Sometimes the birds we see take a lot of work. I wouldn’t know about that myself, as I am a legendarily good birder who finds everything with no effort. Or I’m a legendarily lazy birder. One of those, for sure. But I’ve certainly read accounts of people trudging for miles in stinking rainforest in the hope of spotting some infernal pitta. Or, even worse, some irritating LBJ that looks the same as all the other ones you’ve already walked past, only this one is different, because of the call or the shade of brown on the lores or something. It’s exhausting, and after I’ve read these accounts, well, it’s enough to put you off ever birding again.

Now me, I like knowing about the rare birds, but its also really nice to know about what’s really common at a site too. Because chances are the person reading the account isn’t from the area, so even the trash birds seem exotic. Not a House Sparrow or Common Myna common, common everywhere common, but common here and not really so much so everywhere else common. Local common. So, this one’s for free, if you have ever wanted to see an African Finfoot, go to Lake Mburu in Uganda. I saw about twenty of the things on a single boat trip around the lake to look at game. Seriously, that lake has finfoots like lakes in England have ducks. Don’t let that bird be a nemesis bird (like it was to a friend of mine), just take yourself there.

Lake MburuLake Mburu. Come for the finfoots, stay for the drunken encounters with hippos!

I got slightly sidetracked there, because I’ve been thinking about Africa quite a bit since last week’s post, particularly since it’s been a long time since I was there and long past the time I should have gone back. I don’t have many good bird photos from my time there, but I do have a few of one of those local common. This species was common as muck at Mweya, a safari lodge in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park. The lodge is, quite frankly, the best lodge I have ever been to or can even imagine, based purely on its location, sitting on a rise above the promontory where the Kazinga River feeds into Lake Edward, one of the smaller Rift Valley Lakes. As you stand, drink in hand (yes, alcohol is an important part of the safari experience), warthogs grazing at your feet in that odd kneeling down way they have, one can take in both the channel of the river and the lake  as well as the Rwenzoris (the Mountains of the Moon) and the sun setting over the neighboring Congo (Democratic Republics thereof). Honestly, the view is to die for before you’ve even seen an animal or a sip of drink.

CongoLake Edward with the Congo behind.

There is a lot of wildlife around the lodge. Swamp Flycatchers stand out as common birds knocking around taking flies, but the most aggressively common bird you’ll find on the terrace is the Slender-billed Weaver.

Female Slender-billed Weaver

Female Slender-billed Weaver (Ploceus pelzelni)

 I don’t really know much about the species, I don’t even know if much is known about them. They occur widely over Africa, but I’ve never seen them anywhere else. In fact they behaved like sparrows do elsewhere, coming up to the breakfast tables at the lodge. On my first visit I saw females and youngsters.

juvenile slender-billed weaver

 Is this even a Juvenile, or is it something else? My books are in the UK, so I can’t be sure.

Slender-billed Weaver 1Getting closer to my table

Slender billed Weaver cheeky

Wait, what are you doing? (A male)

Slender-billed Weaver Featured

DSCN1051Spin the milk jug around for a bit of product placement.


Birding is easy. Have breakfast, and they shall appear.

(By the way, in case it wasn’t obvious, go to Mweya. If I had to pick one place to spend the rest of my life it could very well be there. And there are other birds too! One day I’ll do a post.)

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Written by Duncan
Duncan Wright is a Wellington-based ornithologist working on the evolution of New Zealand's birds. He's previously poked albatrosses with sticks in Hawaii, provided target practice for gulls in California, chased monkeys up and down hills Uganda, wrestled sharks in the Bahamas and played God with grasshopper genetics in Namibia. He came into studying birds rather later in life, and could quit any time he wants to.