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Ethiopia Tour – Oct /November 2018 (1 Viewer)


David and Sarah
Ethiopia Tour – Oct /November 2018

We had wanted to go to Ethiopia for some time and nearly visited a couple of year ago but changed our plans when a state of emergency was declared after some local troubles, gladly now this seems a thing of the past. So it while we would normally just get a driver if we couldn’t drive ourselves in Africa, we decided to go with a local company Ethiopian Quadrants who were recommended to us and the cost including guiding wasn’t much more than just hiring a driver and 4x4 vehicle.

We were originally due to be driven/guided by Abiy, who some friends of ours had used on their trip a couple of years ago but he is now freelance guide and isn’t always available to Quadrants (he chose to do a bigger Naturetrek tour – we met him during the tour and he gave us some advice), so we were guided by Abel Belay Molla ([email protected]) – a really excellent enthusiastic young guide, who is available directly for those wanting to bypass an organisation; we were driven by Begashaw Nekele a very experienced Quadrant’s driver who knows all the sites and has aspirations to be a guide so spots quite a bit of wildlife as well as driving well.

We went for a slightly customized birding agenda and choose to stay at Bale Mountain Lodge rather than in Goba where most bird tours seem to base themselves.

Our main targets were the Wolf, Gelada, Bale Mountain Monkey and all available endemic birds, plus a list of 20 life birds I gave to Abel – however, we limited our chances of Salvatori’s Seedeater by opting to have more time available on the Sanetti Plateau after rain and fog meant no wolves and limited other wildlife on our first afternoon in the Bale Mountains, so we didn’t go to Sof Omar valley despite it being on the original itinerary.

Day 1 (Oct 19) – Fly to Instanbul overnight Bricks Hotel
Day 2(Oct. 20): Day tour of Istanbul free from Turkish Airlines for those with more than 6 hour stop-over- the flight to Addis Ababa arrived at 23.00. Overnight at Ghion Hotel.
Day 3(Oct. 21): Early birding in the Ghion Hotel grounds then drive to Debre Libanos birding on the way. Overnight at C-Lale Resort Hotel in Fiche.
Day 4(Oct.22): Birding around Debre Libanos and Jemma Valley. Overnight at C-Lale Resort Hotel.
Day 5(Oct 23): Drive to Debre Berhan. O/n Getva hotel.
Day 6(Oct.24): Ankober escarpment, Melka Jedbu. O/n Getva hotel.
Day 7(Oct.25): Drive to Awash Park. O/n Awash Falls Lodge.
Day 8(Oct.26): Full day in Awash Park. O/n Awash Falls Lodge.
Day 9(Oct.27): Drive to Bilen. Visit Alledeghi for Arabian Bustard. O/n Doho Lodge
Day 10(Oct.28): Drive to Lake Langano. O/n Hara Lodge.
Day 11(Oct.29): Around Bishangari, and Abiata and Shalla Park. O/n Hara Lodge.
Day 12(Oct.30): Drive to Bale Mountains National Park. O/n Bale Mountains Lodge.
Day 13(Oct.31): Full day in Bale Mountains. O/n Bale Mountains Lodge.
Day 14 (Nov.01): Itinerary had us drive to Sof Omar – but we stayed in Bale Mountain area. O/n Bale Mountains Lodge.
Day 15(Nov.02): Drive to Negele via Harenna Forest.O/n Maereg Hotel.
Day 16(Nov.03): Birding around Negele. O/n Maereg Hotel.
Day 17(Nov.04): Birding around Negele. O/n Maereg Hotel.
Day 18(Nov.05): Drive to Yabello. O/n Yabello Motel.
Day 19(Nov.06): Birding around Yabello. O/n Yabello Motel (was due to stay in Borena Lodge).
Day 20(Nov.07): Drive to Hawassa. O/n Africa United Hotel.
Day 21(Nov.08): Drive to Wolliso. O/n Negash Lodge.
Day 22(Nov.09): Birding around Gibe gorge, then back to Addis Ababa, Ghion Hotel day room and last birding in Addis.
Day 23(Nov.10) Early morning flight via Istanbul to Manchester.

