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AMS, Gastroenteritis and birding in Ethiopia (1 Viewer)

MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
Congratulations, both on your engagement and on not letting it get too much in the way of the birding!

The wolf looks pretty special too!

Cheers
Mike
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
It was a trip to see how high can we get :) We tried for Cerro Bonete in Argentina, the 5th highest peak of both the Western and the Southern hemisphere and the highest point on the planet to which you can just leasurelly walk - that is, if you can handle the altitude. Me and my wife reached 6375, out friend made it to the summit at 6759 as the first Czech we know of. Above about 5500 the landscape is devoid of life, but we have, on the same trip, seen some great birds, including DSPs at I think 5200 on Nevado Queva in Salta province.

Assuming that Diademed Sandpiper Plover, that's on my most wanted list.

Congrats on the engagement Daniel, a memorable place to propose.
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Czech Republic
Assuming that Diademed Sandpiper Plover, that's on my most wanted list.

Congrats on the engagement Daniel, a memorable place to propose.

Yes, it's that, I never know how to spell it :) However "my" Quevar site is not the easiest one to see them, it requires a full day of hiking to reach (we camped nearby) - I hear that in Chile there are much easier places for those.
 

MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
Yes, it's that, I never know how to spell it :) However "my" Quevar site is not the easiest one to see them, it requires a full day of hiking to reach (we camped nearby) - I hear that in Chile there are much easier places for those.

Also in Peru. I did it in a (guided) day trip from Lima. A small matter of 5000 metres up and down, but you can drive right to the edge of the marsh they are on.

https://www.birdforum.net/showpost.php?p=3850979&postcount=18
 

halftwo

Wird Batcher
Great report writing, Daniel. Superb photos too.

And: Congratulations!

Look forward to hearing more.

If I get to Ethiopia I hope the altitude doesn't affect me the same!

H
 

kb57

Well-known member
Europe
Where was this, Andes presumably, what was the need to go so high, assuming it was a bird trip?

I have a friend who has travelled to Nepal a bout 25 times, you'd be surprised how mant fit, young people, fail to get over Thorong La, age and condition are no guarantee or barrier it seems. Acclimatisation is key as I originally said but even then, some people will have problems, nobody raelly understands why?

Apologies if I've already related this story, but it backs up Andy's point...aged about 24 yo, my first wife and I were trekking across the Thorung La. We set off from what was then a broken down yak herders hut before dawn (believe there is a lodge there now) and at the top of the first steep pitch she passed out. I had to more or less drag her back down to the hut, and relight the fire to warm her up as she was seriously cold by then. She recovered enough to walk back to Manang, feeling better as she descended - meanwhile I started to feel worse, and ended up laid up with a bug for the best part of a week in Manang.

Next attempt, after a weeks acclimatisation, although never a fast walker she was the first trekker to reach the pass, as we passed macho uber-fit guys who'd raced off ahead of us slumped breathless by the side of the track. Acclimatisation is certainly key, and age and fitness can be poor predictors of AMS.
 

dwatsonbirder

Well-known member
Thanks for all the well wishes, and I find the varying accounts of high altitude birding to be somewhat comforting - perhaps I will one day make it to Nepal/Peru/Ecuador after all. It seems that a greater period of acclimatisation is the key!

Anyways, back to Ethiopia...

