Ethiopia 2008

...with Meseret Mekuria

March 14th-27th

The country has a bird list exceeding 863 and also is home to 32 endemics. This tour visited contrasting regions of Ethiopia from the Great Rift Valley and towards the south taking in the remote region around Negele and the endemic-rich habitats around Yabelo. In total we recorded 432 species including 28 endemic Ethiopian birds were observed. Undoubted highlights were Prince Rispoli’s Turaco near Negele and several Spotted Creepers at Awassa. The weather throughout the tour was sunny and dusty, except for short periods of rainfall at Negele and Yabelo.

Due to unforeseen circumstances this is an abbreviated trip report compiled by Meseret Mekuria our guide in Ethiopia. My thanks to him for compiling the report a difficult task for him in the English language.

March 14th: London Heathrow, Addis Ababa, Debre Birhan.

On arrival we were met by our guide Meseret at Bole international Airport. After picking up our bags we transferred the short distance to the Ghion Hotel where we stayed until mid-morning. After a late breakfast we headed off towards Debre Birhan and Ankober. On the way we stopped at Northern Shoa, a region of plains, streams and grasslands, an excellent place to begin our experience of Ethiopian birds. Interesting birds observed at Northern Shoa and en-route included Little Grebe, Cattle and Little Egrets, Sacred Ibis, Wattled Ibis, Blue-winged Goose, Egyptian Goose, Yellow-billed Duck, Yellow-billed Kite, Hooded Vulture, Lammergeier, African Harrier-hawk, Augur Buzzard, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Eurasian Kestrel, Lanner Falcon, Three-banded Plover, Common Greenshank, Green and Common Sandpipers, Speckled and White-collared Pigeons, Dusky Turtle-dove, Common Swift, Speckled Mousebird, Hemprich’s Hornbill, Rock Martin, Barn Swallow, Common House Martin, Yellow and White Wagtails, Ethiopian Longclaw, Grassland, Long-billed and Red-throated Pipits, Common Fiscal, Groundscraper Thrush, Abyssinian Thrush, Northern, Pied and Red-breasted Wheatears, Stout Cisticola, Willow Warbler, Tacazze Sunbird, White-breasted White-eye, Cape and African Pied Crows, Fan-tailed Raven, Blue-eared Glossy Starling, Abyssinian Siskin, Stripe-breasted and Streaky Serins, Brown-rumped Seedeater, Beglafecht Weaver, Swainson’s Sparrow and Alpine Chat. In the afternoon, after we checked into the Helen Hotel and had lunch in Debre Birhan. Our main interest was the road leading to Debre Sina and the Tarma Ber gorge escarpment where we observed White-winged Cliffchat and Ankober Serin. The views of the gorge were quite spectacular and stimulated much photo taking. Returned to Debre Birhan for the night.

March 15th: Jemma Valley including the Dera and Lemi Plains, Debre Libanose.

An early start towards the Jemma Valley via the Dera and Lemi Plains. Our main objective was to locate the rare Ethiopian endemic - Harwood’s Francolin dawn at Lemi-Jema escarpment. We had picnic breakfast at the edge of Jemma Valley view point while enjoying the panoramic scenery. The rewarding birds today included Long-tailed Cormorant, Black-headed Heron, Intermediate Egret, Black Stork, Glossy Ibis, African Black Duck, Griffon, Ruppell’s Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, Pallid and Montagu’s Harrier, Steppe and Wahlberg’s Eagles, Secretary-bird, Saker Falcon, Harwood’s Francolin, Red-knobbed Coot, Black-winged and Spot-breasted Lapwings, Wood Sandpiper, Whiskered Tern, Rock, Red-eyed and Laughing Doves, Little Bee-eater, Red-fronted Barbet, Erlanger’s and Thekla Larks, Banded Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Black-headed, Grey, Mountain and Citrine Wagtails, Garden Bulbul, Black-crowned Tchagra, Ruppell’s Robinchat, Isabelline Wheatear, Ruppell’s Chat, Mocking Cliffchat, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, African Dusky Flycatcher, White-backed Black Tit, Yellow-bellied Sunbird, Dwarf Raven and White-billed Starling. We moved on through Mukature junction road to the Debre Libanose Monastery forest area recording White-cheeked Turaco, Banded Barbet, Erckel’s Francolin and Ruppell’s Robinchat. The endemic Ghelada Baboon was also observed along the edge of Debre Libanos cliffs.

