monkey can travel in various group sizes, and have been seen in small groups of three up to large groups of 62 monkeys. The groups that are found at higher elevations tend to be smaller.[4] The golden monkey will often return to one of several different sleeping areas after a day of feeding. The monkeys often sleep in small subgroups of four, at the top of bamboo plants. They will often use a dense bamboo plant, or a combination of several bamboo plants that weave together to make a sufficient foundation for sleep. The golden monkey will often feed near the sleeping area and return to this same sleeping location day after day.[3

The Rangers and porters at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park are fantastic. Here we successfully searched for the rare Golden Monkey. 


A young Golden Monkey.




Golden Monkeys are bamboo specialists. 













White-starred Robin

The endemic Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird; note the large stout size and long bill compared to similar sunbirds. The bill is relatively long indicating the nominate subspecies of the Rwenzori Mountains.

The endemic Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird; note the large stout size and long bill compared to similar sunbirds. The bill is relatively long indicating the nominate subspecies of the Rwenzori Mountains.

White-tailed Blue Flycatcher

This immature White-tailed Blue Flycatcher was begging the adult for food.


This immature White-tailed Blue Flycatcher was begging the adult for food.
Hadada Ibis are common; they are loud at their roosts..haa ha-aaa...
Grassland Pipit


Grey-crowned Crane

Olive Baboons were found in various protected areas but are certainly killed outside as crop raiders.
A distant Doherty's Bush-shrike; this singing bird in SW Uganda was shy which is standard for this species.
Olive Thrush
Probable African Dusky Flycatcher
Black-headed Waxbill
Black-headed Waxbill
Chubb's Cistocola, a type of African warbler.











Black-headed Waxbill
A distant, cropped, Doherty's Bush-shrike; this singing bird in SW Uganda was shy which is standard for this species.
Probable Slender-billed Weavers in SW Uganda near a lake
A small colony of nesting Black-headed Herons in SW Uganda
White-browed Robin Chat is the most common and widespread of its genus in East Africa.
White-browed Robin Chat is the most common and widespread of its genus in East Africa.





Three countries meet at a single high peak within the Mountain Gorillas' small range. Rwandan and Ugandan soldiers along with park rangers patrol the borders making the parks very safe. Congalese factions are still vying for some areas well to the west of the gorillas.
The first look at the cloudy Virunga Mountains infamous for Mountain Gorillas.


 







Black-throated Apalis is a member of the strictly African genus Apalis; part of one of the Old World warbler families, Cisticolidae.


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Uganda Seasons & Climate

Uganda has a spring-like climate year round and has a less obvious wet and dry season. Where gorilla travel is concerned, keep in mind that Bwindi National Park is a rain forest at considerable elevation and can be wet and cool at any time of year. Safaris to Uganda can be booked at any season; for those who fight conventional wisdom and arrive during the rains of November, April or May different experiences may be had. Certain species of animals may be more active during the wetter months and the parks and game reserves will be quieter. Even during the rainy season there can be a good deal of sunny days. It can rain during any month. In recent times, changing global weather patterns make transitions between rainy and dry seasons come and go unpredictably. The following are the typical seasonal highlights:

December– February

This is the hot dry season. Excellent for birds and animal viewing, though long grass may make some smaller species hard to see. Spring-like conditions in Uganda and ideal time for gorilla trekking.

March

Intermittent rains start at this time. Game viewing is excellent over short new grass of the plains. Spring-like conditions are moderated by cool nights.

April - May

This is the heavier rainy season, and road conditions can become difficult. There’s great biological activity in the reserves, beautiful green landscapes and panoramas, but muddy, slippery, conditions for gorilla trekking.

June - October

This is the cooler dry season. Peak tourist season is July-August. Excellent wildlife viewing conditions, though many roads are dusty. This is an excellent time of year for gorilla trekking in Bwindi National Park.

November

Here begin the short rains. There’s nice greening of plants, and birds begin arriving from Eurasia. Expect intermittent showers and some flash flooding. Muddy and slippery conditions for gorilla trekking.





The Blue-headed Coucal was seen a few times; they frequent wet areas and are related to cuckoos.  
Yellow-backed Weaver

Besides the Virunga Mountians in Rwanda, Congo and Uganda, the Mountain Gorilla is also found in a separate small population in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
The forest is significant for biodiversity; the gates, small lodges and community projects are modest but important.     .  

