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Ethiopia, February 2012,
This report covers the 18-day trip I made to Ethiopia in February 2012 in the company of my brother Frans and Antonio Mendoza.
During this trip we tried to see as many of the endemics and near-endemics of this country as possible.
Ethiopia is getting more and more popular within the world birding scene. Especially after the publication of 2 excellent “Where to watch Birds in Ethiopia” guides and the excellent new field guide “Birds of the Horn of Africa”.
After reading several bird reports we decided to contact Negussie Toye of Nurgibirding to take care of the organisation of our trip.
I can only say that Negussie did an excellent job and after several e-mails we decided on the final itinerary which gave us the best chance to find our target species.
Negussie was our guide during the first 14 days and the last 3 days we did on our own with our driver Mengistu, who was familiar with the sites we visited during these 3 days. These were the sites, north of Addis.
You do need a visa for Ethiopia. It is possible to arrange a visa before you leave for Ethiopia, but I our case this meant a trip to Brussels and it turned out that it is easier and cheaper to obtain your visa on arrival at the airport of Addis Ababa. (20 US$)
GETTING THERE – FLIGHT
We flew with KLM from Amsterdam to Addis Ababa with a stop at Khartoum (Sudan), This took 9h30minutes
We paid 660 € for a return ticket.
The currency in Ethiopia is the Birr.
During our stay the exchange rate was:
10 Birr = 0.43 €
10 Birr = 0.56 $
We paid an advance payment to Negussie and the rest in cash dollars.
We changed some cash dollars for paying tips, drinks, laundry etc.
The total cost for this trip (including international flight) was around 2300 € pp.
GETTING AROUND – CAR – ACCOMMODATION – FOOD & DRINKS
During the whole period we had a spacious and powerful Toyota Landcruiser (V8) at our disposal. Fantastic car and we had a good and safe driver. This is rather important as we saw many, many accidents along the way.
The accommodation varied from sufficient to good. Of course from time to time power failure and/or no water.
Food was a problem for us. Breakfast was ok with bread (often old) and eggs and marmalade sometimes. I brought some peanut butter from home.
But lunch and dinner was most of the time spaghetti with tomato or meat sauce.
Sometimes French fries but meat and chicken was often not available or not advisable.
Both Frans and Antonio became sick after dinner.
Beer, coke, soft drinks and mineral water is widely available.
Several times we had lunch in the field and then Menghi, our driver had fresh bread, bananas, tomatoes, onions and vinegar and made a very tastful lunch for us.
Also he had a thermos with hot water for making tea and coffee.
Only some people speak English, so it is important that you have a guide/driver with you to communicate with people you meet when birding in the rural areas.
HEALTH & SAFETY
During our stay Frans and Antonio became sick, suffered from diarrhoea and vomiting. Clearly food related. We met a birding group at dinner and of the 8 birders, 5 of them stayed at their room because they were too sick to have dinner!
At the Sanetti plateau you ascend above 4000 meters so you have to be alert on symptoms of altitude sickness.
A hat/cap and a good sun protection liquid is essential for your trip in Ethiopia.
Though we hardly encountered any mosquitos and we stayed for longer periods at high altitudes we were advised to take malaria profillaxis. We took Malarone
As you spend most of the time in tribal areas, you quickly adjust to the fact that you encounter tribal herdsmen with their sheep, goats and/or camels, carrying Kalashnikov rifles. Even young boys of 12/13 years of age! Sometimes rather surrealistic.
Unfortunately we were forced to turn around in the Negelle area because of heavy fighting between some Somali clans in the area. The police/army did not allow any traffic on the road from Negelle towards Filtu. We saw a pick-up truck with injured fighters who were rushed to the hospital in Negelle. There was also a huge traffic jam of trucks in Negelle because they got stuck there because of these fights.
We saw some terrible traffic accidents along the way, so it is important that you have a reliable, safe driver.
The weather during our stay was excellent. Dry, sunny weather and only at midday it became very hot in the Jemma valley, Awash and Dawa river area.
