Bristling …

at Aireys Inlet

The strip of coast running from Melbourne west along Victoria’s coast is both splendid and accessible. I am particularly fond of Port Fairy at the western end but lets not get parochial. Anglesea and Aireys Inlet also have their assets a major one being Margaret Lacey. She has recently produced a very beautiful book on the birds her of patch. The photography is superb.

The region has a variety of habitats and Margaret gives the reader very useful information on where to find them all. You should buy the book! It’s well worth the $55. You can get it <HERE>. Mention this page and the postage will be free. Actually the postage is free.

Anyway, while I was there I ran around trying to emulate her …

Singing Honeyeater

Birds with limited distribution are always very special. The Rufous Bristlebird is only found along a coastal strip from Torquay west to the mouth of the River Murray in South Australia (except around Port Fairy!) It is a denizen of coastal heath and dense stands of Coast Wattle. It’s a skulker and can be very elusive. I have seen it in varying places but the success rate at Aireys Inlet is exceptional. Look for it on the footpaths to the west of the lighthouse early or late in the day.

Rufous Bristlebird

Spotted Harrier …

Birds of prey make their living in different ways; Kestrels are fond of mice, Peregrines are fond of pigeons, Brown Falcons are fond of snakes. Hunting technique are appropriate to the creatures hunted.

Harriers go about their business fairly low over open country with wings upswept. In Australia we have a couple of members of the guild, Swamp Harrier and Spotted Harrier. One prefers wetter habitats the other drier habitats.

The dry plains around my home seem ideal for Spotted Harrier but for all that they are only occasional visitors. I was looking for quail when I encountered this one, so was he probably.

Spotted Harrier

When looking for mice in the grass slow flight is an advantage. Kestrels and Black-shouldered Kites can hover. They are both smaller birds, there is only so much energy in a mouse and hovering is expensive. The equation works for the small birds but hovering is too expensive for harriers to undertake except very briefly.

So slow flight it is. The upswept wings contribute to lateral stability, very helpful when flying close to stall speeds. If a wing stalls it drops relative to the other wing and the bird as a whole side slips to the affected side. Under these circumstances the lower wing develops more lift than the upper wing and tends to restore the bird to level flight (at a slightly lower altitude).

The upward angulation of the wings is called dihedral and it can be seen in this photo of our gliding harrier …

Spotted Harrier note the dihedral

Up in the Clouds …

Part of Bwindi Impenetrable forest is at high altitude (up to 2,607 metres or 8,550 feet). So despite the proximity to the equator temperatures are relatively pleasant. There are plenty of birds to be found but because of the dense forest finding them is sometimes challenging.

Handsome Francolin
Black-throated Apalis
Doherty’s Bush-shrike
Montane (AKA Black-tailed) Oriole
Great Blue Turaco
Crowned Hornbill
Cinnamon-breasted Bee-eater

We were also treated to a brief glimpse of a Black-fronted Duiker. These reputedly make good eating and are consequently very shy.

Black-fronted Duiker

A Bird or Two …

The birding in Kidepo was rich. Bird photography snatched on the run could never do it justice but here are a few of the more cooperative species.

Clapperton’s Francolin
African Wattled Lapwing
Hoopoe
Dark Chanting Goshawk
Stone Partridge

To describe the Stone Partridge as a cooperative species is quite a stretch but I was particularly lucky with this group. It would be nice to improve on this shot but it would require the investment of quite a lot of time.

Flappet Lark
Abyssinian Roller
Grey-backed Fiscal

Pian Upe …

This is the second largest wildlife protected area in Uganda after Murchison Falls National Park. It is a game reserve but we were told of plans to raise its status to National Park in the future.

It covers 2,788 square kilometers of savanna and includes some very impressive hills. Like all of Uganda’s parks and forests it suffered greatly during the lawless times of civil war. The Uganda Parks Travel Guide would have you believe that lions, elephants, black rhinos and giraffes are all to be found here but in truth they were locally extinguished years ago. The reintroduction of some of these may be on the cards.

