A birding paradise if there ever was one, Ethiopia is a somewhat recent arrival on the scene of birding destinations. Exotic and unspoiled by modern tourism, this country is safe and comfortable, with the birds plentiful and approachable. All up, 321 species of birds were seen during these 12 action-packed days. In addition, a number of good mammals were seen including the rare Ethiopian Wolf, Warthog, Bohor Reedbuck, Ethiopian Highland Hare, Menelik Bushbuck and Mountain Nyala, Beisa Oryx, Salt’s Dikdik and Soemmering’s Gazelle.
Day 1: After arriving in Addis Abbeba and meeting over dinner the night before, this morning we headed to Lake Chelklaka. Here 1000’s of birds were present enjoying the water leftover from the rainy season, including Greater and Lesser Flamingo, Spur-winged Lapwing, Common Crane, Egyptian Goose, and White-winged Black Tern, Marabou Stork, African Sacred Ibis, Hooded Vulture, Baglafecht, Chestnut and Ruppell’s Weaver, Fantailed Raven, Black-billed Barbet and good number of Red-billed Quelea. Further south we encountered Namaqua Dove, Speckled Pigeon and Beautiful Sunbird. After arriving at our location for the night on the banks of Lake Langano, we added Slender-tailed Nightjar and Greyish Eagle-Owl, Black-billed Wood Hoopoe, Superb Starling, Little Rock-Thrush, Abyssinian White-eye, Masked Shrike, Black-winged Lovebird, and Whitebellied Go-away-bird.
Day 2: The early morning was spent at Lake Langano where we enjoyed birding with the sun rising over the lake. Numerous Clapperton’s Francolin, Three-banded Courser, Red-billed and White-headed Buffalo-Weaver, Mocking Cliff-Chat, Grey-backed Fiscal, Bearded Woodpecker, Scarlet-chested and Mariqua Sunbird were seen. Driving south we came across Augur Buzzard, Hemprich’s and Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Cape Crow, Redthroated Pipit, Red-breasted Wheatear and Thick-billed Raven, Cape Eagle-Owl, Rouget’s Rail and a pair of Lammergeier. As we climbed the side of the Great Rift Valley to over 3000 meters we enjoyed flocks of Whitecollared Pigeon and Wattled Ibis, and at a small lake, Blue-winged Goose, Yellow-billed Duck and a Gargany Speckled Pigeon, Spot-breasted Lapwing and Three-banded Plover. To top the day off, we had great views of an Abyssinian Owl shortly before arriving at our destination.
Day 3: We started our birding on the lower slopes of the Bale Mountain where we encountered Whitecheeked Turaco, Abyssinian Woodpecker, Abyssinian Ground-Thrush, Abyssinian Catbird, Ruppell’s RobinChat, Cinnamon Bracken-Warbler, Ethiopian Siskin, Common Waxbill, and Moorland Chat. Heading up the mountain saw us adding Bearded Vulture, Ruppell’s Griffon, and a Tawny Eagle feeding on a recent kill. At an alpine lake we found some of our targets, including Ruddy Shelduck, Yellow-billed Duck, Thekla’s Lark, Lanner Falcon and Red-billed Chough. A highlight was the endemic Ethiopian Wolf crossing the road directly in from of us, delighting everyone. After a nice display of Ethiopian Black-headed Oriole, we headed for our hotel.
Day 4: On way to Bale Mountain Park HQ we encountered a large group of Black-winged Lapwings and Somali Crow, while inside the park we were treated to some good mammals like Mountain Nyala, Menilik’s Bushbuck and Warthog. Bird-wise we added White-backed Black-Tit, Yellow-crowned Canary, a flock of Abdim’s Stork, African Stonechat and Abyssinian Longclaw. We then headed to the primary forest at the town of Wondo Genet, our final destination for that day, where we saw Guereza Colobus monkeys, and Ethiopian Blackheaded Oriole.
Day 5: The early morning saw us back at the forest where we picked up some great birds like Green Twinspot, Narina Trogon, Double-toothed Barbet, African Hill Babbler, Northern Puffback, Bruce’s Green Pigeon, Yellowfronted Parrot, Half-collared Kingfisher, Black and White Mannikin, Banded Barbet, Lemon Dove, Nyanza Swift, Long-crested Eagle, Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike, African Firefinch and Variable Sunbird. After heading down the mountain we arrived at the lakeside town of Hawassa where we added African Spotted Creeper, Red
faced Cisticola, White-rumped Babbler, White-browed Robin-Chat, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, various weavers, African Harrier-Hawk and Woodland Kingfisher and Hamerkop.