In the early morning it was sometimes even rather chilly at higher altitudes.
It is advisable to bring a light fleece and a good light jacket with you for these chilly mornings.
I can only conclude that the birding was great. We saw the majority of our target species. Of the real Ethiopian endemics we missed 2: The Salvadori’s Serin we missed because we were unable to visit a very reliable site for this species between Negelle and Filtu as a result of the fighting in the general area.
We also dipped unexpectedly the Abyssinian Owl at Dinsho. This species was continuously seen at the known stake-out at Dinsho for the last couple of years. But just 10 days before we arrived at the spot, it disappeared.
Back home we found out that a Dutch birding group who visited Dinsho 2 weeks later, did see the bird again!!
Our itinerary worked out fine but in retrospect I would ad one extra day to visit the Gibe Gorge area. That would have given us a chance to observe species like Abyssinian Waxbill, Red-billed Pytilia and Black-faced Firefinch.
Some of the best species seen include Wattled Ibis, Blue-winged Goose, Harwood’s Francolin, Rouget’s rail, Sport-breasted Plover, White-collared Pigeon, Yellow-fronted Parrot, Black-winged Lovebird, Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco, Banded Barbet, Abyssinian Woodpecker, Liben lark, Erlanger’s lark, White-tailed Swallow, Abyssinian Longclaw, Rϋppell’s Black Chat, White-winged Cliff Chat, Ethiopian Cisticola, Abyssinian Slaty Flycatcher, Abyssinian Catbird, White-backed Black Tit, Abyssinian Oriole, Stresemann’s Bush Crow, White-billed Starling, White-throated Seedeater, Yellow-throated Seedeater, Brown-rumped Seedeater, Black-headed Serin and Ankober Serin.
Other range-restricted and/or special species recorded include Chestnut-naped Farncolin, Erckel’s francolin, African White-winged Dove, White-cheeked Turaco, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Abyssinian Black Wheatear, Sombre Rock Chat, Gillett’s Lark, Somali Short-toed Lark,White-rumped Babbler, Somali Fiscal, Ethiopian Boubou, Juba Weaver and Thick-billed Raven.
As I have a special interest in observing Western Palearctic species I was also pleased to observe Arabian Bustard, Allen’s Gallinule and African Collared Dove.
We brought one telescope with us which we used regularly.
I also brought an I-pod with a selection of Ethiopian bird songs on it, which I did not use regularly.
Also canon bodies with telelenses for photographing birds
Birding Trip Report: Ethiopia January 29 – February 21 2011, Sander Bot and all.
Birding Trip report to Ethiopia: December 22nd 2010 – January 12th 2011, Collaerts and all.
Bird Trip Report – Ethiopia: 26/10 – 16/11/2010, Trip report, pictures and maps by: Bart De Keersmaecker
Birdquest: Ethiopia 2010 13 November – 4 december 2010, Janos Olah
Birding trip Ethiopia: 08-10-2009 to 02-11-2009, Lieven de Timmerman
I like to thanks the following persons who one way or another helped us in either preparing this trip and/or organising this trip: Sander Bot who gave me plenty of pre-trip info, Negussie a guide with extremely sharp eyes, and besides that a good organiser and good company, our driver Menghi and of course my birding companions Frans and Antonio.
Managing Director & Ornithologist
Nurgi Birding Ethiopia Tour
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
YeKa Sub city,CMC Road, Next to NOC Fuel Station
Cell phone + 251 911 623171
+251 913 736767
Day 0: Wednesday 8 february
Originally we had planned to take the next day the very early morning train at 5.30 am from Eindhoven to Schiphol Airport. But because of heavy snowfall there were serious problems in running the trains on schedule.
So instead we drove in the evening in Antonio’s Car to the Van der Valk Airport Hotel where we had booked a room for 3 persons. (135 €) An advantage was that at no extra charge we were able to park the car during the entire period at the parking lot of the hotel while we were birding in Ethiopia.
