Glen Valentine is an asset to any birding group with his excellent knowledge of birds and his friendly outgoing personality. He is helpful to both experienced and inexperienced birders alike. I would not hesitate to join another birding tour where he was leader or co-leader as I know from experience that it would be a thoroughly enjoyable and informative tour.
Our 24 day Ethiopia Mega birding tour comprehensively covers this unique country and every single endemic bird is targeted (Ethiopia has the second highest count of endemics on the continent). Up to five hundred species of birds and many rare mammals can be expected and the ease of the birding is quite remarkable. Ethiopia is also one of Africa’s most rewarding photographic destinations.
In central Ethiopia we explore massive Rift Valley lakes teeming with birds, moss-draped montane forests supporting a wide selection of endemics, the high Bale Mountains home to the critically endangered Ethiopian Wolf, the impressive Jemma Valley and Awash National Park, a Mecca for game and bird watching in Ethiopia (home to an incredible six species of bustard!). Key Ethiopian bird species we will seek include Spot-breasted Lapwing, Blue-winged Goose, Rouget’s Rail, Wattled Ibis, Ankober Serin, Yellow-fronted Parrot, White-backed Black Tit and Abyssinian Woodpecker.
Aside from the many Ethiopian Endemics, we also visit two off the beaten track sites, Mega in the far south and Kafka-Shiraro National Park in the very north of the country. Highlights from these two locations include Masked Lark, Heuglin’s Bustard, Black-fronted Francolin, Donaldson-Smith’s Sparrow-Weaver, Star-spotted & Sombre Nightjar, Demoiselle Crane, White-headed Babbler, Egyptian Plover, Sahel Paradise Whydah and Sudan Golden Sparrow.
Ruspoli’s and White-cheeked Turaco, Stresemann’s Bush Crow, Spot-breasted Lapwing, Blue-winged Goose, Rouget’s Rail, Wattled Ibis, Ankober Serin, Yellow-fronted Parrot, Black-winged Lovebird, Erkel’s & Harwood’s Francolin, White-backed Black Tit, Abyssinian Woodpecker, Donaldson-Smith’s Nightjar, White-tailed Swallow, Archer’s (Sidamo), Gillett’s and Somali Short-toed Lark, White-winged Collared Dove, Nile Valley & Black-bellied Sunbird, Arabian, Heuglin’s & Hartlaub’s Bustard, Golden-breasted, Magpie and White-billed Starling, Pygmy Batis, Red-naped Bushshrike, Juba Weaver, Masked Lark, Black-fronted Francolin, Donaldson-Smith’s Sparrow-Weaver, Star-spotted & Sombre Nightjar, Demoiselle Crane, White-headed Babbler, Egyptian Plover, Sahel Paradise Whydah and Sudan Golden Sparrow.
Ethiopian Wolf, Gelada, Hamadryas Baboon, Mountain Nyala, Giant Mole Rat, Serval, Guenther’s and Salt’s Dikdik, Gerenuk, Lesser Kudu, Beisa Oryx, Soemmering’s Gazelle
montane forest, Afro-alpine moorland, Acacia savanna, Rift Valley lakes, semi-desert
temperate in highlands, hot and dry in lowlands
moderate pace, mostly undemanding walks
spectacular montane scenery, interesting ancient farming methods
Day 1: Arrival in Addis Ababa
Today is essentially an arrival day. For those who arrive during daylight hours, it is possible to enjoy some very rewarding birding around the grounds of the hotel where we will be staying. Noteworthy species that may be seen include Abyssinian Woodpecker, White-backed Black Tit, Abyssinian Slaty Flycatcher, Brown-rumped Seedeater, Tacazze Sunbird, White-collared Pigeon and a host of raptors overhead, including perhaps Egyptian and Hooded Vultures.
Day 2: Addis Ababa to Lake Langano
Our Ethiopian birding adventure commences with an early departure from Addis Ababa this morning, as we head south into the Great Rift Valley.
