Birding Without Borders

Day 253: Out of Africa

Noah reflects on the 1000-plus species he saw during his sub-Saharan travels.

September 10, 2015: Lake Mburo National Park, Uganda — I spent my last full day in Africa at a 100-square-mile national park called Lake Mburo, near the country’s southern border, in a hot acacia savanna with a variety of safari animals. Livingstone and I saw plenty of impala, buffalo, hippo, zebra, topi, waterbuck, bushbuck, and eland today—an interesting mix. There aren’t any elephants at this park, and single-digit numbers of lions and giraffes supposedly roam here (we didn’t see any), but it still felt like a classic safari experience. It was bittersweet to know I won't be seeing any more zebras for a while, but new territory lies ahead.

The main attraction for me, of course, was Mburo’s birdlife. Livingstone and I spent a relaxed day chasing down a few last targets, from dawn ’til dusk, with a three-hour siesta during the hot part of the afternoon. I’ve already seen almost all of the birds in this park, so the pressure was off to rack up big numbers today.

The highlight was a boat trip on the lake this morning. Livingstone and I were joined by a guide named Moses, a serious Dutch birder named Rolf de By, and a sunglasses-wearing French tourist who seemed to like crocodiles. I hoped for White-backed Night-Herons and Rufous-bellied Herons on the excursion, and we found both, as well as two more African Finfoots!

As we glided past papyrus swamps and groups of hippos, I couldn’t help reflecting on the past two-and-a-half months in Africa. It’s been an intense leg of this project. Since the end of June, from Ghana to Cameroon and South Africa, Madagascar, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, I’ve encountered about 1200 species of birds, more than 90 percent of which I’d never seen before! Tomorrow begins a whole new chapter, on a whole new continent—the Big Year rolls on.

New birds today: 5

Year list: 4204

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