Working for birds in Africa


Wed, 06/02/2013 - 15:38 -- abc_admin

Ethiopian Swallow Hirundo aethiopica


Image Credit: 
Abdi Jama

These are largely unconfirmed records published in recent Bulletins of the African Bird Club for information only.

from ABC Bulletin 21.2

The most noteworthy records from a visit on 28 March - 5 April 2014, coinciding with the arrival of the first rains and the start of the breeding season for many species, include the following. Black-headed Heron Ardea melanocephala was suspected to be nesting in Hargeisa; breeding was known only from Wajaale, with a record of 50 birds nesting in May 1995 (cf. Ash & Miskell 1998. Birds of Somalia). A pale-morph Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus observed at Las Geel, c.60 km east-northeast of Hargeisa, on 5 April, may be the second record for Somaliland, the first being in December 2010; the species is probably a frequent passage migrant. A Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni was seen near Hargeisa on 4 April; there are few spring records. A pair of Greater Kestrels F. rupicoloides at their nest on Qool-Caday plain, on 4 April, is a new record for Ash & Miskell’s (1998) 19c square. A Three-banded Plover Charadrius tricollaris with a juvenile was found in the wadi at Las Geel on 5 April, suggesting local breeding; there appear to be no confirmed breeding records for Somaliland. A flock of 28 European Bee-eaters Merops apiaster flew east on 3 April, just before the arrival of a rain front; Ash & Miskell (1998) mention that ‘no spring passage has been noted in the north’ [= in Somaliland and Puntland]. A Blue-cheeked Bee-eater M. persicus was observed at Hargeisa on 29 March, with probably two others on 3 April (with the preceding species); previous spring records in Somaliland date from 26 April - 12 May. At least three Arabian Warblers Sylvia leucomelaena were singing at Las Geel on 5 April; this species is a presumed breeding resident, although it is reported to be quiet and elusive, with no records mentioned for square 19a (Ash & Miskell 1998). Two Magpie Starlings Speculipastor bicolor were seen near Las Geel on 5 April. In Hargeisa, large numbers of Chestnut Weavers Ploceus rubiginosus were present. In addition, the usual four species of bustard (Kori Ardeotis kori, Buff-crested Lophotis gindiana, White-bellied Eupodotis senegalensis and Little Brown Bustard E. humilis) and three species of courser (Somali Cursorius somalensis, Three-banded Rhinoptilus cinctus and Double-banded Courser R. africanus) were observed south and south-east of Hargeisa.

from ABC Bulletin 20.2

A tour to Somaliland in September 2012 managed to locate all of the potential Somali endemics and specialities, including Archer's Buzzard Buteo (augur) archeri, Little Brown Bustard Eupodotis humilis, Somali Pigeon Columba oliviae, Somali Lark Mirafra somalica, Collared Lark M. collaris, Lesser Hoopoe Lark Alaemon hamertoni, Somali Wheatear Oenanthe phillipsi, Somali Thrush Turdus ludoviciae, Philippa's Crombec Sylvietta philippae, Somali Golden-winged Grosbeak Rhynchostruthus louisae and Warsangli Linnet Carduelis johannis. Unsurprisingly, for a region so rarely visited by birders, quite a few range extensions were noted, such as Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis on the Quoryale Plain on 12th (this species was first found in the country only in 2010) and Pectoral-patch Cisticola C. brunnescens south of Ceerigaabo on 18th, which was much further east than previous records. In addition, a number of empty squares in the Somali atlas (Ash & Miskell 1998. Birds of Somalia) were duly filled to help give a more complete picture of the true ranges of Somali birds, and a Purple Heron Ardea purpurea in a wet wadi south of Ceerigaabo on 22nd is apparently the first ever for Somaliland. The most surprising find, however, was an unknown cisticola Cisticola sp. in Daallo Forest. Three birds were seen in Sallvia bushes on 21st; no song was heard, but their plumage and morphology do not match any of the cisticolas currently known from Somaliland, and these birds thus represent either a new species for Somaliland or a new taxon.

