12th February 1984 - 18th February 1984.
After travelling for most of the previous day, the overnight flight from Heathrow finally arrived in Addis Ababa. I was on a seven day educational trip, organised by the Ethiopian Tourist Board, with several other tour operators and travel agents, unfortunately, it was only me that was interested in wildlife!
Leaving the airport we were taken to the Hilton Hotel for our first nights stay, and after introductions and settling into the room I was able to birdwatch in and around the hotel garden.
It was my first time in Africa and I found that so many new species was a bit overwhelming, especially as I only had the Collins guide to the birds of East Africa to refer to, which covered a lot of Ethiopian birds as allied species, luckily the hotel had produced a short guide and list to the birds seen in its garden.
So, I managed to see 20 new species that afternoon, new birds are in bold and started with 6+ Nyanza Swifts, 4 Swainson's Sparrows, hundreds of Black Kites, 4 Fiscal Shrikes, 30+ Baglafecht Weavers, 4 Speckled Mousebirds, 12 Red-billed Firefinches, a Desert Wheatear, a Grey Flycatcher, several Dusky Turtle Doves, 3 Streaky Seedeaters, 6+ Brown-rumped Seedeaters, a Dusky Flycatcher, a Grey Wagtail, a Bare-eyed Thrush, a Ruppell's Robin Chat, 4 White-breasted or Abyssinian White-eyes, 6 African Rock Martins, 2 male and 2 female Tacazze Sunbirds, several Red-eyed Doves, 2 Orphean Warblers (eastern), 6 Pied Crows, 4 Tawny-flanked Prinias and an Egyptian Vulture.
Tacazze Sunbird (female). Baglafecht Weaver (female).
Speckled Mousebird. Grey Flycatcher.
An early start, leaving the hotel and driving through the city to the airport, on the way seeing 2 Hooded Vultures, lots of Black Kites, a Sacred Ibis and a Pied Crow.
We boarded an old DC-3 for a flight to Bahar Dar (also spelt Bahir Dar) on the southern tip of Lake Tana, the largest lake in Ethiopia and source of the Blue Nile River, from there our hotel was a short distance northeast, out of town, on the lake shore.
After being shown our rooms, I had time for a look around the grounds of the lodge, where I saw lots of Speckled Pigeons, over 40 White-backed Vultures and Griffon Vultures, an Egyptian Vulture, a Spur-winged Goose, 4 Scarlet-chested Sunbirds, an Olive Thrush, around 150 Sacred Ibis, a Speckled Mousebird, 4 Red-billed Firefinches, 11 Pied Kingfishers, 2 Little Grebes, 7 Long-tailed Cormorants, a Blue-headed Wagtail, 3 Herring Gulls and a Common Drongo.
Later in the morning we had a trip to the Tississat or Blue Nile Falls a few miles south of the town, which is a popular tourist spot.
On the way and at the falls I saw 5 Abyssinian Rollers, 12 Northern Carmine Bee-eaters, several Fiscals, several Hooded Vultures, 2 Long-crested Eagles, my first endemic Ethiopian bird of the trip a Thick-billed Raven, several Red-rumped Swallows and House Matins,
3 Black-headed Forest Orioles another endemic, 5 Blue-eared Glossy Starlings, 2 Cormorants, an African Darter, 3 Slender-billed Chestnut-winged Starlings a bird which nests and roosts behind waterfalls, lots of Cattle Egrets, 6+ Wire-tailed Swallows, a Banded Barbet another endemic, an African Sand Martin, a Blue-breasted Bee-eater, 5 Fan-tailed Ravens, a Lammergeier and an African Hawk Eagle.
After several attempts by the group to get me back on the bus, I finally gave in and we returned to the hotel for lunch.
Then we had a couple of hours before our next excursion, so this gave me another opportunity to explore the hotel garden and lake shore again.
