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Day 4 (Friday, 27th February)

     Gorilla trekking, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest


Briefing The trek Group
The briefing at the main office Trekking to the forest edge (the Rushegura family was in the trees in the distance) A full compliment of 8 trekkers & park staff

So the big day had come at last!Many years of hoping and months of planning, and the 6.15 alarm signified the morning call to go trekking for Gorillas. The early wakening was to ensure a decent breakfast and also to make the UWA reception for 7.30 - not too difficult since this was only a five minute drive from the lodge. We had been given a walking stick each as we left Engagi,  although this was swiftly dispensed with as soon as possible. Once at the rendezvous point within the national park, we were sat in front of a video of Gorillas while waiting for three late arrivals. We then had an orientation session with David, one of the senior guides. There were only 24 trekkers today, which meant allocation to 3 groups of 8 each. Ours was Rushegura, so called apparently because they tend to prefer being closer to the edge of the forest, and also allow close views. This is also the same family that occasionally leaves the forest to visit the local village and lodges. Pay dirt! Some folk specifically ask for a long trek, but we were more than happy to visit a closer group if we could. We were driven the short distance to the meeting point by our own guide, and then set off through the edge of the village and banana plantation with David, some extra porters, and a couple of armed guards, just in case the gorillas fancied a bit of a kerfuffle.

The initial assault on the hill was in the open, and it was already getting hot. We all had the recommended long sleeves and tucked in long trousers, and with the forest looming dense and enclosed above us - up the hill in other words - this looked like the start of a hot experience. Imagine our delight as we neared the forest edge when David had been in contact with the scouts ahead, and that things looked "promising". An understatement indeed, since we were then asked to down the bags and walking sticks, and that the regulation hour had begun. They were here, and barely half an hour into the walk! We then scrambled up a steep and slippery slope, although this wasn't for too long, when the first brace of the family were spotted in a lone spindly tree. I was at the back of the group, and wondered why everyone was sitting in a row, when a procession of 3 Gorillas found us! The regulation distance is 7 metres, but that is for us - not our fault if the animals themselves seek us out! We then moved around this small area, scrambling at times when the going got steep and slippery again, and took in the whole if the family. The silverback - not quite the correct term as yet since this 12 year old was just changing from black back to silver, was contenting himself on choice stems at the back of the group.

We had expected to be trekking for some hours and then to have only reasonable views - no more than half and hour to connect with the Gorillas and then the family themselves approaching us so closely? You really can't buy that luck.

Silverback Gorilla Gorilla
Gorilla in tree Silverback
Gorilla
Looking back down the valley (there IS a Gorilla in the spindly tree!!)
 
 

     Birding around Engagi Lodge and Bwindi Forest Edge

After a celebratory cup of coffee on the balcony - high rollers or what? -  I went for a short walk around the Engagi Lodge grounds. Things had already looked good when a Neuman's Warbler passed by the balcony (normally a shy and difficult to see species) as well as Klaas's Cuckoo across the path. Heading in the direction of the river walk, under the main bar area, a Levaillant's Cuckoo flew across and landed in a tree nearby. With this good luck in the bag, I retraced steps back toward the main gate, to where there was quite a bit of bird activity. Sunbirds in the form of Bronzy & Rwenzori Double-collared were regular in the flowering bushes, and a static Streaky Seedeater was in a higher bush. A small collection of Speckled Mousebirds were next to another of the lodges. Just before evening meal, a Ross's Turaco would add to the excitement with two flypasts in front of our own lodge.

Before that, however, our guide had suggested a walk for a couple of hours to look for some birds. My feeling was that he was looking for any excuse to spend some time in the forest to look at the birds - no real excuses needed for me to join you here, Michael! We drove the short journey back into the park, and left the van just above the meeting area for the Gorilla trekking. The plan was to slowly walk along the main track, which could also reach a waterfall eventually, and then to turn down to the river to complete a circuit. This took all of two hours, and was extremely enjoyable. First we had to negotiate a calling Bulbul - it was only at the end of the walk that we pinned it down to the magnificent Little Greenbul! And then after some superb close views of a White-tailed Blue Flycatcher, the masochistic task of sorting out a brown flycatcher. Quite enjoyable really, and by the way the answer was Ashy Flycatcher. Then the birds really started to turn out. After a couple of White-eyes and a Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, an outstanding Lüdher's Bushshrike darted across the track, to start calling on the opposite side of a bush. Then a single tree offered Bocage's Bushshrike, a Grey Apalis, and female Petit's Cuckooshrike. The possible partner to the latter, a stunning male, was picked up only minutes later further down the track. We then turned down towards the river, and the birds were much more sparse. Apart from some Black Sawwings overhead, the main attraction was Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, which was especially welcome since it was also a new bird for the Michael.

Ashy Flycatcher Bocage's Bushshrike Ludher's Bushshrike
Ashy Flycatcher Bocage's Bushshrike Ludher's Bushshrike
Bronzy Sunbird Bronzy Sunbird Rwenzori Sunbird
Bronzy Sunbird (male) Bronzy Sunbird (female) Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird
Petit's Cuckooshrike Levaillant's Cuckoo Streaky Seedeater
Petit's Cuckooshrike Levaillant's Cuckoo Streaky Seedeater
Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird White-tailed Blue Flycatcher Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher
Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird White-tailed Blue Fycatcher Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher

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Introduction

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Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7 Day 8 Day 9

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