Monday, December 29, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
Yesterday I encountered a large falcon cruising low across our side of town. Had just a brief look at it, but the impression of some streaking beneath and its impressive dimensions suggest that it may have been an immature female lanner. Otherwise, it's been fun to be back to seeing palm-nut vultures on an almost daily basis, along with our local lizard buzzards and the renewed population of African black kites back from wherever they wander between about September and November/December. The neighborhood sunbirds in their usual splendid variety seem to be celebrating the typical dry-season blossoming of many local tree species.
Friday, November 28, 2008
I've done pretty well in the dove department so far:
* White-winged dove
* Eurasian collared dove
* Mourning dove
* Inca dove
* and, of course, the ubiquitous rock dove (feral pigeon)
I've also enjoyed an excellent view this morning of a loggerhead shrike and have seen some blue jays. While running in nearby Freeway Manor Park earlier today, I caught sight of a medium-sized falcon in swift and direct flight overhead. From its size, manner of flight, and apparent streaking on the underparts, I conclude that it was most likely a merlin (always a pleasure, and never often enough).
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
* African finfoot
* Water thick-knee
* Little egret
* Cattle egret
* Black-headed heron
* Striated heron
* Giant kingfisher
* Woodland kingfisher
* Pied kingfisher
* Palm-nut vulture
* African black kite
* African fish eagle (adult & immature)
* Long-crested eagle
* Shikra (little banded goshawk)
* White-throated bee-eater
* Great (white-breasted) cormorant
* Long-tailed cormorant
* African darter
* Sand martin
* White-winged black tern
* Gull-billed tern
* Rock pratincole
* Splendid glossy starling
* Broad-billed roller
* Common bulbul
* Magpie (pied) mannikin
* Bronze mannikin
* Red-billed firefinch
* Orange weaver
* Black-headed weaver
I caught a glimpse of what I suspect was a shining-blue kingfisher, but was not able to see it well enough to be certain.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I see these wonderful birds only infrequently in Mbale, though they are common enough in most of their wide range. So it was a special treat a couple of mornings ago to have a pair of them -- the male with his tail streamers almost all the way grown out -- fly across the road in front of me and into a jambolan tree.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
* Black-winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus) -- surely one of the most attractive of waders
* African jacana (Actophilornis africanus) -- common, but another visually stunning species
* Long-toed lapwing (Vanellus crassirostris) -- these were out in force
* Gull-billed tern (Sterna nilotica)
* Eurasian hobby (Falco subbuteo)
* African fish eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer) -- fine view of one in juvenile plumage
* African pied hornbill (Tockus fasciatus)
* White-throated bee-eater (Merops albicollis)
* Yellow wagtail (Motacilla flava)
* Black-and-white shrike-flycatcher (Bias musicus)
* Grey-backed fiscal (Lanius excubitoroides)
* Black-headed gonolek (Laniarius erythrogaster)
* Splendid starling (Lamprotornis splendidus)
* Vieillot's black weaver (Ploceus nigerrimus)
* Black-crowned waxbill (Estrilda nonnula)
* Black-and-white mannikin (Lonchura bicolor)
* Pin-tailed whydah (Vidua macroura)
* And sunbirds: Olive-bellied (Cinnyris chloropygia), Green-throated (Chalcomitra rubescens), Scarlet-chested (Chalcomitra senegalensis), and Collared (Hedydipna collaris)
A few other sightings of interest in the past several days:
* Common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) -- in the vicinity of multi-storey building in central Kampala city
* Long-crested eagle (Lophaetus occipitalis) -- over our house
* African little sparrowhawk (Accipiter minullus) -- a pair crossing between trees just outside our compound
* Double-toothed barbet (Lybius bidentatus) -- in Kampala city
* Ross's turaco (Musophaga rossae) -- in our neighborhood
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
But the feature attraction, for me, was the varied collection of birds of prey that came through. There had been some thunderstorms in the area, and there were also flights of breeding termites ascending, so conditions were especially conducive for any migrants in the neighborhood to steer a course through our neck of the woods.
