Working for birds in Africa


Mon, 14/01/2013 - 22:21 -- abc_admin

Abyssinian Ground Hornbill Bucorvus abyssinicus male, Ethiopia

Image Credit: 
Sue Walsh

Ideally one needs to rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle to tour Ethiopia, although it is possible to fly to many areas, including the historically fascinating north. The best months to visit are October-December, and over 500 species can be recorded on a thorough three-week trip.

The Bale Mountains National Park in the southern part of the eastern south-eastern highlands has a number of Ethiopia's highland endemic species and a number of species not found elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. The park can be reached by the highest all-weather road in Africa allowing easy access to alpine moorlands, grasslands and lakes. Bale Mountains are park like in low areas, but on the top it is very cold and plain. Symian Fox can be seen in this area and Wattled Crane Bugeranus carunculatus and Roguet's Rail Rougetius rougetii can be found, the latter fairly easily.

From the plateau go down through the Hareena Forest (sub-tropical wet) and on to Negele and to the Somali border, a long road for Degodi Lark Mirafra degodiensis and Sidamo Lark Heteromirafra sidamoensis. The following species have been seen in the Genale River area: Black-faced Pterocles decoratus and Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse P. lichtensteinii, Eastern Violet-backed Sunbird Anthreptes orientalis, African Grey Flycatcher Bradornis microrhynchus, Abyssinian Scimitarbill Rhinopomastus minor, Rosy-patched Shrike Rhodophoneus cruentus, Pringle's Puffback Dryoscopus pringlii, Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti, Irania Irania gutturalis, Somali Long-billed Crombec Sylvietta isabellina, Somali Bunting Emberiza poliopleura and African White-winged Dove Streptopelia reichenowi.

Ethiopian forest endemics are accessible at forest patches such as those at Wondo Genet (central highlands) and Debre Libanos (northern highlands). A number of other highland localities deserve individual mention. North of Addis Ababa, the Jemmu River valley holds a population of highly localized and endemic Harwood's Francolin Francolinus harwoodi, best searched for along the river itself. The rocky valley rim hosts a number of species that could be searched for in any rocky highland area, such as White-billed Starling Onychognathus albirostris, Ruppell's Black Chat Myrmecocichla melaena, Nyanza Swift Apus niansae and White-winged Cliff Chat Thamnolaea semirufa.

The Rift Valley, punctuated by several large lakes, offers few endemics but very diverse and enjoyable woodland birding. Some of the several excellent birding sites here are Lake Langano, Awash National Park and Nechisar National Park, offering amongst many others such great birds as African Swallow-tailed Kite Chelictinia riocourii, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill Bucorvus abyssinicus and Arabian Bustard Ardeotis arabs.

From Awash, continue down the Rift Valley and across the highlands to Urghoba to Weebee River Gorge for Salvadori's Seedeater Serinus xantholaemus. A line of eucalyptus on the way have African Long-eared Owl Asio abyssinicus.

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