Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Garden Birding and Roosting Owls

It made a pleasant change to just walk out of our rooms and bird the gardens for a few hours this morning. And what a cracking session we were treated to as we saw so many new trip birds, beginning with a Red-faced Cisticola, African Thrush, Spectacled and Little Weavers,  and at least 3 Black Crakes that all showed nicely. Walking out the gate to view the lake 3 African Pygmy Geese (and what stunners they are!) and our first Grey-headed Gulls were present.

African Pygmy Goose

Following the path bordering the lake many more new birds appeared such as a Nubian Woodpecker, Blue-headed Coucal, Marsh and Sedge Warblers, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, White-rumped Babbler, Common Waxbill and after much scrutiny a Lesser Swamp Warbler.

The above two photos are Lesser Swamp Warbler......

And we had really close views of plenty of other species such as White-winged and Whiskered Terns, Black-winged Lovebird, a flock of really confiding African Citrils, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Sand Martin and more.

Returning to the gardens we had a mad spell with birds everywhere as first of all a group of Black-billed Wood-Hoopoes were seen, followed by Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Northern Puffback, Black-headed Batis, Brown-throated Wattle-eye and Buff-bellied Warbler. Then it was time to search for Spotted Creeper, but it was hard as we kept getting distracted by more birds including Grey-headed Kingfisher, both Eurasian and Red-throated Wrynecks, Ethiopian Boubou, Northern Black Flycatcher, Cut-throat Finch, nest-building Bronze Mannikins and Grosbeak Weaver. Eventually we found a pair of Spotted Creepers as well to round off a really great pre-breakfast session.

Reluctantly leaving here, we drove just five minutes down the road to Hawassa Fishmarket but didn’t stay long as the hoped for Goliath Heron wasn’t around. There were still plenty of birds and we particularly liked the close views of African Fish Eagle calling evocatively from the top of an acacia. A Spur-winged Goose, Hadada Ibis, plus many Hamerkops and Squacco Herons were also nice.

So from here we began the drive up towards the Bale Mountains, but didn’t get far before pulling over at the side of the road to take a look at some Northern Carmine Bee-eaters and a Lilac-breasted Roller perched on telegraph wires. It’s always difficult in Ethiopia to get from A to B as there are just so many birds but with much effort on our parts we sifted out the common birds and only stopped for such goodies as Lappet-faced and White-headed Vultures, and a flock of 31 Black-winged Lapwings.

White-headed Vulture

Of course we stopped to pay our respects at the usual stake-out for Cape Eagle Owl, which this year required a scramble down into the little valley to look back up at the bird at its day roost below a small conifer on the cliff.

Cape Eagle Owl

As the road wound ever upwards (we travelled from around 1900m at Hawassa up to 3000m) into the Bale Mountains the scenery changed from rolling arable fields to moorland and it was here that our first endemic Rouget’s Rail was seen. We eventually arrived at the park HQ at Dinsho and immediately set out with one of the rangers to see a pair of absolutely fantastic Abyssinian Owls

Abyssinian Owls in the Bale Mountains

Perched high up in a conifer, one of them was clearly visible close to the trunk, whilst the other had its back turned. But what a bird and having missed them last year, I was particularly pleased to nail them this time. We also came across a flock of the endemic highland speciality - White-backed Black Tits as well, which showed quite well and a fine Abyssinian Ground Thrush.

Settled into the hotel a short while later for a 3 night stay. More Spaghetti Bolognese.....

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