Pied Wagtail is the common resident wagtail. We viewed a few other species of migrant and resident wagtails.
Sunbirds are a diverse family of nectar and insect feeders occuring in warmer areas of the Old World; this male Scarlet-chested Sunbird carried its name well.
Scarlet-chested Sunbird
This is either the Rwenzori Duiker or the Black-fronted Duiker (C. n. kivuensis).

Traditionally treated as a subspecies of the Black-fronted Duiker C. nigrifrons (Ansell 1972, Grubb and Groves 2001, Grubb 2005). However, because this species occurs on the same Ruwenzori mountain range as another race of the Black-fronted Duiker (C. n. kivuensis), yet differs from it in features that suggest other affinities, Kingdon (1982, 1997, in press) regarded this as a distinct species of high-altitude red duiker (and see Jansen van Vuuren and Robinson 2001).  (IUCN) possible


African Paradise -flycatchers are common but like many species hard to photograph. This is the only picture of dozens we have seen in East Africa and concomitantly its a nesting female
Slender-billed Starling; a small group was on the edge of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
Slender-billed Starling

The  border of the park and agricultural lands is clearly seen to the right.  Almost all lands outside of parks and reserves have been heavily logged and/or grazed.
Trackers make contact with the gorilla group and then radio coordinates.  From a park perimeter road you must hike into the forest for a few to several hours to hopefully reach the gorilla group. The gorillas can be as high as 7,500 feet; the slopes can be steep.    
Our first gorilla encounter was a barely visible female in trees. Unexpectedly this young Mountain Gorilla effortlessly scampered up this vine.

The young gorilla's apparent mother stared incessantly at its youngster and never even glanced at us.  
Armed rangers are in case an aggressive animal or poacher is encountered. This is a very rare event but there are elephants, wild buffalo and other animals in the park.    
Our first silverback was this imposing male with the normally massive arms and torso.  






The scientific order Primates encompasses about 233 living species classified in 13 scientific families. Most primates live in tropical forests and vary greatly in size. The smallest primate member is the pygmy mouse lemur weighing around 31 g (1.1 oz) and the gorilla is the largest primate weighing up to 220 kg (484 lb).


The latest taxonomic review of the various gorilla taxa reasoned that there are two species with the Mountain Gorilla being one of the rarest and largest primate subspecies with approximately 780 animals existing in the relatively small area of the western rift (Albertine) in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda and Uganda.

For many decades modern humans and our extinct, mostly upright ancestors, were classified in the Family Hominidae. All extant great apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans) were classified in the Family Pongidae. Recent advanced genetic research along with the latest fossil evidence have identified new relationships between species. Chimpanzees and gorillas are now included in the Family Hominidae.


In 2001 mitochondrial DNA research and morphological variances have led to the scientific reclassification of gorillas. Under the new classification gorillas are divided into two species, the eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei) and the western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla). It is thought that the two species diverged from one another about 2 million years ago and both have two subspecies.



  • The eastern gorilla's two subspecies are the eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri) and the mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringi).
  • It has been suggested that there is a third subspecies of eastern gorillas because a small subset of mountain gorillas that inhabit the Bwindi National Park in Uganda possess distinctive characteristics such as morphology, ecology and behavior. Due to the small size of mountain gorilla populations and available samples for testing, it is difficult to determine whether the two populations are physically and genetically distinct enough to be considered two separate subspecies.
  • The western gorilla's two subspecies are the western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and the Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli).



  • Nomenclature

    1. The name "gorilla" was derived from an ancient account by a Carthaginian explorer who sailed along the west coast of Africa nearly 2,500 years ago. Local people shared their name for the great ape with him - the rough translation of which meant "hairy person".


    .


    Black and White Colobus pairs groom each other to strengthen bonds and to remove parasites/insects.

    Our rustic lodge had decent rooms; the fantastic balcony viewscape portrayed the rolling hills of Bwindi.   















