Tag Archives: Africa

Abyssinian Ground Hornbill

When we talk about birds, the Abyssinian Ground Hornbill is one bird that has fascinated me ever since I first saw one at Murchison Falls National Park, many years ago. Since then, I have seen these beautiful birds a number of times on subsequent trips to Murchison and they always make me smile.

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Hornbills are generally sedentary and live within a defended territory. The Abyssinian Ground Hornbill is a large turkey like bird that is normally found in the sub-Saharan African savannah, north of the equator. An adult bird can grow to around one metre tall and weighs about 4 kg. It has a large bill topped with a casque, a helmet like structure. Despite their wingspans these birds very rarely fly and are adapted to ground dwelling, hence the name Ground hornbill.  Abyssinian Ground Hornbills also have wattles (a fleshy pouch hanging from the throat, similar to a turkey or chicken). From these pouches, one can distinguish between a male and female bird as males have a bright red pouch hanging from their throats whilst those of females are blue. These birds  always seem to me like they are dressed up for a fancy party not only because of their dark , shiny feathers and brightly coloured pouches, but also their long eyelashes, which are actually modified feathers designed to protect their eyes from dirt and debris.

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I learnt many interesting things about these birds from a Uganda Wildlife Authority guide who had accompanied us on our game drive in Murchison Falls National Park. He told us that the Abyssinian ground hornbill mated for life, which is interesting but one hears that about a lot of birds. What was most fascinating (for me at least, not sure about the others with me!) was finding out about how these birds lay eggs and look after their young. In the case of a regular hornbill, the female lays eggs in the cavities of tree trunks or any other caves or crevices of a tree. The male hornbill then builds a cover over the cavity with mud and twigs and the female does not leave the nest until the eggs are hatched. Naturally, it is the duty of the male bird to bring food for his partner during this time. So if something were to happen to him while he was out fetching his bird wife food and he gets killed, the female will also die of starvation. But Abyssinian Ground Hornbills do this in a slightly different way. They do not seal their nests at all, and they are left open during incubation so the female can come out for preening and excretion. Not for anything else though, the male still has to bring food back to the nest.  Once the eggs are hatched, the female remains in the nest with the chicks for a week and then joins the male in finding food for the young. If there are two chicks the younger one is usually ignored or starved.  Chicks are ready to leave the nest after 3 months. These nests are normally permanent under favourable environmental conditions.

 

P2 AGH

P3 AGH
The Abyssinian ground hornbill is listed as a species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to its large population. So I don’t have to worry about them disappearing anytime soon. 🙂
~Min

20 Mar 2014

Chaos in the City

It’s the end of the month and time for a guest post. (How time flies!) We have the honour to present Gaia’s first post.

~Admin

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It is six pm in Kampala and traffic flow is at its peak. Ten hours earlier, at eight am, the situation was the same. The slow movement of cars, mini-vans and even large trucks on the congested roads has become more than a slight irritation. As the long lines forming across the city become longer and longer, with what seem like each passing day, more and more are anguished by this sudden increase in the number of vehicles on the road.

 caosin the city 1

 
The major roads in Kampala were constructed in the 1980s and the population at the time was 480,000. There is still little difference in the roads and road networking but the population has increased by more than 300%. Almost 1.5 million people now reside in Kampala central, with many more commuting daily into the city from Greater Kampala. So is it any wonder that there is a traffic surge when the width and number of our roads have stayed the same?
 

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The despondent motorists sit, clutching the steering wheel and inhaling the thick black smoke that is spit out by the vehicles ahead of them and watch with more than a little envy as those on motorcycles (commonly known as boda bodas) whiz past with smug looks on their faces. Of course, these boda bodas must stop at the front of the line. They swarm around the first car, waiting for a gap in the traffic to zoom off to the front of the next queue of cars. Adding to this horde of people and metal are salesmen who take advantage of the standstill and try to sell various goods to the motorists.
 
During these peak times of traffic flow, some motorists seem to toss away the idea of civility and begin to behave in an almost belligerent manner. Creating three lanes, all going in the same direction, on a road that can capacitate only one lane in each direction would be a fine example of this. The major culprits of this crime are the matatu (a 14-seater van) drivers. One of the most upsetting things about this loutish behaviour is when an emergency vehicle, especially an ambulance, is unable to get through the masses of cars and simply has to wait like the others while the life of another person is in jeopardy.
 