Day 6: The day was spent around Hawassa where we were delighted by Blue-headed Coucal, Black-winged Lovebird, Hadada Ibis, Marsh Warbler, African Swamphen and Allen’s Gallinule, Spur-winged Goose, Crested Francolin, and Hottentot Teal. In a park near the fish markets we managed over 57 species including Redcheeked Cordonbleu, Bronze Mannikin, Rufous Chatterer, and Rufous-necked Wryneck. Some of the migrants included Willow Warbler and Eurasian Blackcap. Along the waters edge the place was active with Hamerkop, Squacco Heron, African Fish-Eagle, African Jacana, Great White Pelican and a few Black Crake. Soon the heavens opened and we headed back to base. A great day!
Day 7: We headed north to the Abidjatta-Shalla National Park, which was alive with birds. Here we enjoyed seeing Northern Red-billed Hornbill, Fork-tailed Drongo, White-crowned Shrike, Nubian Woodpecker, Von der Decken’s Hornbill, Abyssinian Scimitarbill, Little Bee-eater, Blue-naped Mousebird, Red-fronted Barbet, Helmeted Guineafowl, Greater Spotted Eagle, Village Indigobird, and White-bellied Go-away-bird. We saw a pair of rare Somali Ostriches and then headed north to the town of Ziway, where at the lake we added Whitefaced Whistling Duck, White-winged Tern, Eurasian Marsh-Harrier and a sensational fly-over of 2 Blackcrowned Cranes.
Day 8: Back at Lake Ziway we found a number of new species including Three-banded Plover, African Snipe, Saddle-billed Stork, African Spoonbill, Black Heron, Grassland Pipit, African Citril, Northern Carmine Bee-eater and a Klaas’s Cuckoo. Heading north to the Viewpoint Lodge at Babogaya Lake, we enjoyed great views of Tacazze- , Beautiful – and Variable Sunbird. Before sunset we headed to a nearby low level lake that was roost home to thousands of birds. Aside from the 100’s of Gargany, Northern Shoveler, Greater and Lesser Flamingo, Marabou, Egyptian Goose, we also had our first views of Pink-backed Pelican, Erlanger’s Lark, Northern Wheatear and Ortolan Bunting. As the sun set and the light faded we witnessed dozens of Pallid Harriers hawking the grasslands and then the spectacle of 100’s of Common Cranes coming in to roost.
Day 9: On our way to Awash Falls National Park we stopped at the Abdir lava fields where we encountered Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush, African Silverbill and our main target, Sombre Rock Chat. At the park itself we saw Arabian, Kori & Buff-crested Bustard, Pygmy Falcon, Somali Bunting, Cut-throat Finch, Nile Valley Sunbird, Abyssinian Roller, Somali Fiscal and Sulphur-breasted Bush-Shrike. At the falls we had our first views of African Grey Hornbill, and heading out to Awash we saw some new mammals including Beisa Oryx, Salt’s Dikdik and Soemmering’s Gazelle.
Day 10: This day was spent at Alleydeghie National Park. One of our fist awesome sights was the majestic Kori Bustard with Northern Carmine Bee-eater perched on its back. We had views of Montagu’s Harrier, Chestnutbacked Sparrow-Larks, Common Kestrel, Singing Bushlark, Somali Ostrich, Scissor-tailed Kite and a Kori Bustard with a Northern Carmine Bee-eater perched on its back. At the nearby Animalia Lodge we picked up Nile Valley Sunbird, Shinning Sunbird, Green-winged Pytilia and Brubru.
Day 11: Heading towards Debre Birhan into the mountains we encountered Blackstart, Chestnut-headed Sparrow-lark, Red-fronted Prinia, Yellow-billed Hornbill, Little Bee-eater and Yellow-throated Serin, Northern Crombec and the sought after Abyssinian Ground-Hornbill. Further up into the Rift Valley we enjoyed great views of Mocking and White-winged Cliff-Chat.
Day 12: On this final morning we set out to the scenic location of Gemessa Gadel, where, besides the spectacular views, we enjoyed Verreaux’s Eagle, Peregrine Falcon and Erckel’s Francolin. Then it was time to start heading back to Addis Ababa where we enjoyed our final meal together and said our goodbyes.