Ethiopia said to be an ornithologist’s paradise. 850 species of birds (16 of them are endemic) inhabit Ethiopia. Having an extensive highland surrounded by arid lands, has enabled the evolution of many birds in the region into unique forms and species. Nechisar. Ethiopia is full of spectacular wild encounters the bright bombardment of her beautiful bird life. The salty land of the rift valley suck the precious rain in to the Earth and the sun bakes its surface without respite. It’s hard to imagine any living thing surviving in this savage wilderness. But look closely, and you will see some remarkable life not only surviving-but thriving. In recent years, Ethiopia has rightly become one of Africa`s leading birding destinations for bird watching holidays tour. Its avifauna represents an interesting mixture of east and west African, Palearctic and some strikingly unusual endemic components. In addition to more than 800 species of birds, of which a staggering 29 are endemic to Ethiopia and its neighbour Eritrea, Ethiopia has a number of peculiar mammals, and a scenic diversity and cultural uniqueness that are hard to equal. The highlands, which dominate the country, are bisected by the Rift Valley, and fall away to arid desert and bushlands in the north, south and east, and to moister Guinea woodland in the west. Much of the highlands are under subsistence agriculture, but there still exist considerable tracts of Afro-alpine shrubland and pockets of Afromontane forest. For birders, the most popular access to really high altitude is the Bale Mountains National Park in the southern part of the eastern south- eastern highlands. Here the highest all-weather road in Africa crosses the Sanetti plateau (4377m), allowing easy access to alpine moorlands, grasslands and lakes. Highland endemics such as Spot-breasted Lapwing Vanellus melanocephalus and Rouget`s Rail Rougetius rougetii occur alongside spectacular giant lobelias and Ethiopian wolves. The highlands also offer a number of species not found elsewhere in sub- Saharan Africa, such as Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea, Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos and Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrrhocorax. Other more widespread highland endemics include Blue- winged Goose Cyanochen cyanoptera, Ethiopian Siskin Serinus nigriceps, Wattled Ibis Bostrychia carunculata, and Abyssinian Longclaw Macronyx flavicollis.
Ethiopian forest endemics, accessible at such forest patches as those at Wondo Genet (central highlands) and Debre Libanos (northern highlands) include Yellow-fronted Parrot Poicephalus flavifrons, Black-winged Lovebird Agapornis taranta, Abyssinian Slaty-Flycatcher Melaenornis chocolatinus, Abyssinian Black-headed Oriole Oriolus monachaand
Banded Barbet Lybius undatus and, in Juniper-Hagenia forest at higher altitude, such as at Dinsho or near Robe in the Bale mountains, White- backed Black Tit Parus leuconotus, Abyssinian Catbird Parophasma galinieri, White-cheeked Turaco Tauaci leucotis and Abyssinian Woodpecker Dendropicos abyssinicus. Other forest species particularly worthy of mention are Ayres’s Hawk Eagle Hieraaetus ayresii, Abyssinian Ground-Thrush Zoothera piaggiae and African Hill Babbler Pseudoalcippe abyssinica. There are also a number of other highland localities that deserve individual mention. North of Addis Ababa, the Jemmu River valley holds a population of highly localized and endemic Harwood’s Francolin Francolinus harwoodi, best searched for along the river itself. The rocky valley rim hosts a number of species that could be searched for in any rocky highland area, such as White-billed Starling Onychognathus albirostris, Ruppell’s Black Chat Myrmecocichla melaena, Nyanza Swift Apus niansae and White-winged Cliff Chat Thamnolaea semirufa. One of Ethiopia’s three highly localized endemic serins, Ankober Serin Carduelis ankoberensis, is also a highland species, occurring along the spectacular Ankober escarpment north of Awash. The Rift Valley, punctuated by several large lakes, offers few endemics but very diverse and enjoyable woodland birding. Some of the several excellent birding sites here are Lake Langano, Awash National Park and Nechisar National Park, offering amongst many others such great birds as African Swallow-tailed Kite Chelictinia riocourii, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill Bucorvus abyssinicus, Arabian Bustard Ardeotis arabs, Somali Fiscal Lanius somalicus, and Gillett’s Lark Mirafra gilletti, Red-winged Bush Larks M. hypermetra and Singing Bush Larks M. cantillans. In the south of the country, high diversity and endemicity combine to offer absolutely superb birding.The best months to visit are October-
December, and over 500 species can be recorded on a thorough three- week trip. Ethipia is a paradise for bird watching holidays tour.
Day 1: Day 1: Arrive in Addis Ababa. Overnight Addis Ababa.
