Because I have so much to say and so many wonderful photos, I thought I better break-up this blog into two parts to keep your attention. Here is some of what we saw the last half of our trip.
Hooray we are leaving Goba. I think this hotel is the worst to date. Very thin walls. I could hear the couple next door to us as though they were in our room. I had to use ear plugs and that still didn’t drown out all the sounds. The food was barely edible and the service atrocious. But as I understand it, not much else available within the immediate area.
We head back up the Sanetti Plateau on our way to our next location – Negelle. We had a long drive ahead of us, but never so long as one cannot stop and check out the birds along the way.
We were hoping to get another look at an Ethiopian Wolf on the Sanetti Plateau, but no luck. Nor did we see a Wattled Crane, which was a possibility. Maybe we will see one yet. Jack is hopeful.
On the way up to the plateau we came across several Francolin species, so yes we had to stop for some photos. While sometimes I think our guide and Martin spend too much time photographing birds, I am glad we do stop for photographs (at least to photograph the birds they want to photograph) because we get some time to really look at and observe the bird.
When we stopped for lunch and we were joined by a good sized (10-15) group of kids – surprise, surprise. By this time in the trip, one of the other participants – Johan (he’s from the Netherlands) – was driving me crazy. He likes to step in front of people while they are looking at birds through their binoculars. Sometimes he stops directly in front of you, and other times he merely passes in front of you. Either way, it’s rude. So Johan once again stopped right in front of me to photograph a bird I was looking at with my binoculars. Several kids were around me. I took my hands and pretended I wanted to strangle Johan. I wonder what those kids thought of me. Of course they wouldn’t understand why I was so frustrated.
Negelle would be our base for the next three nights. The hotel we stayed at was okay, although Arnold said his bathroom toilet didn’t have a seat, which could have proved interesting. There was another bird group staying at the hotel the same time as us and they left the next morning – early. And they were not quiet about it despite my yelling at them to keep it quiet. Must not have known English, but you think they would get the gist of what I was saying. For those of you who don’t know me, I have zero tolerance for rudeness.
The hotel didn’t have a restaurant so our local guide Merid took us to a small restaurant where we ate a simple meal of rice, cooked vegetables (mostly cabbage), hot dinner rolls, and a hot sauce (not too hot, but very good). I was actually surprised at how good the food was. Luckily we all liked it because we would eat there all three nights we stayed in Negelle.
We had an early morning departure to get a jump on several birds including the Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco (sorry, no photo). The bird was not very accommodating for this photographer so you will have to google the name to see what the bird looks like – but a beautiful bird it is. We headed further down the road for more great birding and another great field breakfast. I just wish the field lunches were as good as breakfast.
For me the bird of the day was a singing Rosy-patched Bush-shrike. This bird was one of my favorite birds of the trip. And the area we birded was forested, but with a relative open canopy so we could get good looks at birds. This area was also another favorite birding area, with lots of different species present.
Our next stop after breakfast was a small lake on the Liben Plains. This lake is used for many purposes. The birds like it – especially the storks, geese, and ducks. The local people collect water from the lake and also bring their livestock to the lake to drink. I suspect the water is not very clean. We had a large flock of over 100 Abdim’s Stork arrive and land adjacent to the lake. These birds can be quite comical as they land. In among the storks was a lone African Openbill.
We got a much needed rest in the afternoon, and then midday headed back out for a drive through a river valley in search of the Juba Weaver. We finally got on the bird, thanks to Richard. However, scopes were needed to get good views. I’m so glad we had our scope for this trip. The road to and through the valley was bumpy, which gave us the opportunity to spot some good birds along the way including the Golden-breasted Starling.
Our second day in the Negelle area brought us back to the Liben Plains in search of several localized lark species – Somali Short-toed Lark and the Archer’s Lark. We did a sweep through the grass to find the birds. The Archer’s Lark is critically endangered.
Later in the day we drove down a road in search of birds, finding a large number of vultures on a recent road kill. Of course a “road kill” is probably inaccurate as I can’t see a cart with donkey running over or striking and killing an animal. Maybe the better term is roadside carcass.
We finished the day back at the small lake. We saw a number of local people out and about, stopping to talk with our driver and local guide as we birded. Our local guide later told us one gentleman there (around 40 years old) had 11 kids. Ouch!!! I wonder how big their house is and how he manages to feed all his children.
We left Negelle and headed towards Yabello. Our goal today was to find the Streseman’s Bush-Crow and the African White-winged Dove. The dove we spotted in a small village along the roadside. The bird was perched in the eves of a house and then later flew up onto the metal roof. The Bush-Crow we found on the Soda Plains. This area is breathtaking. Thunderstorms threatened, but never released any precip.
Along the way, we stopped at the Dawa River to bird. This was the only area where I really felt the heat and after breakfast I stayed back while others birded. Just too hot for me and I didn’t want to get heatstroke. The area produced some fine birds, including the d’Arnaud’s Barbet and Bare-eyed Thrush.
We continued our travels towards Yabello, stopping for birds along the way. Oh and lunch too.
