Monday, November 26, 2007

Across the tracks

I spent an hour and a half or so this morning on a reconnoiter of an area just west of Mbale town, not far past where the railway crosses the Kampala-bound road. It's mixed grassland, swamp, scrub and thornbush (several Acacia tree species, with some Euphorbia, Ficus and many others I don't recognize). The variety of habitats in a fairly small area makes for a pleasantly diverse birding experience too. My brief walk-around there this morning made it clear that it's a place that needs a lot more visits. Some birds of interest from today's excursion:

Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) -- I didn't get a long enough look at it to be 100% certain of this ID, but the combination of brief observation and extended listening to its unusual call makes me think this is correct. Nightingales migrate through most of East Africa Oct-Dec on southward passage and back northward again in Mar-Apr.

Marsh tchagra (Tchagra minuta) -- also heard brown-crowned tchagra (Tchagra australis) and black-crowned tchagra (Tchagra senegala); my first experience of seeing/hearing all three species in one setting; also in the shrike department, the common but always stunning black-headed gonolek (Laniarius erythrogaster)

Green sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) -- a group of about eight of these in a man-made pool near the swamp; another migrant

Helmeted guineafowl (Numida meleagris) -- came across 10 or 15 of these; they allowed me to approach to within 20 meters or so before they flushed and relocated just beyond the next "scrub island"

African mourning dove (Streptopelia decipiens) -- never see these inside town, but the mixed habitat near the wetlands outside suits them well; also saw laughing dove (Streptopelia senegalensis), red-eyed dove (Streptopelia semitorquata), blue-spotted wood dove (Turtur afer); and heard tambourine dove (Turtur tympanistria)

Yellow-breasted apalis (Apalis flavida)

A large coucal (very wet and back-lit, so difficult to ascertain plumage details, but by habitat and size probably blue-headed [Centropus monachus])

Several raptors, none unusual but always interesting: black-shouldered kite (Elanus caeruleus); black kite (Milvus migrans); harrier hawk (Polyboroides typus), African goshawk (Accipiter tachiro); lizard buzzard (Kaupifalco monogrammicus); hooded vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus)

A kettle of at least 300 Abdim's storks (Ciconia abdimii)

Yellow-throated longclaw (Macronyx croceus)

White-headed saw-wing (Psalidoprocne albiceps)

Brimstone serin (Serinus sulphuratus)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Green-headed Sunbird

Had a male green-headed sunbird (Cyanomitra verticalis) outside the window just before sunrise a couple of days ago. We see these fellows occasionally in Mbale, but I think this is the first time I've observed one in the immediate vicinity of our house.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Notables from Sironko district, 19 November, 2007

Couple of the boys took a drive with me early Monday morning east across Sironko district, where the dry savannah meets the lowest terrace of the northern slopes of Mount Elgon. It’s a completely different habitat than Mbale town, with another set of birds to enjoy. Here are a few that we spotted, most of them kinds that we seldom or never see in our home area.

Silverbird (Empidornis semipartitus)

Spotted flycatcher (Muscicapa striata; a first for me)

Green wood hoopoe (Phoeniculus purpureus; a family party, as usual)

Heard both Ross’s and white-crested turacos (Musophaga rossae and Tauraco leucolophus) but did not see them

Fox kestrel (Falco alopex; with rich chestnut plumage one of the more stunningly turned out of a family that tends anyway to be more ornate than most other birds of prey)

Dusky turtle dove (Streptopelia lugens; first I’ve seen in Uganda)

Black-chested snake eagle (Circaetus pectoralis)

Common buzzard (Buteo buteo; several on migration, attracted to a bush fire)

Pair of long-crested eagles (Lophaetus occipitalis)

Bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus; immature)

African grey hornbill (Tockus nasutus)

Little bee-eater (Merops pusillus)

Superb starling (Lamprotornis superbus)

Cinnamon-breasted rock bunting (Emberiza tahapisi)

Monday, November 5, 2007

morning walk

I took a short stroll this morning and came across several nifty birds along the way.

* Holub's golden weaver (Ploceus xanthops) - If these have been around, I've been overlooking them. Last week two of the boys and I saw what looked like on of these on the golf course, but I couldn't be sure. I watched a pair of them searching through leaves of corn plants and long grass in a marshy area this morning.

* Black and white mannikin (Lonchura bicolor) - We see these occasionally, much less frequently than the abundant bronze mannikin (Lonchura cucullata).

* A pair of palm-nut vultures (Gypohierax angolensis) are nest-building in one of the mature African mahogany trees that line the road above our house.

* Had a paradise flycatcher (Terpsiphone viridis) pass through on its way across the valley where I watched the pair of weavers.

* Bronze-tailed starling (Lamprotornis chalcurus) - these seem to have returned from wherever most of them spent the past few months away from here.