Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

ETHIOPIA PART D – ETHIOPIAN WOLF & BALE MOUNTAINS

Ethiopian Wolf

After Laker Langano (see following post) we again headed east, this time towards the Bale Mountains - where some of Africa's finest scenery is on display. As we ascended the mountains we stopped at a well-known spot for Cape Eagle-Owl. Some local boys were able to show us one at its cliff-side roost almost immediately. Lanner Falcon also showed well roadside.

Cape Eagle-Owl

Lanner Falcon
Our next port of call was the national park headquarters at Dinsho. Here, the park staff are adept at tracking down owls at their day roosts. We were shown a pair of roosting African Wood Owls, then an Abyssinian (Long-eared) Owl – a much-wanted specialty of the area.

African Wood Owl


Abyssinian Owl
We found a party of White-backed Black Tits and an Abyssinian Catbird in the wet forest surrounding the park headquarters. 

Abyssinian Catbird
Mammals were also about, including the endemic Mountain Nyala and Mendelik's Bushbuck, Warthogs were common.

Mendelick's Bushbuck

Warthog
Our home for the next two nights was the Wabishebele Hotel in Goba, where we had an opportunity to adjust to the high altitude. Thick-billed Raven was common about the town and we saw our first Somali Crows of the trip.

Thick-billed Raven
We had a full day traversing the beautiful Sanetti Plateau, where Africa's highest road ascends to 4300 metres. This was the only day of the trip that we needed to drag out all the warm weather clothes we anticipated needing for cold high altitude weather. A Golden Jackal emerged from bushes close to the road lower down and we stopped to see the local endemic race of the Brown Parisoma.

Golden Jackal
Spot-winged Lapwing and Rouget's Rail – both Ethiopian highland endemics – were easy enough to spot in the low moorland as we continued our ascent.

Rouget's Rail
Spot-breasted Lapwing
We saw plenty of Chesnut-naped Francolins and a Moorland Francolin as we drove across the plateau. A Lammergeier made an appearance overhead.

Chesnut-naped Francolin

Lammergeier
Moorland Francolin
Rodents were in abundance – most were seemingly Blik's Grass-Rat, and were happy to find a few bizarre-looking Giant Mole-Rats.

Blik's Grass-Rat

Giant Mole-Rat
Ethiopian Wolf is one of the star animals of this country , so we were pleased indeed to see a total of 5 of these mammals, including a pair close to the road.

Ethiopian Wolf
We moved on to the Harema Forest – the largest forest in Ethiopia. Here we saw Ethiopian Oriole without much trouble and were pleased to tick off Abyssinian Woodpecker – one of the more difficult endemics.


Ethiopian Oriole


Abyssinian Woodpecker

We found a small troop of another endemic – the Bale Monkey, considered a race of the Vervet Monkey but a good candidate for a split.

Bale Monkey

On the way back, a Wattled Crane showed distantly.

Wattled Crane
The next day we left Gobe and retraced our steps across the Senetti Plateau before descending to the southern lowlands of Ethiopia. We stopped in an area of dry acacia in break-away country and saw some striking White-crested Helemet-shrikes before tracking down our main target for the site – a magnificent Ruspoli's Turaco.

White-crested Helmet-shrikes

Ruspoli's Turaco


Monday, 10 September 2018

ETHIOPIA PART C – Lake Langano and the Rift Valley

Black-winged Lovebird

Following our visit to Awash National Park (see following post) we continued south to the very nice Harro Langano lodge on the south-east shore of Lake Langano for a two-night stay. Early the first morning we saw a pair of Yellow-fronted Parrots in the tall fig trees outside the lodge restaurant.

Yellow-fronted Parrot
We headed around to the west shore of the lake to check out the compound of the largely disbanded Simbo Lodge. Here were loads of excellent birds including Gymnogene, African Orange-bellied Parrot, Rufous Chatterer, Red-necked Wryneck, Bare-faced Go-Away-Bird and White-bellied Go-Away-Bird.

Gymnogene

Bare-faced Go-Away-Bird

White-bellied go-Away-Bird
Some locals showed us a pair of roosting Greyish Eagle-Owls. We flushed a small group of Ethiopian Epauleted Fruit-Bats.

Ethiopian Epauleted Fruit-Bat
We saw several Little Rock-thrushes – another species I had previously missed on several visits to East Africa. Other birds included Rattling Cisticola, Ethiopian Boubou, Blue-naped Mousebird, Mocking Cliff-Chat and Western Black-headed Batis.


Mocking Cliff-Chat



Little Rock-thrush

Western Black-headed Batis

Blue-naped Mousebird
Rattling Cisticola
Red-necked Wryneck was nice to see.

Red-necked Wryneck
We continued to what used to be the main accommodation centre for birders – the now largely derelict Wabe Shabelle Hotel. In the grounds here we were shown a roosting pair of Northern White-faced Owls.


Northern White-faced Owl
Back in our lodge grounds, Senegal Thick-knees were vocal at night, Gambian Sun-Squirrels scampered about and Hippopotamus wallowed in the lake a short distance offshore. African Fish-Eagles were regular.

