BIRDING ON THE SHORES OF LAKE KIVU

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Rwanda is a small landlocked country widely known by the Mountain Gorillas that inhabit the Virunga Mountains due to the pioneer research of the famous primatologist Dian Fossey in the early 80’s.It’s also home of over 650 species of birds, including a high number of Albertine Rift endemics, that makes it a great spot for birding.Its main bird highlights are Albertine Owlet, Lagden’s Bush shrike, Kivu Ground Thrush, Red-collared Mountain Babbler, Kungwe Apalis, Handsome Francolin, Rwenzori Turaco, Rwenzori Hill Babbler, Rwenzori Double-collared and Regal Sunbird, Mountain Sooty Boubou, Rwenzori Batis, African Green Broadbill, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Archer’s Robin-chat, Rwenzori Hill Babbler, Red-faced Woodland, Neumann’s and Grauer’s Warblers, Masked Mountain Apalis, Stripe-breasted Tit, Strange Weaver and Grauer’s Rush  among others.

The most remarkable national parks are the Volcanoes, Akagera and Nyungwe National Park.Akagera is one of the best places in Rwanda where to see the Shoebill and many others of its 525 species of birds.This park is rich in mammals as well, with many elephants, lions, giraffes, hippos among others.Nyungwe Forest, a vast tract of virgin forest located in the southwest of Rwanda, is another great destination for birdwatchers, harbouring over 300 species of birds, which 27 of them are Albertine endemics.Ruyezi, Akanyaru, Cyamudongo and Nyabarongo are other excellent areas for birdwatching.

To get to Rwanda i went by bus from Kabale to Katuna border point.I previously applied for the visa online.It only costed me 30 euros, quite surprising for being an African country.On the border, everything was quite straightforward.

I got into a van to its main capital Kigali.The roads were quite good, specially when compared with Ugandan and Kenyan roads.Rwandans told me that since the end of the civil war European governments have put lots of money to help to develop the country.When i arrived to Kigali, i was pleasantly surprised. Kigali was well organised, peaceful and quite clean, with many long avenues.I spent a couple of days there visiting the infamous Hotel Rwanda, currently called Hôtel des Mille Collines, and the Genocide Memorial Centre.

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Afterwards i headed towards Kibuye.Kibuye is a relaxing town that lies near the shores of lake Kivu.The lake is located at an altitude of 1460 meters above sea level and has a maximum depth of 480 meters. It contains high concentration of gases due to the activity of an extinct volcano and decomposer bacteria.

This lake is famous for being one of the three lakes in the world that undergoes limnic eruptions.These eruptions happen when the gases stored in the lake, mainly carbon dioxide and methane, are suddenly release into the atmosphere, producing the instant death of animals and human beings.Fortunately, this rare phenomenon has only been recorded twice, in Lake Nyos and Lake Monounon, in Cameroon.

In Kibuye i lodged in Home Saint Jean.This hotel has some cheap simple rooms for 10 euros per night, although you can find some better but pricier rooms as well. The views of the lake from here were excellent and i strongly recommend this hotel, suitable for all budgets.

I took my binoculars, excited to explore this area.I went along a small trail that leads from the hotel balcony to the shores of the lake.Bronzed Sunbirds,Common Waxbill, Crimson-rumped Waxbill,Bronze Manikin were frequently seen on the gardens and clearings next to the hotel.Speckled Pigeons were usually found on the roof of the hotel early morning and late afternoon.A Common Kestrel was hovering in this area early morning.In the forested area that lies beside the shore of the lake i spotted Cardinal Woodpecker, African Pied Wagtail, Yellow-throated Greenbul, Chin-spot Batis, Ashy Flycatcher, White tailed Blue Flycatcher and Tropical Boubou among others.

Next morning i woke up early and i decided to go along the main road that follows the shore of the lake.I was a bit tired to carry the camera all time, so i left it in my room.I also wanted to maximise the amount of species of birds  that i would record, so being lightweight was a priority.

Along the shores of the lake i spotted Striated Heron, Black-headed Heron,Hadada and Sacred Ibis, Little bee-eater, African Pied Wagtail, Scarlet-chested,Red-chested and Variable Sunbird, Black-headed Weaver, Spectacled Weaver, Holub’s Golden Weaver, Red-billed Firefinch, Common Waxbill, Yellow-bellied Waxbill, Crimson-rumped Waxbill, Bronzed Manakin and Yellow-fronted Canary among others.

Near the road, a colourful Southern Red Bishop perched on a reed strongly caught my attention late morning.It was a stunning bird with a conspicuous orange-reddish coloration on its head, back,wings and part of the belly contrasting with an intense black coloration on the chest, most of its belly and part of its head.I actually regretted to leave my camera in the room.

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After spending a few days here, i came back to Kigali.I wanted to visit Akagera and Nyungwe National Park but i already planned to go to Serengeti and Ngorongoro National Park in Tanzania and i was short of budget.There was a bus that takes two days to reach the town of Moishi, my main base from where i would explore Serengeti and Ngorongoro, but I was a bit exhausted of  my long trip.Finally i  decided to fly from Kigali to Moishi.

I apologize for not putting many pictures in this post, but i promise you to see lots of them in my following posts !!

Next post about Moishi, looking for chameleons in the wild !!!

See you soon my friends !!

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KIBUYE BIRD CHECKLIST, RWANDA.FEBRUARY 2016

Great Cormorant

Striated Heron

Black-headed Heron

Sacred Ibis

Hadada Ibis

Black Kite

Common Kestrel

Speckled Pigeon

Speckled Mousebird

Pied Kingfisher

Little Bee-eater

Cardinal Woodpecker

African Pied Wagtail

Common Bulbul

Yellow-throated Greenbul

Ashy Flycatcher

Chin-spot Batis

White-tailed Blue Flycatcher

Yellow White-eye

Bronze Sunbird

Copper Sunbird

Scarlet-chested Sunbird

Red-chested Sunbird

Variable Sunbird

Tropical Boubou

Pied Crow

Black-headed Weaver

Spectacled Weaver

Holly’s Golden Weaver

Southern Red Bishop

Red-billed Firefinch

Yellow-bellied Waxbill

Common Waxbill

Crimson-rumped Waxbill

Black-crowned Waxbill

Bronze Manakin

Yellow-fronted Canary