15 days in search of Ethiopia's endemic birds and mammals

Birding Ethiopia

Monday 10th - Monday 24th October 2022

Ethiopia is a vast country, situated in north-eastern Africa, the so called Horn of Africa, to which it also belongs along with neighbouring (correct spelling in English, not American!) Eritrea and Somalia. It is predominantly a mountainous country and a green one too as it receives a lot of rain. Ethiopia has an amazing 850 bird species of which at least are 30 endemic (some are shared with its neighbor Eritrea). Moreover, the birds seem to be everywhere, wherever you turn your eyes there are birds nearby and often in good numbers. They are also quite approachable as they are not persecuted and hunted here by the local people. There is also a good diversity of mammals (279 species) and other wildlife and we will be looking for them too. The main one is the unique Ethiopian Wolf - endangered and endemic, but also the Mountain Nyala, Menelik's Bushbuck and many more. Our tour will coincide with the bird migration period so besides seeing nearly four hundred bird species many of them in considerable numbers too. We will be visiting various habitats in order to record all this variety - the remote and beautiful Bale Mountains, the Rift Valley, few wetlands and big lakes, one of the few remaining forests and the Blue Nile tributaries.


Day 1 Arrival in Addis Ababa and transfer to a hotel for a two nights stay. Around it we can find many birds - Ruppell's and Hooded Vultures, as well as the peculiar endemic Thick-billed Raven, also Brown-rumped Seed-eater, Grey-headed Sparrow, Baglafecht's Weaver, Dusky Flycatcher, Africa Rock Martin, Tacazze Sunbird, Red-eyed and Dusky Turtle Doves, Wattled Ibis and White-collared Pigeon.

Day 2 Drive on to a gorge carved deeply by a tributary of the Blue Nile, where we will explore the forested escarpment above the monastery of Debre Libanos. Here we will look for the endemic Ruppel's Chat and many other species. Walk along the gorge till we reach a good picnic spot with a spectacular view over the valley where Lammergeyers, Ruppel's Griffons, Lanner Falcons, Fan-tailed Ravens and Black Kites soar. Here we can also find the endemic White-billed Starling and White-winged Clift Chat. Here we will enjoy the splendid Gelada Baboons, found in no other part of the world.

Days 3 and 4 Early morning departure (with stops en-route) to "Awash" National Park which boasts over 450 birds species. Here we will be looking for Arabian, Buff-crested, Hartlaub's and White-bellied Bustards, Three-banded Courser, Chestnut-bellied and Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse, Black-billed Barbet, Plain Nightjar, Northern Carmine Bee-eater, Wire-tailed Swallow, Red-winged Lark, Singing Bushlark, Red-backed Scrub-robin, Red-billed Quelea and Crimson-rumped Waxbill and many more. There will be some mammals - Oryx, Soemmering's Gazelle, Impala, Hamadryas Baboon, Greater and Lesser Kudu.

Day 5 Today we will drive to Lake Langano, one of the Rift Valley lakes, surrounded by arid acacia savanna. En route birding at a few excellent stops looking for Sombre Rock-chat, Blackstart and Chestnut-headed Sparrow-lark and many more. In the late evening we will look for Slender-tailed Nightjar. Overnight at lodge on the lake's shore for two nights.

Day 6 Full day around the lodge where we can find a great variety - Yellow-fronted Parrot, Black-winged Lovebird, Narina Trogon, Lemon and Tambourine Doves, African Emerald Cuckoo, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Ethiopian Boubou, Black Cuckoo-shrike, Dark Chanting-goshawk, African Hawk-eagle, Long-crested Eagle, Black-chested and Banded Snake-eagles, Red-faced Crombec and many more.

Day 7 Drive to Wondo Genet for one night with a few stops on the way. Upon arrival and check-in we will explore the hotel's surroundings for Abyssinian Woodpecker, White-winged Cliff-chat, Dark-headed Oriole, Abyssinian Slatyflycatcher, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Doubletoothed and Red-fronted Barbets, White-cheeked Turaco, Lesser and Green-backed Honeyguides, White-rumped Babbler and many more.