* A number of common (steppe) buzzards (Buteo buteo)
* Several shikras (little banded goshawk -- Accipiter badius) -- not migrants, but out chasing the winged termites
* Several falcons, including a few European hobbies (F. subbuteo) and some possible lesser kestrels (F. naumanni)
* Two light-colored harriers that looked more like male Montagu's harriers (Circus pygargus) than anything else; they were certainly either Montagu's or pallid harriers (Circus macrourus)
We also had plenty of African black kites (Milvus migrans) around, as well as lizard buzzards (Kaupifalco monogrammicus) and a hooded vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus) or two.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
A few days back a large falcon passed by, too quickly for positive ID, but odds are that it was a lanner (F. biarmicus).
Yesterday we had a couple of migrating common (steppe) buzzards (Buteo buteo) overhead.
And this morning while we were at breakfast, the distinctive display call of the male African goshawk came in through the window from obviously close quarters. We dashed over to have a look, and sure enough, there he was, perched in bright sunlight only 20 meters or so from us on a branch of one of our musizi trees (Maesops emini). I grabbed binoculars and had an excellent look at him before he departed his post under pressure from some pied crows (Corvus albus) that were harrassing him.
Monday, October 6, 2008
Sunbirds I came across included olive-bellied (Nectarinia chloropygia), scarlet-chested (Nectarinia senegalensis), bronze (Nectarinia kilimensis), marico (Nectarinia mariquensis) and little purple-banded (Nectarinia bifasciata). Had particularly fine views of male bronze and marico sunbirds working their way up Leonotis stems as they breakfasted on nectar from the tubular orange flowers. Marico and little purple-banded can be difficult to distinguish from each other, and I have seldom if ever before seen both species on one outing.
Our principal bishop species here in town is the black bishop (Euplectes gierowii), and during breeding season it's not unusual to come across a male decked out in regal red, yellow and black, displaying in an area with long grass and shrubs. This morning I was surprised to see at least four and possibly six different males in full nuptial splendor, all in a fairly small area. I also noticed at female or two and some juveniles, evidence of some reproductive success this season.
* Wire-tailed swallow (Hirundo smithii) collecting mud from a puddle margin for nest-building
* African green pigeon (Treron calva), a pair in a musasa (Sapium ellipticum) tree, one of them on a nest
* In the canary category, both African citril (Serinus citrinelloides) and yellow-fronted canary (Serinus mozambicus)
* Shrikes: brown-crowned tchagra (Tchagra australis) -- am used to encountering them outside of town, but this was the first instance for me in our neighborhood) -- and northern puffback (Dryoscopus gambensis)
* Red-faced cisticola (Cisticola erythrops)
* African blue flycatcher (Elminia longicauda)
* The African black kites (Milvus migrans) are back in force after their seasonal absence, and I also saw some of the first bronze-tailed starlings (Lamprotornis chalcurus) back in this area from their annual intra-Africa migration. If the bronze-tails return to roosting in the Markhamia and adjoining trees on the north side of our house as they did last year, our evenings and early mornings are about to become noticeably noisier!
Monday, September 15, 2008
* Grey crowned crane
* Weavers: Northern brown-throated, Vieillot's black, Slender-billed, Yellow-backed, Black-headed
In other news, European and Blue-cheeked bee-eaters are regular overhead these days in their southward migration. And we're beginning to have a few African black kites in the neighborhood again, and the small group of Bronze-tailed starlings that we saw while birding in the swamp today are the first I've seen in the area in a while.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Friday, September 5, 2008
In other news...I came across the spectacular Levaillant's cuckoo (Oxylophus levaillantii) while walking in another part of our neighborhood the other day. We continue to hear, and occasionally see, western black-headed orioles. Still only the occasional African black kite (Milvus migrans) and no bronze-tailed starlings (Lamprotornis chalcurus) for a while; these are two of our intra-Africa or regional migrants and I'm still trying to work out exactly what are the normal limits of their seasonal presence with us.