Day out in Istanbul

We flew with Turkish Airlines via Istanbul and stayed overnight at Bricks Hotel, 15 minutes from the airport – under £40 on expedia. In the morning (get back to airport by 8.30) we joined the Turkish Airline free touristanbul – a version based on time available is offered to all passengers with more than 6 hour international connection, you can either have tour or free hotel place. We had time for the six hour version which took in Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, German Fountain, Obelisks and Topkopi Palace, it included breakfast and lunch. This got us back to the airport with just a few hours to kill before our flight to Addis Ababa. We did see a few birds on the tour, Ring-necked Parakeet, Tree Sparrow, European Bee-eater, Barn Swallow, Great Tit and Starling.

After an uneventful flight we arrived in Addis at 23.00 and were met by Begashaw who took us to Ghion Hotel a green oasis in the city.

Day 1 in Ethiopia

Addis Ababa (means new flower), the diplomatic capital of Africa is situated on the flanks of the Entoto Mountains at an altitude of over 2400m. We had agreed to meet up with Begashaw and see our guide Abel at 08.00 after our breakfast. In a short walk before breakfast we spotted Yellow-billed Kite, Speckled Mousebird, Abyssinian White-eye, Tacazzi Sunbird and Dusky-turtle dove.
After breakfast with Abel we added Mountain Thrush, Hooded Vulture, our first endemic the [B]Wattled Ibis, Great Sparrowhawk, African Grey and Dusky Flycatchers, Red-winged Starling and Bronze Manakin before heading off.

We drove over the Entoto Mountains, admiring the spectacular views of Addis that the road affords, and then out onto the high moorland en-route to Debre Libanos and then Fiche. Along the route, in the marshy areas of grassland, we saw many Wattled Ibis and added Blue-winged Goose (whose nearest relative and ecological counterpart is the Andean Goose of South America) feeding along the water’s edge and then displaying on a small lake. These were joined by Ground-scraper Thrush, Black-crowned Crane and Abyssinian Longclaw skulking in the wet grass – we saw him, but not great views so no photographs of this endemic, easier to see were flocks of White-collared Pigeons and Ethiopian (Black-headed) Siskins decorating the telegraph wires. We stared to see chats and wheatears, adding African Stonechat, Moorland Chat, Mocking Cliff-chat and White-winged Cliff-chat with Isabelline and Pied Wheatears. We also saw Cinnamon-breasted and Ortolan Bunting.

About 30KM before Debre Libanos – we headed onto some marshy fields and then down to a river looking for Rails and Lapwings – no joy on that; but we did see the recently split Short-crested Lark, Blue-breasted Bee-eaters, Brown-rumped Seedeater, Swainson’s Sparrow, Pied Kingfisher and then had a really close up view of a flyover Lammergier unfortunately rubbish photo taken as settings were all for the larks. Back on the road and another stop when Abel spotted some sitting eagles Steppe and Tawny seen well and then a couple of Thick-billed Raven scavenging by the roadside.

We were late getting to lunch – but had a nice lunch and it included our first of many Ethiopian coffee ceremonies and then later than planned to our afternoon birding in the forest behind the church and monastery at Debre Libanos, being Sunday there was a service on with crowds of people walking on the road, we did though spot our first troop of Gelada Baboon – a key target for Sarah on the way. We only had just over an hour of light at the forest so walked quickly to the higher path – birding was quite good with White-rumped Babbler, the beautiful near endemic White-cheeked Turaco, whistled in by Abel (he did not have any calls on his phone but knew most calls and was more than happy for me to use playback if his extensive whistles and clicks didn’t work – I had downloaded all main target calls from Xeno Canto to learn in advance and I had brought a speaker with me) and Banded Barbet. The light was fading and although we added Lemon Dove, African Thrush and Grey-backed Cameroptra Abel was disappointed by the haul. On the way back to the church carpark Abel saw an Abyssinian Woodpecker on the telegraph pole but we couldn’t relocate it.

We were due to stay in the Ethio-German lodge which is situated not far from the monastery at Debre Libanos, it is perched on the lip of a massive and spectacular gorge (a branch of the Blue Nile drainage system). However it was closed for a period but re-opened on the day we were leaving so a better option logistically and on the basis of our experience; accommodation wise than staying 20KM further away in Fiche as we did.