Our first birding stop is at Lake Chelekcheka, an excellent site for migrant ducks and waders. Regular species encountered here include Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Garganey, Eurasian Teal, Tufted Duck, Black-tailed Godwit and Temminck’s Stint. Sorting through the rafts of ducks and other migrants can be very challenging due to the distraction caused by the sheer number of species moving through the scrubby vegetation near the lake edge! Common Crane often roost in staggering numbers on the far side of the water, and we may see them flying off to forage in huge, noisy flocks.
The well-wooded rim of the deep Lake Hora will be our second stop. The woodlands around the lake also teem with birds and again it may prove difficult to keep up with the seemingly endless flow of lifers! Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Black-billed Barbet, Common Redstart, Eurasian Blackcap, Red-throated Wryneck, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Rüppell’s Robin-Chat, Western Black-headed Batis, Beautiful Sunbird, Rüppell’s Weaver and a diverse variety of waterbirds, especially deep water diving ducks, can be seen here. Thereafter, the steep-sided Lake Bishoftu offers superb birding. Maccoa and Ferruginous Ducks, Southern Pochard, Singing Cisticola, gorgeous Tacazze Sunbird, Mocking Cliff Chat, Abyssinian Wheatear, Little Rock Thrush and flocks of Black-winged Lovebird are just some of our targets here!
Further en route to Lake Langano, we will then visit Koka Dam and Lake Ziway, both classified as Important Bird Areas, supporting vast numbers of both resident and migrant waterbirds. Species we will search for include the spectacular Black Crowned Crane, Pink-backed Pelican, African Darter, Intermediate Egret, Goliath Heron, Hamerkop, Yellow-billed and Saddle-billed Storks, Spur-winged and Egyptian Geese, Knob-billed Duck, the elegant African Pygmy Goose, African Fish Eagle, Western Marsh Harrier, African and Lesser Jacanas, Common Snipe, Senegal Thick-knee, Sedge Warbler, Spur-winged Lapwing, Gull-billed Tern, and Pied and Malachite Kingfishers. Strolling along the lakeshore at Lake Ziway will allow us excellent views of confiding Great White Pelican and the huge Marabou Stork, while dazzling Northern Carmine Bee-eater, migratory White and Western Yellow Wagtails (including some of the striking feldeggi race) and the less colourful Ethiopian Cisticola can be seen around the lake edge. This promises to be an action-packed day, after which we will check into comfortable lodge overlooking Lake Langano, with views of the 4,000m (13,200ft) Arsi Mountains in the background.
Day 3: Lake Langano area
Birding in the Langano area is especially superb and during our Ethiopia birding tour, we will visit some beautiful fig forest and associated woodland that teem with birds. Here we will look for Hemprich’s and Silvery-cheeked Hornbills, Lemon Dove, Narina Trogon, Lesser and Scaly-throated Honeyguides, Green Malkoha, African Hill Babbler, Double-toothed Barbet, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Thick-billed Weaver, Crested and Scaly Francolins, endemic Yellow-fronted Parrot, Abyssinian Ground Thrush, Green Twinspot, Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike and Red-headed Weaver. Mudflats there can also be worth scanning as they often host large numbers of waders, while pods of lazing Hippopotamus are sometimes seen in deeper water and mammoth Goliath Heron stalk through the shallows.
Day 4: Lake Langano to Goba
Leaving the Rift Valley behind for a few days, we wind our way upwards towards the world famous Bale Mountains National Park. Rugged hillsides en route may hold a few surprises for us, and some dedicated searching could produce the mackinderi race of Cape Eagle-Owl, while wetter areas hold Rouget’s Rail, Groundscraper Thrush (of the distinctive, endemic race simensis), Blue-winged Goose and smart Spot-breasted Lapwing. At the park headquarters in Dinsho we will search the trails for the colourful Chestnut-naped Francolin, secretive Abyssinian Ground Thrush, vocal Abyssinian Catbird and striking White-backed Black Tit. With a healthy dose of luck on our Ethiopia birding tour, we may find roosting African Wood Owl and even Abyssinian Owl in the dark recesses of a Juniper thicket. We also hope to see a variety of mammals, including Mountain Nyala (now entirely restricted to the Bale Mountain massif), Menelik’s Bushbuck, Grey Duiker, Bohor Reedbuck and Warthog, unusual at this high altitude.