from ABC Bulletin 18.2

Highlights from a visit, on 11 December 2010, to the plains and bush country east of Hargeisa, Somaliland, down to the Tuuyoo plains, included Heuglin’s Neotis heuglini, Little Brown Eupodotis humilis and Buff-crested Bustards Lophotis gindiana, several confiding Somali Coursers Cursorius somalensis as well as Double-banded Coursers Rhinoptilus africanus, six lark species including Lesser Hoopoe Alaemon hamertoni, Blanford’s Calandrella blanfordi and Somali Short-toed Larks C. somalica, Somali Wheatears Oenanthe phillipsi, and Arabian Sylvia leucomelaena and Ménétries’ Warblers S. mystacea. A week later, an area close to Hargeisa produced some additional species including Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus and Steppe Grey Shrike Lanius (meridionalis) pallidirostris, two taxa with apparently few records for Somaliland. Somaliland is now generally safe and local guide Abdi Jama can provide logistics and advice.


During two visits to Somaliland, in May and September 2010, the following species were noted. On 17 May the Saylac area produced Nubian Nightjar Caprimulgus nubicus, Clamorous Reed Warbler Acrocephalus stentoreus and Mangrove Reed Warbler A. baeticatus avicenniae; the latter appears to be common in the area with numerous individuals still present in September. On 18 May, while driving from Saylac to Hargeysa, a female Somali Ostrich Struthio molybdophanes was seen. On 19th, the country's first Red-breasted Wheatear Oenanthe bottae was recorded near Tug Wajale, with other species including Somali Courser Cursorius (cursor) somalensis (a common species throughout the country) and Caspian PloverCharadrius asiaticus. A breeding colony of Madagascar (Olive) Bee-eaters Merops superciliosus was found between Hargeysa and Burao on 20 May. On 21 May, a Sooty Falcon Falco concolor was seen near Burao, and several Little Brown Bustards Eupodotis humilis, many Lesser Hoopoe Larks Alaemon hamertoni, a few Somali Larks Mirafra somalica and Philippa's Crombec Sylvietta philippae en route to Garadag (Little Brown Bustard was not uncommon on several other plains visited in September). Archer's (Orange River) Francolin Francolinus levaillantoides lorti and White-rumped Swift Apus caffer were seen near Daalo Forest. At Daalo, many Warsangli Linnets Carduelis johannis were observed in May, but numbers had substantially decreased by September. Also at Daalo, Somali Thrushes Turdus ludoviciae were common, whilst only a single Archer's Buzzard Buteo (augur) archeri was seen. African Swallow-tailed Kite Chelictinia riocourii, Heuglin's Bustard Neotis heuglinii and many displaying Tawny Pipits Anthus campestris were observed between Erigavo and Burao, whilst the Bohootleh area produced Donaldson Smith's Nightjar Caprimulgus donaldsoni, Von der Decken's Hornbill Tockus deckeni, Yellow-vented Eremomela Eremomela icteropygialis, Philippa's Crombec and Red-naped Bushshrike Laniarius ruficeps. On 28 May the country's first Short-toed Snake Eagle Circaetus gallicus was found near Berbera. On 31 May a Golden Pipit Tmetothylacus tenellus was seen on the Qorladey plains south of Hargeysa.

During a boat trip to Rabshie (Maydh) Island in September, a Wedge-tailed Shearwater Puffinus pacificus, a Wilson's Storm-petrel Oceanites oceanicus and three Red-necked Phalaropes Phalaropus lobatus were seen, whilst on the island itself a few Red-billed Tropicbirds Phaethon aethereus and several Masked Boobies Sula dactylatra were tending well-grown young amongst large numbers of breeding Bridled Terns Sterna anaethetus and Sooty Terns S. fuscata. Abdim's Storks Ciconia abdimii were still on the nest in Berbera on 20 September; this is apparently a new locality for the species. A Short-toed Snake Eagle was found at Daalo on 16 September and another on the Ban Cade Plains on 18th (second and third records). A Brown Snake Eagle Circaetus cinereus was seen near Sayla on 21 September. The first modern records of Steppe Buzzard Buteo (buteo) vulpinus were noted in the Daalo area on 14 and 19 September. Two Common Quail Coturnix coturnix, flushed on the Qorladey plains on 21 September, were apparently the first records since 1956. Two Cream-coloured Coursers Cursorius cursor were seen on the Ban Cade Plains on 13 September. Three Black-headed Lapwings Vanellus tectus were seen between Saylac and Hargeysa. About 30 Caspian Plovers were seen on the Qorladey plains on 21 September. Vocalisations and plumage characteristics suggest that a pair of owls observed at 2,100 m in Daalo Forest were more closely related to Arabian Scops Owl Otus (senegalensis) pamelae than to any subspecies of African Scops Owl O. senegalensis; further research is needed to establish the identity of these birds. A pair of Donaldson Smith's Nightjars was found southeast of Burao on 12 September , whilst a European Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus was seen flying in off the sea at midday at Maydh on 16 September. Somali Larks Mirafra somalica studied on the Tuuyo Plains and identified by voice showed plumage characteristics of Sharpe's Lark M. africana sharpii suggesting that this form represents a third subspecies of Somali Lark rather than a race of Rufous-naped Lark M. africana. A Collared Lark M. collaris was found in the red sand country south-east of Burao; this represents the first sighting of this species in the area since the 1980s. A Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus was heard flying over the Wajaale Plains on 22 September. Common Nightingales Luscinia megarhynchos were common in Daalo Forest on 14 - 17 September. A male Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus of the eastern race samamisicus was seen at Daalo on 21 September. An immature Sombre Rock Chat Cercomela dubia was photographed on the pass near Sheikh on 19 September there is only one previous historical record for the country.

