Welcome to Birdquest
Sunday 9th September - Thursday 27th September 2012
The second Birdquest tour to Djibouti and Somaliland proved to be as great a success as the first, and our intrepid, well-travelled group was able to enjoy all of the Somaliland endemics and specialities, as well as experience one of the least-known countries in the world. A total of 303 species was a good tally for this itinerary and included no fewer than 63 ‘diamond’ species (birds considered special for various reasons). The highlights of the tour were undoubtedly the suite of endemics and near-endemics: Archer’s Buzzard, Djibouti Francolin, Little Brown Bustard, Somali Pigeon, Somali and Collared Larks, Lesser Hoopoe-Lark, Somali Wheatear, Sombre Rock Chat, Somali Thrush, Philippa’s Crombec, Somali Starling, Somali Golden-winged Grosbeak and Warsangli Linnet. Apart from the endemics, Somaliland is perhaps best known for its wealth and diversity of larks, and we saw 15 species, several of which are very poorly known indeed. In addition, we also enjoyed a good number of rather special, localized species that are often hard to see elsewhere such as Heuglin’s and Arabian Bustards, White-eyed Gull, Somali Bee-eater, Yellow-breasted Barbet, Somali Crombec, Arabian Warbler, Gambaga Flycatcher, Nile Valley Sunbird, Red-naped Bush-shrike, Golden-breasted, Shelley’s, Magpie and White-crowned Starlings, Somali and Arabian Golden Sparrows, Northern Grosbeak-Canary and White-throated Seedeater. We were also pleased to find the ‘Daallo Scops Owl’, an owl discovered on the 2010 tour that sounds like Arabian Scops Owl but which may prove to be a distinct species. We also had our own little discovery with a new cisticola for the country – it is possible that this may also represent a new taxon to science! Not surprisingly, for a region so rarely visited by birders, we achieved a few range extensions and were able to fill a number of empty squares in the excellent Somali atlas (Birds of Somalia by Ash & Miskell, 1998). In addition, our Purple Heron would appear to be the first ever for Somaliland. Mammals were well represented too, with 22 species seen on the tour. Most memorable was a thrilling encounter with a Caracal, and a delightful little group of Beira – a very special antelope that is virtually endemic to Somaliland, and of course very little known! The rock-loving Speke’s Pectinator was recorded at a much higher altitude than was hitherto known, and it was indeed a pleasure to see large groups of endemic Speke’s Gazelles apparently thriving alongside the ubiquitous herds of sheep and goats.