Friday, April 25, 2008

Flying circus

Yesterday I interrupted a morning run to spend several minutes enjoying a flying circus centered around an emergence of winged termites. A striking variety of birds were hawking the ascending "white ants" -- even strict vegetarians like red-eyed doves. These termites are truly a universal food. The clowns in this circus were represented by several hamerkops and black-and-white-casqued hornbills, both species among the most comedic of birds both in appearance as well as psychology. But my favorites were the acrobatic/aerobatic artistes, the parts ably played by a pair of lanner falcons and at least two European hobbies. All these were so fixated on catching breakfast that they paid me little heed and passed or perched variously quite close to where I was standing on the roadside.

They were amazing, a real treat to behold.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Among the prominent

Last week I had several road trips out from Mbale in different directions. As always, I scanned roadsides for any interesting birds and noticed some that can justly be called "prominent." On the edge of a wetland west of Soroti there were a pair of Abyssinian ground hornbills (Bucorvus abyssinicus). It had been a while since I saw any of these mainly black, turkey-sized birds that spend most of their time stalking around on the ground in bushed grasslands. Then yesterday, coming back from Kaderuna in Pallisa district, we passed a pair of grey crowned cranes (Balearica regulorum), Uganda's spectacular national bird, just outside Mbale town. It also seems like forever since I have seen any of these near Mbale. One comes across them more often around Eldoret in Kenya, and also in western parts of Uganda.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Mackinnon's or lesser grey?

Yesterday I caught sight of a shrike of a sort that I'd not seen in Mbale before. It was obviously either a type of fiscal or closely related to these fellows. Having seen Mackinnon's fiscal in Kakamega forest (Kenya), I assumed this was one of those. Checking my field guide, however, revealed that it may more likely have been a lesser grey shrike. I did not have binoculars handy, so was not able to observe the features that would distinguish one from the other. Since Mackinnon's is a resident where it occurs and the lesser grey a migrant, and since I've not come across these in Mbale before, and since it is the height of the season for palearctic migrants to be passing guess is that this was probably a lesser grey. Which would be nice to be able to confirm, as I've never seen that species before at all. Maybe I'll come across another one before the end of migration.