March 16th: Suluta Plains, Debre Zeit, Awash.

After breakfast, we continued driving towards Rift valley area via the Sululta Plain, Addis Ababa and Debre Zeit where we enjoyed our lunch at the Dream Hotel with views of the Point of Bushoftu Crater Lake. The birds observed today included Marabou Stork, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Long-crested Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, Helmeted Guineafowl, Common Crane, White-bellied Bustard, Ring-necked and Namaqua Doves, Abyssinian Roller, Lilac-breasted Roller, African Grey Hornbill, Northern Ground Hornbill, Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark, Sombre Chat, Singing Cisticola, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Ruppell’s Glossy Starling, Superb Starling, Red-billed Firefinch, African Silverbill, Cut-throat Finch, Pin-tailed Whydah, White-billed Buffalo Weaver, White-bowed Sparrow weaver, Northern Masked Weaver and Red-billed Quelea. As dusk started to fall we travelled to Awash National Park our base for two nights.

March 17th: Awash National Park.

Today was spent around Awash National Park taking in visits to Lake Basaka, Awash River Water Falls and Ilala Sala Plain. Water birds are a feature of the park in addition to species associated with dry bush country and arid desert habitats. A wide range of birds were observed including African Darter, Great Cormorant, Pink-backed Pelican, Squacco Heron, Great Egret, Hamerkop, Yellow-billed and Saddle-billed Storks, Greater Flamingo and Flamingoes, Black-shouldered and Black Kites, Eastern Chanting Goshawk, African Pygmy Falcon, Yellow-necked and Crested Francolins, Arabian and Kori Bustards, Black-winged Stilt, Spur-winged Lapwing, Common Ringed, Little Ringed, Kittlitz’s and Kentish Plovers, Spotted Redshank, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff, Gull-billed Tern, Mourning Collared Dove, Blue-spotted Wood-dove, White-bellied Go-Away-Bird, African Palm Swift, Blue-naped Moosebird, Woodland Kingfisher, Blue-breasted, Blue-cheeked, Madagascar and Northern Carmine Bee-eaters, African Red-billed Hornbill, Yellow-breasted Barbet, Brown-throated Martin, Northern White-crowned Shrike, Rosy-patched Bush-shrike, Isabelline Shrike, Somali Fiscal, Woodchat Shrike, Rufous-tailed Rock-thrush, White-throated Robin, Black-eared Wheatear, Ashy Cisticola, Northern and Somali Long-billed Crombecs, Nile Valley and Shining Sunbirds, Common Drongo, Wattled and Bristle-crowned Starlings, Red-cheeked Cordonbleu, Red-billed and White-headed Buffalo Weavers, Ruppell’s, Village and Chestnut Weavers. Mammals were also a feature of the park with sightings of Oryx, Soemmering’s Gazelle, Black-backed and Common Jackals, Warthog, Greater and Lesser Kudu, Dik-dik, Olive Baboon, Hammadryas Baboon and Vervet Monkey.

March 18th: Amareti, Sodore, Lake Langano.

After breakfast, we continued to Lake Langano with a detour to Amareti in Awash Park, and Sodore Spa via Nazaret. Despite being a travel day we encountered Abdim’s Stork, Hadada Ibis, African Swallow-tailed Kite, African Fish-eagle, Tawny Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Harlequin Quail, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Emeraled-spotted Wood-dove, Eastern Grey Plantain-eater, Rufous-crowned Roller, Eurasian Hoopoe, Black-billed Wood-hoopoe, Red-winged and Gillett’s Lark, Northern Puffback, Eurasian Redstart, White-rumped Babbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, African Paradise Flycatcher and Beautiful Sunbird.

March 19th: Lake Langano, Goba.