Day 5: Goba to Bale Mountain Lodge, via Bale Mountain National Park
This will be a day of great contrasts and amazing scenery and birding. We will depart early and ascend the Bale Mountain massif onto the Sanetti Plateau, which lies between 3,800m and 4,377m (12,540 and 14,444ft) above sea level. As we ascend we enter a Tid, or Juniper forest zone, and here we will search for African Goshawk, Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk, White-cheeked Turaco, the localized Abyssinian Woodpecker, Cinnamon Bracken and Brown Woodland Warblers, African Hill Babbler, Montane White-eye and Yellow-bellied Waxbill.
Upon reaching this unique plateau we will be driving on Africa’s highest road, passing close to the summit of Ethiopia’s second highest mountain. This habitat is termed “Afro-alpine moorland” and is characterised by Jibrra, or Giant Lobelias, which tower like monolithic giants over the rich tussock grasslands and extensive cushions of yellow Everlasting flowers. This site is an Important Bird Area of immense significance, supporting seven globally threatened species and nearly all of Ethiopia’s Highland biome species. The plateau holds the only Afrotropical breeding populations of Ruddy Shelduck, Golden Eagle and Red-billed Chough. We will also search for Black Stork, Wattled Ibis, Chestnut-naped and Moorland Francolins, Rouget’s Rail (particularly common and confiding here), endemic Blue-winged Goose, Spot-breasted Lapwing, Wattled Crane, Thekla Lark, migratory flocks of Red-throated Pipit, Abyssinian Longclaw, Red-breasted Wheatear, dumpy Moorland Chat and vast flocks of endemic Ethiopian Siskins.
These grasslands are estimated to support an incredible biomass of 4,000kg (8,800lb) of rodents per hectare. This obviously attracts an array of raptors and we should see Steppe and Golden Eagles, Augur Buzzard and elegant Pallid Harrier courting over this green sea. They share this abundant food source with the plateau’s most celebrated resident, the Ethiopian or Simien Wolf, crowned with the unenviable title of “the world’s rarest canid”. Watching these vibrantly coloured animals, most closely related to the European Timber Wolf, exhibiting their hunting prowess whilst pouncing on Giant Mole-rats (another endemic to the Sanetti Plateau) is surely among Africa’s greatest wildlife experiences. We should enjoy excellent photographic opportunities in this unique montane habitat.
Finally, we will reach the escarpment of this elevated plateau and stare down through the clouds at the vast Harenna Forest below. This remarkable forest is the largest intact forest block in Ethiopia and the largest protected Afro-alpine forest on the continent. It still supports populations of Lion and the only surviving forest-dwelling African Wild Dogs. Although unlikely that we will see either of these species, the descent through this breathtakingly beautiful, moss-draped forest is inspirational. Here we will search for the uncommon Mountain Buzzard, African Olive Pigeon, Lemon and Tambourine Doves, African Emerald Cuckoo, Abyssinian Woodpecker, Narina Trogon, Ethiopian Oriole, Brown Parisoma (represented by a subspecies endemic to this National Park), Slender-billed Starling, Abyssinian Crimsonwing, African Citril and Yellow-crowned Canary. In the late afternoon we will check into our luxurious lodge nestled in the forest.
Day 6: Bale Mountain Lodge to Negele, via Harenna Forest
After some birding around the lodge we will head south towards Negele. As we lose altitude we will exit the forest zone and enter progressively drier thorn savanna in this remote, southern section of Ethiopia. Finally, we reach a dry wadi on the Genale River, home to Ethiopia’s most sought-after endemic, Ruspoli’s Turaco. The bird is named after an Italian Prince, its hapless discoverer, who was killed by an elephant soon after collecting the type specimen in the 1890s. It took another 50 years before explorers saw the Turaco again, and only in the 1970s was anything revealed about this bird. We will search fruiting fig trees along the wadi and, with the help of local farmers, we should enjoy excellent views of this very unusual and beautiful turaco. We will arrive in Negele in the early evening and check into our hotel.
