Monday, February 4, 2013

Lake Nyarutarama, Kigali (1 Feb 2013)


Posted by James Hogg on the Rwanda_BurundiBirds group on 4 February 2013

I live in Nyarutarama in Kigali. There is a little lake here which has been reported on before on this blog. Centred on S1.93857 E30.09664 For an inner city location this is a little gem of a birding spot and something I am very grateful to have on my doorstep.

For the resident it is convenient and always a pleasure and for visiting birders new to Rwanda, it provides a good introduction to some local birds. 

For example, on previous occasions I have seen amongst other things, Spot-flanked Barbet, Yellow-billed Duck, Bat Hawk, African Hobby, Swamp Flycatcher, Red-chested Cuckoo, Red-backed Shrike, Little Bee-eater, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Squacco Heron, Sunbirds, Weavers, Cisticolas and so on and so on........ 

The lake has been used by locals for fishing and swimming. Recently however, some of the paths around the lake have been blocked with acacia thorn and a token gesture of a cordon has been introduced. Local security in faded burgundy uniforms patrol the area. I was told that there have been some fatalities from swimming, hence this action. 

Its not all bad news though. I have not yet beet stopped from walking round. Usually, taking a photo of the guard and letting him have a look through my binos has allowed me to carry on my way. I also think that the reduction in human activity may further boost the birdlife in this area. 

I took a stroll round the lake for about an hour and a half on the 1st of Feb. All the usual stuff really. But in the woods to the east of the lake I came across a nice Buzzard in an Acacia tree. I didn't get a good look at the underwing but it is almost certainly a Common (Steppe) Buzzard a Mountain Buzzard would be a long, long way from from its range. Marcell or Jason is this ID correct? (...considering habitat and location this is most likely a Steppe Buzzard - Marcell)

Anyway this is my first sighting in Kigali for this species.

Akagera National Park (3 Feb 2013)

Posted by James Hogg on the Rwanda_BurundiBirds group on 4 February 2013


Sarah my wife had a colleague over from the UK and we decided that it would be a good excuse for a one day trip to Akagera. Claudien Nsabagasani and his wife Claudine would come along for the ride too. A good day out was had by all with 76 species seen or heard a few for the Rwanda and Life lists. My last blog entry read like a list, so this time I’ll try and just stick to the highlights.

Spur-winged Goose (James Hogg)
Spur-winged Goose (Photo: James Hogg)
Akagera is a wonderful little park with stunning scenery and a wide range of habitats from lakes through swamps, flood plains, bush, slopes and plateaus. Certainly worth a visit and I have heard good reports of the new tented camp at Rusizi.

The Rwandan scenery was lacking on the 6.30 am drive from Kigali as the hills were shrouded in a dense fog making the journey a little slower and scarier than hoped for. We met Claudien and Claudine at Kayonza and headed to the north entrance S1.44664 E30.54615 to try and catch some good game viewing early on. It was still quite cool and cloudy when we arrived which would make for good viewing conditions.

We saw a few more common species of bird on the drive in. Paid our fees and set off towards the Kilala Plain. Very close to the gate house we saw a Spur-winged Goose up a tree (which I have not seen before).

Water Thick-knee (James Hogg)
Water Thick-knee (Photo: James Hogg)
Selected highlights from the drive towards the plain included, Common Scimitar-bill, Blue-naped Mousebird, Open-billed Stork and a very obliging Water Thick-Knee which allowed me to get a good photo before scuttling off.

The plain was pretty wet after some unseasonal rain so we had to skirt round the edge. But this still afforded us good views of game and birds. Including the teams first Black-bellied Bustard in Rwanda and the teams first Slate-coloured Boubou. Skimming the long grass and resting in small shrubs we saw small flocks of Banded Martin and in a small pool we saw what might have been a Marsh Sandpiper, nearby a selection of plovers including Crowned Lapwing.

Black-chested Snake-eagle (James Hogg)
Black-chested Snake-eagle (Photo: James Hogg)
Further across the plain a Bateleur was flying overhead along with a vulture (Hooded maybe?). By now we were leaving the plain and after passing several resplendent Lilac-breasted Rollers we reached the marshy vegetation Lake Rwanyakazinga where we near noted Goliath and Rufous-bellied Herons and a fierce looking Black-chested Snake-Eagle perched atop a tree.

