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ETHIOPIA

1–20 November 2021
1–20 November 2022

More than 850 bird species have been recorded in Ethiopia, 31 of them endemic to this country and the recently-separated Eritrea. We will have the possibility of seeing all but one of the endemic birds including the fabled Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco, the range-restricted Harwood’s Francolin, Stresemann’s Bush-crow, White-tailed Swallow, Liben Lark and Ankober Serin We will also be on the lookout for the striking Ethiopian Wolf and other mammals.

Day 1 Overnight flight from London to Addis Ababa.

Day 2 Arrival in Addis Ababa followed by a two-hour drive north to Debre Libanos. We will break our journey to spend some time birding the Sululta Plains, where we should see our first Ethiopian endemic birds. Blue-winged Goose, Wattled Ibis, White-collared Pigeon, Spot-breasted Lapwing and Abyssinian Longclaw are all possible here together with Groundscraper Thrush, Moorland Chat and Black-winged Lapwing. On arrival at Debre Libanos we will spend some time in the forest behind the monastery, where we hope to see such species as White-cheeked Turaco, Lemon Dove, Black-winged Lovebird, the endemic Abyssinian Woodpecker, Rüppell’s Robin-chat and Lanner Falcon, before checking out the renowned Portuguese Bridge. Target species here include the endemic Rüppell’s Chat and White-winged Cliff-chat together with Mountain Wagtail and Slender-billed Starling. Overnight in Fiche.

Day 3 This morning we will head for the Jemma River Valley where, in stunning scenery, we will look for the endangered endemic Harwood’s Francolin. Other birds we hope to find in this area include another endemic in the form of White-billed Starling together with Erckel’s Francolin, Fox Kestrel, the regional endemic Swainson’s Sparrow, Foxy Cisticola, Cinnamon-breasted and Cinereous Buntings, Bearded Vulture, Speckled-fronted Weaver, Nyanza Swift, Yellow-fronted Canary and Familiar Chat among a host of other, more widespread species. If we are lucky, we may also see the enigmatic Egyptian Plover here. Overnight in Lemi.

Days 4–5 These two days will be spent birding around the areas of Debre Birhan and Ankober. En route to Debre Birhan we will make a stop to look for Quailfinch. High on our list of target species in these areas will be the highly range-restricted endemic Ankober Serin and several further endemics or near endemics in the form of Red-billed Pytilia, Yellow-throated Serin and maybe Blanford’s Lark. Other birds we may see include Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaver, Cape Crow, Shining Sunbird, Augur Buzzard, Violet-backed Starling, Yellow-breasted Barbet, Half-collared Kingfisher and Yellow-bellied Eremomela. On one night we will look for Abyssinian Nightjar. Two nights in Debre Birhan.

Days 6–7 These two days will be spent in the superb Awash National Park, specifically around the Bilen and Fulhowa Hotsprings, the Awash River and the Kirayawa Gorge, exploring riverine forests, wetlands, thorn woodlands, savannah grasslands, rocky hills, cliffs and escarpments. The park boasts a bird list of 460 species and we are likely to see Abyssinian Roller, Ashy Cisticola and Green-winged Pytilia around the park entrance. We will also look for Greater Spotted Eagle, Scissor-tailed Kite, Shikra, Arabian, Buff-crested, Hartlaub’s and White-bellied Bustards, Helmeted Guineafowl, Small Buttonquail, Eastern Plantain-eater, Chestnut-bellied and Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse, Black-billed Barbet, White-browed Coucal, African Palm-swift, Plain Nightjar, Northern Carmine and Madagascar Bee-eaters, Wire-tailed Swallow, Red-winged and Flappet Larks, Singing Bushlark, Red-backed Scrub-robin, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Great Grey, Isabelline, Red-backed, White-rumped and Woodchat Shrikes, Somali Fiscal, Nile Valley and Mariqua Sunbirds, Grey-headed Bushshrike, Fan-tailed Raven, African Pied Wagtail, Red-billed Quelea and Crimson-rumped Waxbill. Mammals may include African Lion, Leopard, Beisa Oryx, Aardvark, Soemmering’s Gazelle, Impala, Hamadryas Baboon, Abyssinian Hare, African Wild Cat, Black-backed Jackal, Striped Hyena and Greater and Lesser Kudus. Two nights in Awash.

