Mburo - The LowlandsAfter birding the mountains on the Congo border, we head down into the lowlands west of Lake Victoria. Lake Mburo National Park has a number of specialties - birds found no where else in Uganda. In fact, according to Johnnie, some species of birds not generally acknowledged as found in Uganda.
The drive from Ruhija to Mburo starts out in the mountains, continuing through the Bwindi National Park. Like other places in the park, this road has lots of birding potential.
This bird, a Archer's Robin-Chat, is a regional endemic - found only in these mountains, which lie along the boarder of Uganda, Rwanda, The Congo, and Burundi.
This is a rain forest though and we had rain much of the time we were in the highlands. There are many bird species in this area that we did not find - a key area and too much rain. We will have to return here on our next trip to Uganda.We stopped along the way to get some apple bananas at a road side stand. Dan immediately got out his supply of school supplies and offered them to these two young girls who were helping their mother at the stand.
You can see the girls have their dolls strapped to their backs in the approved fashion.Just outside the park a Grey Crowned-Crane was perched in a tree by the road.
Very showy bird, found in many places in Uganda and all over Africa.This was our tent for our two nights at Mburo.
The tents are well separated from each other. They had mosquito nets, but we did not use them. Pretty comfortable compared to the small tents we had to use in Tanzania.This however is the bathroom - the oil barrel is the hot water tank. You either take a cold water shower, or wait until they light a fire under the barrel and it heats up. This normally means scheduling your shower since it takes 3 hours for the water to heat.
Scheduling is a problem though. We did not manage to get a hot shower in the two days we were here. If showers are important, emphasize this to the park staff. You might get lucky.We found this Aardvark borrow during a drive around the park - a recent excavation. In fact, probably last night. Aardvarks are nocturnal - very rarely seen although they are large animals and should be easy to spot.
The burrow is into the base of a termite mound.
We saw no other entrances, so this could be a temporary overnight accommodation, rather than its regular home.Mburo does not have any lions or elephants, but it does have quite a few antelope. This is an Impala, the male in charge of a group of 20 females. Mburo is a Savanna, not a rain forest. It is not that far east (and a little north) of Bwindi, but the rainfall is much less and the forest completely different.
Much easier birding, since most of the trees are not that tall.
This is not actually Lake Mburo. It is a smaller lake nearby. We walked up to a viewpoint, the top of a small hill.While you are waiting for your shower water to warm up, you can spend an hour and a half waiting for your lunch at the park restaurant.
During our wait, this rather large cow-like animal was browsing the lawn by the restaurant. Such a beauty. For a bigger picture, surely justified by his charm, double click on the image. Single click if it is just too pretty.
Hippopotami have a fearsome reputation as man-killers - killing more people than the big predators. The problems usually arise at night when the hippos are on land, grazing on grass. If a person appears on the trail between the hippo and the water the hippo can get excited and run the person down. [To put the danger in perspective, each year in Africa a few dozen people are killed by hippos while 170,000 die in road collisions, and 6,100,000 that are injured.]
This one was far more interested in vacuuming up as much grass as possible than in the people in the restaurant. It does not swallow, it just keeps tearing off more and more grass and building up a bale in its mouth. The sound of tearing grass is quite amazing - you don't hear this sound when cows are feeding.While on its way back to the water it walked into a chair that was out on the lawn. These guys have pretty bad eyesight. The chair must have had some human smell on it because the hippo back up and snorted, then walked around the chair. The clear implication is that if a hippo gets close, pretend you are a chair.
We took lots of movies of the hippos. You can see shorts here (Dan's movie of the hippo just after it bumped into the chair), here, here, and here.After lunch (they did feed us eventually) we had a boat ride around the lake, getting the fish eye view of the animals and birds.
Almost immediately we found this African Finfoot, a somewhat reclusive bird. This is a female, with the white throat.
While looking sort of like a duck, they are placed in the bird hierarchy with the cormorants, well away from the ducks. There is one other finfoot species, the Masked Finfoot of Asia, from Bangladesh east to Malaya. The Subgrebe of South America is a very similar looking bird. It is interesting that related species could be so widely separated geographically.
Birding was good during the trip down from the mountains to Mburo (91 species), and in Mburo itself (72 species). My total after 12 days is 389 species.
Journey's End - Into TanzaniaWhen leaving Mburo the next morning (we did not wait for breakfast), on our morning game drive still inside the park, we saw good numbers of these large antelope - Topi.
On all other occasions we had seen Topi, we had seen a single animal. Small herds are possible given the right conditions it appears.We stopped for breakfast (we would still be waiting if we went to the restaurant at Mburo) in the first town outside the park. This little girl was pretty happy to see us, and to show us her nice dress.
Dan dug into his bag of school supplies for her and her sisters.
We had come to expect friendly responses from children and adults in Uganda. Dan wore himself out waving to kids. His personal goal for the trip was to wave to every single child in Uganda. He was so tired from the pressure of meeting his own goals (I suspect he missed one or two kids), that he fell off an elephant a couple of weeks later and broke a few ribs.
It was very different across the border in Tanzania. Few smiles, fewer waves. The difference was quite surprising - what is it about the Uganda/Tanzania border?
Continuing on to the border, we managed to see a total of 77 species of birds today. This raised my total for the trip to 404 - respectable given the weather problems we had. Lots still to see on our next trip to Uganda.This way to the Uganda page
This way to the Tanzania page
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