After my week in Nairobi (read about my birding at Lake Magadi here) it was time to spend a week in Kampala, Uganda. Kampala is my favourite of East Africa’s cities. Dar es Salaam has too many house crows, Nairobi is big and dirty, but Kampala has a certain charm to it. Aesthetically, Kampala sports the typical circa-60’s East African architecture, but there’s more greenery and the rolling hills amongst which the capital is settled seem to take the edge off it.
Kampala Golf Course
Also, the birding in Kampala itself is pretty good. I stayed at the Protea Hotel, which is about a 10 minute stroll from Kampala’s golf course. On the point of walking, I felt relatively safe walking around Kampala during the day, which was a nice change from Nairobi. The golf course is open to the roads that surround it so I just wandered in, but was eventually asked to leave after about 90 minutes of birding. I should have stopped in at the pro-shop and asked permission, and I recommend people do that, but all the locals appear to use the course as a thoroughfare so I just headed in.
Within two minutes of wandering between fairways (be careful – golf is actually played!) I was reminded why I love the birding in Kampala. My suspicions that a calling falco species was of the African Hobby variety were quickly proven when the above silhouette dashed overhead. My photos are rubbish, but the giss is telling. Luckily the bird did another fly-by so I was able to snap this slightly less rubbish image.
The golf course is surrounded by very large trees that are often dotted with Yellow-billed Kites, Marabou Storks or in the case below, Hooded Vultures. The skies above Kampala, and Nairobi in fact too, are always filled with Kites – I’ve never seen such high concentrations of these birds over a city.
I’m afraid rubbish photos were the order of the day as can be seen by the Eastern Grey Plantain-eater I’ve included below. This turaco is hard to miss with its distinctive call and common garden-species status. A Ross’s Turaco also did a brief fly-by as I was dodging golf balls up the 17th, but it was a bit too quick for my camera. What a stunning bird!
Eastern Grey Plantain-eater
By the time I reached this Double-toothed Barbet I had noticed an official-looking person (uniform and all) heading towards me. I tried the classic birder reaction of continuing to snap photos, looking at birds and giving off an air of general ignorance, but this didn’t help! These Double-toothed Barbets really are cracking birds. I guess our Southern African barbets are also nice to look at, but the diversity and beauty of East Africa’s barbets is something to behold.
This Northern Black Flycatcher was taken post the stern talking-to delivered by the golf course security guard so I was lucky to even get this shot. What frustrated me was that while he was asking me to leave the course locals were streaming past on their way home from work. Perhaps he was just worried about me being hit by a stray golf ball?
Northern Black Flycatcher
If you can get permission to walk the Kampala golf course, or are willing to take a chance, I can recommend it. Even if you’ve only got an hour to spare it’s worth a quick look. Just keep an eye out for flying balls!
Kampala golf course bird list:
African Harrier-hawk, African Hobby, Eastern Gray Plantain-eater, Yellow-billed Kite, Hooded Vulture, Ross’s Turaco, Northern Black Flycatcher, Yellow-eyed Canary, African Thrush, Marabou Stork, Double-toothed Barbet, Common Bulbul, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Brown (Meyers) Parrot.