I saw a Grey-headed Gull, 2 Afirican Pied Wagtails, a Rock Thrush, several Ring-necked or African Turtle Doves, a Tawny Eagle, 4 Buzzards, 2 African Jacanas, 5 African Darters, 2 Egyptian Geese, 2 Water Thick-knees, 6 Little Bee-eaters, 2 Red-cheeked Cordon-bleus, 2 Yellow-billed or Intermediate Egrets, a Squacco Heron, a male Black-winged Lovebird another endemic and an Eastern Grey Plantain-eater.
The first part of the afternoon trip was to Bahar Dar and while the rest of the group went shopping, I had a look at the nearby boat-yard, where I saw 2 Knob-billed Ducks, a Great Black-headed Gull and an African Fish Eagle.
From there we drove a few miles east to visit Bezawit Palace, constructed by Haile Selassie in 1959, I've no idea what the palace was like as I was immediately drawn to the scrub and bushes along the Blue Nile River, where I saw another Eastern Grey Plantain-eater, 5 Grey Herons, another African Fish Eagle, a Hoopoe, an Isabelline Wheatear, a group of 3 Anubis or Olive Baboons with young, over 20 Zebra Waxbills, a Common Bulbul, a Namaqua Dove, 2 Grey Hornbills, an African Stonechat, 2 Black Crowned-cranes, a Black-headed Bush-shrike or Black-crowned Tchagra, and then I saw 2 grey, long tailed birds flying between some bushes, they kept disappearing into the bushes and then flying to the next bush, then I heard "back on the bus", I continued to follow the birds, eventually getting a good view of one of them, they were Abyssinian Catbirds, another endemic and not easy birds to find. Returning to the bus I was not popular, yet again, for holding up the group.
We returned to the hotel and after diner, in order to placate and join in, I stayed up drinking with some of the group, several whiskies later I got back to my room and was horribly ill, for most of the night, a lesson learned, that if you are not used to it, drinking at altitude is a bad idea!
Ring-necked or African Turtle Dove Northern Carmine Bee-eater
I awoke with a very sore head and hardly any sleep, after the lightest of breakfasts, and, as we had time before the flight back to Addis Ababa, I went for a walk around the hotel garden and along the shore of the lake, seeing several Scarlet-chested Sunbirds, a Speckled Mousebird, several Speckled Pigeons and African Pied Wagtails, 4 Common Sandpipers, a Hadada Ibis, several White-backed and Griffon Vultures with a single Ruppell's Griffon Vulture, lots of Black Kites, a female Redstart, 2 Fan-tailed Ravens, a Water Thick-knee, several Long-tailed Cormorants and African Darters, Red-cheeked Cordon-Bleus, Red-billed Firefinches, Wire-tailed Swallows, Ring-necked Doves and at least 6 Sacred Ibises.
Then we left the hotel and made a stop in Bahar Dar, and, while the rest of the group went to the market, I spotted some tall trees in the entrance to, what looked like, a run-down hotel in the north of the town called The Geon Hotel, probably not there now. Here I saw a Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, around 40 Hooded Vultures, 2 Ground-scraper Thrushes and 2 Common Indigobirds.
We continued to the airport, by now it was after midday and hot, I was feeling very tired having had little sleep the previous night, so, as soon as I was in my seat on the DC-3 I fell asleep.
I was woken up as the plane was coming to a holt in Addis Ababa, everyone on board looked pale, they said it had been the worst jouney ever, being bounced from one thermal to another the whole time, I was feeling much better after my hours sleep.
Later we visited the market and had a traditional meal in someones house, a custom here.
Photos: Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, market in Addis Ababa.
An early start for an excursion north from Addis Ababa to the Blue Nile Gorge. The first birds seen were several of the many Pied Crows to be encountered during the day, then an Augur Buzzard of which over 15 were seen, there were also lots of Blue-eared Glossy Starlings.
My first halt of the bus was for a Black Crow or Cape Rook/Crow, later I did see a few more, I also saw a Hoopoe and several Fiscals.
Then my second stop of the bus for a White-collared Pigeon sat on top of a telegraph pole by the side of the road, the first endemic of the day, certainly not the most interesting and I did see 30+ during the trip.