Time had passed rather fast and we had to do a bit of quick driving to get back on schedule. We chugged along nicely and made it to Hippo Beach for a spot of lunch. On the way in I saw a Eurasian Marsh-Harrier hunting over the papyrus and reeds. The light head and partial leading edge showing nicely.  

Last weeks drive home in the dark was pretty scary and not something I wanted to repeat in a hurry so we continued south at pace trying to reach the southern lakes with enough time to get some birding in before we had to leave.
African Dusky Flycatcher (James Hogg)
Pale Flycatcher (Photo: James Hogg)



We did stop if we saw something exciting just like a Western Banded Snake-Eagle perched in a tree just next to the road. Arriving at the lake with the fishing camp we stopped for a little rest and saw Marabou Stork and Pale Flycatcher and an unidentified flycatcher which may have been a juvenile African Dusky Flycatcher. If Marcell, Jason or anyone else has a better idea from the photo attached I’d be pretty grateful for the ID. 

("unknown" flycatcher is a Spotted Flycatcher - the streaking on the head very clear with some rather obvious streaking on the breast, the latter not always necessarily very distinct. - Marcell)

Spotted Flycatcher (James Hogg)
Spotted Flycatcher (Photo: James Hogg)
That was about it, on the way to the park office we saw an African Golden-breasted Bunting and a Ross’s Turaco.  On the road heading out the park we saw maybe 20 or 30 European Bee-eaters and Barn Swallows. That was about it. The road from the park gate to the main road was in excellent condition allowing us to press on and stick to the schedule. The last birds of the day were a Little Grebe and Grosbeak (Thick-billed) Weaver at the little dam at S1.96288 E30.58999

That was it. Day over. A good day all round and an uneventful drive back to Kigali. Next weekend is Nyungwe………


Western Banded Snake-eagle (Photo: James Hogg)
p.s. I don’t want you to think that I am not just interested in birds (that is what this blog is about though). We saw lots of mammals and other things in the park too. Giraffe, Zebra, Buffalo, Topi, Waterbuck, Oribi, Bush Buck, Hippo, Impala, Dwarf Mongoose, Warthog, Crocodile, Nile Monitor and quite a few Elephant. What more do you want? Maybe a Shoebill!

Crowned Lapwing (James Hogg)
Crowned Lapwing (Photo: James Hogg)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mashoza - Parike Forest (27 Jan 2013) Part 2


Part 2 of a birding trip on 27 Jan 2013 - by James Hogg (Part 1 can be found Here)

From Kayonza we headed south east, taking a dirt road heading south west at approximately S2.08373 E30.55675.  If you are in the area this small forest is definitely worth a visit, and you are maybe in for a few surprises.

Since we had been here just the week before I thought directions would be easy. Wrong. Banana plantations all look the same and we got a bit lost; moral of the story, don't delete last weks track from the GPS! Enter, Claudien he got us directions to the Abudaba Dam and we arrived at about 13.30 just as the heavens opened. This proved to be a boon. Firstly we sat out the rain eating our well earned sandwiches and Sarah's banana and chocolate muffins, secondly the drop in air temperature got the birds active.

We parked at S2.11506 E30.51799 and then walked roughly northwest towards the forest. Starting across cultivated land we spotted: the ever present White-browed Robin-Chat, Bronze Sunbird, Red-Billed Fire Finch, Yellow-backed Weavers, Speckled Mousebirds, Common Bulbul (in prolific numbers) and Grey-headed Sparrows.

Scarlet-chested Sunbird
Scarlet-chested Sunbird (Photo: James Hogg)
As we continued, African Citril, Yellow-throated Greenbul,  a flock of White-faced Whistling Duck overhead, a solitary Woodland Kingfisher, Red-eyed Dove, Chubb's Cisticola and Trilling Cisticola (both heard), Hadada Ibis (in flight), Sacred Ibis, Grey Heron, Black-Headed Heron on the rice fields, and Scarlet-chested Sunbirds. I also think we saw a Common (Steppe) Buzzard, (observed last week) resting in a tree in the distance, it flew briefly and the wing colouration looked right.