On the positive side though this is the only place in Uganda where Roan Antelope have survived and it’s a great spot for the bird watcher.

We had two nights in Pian Upe in very comfortable safari tent style accommodation and were magnificently fed by the most obliging chef in Africa. The first night brought a thunder-storm and torrential rain, the tent, I am pleased to say, was waterproof. The light before dawn was superb …

Day break at Pian Upe

Game drives were the order of the day made all the more exciting by the effect of the rain on the black soil tracks.

The birding was a great success. Our quest for game less so. Distant views of Roan were had but all the game animals were extremely shy presumably because of far lower visitor numbers when compared to Murchison Falls where the animals are habituated to vehicular traffic. Additionally, the grassland seems less vigorously managed at Pian Upe, the grass was very long and there was no evidence of any recent burning.

Silverbird
Bronze-tailed Starling
Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver
African Fish Eagle
Dark Chanting-Goshawk
Bateleur

Wet black soil is a test for the four-wheel driver and his vehicle. Our driver Tony just happened to be a keen birder. This was a real bonus because, although Prossy the professional had to correct his diagnoses on the odd occasion, his extra pair of eyes meant that birds had little chance of going undetected.

His greatest coup was the Karamoja Apalis. This is a bird that has broken many a heart. Tony bogged the car. Just metres from a solid road next to a small Vachellia tree. It would move a little backwards, it would move a little forward, it could slowly be turned a few degrees, there was hope that it would gain sufficient traction to ride over a small mound onto the road, there was the fear that it might get inextricably bogged before that was achieved. Meanwhile his passengers had nothing better to do than watch the little bird in the little tree. We let him have a look too. It was a tick for him. Even the vehicle was inspired. It rode triumphantly onto the road.

There was more rain in store for us and proceedings for the day were curtailed …

Hartebeest

Why the long face? Because we’re soaking wet, you fool.

The red spots on my left forearm had grown bigger and painful. They were surrounded by hard red swelling and the centres showed signs of pus formation. Something would soon need to be done about these.

Moving on …

All good things come to an end.

As our stay at Budongo reaches its conclusion. It’s time to thank the Field Station Director Geoffrey Muhanguzi for his hospitality and, as always, his wisdom. Also to say thank you to Moreen Uwimbabazi for allowing us to assist in her bird banding project and congratulate her and her team Patrick Arua and Godfrey Andrua on their progress.

The Royal Mile, so called because it was indeed a favorite spot of Ugandan Kings, is one of Africa’s best forest birding spots. It is possible for a visiting birder to buy a permit and stroll under the majestic trees. I believe the fee has to be paid in Kampala. The best way forward is to contact Raymond in advance, he lives near the gate and knows the place backwards. The numbers I have for him are 0777 319 865 or 0752 930 065. You can rely on him to give clear instruction.

Raymond

He is the man who can find you your Chocolate backed Kingfisher.

Chocolate-backed Kingfisher

But that only takes you as far as this sign …

and paradise is on the other side of it. Tourism is specifically forbidden by the project’s charter, to pass Go you must be sponsored by your university or another entity.

It was during my last day or so at Budongo that I became increasingly aware of some red and itchy spots on my left arm.

Woodswallows …

I was just heading off to one of my favourite birding spots, Maryborough sewage treatment plant when I noticed that my driveway was busy with woodswallows. So I changed my plan and grabbed the camera.

These birds are summer visitors and seem to always be on the move. There are plenty about this year probably because of the dry conditions further north. Flocks can be huge, White-browed Woodswallows tend to be the most numerous often accompanied by their masked cousins. They breed in mixed colonies.

The adult males of both species are beautifully marked. The youngsters and females are also attractive but in more muted tones – designer pastels.

White-browed Woodswallow adult male
White-browed Woodswallow
Masked Woodswallow adult male
Masked Woodswallow