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Queen Elizabeth National Park, a protected birding paradise

By Vision Reporter

Added 8th November 2011 12:55 PM

In 1954 the Government of Uganda gifted 1978km of land to the world, a nature preserve to be used as a living laboratory for scientific research, eco-tourism and tropical forest management. The Queen Elizabeth National Park.

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By Deusdedit Ruhangariyo
In 1954 the Government of Uganda gifted 1978km of land to the world, a nature preserve to be used as a living laboratory for scientific research, eco-tourism and tropical forest management. The Queen Elizabeth National Park.
The Park, stretches from the crater-dotted foothills of the Rwenzori range in the North, along the shores of Lake Edward to the remote Ishasha River in the South, incorporating a wide variety of habitats that range from Savanna and wetlands to gallery and lowland forest.
This remarkable diversity is reflected in its bird list of over 605 species, the largest of any protected area in Africa.
The main camp at Mweya is attractively positioned at a peninsula separating the Kazinga Channel from Lake Edward, with fine views of Rwenzori Mountains and spectacular sunsets over the lake.
White-shouldered Cliff Chat which is increasingly becoming a rare sight in Uganda is also resident here.
Other species include: Shoebill, Martial Eagle, Black-rumped Buttonquail, African Skimmer, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Black Bee-eater, White-tailed Lark, White-winged Warbler, and Papyrus Canary.
Here birders get a decent chance of seeing males competing for female attention and while watching this rare scenario, you will simultaneously watch birds build their nests (which is often done in groups). This combination is a rare experience indeed.
In the vicinity of the airstrip and the camping site along the Kazinga Channel, you will see the resident African Mourning Dove, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Swamp Flycatcher (often far from water), Grey-capped Warbler, the beautiful Black-headed Gonolek, Red-chested Sunbird Slender-billed, Yellow-backed Nightjars are fairly common along the airstrip and may be flushed from their roosts under thickets.
The Raptors
These are well represented by Brown Snake Eagle, Bateleur, African Harrier-Hawk, Martial Eagle and Grey Kestel are all frequently seen. Lion day, Temminck’s Courser, Collared Pratincole and Red-capped Lark, prefer short grass towards the southern end of the airstrip, which is also a good vantage point from which to observe over flying raptors, large water birds such as pelicans, storks, and swifts and swallows.
At sunset thousands of swifts perform an acrobatic display of feeding before disappearing into the horizon a scene often captured by professional photographers on visit.
Kazinga Channel
The Kazinga Channel is a natural magnet for water birds in the vicinity of Mweya and acts as a migrant trap for birds moving along the Albertine Rift.
A launch departs twice daily providing an excellent way to see a wide variety of water-related species on the channel.
As you start the cruise, you are able to see water birds  such as: Great White and Pick-backed pelicans, Great and Long-tailed Carmorants, common Squacco Heron, African Open-billed Stork, White-faced whistling and knob-billed Ducks and  African Fish Eagle among others.
Additionally, a scenic crater area found north of Katwe road is a good place to search for widespread grass land species such as common Buttonquail, Croaking Cisticola, Broad-tailed Warbler and marsh Tcharaga.
Papyrus swamps
She says that the papyrus swamps provide nesting sites for Shoebill and they may be seen soaring overhead or feeding at the edge of the marsh in the early morning or late afternoon.
The Cultural twist
The Bakonzo, some of the indigenous people around Queen Elizabeth, first settled here many hundred years ago. And although western influences are evident, they haven’t overshadowed the traditional Bakonzo customs and folklore.
By building eco-lodges in their villages and guiding birding tours, many Bakonzo communities have found new ways of benefiting from their natural gifts. Bakonzo guides are incredibly in tune with nature. 
While guiding you through the forests you will be amazed at the way their innate sense of direction will lead you through the sometimes thick unmapped areas. And their stories and legends will keep you entertained along the way. 
Mweya Safari Lodge overlooks the Peninsular. However, having your breakfast at the balcony is good enough to expose the abundant birdlife found in Queen Elizabeth national Park.
The National Park Campsite overlooks the Kazinga Channel, has showers and pit latrines. Jacan safari Lodge under the Geo Lodges Chain in Uganda is within the Maramagambo Forest. Wilderness Tented Camp in Ishasha area. Bandas (1 two bed and 2 three bed) managed by Uganda Wild Life Authority.
William Byaruhanga, chairman Tourism Uganda, says: ‘Amongst the ornithologists, Uganda has long been the best kept secret in terms of its plethora of bird species with over 1,040 species on record’.
‘This ranks Uganda as one of the top global destinations for bird watchers and combined with Uganda’s other unique attributes, make it a definite must visit destination’. He concludes.
Meanwhile, the Uganda Wild Life Authority (UWA) recently launched eight new birding trails in Murchison Falls National Park effectively mak

Queen Elizabeth National Park, a protected birding paradise

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