Birding Without Borders

Day 247: Birding the Nile

Noah manages to find nightjars and not to be eaten by crocodiles.

September 4, 2015: Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda — In southwest Uganda, near the Congo border, where Lake George flows imperceptibly through the Kazinga Channel into Lake Edward, I’m tucked into bed in a room with a bare lightbulb and mosquito nets. Elephants, buffalo, and warthogs roam wild on the savanna outside. Since dawn this morning, Livingstone and I have seen nearly 150 species of birdsjust another great day in East Africa.

We crossed the equator today and arrived at Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda’s largest and most-visited reserve, early this afternoon. I immediately walked onto a boat and spent two hours floating down the channel with all kinds of winged creatures: Pelicans, fish-eagles, cormorants, storks, plovers, sandpipers, pratincoles, herons, egrets, hamerkops, geese, gulls, terns, bee-eaters, and babblers. I’d seen all these before, and the boat ride was really just for one bird, the African Skimmer, which we found mixed with the terns and buffalo on a muddy shoreline. Elephants and huge Nile crocodiles lined the bank.

In the evening Livingstone and I went looking for Square-tailed Nightjars at a spot he has had them before, down a little-used dead-end road. When we reached the road’s end, we were surprised to find a large camp set up with numbered tents, running generators, and a swanky outdoor dining rooman instant mini-city in the savanna, maybe for a wedding or something. We picked through the camp and stood waiting on the far side for the nightjar to wake up. 

It was difficult to hear birds over the sound of the generators. A park policeman appeared and asked what we were doing. “Looking for nightjars,” said Livingstone, and the guard soon went on his way. Finally, just as dusk arrived, so did the Square-tailed Nightjar; the bird fluttered awake and sat in the open long enough for sweet views. One by one!

New birds today: 7

Year list: 4149

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