Friday, 15 November 2013

Yabello, Bushcrows and Phaffing

A few Red-winged Starlings accompanied us for breakfast at the Yabello Motel this morning before we set off to a special site where we enjoyed point-blank views of the much-wanted endemic White-tailed Swallow. A pair were nesting in a small hut in a village, and once again we provided a vast amount of amusement to the local villagers - but the crippling views of the swallow were amazing. 

White-tailed Swallow

But we did get distracted by very close views of Grey-capped Social Weavers, D’Arnaud’s Barbet, Boran Cisticola, Vitelline Masked weaver, and Chestnut Sparrow.

D'Arnaud's Barbet

We then phaffed around visiting a lake which I found a little frustrating, but there was a Pink-backed Pelican, African Spoonbill, Woolly-necked Stork, Red-billed Teal, and our first Shikra, Lesser Masked Weaver and Bare-faced Go-Away-Bird – but come on there’s better birds to find.

Driving to the Yabello Wildlife Sanctuary gave us a group of endemic Stresemann’s Bushcrows, so we jumped out and had nice views for half an hour. I was really pleased to get such nice views and it was nice to be able to watch them for quite some time.

Stresemann's Bushcrow

In the reserve we only spent a short time but managed to find a flock of European Bee-eaters, Banded Parisoma, Ashy Cisticola, Whinchat, Vitelline and Speke’s Weavers, Purple Grenadier and best of all, a fine Buff-crested Bustard – but we’d some plenty of the latter species in a few days.

Somali Bunting

After lunch we drove south out of Yabello to an arid, bushy area and spent a wonderful couple of hours before heavy rain came in later in the afternoon. Shame we didn’t get here earlier, but the list of birds we came up with made the visit eminently worthwhile. First up was a fine Black-throated Barbet singing from the top of an acacia. Then a flurry of activity around a big tree turned into several Purple Grenadiers, Black-capped Social Weavers, Somali Bunting, Grey Wren-Warbler and Yellow-breasted Apalis. A male Pygmy Falcon was then scoped on a distant tree top. A furtive movement in a dense area of bushes turned out to be a Spotted Palm-Thrush, a group of Mottled Swifts flew over, and we also saw White-bellied Canary and Northern Grosbeak Canary as well. 

Northern Grosbeak Canary

We spent much of our time searching for Red-naped Bush-Shrike which initially proved elusive, near-invisible and downright skulky, but eventually we had pretty decent views of several birds in the vicinity. 

Red-naped Bush-shrike

More new birds followed with a group of African Yellow White-eyes feeding on some red flowers, a singing Red-fronted Warbler, Masked Shrike and best of all, a pair of Heuglin’s Coursers found by Lee hiding in the shade of some dense bushes. What stunning birds they are! With really dark clouds rapidly approaching we made a hasty retreat back to the car (yes we ran) and arrived just in time before a heavy rainstorm, seeing more White-tailed Swallows and a couple of African Orange-bellied Parrots fly across the road.

Heuglin's Courser

We then drove along a dirt road and tried a spot of owling which resulted in a Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl being spotlighted alongside the road and an obliging African Scops-Owl being found. 

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