Welcome to Birdquest
Sunday 10th November - Friday 29th November 2013
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. We have been operating tours to Ethiopia since the late 1980s and, despite habitat changes and population growth, it just seems to get better and better. This year’s tour was one of our very best ever, and as usual included all the regional endemics (except for the near-mythical Nechisar Nightjar), almost all the available specialities, and no fewer than 100 diamond (?) species! Moreover, everyone on the tour saw all the Ethiopian/Eritrean endemics, and saw them well. These included the prehistoric-looking Wattled Ibis, the enigmatic Blue-winged Goose, the highly localised Harwood’s Francolin, the strangely tame Rouget’s Rail, the elegant Spot-breasted Lapwing, the handsome White-collared Pigeon, the localised Yellow-fronted Parrot, the tiny Black-winged Lovebird, the charismatic Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco, the variable Banded Barbet, the elusive Abyssinian Woodpecker, the rare Sidamo Lark, the common Erlanger’s Lark, the little-known White-tailed Swallow, the grassland-loving Abyssinian Longclaw, the rock-loving Rüppell’s Black Chat, the handsome White-winged Cliff Chat, the recently split Ethiopian Cisticola, the easy-to-see Abyssinian Slaty Flycatcher, the vocal Abyssinian Catbird, the shy White-backed Black Tit, the cryptic Abyssinian Oriole, the very special Stresemann’s Bush Crow, the impressive Thick-billed Raven, the subtle White-billed Starling, and a full set of localised endemic seedeaters, namely Yellow-rumped (White-throated), Yellow-throated and Salvadori’s Seedeaters, Ethiopian Siskin and the recently discovered Ankober Serin. We also had some birds endemic to the Horn of Africa such as Chestnut-naped Francolin, Abyssinian Wheatear, Sombre Rock Chat and Brown-rumped Seedeater. The following special birds seen on the tour are considered near-endemics: Erckel’s Francolin, African White-winged Dove, White-cheeked Turaco, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Gillett’s Lark, Somali Short-toed Lark, White-rumped Babbler, Somali Fiscal, Ethiopian Boubou, Swainson’s Sparrow, Red-billed Pytilia and Abyssinian Waxbill. Other memorable birds included two Abyssinian Owls that, although not endemic, are almost impossible to see anywhere else and two Stripe-breasted Seedeaters, a localised species that we have never seen in Ethiopia before. Other tour highlights included several Somali Ostriches on the Aledeghe plains, the very attractive African Pygmy Goose at Lakes Ziway and Awassa, hundreds and hundreds of Lesser Kestrels on the Aledeghe Plain, some obliging Moorland Francolins in the Bale Mountains, two shy Allen’s Gallinules at Lake Awassa and a rather tame Lesser Moorhen at the same place, Wattled Cranes at Lake Abiata, a pair of impressive Arabian Bustards and close-up Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse in the Bilen area, a roosting Cape Eagle Owl near Dinsho, Donaldson Smith’s Nightjars near Yabello, a thousand Northern Carmine Bee-eaters over Bilen Plain, dry-country Yellow-breasted Barbets at Melka Ghebdu and Bilen, several localised larks including Foxy, Short-tailed and Chestnut-headed Sparrow Larks, Black Bush Robin at Melka Ghebdu, Abyssinian Ground Thrush at Dinsho, the localised Somali Crombec, Scaly Chatterer and Northern Grosbeak-Canary south of Yabello, no fewer than 11 species of cisticolas, the much sought-after African Spotted Creeper (now split from the Indian forms), duetting Red-naped Bush-shrikes, and a great selection of starlings that included Bristle-crowned, Slender-billed, Golden-breasted, Shelley’s and White-crowned. We also recorded 37 species of mammals with unforgettable views of Gelada Baboons, Mountain Nyalas, at least seven stunning Ethiopian Wolves, Giant Root-Rats, several sightings of Hippopotamus, and a splendid Giant Forest Hog.