Overnight C-Lale Resort Hotel - basic accommodation and slow dining service.


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Well-known member.....apparently so ;)
David - Groundscraper Thrush there is now split as the endemic - and imaginatively named - Ethiopian Thrush


David and Sarah

David - Groundscraper Thrush there is now split as the endemic - and imaginatively named - Ethiopian Thrush

I did notice flanks are much more buffy than birds from other parts of East Africa


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David and Sarah
Day 2 – In Search of Francolins

Day 2 – In Search of Francolins

Off early in order to stand a good chance of finding the exceedingly localized endemic Harwood’s Francolin, in the Jemma River Valley. We had a bit of a false start when the hotel decided that they couldn’t do our packed breakfast and lunch (they informed Abel of this at 03.45) only15 minutes before we were due to leave, fortunately Abel contacted the restaurant where we had lunch yesterday and they agreed to do us something that we could pick up at 04.30 as we drove past so only a 10 minute delay.

We got to the first rocky area - about 10K after the blue-roofed China Camp just as the sun was rising. Fortunately the birds were calling at first light and we managed to see a Harwood Francolin on the rocks near the roadside before he flew off, with the pressure off we started to descend into the valley - we thought we had found more Harwood Francolin near a little roadside booth when Abel heard the call but when I took a closer look it was an Erckel’s Francolin standing there (the Harwood’s was calling behind a little wall) in this area we eventually found 6 Erckel’s and 2 more Harwood’s. On the cliff on the other side of the road there were nesting White-billed Starlings. Sarah and Abel were taking a closer look at the Francolin when I shouted “African Hill Babbler”, myself and Begashaw got good views of it in a bush just below us but by the time Sarah and Abel got back up the road the bird had gone into deeper cover. We added Red-collared Widowbird before going back to the car,

We then headed down into the valley adding birds at regular intervals. First a Streaky Seedeater, then Fox Kestrel, then a cracking Abyssinian Wheatear, a Foxy Cisticola, Yellow-crowned Bishop and a Baglafect’s Weaver. Down to the bottom of the valley and we were searching for Egyptian Plover along the rocks on either side of the river, all we found were Spur-winged Plover, Giant and Pied Kingfisher, Senegal Thicknee, Northern Red Bishop, Yellow Bishop and Common Sandpiper (annoyingly we heard the Sunbirders tour group found a Plover here just a day later). In the scrub near the river we had Northern Crombec, Lesser Whitethroat, Red-billed Firefinch, Mocking Cliff-chat, Little Bee-eater, and then a lovely flyover Blue Saw-wing now split from Black. Only other birds of note on the way back up were Swainson’s Sparrow and Thekla Lark.

After our picnic lunch we headed back up to the forest behind the monastery with quite a few birds still to find, again just before the small town we had a troop of Gelada and in the trees a Dark Chanting Goshawk and Augur Buzzard.

Into the forest and immediately it started to rain, we waited it out for 20 minutes under umbrellas, and then the birds became active. I called in a Abyssinian (Golden-backed) Woodpecker, showed well a few times but my photos were poor as light wasn’t brilliant, then we had White-backed Black Tit, Mountain White-eye, close views of White-cheeked Turaco, White-rumped Babbler, and African Citril. We heard but couldn’t get conclusive views of Ethiopian Oriole, but added Abyssinian Ground Thrush, Ethiopian Boubou, Black-billed Barbet and Red-billed Firefinch.

Day 03 After some final birding at Debre Libanos around the Portugese Bridge area, Ruppell’s Black Chat, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, Mocking Cliff-chat, Mosque Swallow, African Pied and Mountain Wagtail, Crested Francolin and more Gelada (this is when we looked in on Ethio-German Hotel); we then travelled to Debre Birhan for a two nights stay. On the way we added Northern Wheatear, Red-breasted Wheatear, Ethiopian Siskin, Erlanger’s Lark, Wattled Ibis, Blue-winged Goose and White-billed Starling.

Late afternoon at leisure.