We made several more stops on our jouney north, not all of them because of me, seeing 24 Cranes, 3 Lappet-faced Vultures, 20 Blue-winged Geese, 10 Glossy Ibises, 18 Sacred Ibises, 6 Yellow-billed ducks, 2 Marsh Sandpipers, lots of Wheatears, a Wood Sandpiper, a Spotted Redshank, lots of Cattle Egrets, a Squacco Heron, 2 Hamerkops, an Egyptian Vulture, lots of Black Kites including several Yellow-billed Kites, lots of Ground-scraper Thrushes, 4 White-billed Buffalo-Weavers and several Somali Crows now split from Brown-necked Raven.
Along the route we also stopped to see and photograph a group of men on horseback dressed up on their way to a ceremony.
Photo: Black Crow.
Yellow-billed Kite. White-collared Pigeon.
Ceremonial dressed man and horse. Blue Nile Gorge.
We reached the rim of the Blue Nile Gorge around midday and parked off the road for lunch and relax in the heat of the day. With a break of an hour or so I took the opportunity to explore along the rim, seeing several African Rock Martins, 2 Alpine Swifts, 2 Ruppell's Chats another endemic, followed soon after by another a White-winged Cliff-Chat, there were also 10 Cliff Chats, a Harrier Hawk, 2 Blue-spotted Wood Doves, a Saker, a Kestrel, 3 Red-winged Starlings, 6 Feral Pigeons and 4 mice.
After our break we drove slowly eastwards along a road by the gorge, stopping when I saw 4 Wattled Ibises and again for 10 Spot-breasted Plovers and around 20 Black-headed Siskins, all endemic birds to Ethiopia, also seen were 6+ Swainson's Sparrows, a Red-throated Pipit and a Dusky Flycatcher.
Then as we rounded a bend in the road we saw what we were looking for, a troop of 150+ Gelada Baboons, they were a little way off and we kept our distance as most of the family groups had young ones. We spent some time watching them, also seeing an Abyssinian Hare and a Nubian Rabbit.
Later we returned by the same route back to Addis Ababa.
Photos: right & below: Spot-breasted Plovers.
Today we left Addis Ababa for a 3 day trip south to see some of the lodges and lakes of the Rift Valley.
It wasn't long before our first stop, at Akaki, where in the empty cattle pens was a large flock of expectant looking vultures, there were around 120 White-backed Vultures, at least 10 Hooded Vultures, 4 Ruppell's Griffon Vultures and an Egyptian Vulture, as well as lots of Black Kites, 2 Pied Crows and several Abyssinian Wheatears.
We continued to the town of Debre Zeit where I saw several Fiscals, Speckled Mousebirds and a pair of Speke's Weavers.
A short distance from the town was the lodge, overlooking a steep-sided crater lake, here we had coffee and a look-a-round, from the garden I saw 10+ Crested or Red-knobbed Coot, 7 Great Crested Grebes, 3 Little Grebes, several Tufted Ducks, 2 Pygmy Sunbirds and a Tropical Boubou.
Photos: Right: White-backed and Ruppell's Griffon Vultures.
Below: White-backed Vultures in flight, top adult,
We continued south to Lake Langano, making several stops near the lake, seeing 3 Abyssinian Ground Hornbills, 2 Cranes, several Cattle Egrets, a Gabor Goshawk, 2 White Pelicans, 2 Lesser Kestrels, several Abyssinian Rollers, 5 African Fish Eagles, lots of Blue-eared Glossy Starlings, 22 Sacred Ibises, 6 Superb Starlings, 5 Augur Buzzards, an Upcher's Warbler, at least 50 Marabou Storks, 2 Buzzards, a Bruce's Green Pigeon and lots of Namaqua Doves.
We stopped for lunch at the lodge at Lake Langano, afterwards I had the chance to look around the grounds, seeing 6+ Grey-headed Gulls, a Herring Gull which was probably Caspian, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, several Blue-headed Wagtails, a Whiskered Tern, a Gull-billed Tern, a Spur-winged Plover, at least 4 White-browed Sparrow Weavers, a Hemprich's Hornbill, a male Mariqua Sunbird, lots of Superb Starlings, and, a Kenyan Rock Agama.