Next, a lone Southern Red Bishop (with lots of females), quite why they are not called a day-glo orange bishop, who knows.

Then, Hammerkop, Ruppel's Long-tailed Starling, Pin-tailed Wydah (males and females), Palm-nut Vulture (adult and juvenile), a female Common Stonechat and Arrow-marked Babbler.

By this point we had reached the edge of the small forest. A sizeable troop of Vervet monkeys were frolicking in some Ficus and Avocado trees with lookouts posted on earth mounds.

Back to the birds. The path skirts around the edge of the forest. Hopping along the we saw a White-browed Scrub-Robin and in an acacia tree we observed a Black-and-White Cuckoo (pica) drying itself off.  Further on Blue-spotted Wood Dove, Holub's Golden Weaver and Black-crowned Waxbill.

Red-headed Bluebill (Photo: James Hogg)
Claudien, again proving his worth regards calls, reported Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird and Klaas's Cuckoo. We then saw a solitary female Red-headed Bluebill which I think might be very eastward in its range at this location?

Looking away from the forest we saw a White-browed Coucal and a Yellow Bishop. Flying we saw a Tambourine Dove and a Rock Martin. Resting in a bushe a Mackinnon's Fiscal, a Tropical Boubou digging up worms, a Long-crested Eagle, Black-and-White Mannekins, and Bronze Mannekins.

By now we had reached S2.10816 E30.50920. From here a path cuts roughly southeast through the forest. Just before we entered the forest we noted, Village Indigobirds, Black-necked Weavers, a pair of Cardinal Woodpecker, an Olive Thrush, Yellow White-eye and the unmistakeable Ross's Turaco.

Entering the forest proper, Claudien reported the song of a Grey-capped Warbler. We then saw a Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Claudien saw a Ludher's Bush Shrike (unfortunately I only saw this for a fraction of a second so I'm not letting myself have it, maybe next time!). We then observed the Klaas's Cuckoo, some Yellow-whiskered Greenbul, a White-chinned Prinia, a Green-headed Sunbird, Grey-backed Camaroptera, and a Chinspot Batis.

Tawny Eagle (Photo: James Hogg)
We exited the forest and proceeded back to the car, balancing along squidgy paths through the rice fields. On the way back we noted a Tawny Eagle. Back at the car Sarah was due for a well earned rest after lugging round a pregnant belly all day. It was 17.30 and the prospect of a terrifying drive back to Kigali was looming. But as they say, in for a penny in for a pound….

Claudien and myself could not pass up the chance to have a look along the Dam wall. We saw a solitary African Jacana, and a Black Crake. The last birds of the day were a Dark-capped Yellow Warbler and Pied Wagtail.

There we have it. An epic day out. We dropped Claudien back in Kayonza and made the return journey to Kigali. Anyone who has driven in Africa in the dark can surely appreciate the terror involved. But my word, it was worth it.

To the mornings haul we added a further 41 species bringing the total for the day to 94 species, not bad for a days work! 

Lake Muhazi & Kayonza (27 Jan 2013) Part 1

Part 1 of a birding trip on 27 Jan 2013 - by James Hogg (Part 2 here)

I'm a relative newcomer to birding in Africa, but keen! I was asked by Marcell Claassen to contribute to this blog and this is my first entry. And what a day out! 94 species sighted in a day and more than 20 for my life list.
Please note this blog entry is intended to be an informal day report. More detailed reports will be submitted to the Yahoo Group.

Following my post of some messages on the Rwanda and Burundi Birds Yahoo group I was contacted by Claudien Nsabagasani who works for ARCOS and also runs a Birding Safari company http://birdingrwanda.com/ Claudien was keen to meet up and get out and do some birding. I leapt at the chance of some local knowledge so we fixed a date.