Day 8 Today we set off to Bale Mountain, an area of high altitude plateau, with volcanic crags and lakes, forests, alpine moor land, trout filled streams and a striking variety of fauna and flora. Over 60 species of mammals and 260 birds have been recorded here - Blue-winged Goose, Rouget's Rail, Spot-breasted Lapwing, White-collared Pigeon. At a higher elevation and the foothills of the national park several endemic mammals occur, including the Mountain Nyala, Simien Wolf and Menelik's Bushbuck, as well as 16 endemic bird species have been recorded. Two nights at Goba.

Day 9 Today's drive will take you to the Afro- Alpine grasslands of the Sanetti plateau. It is cited as the world's largest expanse of Afro-Alpine moorland, a habitat confined to altitudes of 3,500m to 4,500 m on east Africa's tallest mountains. Here we will find the endemic Ethiopian Wolf and the Giant Mole rat and walking on the plateau we will enjoy the awe-inspiring landscape and its birds Blue-winged Goose, Spotbreasted Plover, Wattled Crane, Abyssinian Siskin and many more.

Day 10 Today we will have a long journey as we will drive to Negele by crossing again the Sanetti plateau. Just below it is found Harenna forest - the most extensive and intact forest in Ethiopia. Here we will look for Mountain Buzzard, Rameroon Pigeon, Abyssinian Crimson-wing, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler etc. Later on we continue to Negele and will have stops en-route for our main target here - Prince Ruspoli's Turaco. Stay overnight for two nights.

Day 11 Birding in the area as we will visit Wadera and the Liben Plains in search of Coqui Francolin - a rare and localized bird in Ethiopia. Its powers of concealment rival those of the Sidamo Lark. There are no more than 300 birds left making it one of the rarest in world. The Liben plain is also a home to many other species and birding here is a real pleasure. Near Negele there is another site where we will look for the very beautiful Prince Ruspoli's Turaco.

Day 12 Between Negele and Yabello lays a rugged swatch of savanna punctuated by the slightly lush vegetation of the Dawa River valley. En route we shall encounter flocks of Magpie Starlings, White-winged Dove, Black-bellied Sunbird and Salvadori's Weaver, Bare-eyed Thrushes and eventually we may be lucky to spot a male Black Cuckoo Shrike. As we approach Yabello we will enter the prime area for the turaco again and we will have a detailed look here in case we have missed it the previous days. Two nights at Yabello.

Day 13 In the area are found two of Ethiopia's most sought-after species: the Stresemann's Bush-crow and the White-tailed Swallow. Driving to Mega we expect to see a small flock of Bushcrows and as we move closer - small groups of White-tailed swallows. Other birds in the area will be Red-napped Bush-Shrikes, D'Arnaud's Barbet, Rufous Chatterer, White-bellied Canary, White-tailed swallows and Shelley's Rufous Sparrow. We may also have a night drive which will reveal large numbers of Donaldson-Smith's nightjars and several African Scops Owls.

Day 14 Drive to Lake Awassa where amongst the lilies and great reed beds that encompass the lake we will find Black, Goliath and other herons and egrets, Marabou Stork, Hamerkops, Hadada Ibis, Dainty Pygmy Geese, Fulvous and White-faced Whistling Duck, Knob-billed Duck, Black Crakes, African Jacans, Three-banded plovers; Pied, Malachite, Grey-headed and Woodland kingfishers; Red-breasted Wrynecks, Green Wood-hoopoes, Sulphur-breasted Bush Shrinkes, White-browed Robin-chats, African Thrushes, Rufous Chatters, Swamp Warblers, Red-faced crombeces, Wattle-eyes, Puffbacks, Spoted Creepers and many other. Night in Awassa.

Day 15     Drive to Addis Adaba for our return flight, with a few stops on the way. Departure.

Additional info: Ethiopian roads are good to poor and most transfers will take few good hours. Accommodation varies from good to basic. Food is also good but outside of Addis Ababa the variety of choices is not great. Some of the days - in the Bale Mountains and around Addis Ababa we will be at altitude of over 2,000 meters above the sea level. Terrain will be uneven on many sites so good walking boots are recommended.


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