Mpanga Forest Reserve: November 22, 2015

It was another quiet Sunday morning at Mpanga Forest Reserve. I am gradually making sense of the birds there, even though it often seems like the forest is devoid of birdlife. I sometimes go an hour without seeing a single bird and rarely encounter a mixed species flock; however, on each visit I see a few new species and learn a few new calls. There is a lot to be positive about Mpanga: it is close to Kampala the trail network is well maintained, the use of a guides is not required, and the entrance fee is only 10,000UGX, which is about three dollars.

About halfway around the Butterfly Trail loop, I discovered a fruiting tree. Cryptic bulbul species periodically mobbed tree, whose crown was at the mid-canopy level.  With time I picked out identifying features for a few species, including Little Green, Yellow-Whiskered, and Slender-Billed Greenbuls. Meanwhile, a calling White-Spotted Flufftail approached through the undergrowth to within a few meters of my position. After an hour greenbul parsing grew tiresome, and since I hadn't recorded bird species from any other family, I decided to move on from my stakeout.

Taking a break from the forest, I birded the edge around the reception area for a while. Confiding Crowned and Black-and-White Casqued Hornbills were loosely associating with Red-Tailed Monkeys as they crashed around in the canopy. In a hedgerow near the staff living quarters, I found a group of Black-and-White Mannikins. Yellow White-Eye, Grey-Backed Cameroptera, Collared and Scarlet-Chested Sunbirds are all common in the garden area around the reception buildings, and I almost always find a large flock of Weyn's Weavers feeding in a flowering tree high in the canopy, the females far outnumbering the males.

After another quiet hour on the Hornbill Trail, I returned to the car with the intention of leaving for the day. A young woman introduced herself and started quizzing me on what I had seen. I admitted that I hadn't seen much, but shared the highlights from my previous four visits to the reserve, which includes Red-Chested Cuckoo, Black-Billed Turaco, Scaly-Breasted Illadopsis, Chestnut Wattle-Eye, Green-Backed Twinspot, White-Breasted Negrofinch, Grey-Headed Negrofinch, and Red-Headed Malimbe. Nanyombi Proscovia, or Prossy, is an employee of the National Forest Authority and freelance bird guide. Apparently, she knows the birds of the reserve very well and told me she had once recorded 119 species in a long morning of birding in the forest and adjacent farmland.

It was motivating to compare notes with her and hear how many interesting and relatively common species I have yet to record at Mpanga: Blue-Throated Roller, Fire-Crested Alethe, Red-Tailed Bristlebill, Black Cuckoo, Narina Trogon, Blue-Breatsed Kingfisher, Yellow-Crested Woodpecker, African Shrike-Flycatcher, Blue-Throated Brown Sunbird, and Superb Sunbird. When I complained that bird activity generally seems low, she admitted that it could depend greatly on the weather. As it has been consistently humid and cool during my visits over the last few months, perhaps my feelings about Mpanga will change after the rainy season.

Notable birds seen: Lizard Buzzard, White-Spotted Flufftail (h), Grey-Crowned Crane, Tambourine Dove, Grey Parrot, Great Blue Turaco, Blue-Headed Coucal, Broad-Billed Roller, Crowned Hornbill, African Pied Hornbill, Black-and-White-Casqued Hornbill, Yellow-Throated Tinkerbird, Western Nicator, Little Greenbul, Yellow-Whiskered Greenbul, Slender-Billed Greenbul, White-Throated Greenbul, African Thrush, Rufous Flycatcher-Thrush, Buff-Throated Apalis (h), Grey-Backed Camaroptera, Western Black-Headed Oriole, Weyn's Weaver, Black-and-White Mannikin.

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