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Saturday 4th September - Saturday 25th September 2010

Nik Borrow

Collared Lark - the first sighting for more than two decades (Nik Borrow)

Collared Lark - the first sighting for more than two decades (Nik Borrow)

Warlords, pirates, chaos and lawlessness are all associated with Somalia. What isn’t always appreciated is that what was once British Somaliland has, since 1991, been the Republic of Somaliland, and this peaceful enclave doesn’t take kindly to being associated with the eastern half of the country’s descent into anarchy. The tiny country of Djibouti is also quite stable forming as it does an important port to the Horn of Africa at the narrowest part of the Red Sea and at the mouth of the Rift Valley. Our adventurous group set off on this pioneering tour to these countries in order to look for some of the endemics and specialties of the region that had until recently been considered unattainable. Little ornithological work has been carried out in the country since the late 1980’s but there had already been a small number of intrepid birders set foot within the country’s borders this year. However, our tour was aiming to be the most thorough and exhaustive yet and we succeeded remarkably well in finding some long lost species and making some significant ornithological discoveries. We amassed a total of 324 species of birds of which all but two were seen and 23 species of mammals. The mouth-watering endemics and near-endemics that were tracked down and all seen well were Archer’s Buzzard, Djibouti Francolin, Little Brown Bustard, Somali Pigeon, Somali Lark, Lesser Hoopoe-lark, Somali Wheatear, Somali Thrush, Somali Starling, Somali Golden-winged Grosbeak and Warsangli Linnet. We rediscovered Collared Lark in the red sand country east of Burco, Sombre Rock Chat in both Djibouti and Somaliland, problematic seedeaters in Djibouti and an owl in the Daallo Forest in Somaliland that appears to be vocally similar to Arabian Scops Owl but perhaps represents an undescribed taxon. Amongst this impressive list were also a number of other wonderful highlights that included Archer’s Francolin, Heuglin’s and Arabian Bustards, Somali Courser, White-eyed Gull, White-cheeked and Saunders’s Terns, Spotted Sandgrouse, African Collared Dove, Donaldson Smith’s Nightjar, Somali Bee-eater, Black-billed Wood-hoopoe, Hemprich’s Hornbill, Yellow-breasted Barbet, Gillett’s Lark, Blanford’s, Somali Short-toed and Short-tailed Larks, Chestnut-headed Sparrow Lark, Somali and Dodson’s Bulbuls, African and Black Scrub Robins, White-crowned Black and Abyssinian Black Wheatears, Little Rock Thrush, Mangrove Warbler, Yellow-vented Eremomela, Philippa’s and Somali Crombecs, Arabian Warbler, Ménétries’s Warbler, Pale Prinia, Gambaga Flycatcher, Grey-headed Batis, Scaly Chatterer, Nile Valley Sunbird, Rosy-patched and Red-naped Bush-shrikes, Three-streaked Tchagra, Dwarf Raven, Golden-breasted, Shelley’s, White-crowned and Magpie Starlings, Swainson’s, Somali and Arabian Golden Sparrows, Rüppell’s Weaver, Northern Grosbeak Canary and Brown-rumped Seedeater. A selection of very special mammals were also seen including the beautiful little Beira as well as Dorcas (here of the pelzelni race) and Speke’s Gazelles, Desert Warthog and the very cute Speke’s Pectinator.