Birding is all about getting there early so Sarah (my wife) and I left Kigali at 6am to meet Claudien Nsabagasani at Kayonza for about 7.15. We then headed to Jambo Beach S1.84874 E30.47936 to park up and start our walk.
Jambo beach unfortunately has a captive Grey Crowned Crane (not counted). Claudien said he has been trying to work with the Rwandan Government to stop the practice of keeping these birds. I truly hope he is successful. 
Anyway, I digress. We walked southeast along the road and started our days birding proper. So the sightings, first off we saw plenty of the more common birds here: Pied Crows, Red Eyed Doves, Bronze Sunbirds, Yellow Backed WeaversCommon Bulbuls, Speckled Mousebirds and Tropical Boubou.

Claudien Nsabagasani with kids
Claudien sharing bino's with kids (Photo: James Hogg)
As we continued along the road Claudien's eyes and ears proved to be invaluable. He was spotting birds, identifying calls and identifying small brown birds left, right and centre. I'd highly recommend him to any visiting birders!

Long-crested Eagle (Photo: James Hogg)







He quickly reported to us a Red Necked Spurfowl was calling somewhere up on the hillside above us. I noted a Red Chested Cuckoo (about the only call I recognise). Next we saw Red Chested Sunbirds, Grosbeak Weaver, Willow Warblers, African Dusky Flycatcher, Black Crowned Waxbill, Slender Billed Weaver, Spectacled Weaver, andPied Kingfisher. Then came our first ID challenge of the daywe saw a lone female woodpecker in an acacia tree and Sarah annd Claudien narrowed it down to either a Nubian Woodpecker or a Golden Tailed Woodpecker. I was taking photos. I have since compared the photos taken against those on the African Bird Image Database. These have given me reasonable confidence that it was a Golden Tailed Woodpecker. Confirmation from a third party would be good.


Golden-tailed Woodpecker (Photo: James Hogg)

Golden-tailed Woodpecker
(Photo: James Hogg)


Claudien spotted in the distance an African Marsh Harrier hunting over the wetlands and pointed this out to us. Then nearer the road we saw Variable Sunbirds and Tawny Flanked Prinia (thanks Claudien for the ID).
Next came Holub's Golden Weavers, Chubb's Cisticolas (again thanks Claudien for the positive ID), a lone Spur Winged Goose overhead and plentiful Mackinnon's Fiscals.

melanistic Gabar Goshawk
melanistic Gabar Goshawk (Photo: James Hogg)
The next ID challenge. In the distance we spotted a small black raptor silhouetted in a silky oak tree. It stayed still as we approached and got into a position when the sun was not in our eyes. The red beak and legs aided the ID and this bird turned out to be a melanistic Gabar Goshawk.

The birds kept coming; overhead an African Harrier Hawk, in the bush Scarlet-chested Sunbirds, Yellow-throated Greenbul and Arrow-marked Babblers were heard. Next spotted were White-browed Scrub-Robin, a small flock of European Bee-eaters, Yellow-fronted Canaries, Cattle Egrets (flying in the distance), Red-billed Quelea, Long-crested Eagle, Spot-flanked Barbet, a pair of Cardinal Woodpeckers, a pair of Violet-backed Starlings, Black Kites, Augur Buzzard (overhead), Bronze Mannekin, Green-headed Sunbird, Common Waxbill and Claudien reported the call of a well hidden Grey-backed Cameroptera.

It had taken us about 3 and a half hours to cover 4km to S1.87083 E30.50068 and it was getting hot so we made an about turn and headed back to the car. On the way back we saw Marico Sunbird, Great White Pelican (Overhead), Tambourine Dove, Lesser Striped Swallow, White-headed Saw-Wing and Angola Swallow (all in flight) and an Emerald Spotted Wood Dove.

Back at Jambo Beach at 12.30 we had a cold soda, listened to some banging early 90's dance music and decided where to go next. We noted some Grey-headed Sparrow and Pied Wagtail. Already this was some 53 species sighted or heard.

I should say that Sarah is seven months pregnant and the walk had tired her out a bit, so what to do next was a quandary. Last week Sarah and I had visited the lovely hidden valley that houses the Mashoza / Parike Forest. Sarah said she was up for more and since Claudien had not visited this area before it was decided that this was where we would head next. See Part 2.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trip to Nyungwe Rainforest, SW Rwanda 20-21 Oct 2010

View over Nyungwe forest from the Bigugu Trail (Photo by Marcell Claassen)
Posted by Jason on the Rwanda_BurundiBirds group on 30 October 2010

Last week I took a few days off work to show a visiting cousin around Rwanda. As well as a smashing trip to see the gorillas, I persuaded him to come down to Nyungwe to see the chimps and other primates too. Sure enough we were successful on all these fronts, and it turned out that there was time to do a spot of birding too.


