February 2017

Mountain Gorilla
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Chris Leahy led a group of Mass Audubon travelers to Uganda which offered a superb combination of excellent birding, including the chance to see many West African species impossible to see elsewhere in the region; a nice variety of iconic African mammals; the opportunity as the group travelled through different landscapes and villages to observe the colorful bustle of daily life, exceptionally pleasant accommodations, and the upbeat and welcoming attitude of the Ugandans at each stop.

For all of these wonderful experiences, the credit goes to Herbert Byaruhanga, a multi-talented guide, for his well-designed itinerary; his unparalleled knowledge of Ugandan birdlife; his encyclopedic knowledge of all things Ugandan; his eagerness to share his experiences and, not least, his ebullient personality and ever-present sense of humor. His ability to engage people in his mission makes him a major positive influence in the conservation of his country’s wildlife.

Highlights included:

  • The literally incomparable shoebills, standing like statues in the marshy wilderness, seemingly content to be observed at length—on the very first outing of the tour!
  • The fine morning game drive at Murchison Falls National Park with the group’s first sightings of giraffes, elephants, buffalo and other African storybook animals; the vast flocks of migrating Abdim’s storks and the climatic entrance at close range toward the end of the drive of some Patas monkeys and a wholly unexpected secretary bird.
  • The swarm of red-throated bee-eaters at their riverbank colony, great variety of waterbirds and (Herbert’s bird-of-the-trip) Pel’s fishing owl as the group motored at leisure toward the foaming waters of Murchison Falls.
  • The large male chimpanzee, who, as if to mock the group’s quasi-frantic, sweaty chase through the Kibale Forest, climbed slowly down from his treetop perch, ambled a few yards away, stretched out on his back, crossed his legs and went to sleep with barely a glance at his nearest primate relatives surrounding him with cameras clicking.
  • The excellent morning’s birding with local guide Matthew along the forest trail at Bwindi.
  • A couple of hours hanging out with an extended family of mountain gorillas—an experience to which the term “unforgettable” does no justice.