The following were reported from a pioneering bird tour to Somaliland in February 2010. An adult Archer's Buzzard Buteo augur archeri was seen on the Daallo Escarpment on 15th. Two chestnut winged francolins flushed at the same site appeared to fit the description of Archer's (Orange River) Francolin Francolinus levaillantoides lorti, although it cannot be excluded that they were Yellow-necked Spurfowl F. leucoscepus, which was observed nearby. Three Red-knobbed Coots Fulica cristata were found at Waajale Twon reservoir on 9th; this species is not mentioned for the north of Somalia in Ash& Miskell (1998. Birds of Somalia). Two males and a female Heuglin's Bustard Neotis heuglinii were seen near Inaafmadobe, Qorlilugud, and on the Banade Plains, respectively, on 13th–15th. Little Brown Bustards Eupodotis humilis were common in suitable habitat throughout; they were encountered daily, with a maximum of five on 15th.

Three very tame Somali Larks Mirafra somalica were photographed on the Banade Plains on 15th. Also there were three Foxy Larks M. alopex of the nominate race alopex, whilst the large, rather pipit-like Lesser Hoopoe Lark Alaemon hamertoni was numerous, with up to 15 sighted on 14th, with one performing its characteristic song flight. Two Gillett's Larks Mirafra gilletti of the pale race arorihensis were watched near Qorilugud on 14th. Blanford's Lark Calandrella blanfordi of the distinctive race daroodensis was seen on the Waajale Plains on 9th and on the Banade Plains on 14th; at both localities Somali Short-toed Lark C. somalica was common.

Somali Thrush Turdus (olivaceus) ludoviciae was observed at Ga'an Libah on 11th–12th (several) and was the commonest bird on the upper Daallo Escarpment with up to 20 seen per day; this endemic blackbird is often lumped with the widespread but dissimilar (both in appearance and habitat choice) Olive Thrush T. olivaceus of East Africa. It is now increasingly recognised as a Somali endemic restricted to the few patches of highland juniper forest in the north of Somaliland. Somali Wheatear Oenanthe phillipsi was common in all rocky habitats, whilst Philippa's Crombec Sylvietta philippae appeared to be frequent in Acacia bush north of Inaafmadobe and near Qorilugud, with up to ten seen. Six Pale Rockfinches Carpospiza brachydactyla at a watering hole near Wajaale town on 9th was an unexpected find; this species has previously been recorded in Djibouti, Eritrea and Ethiopia but apparently not in Somalia. A young male Somali Golden-winged Grosbeak Rhynchostruthus louisae was observed on the Maydh road on 16th. A single Warsangli Linnet Carduelis johannis was seen along the Daallo – Maydh road at c.1,800 m; this species is endemic to the mountains of north Somaliland and Daallo is in the far west of its range.