24th November - Hawassa

After a few celebratory drinks and a late night (9:30pm!) I'd expected to sleep in on our first morning in Hawassa, however at 6am, I came around, and the calls of Ruppell’s starling and White crowned sparrow weaver from the trees opposite our balcony were enough to spur me onto an early morning wander. Kathi was also awake, and joined me on the short walk from our hotel to the marshes on the eastern shore of Lake Awasa. African paradise flycatcher was pretty much the first bird we saw this morning, with two magnificent males chasing each other around a large fig tree. We continued on our way, and arrived at the lake shore a little after the sun had risen. The fringes were simply alive with birds; Black crake and African jacana paraded around in the reeds, and where at one point joined by a fine Allen’s gallinule. The reeds also held massive aggregations of hirundines, including a handful of Wire tailed swallow. Below the hirundines, several passerines flicked about, with both African and Eurasian Reed, Sedge and Lesser swamp warblers all making an appearance, whilst Bronze manakin were joined by an Abyssinian waxbill proudly flashing its rufous rump at us. A scan of the many Red knobbed coot and Common moorhen didn’t reveal the hoped for Lesser moorhen, however a stunning African pygmy goose was more than fair compensation!
Overhead and occasionally zipping past much lower were African fish eagle, Sacred ibis, Squacco heron, Maribou, Black kite, Pied kingfisher and White pelican, all going about their daily routines.
We headed back towards the hotel with thoughts of coffee and breakfast, but not before a quick look in some large fig trees which contained a rather extraordinary diversity of birds; Silvery cheeked hornbill, African thrush, Willow warbler, Blackcap, Rufous chatterer, Ring necked dove, Woodland kingfisher, Ethiopian boubou, Red headed weaver and Red headed weaver were all noted. Kathi wandered off a distance, and once again, attracted my attention to “something small and colourful” apparently trapped in a fence - it was only a Harlequin quail! I managed to walk up to the bird and release it from its trappings, and with a rapid whirr of its wings was over the fence and into a residential garden, certainly not a species on my radar for the trip.
We made it back to the hotel for the all important first coffee of the day, and planned a day of rest and relaxation at some select points (read specific hotels) around Hawassa. Our coffee was interrupted by a funny looking raptor tagging onto a group of Yellow billed kite, and a quick check with the scope revealed a pale phase Booted eagle.
Our first point of call for the day was to be the nearby Lewi resort, which boasted both woodlands and lake shore. The journey (a 600m saunter from our hotel) took considerably longer than Kathi had expected on account of the numerous stops for the equally numerous (but no less impressive) Silvery cheeked hornbills, which were very much in preparation for breeding, and performed almost unbelievable bouts of aerial acrobatics as they chased each other at high speeds through the dense canopy. Other distractions included a very brief (but also very close) Rock thrush, Spectacled weaver, Isabelline wheatear, Ruppell’s and Greater blue eared starling. By the time I’d caught up with my notebook and rattled a few shots off, Kathi was well and truly ready for another drink. Once again a lakeside table was selected, and in addition to the antics of the local Vervet population, we enjoyed a pleasant few hours taking in the view. Of course, I couldn’t let a nice lakeside location go to waste, and noted a few more birds including the first Greenshank and Wood sandpipers of the trip, as well as good views of Pied and Malachite kingfishers. After a while, the cloud cover built up, and the first spots of rain began to fall - time to retreat to the hotel room for a bit, though not before adding Blue breasted bee-eater to the days proceedings.
We spent a few hours relaxing and reading, whilst a quick scan of the nearby fig trees produced a pair of Double toothed barbet, very smart and a new addition to the trip list, but not quite the Lybiidae I was after.
Once the rain had stopped, we headed for the former “Wabe Shabelle No. 1” hotel near the marshes for a few hours. The hotel grounds are a well known spot for birders visiting the area, though it appeared that several of the areas had changed somewhat, with new detached huts being built, and some of the open grassy areas having succeeded into scrub.
Despite the developments, there were good numbers of birds around, with new species including Scarlet chested and Beautiful sunbirds, Grey backed camaroptera and a Yellow bellied apalis. The trees also held a group of Guereza, which posed obligingly for photos. I had begun to explore the riparian woodland near to the border with the lake when once again heavy rain swept in, and we returned again to our room for shelter. There were undoubtedly more birds to see in the hotel grounds, but it would have to wait for another day.
Back on the balcony, some grilling of the groups of passerines feeding in one of the park fields revealed a pair of African cutthroat, as well as three Red cheeked cordon-bleu. I also grilled the many hirundines forced down by the rain, and picked out a smart Mosque swallow - a species I’d seen previously in Uganda, but which was new for the trip. With the rain finally abating with just an hour of light left, we once again headed towards the Lewi resort, this time to enjoy some tilapia and a few beers. I tried not to be too distracted as it had been a very “birdy” day, and sadly a breezy evening put paid any hopes of Bat hawk hunting along the lake shore. The final additions to the days proceedings were a group of Spur winged geese, heading towards the marsh to roost.
It had been a fantastic day, and the lower altitude and lush environment had made for a more frenetic time than we had experienced so far during the trip. However, there were still two species that I had hoped to have encountered that were still unaccounted for. Perhaps the weather would improve tomorrow?
 

dandsblair

David and Sarah
Supporter
Congratulations

Nice report and congrats.
Is the Bale Monkey a youngster? Ones we saw had very black face and obvious moustache.
 