Days 8–9 The route from Awash to Lake Langano will take us through savannah habitat and close to numerous Rift Valley lakes with great birding. As we skirt around the lava fields at the base of the Fantale Crater, we will look for Sombre Chat, Blackstart and Chestnut-headed Sparrow-lark. On arrival at our hotel on the shores of Lake Langano, with views of the 4000-metre-high Arsi Mountains in the background, we will spend some time around its vast grounds, where we will look for Clapperton’s Francolin, White-winged Black-tit, Hemprich’s Hornbill, Little Bee-eater, Little Rock-thrush, Abyssinian (Schalow’s) Wheatear and many other special birds of the area. Another destination during our stay will be the magnificent Bishangary area, where we will look for Tambourine Dove, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Ethiopian Boubou, Black Cuckooshrike, Black Scimitarbill, Cape Teal, Southern Pochard, Intermediate Egret, Dark Chanting-goshawk, Imperial and Long-crested Eagles, Black-breasted and Banded Snake-eagles, Kittlitz’s Plover, African Snipe, Pallas’s Gull, African Pipit, African Thrush, Red-faced Crombec, Rüs;ppell’s Starling and Red-billed Oxpecker. Mammals may include Oribi and Spotted Hyena. In the evenings we will look for Greyish and Verreaux’s Eagle-owls, African Scops-owl, Northern White-faced Owl and Freckled, Slender-tailed and Sombre Nightjars around the hotel.

Day 10 Today we will head for the world-famous Bale Mountains National Park. On the ascent we will start to see flocks of Ethiopian Siskins and Yellow-crowned Canaries feeding on the short grass and many Red-billed Choughs. Just before we reach Dinsho wetlands we will stop for Cape Eagle-owl in a rocky ravine. On the plain nearby there will be many Thekla’s Larks and Red-throated Pipits. At our picnic spot we will watch out for the endemic Rouget’s Rail. We should also see Fan-tailed Widowbird, Ethiopian Cisticola, African Stonechat and Buffy Pipit in the same area. At the park headquarters, we will search for Chestnut-naped Francolin together with two more endemics: Abyssinian Catbird and White-backed Black-tit. We also hope to see a variety of mammals including Mountain Nyala, Menelik’s Bushbuck and Desert Warthog. The park wardens may know of roosting sites for Abyssinian Owl and African Wood-owl. We will stay in Goba for three nights.

Day 11 A 1600m descent will find us enjoying some dry warmth in the Sof Omar region. The habitat here consists of broad-leaved and Acacia woodlands, which hold many new species for us. Our main target bird will be the extremely range-restricted Salvadori’s Serin, the most attractive of Ethiopia’s endemic canaries. Other target birds will include D’Arnaud’s Barbet, Somali Crow, Northern Brownbul, Somali Tit, the localised Brown-tailed Chat, Yellow-breasted Apalis (a form likely to be split as Brown-tailed Apalis), Rosy-patched Bushshrike, Black-crowned Tchagra, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Greater Honeyguide, Striped and Grey-headed Kingfishers and the impressive Bristle-crowned Starling. Other likely birds include Crested Francolin, Kori Bustard, Bruce’s Green-pigeon, Ring-necked and Namaqua Doves, Emerald-spotted Wood-dove, Orange-bellied Parrot, White-bellied Go-away-bird, Black-billed Woodhoopoe, Von der Decken’s and Northern Red-billed Hornbills, Black-throated Barbet, Cardinal Woodpecker, Grey Wren-warbler, Northern Crombec, Brubru, White Helmetshrike, Superb Starling, White-headed Buffalo-weaver, Speke’s Weaver, the local subspecies of Red-headed Weaver, Eastern Paradise-whydah, Straw-tailed Whydah, Village Indigobird, Red-cheeked Cordonbleu, Cut-throat and Reichenow’s Seedeater. Sof Omar boasts Ethiopia’s longest cave system and we will have the option to take time out from our busy birding schedule, hire a guide and wander through some of these impressive tunnels with underground waterways and roosting Horseshoe Bats.

