The 2018 tour price has not been set
If the words ‘exploratory,’ ‘intrepid,’ ‘adventure’ and ‘discovery’ get your blood flowing when it comes to birding, then Somaliland surely ranks high on your list of target destinations. For years this region has been marred by internal conflict; however, Somaliland (Northern Somalia) has recently become safe for travel, allowing access to a remarkable number of endemics that were, until recently, impossible to see. These tantalising endemics and near-endemics include the likes of Little Brown Bustard, Archer’s Buzzard, little known Somali Pigeon, Somali & Collared Larks, Lesser Hoopoe-Lark, Somali Wheatear, Philippa’s Crombec, Somali Thrush, Somali Starling, Somali Golden-winged Grosbeak and the endangered Warsangli Linnet.
Our tour will visit all of the very best sites in Somaliland and while the focus will be on securing good views of the endemics mentioned above we will also be searching for many of the special and range-restricted species that also occur. One of the highlights will be birding the Daallo Forest area which still holds a fair amount of beautiful juniper forest. It is here that smart endemics such as Somali Thrush, Somali Golden-winged Grosbeak, Archer’s Buzzard and Warsangli Linnet occur while also being an excellent place to find the localised Somali Starling. The Ban Cade Plains are also on the agenda and give us an excellent opportunity of finding Somali Lark, Somali Wheatear, Little Brown and Heuglin’s Bustards, Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark, Somali Courser and Spotted Sandgrouse. Another key location will be the thorn scrub and bush in the Burco area. Here range-restricted species such as Yellow-vented Eremomela, Red-naped Bushshrike, Scaly Chatterer, Somali Crombec, Arabian Warbler and the endemic Collared Lark can all be found while time will also be spent at a site near Berbera for Somali Pigeon and the extremely localised Sombre Rock Chat that favours lava-covered areas. Additional quality species include White-cheeked Tern, Blanford’s, Somali Short-toed and Short-tailed Larks, Greater Hoopoe-Lark, Yellow-breasted Barbet, Nile Valley Sunbird, White-crowned, Shelley’s and Magpie Starlings, Somali Bee-eater, Somali Sparrow and Northern Grosbeak-Canary.
This is also a country that has been little explored from an ornithological point of view and every trip seems to produce something unusual, unexpected or new and reports of a possible unique species of cisticola and an interesting scops owl from the Daallo Forest show just how much there is yet to still discover. This is pioneering birding at its very best and, when combined with the influx of Palaearctic migrants, should make for a superb bird-filled adventure!
Little Brown Bustard, Archer’s Buzzard, Somali Pigeon, Somali, Collared, Blanford’s, Somali Short-toed & Short-tailed Larks, Greater & Lesser Hoopoe-Larks, Somali Wheatear, Somali Thrush, Somali Starling, Somali Golden-winged Grosbeak, Warsangli Linnet, Heuglin’s Bustards, Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark, Somali Courser, Spotted Sandgrouse, Yellow-vented Eremomela, Red-naped Bushshrike, Scaly Chatterer, Philippa’s and Somali Crombecs, Arabian Warbler, Sombre Rock Chat, White-cheeked Tern, Yellow-breasted Barbet, Nile Valley Sunbird, White-crowned, Shelley’s & Magpie Starlings, Somali Bee-eater, Somali Sparrow, Northern Grosbeak-Canary.
Beira, Speke’s, Soemmering’s & Dorcas Gazelle, Speke’s Pectinator, Caracal, Desert Warthog, Somali Elephant Shrew
dry acacia scrub and woodland, semi-desert, juniper forest, rocky gorges, coastal areas
warm to hot in the lowlands, cool to mild in the highlands. Chances of rain exist.
Golis Escarpment, Ban Cade Plains, Taba’a Escarpment, Daallo Mountain
Day 1: Arrival in Hargeisa
Today we arrive in Hargeisa where you will be met by your Rockjumper leader. Thereafter we will transfer to a fairly simple but comfortable hotel in town.