Day 1: Thursday 9 February
We took the free shuttle bus from our hotel to Schiphol Airport. (12 minutes) where we arrived at 7.00 am.
Our flight was supposed to leave at 10.00 am but was delayed until 11.00 am.
We flew from Amsterdam with a short stop at Khartoem to Addis Ababa where we arrived at 21.30 pm. It took us another 40 minutes to get our visa (20 US$) and after collecting our luggage and changing some dollars we met Negussie in the arrival hall.
After a short ride we checked in at hotel Ghion in the centre of Addis. We ate something, drank a beer and went to bed.
Day 2: Friday 10 February
At dawn we had a quick breakfast and went outside for some casual birding around our hotel. Negussie was supposed to pick us up at 7.00 am but because of a serious accident and traffic jams he arrived a little after 8. But we did not mind as we saw our first lifers in the nice garden around our hotel. Wattled Ibis, Black-winged Lovebird, Brown-rumpped Seedeater, Mountain Thrush etc.
When Negussie finally arrived, I asked him where he usually sees Brown Parisoma. He took us to the side of the garden and within minutes we saw a Brown Parisoma.
Then we left Addis and drove straight to Lake Cheleleka. We spent a few very enjoyable hours around this lake, which was very birdy. Impressive numbers of Common Crane, herons, waterbirds and waders. In the fields around the lake we saw Chestnut-backed Sparrow-larks and best of all 3 African Quailfinches.
We then continued our trip through the rift valley and made short stops along the way, such as Koka Dam. One of these stops gave us a gorgeous male White-winged Cliff Chat.
After lunch along the main road we first visited Lake Ziway where we spent an hour or so. Again many waterbirds but best species was probably a single Savi’s Warbler. By this time it was already getting pretty hot. We also birded a nice patch of acacia woodland which gave us the endemic Abyssinian Black Wheatear and Abyssinian Woodhoopoe.
At the end of the afternoon we arrived at our hotel (Wabe Shebelle hotel) at the edge of Lake Langano. Here we had a nice, large bungalow for the 3 of us. A late afternoon stroll in the gardens around the lodge gave us Northern Black Flycatcher, Red-throated Wryneck, Greyish Eagle Owl and Slender-tailed Nightjars to name a few. The nightjars gave nice photo opportunities.
Day 3: Saturday 11 February
Before breakfast we walked to an area where we had a fair chance of finding Clapperton’s Francolin. It took some time but finally we discovered one, just outside the enclosure of our hotel and this bird gave great views.
Satisfied we walked back, had breakfast and after some final, casual birding in the gardens we left for the long drive towards the Bale Mountains. During a stop for petrol at Shashemene we observed our first Thick-billed Ravens.
We made some roadside stops along the way near Shasshemene and around noon we arrived at a stake-out for Cape Eagle Owl. It took some time as the locals told us that earlier in the day the birds were flushed by other birders! But finally one of the locals found the owl, hidden in the middle of a bush.
We also had our first looks at Blue-winged Goose, Collared Pigeon, Red-breasted Wheatear, Moorland Chat and Black-headed Siskin
We continued to Dinsho Pond where we hoped to find species like Rouget’s Rail and especially the endemic Spot-breasted Plover. We did see Rouget’s Rail and some ducks but no plover. This was bad news as I had already heard that several bird groups where unable to find this species in January/February.
We also walked some scrubby, grassy hill side near the pond where we quickly found Ethiopian Cisticola and finally 2 Abyssinian Longclaws.
Late afternoon we arrived at Dinsho HQ area and there we got the news that the local guide was unable to locate the Abyssinian Owl at its known stake-outs for the last 10 days or so. A day-roosting African Wood-Owl was only a small consolation. We birded the area round the HQ and saw a nice selection of species like Chestnut-naped Francolin, Abyssinian Ground Thrush, White-backed Tit and Abyssinian Catbird.
It was already dark when we arrived at our hotel in Goba. Here we met more birders. It had been a long day and after dinner we went to bed early.