Photos: left: African Fish Eagle. Above right: Hemprich's Hornbill.
Kenyan Rock Agama.
After lunch we travelled the short distance to Lake Abiata where we spent most of the afternoon.
Within the National Park our first sighting was of a large herd of Dromedary Camels, which according to our driver/park guide shouldn't be in the park. As we drove towards them I noticed a flock of 300+ Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse in front of the bus, while I got out to view them the driver went to talk to the camel herders and made them move their camels out of the park.
After the sandgrouse had flown we continued towards the lake shore and then explore more of the park, seeing a Ruppell's Long-tailed Starling, several Swallows, a Great Grey Shrike, 2 Egyptian Geese, several Black-winged Stilts, 2 African Fish Eagles, lots of Shoveler, several Wood Sandpipers and Little Stints, a big flock of Great Flamingoes with almost as many Lesser Flamingoes, 50+ White Pelicans and at least 20 Pink-backed Pelicans, lots of Ruff, a few Sand Martins, a Fawn-coloured Lark, a Caspian Tern, Cormorants and Long-tailed Cormorants, a Marsh Sandpiper, at least 10 African Spoonbills, a male Pallid Harrier, 4 Pintail, 80+ Avocets, an African Hawk Eagle, lots of Grey Herons, a female Montagu's Harrier, a Great Black-headed Gull and several Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
Later we continued south, on the way seeing 2 Tufted Guineafowls, a Black-backed Jackal and an Abyssinian Hare.
It was almost dusk when we arrived at the lodge at Lake Awassa for our two night stay.
Photos: Dromedary Camels.
Greater & Lesser Flamingos.
A whole morning to explore Lake Awassa, by bus and on foot, unlike the other lakes this one has more lakeside cover, reedbeds and inlets. The first bird I saw was a Woodland Kingfisher, then Sacred Ibises which in total I saw around 50, next a White-browed Robin Chat and then 2 of the endemic Thick-billed Ravens, I saw another 4 later.
Continuing around the lake I saw 3 Black Crakes, 12 African Jacanas, lots of Squacco Herons, at least 30 Hamerkops, 12+ Pygmy Geese, a Black-headed Wagtail, 10+ White Wagtails, a Reed Warbler, 30+ Black-headed Weavers, a Common Sandpiper, a Sedge Warbler, 7 Pied Kingfishers, 20+ Spur-winged Plovers, 16 White-faced Whistling Ducks, several Little Egrets, 5 Little Grebes, lots of Swallows, 20+ Egyptian Geese, several Grey-headed Gulls, 3 Grey Herons, a Purple Heron, 3 Malachite Kingfishers, 5 Hoopoes and 10 Grey-backed Fiscals.
Photos: Right: Thick-billed Ravens.
As I walked around the lake I came across a flock of 40+ starlings, which were in winter plumage and therefore not pictured in the Collins guide and it was only later that day that I could ID them as Wattled Starlings. This happen again with the next birds I saw, a flock of around 50 birds which I thought were waxbills, but were winter plumaged Pin-tailed Whydahs.
Continuing I saw a Hadada Ibis, 4 Pied Wheatears, 7 African Fish Eagles, 2 Hooded Vultures, a Senegal Coucal, 2 Wood Sandpipers and then in an area of damp grass and reeds, a Goliath Heron which was flushed by an African Marsh Harrier.
Photos: Right: Pin-tailed Whydahs.
Below: Goliath Heron and
African Marsh Harrier.
I also saw 2 female Pallid Harriers, 14 White Pelicans, 6 or more Vervet Monkeys, 6 Black-winged Stilts, lots of Yellow-billed Egrets, a few Palm Doves, lots of Ring-necked Doves, 20+ Marabou, a Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, 2 Abyssinian Ground Hornbills, 2 Black-billed Barbets, 2 Black-winged Lovebirds, a Rock Thrush, 2 Green Wood-hoopoes, 3 Northern Carmine Bee-eaters, a Red-faced Crombec, several Cattle Egrets, lots of Blue-headed Wagtails, a Red-cheeked Cordon-Bleu, several White-browed Sparrow Weavers, lots of Speckled Mousebirds, 4 Scarlet-chested Sunbirds, several Ruppell's Long-tailed Starlings and Superb Starlings, lots of Black Kites, several Fiscals and 2 Abyssinian Rollers.