Day 7: Negele and the road to Bogol Manyo
This morning on our Ethiopia birding tour, we drive east to bird the increasingly dry woodland and thorn savanna towards the Somali border. This area supports a number of scarce species that include the likes of Red-naped Bushshrike, Pringle’s Puffback, Scaly Chatterer, Three-streaked Tchagra, Gillet’s Lark, Somali Crombec, Taita Fiscal and very occasionally Golden Pipit. New species will certainly abound today and others that we are likely see include Red-fronted Barbet, Pygmy Batis, Red-fronted Warbler, garish Golden-breasted Starling, attractive flocks of Shelley’s and White-crowned Starlings, Somali Crow, African Silverbill, Somali Bunting and Northern Grosbeak-Canary. Large troops of Olive Baboon may also be encountered here and we should see Guenther’s Dik-dik and possibly Gerenuk.
East of Negele lies a unique open grassland, the Liben Plains, to which the little known Archer’s (Sidamo) Lark is restricted. This species belongs to the unusual genus Heteromirafra, which also includes the South African Rudd’s Lark, and is considered one of the most endangered birds on Earth. We will walk through these plains in search of this special bird, which we hope to watch performing its parachute display flight. We should also find small parties of hovering Lesser Kestrel, the giant Kori Bustard (the world’s heaviest flying bird), Black-winged Lapwing, the range restricted Somali Short-toed Lark, Plain-backed Pipit and Pectoral-patch Cisticola. If we are very fortunate, we may see a covey of Coqui Francolin.
Day 8: Negele to Mega
Today’s drive along another long and seldom-travelled road takes us near to the Kenya border and finally to the town of Mega. Several birding stops will break the journey, the most notable being a stop at the Dawa River in search of Juba Weaver, White-winged Collared Dove and Black-bellied Sunbird. Other noteworthy birds we may encounter en route to Mega include the scarce Somali Courser, glamorous flocks of Vulturine Guineafowl, Red-and-yellow Barbet, Magpie Starling, Black-capped and Grey-capped Social Weavers, Steel-blue Whydah and its host, Black-cheeked Waxbill.
Day 9: Plains of Mega
We spend the day exploring the amazing Mega area, from isolated mountains to impressive lava plains it offers some beautiful scenery. Our key targets will include the nomadic and elusive Masked Lark, splendid Heuglin’s Bustard and Black-fronted Francolin. Other impressive species seen in the area during our Ethiopia birding tour include Somali Courser, Somali Bee-eater, Donaldson-Smith’s Sparrow-Weaver, Short-tailed, Pink-breasted and Red-winged Lark and Somali Sparrow. If we are particularly fortunate we may even find the enigmatic Quail-plover. In the evening we will embark on a night drive in search of Sombre and Star-spotted Nightjar.
Day 10: Mega to Yabello
We have most of the day to explore this wonderful area in search of any species we may not have seen as yet. Exciting possibilities here on our Ethiopia birding tour include the huge Kori, White-bellied and Buff-crested Bustards, cryptic Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse, Chestnut-headed Sparrow-Lark, Parrot-billed Sparrow, Magpie Starling and Tsavo Sunbird (only confirmed to occur in Ethiopia on a private Rockjumper tour in 2017).
We then make a short drive north to Yabello, home to two of Ethiopia’s most sought-after endemic birds, both listed as globally threatened: the enigmatic Stresemann’s Bushcrow and glistening White-tailed Swallow. This area of Acacia savanna is characterised by giant red termite mounds (some towering 5m above the plains!) and both these birds seem to be associated in some way with these marvels of natural architecture. The social Bushcrow (or Zavattariornis) was only discovered in 1938 and its affinities have yet to be established. Although it appears starling-like, it is presumed to be most closely related to choughs.