Day 4: Sunday February 12
During the night Frans became pretty sick. Probably food related. He had diarrhoea, was vomiting and felt terrible. As today we had to climb to over 4000 meter on the Sanetti plateau I asked him if it was sensible to come along today. But he insisted to join us, especially as he definitely wanted to see Ethiopian Wolf. So he took some medicine and came along. He had a tough time but made it.
During breakfast we accidently bumped into Callan Cohen, who we also met last year in Ghana. He told us that several participants of his group where also rather sick.
Anyway we left Goba and drove first to a nice forest patch, not too far from Goba. Here we observed our first White-cheeked Turaco but not the hoped for Abyssinian Woodpecker. Then we continued to a known stake-out for Bale Parisoma, which we found without difficulties.
Climbing up further to the Sanetti plateau itself we encountered several Chestnut-naped Francolins but not Moorland Francolin. Close to the microwave tower and adjacent lake we walked over the plains, looking for the francolin. We failed but had great views of our first Ethiopian Wolf.
We spent most of the day on the Sanetti plateau and when scoping the plains, Antonio discovered 2 Moorland Francolins. We decided to walk in and flushed one bird, which gave great views in flight. But during our search on the plateau we failed to find any Spot-breasted Plovers. Apparently nobody really knows where the species disperses to after it gets dryer and dryer in the highlands.
Negussie suggested to drive back to Dinsho and Dinsho Pond as this was according to him the most likely place to find the species. And so we did. And then we got really lucky. As we walked around the pond, one of the locals flushed a Spot-breasted Plover, which landed a little further on the plains and gave great views. This turned out to be the only observation of this species during the whole trip.
We made another short stop at Dinsho HQ but the local guide still did not succeed in finding the Abyssinian Owl so we had to admit defeat on this one. We drove back to our hotel in Goba and Frans was really glad to see his bed. But he made it.
Day 5: Monday February 13
At dawn we left Goba and drove up to the Sanetti Plateau again. Frans felt a little better. When driving up we had fantastic and close views of a small covey of Moorland Francolins, just next to the road.
We only made a few short roadside stops and mid morning we arrived at Harenna Forest.
The couple of hours we birded in this area which was of course insufficient but still we saw some good birds. A soaring Ayre’s Hawk-Eagle gave nice views and other notable species observed include Red-breasted Sparrowhawk, African Olive Pigeon, White-cheeked Turaco, Abyssinian Ground-Thrush, African Hill Babbler, Abyssinian Oriole, Abyssinian Catbird, Abyssinian Crimsonwing, Slender-billed Starling and Yellow-crowned Canary.
We had lunch in the field and Menghi made us a nice fresh salad with tomatoes and onions.
At the hottest time of the day we arrived at a known stake-out of Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco. I had my doubts about finding the species at this time of the day but Negussie was quite confident and sure enough we easily found several birds, which gave great views.
We then continued to the Genale River, which is more the traditional site for Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco. We decided to go along with some of the local kids to get more views of the Turaco. Accompanied by dozens of locals we walked along the river and finally on the way back we saw another 2 birds. But we did not have more time as Negussie wanted to arrive in Negelle before dark.
Just before dark we arrived at Negelle where we all had single rooms in a apparently “brand new” hotel. It maybe a new hotel but we had problems with door locks, water etc. but according to Negussie it was still a lot better then the other accommodation available in town.
We had dinner at the Nile hotel and before we entered the hotel we got a body search for hidden weapons!
Day 6: Tuesday February 14
Before dawn we drove to the nearby Liben Plains, where it was quite windy.
We encountered several flocks of the endemic White-crowned Starlings.
On the junction with the road towards Soda, we started to walk on the plains in search of one of the rarest larks of the world: the Liben or Sidamo Lark. The greatest threat of this species is loss of habitat, which is natural grassland. But because of overgrazing this habitat is disappearing at an alarming rate.