Day 2: Hargeisa to the Tri-Plains Camp
This morning on our Somaliland birding tour, we will make an early start out of Hargeisa and begin the drive east towards the Quoryale Plains and beyond. One of the highlights on our drive today will be a good chance at finding the rare and near-endemic Beira Antelope while other species that are also possible on the drive include Gerenuk, Speke’s Gazelle and Desert Warthog. This area provides a perfect introduction into the Somaliland avifauna and whilst travelling from the Beira Hills down to Wadi Debis, we will look for the localized Somali Wheatear, Black-throated and Yellow-breasted Barbets, gaudy Golden-breasted and White-crowned Starlings, Grey Wren-Warbler and Grey-headed Batis. Whilst travelling through the rocky hillsides and whistling acacias, we’ll also look for Red-bellied Parrot, White-bellied Go-away-bird, Banded Warbler, Acacia Tit, Mouse-coloured Penduline Tit and White- bellied Canary.
We then head due south and out of Wadi Debis to the start of the Tri-Plains stretch for a great mix of bustards, larks and pipits. These may include the much wanted Little Brown Bustard plus the more widespread Buff-crested and huge Kori Bustards, Blanford’s, Somali Short-toed, Short-tailed and Singing Bush Larks, and Plain-backed and Long-billed Pipits. The Tuuyo Plain, the last of the series of plains, is the westernmost site to see Somali Lark and Lesser Hoopoe-Lark, both endemic to Somaliland. In Tuuyo, we may also see Greater Kestrel and Chestnut-headed Sparrow-Lark.
Day 3: Tri-Plains to Burco
Travelling further east to Burco, today we pass through areas of dry mixed woodland and stony hillocks where we could see Nubian Woodpecker, Magpie Starling, Little, Olive and Northern Carmine Bee-eaters, Yellow-breasted Apalis (here of the distinctive viridiceps race, that is sometimes split as Brown-tailed Apalis), Shelley’s Sparrow, Upcher’s Warbler, White-browed Scrub Robin, Brubru, Somali Crow, Blue-capped and Red-cheeked Cordon-bleus, Somali, Cream-coloured and Double-banded Coursers, Somali Fiscal, Crested Francolin and Vulturine Guineafowl. Just outside Burco City are the Aroori Plains and here we will have further chances for Somali Lark and Little Brown Bustard. Other species we might see during our Somaliland birding tour in this area include Mourning Collard Dove, Somali Bee-eater, Red-and-yellow Barbet, Steppe Grey Shrike and Blanford’s Lark. On this plain there is also an enigmatic remnant of Soemmering’s Gazelle attempting a return after a near half-a-century absence, as well as Speke’s Gazelle which seem to be doing a little better.
Days 4 & 5: Birding in the red sand country east of Burco
The first area we will visit this morning is in search of the tiny Philippa’s Crombec, a very localized species. We may also see the more widespread Somali Crombec here as well. In addition, this is a good place for Yellow-vented Eremomela, another tricky and rather localized species, as well as Eastern Chanting Goshawk, Foxy Lark, Hunter’s, Shining, Eastern Violet-backed and Nile Valley Sunbirds, Three-streaked Tchagra and Somali Bunting. It is also excellent bustard terrain and we’ll keep a watch for Heuglin’s, White-bellied, Buff-crested and Little Brown. Travelling further east we then enter red sand country, where our key target is the extremely localized Collared Lark. As this might take a while to find, we have allocated sufficient time to search for this elusive species. Other birds we could see in the area include Lilac-breasted Roller (of the unique lorti subspecies, which is occasionally split off as a separate species), Pygmy Falcon, Alpine Swift, Ethiopian Swallow, Dodson’s Bulbul, Blue-naped Mousebird, Abyssinian Scimitarbill, Northern and Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbills, Arabian Warbler, Pale Prinia, Grey Wren-Warbler, Pygmy Batis, Red-naped Bushshrike, Little Owl, Scaly Chatterer, Gillett’s Lark, Donaldson-Smith’s Nightjar, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, Red-fronted Warbler, Golden-breasted, Shelley’s and Magpie Starlings, Purple Grenadier, Green-winged Pytilia, African Silverbill, Straw-tailed Whydah, Somali Sparrow, Yellow-spotted Petronia, Red-billed and White-headed Buffalo Weavers, Chestnut Weaver, Northern Grosbeak-Canary and White-bellied Canary.
