Photo Gallery View as slideshow
Photos by Steve Rooke and Robin Brace
The geography of Ethiopia is dominated by the great African Rift Valley, and we begin our birding on the very edge of the escarpment.
It was here, in 1976, that the endemic Ankober Serin was discovered.
And this is also a great place to see the bizarre Gelada baboon.
as well as other endemic birds such as Wattled Ibis,
and we may see mighty Lammergeier cruising along the cliff-edge
We spend time at another spectacular location, the huge gorge formed by the River Jemma.
Here the calls of Erckel’s Francolins echo on the morning air
And we’ll search for the endemic Harwood’s Francolin, know only from valleys of Blue Nile tributaries.
There are other endemics down here as well - such as the smart White-winged Cliff Chat.
And we find ourselves on the egde of ranges of several more westerly birds, such as the elusive Red-billed Pytilia…
and Fox Kestrel.
The small streams flowing into the Jemma River are a good place to look for Half-collared Kingfisher.
Descending a little way into the Rift Valley we encounter Yellow-throated Seedeater, another range-restricted endemic.
And dropping right down to the valley floor, we find ourselves in a hot, dry climate and spend time birding in the shadow on the long-extinct volcano, Fantale.
Where amongst the piles of grey ash we’ll search for the aptly-named Sombre Chat.
Nearby are the open savanna plains of Awash National Park, where our birding begins at dawn.
The grassland is home to herds of Beisa Oryx,
and is also an excellent place to see Kori Bustard, which with luck will be carrying a passenger!
This dry country has some special birds, such as Blue-naped Mousebird,..
and Gillet’s Lark.
While further north we will look for Black Scrub Robin,…
and the wonderful Arabian Bustard - the Awash region is probably the best place in the world to see this rare species.
We’ll linger out on the plains after dark to look for nightjars, which with luck may include the little-known Star-spotted Nightjar.
Moving south down the Rift Valley we come a series of lakes which offer some fantastic birding.
Some species such as this Hamerkop can be incredibly confiding.
And the variety of waterbirds can include African Pygmy Geese,..
and Black Heron.
Local colour is provided by the likes of Blue-breasted Bee-eater
Northern Carmine Bee-eater,
African Pygmy Kingfisher,
and the endemic Black-winged Lovebird.
We then drive up out of the Rift Valley heading for the Bale Mountains.
Encountering new birds such as Slender-billed Starling as well as some interesting flora.
We reach the forested slopes of the Bale Mountain National Park.
Where we search for the Abyssinian Owl.
And where we are bound to have some close encounters with the endemic Mountain Nyala.
Higher still we reach the strange world of the Sanetti Plateau, where the skyline is punctuated by spikes of Giant Lobelias.
The flora up here is very interesting - here morning frost covers a species of Alchimilla (lady’s mantle).
The plateau if perfect habitat for several endemic species such as Blue-winged Geese,..
Black-headed Siskin, …
and Spot-breasted Lapwings.
A few pairs of Wattled Cranes also breed up here,…
as do Chestnut-naped Francolins.
But of course the star of this Afro-alpine enviroment is the Ethiopian Wolf.
Which we may see hunting its favoured prey - Giant Root Rats.
Lower down we wander through interesting woodland.
Where we can find Abyssinian Woodpeckers.
Leaving the plateau behind we drop rapidly into dry country once more, and we switch to 4x4 vehicles to deal with some difficult roads.
We drive through miles of unspoilt countryside.
We may stop in a remote village to have some coffee prepared in the traditional way.
And we are bound to be of much interest to the locals.
There will be plenty of birds to stop for as well, such as Red-naped Bush Shrike.
This journey takes us into the realm of one of Ethiopia’s most fabled birds - Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco
Which reveals its crimson wings when it takes flight.
From our base in the town of Negelle we look for other endemic or range-restricted birds such as Salvadori’s Seedeater,..
And Juba Weaver.
Leaving Negelle we travel to Yabello, another journey that has plenty to stop for, such as these White-crowned Helmet Shrikes,..
a Grey Kestrel perched on a termite mound,…
and the electric-blue Vulturine Guineafowl.
We cross the Dawa River, a superb place for a field breakfast cooked by our ground crew, and for birds….
such as African White-winged Dove.
Our destination is a small lodge located in the bush close to Yabello.
Here we are within the range of the remarkable Stresemann’s Bush Crow, and there are usually some nesting within the lodge grounds.
The Bush Crow shares its range with another smart endemic, the elegant White-tailed Swallow.
Heading back north, we come to Lake Awassa and our comfortable hotel located right on the shores of the lake.
Where endemic Thick-billed Ravens are always on the look-out for any scraps of food.
The tall, grey-barked Acacia trees here are a perfect place to find Spotted Creeper.
As well as Red-throated Wryneck,..
and the endemic Banded Barbet.
We end our tour with a relaxing stay at a luxury lodge on the shores of Lake Langano, where our last endemic species may well be the endearing Yellow-fronted Parrot.
And our lodge is the ideal place to reflect on the many wonderful birds, mammals, and places we have seen on the tour.