We saw several Ethiopian Short-toed Larks, mostly in flight but also a few briefly on the deck. We encountered Plain-backed Pipit, Pectoral Patch Cisticola and finally Antonio scoped a Liben Lark. Some time later we found a second bird and this time we were able to sneak up on the bird and even to photograph it on the ground. It was running through the grass like a small rodent.
After this success we went back to the car where we had breakfast.
Meanwhile we had noticed that trucks on the nearby road to Filtu turned around and drove back to Negelle. This meant trouble.
Our plan was to continue towards Filtu to an area where Negussie had seen Salvadori’s Serin regularly in the past. Somali Courser was another possibility.
But after just a few kilometres we were stopped by the police and ordered to turn around. A little further heavy fighting was going on between 2 rivalling Somali clans. We saw injured fighters/people in the pick-up who were rushed to the hospital in Negelle. This was of course a major disappointment. So instead we birded several patches of woodland around Negelle during the rest of the day with a lunch break at the hottest time of the day in Negelle itself.
During this day we did not encounter any real good stuff but we saw Heuglin’s Coursers, our first Bare-eyed Thrush, Jackson’s Hornbill, Grey Wren Warbler and Somali Bunting. Also a few Dwarf Ravens were identified near Negelle.
Day 7: Wednesday February 15
Again before dawn we left Negelle for the long drive via the Dawa River area to Yabello. Just outside Negelle we saw several Spotted Hyena’s. After an hour or so we had breakfast in the field. This was a very productive stop as we added Pringle’s Puffback, Somali Crombec and Red-naped Bush Shrike to our list.
We continued to the Dawa River where we arrived when it was already getting pretty hot. We saw may people digging for gold along the river but they did not bother us too much.
It took some time but fortunately when I saw some movement in a tree, opposite the river, it turned out to be 2 preening White-winged Doves, which gave fine views in the scope. We finally also nailed a couple of Juba Weavers, including at least 2 males in breeding plumage but we failed to find the localised Black-bellied Sunbird.
We continued our trip towards Yabello and at the village of Wachile we had lunch in the local “restaurant”.
In the afternoon we birded in the area between this village, Soda and the junction towards Yabello. One roadside stop was very productive. We stopped as we saw a gorgeous male Straw-tailed Whydah in the top of the tree. In the same general area we saw within 30 minutes Steel-blue Whydah (male), Stresemann’s Bush Crow, Black-capped Social Weaver and best of all our only Scaly Chatterer of the trip.
A little further we saw the endemic White-tailed Swallow along the main road.
And again, just before dusk, we arrived at our nice motel in Yabello. Speke’s Weaver was a last, nice addition to our list today.
Day 7: Thursday February 16
The whole day was spent in the area south of Yabello. In the morning we made several stops between Yabello and the village of Duduluk.
In the beginning the birding was rather slow but slowly we added some target species to our list. We observed more Heuglin’s Coursers, several Bare-eyed Thrushes, Brown-tailed Apalis, Lesser Honeyguide, Pygmy Batis, White-bellied Canary, Banded Parisoma but not the desired Northern Thick-billed Canary.
In the afternoon we visited the plains near Soda and near Mega. A nice flock of Short-tailed Larks were found, a single Taita Fiscal, Shelley’s Rufous Sparrow and a single male Chestnut Sparrow. Not a sniff of Somali Courser though. Near Mega we found coursers but unfortunately these turned out to be Temmick’s Coursers.
On the way back to Yabello we made a last stop and we finally had good views of a male Canary
Another night at Yabello. In the evening we heard a nightjar which we identified as Dusky?
Day 8: Friday February 17
At first we drove to an area, just north of Yabello. Main objective was to find Fox Lark. And within 15 minutes we found a singing Fox Lark, perched on a bare branch in full view.
We then drove straight to Awassa. Woolly-necked Stork and a single White-headed Vulture where spotted from the car. Also our first flock of White-rumped Babblers.