Day 12 During our ascent of the Bale Mountain massif onto the Sanetti Plateau, which lies between 3800 metres and 4377 metres above sea level, we will enter a Tid, or Juniper forest zone, where we will search for African Goshawk, Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk, the endemic Ethiopian Black-headed Oriole, African Hill Babbler, Cinnamon Bracken-warbler, Yellow-bellied Waxbill and the difficult Abyssinian Crimsonwing. Once we reach the unique plateau we will be driving on Africa’s highest road, passing close to the summit of Ethiopia’s second-highest mountain. We will be on the lookout for another endemic species here – Thick-billed Raven. The habitat is termed ‘Afro-alpine moorland’ and is characterised by Jibrra or giant lobelias, which tower over the rich tussock grasslands. This site is an Important Bird Area of immense significance, supporting seven globally-threatened bird species and nearly all of Ethiopia’s highland biome species. If we are very fortunate we will see a pair of endangered Wattled Cranes striding through the moist grassland. We will also search for Ruddy Shelduck, Black Stork and Moorland Francolin. The grasslands are estimated to support an amazing biomass of 4000kg of rodents per hectare. This obviously attracts raptors, and we should see Golden, Steppe and Tawny Eagles together with Pallid Harriers hunting over this green sea. They share the abundant food source with the plateau’s most celebrated resident, Ethiopian (Simien) Wolf, the world’s rarest canid. Finally, we will reach the escarpment of this elevated plateau and stare down through the clouds at the vast Harenna Forest below. This is the largest intact forest block in Ethiopia and the largest protected Afro-alpine forest on the continent. It still supports African Lions and the only surviving forest-dwelling African Wild Dogs. Here we will search for the uncommon Mountain Buzzard, Rameron Pigeon, African Emerald Cuckoo, Narina Trogon, Brown Parisoma (the grey-vented subspecies endemic to this national park) and the virtually endemic African Citril. In the afternoon we will return to Goba across the Sanetti Plateau.

Day 13 An early start is required to reach the dry thorn savannah in the remote southern part of Ethiopia. We will head up over the Sanetti Plateau again, giving us an opportunity to look for species we may have missed, then drop down to the amazing Harenna Forest, where we will make opportunistic stops and also take a lunch break. We may see mixed flocks of Bronze and Black-and-white Mannikins hanging on the grass by the road. Later, as we reach Acacia forest, we are likely to see Red-and-yellow Barbet, Abyssinian Ground-hornbill, Grey Kestrel, Wahlberg’s and Martial Eagles, Spotted Morning-thrush, Stout Cisticola and Shelley’s Starling. In the afternoon we will reach a dry wadi on the Genale River, home to Ethiopia’s most sought-after endemic, Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco. We should enjoy excellent views of this very unusual and beautiful bird. New for us in the area will be Bearded Woodpecker, Grosbeak Weaver and Sulphur-breasted Bushshrike. In the late afternoon, we will arrive in Negele, where we will spend two nights.

Day 14 East of Negele lie the Liben Plains, the only place in the world to find Liben Lark. We will walk across the plains in search of this special bird, which we hope to watch performing its parachute display flight. We should also find Crowned Lapwing, Pectoral-patch Cisticola, Long-billed Pipit and the range-restricted Somali Short-toed Lark. Ethiopian Swallow is common here as are White-crowned Starling and Shelley’s Rufous Sparrow. The surrounding dry woodland and thorn savannah support Egyptian Vulture, Bateleur, Eastern Chanting-goshawk, Dideric Cuckoo, Abyssinian Scimitarbill, Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbill, the rare and enigmatic Gillett’s Lark, Common (Dodson’s) Bulbul, Boran Cisticola, Golden-breasted Starling, Greyish and Pale Flycatchers, Mouse-coloured Penduline-tit, Slate-coloured Boubou, White-winged Widowbird and Somali Bunting. If we are lucky, we may see Salt’s and Günther’s Dikdiks, while Anubis Baboons may also be encountered.

Day 15 After passing close to the Kenyan border we will finally reach the Yabelo region, home to two of Ethiopia’s most sought-after endemic birds, both listed as globally threatened: Stresemann’s Bush-crow and White-tailed Swallow. This area of Acacia savannah is characterised by giant red termite mounds, some towering five metres above the plains, and both of these birds seem to be associated with these marvels of natural architecture. We will also have a good chance of seeing flocks of Vulturine Guineafowl feeding by the road, Yellow-necked Francolin, Levaillant’s and Pied Cuckoos, Steel-blue Whydah, Hunter’s Sunbird and Vitelline Masked-weaver. The late morning will be spent walking along the Dawa River in search of the extremely localised White-winged Collared-dove, Salvadori’s (Juba) Weaver and Black-bellied Sunbird. We may also see Grant’s and Thomson’s Gazelles and Gerenuk. Two nights will be spent in Yabelo.