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dwatsonbirder

Well-known member
Nice report and congrats.
Is the Bale Monkey a youngster? Ones we saw had very black face and obvious moustache.

Thanks both, I suspect it must be in that case - we certainly saw individuals which were a dead ringer for the one in your photo - very similar to Patas monkey if memory serves me correctly? I'll have a look and see if any detail can be seen on any of the other shots, but I don't hold out much hope!
 

dwatsonbirder

Well-known member
25th November - Hawassa

Another day, and another early morning. We’d had such a welcome break in the Rift Valley (particularly enjoying the novelty of a hot shower!) that we’d decided to spend an additional night in Hawassa, allowing another full day, and the possibility of a last roll of the dice the following morning should I fail on my quest today. Other business was in order too, as we had received word that the road to Debre Birhan had been so badly damaged by the unseasonal rains that it was no longer passable - this was a fairly major setback as we had planned to spend our last 5 days in Menz Guassa conservation area (another shot at Ethiopian wolves and Geladas). We now needed to come up with an alternative pretty quickly - but first, a bit of early morning birding.
Once again I returned to the marsh on my quest to catch up with Lesser moorhen at what I had been informed as “one of the best sites in Africa” to see the species, and once again I failed in my attempts. The usual mixture of waterbirds and passerines were once again in attendance, with the addition of White faced whistling-duck. I decided to change my route somewhat and try a different riparian area north of the Lakeview hotel. Access was a bit tricky, but after chatting with the hotel security and assuring them I wasn’t trying to break into either the hotel or the rather swanky mansions bordering the swamp, I headed into the vegetation. There were still good numbers of birds around, including a couple of Northern Carmine bee-eater joining the more common Blue breasted, whilst a very showy Blue headed coucal crept along a wall. A familiar scolding call alerted me to a couple of Helmeted guineafowl, which were surprisingly the only ones of the trip. Whilst fumbling with my camera, an odd dry rattle drew my attention to one of my targets in the area - Banded barbet. Although by no means a rare bird in the country, it had eluded me thus far, and as I have a particular fondness for barbets, it was a must see for me. The bird showed very well, but had seemingly been in conversation with the Catbird population - the second my camera appeared, it flew across the track into a large fig tree never to be seen again. Turning my attention to a singing Beautiful sunbird, I watched as a mixed flock of passerines passed through bushes to my left; Rufous chatterers, Ruppell’s Robin chat, African thrush, Fiscal, and Ruppell’s Starling all put in an appearance, whilst various Cisticolas and Warblers also vied for attention. I made my way back towards the hotel, briefly calling in at the “Wabe Shabelle No. 2” hotel, where the activity was limited to a group of White rumped babbler busily feeding in some low vegetation, and a Lesser honeyguide which appeared in one of the large fig trees.
A curious feature of the morning had been the very obvious comings and goings of large flocks of starling, and I had a quick scan through a large group in the park opposite. No huge surprises, but several Violet backed starling were as beautiful as always. On the deck one large group contained several pale individuals, which were confirmed as Wattled starling after a quick glance with my bins. Other birds out on the grass included Pied and Isabelline wheatears and a fine Grassland pipit - surprisingly the first of the trip.
Back at the hotel we hatched a plan to hire a car for three days, and would spend a “buffer” day either side to allow for planning/delays.
After breakfast, Kathi suggested a return to “Wabe Shabelle No.1” (with kindle in-tow) as rain had curtailed our time there the previous afternoon, and of course, I found this very agreeable. The fighter pilot antics of Silvery cheeked hornbills provided much entertainment, whilst a rather showy Nubian woodpecker dropped into view whilst we were drinking coffee. I left Kathi to her Scandi-Noir, and walked around the compound. Again, the place was heaving with birds, with more notable species including Ethiopian boubou, Northern Black flycatcher, Grey backed camaroptera and Scarlet chested bee-eater. A pair of Common redstart looked oddly at home with all the exotics, and again brought home the incredible migrations that our summer visitors in the north undertake twice each year. Whilst I was pondering this, a loud call drew my attention to a smart Woodland kingfisher, which was decapitating a small lizard. At this point I got a bit distracted by a very showy African Paradise flycatcher, and then distracted further by a call that I’d half heard, and had haunted me since yesterday - Spotted creeper! This was the other major target during our time in Hawassa, and I frantically scanned the upper canopy of several large fig trees. A fraction of a movement, then a shadow, then gone. What was that I’d not really just seen? It called again. I waited patiently for a few minutes, before movement again in the same area - lifting my bins, and then WOW. For what amounts to basically a massive brown and white spotty Treecreeper, this was a really smart bird. It showed well, albeit high in the canopy, and I even managed to secure some record shots. With both the Barbet and the Creeper in the bag, I could finally relax a bit.
We spent several hours in the grounds, and the activity continued throughout. Just as we were thinking about lunch, the rain started once again, and we retreated under a large umbrella. Luckily the shower was brief, and we walked back along the lakeshore to our hotel. I took a bit of a break from birding for much of the remainder of the day, and we set about making our plans for the rest of the trip. I did notice a few more birds whilst sitting out on the balcony, with a dark morph Booted eagle, a few flyover Yellow billed stork, Northern Carmine bee-eater. Later in the afternoon, my attention was again drawn to the large flocks of starlings in the field opposite. On the deck was a bird I’d seen at great distance with bins, but looked to have a red belly. I set up the scope and scanned carefully for a few minutes before I located three of the same birds - Superb starling! Another species which is quite common in East Africa, but as we hadn’t planned to go south or east, not one that I’d anticipated seeing, and despite its status, it could not have been more appropriately named. It had paid off to have spent time checking through the flocks, having recorded 5 species in a single day.
Soon enough our time in the Rift Valley had drawn to a close, and a quick tot up of the notebook revealed some 109 species in the last 2 and a half days, pretty good going. The next day would be a travel day back to Addis Ababa, before departing the following day for the Central Highlands - hopefully my AMS wouldn’t rear its ugly head again!
 

