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Love birds, butterflies and chimps? Then don’t miss Sunbird Hill, Kibale Forest edge

Feb 7 • 218 views • Comments Off on Love birds, butterflies and chimps? Then don’t miss Sunbird Hill, Kibale Forest edge Lodge and hotel reviews, Uganda

Introducing Sunbird Hill on the edge of Kibale Forest

Sunbird Hill Research and Monitoring Site is becoming a haven for nature enthusiasts that have ticked off the Big Five and are ready to search for the smaller – yet equally impressive – creatures of Uganda (such as the elusive Green-breasted Pitta). Sunbird Hill is ideally situated for anyone going chimp tracking in Kibale Forest. It’s also a wonderful location to relax and enjoy the pure forest air and the natural sounds emanating from the forest. I’ve been visiting this fabulous part of Uganda regularly since 2009. One definite plus about visiting Sunbird Hill is having the chance to meet Julia Lloyd, the resident primatologist (and PhD candidate in fact!) If you love chimpanzees, you’ll be amazed at her stories of her many years living and working deep in Kibale Forest.

Derrick Kirungi. bird guide. Sunbird Hill Kibale forest edge

A morning spent birding at Sunbird Hill on the edge of Kibale Forest with (from left) site guides Derrick and Sebastiano

Red-bellied paradise flycatcher on nest, Sunbird Hill

Red-bellied paradise flycatcher incubating eggs on its nest at Sunbird Hill on the edge of Kibale Forest

Green-breasted Pitta. Image courtesy of eGuide to Birds of East Africa

Next on my ‘must photograph bird list’ the Green-breasted Pitta. Image courtesy of eGuide to Birds of East Africa . Click on the bird to download this cool digital bird guide

National and international experts who visit Sunbird Hill on a regular basis include ornithologists, lepidopterists, herpetologists, botanists and primatologists. Bird ringing (or banding) occurs periodically throughout the year. Bird ringing in Kibale Forest is one of my all-time favourite blogs. Contact Malcolm Wilson of African Affinity to learn more about his next ringing trip to Sunbird Hill in January 2019.

mist nets Sunbird Hill Kibale

Putting up mist nets on the edge of Kibale Forest. Keen birders are welcome to join one of the expert ringing (or banding) trips

Olive-bellied Sunbird. Sunbird Hill, Kibale Forest. Photo Malcolm Wilson

Expert handling required. This Olive-bellied Sunbird was caught in a mist net at Sunbird Hill, Kibale Forest so its biometric data could be recorded before it was ringed and released. Click on the bird to read one of Malcolm Wilson’s trip reports. Photo Malcolm Wilson

Big Birding Day winners 2017. Sunbird Hill, KAFRED Bigodi

In November 2017, the Sunbird Hill Bird Club joined forces with Bigodi to take part in the annual Big Birding Day. The team were thrilled to receive the award for “recording the highest number of bird species outside a protected area in 24 hours”

What is Sunbird Hill?

Sunbird Hill is situated on 40 acres of private land bordering Kibale Forest. It is just off the Fort Portal-Kamwenge Road, 3 km from Kanyanchu Tourist Centre (base for chimpanzee tracking in Kibale National Park) and 3.5 km from KAFRED at Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary.

Julia writes:

We are a British-Ugandan family passionate about wildlife and conservation. Our compound is a traditional open plan dwelling, with grass thatched houses, a treehouse, large elevated research office and a kitchen garden. Guests are welcome to stay in Butterfly Cottage, a brick and wood cottage that stands in its own small compound next door to our family compound, or sleep in the simple yet adorable Turaco Treehouse set within our family compound.

Welcome to Sunbird Hill. Amos Wekesa and family

Welcome to Sunbird Hill Amos Wekesa and family

Sunbird Hill is regenerating farmland. This, and its location on the edge of the forest, means the land has numerous microhabitats that give it a high species richness: plants, insects, amphibians, reptiles and mammals and our main passion: birds. Species lists are constantly being updated, and so far we have recorded 18 of the 38 sunbird species listed for Uganda. The recent visit from ornithologist Roger Skeen has pushed our bird species list above the 210 mark. He was very excited to spot a Lemon Dove. We know there are many more birds yet to be identified at Sunbird Hill (and we challenge all visitors to add to our bird list!) We know that NatureUganda members will definitely add many more ticks to our list. We’re sure they’ll be as excited as we are about the Green-breasted Pitta habituation project!

