Yes!!! for the first time in many years, the elusive Shelley’s Crimsonwing ( Cryospiza shelleyi ) has been spotted in Bwindi again. It happened in the morning of August 1st 2010, when Amos Monday Bunengo and Joni Kamugisha (of Avian Watch Uganda), both experienced Ugandan bird guides, were leading a group of 6 visitors into the (higher altitude) Ruhija sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
This is how Amos describes the experience: “Joni and I were guiding our visitors along the new Kajembejembe trail. It was about 10am in the morning and bright when I spotted a bird that came from above my head and descended about 7 meter in front of me. I knew immediately it was a Crimsonwing and it had a bright green colour on the belly, so I was sure this was the Shelley’s we had been trying to find for RFCG for so long. It was me who saw it first and then Joni as well. We saw it for about 5 minutes, feeding alongside the small stream along the trail. It was amazing!”
“No, we have no photographs, unfortunately. When something so special happens by chance, you are not ready for such a thing!”
The next day, another group of birders went along the same trail and was so lucky to see 4 Shelley’s! These were probably 2 pairs, as that is how they normally move around. This igroup was led by Mutebi, another experienced bird guide, from Access Uganda, whom we have not had a chance to contact yet. Again, no photos were taken according to Amos, so we have to show you once again the one photo in existence:
Interestingly, Amos had come to report the event to ITFC, because he had seen the awareness raising posters in several places around the village, asking people who saw the Shelley’s to come and tell. Who had put up those posters and why?
The Rare Finch Conservation Group (RFCG) of South Africa has led a one year search for the Shelley’s (http://rarefinch.wordpress.com/find-shelley/) around Bwindi and Mgahinga from May 2009 . ITFC supported the field research and hosted Benson Bamutura, the project leader (link to website ITFC/RFCG). Unfortunately, his team never spotted one despite great efforts mist netting in early mornings and late afternoons in several places around the two parks.
I got in touch with Benson, after learning about the sighting and in my next blog will be the interview with him.
Check back in a few days!