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ULTIMATE ETHIOPIA

Sunday 11th November - Friday 30th November 2012

Nik Borrow

Wattled Ibis (Nik Borrow)

Wattled Ibis (Nik Borrow)

The idea for this tour started life way back in 1998 as a highly successful “Birdquest Expedition”. This had supposedly been a one-off idea, but the seed had been planted, the gauntlet thrown down and the challenge of finding all the endemic Ethiopian birds on a ‘regular’ basis was soon to follow. Ethiopia is a classic sub-Saharan destination with a wide range of habitats and an impressive list of species, including more endemics than almost any other comparable region of Africa. The exact number of actual endemics varies with the vagaries of modern taxonomy. Birds of the Horn of Africa by Nigel Redman et al. recognises 15 and lists Blue-winged Goose, Harwood’s Francolin, Spot-breasted Lapwing, Yellow-fronted Parrot, Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco, Sidamo Lark, Erlanger’s Lark, White-tailed Swallow, Abyssinian Longclaw, Abyssinian Catbird, Stresemann’s Bush-crow, Yellow-throated Seedeater, Salvadori’s Seedeater, Ethiopian Siskin, and Ankober Serin and of these we saw all of them very well. In addition to these there is also the virtually mythical Nechisar Nightjar (described from the remains of a single decomposing wing in 1990) that still awaits confirmation and may or may not be an endemic species. Of the 521 bird species recorded during this tour all but 3 of these were seen and we also recorded 41 species of mammal. During our journeys we thoroughly explored the three EBAs (Endemic Bird Areas) identified by BirdLife International; the Central Ethiopian highlands, Northern Ethiopia and the South Ethiopian highlands and our travels took us from high plateau tablelands to low arid plains and thorn bush as well as spectacular montane moorlands and lush forests. Fortunately neither political nor tribal tensions affected us this year and the weather was generally hot, dry and sunny with bright blue skies that supported the countries claim to thirteen months of sunshine! Our top birds were as follows: In first place were several Prince Ruspoli’s Turacos one of which allowed incredibly up close and personal views. Delightful Pygmy Geese seen on the Rift Valley lakes were firm favourites. The elegant Spot-breasted Lapwing showed extremely well in the crystal clear air of the Bale Mountains. We encountered the attractive Red-billed Pytilia in the Jemma and Gibe Valleys. The very special Stresemann’s Bushcrow certainly did not disappoint. Amazing views were had of Yellow-fronted Parrots coming down to eye level to feed at Bishangari. A pair of stately Wattled Cranes was seen at close quarters in their moorland home. A pair of Magpie Starlings was much appreciated and Heuglin’s Coursers were as always a very popular choice. We also had amazing views of a roosting Abyssinian Owl, which although not endemic, is a species almost impossible to see anywhere else. Of the other ‘diamond’ (?) species encountered on the tour we saw Somali Ostrich, Wattled Ibis, Vulturine Guineafowl, Moorland, Clapperton’s, Chestnut-naped and Erckel’s Francolins, Rouget’s Rail, Arabian Bustard, White-collared Pigeon, African White-winged Dove, Black-winged Lovebird, White-cheeked Turaco, Cape Eagle Owl, Donaldson Smith’s Nightjar, the lafresnayii form of Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Black-billed Wood-hoopoe, Hemprich’s Hornbill, Banded and Yellow-breasted Barbets, Abyssinian and Eastern Grey Woodpeckers, Red-winged, Foxy, Gillett’s, Somali Short-toed and Short-tailed Larks, Chestnut-headed Sparrow Lark, Brown Saw-wing, Somali ‘type’ Bulbul, Dodson’s Bulbul, Black Scrub Robin, Abyssinian and Red-breasted Wheatears, Brown-tailed and Sombre Rock Chats, Rüppell’s Black Chat, White-winged Cliff Chat, Little Rock Thrush, Abyssinian Ground and Bare-eyed Thrushes, Yellow-vented Eremomela, Somali Crombec, Boran, Ethiopian and Foxy Cisticolas, Pale Prinia, Abyssinian Slaty Flycatcher, Grey-headed Batis, White-rumped Babbler, Scaly Chatterer, White-backed Black Tit, Spotted Creeper, Nile Valley and Shining Sunbirds, Abyssinian and Montane White-eyes, Taita and Somali Fiscals, Rosy-patched Bush-shrike, Three-streaked Tchagra, Pringle’s Puffback, Red-naped Bush-shrike, Ethiopian Boubou, Abyssinian Oriole, Somali Crow, Thick-billed Raven, Bristle-crowned, White-billed Golden-breasted, Shelley’s, White-crowned and Sharpe’s Starlings, Swainson’s, Shelley’s and Chestnut Sparrows, Rüppell’s and Speke’s Weavers, Abyssinian Crimsonwing, Abyssinian Waxbill, African Citril, Yellow-rumped Seedeater, Northern Grosbeak Canary and Brown-rumped Seedeater. Special mention must also be made of the XX species of mammals, with unforgettable views of Gelada Baboons, the bizarre Giant Root Rat, Mountain Nyala, the stunning Ethiopian Wolf and a marvellous Serval Cat on our last morning.

The incredible local form of Blue-breasted Bee-eater (Nik Borrow)

The incredible local form of Blue-breasted Bee-eater (Nik Borrow)