At noon we arrived at our nice bungalow at Awassa. Just outside our garden we could walk along a dike at the edge of Lake Awassa. Fantastic birding and I quickly scored a lifer: White-backed Duck, my last duck species of Africa and a species which has eluded me up to now.
After lunch and a short siesta we birded a little around the garden where we had our first encounter with the endemic Banded Barbet. Later we drove to the nearby fish market on the shore of Lake Awassa. First we walked through a woodland area, intersperred with scrub and then we continued along the lake shore, scanning for waterbirds. Unfortunately the area was polluted by garbage and human shit which made the birding rather unpleasant. Another Ayre’s Hawk-Eagle, White-browed Robin-Chat and several Red-faced Cisticolas.
Highlight was the discovery of 2 adult Allen’s Gallinules, a WP species and one high on my list.
Other species along the edge were Black Crake, Greater Painted Snipe, Blue-headed Coucal, African Reed Warblers and Spectacled Weaver.
We had a rather disturbed night as our Qat chewing and beer-drinking neighbours only went to bed at 5.00 am in the morning.
Day 9: Saturday February 18
The early morning was spent in the garden of our hotel. Best species was Wahlberg’s Honeybird and Eurasian Wryneck. We checked again the Awassa Lake shore for Abyssinian Waxbill, which is sometimes observed along the dyke but at 10.00 am we left for our short drive to Wondo Genet.
Late morning we arrived at Wondo Genet Agricultural Forest. We birded the area for a couple of hours and best species seen were Scaly Francolin, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Spotted Creeper, Grey-headed Woodpecker, African Hill Babbler, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Green-backed Honeyguide and Grosbeak Weaver.
Then we drove to our Guesthouse where we had a late lunch.
Late afternoon we walked with a local guide, who is familiar with the local specialties, up the mountain. It was a rather depressing walk. Birders have to walk further and further up the mountain to reach some patches of remnant forest. All the time people are walking down with firewood, collected in the forest, on their backs. Most of the larger trees have already disappeared and we saw, during our walk up, how another large tree was felled. We talked to Negussie about this site and he is thinking of taking future visiting birders to the Bishangari Lodge. This lodge is situated in pristine forest and has all the specialties and more than Wondo Genet. Only the accommodation is more expensive but my guess is that birders (at least I would) are gladly willing to pay a little extra to visit Bishangari Lodge.
But nevertheless we had good views of a pair of Abyssinian Woodpeckers in some of the larger trees, halfway up the mountain. A Grey Cuckooshrike was also seen in this area as well as Sharpe’s Starling.
When waiting for Yellow-fronted Parrot we observed a distant soaring Crowned Eagle, Booted Eagle, Alpine Swifts and Mottled Swift. But it took some finding to locate the endemic Yellow-fronted Parrot. Finally we heard the call and tracked them down in the valley on some bare branches. Relieved we walked down and celebrated our success with some nice cold beers.
Day 10: Sunday February 19
After an early breakfast we made a short walk near our hotel, mainly for Half-collared Kingfisher. After some searching we had astonishing views of one. As a bonus we observed a couple of Yellow-fronted Parrots in flight.
After checking out we started our long drive to Awash NP. Some 70 km before Addis Ababa we took the turn-off to Awash NP. At the hottest time of the day we entered Awash and birded the area towards the waterfalls Lodge and the so-called loop-trail. Best species were several Rosy-patched Shrikes and a few Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse which could be approached to only a few meters.
Unfortunately our driver became very sick (also food-related) and we decided to drive to Awash town to give him an opportunity to recover. I gave him some medicine to stop the diarrhoea and we spent late afternoon on the terrace having some beers.
Day 11: Monday February 20
Fortunately our driver was feeling a lot better this morning, so we left Awash at dawn and drove the short distance to Awash NP. One of the first birds observed when entering the park was a male Hartlaub’s Bustard. Then we started searching for Gillett’s Lark.
We observed plenty of Singing Bush Larks and it took several hours before we finally succeeded in locating a single Gillett’s Lark.
We drove further towards Waterfalls Lodge where we dropped our gear and had a nice lunch.