Day 11: Yabello area
We have the whole day to bird the Yabello area and get better acquainted with Stresemann’s Bushcrow and White-tailed Swallow. Other birds we will be looking for are Gabar Goshawk, the shrike-sized Pygmy Falcon, Yellow-necked Spurfowl, Black-faced Sandgrouse, Mottled Swift, Foxy Lark, Tree Pipit, the localised Bare-eyed Thrush, ventriloqual Spotted Palm Thrush, African Grey Flycatcher, Pale Prinia, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Banded Parisoma, Hunter’s and Shining Sunbirds, Superb and Wattled Starlings, Chestnut Sparrow, Yellow-spotted Petronia, Chestnut Weaver, Green-winged Pytilia, White-bellied Canary and White-winged Widowbird. A night drive in this exciting area could produce Donaldson-Smith’s and Slender-tailed Nightjars, Greyish Eagle-Owl, Northern White-faced Owl and Three-banded Courser. Nocturnal mammal sightings may include Striped and Spotted Hyaenas, Serval, African Wild Cat, White-tailed Mongoose, Senegal Galago, Ethiopian Genet and occasionally even Aardvark.
Day 12: Yabello to Lake Awassa
Following breakfast this morning on our Ethiopia birding tour, we will depart Yabello and make our way back north towards Addis Ababa on what is, essentially, a travel day. In the late afternoon we will reach our comfortable hotel, on the shores of Lake Awassa.
Day 13: Lake Awassa to Lake Ziway, via Lakes Shalla and Abijatta
A pre-breakfast birding stroll should yield some special birds around our well-wooded hotel grounds. Some of our targets we hope to see are African Spotted Creeper, Little Weaver, Black-billed Wood Hoopoe, Double-toothed Barbet, Woodland Kingfisher, huge Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, the attractive Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike, Eastern Grey Woodpecker, Western Black-headed Batis, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Mourning Collared Dove, Grey-backed Fiscal, Northern Puffback and Bronze Mannikin. Reedbeds in the vicinity support Greater Painted-snipe, Black Crake, African Swamphen, Blue-headed Coucal, Red-faced Cisticola, Lesser Swamp Warbler and Common Waxbill. The hotel grounds also support families of Grivet Monkey, though it is the regal Guereza Colobus that will certainly steal our attention as they leap through the trees, their shaggy pelts and long tails trailing behind.
After breakfast we may then visit the remarkable Lake Awassa fish market. This large lake is particularly rich in fish and the fishermen gut their catch and discard the waste around the market. This in turn attracts large numbers of grotesque Marabou Stork and other birds – photographic opportunities are unrivalled! We should also see Great White Pelican, White-breasted and Reed Cormorants, Hamerkop, African Sacred Ibis, Black-headed, Grey-hooded and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and sometimes the massively-equipped Thick-billed Raven squabbling over the fish remains.
Further north, the three neighbouring waters of Lakes Shalla, Abijatta and Langano could not be more different from each other. Having already visited the medium-depth reddish-brown Lake Langano, today we will pay a visit to the other two – the shallow and brackish Abijatta, and the extremely deep, blue Shalla (once a volcanic crater and now home to several bubbling sulphuric hot springs).
We will spend part of today exploring these lake shores and their surrounding woodlands and forests, where Clapperton’s Francolin, Little Rock Thrush, African Thrush, Buff-bellied Warbler, Red-faced Crombec, Beautiful Sunbird, Rüppell’s Starling, Red-billed Oxpecker, Red-billed Firefinch, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Black-winged Lovebird, Abyssinian Wheatear, White-winged Black Tit, Black-billed Wood Hoopoe, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Greyish Eagle-Owl, Northern White-faced Owl, Slender-tailed Nightjar, Bearded Woodpecker and Masked Shrike occur in dry Acacia woodland throughout the area, while Black-billed, Banded and Double-toothed Barbets, Eastern Grey Woodpecker, White-rumped Babbler and Ethiopian Boubou are resident in well-forested areas.
