Entebbe Botanical Gardens: October 11, 2015

The Entebbe Botanical Gardens, right on the shores of Lake Victoria, have long been a first stop for birders visiting Uganda. Just a few minutes away from the international airport, the site is a great place to stretch one’s legs before getting in a car for the long drive to one of Western Uganda’s many spectacular national parks, including Queen Elizabeth, Murchison, and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. For visiting birders arriving late at night, it makes sense to skip Kampala all together, stay in one of Entebbe’s many hotels, and bird the botanical gardens for a few hours in the morning before hitting the road.

Coming from Kampala late on a Sunday morning, I was surprised just how long it took to reach the gardens, well over an hour in moderate traffic. Given our late start, Aimee and I were obviously not about to do any serious birding, just looking to get out of the house; however, we had brought our binoculars and were ready to admire any birds that were active at midday. With rain threatening, there was actually a lot of bird activity, and we jumped right into birding as soon as we had parked the car. After only ten minutes, we had ticked Red-Chested Sunbird, Slender-Billed Weaver, Yellow-Throated Greenbul, and Great Blue Turaco.

We strolled leisurely through the gardens, touring the small patch of indigenous forest and admiring the lake shore. We spotted an adult African Fish Eagle tearing apart a fish high in a tree, parsed the differences between Vieillot’s Black, Orange, Slender-Billed, and Weyn’s Weaver, and admired several kingfisher species. I didn’t note any Rock Pratincoles, but we did tick Splendid Starling, Olive-Bellied Sunbird, and Ross’s Turaco. In a few areas, I was cautious about our personal security, but ultimately the other visitors at the park, including two guys who were flying a drone overhead, proved to be a greater attraction than us.

Before returning home to Kampala, we stopped at the Entebbe sewage pond, which is reputedly a hot spot for migratory waders. The directions in Where to Watch Birds in Uganda are outdated, but the concrete-lined ponds were easy to find after taking a right just after passing through greater Entebbe. Within five minutes several security guards arrived on the scene and ordered us to put our cameras away. It didn’t make any difference to them that we weren’t actually carrying cameras and were only using binoculars to scan the ponds. Apparently, just looking is prohibited. Still, I managed to tick both Black-Headed and Grey Herons, Spur-Winged Lapwing, Black-Winged Stilt,  Yellow-Billed Duck, and Wood Sandpiper.

Notable birds seen:  Long-Tailed Cormorant, Little Egret, Black-Headed Heron, Grey Heron, Hamerkop, Yellow-Billed Duck, African Fish Eagle, Palm-Nut Vulture, African Jacana, Black-Winged Stilt, Spur-Winged Lapwing, Wood Sandpiper, Great Blue Turaco, Ross’s Turaco, Eastern Grey Plantain-Eater, African Palm Swift, Pied Kingfisher, Woodland Kingfisher, White-Throated Bee-Eater, Black-and-White Casqued Hornbill, Yellow-Throated Greenbul, Yellow White-Eye, Olive-Bellied Sunbird, Red-Chested Sunbird, Scarlet-Chested Sunbird, Splendid Starling, Slender-Billed Weaver, Orange Weaver, Vieillot’s Black Weaver, Weyn’s Weaver.

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