World Migratory Bird Day 2021 in Uganda at Lutembe Bay

World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) is a day that is dedicated to migratory birds awareness and in this year 2021 it has been celebrated on 8th May. Migratory birds are faced with challenges along their migratory paths such as hunting, poisoning, and degradation of stopover points. WMBD in Africa is helping to sensitize the local population about the migration of birds and many locals are surprised to learn that many of the birds they see during certain times of the year are visitors coming from as far as Europe. The people are sensitized on the importance of the migratory birds, and the need to conserve them and their habitats.

Uganda, which hosts many Palearctic & Afrotropical migrant birds, joined the rest of the world in recognizing and celebrating the World Migratory Bird Day. The day was well attended by several groups and individuals with Nature Uganda taking the lead in coordinating and organizing the day’s activities intended to draw attention to the migratory birds.

Nature Uganda organized a birding excursion to Lutembe Wetland on Lake Victoria which is one of the 9 Ramsar sites in Uganda. There would not have been a better place than Lutembe wetland for this day because the wetland hosts many migrant birds but it is also under immense threat for destruction from encroachment and illegal activities. A lot of the habitats around the wetland have been razed for agriculture and settlements, and commercial flower growing along the lake shore has seen dangerous chemicals being released into the wetland.

We met up at Lutembe early in the morning. Among the participants included Ugandan bird guides and tour operators who benefit a lot from selling birding in Uganda tours, members from the local community near Lutembe who take the lead in destroying or protecting the wetland, Civil Aviation Authority from Entebbe International Airport which shares the same ecosystem on Lake Victoria, and importantly students from university who represent the young and custodians of the future of conservation.

Birding at Lutembe covers water and land habitats and therefore the group was divided into two, one group birding on water and another on land with the two groups to meet later and combine one list.

Personally, I wanted to see what gulls, terns and other migrant water birds were still present given that many Palearctic migrants have already left by April, so I decided to join the water group. We set off in a motorized canoe and we birded the fringes first, scanning the papyrus where we spotted many Northern Brown Throated Weavers, and Swamp Flycatchers, Village Weavers, Striated Heron, Malachite Kingfisher, a Sedge Warbler (a Paleartic migrant), Purple Heron, Yellow-billed Ducks, White-faced Whistling Ducks, and Long-tailed Cormorants. We even heard the elusive Papyrus Gonolek and played its call but it refused to come out of hiding. We proceeded to the small islands of mudflats and found small flocks of Grey-head headed and Black-headed Gulls were still present, in addition to Whiskered, White-winged Terns and Gull-billed Terns, Common Ringed Plovers, Common Greenshank, Little Egrets, Great Egret, Great Cormorant. The highlight for the group was witnessing the Osprey diving for a fish that it struggled to fly away with as it was quite sizeable.

Once we returned after two hours birding on the lake another shift from the lake group set out into the lake but a few minutes later it started pouring and interrupting the day which started off so well… The heavy downpour didn’t stop for several hours and unfortunately brought at an early end to the World Migratory Bird Day activities at Lutembe.

Birding and nature walk at Mpanga Forest with the Bird Guides Club

On 28th May 2016 the Uganda Bird Guides Club members (me inclusive) set out for the weekly day birding trip, and we went to Mpanga Forest Reserve which is located 36 kilometers southwest of Kampala. This was the second time this year Mpanga Forest was hosting us and I was very eager for this trip as I had missed out on the previous one. This was also my first forest birding outing of the year and was looking to add to my list of forest species which is not so impressive. We set off from Kampala at about 7am and made it to Mpanga in only one hour. The weather was not the best though! It was cloudy and humid so bird activity was likely to be very low in the forest.

birding at mpanga forest

After the briefing of the day’s group of about 18 birders and enthusiasts by Prossy Nanyombi who is the base guide at Mpanga forest and is also a senior member of the Uganda bird guides club and the chairperson of the Uganda Women’s Birders, we set about to look for birds. An African Emerald Cuckoo (male) had been calling, “hello baby”, since we arrived.

African Emeral Cuckoo - my mega zoom (2100) was still not sufficient to capture its beauty!
African Emerald Cuckoo – my mega zoom (2100) was still not sufficient to capture its beauty!

It was perched on a leafless brunch in the top one of the highest rising trees near the edge of the forest. The views were very clear and the bird stayed long enough for all the group members to see its beautiful green and gold colors! We birded in the compound of the visitors’ center, observing the forest edge and spotted a number of birds including: Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher, Brown-backed Scrub-robin, Pied Wagtail, Vielloit’s Black Weaver, Black-and-white Casqued Hornbill, Little Greenbul, Yellow-throated Tinkerbird (heard), Green-throated, Little Green, Copper and Collared Sunbird, Yellow-mantled Weaver, White-breasted and Grey-headed Nigrofinch. A single Weyns’s Weaver showed itself briefly when it flew into forest. Didn’t get clear views! We also observed Purple Starlings flying from the forest. Looking to have exhausted visitors’ area we decided to enter the forest taking the wide trail which runs throughout the forest. As expected, because of the cloudy weather conditions, inside the forest was humid and cool and thus the birds were not out for now. We were only treated to different groups of the Black-and-white Casqued Hornbill calling noisily from different parts of the forest. The Blue-throated Roller displayed briefly from deeper in the canopy.

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The Black-and-white Casqued Hornbill had taken cover too, but their gigantic sizes helped reveal their cover!

I have been to Mpanga Forest a number of times before but this time proved to be the least productive ever! We enjoyed observing other wildlife such the different tree species, butterflies, red-tailed monkeys, and a huge green millipede!!

green millipede
Green millipede

before we opted to move out of and try the open cultivated areas near the forest and managed to spot quite a number of species including: Great Blue Turaco, African Pied Horbill (arriving into the Mpanga forest), Olive-bellied and Red-chested Sunbird, Plain-backed Pipit, Eastern Grey Plantain-eater, Common Bulbul, Crowned hornbill, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Western Citril, Bronze Mannikin, Blue-spotted Wood Dove, Diederik Cuckoo, Pygmy Kingfisher, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Lizard Buzzard, African Blue Flycatcher, African Thrush, Angola Swallow.

At about 10.30am we saw a downpour approaching and so abandoned the birding and rushed to the visitor’s center and immediately we got there it started raining heavily, cutting short our birding excursion. Out of the 4 hours of birding we had had hoped for we did only 2 hour. Be we still managed to record about 50 bird species from Mpanga Forest and the cultivations.

We leave Mpanga for the downpour
We leave Mpanga for the downpour

We drove back to Kampala where found it hot, dry and dusty, without any sign of rain! The dry season was about to start in June when it’s most favorable to bird in Mpanga Forest, I think we shall return soon!

Would you like to do a day birding tour to Mpanga Forest? you can contact with organizing it and can even book our 1 day birding tour to Mabamba swamp and Mpanga forest