At Lake Abijatta, in particular, we hope to find flocks of Greater and Lesser Flamingo, Northern Shoveler, Southern Pochard, Cape Teal, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Eastern Imperial and Long-crested Eagles, Grey Kestrel, Little Ringed, Common Ringed, Kittlitz’s and occasionally Caspian Plovers, many species of Palaearctic waders, Pallas’s and Lesser Black-backed Gulls (amongst several other species of gulls and terns), Collared Pratincole, Little Bee-eater, family groups of the wonderful Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Sand Martin and African Pipit. Mammals we may see here include Grant’s Gazelle, Oribi and Spotted Hyena. In the late afternoon we will check in to a hotel near Lake Ziway.
Day 14: Lake Ziway to Nazreth
For one final occasion, we will spend our morning in the mighty Rift Valley south of Addis, where a second visit to some of the northerly sites will hopefully yield a few more species before we say goodbye to the vast wetlands and forested valleys of this bird-rich region.
Day 15: Nazreth to Bilen
Today we drop down the immense western wall of the Great Rift Valley and travel across the wild Afar tribal territories. We will make a concerted effort to find the very rare and localised Sombre Rock Chat, Striolated Bunting and Blackstart, while Hamadryas Baboon may also be in evidence. This handsome beast sits on top of the edge of escarpments in large troops and soaks up the early morning sun.
We will arrive at our lodge around midday and spend the afternoon birding the surrounds. This increasingly arid landscape is a haven for dry country resident and migrant species. Watercourses and rocky outcrops harbour Eurasian Sparrowhawk, European Turtle Dove, the range-restricted Yellow-breasted Barbet, Chestnut-headed Sparrow-Lark, Common Nightingale, Blue Rock Thrush, Rufous-tailed and Black Scrub Robins, Boran Cisticola, skulking Upcher’s and Menetries’s Warblers, groups of Red-fronted Warbler, Black-crowned Tchagra, Southern Grey Shrike, Red-billed Buffalo Weaver, and Chestnut-crowned and White-browed Sparrow-Weavers.
This land is inhabited by nomadic Afar tribesmen who we will see dressed in their fine white cotton tunics, bedecked with traditional jewellery, daggers and spears. The men sport a unique bushy hairstyle, while women and girls are also extravagantly attired and adorned. They adhere strictly to their ancestral ways of tending their camel and goat-herds and roaming throughout this inhospitable land.
Day 16: Bilen to Awash National Park
After an early breakfast this morning on our Ethiopia birding tour we will stop at the Alleghedi Plain. Here we will search for Martial and Short-toed Snake Eagles, Yellow-necked Spurfowl, the rare Arabian Bustard, Black-headed Lapwing, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse and Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark. Occasionally highly nomadic species such as Pale Rock Finch or Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark move into the area as well. We will then head to the magnificent Awash National Park where we will bird Fulhowa Hotsprings, the Awash River and Kirayawa Gorge, exploring riverine forests, wetlands, Acacia woodlands, savanna grasslands, rocky hills, cliffs and escarpments. The park boasts a bird list of around 460 species and we will make an effort to find, amongst many others, Egyptian Vulture, Bateleur, Tawny and Greater Spotted Eagles, African Harrier-Hawk, Eastern Chanting Goshawk, Scissor-tailed Kite, Shikra, Helmeted Guineafowl, Common Buttonquail, the nocturnal Three-banded Courser, mega Star-spotted Nightjar, Eastern Plantain-eater, the diminutive Pearl-spotted Owlet and giant Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Blue-naped Mousebird, gaudy Purple, Lilac-breasted and Abyssinian Rollers, Abyssinian Scimitarbill, Eurasian Hoopoe, Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Greater Honeyguide, Wire-tailed Swallow, Red-winged, Gillett’s and Singing Bush Larks, White-browed Scrub Robin, over-wintering Common Rock Thrush, localised Ashy Cisticola, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Grey Wren-Warbler, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Grey-headed Batis, Mouse-coloured Penduline Tit, Slate-colored Boubou, Northern White-crowned Shrike, Northern Puffback, Somali Fiscal, Nile Valley and Marico Sunbirds, Grey-headed, Orange-breasted and Rosy-patched Bushshrikes, Fan-tailed Raven and Red-billed Quelea. In the afternoon we will settle into our lodge overlooking Awash Falls.
