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boating and birding

Underwhelmed though we were by our game drives in Agakera, the trip proved worthwhile from a birding standpoint. We only saw a small fraction of Akagera’s 525 recorded bird species, but we count two dozen new sightings among the birds we did see and photograph.


Scenically set on the lakeshore, the Ruzizi tented camp where we stayed has tremendous birding potential, though it proved far more challenging to photograph birds there than we had anticipated. The facilities manager pointedly requested that we don’t stray from the camp’s boardwalks on account of the wildlife and D got a stern scolding when he disregarded these instructions.


We took a guided boat trip on one of the lakes, which was pleasant although not as exciting as the Nile river trips we took in Murchison Falls. Citing the lake’s many hippos, the guide kept his distance from the shore, only approaching once or twice when he spotted fish eagles.


The one exception was when we crossed the lake to cruise around Ihema Island. We didn’t see any birds that were new to us, but we did come upon a large colony of newly born African darters, whose white fuzz had yet to give way to their ordinary, slick, black feathers.


Our best sighting of the trip were a family of Ross’s turacos – magnificently beautiful, large birds whose bright red plumage is only revealed in flight. They liked to visit the camp in the evenings and early mornings. They tended to perch high in the canopy, almost out of camera range, so while we did manage to snap a few photos, the pictures fail to do these spectacular birds justice.


The photos above – lilac-breasted roller, greater blue-eared starling, African fish eagle, African darter, black-headed gonolek – are all birds we’ve seen before, though in some cases only fleetingly and at a distance. The slide show below includes all of our “new” birds, including a couple D has spotted last weekend while birding at the Nyarutarama Lake in Kigali.

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