In the afternoon we drove the loop trail again and when scanning the plains Negussie suddenly discovered an African Swallow-tailed Kite, just above our heads. Fantastic views and one of the trip highlights.
I suggested to check one of the tracks on the other side of the main road, as this was suggested by Spottiswoode as a reliable stretch for Arabian Bustard. When we arrived at the entrance we heard that because of unrest it was not allowed to continue on this track. We saw our only Green-backed Pytilia of the trip and a small flock of Yellow-throated Francolins.
So late afternoon we drove back to the lodge and birded around it.
Day 12: Tuesday February 21
Before dawn we drove to the entrance of the Ali Dege Plains, which is also part of Awash NP. When entering the plains we discovered a bustard in the distance and we thought it to be an Arabian Bustard. We walked towards the bird but unfortunately it flew of.
But during the next couple of hours we saw no less than 9 Arabian Bustards and some of them gave amazing, close views. Another most wanted WP species for me. After this great success we visited another part of Awash where we had close views of a pair of Somali Ostrich.
At noon we drove to Bilen Lodge, where we turned out to be the only visitors. Along the entrance track we encountered several groups of Awar people herding flocks of sheep, goats and camels, most men carrying rifles…
Before lunch we walked down to the lake area and to my relief I quickly found a couple of African Collared Doves between the other species of pigeons/doves. Another WP lifer for me.
After lunch and a short siesta we drove to a nearby patch of woodland along a stream, where we birded for a couple of hours. Suddenly an Abdim’s Stork flew in and landed nearby, giving excellent and close views. Several Senegal Thick-knees along the stream and in the woodland we found Abyssinian Woodhoopoe, Bearded Woodpecker, Pearl-spotted Owlet and Masked Shrike.
Near the lodge we saw a few Lichtenstein Sandgrouse and a nice male Nile Valley Sunbird.
We had a great dinner and at dusk we heard hyenas and Slender-tailed Nightjars.
Day 13: Wednesday February 22
Before dawn we had an early breakfast and then we left for Addis.
But first we visited an area of basalt rock at the edge of Lake Beseka to find Sombre Rock Chat. That turned out to be a difficult task but fortunately Antonio found a pair when scoping the area from a vantage point. In the general area we also saw our only Saddle-billed Stork, some Bristle-crowned Starlings, Black-tailed Chat and Striolated Bunting.
Relieved we continued to Addis. We drove straight to View Point restaurant where besides nice views over Addis, it is possible to have a really nice meal.
We said goodbye to Negussie as he had another trip starting next day with Birding Breaks. After having a great greek salad and a real steak we left Addis for the drive to Debre Birhan.
After checking in at our hotel we drove a kilometre out of town to do some casual birding in the late afternoon. It was quite enjoyable.
Blue-winged Geese, White-collared Pigeon, Three-banded Plover, Red-breasted Wheatear, Groundscraper Thrush, Thekla Lark, Erlanger’s Lark, Red-throated Pipit, Pied Wheatear and best of all a couple of Ortolan Buntings.
Day 14: Thursday February 23
Before dawn we left Debre Birhan for the drive to Melka Ghebdu where we arrived at 7.30 am. It took some time but finally we located a small flock of the endemic Yellow-throated Seedeater. Again good views of Half-collared Kingfisher, a flybye Giant Kingfisher but not a sniff of Black Bush Robin, which is regularly seen at this site.
At 11.00 am we decided to drive back to Debre Birhan where we had lunch.
In the afternoon we drove over a fine tarmac road the 40 kilometers to Gemessa Gedel, which is THE site for Ankober Serin.
The view of the surrounding landscape is astonishing. It did not take long before we all had great views of the serin. We also spent some time photographing a troop of Gelada Baboons. Before we left we all bought a small hat from the local vendors.
Another night in Debre Birhan.
Day 15: Friday February 24
We left Debre Birhan at 5.00 am and we arrived at the Harwood Francolin stake-out in the upper Jemma Valley a little after 7.00 am. It was freezing cold.