The first day we went to see the chimps in Cyamudongo (a small tract of forest between Nyungwe and the DRC border, at about 1800m), with the excellent guide Narcisse Ndayambaje, whose mastery of forest birdcalls still amazes me. We arrived at dawn, and although we couldn't see them, Narcisse pointed out the distinctive call of Cabanis's Greenbul, a first for me. We also heard Grey Apalis, Narina's Trogon, Red-capped Robin-Chat and White-headed Wood-hoopoe. We had no time to stop and bird, as we wanted to get to the chimps before they `de-nested' (as they say in the chimp world – the English equivalent is `get up'). We succeeded in this and were rewarded with good views of chimps all around us, some getting up, others already feeding, and one or two of the larger males moseying along the forest trails nearby. A curious youngster came very close to see what we were, and every 5 minutes or so, their call rang out all around us. Nearby, mona monkeys were feeding (apparently they actively seek out the company of chimps, unlike other monkeys). Fantastic! But no birds.

Luckily, on the way back, we spotted several feeding parties. The first was a silent, stealthy party, moving through the mid-canopy, and allowed me to get good views of Cabanis's Greenbul. The pale throat and belly showed well, as did the rufous upper tail, but the pale eye ring was not as exaggerated as shown in Stevenson & Fanshawe. As well as Yellow-whiskered Greenbul, I spotted a couple of small birds feeding in a strombosia tree, which turned out to be Green Twinspot, male and female. On the way back to the car park we came across another feeding party in open woodland that included Ludher's Bush-Shrike, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Collared Sunbird, Grey-backed Camaroptera, and my first record of Yellowbill for Rwanda, skulking inconspicuously in a tree overgrown with creepers. This feeding party blended with another working its way through the canopy. We spotted Black Cuckoo-Shrike, Northern Puffback, Black-billed Weaver and a lone White-browed Crombec among others previously mentioned.

Back at Gisakura that afternoon, I went out on my own, and found another nice feeding party in the gardens of the ORTPN Guesthouse. It included White-tailed Blue Flycatcher, Dusky Flycatcher, White-eyed Slaty-Flycatcher (incl. juvenile), Northern DC Sunbird, Paradise-Flycatcher, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Western Citril, Black-billed Weaver, Collared Sunbird and Brown-throated Wattle-eye. However the two highlights of this party were a Grey-headed Nigrita (my first record for Rwanda) and a Mountain Masked Apalis foraging in a pile of discarded Eucalypt branches on the ground – surprisingly for a species that I've only ever seen in the canopy or mid-storey. I got some nice photos which reveal a very different looking bird to that illustrated in Stevenson & Fanshawe – less black on the nape and throat, with larger white areas on the sides of the neck. The colour on the wings and mantle was very yellow, rather than a dull olive tone. I wondered if it could be an immature?: http://kilnsey.tripod.com/mountain_masked_apalis1.jpg http://kilnsey.tripod.com/mountain_masked_apalis2.jpg Later that afternoon I also found a female African Goshawk perching inconspicuously in the lower branches of a tree nearby.

The next day, as we only had a free morning and no car, we decided to do the waterfall walk with Narcisse. As soon as we started off, just behind the guesthouse, Narcisse heard Mountain Illadopsis (identifying the calls of both parent and young), which after a little patience all showed well foraging near the ground. Chinspot Batis and Mountain Masked Apalis were also around. The next bird was a real surprise – Purple-breasted Sunbird… in eucalypt. Narcisse remarked that he had seen very good numbers of these birds over the last few months, but that this was the first time he'd seen it in eucalypt. The male and presumed female were at the top of a tree and appeared to be feeding on the eucalypt flowers.