We made one last stop for the day before heading to our accommodations for the night – the Soda Plains. This was one of my favorite areas as I thought the countryside was beautiful. Maybe the clouds helped add to the beauty of the area.
We birded the area around Yabello for the day. The special treat were great views and photo opportunities of the Heuglin’s Courser. At least one person felt as though we spent too much time photographing these species. Martin and Janos (our guide) did tend to take a few thousand photos of the birds, or so it seemed. We saw two different pairs within a relatively short distance of each other, and we spent about 30 minutes with each pair. Now me, I was glad to spend a lot of time watching this bird while others were busy photographing them. It is not often we get to spend long periods of time observing a given bird – either because the bird flies off or because we have to keep to a schedule. This species was also within the top five species viewed on this trip.
Another great day of birding. We did go to an area designated as a National Park. The locals approached our driver and local guide wanting payment for walking in the park. Not sure how the matter was addressed. For many National Parks we did need permits. At times when we got stopped at a place to bird I wondered if we were on private property or not and whether we had (or needed) permission to access private lands to bird.
We did a little birding of the area before heading to Lake Awassa. The road from Yabello to Lake Awassa was the worst we encountered. Lots of potholes, construction, people, animals. In fact it felt like we spent a couple of hours traveling through one continuous town. This was not the case, but I couldn’t tell where one town ended and another began. Let’s just say there were houses and business all along the road. Janos said this is the worst he has seen the road and it took us 3 hours longer (9 hours total) to drive this stretch of road than for previous trips. We did stop in a town for lunch and I had a delicious pizza. The Ethiopians are good at making pizzas.
We stayed in individual cabanas at a resort along Lake Awassa. The rooms were nice. However, we lost electricity almost as soon as we got there. And , the quality of the rooms, does not necessarily equate to the quality of the food. I think this was the worst place we ate. The food was bland. While waiting for the food I checked emails – something we haven’t been able to do on a regular basis (no consistently reliable internet service) – and learned that a dog (Honey) we have watched for friends had died. Honey was a great dog and the news of her death broke my heart.
We birded the area near the resort, finding a lot of great species, including the African Spotted Creeper.
After breakfast (yes we got a lot of great birding in before breakfast) we headed to Lake Langano, but only after making a short detour to check on the possibility of seeing Wattled Cranes. Along the way we stopped to bird, including another spot along Lake Awassa.
Once on the road we stopped to check out this roller and bee-eater.
The following photos are some of the houses and stores we saw along the roadside as we were driving. I never did see a “shopping mall”. Most people buy their goods from local vendors.
The detour was worth it as we saw a large flock of Wattled Cranes, although most the the cranes were far away and we needed a scope to check them out. But one pair was feeding nearby and we got some great views. Jack was a happy camper because he had been hoping to see this crane in Southern Africa, but the crane eluded us there.
After checking out the cranes we headed to our accommodations for the night located along the shores of Lake Langano. Our goal here was to see the endemic Yellow-fronted Parrot. We would have to wait until morning to see the bird.
We got up early hoping to catch site of the Yellow-fronted Parrot, which comes to the lake shoreline to feed. We weren’t disappointed.
After birding around Lake Langano we headed to Wolliso, our final destination. The journey led us back towards Lake Ziway, were we stopped for lunch. We then proceeded to ascend into the mountains eventually reaching our lodge at Wolliso.
Our final birding excursion brought us to Gibe Gorge. We spent the morning birding this area in search of the Ethiopian Pytilia and the Black-faced Firefinch. We found and observed both birds.
After lunch at our lodge, where we picked up our luggage, we left to return to Addis Ababa. Most of the tour participants were leaving on a late evening flight. We stopped for dinner at the same hotel where we had breakfast the first day of our tour. On the way to the airport, our local guide took us to Hotel Lobelia as our flight did not leave until the next morning. Herman (from Switzerland) had chosen to spend a couple of extra days up north, and was able to get a room at our hotel also.
At the end of the day – as the saying goes – I was able to successfully identify 469 of the 856 birds that have been observed in Ethiopia (residents, migrants, accidentals, strays, and rarities). Of these, 280 were life birds – birds I saw for the very first time. Many of the other 189 species I saw in Ethiopia, I had only recently seen for the first time on our trip to Southern Africa. In all, I estimate I saw around 750 life birds during our Africa trip. That is a lot of birds.
We left Ethiopia on December 4, 2015. What surprised me was the level of security we went through before boarding our plane. Upon entering the terminal, we had to have our bags and bodies screened. We then checked in at the ticket counter and got our boarding passes. Next was immigration (where we got our passports stamped so we could leave the country). Next was another round of security checks – more x-rays of bodies and bags. We then went to our gate where someone checked out ticket to make sure we were at the right gate. And finally when our flight was called (this was a chaotic mess) we had our tickets scanned before we could board the plane. A lot more security than any other country we have visited so far.
I’m glad we took the opportunity to visit this country. The countryside, to me, was beautiful (even the developed parts), and the birds fantastic.
I found Africa to be a special place and a place I would like to go back and visit.
Hope you enjoyed our journey. No matter where you are in the world, it is always –
A GREAT DAY TO BIRD