Days 17: Awash National Park
Today we will spend a full day in this great national park. During our explorations we also hope to find dazzling Northern Carmine Bee-eater perched atop the backs of striding Kori Bustard, a seldom observed phenomenon. In fact, this is bustard kingdom deluxe and nowhere else on the planet can boast the chance of no less than six bustard species in one day (Kori, Arabian, Buff-crested, White-bellied, Black-bellied and Hartlaub’s)!
Mammals are also well represented and we may see Aardwolf, Leopard (unlikely), Beisa Oryx, Aardvark, Soemmering’s Gazelle, elegant Gerenuk (the giraffe-proportioned relative of the widespread Impala), Abyssinian Hare, African Wild Cat, Black-backed Jackal, Spotted and Striped Hyenas, Greater and Lesser Kudus, Warthog and Salt’s Dikdik.
Day 18: Awash National Park to Weliso
This morning we can enjoy some final birding in Awash NP searching for any key species that we may still be missing. We will then embark on the drive to Weliso via the capital, Addis Ababa, where we will transfer to 4×4 vehicles. We can expect to arrive in Weliso in the late afternoon to early evening.
Day 19: Weliso to Debre Birhan via Ghibe Gorge
We leave early this morning for Ghibe Gorge, one of only a handful of fairly reliable sites for the very difficult Red-billed Pytilia. Other delectable birds we will search for here on our Ethiopia birding tour include Vinaceous Dove, Abyssinian and Black-cheeked Waxbills, Black-faced and Bar-breasted Firefinches, Moustached Grass Warbler, the scarce Yellow-rumped Seedeater, Foxy and Red-faced Cisticolas, Whinchat, Green-backed Eremomela and Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat. In the late morning to early afternoon we will begin the journey north towards Debre Birhan, situated near the majestic Ankober Escarpment.
Day 20: Excursion to Gemasa Geden and Melka Gebdu Track
Our target species for this morning’s excursion to Gemasa Geden are the localised Ankober Serin, a rare and elusive Ethiopian endemic discovered only in 1976 that survives along a few kilometres of this grand escarpment, and the Gelada or Lion-headed Baboon. This densely-pelted, shaggy baboon is endemic to Ethiopia and the males can often be seen flipping back their lips in a show of dominance. These animals have the closest vocal repertoire to humans of any mammal, pronouncing all the consonants and four vowels! They forage on the grasslands above the escarpment and roost in the inaccessible cliffs at night.
Other possible species here on our Ethiopia birding tour include Bearded Vulture, Verreaux’s Eagle, Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk, Peregrine Falcon, the seldom recorded Somali Starling and Long-billed Pipit. We also hope to have enough time to venture down into the steep valley below the Ankober Escarpment and along the Melka Gebdu Track, where we will search for the extremely range-restricted Yellow-throated Serin.
Day 21: Debre Birhan to Addis Ababa via the Jemma Valley
An early departure from Debre Birhan this morning on our Ethiopia birding tour is essential in order to be at our chosen site when the endemic Harwood’s Francolin is at its most vocal, thus providing our best opportunity for seeing this elusive species.
The Jemma River is one of the main tributaries of the Blue Nile and it cuts a 700m (2,300ft) deep gorge through the landscape. The habitat in the gorge is dominated by Acacia woodland while the steep sides provide habitat for some excellent endemic birds. We will concentrate our search here for Rüppell’s Vulture, African Hawk-Eagle, Augur Buzzard (dark morph birds are commonly seen here), Lanner and Peregrine Falcons, Erckel’s Francolin, Nyanza Swift, Red-rumped Swallow, Abyssinian Wheatear, the endemic and localised Rüppell’s Black Chat, endemic White-winged Cliff Chat and its more familiar cousin, Mocking Cliff Chat, endemic White-billed Starling, elusive Yellow-rumped Seedeater and Cinnamon-breasted and Ortolan Buntings.