Identifying a Sunbird. Sunbird Hill Kibale Forest

Identifying a Sunbird – not always easy, even with the bird guide!

Calls from wild chimpanzees are regularly heard, especially at night and early in the morning when chimps call out to each other from their night nests (making ‘contact calls’ as they are known in the primatological world). These primates are often seen when the fig tree at the end of our garden is laden with fruit; half of the tree’s canopy is in Kibale Forest National Park. Often elephants can be heard breaking trees during their nightly forages whilst the distinct calls of the resident Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl and Black-shouldered Nightjar reveal their identity.

chimpanzee Sunbird Hill, Kibale forest edge

A chimpanzee sits high in a fig tree overlooking Sunbird Hill, Kibale Forest edge

Julia Lloyd chimpanzee primatologist Kibale Forest

Annotated drawings of Kibale Forest’s chimpanzees decorate Julia’s treehouse office. Julia was part of the Jane Goodall Institute and Uganda Wildlife Authority team that first habituated the chimps for tourism

Activities at Sunbird Hill

The Birders’ Lounge

Birders' Lounge Sunbird Hill, edge of Kibale Forest

The Birders’ Lounge is the perfect spot for armchair birding! It is also the meeting point for Sunbird Hill Bird Club. Here it is taking shape in 2017

Birders' Lounge Sunbird Hill, edge of Kibale Forest

A treasured butterfly identification book is a valuable reference tool in the Birders’ Lounge at Sunbird Hill, Kibale Forest

Sunbird Hill, Kibale. butterfly identification

Correct identification and conservation training are key aspects of the Sunbird Hill philosophy. Here one of the site guides from Sunbird Hill peruses a list of butterflies

The Birders’ Lounge is a large thatched bird-themed shelter that houses our growing reference library and covers topics including: ornithology, mammalogy, primatology, entomology, herpetology, and botany, as well as conservation and African travel. Comfortable chairs, desks and work benches are surrounded by Ugandan natural history paraphernalia. The garden around the Birders’ Lounge is full of native and naturalised flowering plants carefully selected to nurture a diversity of birds and butterflies – perfect for the armchair nature enthusiast.

Explore our nature trails on the edge of Kibale Forest

Big Birding Day, Sunbird Hill, Kibale

Young birders get up early on Big Birding Day!

Paths wind through the 40 acres of land that borders Kibale Forest taking you through forest edge, woodland, bushland, grassland, farmland, wetland, and riverine habitats. (Pre-booked) visitors are invited to follow the nature trails with one of our experienced site guides.

Sunbird Hill site bird guides. Big Birding Day team. Birders' Lounge

Sunbird Hill site bird guides Ambrose, Derrick, Sebastiano and Dianah were part of the winning Big Birding Day team. Here they had been birding since midnight – just another 18 hours birding to go! Behind them is the Birders’ Lounge

On a bird walk at Sunbird Hill, one of the trained site guides will point out and provide insightful information on birds, butterflies and plants as well as the occasional primate, reptile and amphibian sighting. What cannot be identified during the walk is photographed and identified at Sunbird Hill’s extensive reference library back at the Birders’ Lounge.

Malcolm Wilson Sunbird Hill Bird Club

Malcolm Wilson discusses bird identification at a ringing session with Sunbird Hill Bird Club. Look how keen everyone is to learn with Malcolm!

Malcolm Wilson ringing - Sunbird Hill Bird Club

Serious stuff! During a ringing session with Sunbird Hill Bird Club, Malcolm Wilson weighs each bird and records the biodata

bird ringing Sunbird Hill Bird Club Kibale Forest edge

A ringing session with Malcolm Wilson at Sunbird Hill Bird Club is always informative. I’ve learned so much from Malcolm, Uganda’s original bird guide trainer and a born teacher

Sunbird Hill Bird Club meets 8 a.m. every Saturday at the Birders’ Lounge and includes a morning nature walk before heading back to the Birders’ Lounge for refreshments, consultation with the reference books and documentation of our findings. Guests who are staying overnight at Sunbird Hill are welcome to join club members on our Saturday morning walks.

Double-toothed Barbet, Sunbird Hill, Kibale Forest edge

You better watch out for that incredible beak! The Double-toothed Barbet is a feisty little chap. This one was caught and released as part of the bird monitoring scheme

Recommended activities within a few minutes of Sunbird Hill

We live in a truly Ugandan village environment so if you would like to see more of the rural village of Kyabakwerere, a member of our staff will be happy to escort you.

