Monday, 18 November 2013

Awash - The End

Our last day in Ethiopia began with a Black-backed Jackal beside the road as we drove towards Awash NP again. Once inside we drove to the savanna and cruised slowly along, making our first stop when a lark flew up beside us. After a bit of a chase it turned out to be a Gillett’s Lark and it showed quite nicely in the scope. In the same area Lee spotted a pair of Heuglin’s Coursers and a little later, another appeared nearby. Moving on we were suddenly confronted by a Kori Bustard, resplendent with a couple of Northern Carmine Bee-eaters riding on its back – just like on the pictures I’ve drooled over and  couldn’t believe our good fortune. 

Kori Bustard and chums

Amazing photo opportunities and a privilege to witness this amazing spectacle. Nearby, we scored with Singing Bushlark and Red-winged Lark at the same spot, and we followed that up with a European Roller, Abyssinian Scimitarbill, and more carmine’s before driving to Awash Falls Lodge for lunch. And boy was it hot – probably over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Unfortunately it was time to leave and we drove back to Addis Ababa, stopping along the road and seeing Chestnut-headed Sparrow-weaver, Striolated Bunting and Green-winged Pytilia. And that’s a wrap.

Sunday, 17 November 2013


Headed to the Bilen Lodge area of Awash NP and along the bumpy, rocky track scored quickly with several Nile Valley Sunbirds and a Rufous Bushchat – both new species for the trip. 

Three-banded Plover

There was also Cardinal Woodpecker, Black-throated Barbet, Turkestan Shrike, and other common birds. At a small pool there were a few Little and Temminck’s Stints, Wood Sandpiper, Black-headed Wagtail and best of all, a pair of Three-banded Plovers

Yellow-breasted Barbet

Nearby we had a couple pairs of Yellow-breasted Barbets showing well, an incredible bird and one I wasn’t expecting for some reason. Overhead we had lots of Montagu’s and a few Pallid Harriers, Brown Snake-Eagle and flocks of Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse. Leaving here we drove to the Aladeghe Plain and I think we left it a bit too late as it was 10.30am and the heat haze was really bad, but it was an enjoyable time as there was an invasion of locusts being predated on by 500+ Lesser Kestrels, as well as flocks of Marabou and White Storks, and a few Woolly-necked Storks

Arabian Bustard

We drove quite a way across the grassland and eventually found a single Arabian Bustard about 300m away, so we quietly walked towards it and had great views through the scope. This is a much-wanted bird for everyone and a contender for bird of the trip. A Steppe Grey Shrike was also skulking in the shade of a small acacia, at another tree a flock of Red-billed Quelea were seen and our only Black-headed Plover of the tour as well.

Beisa Oryx

So by now it was getting well over 100 fahrenheit so we returned to the hotel for a cold drink, lunch and a siesta before heading back into the park. As usual here it was pretty quiet but we managed to find 4 Senegal Thick-knees along the river, a group of Blue-naped Mousebirds, White-bellied Go-Away-Bird, and Eastern Grey Plantain-Eater. On the drive out we saw Crested Francolin, Yellow-necked Spurfowl, and a flock of Helmetted Guineafowl. Non avian interest today was quite high with Olive Baboon, Gerenuk, Soemmering’s Gazelle, Dikdik, Lesser Kudu and a Golden Jackal which was being mobbed by a couple of Steppe Eagles who were after the rodent he had just caught. 

Awash National Park

Left at 5am and got to Nazret for a 7am breakfast of scrambled eggs at a nice hotel, whose gardens held another Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, several Black-winged Lovebirds and this African Grey Woodpecker

African Grey Woodpecker

So we continued on the journey to Awash, seeing a Verreaux’s Eagle fly over the road as we watched a pair of Blackstarts and a Blue Rock Thrush on a lava flow. I didn’t find out until we were on the journey that we were booked into a hotel in the town of Awash rather than one of the lodges actually inside the park, which kind of made me a little angry but I had to just go with the flow – we’ll stay inside the park next year!!! Anyway, after an early bolognese lunch at the hotel we drove to the park entrance and set off through the open savanna dotted with acacias – a typical African scene. 