The tea plantations produced the usual poverty of species, but as well as the Streaky Seedeaters, Stonechats and Common Waxbills on the paths, there were Barn Swallows mixing with the Angola Swallows hawking overhead. A Siffling Cisticola was my third record of this species on tea plantations here, and Fawn-breasted Waxbills were a surprise, seen twice today in this area.

As we got closer to the forest, the calls of Rwenzori and Great Blue Turaco were both heard. Then on the top of a tree in a small isolated tract of native woodland I spotted two bright orioles that turned out to be Eurasian Golden Orioles, male and female with the former showing the distinctive black wing and lores and yellow wing spot. This was a first for both me and Narcisse, and I think for the atlas – Is it Marcell? (Marcell: this is indeed our 1st record for the Atlas)

African Green Pigeon, Grey Apalis, European Bee-eater and Mountain Buzzard (a pair) were all recorded before we made it to the forest proper. Despite the fact that it was already 9am, there was quite a lot of noise and activity in the forest. Red-faced Woodland-Warbler was the first we saw well among the many Northern Double-Collared Sunbirds. A little further on a Great Blue Turaco showed well for my cousin, who was completely amazed by this, his first turaco. A pair of Eastern Mountain Greenbuls were next and Black Saw-wing were seen overhead as we dropped down into the valley. As the undergrowth got thicker we came across several Equatorial Akalats, one of which posed patiently for photos ( http://kilnsey.tripod.com/equatorial_akalat.jpg ), followed by a similar bird with a distinctive light grey stripe above the eye. This turned out to be my first ever record of White-bellied Robin-Chat, which, as the book says, looks very much more like an akalat. The pale stripe is much stronger than in S&F (shown better in Sinclair and Ryan), but the tail is clear – orange outer feathers and a dark centre. Smashing bird. http://kilnsey.tripod.com/white-bellied_robin-chat.jpg

As we needed to get back for a 12 o'clock bus, Narcisse and Kev (my cousin) decided to pick up the pace and make it to the waterfall. I decided to lag behind and enjoy the birds, which were still showing well in the cool valley. Now, last time I decided to part with Narcisse in the forest (Bigugu Trail in January), he managed to find pretty much every montane endemic going (including my bogey species - Red-collared Mountain Babbler), while I spent an hour watching a pair of Regal Sunbirds nestbuilding, so I was a little apprehensive. However, this time I definitely made the right decision. The first stream valley there produced smashing views of Mountain Wagtail. Two male Black-faced Rufous Warblers were calling, and I was lucky enough to see a female briefly as she foraged in dense undergrowth, producing a constant `zik, zik' contact call. Both of these were new for me in Rwanda. The same valley also produced Blue-headed Sunbird, Regal Sunbird (without doubt my favourite bird in Nyungwe – this male was just incredible in his fresh breeding plumage – a little rainbow ball flying through the forest), Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher (a noisy pair with a juvenile - here's one of the adults: http://kilnsey.tripod.com/yellow-eyed_black_flycatcher1.jpg ), Rwenzori Batis (also with a juvenile showing the brown-flecked crown), and also Black-billed Turaco (although I could only hear him – no views alas). Narcisse and Kev. showed up about an hour later, looking very tired, and having seen only the waterfall. So we pegged it back up to Gisakura and just made our bus.

Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher


What a magical forest Nyungwe is. As the bus sped through the forest I felt sad that I was perhaps leaving it for the last time… In November I'm off back to the UK.

Jason

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Common (Steppe) Buzzard in Musanze

I came across this bird at our site (Ikoro) in Ruhengeri (Musanze) this morning. Altitude is 1850m and habitat is eucalypt 'forest' (6.5 hectares) with wild understorey (dense in some places) and adjacent to the road to the Cyanika border with Uganda. According to one of my guys, the bird has been around for a few days now.


It had been perched when I saw it the 1st time from where it flew to two other perches, avoiding my camera at all costs it seemed. I caught a hint of what appeared to be a pale rump - paler than the rest of the brown back and the dark fingers were distinct. Flight was slow 'relaxed' wingbeats. The last time it took off, it started circling higher and further albeit with hardly a wingbeat so must've found some good currents. This is the only time I managed to get photos.


