Monday, 17 August 2015

East Africa Day 14

Uganda 1 August 2015
I have not been able to upload photographs to my blog without wifi or decent band width but will add my photographs to my blog post as soon as I can.
We are having the most brilliant time in Uganda with everything being great. Our trip was organised by our local ground agents Avian Watch Uganda.  Everything is   going really well with Robert, our fantastic guide (who knows all the sites and calls and can whistle birds in) and Paul, our driver and fixer, for who nothing was too much.
We were at Chimpanzee Guest House in Kibale Forest National Park.  We were here to see Green-breasted Pitta only one of two pittas in Africa and the only place it is ever seen.
We had read and heard that you had to be in place within the forest by 6.45 am, pre-dawn.  If we were lucky the male would call once and then we would be able to follow the call until we located the area where the bird was hiding and then look until we find the bird on the forest floor.
That was the plan anyway….
It was a very early start with breakfast at 5.00 am, leaving at 5.30 am and arriving at the rangers office at 6.00 am.  That bit went to plan.  When we got to the rangers office, they wanted us to share a ranger with another group.  That would have made the group too big.  We waited for something to happen, amongst eager groups of tourists, waiting to go Chimpanzee trekking.  Eventually, another ranger appeared and our despondent group set up for the forest the light.
We walked about in the forest not hearing the pitta, getting more and more miserable.  We stayed with the ranger, as Robert covered ground to see of he could her one, with no sign.  Then out of the blue, the ranger received a phone call.  One of the rangers had taken a group of tourists Chimpanzee trekking, in the opposite direction and had heard a pitta.  They were about 6 km from us and the ranger had seen it too.  After a bit of debating about whether to stay and look where we were, which was usually the best place for the pitta, or go and look where it had been seen, we decided to try the other site. 
Robert, out guide, tried calling Paul, our driver, but got no response.  Paul wasn’t expecting to hear from us all day and so we would have to call again.
Once we got to the road where we started, Robert managed to phone Paul, who would be 20 minutes. Robert then went off to call Paul again, leaving us with the ranger. As we birded along the road near the guards centre, we saw two female Chimpanzee with a baby.  They were really lovely and it was great to see our nearest cousins.  We watched the Chimpanzee until three vehicles arrived, loaded with people about to start Chimpanzee trekking.  The ranger said that we had to stop looking because he would get into trouble.  The maddest thing about the whole thing was that we couldn’t tell the people trekking that there were Chimpanzee here.  The problem was that we didn’t have a Chimpanzee trekking permit for the morning, just for the afternoon.  So we were not allowed to look at them, even if we found them ourselves.  The ranger told us again not to tell anyone, just as  Robert appeared and Digby immediately told him!  After that, the catch phrase for the holiday was “Don’t mention the Chimps”, which we found funny.
The Chimpanzees had at least lightened the mood and we were feeling less annoyed towards our ranger for being late.
Not long afterwards, Paul arrived and gave us a lift to the second site, which was 20 minutes away.  Here we walked at speed into the forest, to where the pitta had been heard and seen.  Once there, Mum and I decided to sit on a log and wait.  The ranger and Robert went off n different directions to try and hear the pitta.  Digby decided to go solo birding and returned after 10 minutes taking Dad with him to identify some Bulbuls.  Mum and I were going to stay put and wait for our guides.  At this stage, the ranger re-appeared saying that he had heard the pitta calling, just past where we were sitting.  He asked where Dad and Digby ad gone and whether they might be playing the pitta call.  I reassured him that they  had gone to loot at some common birds and not trying for  was a ranger, shouting to Robert and Dad and Digby. 
Within a couple of minutes, our group was back together following the call of a Green-breasted Pitta.  Almost immediately, Robert had found the Pitta 40 feet up on a branch and Dad had got onto it briefly.  After an agonising a great pjhtfew minutes, after the pitta had moved down to a branch only feet up, we all got onto it really well.   I got a great photograph and we al got stonking views.  It was a male and every 1-2 minutes, it jumped up, flapped its wings and called “brump” at at the same time which was really funny to watch.  It was like a mating display.
By the time we had watched the Pitta, it was 10.30 am, which was very late.  Robert tried to call the other group but couldn’t get through.

After carrying on birding in this area we headed back towards the road.  We birded around a camp site, but it was a bit worrying in to see that Forest Elephants had been feeding there,  right next to the tents.

We sat by he rangers centre, sitting in a café with cold Sprite and our packed lunches and waiting for Paul to pick us up.

We arrived back at the lodge tired but elated.  We  decided to ditch the Chimpanzee trekking in the afternoon, which was paid for, as we had seen Chimpanzee in the morning and didn’t want the whole afternoon trekking for them to then probably not get better views.

After a rest at the lodge, we set out again at 4.00 pm firstly to dp a a geo cache at the rangers centre.  This time it was Paul’s turn ot look. It took a few minutes for him to get into the zone, when he found the cache.

Next was some birding at a swamp, where there was luxury tents set up. The best bird of the afternon was Shining Blue Kingfisher.

That evening we were a happy bunch.  The  other English couple who seemed to be following us around had heard about the Pitta at lunchtime and hd gone back and seen  it in the afternoon.  We were clearly all very lucky.

I don’t know which is worse, having no wifi or being told there is wifi and it not working.  Either way, we’ve had no working wifi on this trip except in Mbale.  I may have to post when we get home.

Trip list – My trip list up to the end of day 14 is 429 with 186 lifers.

About the Writer

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig on Scilly
Photograph taken by and copyright Chris Craig 

Mya-Rose Craig is a 12 year old young birder, conservationist, writer and speaker. She is based near Bristol and writes the successful Birdgirl Blog, with posts about birding and conservation from around the world. She is looking forward to going Mountain Gorilla Trekking in East Africa and watching Penguins in Antarctica in December 2015, which will be her 7th continent. She has recently been listed with the singer songwriter George Ezra and actress Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones as one of Bristol's most influential young people. Please like her Birdgirl Facebook Page and follow her on Birdgirl Twitter

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