    Altitudinal range and low seasonality emerge as core environmental predictors for these areas, which contain unusually high species richness compared to other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, even when controlled for environmental differences. This result supports the idea that centres of endemism may represent area"EAfrica" by USGS - http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/dynamic/East_Africa.html. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:EAfrica.png#mediaviewer/File:EAfrica.pngs of special evolutionary history, probably as centres of diversification.


    One of the most well known examples of convergent evolution among the birds is the convergence between Neotropical hummingbirds, African-Asian sunbirds and Australasian honeyeaters, all of which are small, dominantly nectar-feeding birds.


    Hummingbirds, sunbirds and honeyeaters all originated from independent ancestors, although sunbirds and honeyeaters are both classed as 'passerine' birds and are more closely related to each other than to hummingbirds. Hummingbirds are 'apodiform' birds of the family Trochilidae, native to neotropical parts of the Americas, from Argentina through Mexico and the south western United States. Interestingly, they apparently originated in the Old World, (the oldest known fossils are from the early Oligocene of Europe) and evolved by a transition from tree-dwelling to aerial foraging forms. Sunbirds comprise the family Nectariniidae and can be found throughout Africa (especially diverse in Southern Africa) and Southern Asia. Honeyeaters belong to the family Meliphagidae, and are distributed throughout Australia, New Guinea and to a lesser extent New Zealand and various Pacific Islands. In addition, it has been discovered that a very recently extinct group of 'honeyeaters' from Hawaii are in fact a new family of nectar-feeding birds, termed the Mohoidae, comprised of two genera: Moho and Chaetoptila. The ancestors of the Mohoidae were American songbirds rather than honeyeaters, but their morphology, behaviour and ecology were resoundingly similar to certain Australo-Pacific honeyeater species, thus representing an exciting new case of convergence.


    Hummingbirds, sunbirds, honeyeaters and mohoids are small, light birds, with beaks that may be highly elongated and either straight or recurved, depending on what type of flower they typically probe for nectar. Their tongues are extensible, tipped with brush-like filaments and are either tubular or grooved ('semi-tubular') in order to generate capillary action for drawing nectar. All these birds are critical pollinators for a number of flowers (e.g. Phaethornis 'hermit' hummingbirds pollinate Heliconia), and as an adaptation to the large amount of pollen they are exposed to their nostrils (technically termed 'nares') have a cover or 'operculum'.
    Long tarsal bones and strong feet are shared adaptations for effectively reaching into flowers when perched, and hummingbirds and most sunbirds are also able to hover when feeding. Hummingbirds are famous for their ability to hover with incredible precision, and can even fly backwards, the aerodynamics of which has been studied in the Rufous hummingbird Selasphorus rufus. Sunbirds such as the Crimson sunbird Aethopygon siparaja and the Malachite sunbird Nectarinia famosa of Southern Africa have short hummingbird-like wings, fast, direct flight, and are also capable of hovering, but they attain somewhat less precision in the air and more often feed from a perched position.
    A diet of nectar is very sugar and water-rich, but low in proteins, which are essential for growth, basic body functioning and repair. Hummingbirds, sunbirds and honeyeaters all augment their diet with essential proteins by sporadically eating small arthropods such as insects and spiders. Closely related to the sunbirds are the flowerpeckers (family Dicaeceeae) of the genera Prionochilus and Dicaeum, which are small, stout birds that do not have elongated sunbird-like beaks, but they do share beak curvature for reaching into floral nectaries and possess a specialised tubular tongue for sucking nectar up to the mouth. They augment their diet with berries (especially mistletoe) and insects.


    While nectar-feeding hummingbirds, sunbirds and honeyeaters are convergent, an even more striking and evolutionary distant convergence is that between hummingbirds and nectar-feeding or 'hummingbirdoid' hawk-moths. This bird-insect convergence is striking in many respects: Not only does it include general body shape and hovering in a precise spot, but it also extends to metabolic, physiological and energetic convergences. Both have effectively arrived at an identical solution. Like other birds hummingbirds are warm-blooded, but so independently are hawk-moths, which like a number of insects have evolved thermoregulation - in both cases elevated body temperatures are essential for the intense levels of metabolic activity. For an idea of hummingbird metabolism, it has been found that they beat their wings at 12-90 times a second, have the highest metabolism of any animals other than insects, and have an active heart rate of up to 1,260 beats per minute (e.g. in Lampornis clemenciae, the Blue-throated hummingbird)!