Days 6 & 7: Ban Cade Plains
We have two days of our Somaliland birding tour to explore this interesting area. The Ban Cade Plains are vast, very scenic and quite different from the previous plains. This is serious lark, pipit, sandgrouse and bustard country. Specifically, we will look for Somali Lark (a different sub-species from the Tuuyo Plains), as well as Lesser Hoopoe-, Somali Short-toed, Desert and Short-tailed Larks. Other possible species include Egyptian and Lappet-faced Vultures, Short-toed Snake Eagle, Lanner Falcon, Somali Courser, Chestnut-headed Sparrow-Lark, Chestnut-bellied and Spotted Sandgrouse, Desert Wheatear and all the previously mentioned bustards.
Day 8: Ban Cade Plains to Daallo Forest Reserve
This morning on our Somaliland birding tour, we depart early for the long drive to Daallo Mountain. This is primarily a travel day, but we’ll nonetheless make several comfort stops en route and keep a watch for any species we might not yet have seen. Depending on our time of arrival we will either stay at the basic Erigavo Lodge or, if time permits, we will push on to our camp at Daallo Mountain.
Days 9 to 11: Daallo Forest Reserve
We have three full days of our Somaliland birding tour to explore this fabulous reserve. Whilst investigating the lovely Taba’a Escarpment and Daallo Mountain we’ll search for a number of endemics, including the critically endangered Warsangli Linnet, which is thought to number no more than 1000 individuals. The other high priority species here include the near-threatened Somali Golden-winged Grosbeak, inexplicably scarce Archer’s Buzzard, Somali Thrush and little known Somali Pigeon. Of the near-endemics Somali Starling is thankfully common in this area and we will also keep our eyes and ears open for the shy and difficult archeri race of Orange River Francolin, which is often split as a separate species. During our explorations of the area we should also find a good number of other species and possibilities include Abyssinian Wheatear, Verreaux’s Eagle, scarce Barbary Falcon, Bruce’s Green and African Olive Pigeons, White-browed Coucal, Nyanza Swift of the unique and different looking somalicus race, Black-billed Wood Hoopoe, Hemprich’s Hornbill, Pale Crag Martin, Common Nightingale, White-throated Robin, Common Redstart, Little Rock Thrush, Brown Woodland Warbler, Abyssinian White-eye and Brown-rumped See-eater. Past trips to this largely unexplored area have produced some interesting sightings including an unidentified species of cisticola and an interesting scops owl that is either Arabian Scops Owl or a new species altogether!
If we have managed to find all the key birds, we should have time to embark on a pelagic seabird trip to Rabshie Island. Here we have chances for Masked and Brown Boobies, Red-billed Tropicbird and Bridled Tern while interesting past records include Wedge-tailed Shearwater and Wilson’s Storm Petrel.
Day 12: Daallo Forest Reserve to Burco City
We leave early again this morning for a very long travel day back to Burco City. We’ll have a little time to make some birding stops for any unusual sightings and target species we haven’t yet seen or require better views of. Tonight we will spend the evening at a hotel in town.
Day 13: Burco City to Berbera
We make a very early start today and travel across the scenic Golis Range, passing an historic Sheik village along the way. We’ll stop at the shoulder of the escarpment to look for the rare Sombre Rock Chat, and perhaps Blackstart and Brown-tailed Rock Chat, at an old volcanic, rock-strewn site. Later on we should arrive at the Busti Massif, a seemingly lifeless coastal range about 20km above Berbera Town and the Gulf of Aden. This area has some canyons that hold Somali Pigeon, thereby allowing us further chances for this sought-after and very subtly attractive endemic. In the nearby caves and surrounds we might find Greyish Eagle-Owl, Common Kestrel and Striolated Bunting.
Day 14: Berbera to Hargeisa and depart
We should have a little time this morning to look around the old collapsing port of Berbera. This is Somaliland’s second largest town but is sadly only a shadow of its glory days. We will bird a little along the coastline here and should be able to pick up White-cheeked, Greater Crested, Lesser Crested and Caspian Terns, Slender-billed and Heuglin’s Gulls, Pink-backed Pelican, African Collared Dove and a large variety of waders. We then begin the drive back to Hargeisa where the tour will conclude. Those continuing on with the Djibouti Extension will fly into Djibouti to begin this rewarding extension.