Thursday, 14 November 2013

Liben Plain

This was the day we made the pilgrimage to the Liben Plain in search of the critically endangered Sidamo Lark. Another early start and a quick 50 minute drive saw us arrive on site shortly after sunrise. It was a vast open area and rather like looking for a needle in a haystack but off we set and over the next couple of hours we found lots of Somali Short-toed Larks, Plain-backed Pipit, Ethiopian Swallow, Isabelline Wheatear, Crowned Lapwing, Black-winged Lapwing, Eurasian Hobby, Lanner, Pectoral-patch Cisticola, Parrot-billed Sparrow, and 3 hulking Kori Bustards

Black-winged Lapwing

Crowned Lapwing

It wasn’t looking good for the ‘biggie’ until nearly back at the car and a little commotion involving some local kids who had called over our guide and Merid & Steve Rooke from the Sunbird tour and there it was! In fact a pair of Sidamo Larks were found about 30 yards away and we could grill the finer plumage features, with a scalloped back, pale crown stripe and when song-flighting, the long hind claw. What a relief and worth getting wet feet for!

Sidamo Lark

From here we drove down to a seasonally flooded lake which turned out to be choc-full of birds. We walked across some scrubland and fields for a couple of kilometres seeing Reichenow’s Seedeater, the first of many White Storks, a surprise Baltic Gull, and it was here that we became aware of the huge numbers of Lesser Kestrels present in the vicinity.

Lesser Kestrels

Around the lake 20+ Abdim’s Stork and 6 African Openbills were the highlights. Lots of waders were present with 50+ Ruff, Marsh, Wood and Green Sandpipers, Pied Avocet, Temminck’s and Little Stint, and lots of Collared Pratincoles. Overhead a huge Lappet-faced Vulture was seen, and we spent quite a while studying the Lesser Kestrels which we estimated at around 400 present in the immediate area. It was great to spend a long time watching all of the activity and actually watching birds!

Abdim's Stork and African Openbill

Abdim's Storks

We left around midday and as it was a cool, overcast day decided to skip lunch and continue birding at a nearby acacia forest. A good move as we found Great Spotted and Eurasian Cuckoos, Red-backed Shrike, a flock of Grey-capped Social Weavers, Northern White-crowned Shrike, Gabar Goshawk, and several Yellow-bellied Eremomela. More Reichenow’s Seedeaters were seen when we stopped to look at an Ethiopian Swallow perched on telegraph wires, and another Kori Bustard was seen en-route as well.

Kori Bustard

At another acacia forest we notched up Nubian Woodpecker, Marico Sunbird, Rufous Chatterer, Orange-breasted Bush-shrike, Scaly Francolin, Isabelline Shrike and our only African Wattled Lapwings of the tour before the rain came in around 4pm and we got absolutely drenched. What a day!

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