We set off early on the road north, through the Sululta plain to Debre Libanos and the Jemma River Gorge, about 110 km from the capital. Sululta plain is a wide shallow valley, ringed by mountains, with many rivers draining into it and forming extensive wetlands for much of the year. En route through the plain we can expect to see Black-winged
and Spot-breasted Plover, Wattled Ibis, Blue-winged Goose, Rouget’s Rail, Abyssinian Longclaw, Abyssinian Catbird, Common Crane and Wheat Ear. It is currently the only known location in Ethiopia for the exceptionally rare White-winged Flufftail. We will make a small detour from the main road to take in the very attractive 200 m Aleltu Falls,
where we can expect to see White-billed Starling, Ruppel’s Chat, Bearded Vulture, Verreaux’s Eagle, Lanner and Peregrine Falcon. Debre Libanos has been an important monastic centre for Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity since it was established in the 13th century by Saint Teklehaimanot, a renowned mystic. During the brief Italian occupation (1935-41), the site marked the spot of a major atrocity – more than 300 monks were slaughtered here in an attempt to undermine resistance by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
On arrival at Debre Libanos, we will first stop at the Jemma River gorge. The Jemma river is one of the tributaries of the Nile, and there is a drop of nearly 1000 metres to the valley below. Here at the gorge, and in the forest around the church we can expect to see the Banded Barbet, Black- headed Forest Oriole, White-billed starling, Red-billed starling, White-
winged Cliff Chat, White-backed Black Tit, White-cheeked Turaco, Montane White-eye, Abyssinian Longclaw, Abyssinian Catbird and Hemprich’s Hornbill. We will also see one of Ethiopia’s endemic mammals, the Gelada or bleeding heart baboon. (In the gorge we will see a variety of vultures – Lamergeyer’s, Ruppell’s and Lappet faced vultures.) We will leave Debre Libanos late afternoon, returning to Addis Ababa early evening.
After breakfast we head west on the Ambo Road for Menagesha State Forest, about 50 km from Addis Ababa. The Emperor Zera Yacob (1434-1468), noticing the degradation of the forest around Mount Wechecha, initiated what was perhaps the first reforestation and conservation measure in the region by having Juniper trees planted. We
will take a picnic lunch, making our way up through the forest towards the top of Mount Wechecha. We can expect to see the Abyssinian Catbird, Banded Barbet, Golden-backed Woodpecker, Black-headed Forest Oriole, Wattled Ibis, Yellow-fronted Parrot, Black-winged Lovebird, Abyssinian Ground Thrush, Crowned Eagle and Narina’s Trogan. Among
the wildlife species recorded here are: Menelik’s Bushbuck, Leopard, Colobus Monkey, Serval, Grey Duiker, Hyaena, Warthog, Porcupine and Civet Cat. We will return to Addis Ababa by the Jimma Road, to the south of the forest. Overnight Addis Ababa.
Today we head south down the Ethiopian Rift Valley, turning east at Mojo towards Awash and our destination, to Bilen, some 270 km from Addis Ababa. We will be birding along the way, and will stop in Nazret.
Full day birding in the different habitats of the area, the plains, cliffs, wetlands and riverine forest by the Awash. We can return to the camp for lunch. Camel trekking can be arranged to some of these sites – one gets a great view from on top of a camel, and can also get closer to birds and wildlife provide Bilen.
Today we retrace our steps towards Mojo, birding along the way, and stopping to see the hippo in the pools near Nazret. At Mojo we take the road south for the Lakes Region, Overnight Langano.
We drive to Shalla and Abiyata National Park, and then on to Lake Awassa – see Day 4 of VE 001B for this day’s activities. Overnight Awassa Wabe Shebelle.
Full day birding along the shores of Lake Awassa. In composition this fresh water Lake is different from the alkaline lakes of Abiyata and Shalla. The Black forest near the lake is an additional and interesting birding site. Overnight Awassa.
We take an early morning visit to the fish market for some excellent photo close ups of birds used to human company, and after breakfast we drive to Wondo Genet, about 37 km to the east. Overngiht Wondo Genet.
Full day with picnic lunch in the forests around Wondo Genet. Overnight Wondo Genet.
We leave Wondo Genet for the Bale Mountains National Park, stopping at the Park HQ at Dinshu en route. Overnight Goba.
Full day birding in the stunning Afro-Alpine setting of the Sanetti plateau. for more information Overnight Goba.
Full day birding in Harena forest Overnight Goba.
We return to the Lakes Region via Dinshu and arrive late afternoon at Lake Langano, where we can spend some time birding along the shores. Overnight Langano
Early morning birding by the cliffs next to the lake, then after breakfast we set off back to Addis Ababa, with a lunch stop in Debre Zeit. We can take in at least one of the Crater Lakes (there are seven in the area), probably Green Lake (Maccoa Duck, Cape Teal, Red-billed Duck, possibly White-winged Cliff Chat and Red-breasted Wry Neck),
before leaving for Addis Ababa, arriving back in time for souvenir shopping. Overnight Addis Ababa.
There will be a morning excursion to Gefersa reservoir, some 20 km west of the city, where we can expect to see Rouget’s Rail, Abyssinian Longclaw, Blue-winged Goose and Black-headed Siskin.