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David and Sarah
Ankober Escarpment

Day 4 – Weather was fine as we set off to the Ankober Escarpment and the view point at Menelik’s Window. The key target was Ankober Serin. On the way we saw Wattled Ibis, Yellow-billed Kite, Hammerkop, Blue-winged Goose, Familiar Chat, Brown-rumped and Streaky Seedeater, Lesser Kestrel and Ethiopian Siskin.

The Ankober escarpment provides truly spectacular views over the Awash valley and the Danakil Desert far below. Here at over 3000m (10,000ft) the cliffs are broken by vegetated slopes and terraces covered in tree heaths and other Afro-alpine plants.

At times clouds swirl up from the valley below to envelop the cliff tops and just before the last climb a fog started falling and a light drizzle and cold wind greeted us when we stopped at the viewpoint. We could hear birds down the cliff face but we could not see anything with visibility down to about 10 meters so we took a walk up the rocky hill, only seeing Cape Rook, Ethiopian Siskin and some Gelada when we got back down the wind improved visibility just slightly and we caught a glimpse of 3 birds. I put my speaker on the ground and 6 Ankober Serin came quite close - photos were pretty dull with the poor light and rain but at least I got some record shots of this range restricted endemic which was first described in 1976. Sarah also bought a nice warm local hat as a souvenir of the place.

We then went through the tunnels to get close up views of another troop of Gelada before dropping down top known point for White-breasted (yellow-rumped) Seedeater which we managed to see along with a Yellow-bellied Waxbill and some Village Weavers and Streaky Seedeater.

We then headed back to town and just had an afternoon walk close the town. The place was full of Ethiopian Siskin, and also loads of Thekla Lark, Red-breasted Wheatear and Wattled Ibis, we also saw an unlikely Ortolan Bunting on barbed wire well away from any suitable habitat, only other things of note were Augur Buzzard (both morphs), Hammerkop, Common Sandpiper and Greenshank.


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Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
That raven looks amazing - and you’re definitely further whetting my appetite fir a country that has been of interest for a long while.

No pic of the hat?



David and Sarah
The hat

That raven looks amazing - and you’re definitely further whetting my appetite fir a country that has been of interest for a long while.

No pic of the hat?


Thanks Mike. Here is the hat


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David and Sarah
Awash National Park.

Day 5: To Awash National Park.

On the road towards Ankober we saw Streaky and Brown-rumped Seedeater, Red-breasted Wheatear, Fan-tailed Raven, Wattled Ibis and Blue-winged Goose. Once we had dropped down we started to see a different avifauna, I managed to find a Spotted Flycatcher and Diedric’s Cuckoo both life birds for Abel, he then found Yellow-breasted Barbet and Nile Valley Sunbird lifers for us, we also added Egyptian Vulture, Superb Starling, Shelley’s Starling, Shining Sunbird before we stopped for lunch in a hotel by the customs checkpoint – this road leads to Djibouti and Kenya so is a well-known smugglers route – along the roadside there are even signs of where the goods are to be exchanged illegally– for us we went through without any holdup.

In the scrubby roadside vegetation after the check point we stopped and quickly added Long-tailed Paradise Whydah and after a bit of work got great views and photos of the beautiful Rosy-patched Bush-Shrike.

We arrived in Awash in the late afternoon so decided to bird and nature watch along the road to the lodge. We saw Hamadryads and Anubis baboons, Salt’s Dikidik and Grivet Monkey and on the bird front Grey Hornbill, Red-billed Hornbill, Somali Bunting, Grey-capped Batis, Blue-naped Mousebird, and Red and Yellow Barbet.

Overnight at Awash Falls Lodge which has an hour of wifi per night and power and hot water only when the generator is on.
Dinner is served by an open fire under the stars.

From the room we can see the falls and our first local Nile Crocodiles.


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Well-known member
David, a great report as usual.
I'm planing to go to Ethiopia next year for Black crowned Crane, so I'm wondering you managed to see them.




David and Sarah

David, a great report as usual.
I'm planing to go to Ethiopia next year for Black crowned Crane, so I'm wondering you managed to see them.



Thanks Mietek. Yes, they were quite common on the way from Addis to Debre Libanos and in a few other highland area but they never came very close, so only distant photos.