dwatsonbirder

Well-known member
Lake Awasa photos

A few from Hawassa; Harlequin quail, African pygmy goose (and Jacana), Blue headed coucal, African paradise flycatcher and Brown creeper
 

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dwatsonbirder

Well-known member
The penultimate instalment (I think) to help pass those long hours at work before the festive break!

26th November - Hawassa to Addis Ababa

The following morning saw up departing Hawassa at 6am, and despite struggling to find a bajaj to take us to the bus station, we made it onto one of the rapid coaches that run to the capital. The journey was considerably more comfortable than any we’d experienced so far, and we continued north through the rift valley. The coach made a number of stops to collect passengers, but the most productive was a toilet stop on the highway next to a colony of White-headed buffalo weaver. Other species noted at various random stops included European Roller, whilst a particularly long queue near to a wetland brought Spur winged plover, Cattle egret, White pelican, Sacred ibis, and best of all, 4 Black crowned crane. The journey saw us travelling through the worst of the weather, with several extremely heavy downpours throughout. We arrived in Addis just after lunchtime, and spent the remainder of the day organising a driver, proposed route and various other details, before returning to our favourite french restaurant for an injera break in the evening.

27th November - Addis Ababa to Debre Libanos

It was another early start, as our driver arrived promptly at 8am. Having abandoned any hope of visiting Menz Guassa, we had devised a route which would allow us three days to explore an area of the central highlands, with a loop taking in Mugar gorge, Debre Libanos, Jemma Valley and Ankober before returning to Addis. Our journey took us north out of the city, and onto the Suluta plains. We made a couple of brief stops in some interesting looking river valleys and arable areas, but the species seen were typical of highland areas; Wattled ibis, Blue winged goose, Moorland chat and Ethiopian siskin being ubiquitous throughout. We turned off a main road and headed towards the village of Derba and our first destination; Mugar gorge. Along the road brief stops were made as we encountered fields containing several wheatears, with careful scanning of the Pied, Northern and Isabelline finally producing Abyssinian Black wheatear, a slight misnomer as the bird looked most similar to Mourning wheatear to my eye, but a delight nonetheless. Another stop produced a rather confiding Lizard buzzard, but our attention drew towards mammals as we neared the gorge. Upon arriving at the escarpment, we were immediately surrounded by a gang of children, all of whom seemed keen to meet us and show us the way to the edge. A few trip reports had mentioned how this quickly became an annoyance, and despite my somewhat misanthropic outlook on life, we had a great time showing the children various birds through the binoculars, camera and scope.
A quick scan of the cliffs revealed our primary target very quickly, with several Gelada scaling the vertigo inducing face. The main attraction firmly in the bag, we spent a while watching these impressive primates with the children, before making our way back to the car. I’d also noted a couple of interesting birds, with Blue rock thrush, Siberian stonechat and the first of many Ruppell’s Black chat flicking around. Hopefully this site will be visited by more tourists in the future (I believe it is the closest location to Addis where one can see Gelada), and the monetary value of conserving these fascinating mammals will be highlighted to the local people, who apparently had very differing opinions on their neighbours as a result of their penchant for crops/rubbish.

