Birds and bees – minus the bees

11 05 2011

When we moved into our house I was joyful that this was the land of milk and honey – minus the milk. We had a huge beehive in the ceilings just outside our room, but the bees seem to have got the message of the bee-keeper and have sought another home. (we do still want to have a hive or two down at the bottom end of the ‘farm’.  It could still be the land of honey!)

The birds still fascinate us and we have binoculars at the ready most of the day. There are over 1000 bird species inUganda; we have recorded seeing about a tenth of that. Not great in birding standards but we are not here primarily to watch avifauna! (as I write a group of Myers, or Brown parrots is yelling loudly as they do a standard fly-past)

From our porch where we eat breakfast in the mornings we have a view over a small valley and there are a number of large trees about, which is great for the birds. We regularly see Green pigeons, African thrushes and bulbuls during breakfast. Habitual visitors around this area, more on the ground, are Bronze Mannikins, Red-cheeked cordon bleu (blushing blou-sysies, if you like!) and gorgeous red bar-fronted firefinch. We put up a nectar feeder and within a day a Copper Sunbird was visiting often. Unfortunately other birds have not responded as readily to our other food offerings.

Because the valley is very damp at the moment we hear the call of ‘vlei-loerie’ or ‘rainbird’ very often. It is not the Burchell’s coucal but a pair of White-browed coucals that seek solace in their mournful cries.  Woodlands kingfishers nest in one of the trees and we hear the “tjip-tchiiiiiiiirrrrr” from very early morning until late at night. I have not tired of this call yet! The gorgeous flashes of turquoise as they fly up to a branch, massive grasshopper in mouth, are a tonic to tired, dusty eyes.

We also have  nesting Lizard buzzard and Eastern Grey Plantain eaters in the front yard.  Both these birds have sharp cries, and the field guide describes the Plantain eater’s cry as “rising to maniacal laughter’ – that’s it! It calls loudly and it definitely induces nervous giggles the first few times one hears the call!  The Plantain eaters kept me entertained for a good while on the first day we were at the house: I was sitting on a low wall and watching one: he would fly from the high branches from where the nest was being made to the bottle-brush tree across the yard. He would find the branches he sought, move his way carefully to the very tip of the same launch-pad branch everytime and fly back to the nest. He would have totally denuded the branch of all the little leaflets growing there – every single time. Entertaining and funny!

Some of the other great highlights on our bird list so far: Double-toothed barbet at Entebbe Gardens; Black-headed gonoleks at Jinja (a bit like Crimson-breated shrike, and a sound just like Orioles!) , Piapiacs here in town (Little crows with very long tails)  and a mass of different coloured weavers – from pitch black Viellot’s black weaver to compact weavers.

About 40 totally new lifers have been seen so far.   We are keeping a list and hope to add many more along the way. 

The moments of joy we get from these great creatures are gifts that we both treasure.





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