September 9, 2015: Lake Mburo National Park, Uganda — Livingstone and I left the misty forests of Ruhija early this morning and made our way toward Lake Mburo, a totally different landscape where the hot sun bakes a thorny, lowland savanna. We arrived at Mburo in midafternoon with enough time to spend a couple of good hours birding, and cruised some dirt roads until sunset.
En route, I finally nabbed a photo of a Toyota Noah—a minivan model we don't have in the U.S. but which seems to be relatively common in East Africa. I never knew I had a car named after me! A couple of weeks ago, Anthony, our bird guide in Tanzania, told me a funny story about this car: He said that, because of the large Islamic population in Tanzania, it's not nice to say the word "pork" in public; so, instead, they sometimes substitute the word "Noah," as in "let's go eat some Noah for dinner." This is because the Toyota Noah happens to be big-butted and snub-nosed, like a pig. Whatever, I'll take it!
Lake Mburo is a sizable reserve in extreme southern Uganda which attracts a few birds found nowhere else in this country. Livingstone knew some spots to try and we scored two goodies—Brown-chested Lapwing and Red-faced Barbet - right off the bat. Then, before darkness fell, a park guide named Moses showed us a spot where we found an African Finfoot - one of my most-wanted birds on this continent, nearly at the last minute. We’ll spend tomorrow, my last full day in Africa, exploring this park.
Tonight I am staying in a “banda” (the local term for a type of small hut) at the park headquarters. It’s a very basic accommodation, but more charming than most: My banda is called “Pelican House” and has a picture of a white pelican painted on the front. It has no wall sockets; there’s a pit toilet out back; and the standalone shower is across a field. When I walked to the shower by headlamp this evening, I found myself tiptoeing through a herd of about 100 sleeping impala, and the water was piped from a metal tank over an open fire. More than any resort, this place feels like Africa.
New birds today: 7
Year list: 4199