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BIRDS

Similar in size to Great Britain, Uganda’s unique geographical positioning in the Great Rift Valley makes the country home for an astonishing 50% of Africa’s birds. Diverse habitats such as open savannah, montane and Equatorial rainforests, rivers, marshlands, fresh water and crater lakes combine to give Uganda an enviable bird list of over 1,060 species!

Uganda boasts an incredible 34 Important Bird Areas (IBAs), sites of global conservation importance, not just for birds but for mammals, fish, reptiles and insects. 22 IBAs are within the national protected areas and all twelve of Uganda’s Ramsar sites (internationally protected wetlands) are IBAs. To celebrate World Wetlands Day 2012, NatureUganda propose ‘wetland tourism’ as a way of promoting and protecting what many misleadingly call ‘wastelands.’

If you like birds – like I do! – then you will just LOVE Uganda! I’ve met many people who had never really noticed birds until they came here –  and returned to Europe ‘birding converts’ – (yes Neil, that includes you!)

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

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

Here are a few of my favourite birding moments:

A day in the life … species by species Uganda may not have the same change of seasons as Europe but the insects don’t know that!

A bird’s eye view of Uganda – Big Birding Day 2010  Up before dawn to take part in the Big Birding Day, a 24 hour birding race covering 33 sites across Uganda. Together we recorded 606 species. And the best bit? Our team won!

In 2012 I was part of the volunteer team helping make Big Birding Day even Bigger! To tie in with this event and the country’s 50 years of independence, Africa on the Blog published my article on how birding tourism can be used to help develop Uganda and support poor rural communities. “Birding@50” – Save Uganda’s Beautiful Crested Crane.

A ticking off – bird ringing in Kibale Forest a very cool way to spend two days. Incredibly rich in animal life, Kibale Forest is a place of many firsts for me. Even after three years in Uganda working mostly in conservation, Mother Nature’s still been holding back on me: my first wild chimp, my first Red Colobus Monkey, my first Green Mamba! But these were all unexpected bonuses – we’d actually travelled to Kibale to ring birds with Malcolm Wilson of African Affinity

Look up! Urban birding Kampala-style The view from Long Crested Towers – my home. Kampala is a dusty, polluted city of 2 million inhabitants. Yet, with over 300 species, the city is still a birder’s dream …

A disgusting day out Populations of the 11 species of African vulture have declined considerably. Here I took part in Nature Uganda’s annual vulture count – and a gory tour of the very smelly outdoor Busega fish factory and the formidable Kalerwe Abattoir on the look-out for Hooded Vultures, Pied Crows, Brown Kites and Marabou Storks.

Birding muzungu at Sipi Falls, eastern Uganda

Birding muzungu at Sipi Falls, eastern Uganda

Regular Diary of a Muzungu readers may remember my love-hate relationship with the Kingfisher that has been waking me up at 5.30 am PRECISELY every day for almost 4 years. I frequently curse him but I thought I’d lost him at one point – as I explain in the Kingfisher and I.

A birding Safari here in my backyard is one of my favourite birding walks, from Namuwongo down to Port Bell on Lake Victoria. Baldrick was so tired, we had to drag him home! It was a great day for my growing bird list though ;) so do check it out!