Immediately we were helped by some locals to find the Francolin. First they located some Erckell’s Francolin but soon a Harwood’s Francolin emerged into the open and could be studied in detail in the scope.
Other birds seen in the surrounding area were the first Ruppell’s Black Wheatear, White-billed Starling and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting.
We then continued down into the Jemma Valley proper.
First we birded around the bridge over the Jemma River and the Lomi River, where 3 Speckle-fronted Weavers were a welcome addition to our list and then we visited Awar Wuha for our last endemic, the unimpressive White-throated Seedeater.
At first we had problems in finding the exact location. First stop was at a bridge and when we were about to leave the area, we discovered a single White-throated Seedeater.
Then we visited Awar Wuha which is a wooded area around a well and stayed in the area for an hour or so. We saw plenty of common birds and best were a couple of Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weavers.
We slowly birded our way back out of the valley and when we scanned the obvious cliff face again, Antonio discovered besides the 2 Common Kestrels a gorgeous Fox Kestrel. This bird was seen perched and in flight.
Then it was time to leave the Jemma Valley and to continue to Debre Libanos. After checking in at our nice accommodation we birded a bit down to the Portuguese Bridge. Close views of Erckell’s Francolin.
Day 16: Saturday February 25
Our last day of the trip.
The full morning was spent birding around our accommodation and down to the Portuguese Bridge. This was very relaxed birding in a fantastic landscape and a nice ending to a successful trip. In the early morning I observed White-billed Starling, Little Rock Thrush, Cliff Chat, Ruppel’s Black Chat, Singing and Stout Cisticolas. The dark pipits observed were Long-billed Pipits of the ssp.hararensis
We saw a good selection of raptors during this morning, some at very close range as people from the hotel put some bones at the edge of the cliff which attracted of course eagles, vultures and ravens.
At 13.00 we drove towards Addis Ababa and we only made a stop at the Sululta Plains. Last addition to our list was Black-winged Plover.
In Addis we drove to Ghion hotel where we got a room (40 us$) so we could have a shower, change clothes and pack our gear for the trip back home.
After another good meal at the Top View restaurant we drove to the airport, said goodbye to Menghi and after a short delay we left a little after midnight for Amsterdam.
Day 17: Sunday February 26
Arrival at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam at 7.00 am. After collecting our luggage we took the hotel shuttle bus to Van der Valk Airport hotel. We picked up our car and around noon we arrived at Geldrop.
Henk Hendriks, Geldrop March 2012, firstname.lastname@example.org
09-02 Amsterdam – Addis Ababa
10-02 Addis Ababa – Lake Chekeleka – Koko Dam – Lake Zyway – Lake Langano
11-02 Lake Langano – Shassheme – Dinsho – Goba
12-02 Goba – Juniper Forest Patch – Sanetti Plateau (Bale Mountains) – Dinsho Pond – Goba
13-02 Goba – Sanetti Plateau – Harenna Forest – Genale River - Negele
14-02 Negele – Liben Plains – Woodlands around Negele.
15-02 Negele – Dawa River - ??? – Soda – Yabello
16-02 Yabello – Duduluk – Soda Plains – Mega Plains – Yabello
17-02 Yabello – Awassa – Awassa Lake
18-02 Awassa – Awassa Lake – Wondo Genet – forest patch up the mountain
19-02 Wondo Genet – Awash NP – Waterfalls Lodge
20-02 Awash NP – Waterfalls Lodge
21-02 Awash NP – Ali Dege Plains – Bilen Lodge
22-02 Bilen Lodge – Fantale, Lake Besaka – Addis Ababa – Debre Birhan
23-02 Debre Birhan – Melka Ghebdu – Gemessa Gedel – Debre Birhan
24-02 Debre Birhan – Jemma Valley – Debre Libanos
25-02 Debre Libanos – Sululta Plains – Addis Ababa – Amsterdam
26-02 Arrival in Amsterdam.