Chimpanzee Tracking (Kanyanchu Tourist Centre, Kibale National Park), Bigodi Swamp Walk (Bigodi) and Tooro Cultural Centre (Bigodi) are less than 10 minutes drive from Sunbird Hill.

Bed and breakfast accommodation at Sunbird Hill

Butterfly Cottage has breath-taking views over the forest, with the chimps’ favourite – the statuesque fig trees – clearly in view from the large veranda. A spotting scope is available for viewing the birds, monkeys and chimpanzees (although note that seeing chimps  from Sunbird Hill can’t be guaranteed). The cottage has a comfortable double bed (with mosquito net), en-suite bathroom with warm shower and flush toilet, fridge, reliable lighting and charging facilities. It has a mezzanine floor where two single beds can be added.

Evening sundowners Butterfly Cottage, Sunbird Hill

Cheers! Birders Rosemary and Jean enjoy evening sundowners on the veranda of Butterfly Cottage, Sunbird Hill

Butterfly Cottage, Sunbird Hill

Butterfly Cottage, Sunbird Hill

Kibale Forest view. Butterfly Cottage, Sunbird Hill

Kibale Forest seen from the veranda of Butterfly Cottage, Sunbird Hill

Turaco Treehouse is a charming little room on stilts within branches of a tree set in our family compound, perfect for those who want to be at one with nature. The Treehouse has everything an avid birder or nature lover needs: a comfortable double bed (with net), sofa (for armchair birding), warm ‘bucket outdoor shower’, rechargeable bedside lights and access to charging facilities within our family kitchen.

Treehouse, Sunbird Hill, Kibale Forest edge

If you love the dawn chorus, you’ll absolutely love waking up here in Turaco Treehouse!

Eat in or out at Sunbird Hill

Butterfly Cottage and Turaco Treehouse are available on a bed and breakfast basis. For all other meals, we suggest eating at The Bee Hive Bar & Bistro opposite Bigodi Swamp just 3.5 km drive from Sunbird Hill. The Bee Hive has great views over Kibale Forest and has a reasonably priced local and international-style menu and bar (cold beers guaranteed!) The Bee Hive also has satellite TV (and back-up generator) and a pool table. Read more about Diary of a Muzungu’s visits to The Bee Hive here. It’s a great little place!

Alternatively, you can eat a simple local lunch or dinner at 15,000 UGX per meal, when booked in advance at Sunbird Hill.

How much does it cost to visit Sunbird Hill?

Butterfly Cottage + access to the Birders’ Lounge and nature trails. $150 per night (bed and breakfast rate based on two people sharing).

Turaco Treehouse + access to the Birders’ Lounge and nature trails. $50 per night (bed and breakfast rate based on two people sharing).

Half day visitor, morning or afternoon. Access to the Birders’ Lounge and nature trails. $15 per person.

The above fees include tea and coffee at the Birders’ Lounge. Cold beers, sodas, local gin tots and snacks are available at extra cost.

The fee also includes one of our site guides. Please note: access to the nature trails is strictly only available to people who have paid in advance and who are accompanied by our site guides. Be aware that you are not allowed to enter the National Park from Sunbird Hill.

Discounts are available to members of NatureUganda, NatureKenya, East African Natural History Society, Explorers’ Club, Lepidoptera Club of Africa & African Bird Club.  (Proof of membership required). “We want you naturalists here!” Says Julia.

Directions. How to get to Sunbird Hill and the Birders’ Lounge

Dillon, our youngest site guide, points the way!

Sunbird Hill is 3 km from Kanyanchu Tourist Centre, Kibale National Park and is 3.5 km from The Bee Hive Bar & Bistro in Bigodi Trading Centre off the Fort Portal-Kamwenge Road.

Keep upto date with Sunbird Hill via their Facebook page or call +256 (0)701 577784 to make an enquiry. Booking in advance is essential.

Diary of a Muzungu adds:

Sunbird Hill is a favourite destination of mine. If you love nature and are looking for an authentic experience, in a relaxed homestay environment, this is it. Early mornings are filled with splendid forest birdsong. At night you often hear the PANT HOOTS of chimps from the forest. It’s magical! (And if you’re serious about birding then you can’t miss a trip to this lovely corner of western Uganda).

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