Echuya Forest, Lake Bunyonyi and Kigeyu Swamp

Fred Hodgson writes:

In March 2015 I returned to Echuya Forest for more birding and added other locations close to our lodgings on the western tip of Lake Bunyoni at the small and simple Heritage Camp at Muko.

We did a side trip to Kigeyu Swamp which was very rewarding. This swamp is formed as the outlet from Lake Bunyoni meanders its way north and then west to skirt Bwindi before entering Lake Mutande. The swamp is accessed up a motorable track off the main Kabale tar road about 10km north of Muko, It leads to a Wulfum mine and lies just before the track crosses the swamp/river. A great area for birding in mixed cover between papyrus and small agricultural plots. Here we added several species including White-winged Warbler, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Cape Wagtail and Papyrus Canary as well as two very mysterious Weaver species that are currently before the East African Rarities Committee. This place is well worth a day of any keen birder’s time.

Having settled into our cabin at Muko we lost no time in birding around the grounds and adjacent lakeside where more good birding is to be had. Little Grebes, Purple Herons, Egrets and various Waxbills and Weavers as well as the daily visits from spot -necked otters.

Next day we set off up  the main road to Kanaba Gap and what to me is one of the finest views in East Africa. First seen by me in 2003 and never bettered. The whole of the Virunga volcanoes laid out in front of you from Mahavura, Mgahinga, the jagged “teeth” of Sabinyo to Visoke and right across to the currently erupting twins of Nyiragongo and nearby Nyamuragira in the DRC.

Pick a clear day, we did, and you can nearly see forever.

After that visit we dropped down to the Echuya Forest Reserve which, despite being bisected by the new tar road, is safe to bird and can yield many specials as it did for us. Emmy is quite skilled at calling birds out for examination and photography and we were soon seeing Regal Sunbirds, the aptly named Strange Weaver, White-starred Robin, Mountain Masked Apalis and Long-tailed Barred Cuckoo to name but a few.

We gradually worked our way down hill, with Emmy bringing the car in stages, and adding other birds as we went. As you leave the forest proper there is a small stream and swamp which also repaid investigation.

Next day we birded the rough road alongside the lake where we encountered more Otters as well as many birds in and around the local shambas. The views of this lake are very good and where you can access the swampy shores you can find lots of different birds that make it their home. Notable finds were Veillot’s Black Weaver, Yellow Bishop, Blue-headed Coucal and Little Rush Warbler.  Marsh Harriers were hunting the reeds as we explored a little used track from the village where a large flock of Grey Crowned Cranes were feeding.

This whole area defintitely repays even the most dedicated birder and will be enjoyed by many others too.

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