Jonathan and I did a little birding last Monday morning in a narrow band of mixed-acacia woodland at the edge of a wetland just west of Mbale town. We had the pleasure of seeing, among others, African spoonbill (Platalea alba), white-faced whistling duck (Dendrocygna viduata) quite a number of red-headed lovebirds (Agapornis pullarius), white-throated and little bee-eaters (Merops albicollis and pusillus), marsh tchagra (Tchagra minuta), fan-tailed widowbird (Euplectes axillaris), and pin-tailed whydah (Vidua macroura).
Monday, September 1, 2008
* Saddle-billed stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis) -- a pair in the shallows of Lake Victoria at Entebbe; eventually they were put to flight by someone's retriever that had great fun splashing after them for a hundred meters or so
* Glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) -- Entebbe
Monday, August 18, 2008
I noticed a lone black kite (Milvus migrans) overhead this morning. They've been absent for a while but I expect they'll be back in force soon.
We've continued to have green-headed sunbirds (Nectarinia verticalis) resident in the yard. These have usually been infrequent around here, so this has been pleasant.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Western black-headed orioles are calling frequently in the area these days, and occasionally one comes into view with its spectacular yellow and black plumage.
We continue to have green-headed sunbirds in our compound, and a pair of scarlet-chested sunbirds has an active nest in our young ficus (Benjamina) tree outside the front door. I've also been seeing what is most likely a little purple-banded sunbird just a city block or two from our house; could be a marico, but the beak seems too short.
A trip planned to western parts of Uganda next week should bring opportunities to see several bird species that I don't normally meet here on the eastern side of the country. Hope I'll have some interesting sightings to report after I get back!
Saturday, July 26, 2008
* Red-chested sunbird (the most common species there and unfailingly gorgeous)
* Paradise flycatcher
* Red-bellied paradise flycatcher (one of the few times I've ever seen these two closely related species virtually alongside each other)
* Northern black flycatcher
* African blue flycatcher
* Wahlberg's eagle
* Long-crested eagle (one being chased by three eastern grey plantain-eaters)
* African fish eagle
* African goshawk
* Palm-nut vulture
* Double-toothed barbet
* Black-crowned waxbill
Today (back in Mbale) I heard a male Klaas' cuckoo calling for the first time in a while. Also yesterday we had a western black-headed oriole in one of the musizi trees outside the house. African blue flycatchers have been frequenting the place too.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
It was also a good morning for falcons. There were a pair of red-necked falcons in the Borassus palm in which I observed them several times a while back. Pleasant to find them still (or back) in residence there. And, twice, I had an African hobby (probably a male, based on smallish size) scythe across in front of me. It'd be hard to get faster and more elegant than these guys.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Friday, April 11, 2008
Sunday, March 30, 2008
In other news, there was a paradise flycatcher in our yard the other day -- first time for me to see/hear one right here, even though they have turned up elsewhere in Mbale once in a great while.
The European bee-eaters are overhead several times a day now, heading for cooler climes. I also saw a flight of 100+ Abdim's storks flying NW early this morning, probably also on migration. And the other day I had a glimpse of a large falcon, either lanner or peregrine over the neighborhood road on which I was driving. Wish I'd had binocs handy and time to stop and gaze and nail down its ID.
Friday, March 21, 2008
This morning we've had a couple of western black-headed orioles around the yard, besides a convocation of black-and-white-casqued hornbills attracted to our fruiting musizi trees. There has been a flock of Ross' turacos in the neighborhood the past couple of weeks. And I heard a greater honeyguide calling a few hours ago, the first for some time.
