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Uganda, a trampse along the equator.
Written by Jos   

Introduction

Bringing my accumulated time in Africa to over three years, this latest month on the continent took me to one of the region's lesser visited pearls - the relatively small, but bird-rich, Uganda. In a diversity of habitats from high mountain to equatorial rainforest, extensive papyrus swamp to semi-desert, the country packs in over 1000 species of birds in a land area barely larger than the UK. Add onto that, a wealth of mammals, landscapes that are spectacular and a welcoming people and the ingredients are all there for an excellent adventure.

Mountain GorillaMany persons visiting Uganda tend to employ drivers and guides throughout and visit all the key sites on a loop out to the west, taking in the Ruwenzori Mountains and the fantastic Murchinson Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Parks. This approach, especially if Semliki is added to the itinerary, could result in over 600 species being logged on a fairly intense three to four week trip, though 450-500 is more usual. My trip, however, was rather different - as always, I travelled independently, did not use drivers or guides and, furthermore, did not visit two of the country's premier birding localities - the Ruhizha highlands at Bwindi and Semliki National Park. Ruhizha was not visited simply due to laziness on my part,  but plans to visit the remote Semliki had to be shelved due to an outbreak of the highly contagious and incurable Ebola disease in the area, killing many persons, particularly in the village of Bundibugyo, just 14 km from Semliki.

The end result was I also had ample time to explore the east of the country, rarely visited by foreign birders, but including some fantastic destinations in their own rights. Climbing the lower slopes of Mount Elgon, hiking into the arid north-eastern savannahs and spending several days in Mabira Forest, I managed to add a number of unexpected species and, by the trip's end, had accumulated a total of 512 species, a very respectable total and higher than I had expected.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 15 November 2008 )
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December 2007. Back to the Tropics, Ugandan Express!
Written by Jos   

GorillaDecember was always going to be excellent, or rather it was going to be mind-blowing! Within days of the month beginning, I was to flee the cold northern climes of Lithuania and then bask in equatorial sunshine of Uganda, soaking up the joys of fantastic birding and experiences with gorillas, chimpanzees, leopards and more. Before that though, there were a few loose ends to tie up - 75 kg of peanuts to purchase to fill the feeders to last a full month and more, plus 25 kg of sunflowers to cheer up my feathered friends during my absence. And on top of that, in those last few days In Lithuania, there was the cold cocktail of weather to endure - snow, sleet, torrential icy rain, you name it, it was doing it! On the bird front, the month really kicked off much as November had left off - Waxwings! Barely a few hours into the new month and a flock of ten had appeared in the Labanoras garden, and there they stayed, hogging overhead wires for much of the day, flitting down to pluck odd berries as they fancied, darting over to scoff apples if they preferred.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 02 March 2008 )
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November 2007. Waxwing Roadshow!
Written by Jos   

WaxwingNovember is the one month of the year in Lithuania that it would be better to hibernate through - the weather borders on diabolical, the country lives in a perpetual grey and the birding slumps into a pit of nothingness. Summer birds have gone, the winter specials few and far between ...roll on the snows and the real winter!

Appropriately enough, really summing up the birding, the month begins with the 'Day of the Dead', a day when, by rights, all good Lithuanians visit the graves of ancestors and those dearly departed. For the resident Brit abroad, however, there are no such obligations, for me it just means a couple of extra days of holiday and the chance to hope for some spark to get month going. So it was, the first three days of November were spent in my Labanoras garden - sleet, sideways rain, wind, more wind and then some snow! And just a little bit of sun too! But there were birds ...I had barely arrived before my first treat was before me, a flock of about 15 Waxwings, almost certainly the same ones as had been present the week before, tucking into apples in my front garden. It was then into the house to get the woodburner going and Tree Sparrowturn the house into something rather snug. The Waxwings didn't linger, but a Black Woodpecker flew over the next day to provide some compensation. After many hours peering through the windows, the wind dropped enough to allow me to do some ringing - added another 25 birds to the season's totals, almost all being Great Tits and Tree Sparrows. A flock of about 45 Goldfinches, feeding on thistle heads left specially, also spent a while in the garden, as did Bullfinches and the regular Middle Spotted Woodpecker, but the star of the weekend was a female Grey-headed Woodpecker - a few weeks after the male returned to the forest feeders, here was the first back in the garden too. Twice she came in, twice very near the feeders, but both times more interested in damaging my pear tree than enjoying the free food hand-outs!

Then the weather turned really disgusting - wet snow and cold northerly winds. Packed up the bird ringing, before either a bird or I risked freezing to death, then headed back for Vilnius! And there, confined to the city for a day as my car gave me grief, yet more Waxwings ...a flock of about 20 flying over!!!

Last Updated ( Monday, 03 December 2007 )
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