The following details have been received from John Miskell. "From 13 through 17 April 2005 I made a brief visit to "Puntland", an area I had not visited since I was there with John Ash in April / May 1980. I was mostly working at our office in Garoowe while I was there, but was able to get out bird watching a couple of times. The following are the more interesting records from my trip:

A. Along the Rabable tog, SW of Garoowe, 15 April, Somalia square 30c:

1. Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax - 1 adult & 2 subadults
2. Bruce's Green Pigeon Treron waalia - common
3. Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus - 1
4. Isabelline Shrike Lanius isabellinus -1

B. In Garoowe town, 14 April, Somalia square 30c:

1. Ethiopian Swallow Hirundo aethiopica - pair with two young in nest, fledged 14 April
2. Somali Chestnut-winged Starling Onychognathus blythii - pair with 2 chicks, c. 5 days old, in nest
3. Swainson's Sparrow Passer swainsonii - two pairs with just fledged, dependent young - a considerable range extension

C. Galgalo village & spring, Somalia square 15a, and a few kms NW in square 5c, 17 April:

1. Orange River Francolin Francolinus levaillantoides - 1 seen and 2 or 3 heard - 5c
2. Bruce's Green Pigeon Treron waalia - common - 15a
3. Speckled Pigeon Columba guinea - 1 - in Galgalo village - 15a
4. Somali Pigeon Columba oliviae - 18 total, on both sides of Galgalo village - 15a
5. Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris - 1 - 5c
6. Little Rock Thrush Monticola rufocinereus - 2 - 5c
7. Masked Shrike Lanius nubicus - 1 - 15a
8. Nile Valley Sunbird Hedydipna metallica - 8 - 15a
9. African Silverbill Euodice cantans - 10 - 15a
10. Cinnamon-breasted Bunting Emberiza tahapisi - 2 in 15a, and 1 in 5c."

Three new species were added to the Somalia list in October 2002 by John Ash, Gerhard Nikolaus and John Miskell. These are: Saker Falcon Falco cherrug; Temminck’s Courser Cursorius temminckii; and Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica. They also found Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis resident in the north-west for the first time. Temminck’s Courser Cursorius temminckii was later found breeding in north-west Somalia in June 2004 by John Miskell, who also found Black-winged Lapwings Vanellus melanopterus nesting in the same area. In April 2004, John Miskell found Purple Swamphens Porphyrio porphyrio (2 adults and a sub-adult) in a swamp bordering the Shabeelle river near Qoryooley; this is the second record for Somalia and the first record in the south of the country. JM also saw Collared Lark Mirafra collaris at Yasooman in March 2004.

The following records were published in the Bulletin of the African Bird Club.

These records are from December 2003 in Somaliland (the region in northern Somalia which wants to break away from the rest of the country), en route from Hargeysa to Ceerigaabo, and also in the Daalo area. A Steppe Buzzard Buteo (buteo) vulpinus was seen at 10°45’N 47°18’E on 26th; this is apparently only the second record for Somalia (see Ash & Miskell 1998. Birds of Somalia). Archer’s Buzzard Buteo archeri was observed several times on the escarpment at 10°47’N 47°17’E on 26th (possibly the same individual). A male Little Brown Bustard Eupodotis humilis was calling (a high-pitched rattle we-we-we given with head thrown backwards) at dusk at 9°24’N 46°46’E on 25th, with a female close by. Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse Pterocles lichtensteinii was noted at 9°41’N 44°22’E on 25th, and the endemic Somali Pigeon Columba oliviae at 10°48’N 47°19’E the next day. European Scops Owl Otus scops was heard at 10°57’N 47°13’E on 26th; there is only one previous record, from 1919. The following lark species were seen on 25th: Rufous-naped Lark Mirafra africana sharpei at 9°10’N 46°00’E, the endemic Somali Lark Mirafra somalica at 9°19’N 46°38’E and Fawn-coloured Lark Mirafra africanoides alopex at 9°55’N 45°11’E. A probable Archer’s Lark Heteromirafra archeri, a rare and very localised endemic which has not been seen since 1955, was found at 9°39’N 43°26’E on 29th; unfortunately the diagnostic pale median crown stripe was not noted. Brown-tailed Rock-Chat Cercomela scotocerca was observed at 9°58’N 45°09’E and Desert Warbler Sylvia nana at 9°57’N 44°41’E on 25th. The very local endemic Warsangli Linnet Carduelis johannis was at 10°45’N 47°18’E on 26th and Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak Rhynchostruthus socotranus at 10°47’N 47°18’E the next day.

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