Pygmy Falcon

It was great to finally be here and we were all excited, so to get Green-winged Pytilia early on was nice as it was the only sighting of the day. Helmetted Guineafowl, Pygmy Falcon, Dark-chanting Goshawk, African Palm Swift, Ashy Cisticola, Woodchat Shrike, Somali Fiscal, and these Northern Carmine Bee-eaters were all seen within the first half an hour, but I loved this Madagascar (Olive) Bee-eater…. Isabelline Wheatears were also exceedingly common and kept distracting us, but our first Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Larks were much better!

Northern Carmine Bee-eaters

Madagascar (Olive) Bee-eater

The overcast conditions then cleared and we had bright, sunny weather by mid-afternoon which meant the temperature soared and bird activity died down totally. And things remained slow for the rest of the day, except for Cardinal Woodpecker, our first Grey-headed Batis, a pair of Brubru, Lanner, Isabelline and Red-backed Shrikes and Black-crowned Tchagra. Oh and a couple of Buff-crested Bustards were also found close to the main track….

Buff-crested Bustard

Dinner at the Awash Falls Lodge was kind of like Jim Bowen telling you what you could have won – if only you were staying at this lovely location – if you get my drift! Still, managed to spotlight some crocs on the river below….

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Lake Abiata, Lake Langano and more!

We left the wonderful Haile Resort after a later than usual start at 7am and called in to a nearby area along the lake shore where a Goliath Heron was seen close by, along with Malachite and African Pygmy Kingfisher, whilst a beautiful Grey-headed Kingfisher was new for the trip. 

Goliath Heron

Leaving here we drove for an hour or so to Lake Abiata, one of the famous Rift Valley sites. And what an amazing place this was. There were literally thousands of Lesser Flamingo’s all the way along the shoreline, as well as smaller numbers of Greater Flamingo’s as well. 

Lake Abiata - so many birds to sift through here

Lake Abiata

Lesser Flamingo's

The shoreline was crawling with many species of wader, including numerous Little Stints, hundred upon hundred of Pied Avocet, 1000’s of Ruff, 100’s of Kittlitz’s Plovers, plus smaller numbers of Ringed Plover, Common Greenshank, Green, Wood and Marsh Sandpipers, a solitary Black-tailed Godwit and a few Black-winged Stilts. Overhead was an almost constant stream of Common Cranes flying in to land on the marshes, and it was such a great surprise to see 21 Wattled Cranes flying in as well. To add to all this activity were some African Spoonbills, lots of Marabou Storks, Yellow-billed Storks, Sacred Ibis, egrets, ducks and the odd Western Marsh Harrier, Pallid Harrier and African Fish Eagle, Gull-billed Terns, 100’s of Yellow Wagtails and a single Pallas’s Gull. A flyover Northern Carmine Bee-eater was also much appreciated, whilst a few Grassland Pipits were seen as we left the area. 

African Spoonbills

Wattled Cranes - something of a surprise to find 21 at Lake Abiata

Wattled Cranes at Lake Abiata

We had lunch at the Wabe Shebelle Hotel on the shores of Lake Langano, which is surrounded by some nice trees and is a known stake-out for Slender-tailed Nightjar and Greyish Eagle-Owl – both of which obliged. 

Grayish Eagle-Owl

We also found Red-throated Wrynecks to be common, and also saw Little Rock Thrush, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, and African Orange-bellied Parrot. We sat on the veranda of the restaurant which overlooks Lake Langano and watched numerous White-winged Terns flying past in the strong winds. The odd Whiskered Tern also passed by, as did a White-rumped and Little Swift, along with our first Western Reef Egret.

African Orange-bellied Parrot

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler

Rufous-throated Wryneck

Leaving here we re-entered Lake Abiata National Park, but from a different entrance and a nice walk through the acacia forest turned up a couple pairs of the endemic White-winged Black Tit, along with Mouse-coloured Penduline-Tit, Buff-bellied Warbler, Black Scimitarbill and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting

White-winged Black Tit - another endemic

As it was late afternoon we drove the short distance to our lodge overlooking Lake Langano and had our first Icterine Warbler and Ruppell’s Weaver