During my two week trip to Uganda at the end of 2015, I spent a number of days at the Buffalo Safari Resort, situated in the heart of the Queen Elizabeth National Park. I stayed in a small bungalow which backed directly onto a small lake that many of the animals would visit during the day and at night – hippos, elephants, hyenas, leopards, water hogs and a huge number of birds, insects and frogs. So right from the balcony of my bungalow I could enjoy the most amazing soundscapes.
This fantastic location offered me a great opportunity to record the dawn chorus right from within the national park. On my first morning I woke up early and sat outside without any recording gear. I wanted to listen without thinking about my mics and recorder. I made note of when the first birds started to sing – I’d expected it to be earlier, but the first bird call was at 6am.
The next morning I woke up at 5.45 am having prepared my recording gear the night before. I stepped outside, trying to be as quiet as possible and went about setting up my kit. I placed the mics about 20 metres away from the bungalow, ran a long 5-pin XLR cable and sat back comfortably on the balcony with the recorder sitting next to me. As per the previous day, the first birds begun singing at 6 am. I left the recorder running for 20 minutes, capturing the dawn chorus as it evolved.
Amongst the bird species we hear are Brown Cuckoo, Red Bishop, Hammer Cob, Egyptian Goose, Hadada Ibis, Pin-Tailed Whydah, Golden Oriol and Black-Headed Gonolek. I really enjoy the way the soundscape evolves over the eighteen minutes.
By 6.30 I began to hear distant trucks and lorries from one of the nearby towns on the outskirts of the national park so I stopped the recording. But shortly after I hit record again as some interesting birds began to sing. I was enjoying the dawn chorus so much at this point, despite the occasional distant lorry. And was really pleased that I’d stayed to record a bit longer as a pair of hornbills flew directly above my mics! I’d often heard these birds fly overhead when I was travelling in Aisa, but I’d never managed to record them. The hornbill fly-by happens at the end of the recording.
Each time I listen to these two recordings I’m immediately transported back to that balcony at the Buffalo Safari Resort. I have such vivid memories of the wonderful few days I stayed there and in particular the beautiful dawn choruses I heard each morning. As I sit here typing this, it seems strange that this is in fact a daily occurrence. Without failure the birds, insects and amphibians of the Queen Elizabeth National Park produce this wonderful, rich soundscape each and every morning. And only those present at the time can hear and appreciate this natural orchestra. I feel lucky, and honoured, to have spent time in Uganda. A truly amazing experience!
Photo courtesy of John R Whitaker under a Creative Commons license