The long awaited Big Birding Day for this year was launched in Mabamba wetlands’ MWETA Headquarters on 7th November 2016. The event was amply attended by Birding enthusiasts, Professional Bird guides, the media and the locals not to mention a watchful eye from the UPDF who also graced the event. This year the event was organized by UTB and UWA in liaison with the USAGA, Uganda Women Birders and the Ministry of Water and Environment with the guidance of NatureUganda.
Vehicles carrying the birders and nature conservationists set-off from the Uganda Museum (our usual rendezvous) as early as 6:30am.
A heavy downpour slowed down some of the activities on the day’s agenda but nonetheless, all went well. The participants were treated to an early morning one hour boat ride along the navigable tracks of the Mabamba wetland. The birders all equipped with binoculars and DSLRs got aboard the boats and set-off to watch for birds. Mabamba wetlands being very highly bio diverse in bird-species and home to the famous Shoe bill, did not disappoint as we were treated to sights of birds like the Goliath Heron, Malachite Kingfisher, Long-tailed Commorant, Squacco Heron, Saddle billed stork, Spur-winged Lapwings, African Jacanas, Lesser jacanas, Great Blue Turacos and the “crown-jewel” the Shoe bill to mention but a few. Some birders did not persist as the others who managed to get a sight of the shoe bill. After a few laps within the wetland, the boats headed ashore where the birders disembarked and assembled under the provided tents at the MWETA compound headquarters for briefing on the day’s agenda.
The USAGA Chairperson, Mr Byaruhanga Herbert was the MC of the day. He welcomed all the Birders, Executive guests, Local leaders and the community to this year’s Big Birding Day and gave a brief history of how the Mabamba Wetland has fared during its course of discovery as an IBA. He also highlighted on how the Mabamba wetland is richly bio diverse in a variety of bird species home to the Shoe bill and the Sitatunga locally known as “Njobe” a once highly poached Antelope specie that thrives in wetlands particularly Mabamba wetland.
The psyched birders were treated to bottled water by ushers as Mr Byaruhanga unveiled the day’s agenda.
1. Communication from the LC1 Chairperson Mabamba
2. Communication from MWETA Chairperson
3. Communication from the ED NatureUganda
4. Communication from the foreign Professional Birders representative
5. Communication from the office of the Ministry of Water and Wildlife Conservation
1. Communication from the LC1 Mabamba Wetlands
The LC1 of Mabamba wetlands observed protocol and thanked us all especially NatureUganda for the great job well done. He expressed his joy at the consistency in the preparations for the annual Big Birding Day festival and urged the participants to keep the event alive. He reminded us of how they started birding in the Mabamba wetland region with NatureUganda when the place was merely bush and swampland with no facilities such as a toilet in the vicinity. Their persistence and hard work however, paved way for future birders to influence growth and development in Mabamba through tourism, conservation initiatives and birding leading to establishments such as the MWETA headquarter offices, UPDF Military Sanctuary, Retail shops and transport development. This is evident through the presence of motor boats and a manual ferry which transport supplies to and from the Mabamba wetlands to the neighbouring islands such as Bussi Island famous for the most luscious and delicious pineapples in the region.
On completion of the LC1 Chairperson’s speech, the MC invited the Chairperson MWETA to address the gathering.
2. Communication from Chairperson – MWETA
The Chairperson MWETA Ms Irene Namubiru welcomed us all to the event and urged us to continue to utilise the wetland and invite others to join in its conservation initiatives.
3. Communication from the ED NatureUganda
The ED of NatureUganda, Mr Achilles Byaruhanga observed protocol and gave us an overview of the activities that NatureUganda conducts which are; Conservation, Education and Advocacy, Research and Monitoring. He also gave some facts about the rich biodiversity in Uganda especially the variety of bird species that Uganda is blessed with. Mr Achilles however highlighted the decline in the population of the Grey Crowned Crane which is a signal of wetland degradation. With those remarks he handed over the floor to the MC.
4. Communication from the Tourists and foreign birders present
Some foreign birders graced the BBD launch event with keen interest to view the shoe bill. They expressed their joy at the work done at Mabamba wetlands by NatureUganda and its partners.
5. Communication from the Guest of Honour
This years’ BBD guest of honour was to be the Commissioner for the Ministry of Water and Environment unfortunately a representative was sent since the Minister had other matters to attend to. The Ministry highlighted Uganda’s rich biodiversity, tourism potential and expressed a need for unity between NGOs and the government in conservation and tourism efforts. He stated that Government is ready with open arms to embrace the NGOs with needed support.
The Commissioner’s representative then wished-us all a colourful BBD 2016.
At this juncture, the MC closed the function.
The participants present were treated to brunch and plenty of dessert provided by the organizing committee.
After breakfast/lunch, some Executives were put through interviews both oral and visual by the media teams present on the scene such as NBS Television and the NewVision newspaper journalists as well as freelance journalists.
The guests and participants made their departures and hoped to reconvene on the Birding Day on 12th November 2016 for the counts.