Our next stop was a brief pit stop on our journey towards Debre Libanos, where an incredibly showy Pied wheatear posed for extreme close-ups, whilst nearby arable fields contained large flocks of Yellow bishop and the odd Pin-tailed whydah. In the background a large group of Common crane were feeding amongst a menagerie of horses, goats, sheep, cows and chickens.

We arrived at Debre Libanos in the afternoon, and spent 30 minutes or so watching the antics of another troop of Gelada on the monastery road. The lighting had improved greatly, and as subjects the group were incredibly intimate, allowing an approach to within a few meters.
Having taken our share of photos, our driver took us to the Ethio-German hotel which is perched on the clifftop with a spectacular view of the valley. We organised a room for the evening, and then settled down for a much needed coffee, and to take in the view. Naturally, I couldn’t help but notice a few birds as we sat there, with Blue rock thrush, Ruppell’s Black chat, Ruppell’s magpie robin and White billed starling all making an appearance, whilst several Griffon vulture were joined by both Tawny and best of all Verraux’s eagles! After a while, we decided to enjoy the short walk down to the famous Portuguese bridge, with the hope of further encounters with Geladas. Overhead an odd looking raptor was being mobbed by Fan tailed ravens, and eventually I realised that it was an adult Harrier hawk, only the second I’ve seen.
The walk along the escarpment towards the bridge was breath-taking, if not a little nerve racking for those who aren’t so good with heights - a close approach to the cliff edge and its 1km drop to the valley floor were appreciated in full. Raptors appeared to be numerous here, with Steppe buzzard, Lanner, Booted eagle and Black kite all noted, whilst a few Variable sunbird zipped about the flowers.
The bridge was manned during the afternoon, and we weren’t keen on the frankly extortionate 900birr each that the watchers were demanding, so we headed back to our room for a while. Another bout of coffee drinking ensued, and I was simply astonished when an adult Lammergeier flew past almost at eye level. That was pretty much it for me, as this was yet another species I’d hoped to catch up with over the last decade or or, and here was a superb adult floating around less than 500m away. I could quite happily have flown home then and there.
We decided upon a return to the bridge before dinner, and the best was yet to come. The watchers had left, replaced by a large troop of Gelada baboons. With perfect lighting and the sun setting behind us, we spent a good hour or so in their company, enjoying as wide a range of behaviour as one could anticipate. We didn’t venture down onto the bridge for fear of upsetting any locals who may be watching, but we enjoyed the view looking down into the steep gully. Several Blue breasted bee-eater were joined by Red rumped swallows, whilst a pair of Ruppell’s Black chat scolded a smart Mocking cliff chat. From the slopes below us, the calls of both Ethiopian boubou and Erkel’s francolin were carried up on a light breeze. Finally, with the sun setting, the Geladas disappeared over the edge of the cliff to their precipitous sleeping areas, and we headed back up towards the hotel. It had been yet another fantastic day in this incredible country, and we enjoyed a wonderful feast of injera as the last rays of light moved up the cliff face opposite, before engulfing the valley in the night.
 

dwatsonbirder

Well-known member
Geladas

Apologies for the belated reply, hoping to complete the final entry in the coming days.

A few images of the Gelada baboons (and one rather special raptor), absolutely fantastic creatures!
 

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dwatsonbirder

Well-known member
Just in case anybody wanted to read the final part, it can be found here. Should anybody be visiting Ethiopia and want any information, drop me a DM and I'll help if I can.
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
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