This is the second account on one of my favourite periods of birding when abroad. During this lockdown phase I shall be recounting a few more specific days during my trips. It'll mainly be on the earlier trips as I hadn't gone into much detail, and somehow I can still remember many specifics on particular days.
After my South Africa trip in 2011, it was fair to say I was captivated by the continent somewhat, therefore, soon after returning home I was planning my next African country to visit. Ethiopia was soon brought to my attention, not only for the endemism that this country has to offer, but the various landscapes that would provide an exciting array of species. Having had limited experience in organising trips, I plucked for a tour company, with Naturetrek looking the most likely candidate - a low cost trip and a reliable company being the biggest lures!
It turned out to be a brilliant trip, certainly helped by the wonderful company of the Herts Bird Club - one of the members I still talk to regularly today; another who joined me on my trip last year to Papua New Guinea.
14th November 2012
After a successful first four or five days covering the sites to the north, and south of Addis Abbaba, we were now venturing SE to commence our two night stay in Dinsho. Our journey that day was somewhat eventful as a bus had somehow collided with a herd of cows, and the results were plenty of scattered cow parts; many Vultures and species of Crows; a broken down bus in the middle of the field, and plenty of locals just hanging around. Trying not to gag from the horrendous smell, we obtained excellent views of many birds before leaving the chaos behind us. There was little else to see along the way bar some exquisite Lanner Falcons
and plenty of Black-headed Lapwings
At the top of our first major ascent into the mountains, a brief stop produced superb views of our first endemic of the range, this being an Abyssinian Catbird
. A Blue Rock Thrush
and a couple of female-type Pallid Harriers
also flew through. As we reached some kind of plateau the views were brilliant, though other than some Blue-winged Geese
there wasn't a great deal to see. This was until we reached a canyon, and after negotiating the steep rocky banks we eventually stumbled across a pair of splendid Cape Eagle Owls
. Interest soon turned to the sky however, as a White-headed Vulture
flew through quickly..
A little more driving was had until we checked into Dinsho Lodge. We quickly dropped our things off and headed out straight away, much to my delight. The surrounding forest was brilliant and we notched up plenty of exciting endemics, and not just the birds. Mountain Nyalas were soon found foraging on the forested slopes, though they were typically shy and I failed to get any photos of them before they vanished. Still, we soon found many targets that included a lovely group of White-backed Black Tits
, Ethiopian Boubou
, more Abyssinian Catbirds
and eventually our main target, an Abyssinian Long-eared Owl
. Back in the car park I could just make out, along with others, maybe the belly and an eye of an African Wood Owl
- hardly satisfactory views but Chris and myself had obtained excellent nocturnal views of a pair in South Africa the year before.
Before the day ended we searched an area of moorland-type habitat and found a few more endemics, the best being an Abyssinian Longclaw
, a pair of Rouget's Rails
, and a showy Ethiopian Cisticola
It had been an excellent day, but there was one major target that was niggling away at me. Thankfully, over dinner a Rockjumper guide came over and chatted to our group with regards to their group finding multiple Spot-breasted Lapwings up on the plateau. This calmed me down a lot and I was able to enjoy the evening, very much looking forward to the next day.
|Cape Eagle Owl|
|Bus and many dead cows|
|Abyssinian Long-eared Owl|
15th November 2012
|White-backed Black Tit|
We were up early and left the lodge, hitting the lower slopes when it was getting light. Our first stop produced fine views of some Cinnamon Bracken Warblers
- a species the books don't give much justice to. Further along the single track up towards the top plateau finally revealed a couple of Chestnut-naped Francolins
that were doing their best to keep their distance from the vehicle. The weather looking up towards the plateau wasn't exactly ideal, with low cloud covering the slopes and light rain falling, but this didn't stop the onslaught of birds though as endemic after endemic kept coming into view: Ethiopian Cisticolas
, Black-winged Lovebirds
and Rouget's Rails
were especially conspicuous; a Cape Eagle Owl
was also flushed. When we reached the plateau though is when the action properly kicked off. As we came to a stop at the first pool I could already see my top target, a sublime Spot-breasted Lapwing
. Although looking through the rather unclear minibus windows, this gorgeous bird showed brilliantly alongside a couple of Moorland Francolins
and a couple of Blue-winged Geese
. A major relief to lay eyes on this gorgeous Wader!
Progressing across the misty plateau we came across many Ethiopian Siskins
that were flushed up from the main track, and by pure chance there were a pair of Wattled Cranes
striding along in front of us. Most groups struggle with this species, but thankfully this meant we didn't have to wander around for however long to search for them, though having now seen them in South Africa and Namibia meant I wouldn't have been too disheartened if we had dipped. Although the mist was playing havoc, every clear spell produced a movement of Eagles, and even during the dull spells we could see many Eagles perched on any exposed rock. Most were Tawny Eagles
, though every now and then we found some Golden
and Lesser Spotted Eagles
and even some Steppe Eagles
. If only it was clear we would've been treated to a spectacular passage of south-bound Eagles.
As good as the birds were, a visit to the top of the Bale Mountains can only be successful when one sets eyes on an Ethiopian Wolf
. We soon scored with up to five individuals, including one that gracefully strolled right past the vehicle - even through the murky windows I was able to get a reasonable shot. Also, it was great to see the main prey item of the Wolf, the bizarre Giant Mole Rat.
One member of our group was suffering heavily from altitude sickness, in such a way he sadly missed most of the action on the plateau. To relieve him slightly we descended to the south of the range in order to increase the oxygen levels, but also to an area of trees that were to hold our next batch of targets. A male Black Sparrowhawk
flew through as we searched high and low for the local race of Brown Parisoma, or as we called it, the Bale Parisoma
. We found a pair but they were certainly as dull as the original. Other than plenty of Abyssinian White-eyes
, there wasn't a great deal else to find.
With an improvement in the sickness department, we once again ascended to the plateau just in time for the clouds to clear a little. This initiated a decent passage of Eagles. Irritatingly, the altitude sickness once again kicked in on the same guy, and as much as I would have liked to have stayed up top, we had to descend back towards the lodge. Still, it had been a superb day cleaning up on many target birds. That evening, half the group (me included) bid farewell to the others as we were to start out southern extension, going as far south as Yabello.