A long journey awaited us today so a prompt start was required and early morning birding. We left for the town of Shashamene and a late breakfast and the opportunity to purchase provisions and fuel. These having been obtained we bade farewell to tarmac roads and headed off towards the Bale mountains and Goba. Early in the morning we enjoyed walking among the acacia woodland beneath the cliffs alongside the Langano Hotel and this proved to be quite rewarding for - Grey Headed Gull, Black-winged Lovebird, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Von Der Decken’s Hornbill, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Black-throated and Black-billed Barbets, Nubian Woodpecker, Tree Pipit, Dark-capped Bulbul, Pringle’s Puffback, Tropical and Slate-coloured Boubous, Little Rock-thrush, Common Nightingale, Bluethroat, Buff-bellied, Upcher’s and Wood Warblers, Lesser Whitethroat, Northern Black Flycatcher, Ortolan Bunting and White-bellied Serin. Bale Mountains National Park was our destination and the town of Goba. En route we passed through farmland used for cereal production. Birds observed on the way included African Mountain Buzzard, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Augur Buzzard, Chestnut-naped Francolin, Rouget’s Rail, Mottled Swift, Wire-tailed Swallow, African Stonechat, Ethiopian Cisticola, Abyssinian Slaty Flycatcher, Broad-ringed White-eye, Thick-billed Raven, Dark-headed Oriole, Yellow-bellied Waxbill, Lesser Masked and Spectacled Weavers, Yellow Bishop and Red-collared Widowbird. Mammals of note included Mountain Nyala, Bohor Reedbuck, Bush Duiker and a Rock Hyrax was spotted near Dinsho.

March 20th: Bale Mountains National Park.

Today we to visited the Sanetti Plateau along the highest all-weather road in Africa which allowed us to depart a little later due to its height (4200+m) and the accompanying low temperatures keeping most animals fairly inactive until the sun took effect. Beyond Goba was an extensive stand of Juniper and St. John Wart forest which gradually turns to heather bushes and the timberline. Interesting birds recorded were Abyssinian Catbird, Bale Parisoma, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, Red-throated Wryneck, Ethiopian Swallow, Ethiopian Saw-wing, Pale Prinia, Collared Sunbird, Yellow-crowned Canary, African Citril, and Moorland Francolin. Of course, we also observed the rare and endemic Ethiopian Wolves hunting for Mole rats.

March 21st: Goba, Awassa.

An early start back towards Shashamane and the Wabeshebele Hotel situated on the shore of Lake Awassa. We made stops for Verreaux’s Eagle, Cape Eagle-owl, Whinchat, Slender-billed Starling, Red-winged Starling and Red-billed Oxpecker. In the late afternoon we visited the hotel grounds and the shore of Lake Awassa. Around the lake fringes and adjacent habitats Black-crowned Night-heron, African Pygmy Goose, Red-billed Duck, Hottentot Teal, African Black Crake, Common Moorhen, Sharpe’s Starling, Purple Swamphen, Greater African Jacana, White-winged Tern, Lesser Pied Kingfisher, Malachite Kingfisher and Bronze Mannikin.

March 22nd: Awassa, Negele.

Another long journey awaited us today with the 377km transfer to Negele via the towns of Yirgalem, Aleta-wendo and Kibremengist. Before breakfast we visited the shore of Lake Awassa recording White Pelican, Purple Heron, Little Bittern, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike, African Thrush, Rufous Chatterer, Savi’s, Sedge, Reed, Great Reed, Lesser Swamp and African Yellow Warblers and Common Waxbill. Along the way we stopped at a number of places for good sightings of Ovambo Sparrowhawk, Senegal Coucal, Little Swift and Double-toothed Barbet. We spotted many birds from the car during the journey but we were focused upon the key bird - Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco. We stopped at two sites after Kibremengist town and for the third time at Wadera. Our journey came to a fairly abrupt halt, however as two Prince Ruspoli’s Turacos were spotted flicking in the tree twigs by Meseret. We could see the birds briefly flicking through the trees and photos were taken. Patience and silence proved worthwhile as more confiding views were gained; it seemed to be completely silent which would make finding them even more difficult at this time of year, so we were all very pleased with this find. We left for Negele in high spirits after seeing this almost mythical bird of Ethiopia and Africa.

March 23rd: Negele, Yabello.

