Big Birding Day – October 15, 2010

A total of 655 species were recorded compared to 450 in 2009

As part of USAID STAR program to increase conservation and community revenue through tourism, the program is supporting Bird watching tourism enhancement and promotion in Uganda and global markets.

Enhancing Uganda’s bird watching offering is a particularly important for four reasons. First, bird watching links biodiversity conservation and tourism directly. Second, many of the top birding spots within the country are found within the Albertine Rift – boasts of 41 endemic species of birds and hosts the top most birding spots within Uganda. Third, birds are often found outside of the protected areas in the bordering communities, offering significant opportunity to link communities directly with these tourism resources. Forth, bird watchers are a highly attractive niche market in the sense that they tend to stay longer, spend more and require less in terms of services and infrastructure than most international tourists. Bird watching has a significant potential to generate income at local levels and contribute to poverty alleviation while protecting natural resources.

The big birding day is a birding race, an innovation to raise awareness about birds in Uganda and promote birding as an important tourism product. Launch of the Big Birding days was on 14th October at the Uganda Museum where a presentation was made on birds and birding in Uganda. The Birding from 15th October 2010 was a 24-hour exercise which begun at midnight on 15th October 2010 and ended midnight 16th October 2010.  It involved teams recording birds in different parts of the country including all National Parks, Wildlife reserves, Important Bird Areas, Ramsar sites, Forest reserves and many other sites.

Each team chose a site where they conducted the birding race but individuals were assigned sites to ensure full coverage and proper records. A team comprised of at least 2 people (lead birder and a recorder) who had good knowledge of birding and many others who joined.  Each group was equipped with at least a pair of binoculars, a guide book and a note book. The teams recorded all the birds seen and heard calling in sites at anytime of the day. The team leader then submitted the results from the birding by either email or on phone.

The organizing committee set up a tally centre at Nature Uganda to receive all records from all over Uganda. The tally centre was equipped with a computer fully connected with internet, three telephone lines and five people to man the centre since and receive results. Our strategy was to work out the best itinerary that a tourist would take to record the highest number of species in Uganda.

We had over 50 groups covering 38 sites in all regions of Uganda.  The teams included four community groups from Katwe, QENP, Ruboni in Rwenzori, Echuya Forest Reserve, Conserve Uganda in Katakwi, Mabamba bay, Kashoha Kitomi and Kyambura Reserve, Tourist teams, teams from Nature-Uganda, UWA including all national parks, UBGC members and other interested parties.

The highest record came from Kampala-Entebbe area with 175 species.  It was followed by Murchison falls National Park with 162, QENP with 160, Kidepo national Park with 150 species, Mabamba Ramsar site with 138 species, Bwindi Impenetrable National park 137, Mabira Forest Reserve with 136 species, the Bahai temple- Park Alexander 126, Kibale National park 110 and Lake Mburo National Park 110.

This year’s big day birders included the USAID SO7 Team (represented by Sudi, Daniela and Robert), the French Ambassador to Uganda, Commissioner of Wildlife at the Ministry of Tourism, Executive Director of Uganda Tourism Board, several Directors from Uganda Wildlife Authority, international tourists, Wildlife Clubs of Uganda from 4 primary schools, local celebrities, etc.

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