    Bwindi Impenetrable National Park lies in southwestern Uganda on the edge of the Rift Valley. Its mist-covered hillsides are blanketed by one of Uganda's oldest and most biologically diverse rainforests, which dates back over 25,000 years and contains almost 400 species of plants. More famously, this “impenetrable forest” also protects an estimated 320 mountain gorillas – roughly half of the world’s population, including several habituated groups, which can be tracked.
    This biologically diverse region also provides shelter to a further 120 mammals, including several primate species such as baboons and chimpanzees, as well as elephants and antelopes. There are around 350 species of birds hosted in this forest, including 23 Albertine Rift endemics.
    The neighboring towns of Buhoma and Nkuringo both have an impressive array of luxury lodges, rustic bandas and budget campsites, as well as restaurants, craft stalls and guiding services. Opportunities abound to discover the local Bakiga and Batwa Pygmy cultures through performances, workshops and village walks.
    - See more at: http://www.ugandawildlife.org/explore-our-parks/parks-by-name-a-z/bwindi-impenetrable-national-park#sthash.OfEeDjVZ.dpuf


    Home to almost half of the world’s surviving mountain gorillas, the World Heritage-listed Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is one of East Africa’s most famous national parks. Set over 331 sq km of improbably steep mountain rainforest, the park is home to an estimated 360 gorillas: undoubtedly Uganda’s biggest tourist drawcard.
    The Impenetrable Forest, as it’s also known, is one of Africa’s most ancient habitats, since it thrived right through the last Ice Age (12,000 to 18,000 years ago) when most of Africa’s other forests disappeared. In conjunction with the altitude span (1160m to 2607m) this antiquity has produced in an incredible diversity of flora and fauna, even by normal rainforest standards. And we do mean rainforest; up to 2.5m of rain falls here annually.
    It contains 120 species of mammal – more than any of Uganda’s other national parks – though sightings are less common due to the dense forest. Lucky visitors might see forest elephants, 11 species of primate (including chimpanzees and L’Hoest’s monkeys), duiker, bushbuck, African golden cats and the rare giant forest hog, as well as a host of bird and insect species. For birdwatchers it’s one of the most exciting destinations in the country, with almost 360 species, including 23 of the 24 endemic to the Albertine Rift and several endangered species, such as the African green broadbill. With a good guide, sighting daily totals of over 150 species is possible. On the greener side of the aisle, Bwindi harbours eight endemic plants.




    Buhoma Community Rest Camp is a community based enterprise initiated by the local communities around the national park. It is located 570km from Kampala; it’s also situated right at the Forest’s entrance in the South Western part of Uganda. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is as big as 331km2 hence habours half of the worlds’ population of mountain gorillas in the whole world






    A poster at the park on the rarity of gorillas.

    These Black Bee-eaters were 100 feet up bee catching. 
    Ashy Flycatcher from a distance.
    These Black Bee-eaters were 100 feet up bee catching.
    This bird was in the "neck" of Bwindi and was called a Collared Sunbird but it doesn't seem to fit.
    This African Thrush, right outside my large walkin tent seemed a bit wilted in the sun. 
    This appears to be a Northern Double-collared Sunbird in sunlight. Although the yellow in the vent seems atypical; should be more of a dark golden brown.
    This appears to be a Northern Double-collared Sunbird in sunlight. Though the light yellow in the vent seems atypical; should be more of a dark golden brown.
    Female Black-necked Weaver.
    Brown-capped Weaver
    Brown-capped Weaver, male, feeding on likely Hymenoptera larvae.
    Brown-capped Weaver, male, feeding on likely Hymenoptera larvae.
    Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird
    Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird
    Black-throated Apalis
















    An impromtu photo after seeing the gorilla group.
    Black-throated Apalis









    Yellow-breasted Bunting

    Female Brown-capped Weaver
    Brown-capped Weaver, male, feeding on likely Hymenoptera larvae.
    Black-and-white-casqued Hornbills kept a wary eye on us from 200 feet away.
    Black-and-white-casqued Hornbills kept a wary eye on us from 200 feet away.
    Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher from a bad angle. 

























    The end of the Mountain Gorilla pictures.

















    See Rwanda and Uganda trip PART 2
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