Another long journey awaited us today with the 320km gravel road to Yabello so a prompt start was required following a welcome breakfast of eggs. The journey was quicker than might have been anticipated thanks to a very new road that passes through Wachille and Chew-bet where Gerenuk Antelope was seen near the junction of the main asphalt road that runs via Yabello-Moyale to Kenya, some 12 km north of Mega. Along the way we stopped at a number of places including Liben Plains and an opportunity of Lappet-faced Vulture, White-backed Vulture, Sooty Falcon, Vulturine Guineafowl, Buff-crested Bustard, Temminck’s Courser, Black-billed Wood-dove, Red-bellied Parrot, White-browed Coucal, Eastern Yellow-bellied Hornbill, Cardinal Woodpecker, Collared Lark, Sidamo Lark, Plain-backed Pipit, African White-eared Bulbul, White Helmet-shrike, Red-naped Bush-shrike, Black-headed Gonolek, Grey-headed Bush-shrike, Taita Fiscal, Thrush Nightingale, Spotted Palm Thrush, White-browed Scrub-robin, Scaly Chatterer, Rattling and Tiny Cisticolas, Grey Wren-warbler, Yellow-vented Eremomela, Whitethroat, Pale Flycatcher, Black-headed Batis, African Yellow white-eye, Stresemann’s Bush-crow, White-tailed Swallow, Golden-breasted, Shelley’s and White-crowned Starlings and Kenyan Yellow-rumped Seedeater. Arrived at Yabelo a major transit town in southern Ethiopia.

March 24th: Yabelo.

Yabelo is an important junction town in the middle of a red sandstone landscape dotted with termite mounds and acacia trees. Several interesting species were seen during the day including Bateleur, Coqui Francolin, Bared-face Go-Away-bird, European Bee-eater, Abyssinian Scimitarbill, Red-and-Yellow and D’Arnaud’s Barbets, Abyssinian Lark, Brubru, Sulphur-breasted Bush-shrike, African Bare-eyed Thrush, Boran, Croaking and Foxy Cisticolas, African Grey Flycatcher, Grey-headed and Pygmy Batis, Northern Grey Tit, Hunter’s and Marico Sunbirds, African Black-headed Oriole, Somali Golden-breasted Bunting, Yellow-fronted Canary, Abyssinian Grosbeak Canary, Lineated Pytilia, Purple Grenadier, Steel-blue and Straw-tailed Whydahs, Grey-capped Social Weaver, Black-headed Waxbill and Chestnut Sparrow.

March 25th: Yabelo, Awassa.

This day was a travelling one back to Awassa which is a loop on the southern birding circuit. En route we located Gabar and African Goshawks, Greater Honeyguide, Golden-backed, Grey and Grey-headed Woodpeckers, Black Saw-wing, Rufous-tailed Scrub-robin, Violet Starling and Yellow-spotted Petronia. The hotel grounds at Awassa were was visited in the late afternoon for Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Spotted Creeper, Black-headed Waxbill, and Black-headed Batis.

March 26th: Awassa, Wondo Genet.

We started early in the morning to explore the so called ‘FISHMARKET’ and its compound which is another birding site at Lake Awassa. Goliath Heron, White-faced whistling Duck, Spur-winged Goose, Garganey, Southern Pochard, Allen’s Gallinule, Black-tailed Godwit, Common Snipe, Temminck’s Stint, Bruce’s Green Pigeon, Blue-headed Coucal and Abyssinian Ground-thrush were all recorded. After a late breakfast we drove to Wondo Genet where Great Sparrowhawk, Crowned Hawk-Eagle, Scaly Francolin, African Lemon-dove, Yellow-fronted Parrot, Narina Trogon, Lesser Honeyguide and Grosbeak Weaver were added to the list.

March 27th: Wondo Genet, Koka Dam, Lake Ziway and Lake Hora.

This was to be our last day in Ethiopia so we intended to make the best of the day’s birding opportunities. After a good breakfast we continued to Koka Dam, Lake Ziway and Lake Hora on the way back to Addis Ababa. Among the birds seen were Black Egret, African Spoonbill, Northern Shoveler, Marsh Harrier, Avocet, Common Redshank, Black Tern and African Pipit. In the afternoon, we head back to Addis Ababa and the Ghion Hotel which has extensive gardens attracting Tacazze Sunbird, Abyssinian Slaty Flycatcher and Mountain Thrush. In the early hours of March 28th we transferred to the airport for the flight back to Europe.

For details of the full species list or to request further information about the next time we will be offering this trip. Contact us at

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