We will have a picnic lunch at the river and bird the surrounding woodlands for Blue-spotted Wood Dove, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Black-billed Barbet, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Foxy and Singing Cisticolas, African Paradise Flycatcher, Masked, Woodchat and Isabelline Shrikes, Swainson’s Sparrow, Bush Petronia, Speckle-fronted Weaver, Red-collared Widowbird, Black-winged Red and Yellow Bishops, and Crimson-rumped and Abyssinian Waxbills. In the mid-afternoon we will depart for the drive back to Addis Ababa.
Day 22: Addis Ababa to Humera
We depart on a domestic flight to Humera. On arrival we will transfer to our guesthouse to get settled in before venturing out for some afternoon birding.
Day 23: Kafta-Shiraro National Park and surrounds
Today we will explore this remote and seldom visited park and surrounding area. It is situated in the Sahelian zone and so offers an interesting selection of dry country species. The habitat consists of dry acacia bushveld in a slightly hilly area and follows the tranquil Tacazze River. We will concentrate our efforts on finding the beautiful Demoiselle Crane which makes a stopover here on its migration from Sudan to India. Up to 3800 cranes have been seen in this area and the site and sound of them bugling at dusk is a spectacle indeed!
Other key targets include a Sudan/Ethiopia endemic, White-headed Babbler, amazing Egyptian Plover (a monotypic family), impressive Sahel Paradise Whydah and Sudan Golden Sparrow. Other species of interest which are generally not seen on a standard Ethiopian tour include Vieillot’s Barbet, Black-billed Wood Dove, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Green Bee-eater, Red-pate Cisticola, Black-headed Gonolek, Northern Grey-headed Sparrow, Black-rumped Waxbill, White-headed Buffalo Weaver, Chestnut-bellied Starling, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, White-rumped Seedeater and Golden-breasted Bunting. If we are fortunate we may find a roosting Long-tailed Nightjar.
Other more widespread species we may see include Black Stork, Short-toed Snake Eagle, Booted Eagle, Senegal Thick-knee, Black-headed Lapwing, Lichtenstein’s and Four-banded Sandgrouse, European Turtle Dove, Abyssinian Roller, Northern Carmine Bee-eater, Black-billed Wood Hoopoe, Black Scimitarbill, Yellow-breasted Barbet, Masked Shrike, Black and Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, Black-eared Wheatear and Crimson-rumped Waxbill.
Day 24: Humera to Addis Ababa and departure
Depending on the time of our departure flight we may have an opportunity for some final early morning birding. We will then make our way to the airport in order to catch our flight back to the capital Addis Ababa to connect with our International flights home.
What our clients say about tours to Ethiopia
- RD, Ehtiopia
Simply stated, David Erterius is an exceptional individual: patient, kind, diligent, and hard-working almost to a fault. He was ever-conscious of his clients’ welfare, with remarkable birding skills which he relentlessly employed to ensure that all members of the group regularly saw, identified and enjoyed each species, including mammals and reptiles.CH & BH, Ethiopia 2017
Wayne and Markus are both fantastic guides and the trip was spectacular!! I would definitely travel with Rockjumper again in the future and look forward to the possibility of doing so!DB, Ethiopia I 2013
I wanted to say what a fantastic trip we had! The tour was well organised, we didn’t have to change accommodation every day, the vehicles and drivers were excellent (after one of them was replaced) and we saw a great variety of habitats. Markus and Rich were absolutely wonderful, and very patient with everyone in the group. We were a diverse group in terms of age/energy levels, experience travelling in developing countries, and birding skills and knowledge. Yet Markus and Rich worked hard to get everyone on to as many birds and mammals as possible, and catered for everyone’s needs extremely well. They are both extremely professional, yet also a lot of fun and we had some truly hilarious moments, especially on our night drives. How do you choose between looking at an Aardwolf and an Aardvark when they are both in view at the same time? And who could forget Markus’s dying calf imitation to lure in Spotted Hyenas? I must say the impressive mammal list was quite unexpected. Ethiopia is truly an amazing destination – and certainly rivals birding in Southern Africa.
I look forward to travelling with Rockjumper in the future and have been singing your praises to birders here in Canberra.Ethiopia Endemics – Lashko