Charity Magazine

A Bed Full of Wings

By Diaryofamuzungu @CharlieBeau

Life on the edge of Kibale Forest during the rainy season

The chimpanzees of Kibale Forest have been screeching loudly for the past two weeks. I’ve stayed here at Sunbird Hill many times, but never have I heard them so close or so often.

On the drive back from Fort Portal yesterday, Julia stopped the car along the track to her land to enquire what John (in his bright yellow National Resistance Movement T-shirt) was working on. “I’m looking at the chimpanzees,” he said. And there they were, half a dozen of them, high in a medium size fig tree on the boundary of Kibale Forest.

chimpanzee Kibale Forest Sunbird Hill

A chimpanzee sits high in a tree in Kibale Forest bordering Sunbird Hill

chimpanzee climbing down tree, Kibale Forest Sunbird Hill

Chimpanzee climbing down a fig tree, on the edge of Kibale Forest at Sunbird Hill

Today we venture to the forest edge, tracing the sound of the primates. “One of the females may be in estrus,” says primatologist Julia, trying to explain the exuberant din.

On our walk, we come across a pile of fresh dung – full of industrious dung beetles. Where did the dung come from? We do not find any footprints – either elephant or buffalo – only a broken Albizzia branch. Elephants are known to love Albizzia trees; Julia has seen the elephants in the very same spot before.

We last saw elephants just five minutes’ drive from here. Julia took this video en route through Kibale Forest. I saw one last week too – from the back of a matatu taxi; the Ugandan passengers (particularly the toddler in front of me) were in awe!

We inspect the freshly-cut trails on our walk back towards the Birders’ Lounge at Sunbird Hill. Flowers, flowers, everywhere: we’ve loved the Aloe flower; the Kagelia’s dark red flowers are striking, even beneath the dark canopy. The vantage point from Julia’s towering treehouse office reveals bright red Jatropha flowers that are not visible from the ground. From here, we have watched the Black-crowned Waxbills weave a dainty nest in the mango tree. The entrance is a narrow tunnel, below the nest itself.

Red-bellied paradise flycatcher on nest, Sunbird Hill

Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher incubating eggs on its nest at Sunbird Hill on the edge of Kibale Forest

I’ve never seen so many nesting birds as we see now. The Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher has flown the nest, as has the African Blue Flycatcher. One morning after a heavy storm, Dillon noticed an Olive-bellied Sunbird chick and its nest on the ground. Julia scooped them up (away from the jaws of three dogs and a cat!) and moved them into a safer position. The chick survived. After a week, it was gone… we hope it survived.

It’s quarter to seven in the evening. In the distance I hear the Yellow-spotted Barbet (making a whirring noise, like a woodpecker). Closer by is Easter. We enjoyed eating his brother at Christmas.

Easter the turkey

I wouldn’t annoy Easter the turkey!

The remaining turkey has had a reprieve. The family has become used to his comical gobbling noises. Easter has been renamed Easter 2019! No-one is in a rush to lose his friendly tones (although 7-year-old Dillon is petrified of this massive bird with an even bigger attitude!)

Today we have had a reprieve from the season’s thunderstorms and drizzle.

April sunset from Butterfly Cottage, Sunbird Hill

April sunset from Butterfly Cottage, Sunbird Hill

After Saturday morning’s heavy rain, we had a fiercely hot few hours of sunshine. Stepping onto the veranda at dusk was like walking into a filmset: my friends sat bathed in orange and pink light, in front of a ravishing backdrop of cotton wool cloud sky and the dark outline of the forest. The magical ambience was enhanced by the flickering of a thousand wings, a flight (can I call them that?) of enswa (white ants). They did not fly but floated, rising upwards from the long green grass (which clearly hid a termite mound!) I opened my eyes wide to take in every second of it.

The romance of the moment was short-lived as we batted away insect after insect, picked enswa from inside our clothes, our drinks and everywhere else!

Thankfully the enswa invasion was short-lived. The next day, the veranda – and even my mattress – was a sea of wings. The ants themselves had vanished.

Nights on the forest edge can be very dark. Last night Venus shone brightly above Kibale Forest.

« Race around the Lubiri – ‘Kabaka wange’


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