African Fish-Eagle



Senegal Thick-knee

Gambian Sun-Squirrel

Hippopotamus
A visit to the ruins of the nearby Bishangari Lodge – yet another disbanded accommodation centre – was productive. We had seen Black-winged Lovebirds several times during the trip but they showed very well here, as did a couple more Yellow-fronted Parrots. We had both Greater and Scaly-throated Honeyguides attending bee hives constructed by locals high in the trees. Other birds included Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Double-toothed Barbet and Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike.


Blue-breasted Bee-eater



Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike
Lilac-breasted Roller is always a joy to behold and Broad-billed Roller was here as well. Greater Blue-eared Starling was one of the common birds of the trip but it impressed us still. 

Greater Blue-eared Starling

Lilac-breasted Roller
 Ruppell's Weaver had been seen fairly commonly and they were attending nests here. Silvery-cheeked Hornbills were common.


Ruppell's Weaver

Silvery-cheeked Hornbill


ETHIOPIA PART B – Gelada Baboons to Awash National Park



Gelada male
Following our twitch of the restricted Ethiopian endemic, the Ankober Serin (see following post) at Gemessa Gebel, we chanced upon three fair-sized troops of Gelada Baboons on the edge of juniper forest near the cliff edges. This species, endemic to the Ethiopian highlands, has long been high on my wish-list. We watched them for some time, noting that they seemed largely unconcerned by us but quickly scurried off into the forest when herdsmen with goats appeared.

Gelada family group
An Ethiopian Rock Hyrax was among the rocks below the cliff edge.

Ethiopian Rock Hyrax
After a second night in Debre Libanos, we headed southwards, back towards Addis Ababa, seeing several Blue-winged Geese close to the road. A pair of Moorland Francolins on a rocky hillside was unexpected, while Abyssinian Longclaw at last put in an appearance.


Blue-winged Goose


Abyssinian Longclaw

Moorland Francolin
We drove through the capital, being stopped along way for an unwelcome and intrusive baggage search by roadside police. We continued south through the Rift Valley and on towards our destination for the next three nights – Awash Falls Lodge in Awash National Park, passing through Adama. We stopped at the Mt Fantalle lava flow by Lake Beseka. Here we quickly found one of the specialties of this hot and arid landscape – Blackstart. This was followed shortly after by a vocal pair of Sombre Rock-Chats, the other specialty of the site.


Blackstart

Sombre Rock-Chat
By the lake were a few waterbirds including Pink-backed Pelican, Yellow-billed Stork and Saddle-billed Stork. We entered the national park and the dry thorn scrub along the road to the lodge held plenty of birds including Mouse-coloured Penduline-Tit, Yellow-necked Spurfowl, Buff-bellied Warbler and Grey Wren-Warbler.


:Pink-backed Pelican

Saddlebill Stork
Yellow-necked Spurfowl
Hornbills were well represented with African Grey, Northern Red-billed, Van Der Decken's and Eastern Yellow-billed seen.


African Grey Hornbill

Northern Red-billed Hornbill

Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbill
The next day we had a long drive through the acacia scrub and plains where mammals included Lesser Kudu, Salt's Dick-Dik, Beisa Oryx and Soemmerring's Gazelle.


Beisa Oryx

Salt's Dik-dik

 Soemmerring's Gazelle
Buff-breasted, Kori and Hartlaub's bustards were all encountered. 
Buff-crested Bustard
Other birds included Northern Carmine Bee-eater, Abyssinian Roller, Dark Chanting Goshawk and Red-fronted Warbler.


Abyssinian Roller

Dark Chanting Goshawk 
Northern Carmine Bee-eater
Gillett's Lark was good to see and Singing Bushlark was present, along with large numbers of Chestnut-headed and Chestnut-backed Sparrowlarks.


Gillett's Lark L

Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark

Chestnut-headed Sparrowlark
Grey-headed Batis was a previously missed species that was good to catch up on, while Somali Bulbul, a recent split, was slightly less inspiring.


Grey-headed Batis
In the tall acacias along the river at the now disused camping ground was a group of noisy Black-billed Wood-Hoopoes. Bruce's Green-Pigeon and Little Sparrowhawk were present.


Black-billed Wood-Hoopoe
Primates were in fine form here with Olive Baboon, Grivet Monkey and Guereza Colobus about in some numbers. 


Grivet Monkey

Guereza Colobus
Olive Baboon
A Nile Crocodile sunned itself on the river bank; these reptiles were also common on the rocks below our lodge.


Nile Crocodile
We headed out at dusk for a nightjar search and were rewarded with fine views of three Star-spotted Nightjars, as well as Slender-tailed Nightjar. Abyssinian (Cape) Hare was also seen.

Abyssinian Hare

Star-spotted Nightjar
On our final morning we encountered a troop of Hamadryas Baboons along the main road, which links Addis Ababa with Djibouti.

Hamadryas Baboon