Many new cars and motorcycles are registered everyday and if expansion of roads does not take place soon, could the traffic flow in Kampala come to a complete standstill? Perhaps the government will suggest implementing high tolls for motorists, but is this the right solution? A better way to approach it could be through improving the city’s public transport system or through expanding the roads. Making public transport safer would encourage more people to use the provided services and therefore reduce the number of vehicles on the road. Expansion would lead to smooth flow of traffic and reduce bottlenecks.
 

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It’s not all bad news though! The Uganda National Roads Authority is definitely on the right track to improving the situation. The expansion of the Northern Bypass in Kampala is one such example and there are many other projects in the pipeline for the UNRA: But for now: sit tight, put on that radio and imagine that the car horns bleeping around you are an accompaniment to the music!

~Gaia

 

28 Feb 2014

Birds Galore!

Kibimba is a unique location in Uganda for its fantastic bird life.

 

Birds Galore @ Kibimba Rice Farm……

The national bird of Uganda.

The national bird of Uganda

I‘ve been visiting and spending a considerable amount of time at various times of the year at a rice farm in Eastern Uganda. To be more precise this fully mechanised rice farm is in Kibimba and covers an area that is 13 kilometres long and 3.5 kilometres wide. I’ve been a visitor of this farm since the year 2000 and I have always enjoyed all aspects of farm life especially the drives along the fields and the morning walks. Walks in the evenings are far less enjoyable unless you set out early enough as the insects that appear after sunset are a real menace.

Yellow Billed Storks

Yellow Billed Storks

During our morning walks and drives along the fields I come across many birds (especially water birds) and these are constantly identified by my companions. I always try to identify these birds by name, but to my dismay I am never very successful. This Christmas, when I was taking a guest around the fields I was appalled that I couldn’t name even an egret or an ibis correctly. The only ones I could name were whistling ducks!

Birds galore composite

Then the realisation dawned on me that it’s high time I take some interest  in the birdlife of Kibimba. Kibimba has the IBA (Important Bird Area) status and it’s a unique location for its birdlife.

Great White Egrets in the company of Storks

Great White Egrets in the company of Storks

So I decided to look up the birds I see regularly when I go for my walks in the early mornings and find out a little bit more about them. The discussions with the staff of Kibimba Rice Farm and Collins Book of Birds were my source. This exercise also helped me in identifying many birds this time when we were at Murchison Falls National Park.

Grey Herons

Grey Herons

So watch this space to know about birdlife at Kibimba.

                                                                                                                                                            ~Min

 

24 Jan 2014

My Pawpaw Man

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Fruits and Vegetables here in Kampala, Uganda, really excite me. They are so fresh and good and come straight from the farms. I do prefer to shop at the vegetable market in Nakassero mainly frequented by expats. However, it is a bit of a pain going to Nakassero market unless one is chauffeured around as getting hold of a parking space in that area is as difficult as getting hold of an ostrich egg.

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On my visits to Nakassero market I always came across a man who sits on the floor by the corner of a shop with a small heap of pawpaws/ papayas in front of him, calling out to customers. To his disappointment my response was always negative as the smell of papaya was one of the few things I couldn’t stand. Every time I go to the market he’ll be there trying to sell pawpaws to me. Then finally one day I was so amazed to see how determined and good he was in his marketing skills, I budged. Marketing managers take note, there are a few lessons you can learn from him.

He was so happy to sell a huge pawpaw to me that he gave me another one as a ‘bonus’. 🙂 (Bonus in Ugandan parlance is a giveaway, a free gift!)

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Once I got home I tried a few pieces of the pawpaw on the insistence of my house help, Rose. Though I can’t say I became an ardent fan of the pawpaw, I don’t mind some but not to the extent of using a papaya face pack. I’m happy that I’m a convert when you consider the health benefits of Papaya. Thank you, my Pawpaw Man… “Weebale Ssebo!”

~Min

13 Jan 2014