1. African thrush
3. Splendid glossy starling
4. Common bulbul
5. Red-chested cuckoo (v)
6. African fish eagle (v)
7. Palm-nut vulture
8. Crowned hornbill
9. Emerald cuckoo (male)
11. Broad-billed roller
12. Grey-headed sparrow
13. Red-eyed dove
14. Black kite
15. Wahlberg's eagle
16. Pygmy kingfisher
17. Collared sunbird
18. Red-billed firefinch
19. White-rumped swift
20. Scarlet-chested sunbird
21. Yellow white-eye
22. Black-and-white shrike flycatcher
23. Grey woodpecker
24. Ross' turaco
25. Eastern grey plantain eater
26. Klaas' cuckoo (v)
27. Black-headed gonolek
28. Brown-headed tchagra
29. Red-cheeked cordon-bleu
30. Bronze mannikin
31. Black-and-white mannikin
32. Grey kestrel
33. Olive-bellied sunbird
34. Red-chested sunbird
35. Common (grey-backed) camaroptera
36. African mustache warbler
37. Vieillot's black weaver (female)
38. Black-headed weaver
39. Black-billed weaver
40. Speckled mousebird
41. Hooded vulture
42. Double-toothed barbet
43. Blue-spotted wood dove
44. Tambourine dove
45. Snowy-headed robin-chat (v -- mimicry)
46. White-browed robin-chat (v)
47. Yellow-rumped tinkerbird
48. Angola swallow
49. Tawny-flanked prinia
50. Northern black flycatcher
51. Northern puffback
52. Lizard buzzard
53. Black-and-white-casqued hornbill
54. Grey-cap warbler (v)
55. African green pigeon
56. Striped kingfisher (v)
58. White-headed saw-wing
59. Ruepell's long-tailed starling
60. Great blue turaco
61. Harrier hawk
62. Little swift
63. Yellow-throated longclaw
64. Winding cisticola
65. Woodland kingfisher
66. Egyptian goose
67. African / European cuckoo (no binoculars handy, but the pair of cuckoos was one or the other of these)
68. Abdim's stork
69. Pink-backed pelican
71. Brown-throated (common) wattle-eye (v)
72. Grey-backed fiscal
73. African pied crow
74. Zitting cisticola
75. Cattle egret
76. Black-headed heron
77. Pied kingfisher
78. Northern brown-throated weaver
79. Little egret
80. Paradise flycatcher (v)
81. Yellow wagtail
82. Helmeted guineafowl
83. Mosque swallow
86. Barn swallow
87. Plain-backed pipit
88. African jacana
89. Two or three sandpiper spp.
90. African wattled plover
91. Long-toed lapwing
92. African yellow-billed duck
93. Long-tailed cormorant
94. Lesser striped swallow
95. Yellow-throated greenbul
Monday, February 25, 2008
* Brown woodland warbler (Phylloscopus umbrovirens) -- a first for me
* Grey cuckoo-shrike (Coracina caesia)
* Hartlaub's turaco (Tauraco hartlaubi) -- first time to meet these in Uganda; have seen them several times in Kenya
* Olive pigeon (Columba arquatrix)
* White-tailed crested flycatcher (Elminia albonotata)
* African blue flycatcher (Elminia longicauda)
* Mountain buzzard (Buteo oreophilus)
* Ayres' hawk eagle (Hieraaetus ayresii)
* White-starred robin (Pogonocichla stellata) -- first time to see this in Uganda; a familiar species from Malawi years
* Olive thrush (Turdus olivaceus) -- first time to see this in Uganda; common in Kenya highlands
* Black-throated apalis (Apalis jacksoni)
We also saw a few blue monkeys and heard baboons and black-and-white colobus monkeys as we walked through the montane forest.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Red-necked falcon (Falco chicquera) -- checked the borassus palm where we have been seeing one of these for the past several weeks and found it perched there again
Abyssinian roller (Coracias abyssinica) -- saw a few of these in passing while traveling in the vicinity of Soroti town
Namaqua dove (Oena capensis) -- had one fly by over wet grassland near Awoja on our way to Soroti
Giant (Verreaux's) eagle owl (Bubo lacteus) -- saw one carrying prey early the other morning, and have been hearing them more often lately than we did for a while
Black-and-white-casqued hornbill (Bycanistes subcylindricus) -- heard one of these large fellows while out running early a couple of mornings ago
African little sparrowhawk (Accipiter minullus) -- another one (second in a month) flying over
Tropical boubou (Laniarius aethiopicus) -- haven't actually seen one recently, but have been hearing them often calling (often duetting) from inside thickets in our neighborhood
Harlequin quail (Coturnix delegorguei) -- came across a female dead on the road, probably struck by a car while migrating in the night
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Saturday, January 26, 2008
The red-necked falcon (Falco chicquera) that I mentioned in an earlier post has continued to hang out in the borassus palm in which I've seen it three or four times now. This strengthens my belief that a pair may be nesting there.