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David and Sarah
All I had was what Eythiopian Quadrants

Hey David, do you know anything more on this split as I can't find a thing online about it....?

All I had was what Ethiopian Quadrants and Abel told me, as the rest of the stuff in their splits information was correct I just took it at face value but I did notice that Zoothera also referred to it as Short-crested Lark in their report. I'll email Abel to ask him if he knows more.
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David and Sarah
Day exploring Awash Park

Day 6 - We spent all day exploring Awash Park.

The terrain is mostly a mosaic of grassland and acacia scrub but the Awash River flows through the area and supports some riverine forest in places, this morning it was the grasslands in search of Bustards and grassland birds and then this afternoon the riverine forest and then the hynena cave area.

Things started pretty promisingly when Begashaw, called “Bustard”, it was a Buff-crested Bustard, which we saw pretty well but it just wouldn’t come out for a good photo, we added Gillet’s Lark, Crested Francolin, and Helmeted Guineafowl before we got our next bustards a pair of confiding White-bellied Bustards, it wasn’t too long before we added a group of Kori Bustard and then we saw our first Beisa Oryx and Sommering’s Gazelle of the trip. No sign of Arabian Bustard which Awash is famous for but Abel says he hasn’t seen one here for almost a year including a period of 3 months where he worked full time in the park. There is lots of cattle grazing and domestic animals in the park and some birds and animals have not adapted well to the overgrazing.

Other birds we added included a large group of Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, African Mourning and Ring-necked Doves, Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, White-bellied Go-away-bird, White-browed Coucal, African Palm Swift, Blue-naped Mousebird, , Abyssinian and Purple Rollers, Eurasian Hoopoe, Abyssinian Scimitar-bill and Red-fronted Tinkerbird.

In the afternoon after lunch we went down by the river, lots of Crocodiles and some Woodpeckers - Nubian, Bearded and Cardinal Woodpeckers we also saw Chestnut-backed Sparrow Lark, Rufous Chatterer, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Eastern Olivaceous, Red-fronted and Buff-bellied Warblers, Common and Lesser Whitethroats, Ashy Cisticolas, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Grey Wren-Warbler, African Grey and Northern White-crowned, Woodchat, Red-backed Shrike, and Beautiful and Shining Sunbirds. Small numbers of Beisa Oryx, Black-backed Jackal, Lesser Kudu, Salt’s Dikdik Common Warthog, Sacred (Hamadryas) and Olive Baboons, were also seen.
Just before dark tonight we walked to the Hyena Caves over the volcanic crack which seems to be growing each week. We saw 7 Hyenas at very close range and Sarah saw an Owl - Probable Pearl Spotted but she did want to call to us as we were very close to the Hyenas and she didn’t want to spook them or to see us as a threat. Drove back after dark; surprisingly we saw no nightjars or owls on night drives or walks despite this being a great spot??


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Well-known member.....apparently so ;)
All I had was what Ethiopian Quadrants and Abel told me, as the rest of the stuff in their splits information was correct I just took it at face value but I did notice that Zoothera also referred to it as Short-crested Lark in their report. I'll email Abel to ask him if he knows more.

Thanks David - liking the report so far too ;)


Well-known member.....apparently so ;)
You did well for mammals in Awash....last year we had small numbers of the gazelle, 1 oryx and a few Salt's (I think they're split as Harar now) Dik-diks. Far too many domestic cattle in Ethiopian parks.....
We had a great Star-spotted Nightjar we flushed in the daytime and a couple of Sombres on the drive into the lodge.
Most unexpected bird we had there was a Cricket Longtail......!


David and Sarah
I think recent rain helped with mammals

You did well for mammals in Awash....last year we had small numbers of the gazelle, 1 oryx and a few Salt's (I think they're split as Harar now) Dik-diks. Far too many domestic cattle in Ethiopian parks.....
We had a great Star-spotted Nightjar we flushed in the daytime and a couple of Sombres on the drive into the lodge.
Most unexpected bird we had there was a Cricket Longtail......!

I think all the recent rains helped with mammals but speaking to Steve Rook in Addis after the tour, they didn't see a number of expected nightjars, he said in his experience these are usually easier to see when it is dry and dusty.

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