Dick Forsman has kindly just confirmed the ID as Common (Steppe) Buzzard Buteo buteo vulpinus. This is the 1st record for this species at our site and also the first that I have for Ruhengeri where the bird was not on soaring high on passage.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Trip to Bare & 2nd Country record for Peter's Twinspot

Posted by Jason on the Rwanda_BurundiBirds group on 18 October 2010

On Sunday I went to my favourite papyrus swamp near Kibungo. As well as fantastic views of my favourite pair of Papyrus Gonoleks, I came across a pair of Peter's Twinspot, which is apparently only the second record for Rwanda, here in the northwestern most corner of its range.



A very early morning moto dropped me off at Bare and I walked down to the bridge between Ngoma and Kirihe Districts (GPS S 2.29347, E 30.50067) before the mist had cleared. Despite the thick white blanket of cloud, the dew raining off the trees and the rather persistent mozzies, the birds were already active when I arrived, with the call of the White-winged Warbler ringing out every 30m or so as I walked down, along with more occasional Greater Swamp Warblers gargling their way through their curious repertoire.

Almost immediately (where I saw my first ever pair), a pair of Papyrus Gonoleks came into view, and turned on their amazing duet for me. Since the rains started (approx. 1 month) the PGs have been reasserting their territory. This pair provided some smashing pics:
http://kilnsey.tripod.com/pap1.jpg ; http://kilnsey.tripod.com/pap2.jpg

Other good birds in this early period included Collared Sunbird, European Bee-eater, Meyer's Parrot, Vieillot's Black Weaver (lots), Yellow-throated Greenbul, Holub's Golden Weaver (got lovely photos of a pair nestbuilding), Winding and Red-faced Cisticola (alas still no Carruther's!), Yellow Bishop (males just starting to adorn breeding plumage), Grey-capped Warbler, Mackinnon's Shrike, Spur-winged Goose, Black Crake, Yellow-billed Duck and Woodland Kingfisher.

Migrants included a steady stream of European Bee-eaters, at least 3 Common Buzzard, one Wahlberg's Eagle, and one (perhaps an intra-African migrant?) Ayres's Hawk-Eagle with its very distinctive underwing markings and flight pattern. My 2nd record for Rwanda.

As the mist rose, and the day began to heat up, I headed north east along the edge of the papyrus, finding several nice valleys with remnant or degraded woodland. These provided Lesser Honeyguide, E. Grey Plantain-eater, Black-headed Oriole, Narina Trogon (a bit of a surprise, but it gave fantastic views as it slouched nonchalantly over a branch in a big fig tree), Copper Sunbird, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Siffling Cisticola (in nearby scrub), Green-backed Woodpecker (only my 3rd record for Rwanda of this dainty little guy, calling with a surprisingly plover-like two part slurred whistle), African Dusky Flycatcher, Chinspot Batis, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, African Citril, Green-headed Sunbird, White-chinned Prinia and Banded Mongoose hurrying along busily in front of me as I sat for lunch.

The edge of the papyrus also produced Black-and-white Mannikin, Cape Wagtail, Black headed (melanocephalus) Weaver (males just starting to come into breeding plumage), Yellow-throated Longclaw (surprisingly! These guys get everywhere), African Marsh Harrier, Northern Brown-throated Weaver, Swamp Flycatcher, Blue Monkey (not really a bird, but visible today as they were coming to the edges of the swamps to feed on the palm dates - Is this Phoenix Palm on the edges of the papyrus?), and I also found a pair of Spot-flanked Barbets nesting in the stump of an old palm, where they'd chiselled out a perfectly round nesthole: http://kilnsey.tripod.com/barb1.jpg

On my way back, I stumbled haphazardly on the highlight of the day, a pair of scruptiously beautiful Peter's Twinspots, feeding very casually on the freshly dug bean fields between overgrown vegetation and the edge of the swamp. What an amazing stunner this guy is, and his wife was quite cute too! Wow! Managed to get photos of what was a first for me, and it turned out, only the second record for Rwanda: http://kilnsey.tripod.com/peter1.jpg

This week I'm off on a whistle-stop tour of Nyungwe, Cyamudongo and then up to the Virungas to see chimps, gorillas, hopefully a few birds. I feel like a child on Xmas eve!

Jason