Photos: Below: Abyssinian Ground Hornbill.
Right: White Pelicans.
Back to the lodge for lunch, then in the afternoon an excursion to the hot springs at Wondo Genet, once set amongst extensive old forest, at this time only a small area of forest remained, but, I have heard that now very little if any is still there.
Although not far from the lodge, on the way we stopped several times seeing a male Black-winged Kite, several Northern Carmine Bee-eaters, a Lilac-breasted Roller, a female Grey Woodpecker, a Dark Chanting Goshawk, a Blue-breasted Bee-eater and a Striped Kingfisher.
At Wondo Genet there was time for me to birdwatch around the site and woodland, seeing 20+ African Rough-winged Swallows, 4 Scarlet-chested Sunbirds, 6 African Citrils, 3 Thick-billed Ravens, 2 Fan-tailed Ravens, several Black Kites, 5 Abyssinian Colobus Monkeys, a Half-collared Kingfisher, 3 Hadada Ibises, 2 Silvery-cheeked Hornbills, an African Paradise Flycatcher, a Black-and-white Cuckoo, 8 Black-headed Orioles, an Olive Thrush, 3 White-breasted White-eyes, a Dusky Flycatcher, 2 Pygmy Sunbirds and a Northern Brownbul.
Photos: Below: Abyssinian Colobus
Our last full day in Ethiopia and as we had most of the morning free, I took the opportunity to look around the local area by the lodge on Lake Awassa again.
Seeing a Chiffchaff, an Osprey, 2 Purple Herons, several Pygmy Geese, 3 Black Crakes, 2 Common Sandpipers, 3 Pied Kingfishers, an African Fish Eagle, 2 Malachite Kingfishers, 2 White Pelicans, several Squacco Herons and Little Egrets, a Goliath Heron, 3 Wood Sandpipers, a Grey Kestrel, a Redstart, an African Paradise Flycatcher with a white tail, 6 Thick-billed Ravens, a Great White Egret, several Cattle and Yellow-billed Egrets, 6+ African Jacanas, a male and female Bearded Woodpecker, 3 Beautiful Sunbirds, a Black-headed Puff-backed Flycatcher and an Abyssinian Wheatear.
Later we departed for Lake Langano, on the way seeing several Northern Carmine Bee-eaters and Abyssinian Rollers, lots of Thick-billed Ravens and 9 Abyssinian Ground Hornbills.
After lunch at the lodge I had a quick look around the garden, seeing lots of Superb Starlings, a Green-backed Eremomela, 2 Von der Decken's Hornbills and 2 White-headed Buffalo Weavers.
Photos: Right: Female Bearded Woodpecker.
Von der Decken's Hornbill.
Below: African Jacanas.
Our final stop of the day, and of the tour, was Lake Zwai, where I saw around 70 Marabou, 40+ Sacred Ibises, 18 African Fish Eagles, 3 Black-billed Barbets, several Glossy Ibises, 2 male and 2 female Garganey, 40+ White-faced Whistling Ducks, about 20 White Pelicans, several Ruff, 2 Black Crowned-Cranes, 2 Common Tree Hyraxes, a Tawny Pipit, 30+ Egyptian Geese, a few African Jacanas, a Goliath Heron, an African Darter, 15+ Red-billed Oxpeckers, 10+ Wattled Starlings, a Knob-billed Duck, a Black Heron, 2 Little Ringed Plovers, an Osprey, several Pied and Malachite Kingfishers and a Northern Puffback.
From Lake Zwai we drove back to the Hilton Hotel in Addis Ababa where we stayed until our very early morning flight back to London.
Photos: Right: Red-billed Oxpeckers.
Black Heron, Yellow-billed Egret,
Sacred Ibises & African Jacana.
Below: Adult & immature African Fish Eagle.
Blue-winged Goose, Slimbridge.