The Uganda’s Only endemic is not extinct!!
The Hot News about the Fox’s Weaver (Ploceus spekeoides) came a few weeks ago after an adventurous tour operator Mr. Ntale Ben took the photos and shared them on social network. The bird guides were able to quickly pick interest and identified the weaver as the Ugandan Endemic Fox’s Weaver!
This attracted several bird guides to travel immediately to the site and see and photograph the bird themselves. The first group was headed by Mr. Crammy Wanyama the tour leader at Bird Uganda Safaris. Two days later, I followed with my team that included comrade Johnnie Kamugisha and two members of the Uganda Women Birders club Abia Atukwase and Desire Atwijukye.
The Journey started early morning with officiating the occasion to release the Shoebill back to the wild at Mabamba wetland. I was the Guest of Honor which means that I would not leave until I have delivered my speech and witnessed the real release of the bird back to the wild. After a successful release, I drove to the office to pick the two ladies who had been waiting for the whole day, and later pick Johnnie. By 7:00am we had only cover about 5% of the entire Journey. Johnnie took over the driving from me as I was already exhausted and could not drive well.
By 1:00am we were in Tororo town over 220km east of Kampala, and checked-in, in our rooms to take a short rest and depart at 6:00am. All of us were punctual and we proceeded to Mbale town, stopped at Endiro Café for a quick breakfast.
After this, I called the site guide Robert who confirmed his availability and promised to wait for us. We arrived at Akalabai Village Stay before 9:00am. Robert took us around showing us the accommodation facility which we appreciated as very ideal for birders . A quick cup of coffee and tea was made for us . As soon as we were done we rushed to the nearby town Kumi where we bought and packed snacks, water, chapatis, and gumboots.
By 11:30am we were already walking in the floods that stretched for about 4km. It was so scary, but we had a mission to accomplish. We were all strong to go. At first I was scared about the women birders, and my camera, but I had no choice! I could not keep the camera in my backpack, due to high expectations, that the bird can show up any time.
The walk through the water was also very productive. I counted 20 Lesser Jacanas. This is the highest number of these birds seen in one site in the last 20 years of birding. A couple of Allens Gullinule, African Swampen, Red Pate Cisiticola, Common Moorhen, Fulvous and White Faced Whistling ducks, Dwarf Bittern, were special on the walk in deep waters.
By 1:30pm I had started getting tired as Iam not used to walking in gumboots on a stony surface. But I gained energy when Abia announced that she had seen a suspected Karamoja Apalis. ( My Lifer). In a few minutes of careful searching, I got it in my binocular view point. I was very excited to see this bird which I had made me do 4 trips to eastern Uganda without any chance. In about 300m away, I saw Johnnie and Robert sending signals that they had found something. We rushed there and here was the Fox’s Weaver nesting. It was in full breeding plumage and working on the nest. In the tree, there were 5 nests 3 of which looked to be of the current seasonal activities. We later saw a female fly out of one of the nest which indicated that there were several around on nests.
By observation, the Fox’s Weaver was seen breaking the the corms of the Whistling acacia trees and feeding on the Cocktail ants.
Walking back through the deep waters was our main concern considering how tiresome it was to get to this point. But with our satisfaction and happiness, we made it 2 hours and got into our Subaru and drove back to the hotel. By 7:00pm we were back to the Akalabai Village, after 105 km drive. We chose to stay for a night as we realized it was going to be risky to drive to Kampala with all the fatigue.
Iam so happy that I was able to photograph this very rare bird. There is very little information about it to science. Next year I hope to offer myself to go and camp in the area and train site guides who will be very helpful in gathering more information about this bird. I hope that by Jan, I will have had resources or help from friends to buy at least 4 binoculars, 4 Field guide books, and any other necessary birding equipment to facilitate this training.