I have not seen the white-necked ravens (Corvus albicollis), that had been in our vicinity, for over a week now.
Friday, January 11, 2008
- European marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus) - one female, just outside Mbale town, over a patch of wetland
- Red-necked falcon (Falco chicquera) - on two occasions I've seen a single bird on a borassus palm on the south edge of Mbale town; I speculate that there may be a pair breeding there, as I have observed a breeding pair of these attractive falcons in another borassus about three years running in the late 90s, also in Mbale town
- African little sparrowhawk (Accipiter minullus) - had one over our house engaged in what appeared to be a display flight; I have only rarely seen these particularly secretive little hawks out in the open
- Palm-nut vulture (Gypohierax angolensis) - these are resident in Mbale town, but I also had excellent views of more than one near Entebbe; the interesting thing there was that I stumbled on a "feeding station," the regular perch used by one individual for its morning meal of palm nuts (Raffia sp., I believe)
- Wahlberg's eagle (Aquila wahlbergi) - I've come to expect these in the Entebbe area, and have watched them there often enough to begin to recognize the particular soaring posture that distinguishes them from other smaller-than-average eagle species
- Red-chested cuckoo (Cuculus solitarius) - probably the commonest of the larger cuckoos, but always a striking bird; I had especially fine views of one while in the Entebbe area
- Red-shouldered cuckoo-shrike (Campephaga phoenicea) - another from my Entebbe trip, this may be the first time (at least first in many years) that I've seen a male of this species; am more accustomed to the standard black cuckoo shrike (Campephaga flava), but this red-shouldered fellow was a truly impressive sight to behold
- African penduline tit (Anthoscopus caroli) - two or three in an Entebbe garden; these diminutive avians appear thoroughly nondescript but do sport a distinctive short, sharp beak
- Red-billed oxpecker (Buphagus erythrorhynchus) - have been seeing these in Mbale the past couple of weeks or so, sometimes singly, sometimes in groups of two or three
- African spoonbill (Platalea alba) - in a wetland area just west of Mbale town; although I don't see these all that often, I suspect that they are around most of the time in small numbers, tending to roost in mixed groups of herons, egrets, storks and other aquatic birds
Sunday, January 6, 2008
My favorite was an immature Ayre's hawk eagle (Hieraaetus ayresii) engaging in an impressive series of aerial maneouvres with three adult harrier hawks (Polyboroides typus).
There were also a dozen or so common (rock) kestrels (Falco tinnunculus) in evidence around the rock faces.
An interesting encounter was with a pair of white-necked ravens (Corvus albicollis) -- a common species in Malawi, but one that I have never come across in Uganda before. They were cruising along the edge of the mountain on the same thermal currents already mentioned. Since that day, I have seen this same pair (presumably) down in Mbale town scavenging refuse near a local hotel. I'll keep an eye out for them to figure out whether they're just passing through for a few days or weeks or intend to take up longer-term residence.
Speaking of ravens, one morning last week when I had observed the white-necked ravens near the hotel, I later visited Sipi Falls on Mt. Elgon and saw the fan-tailed ravens (Corvus rhipidurus) that are regular there. This was the first time that I can remember ever seeing two species of ravens in Africa in the same day.
One other raptor of special interest from the Wanale hike was a mountain buzzard (Buteo oreophilus) in flight, of which I had excellent views for ten minutes or more as we waited for others in the group to begin our descent.