Monday, March 19, 2007

White-throated bee-eaters

Yesterday I was treated to a first-time (in Mbale) view of a flock of white-fronted bee-eaters (Merops albicollis) crossing over our yard, probably 200 feet up. Not the best presentation of these lovely birds, against a bright sky, but a thrill nonetheless to see and hear them in this area for the first time. They are not uncommon in other parts of Uganda, especially near wetlands, and draw attention to themselves by their almost continuous calling while on the wing.

A while back, as I was driving east toward Mbale from Kampala in the Busembatia area, I was keeping alert for grey-headed kingfishers (Halcyon leucocephala) on the power lines alongside the road. More often than not I get a glimpse of them on that section of road. This is to be appreciated because, even though they are not all that uncommon, they are much more localized in their distribution than their almost ubiquitous (in Uganda, at least) cousin the woodland kingfisher (Halcyon senegalensis). Anyway, it was my pleasure to spot one or two of them and a woodland kingfisher to boot, right in the same neighborhood. I think that's the first time I've observed both species there together.

A day or two back I heard in the distance the distinctive descending three-note call of the red-chested cuckoo (Cuculus solitarius). I've heard that these are sometimes called "rain-birds" because they do often call repetitively with the onset of the rainy season. They are somewhat infrequent here in Mbale, for some reason, but have been around more often the past couple of years.