Day 16 A walk before breakfast should give us a closer look at Stresemann’s Bush-crow, and we are also likely to see Bare-faced Go-away-bird and Croaking Cisticola as well as Rock Hyraxes waiting for the sun on the top of the rocks. We will spend a full day exploring this bird-rich area. In addition to the two special endemics, we will look for Somali Ostrich, Gabar Goshawk, Pygmy Falcon, Somali Courser, Mottled Swift, Grey-headed and Pygmy Batis, Blue-naped Mousebird, Pale Prinia, Rufous-crowned and Lilac-breasted Rollers, Golden and Bush Pipits, Pringle’s Puffback, Red-naped Bushshrike, Taita Fiscal, Eastern Violet-backed Sunbird, Somali Crombec, Banded Parisoma, Purple Grenadier, Three-streaked Tchagra, Wattled Starling, Yellow-spotted Petronia, Chestnut Sparrow, Northern Grosbeak-canary, Grey-headed and Black-capped Social-weavers, Chestnut Weaver, Black-cheeked Waxbill and White-bellied Canary. In the evening we will make a local excursion to look for Donaldson-Smith’s Nightjar and Three-banded Courser.

Day 17 We will make an early start this morning as we set off on the long drive to our final destination of the tour – Awassa. En route we should see Woolly-necked Stork and maybe a Black Goshawk. Three nights in Awassa.

Day 18 Before breakfast we will explore our wooded hotel grounds. Amongst our targets will be Mourning Collared-dove, Woodland Kingfisher, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Double-toothed Barbet, Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike, African Spotted Creeper, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Grey-backed Fiscal, Northern Puffback, Heuglin's White-eye, African Paradise-flycatcher and Little Weaver. Reed beds in the vicinity support African Swamphen, Black Crake, Blue-headed Coucal, Lesser Swamp Warbler and Common and Fawn-breasted (Abyssinian) Waxbills. After breakfast we will visit Lake Awassa fish market, where the discarded waste attracts large numbers of Marabou Storks and other birds, giving unrivalled photographic opportunities. We should also see Long-tailed Cormorant, Sacred Ibis and Grey-hooded Gull. In the nearby park we will look for the endemic Banded Barbet and White-browed (Heuglin’s) Robin-chat, Buff-bellied Warbler, Green-backed (Grey-backed) Camaroptera, Rufous Chatterer, Spectacled Weaver and Mountain Grey and Nubian Woodpeckers.

Day 19 We will spend the day exploring the forests in the vicinity of Wondo Genet. Species we may find include several endemics: Yellow-fronted Parrot, Black Sawwing (antinorii) and Abyssinian Slaty-flycatcher. Other birds may include Scaly Francolin, Little Sparrowhawk, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Red-fronted Barbet, Lesser and Green-backed Honeyguides, Abyssinian Thrush, Abyssinian Ground-thrush, Brown Woodland-warbler, Brown Parisoma (this time the more common brown subspecies), White-rumped Babbler, Collared, Scarlet-chested and Variable Sunbirds, Red-billed and African Firefinches and the rare Sharpe’s Starling. We will also have a good chance of seeing soaring Crowned Eagle, White-headed Vulture, African Harrier-hawk and Ayres’s Hawk-eagle.

Day 20 Making an early start, we will set off towards Addis Ababa, stopping to bird en route. Among our destinations today will be Koka Dam and Lakes Gelila and Zeway, where birds we are likely to see include Pink-backed and Great White Pelicans, Black Crowned-crane, African Darter, Goliath Heron, Hamerkop, Yellow-billed and Saddle-billed Storks, Spur-winged and Egyptian Geese, Knob-billed Duck, African Pygmy-goose, Red-billed, White-backed and Yellow-billed Ducks, Hottentot Teal, Fulvous Whistling-duck, African Fish-eagle, African and Lesser Jacanas, Senegal Thick-knee, Spur-winged Lapwing, African Pygmy-kingfisher and Pied and Malachite Kingfishers. A further stop will find us at Debre Zeit Crater Lake. The woodlands surrounding the lake teem with birds and we will look for Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Rufous-necked Wryneck, Western Black-headed Batis, Beautiful Sunbird and Rüppell’s Weaver. Upon reaching Addis Ababa we will have time to shower and change before dinner, following which we will return to the airport for our late evening flight back to the UK.

Day 21 Arrival in the UK.

General Information There will be a wide range of temperatures on this tour from below freezing in the mountains to over 40°C in the semi-desert areas. Some rain is possible. There are a number of health requirements and you must contact your GP in this respect. Walks are generally easy, although in the heat it can sometimes be tiring and some walks in the mountains up to nearly 4000m and along wadis need a little extra effort. Accommodation is in twin-bedded rooms, in comfortable hotels/lodges where available with private facilities in most places but there are several more basic ‘hotels’ with shared facilities. Visas are required.

Group Size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 6; maximum group size: 12 with 2 leaders.

Stresemann's Bush Crow

Stresemann's Bush Crow

Recommended books available from NHBS