Thursday 17 October 2013

Ethiopia, 28th September to 12th October 2013

Having achieved second place in the bid for hosting Davids Sumptuous 50th Birthday Holiday Extravaganza last year, Ethiopia came first this year in the bid for hosting his Sumptuous 51st Birthday Holiday Extravaganza. And so off to Heathrow we headed by train on the 27th September for our night flight to Addis Ababa, seeing just 3 red kites near Reading and the resident Slavonian Grebe on the River Exe from the train on the journey.

On arriving at the Hotel Ghion in Addis Ababa the following morning a quick walk around the wonderful hotel gardens provided plenty of sightings of various exotic birds and 5 bird species endemic to The Horn of Africa but I was too tired to appreciate them fully so headed off to bed for a few hours sleep. And so the tour of the historical circuit of Northern Ethiopia began and it was a whistle stop tour to say the least, purely cultural with wildlife watching snatched in breaks here and there.

Ethiopia is an amazing place - stunning scenery, very green and teeming with birdlife, with lots of interesting ruins and churches along the way. The Blue Nile Falls and the Awash Falls were brilliant after what has been a very wet rainy season in Ethiopia, and the castles at Gondar, stellae at Axum and the rock carved churches of Lalibela were pretty fantastic too.

The Blue Nile Falls

Wildlife highlights were feeding wild hyenas with strips of meat in Harar, hippopotamus in Lake Tana, Beisa oryx and Salt's dik-dik in Awash National Park, Gelada baboons in the Simien Mountains and 2 species of hawk-moths attracted to the hotel restaurant lights at night.

Feeding Wild Hyenas at Harar

Sleeping Hippopotamus in Lake Tana

Beisa Oryx, Awash National Park

Salt's Dik-dik, Awash National Park

Male Gelada Baboon, Simien Mountains

Privet Hawk-moth?, Gondar

Verdant Hawk-moth?, Lalibela

Vestal Moth, Bahir Dar

Drinker Moth type species?, Harar

Birds were everywhere and I managed to see around 180 species, including 11 endemic species to The Horn of Africa, but including birds that I didn't ID as they flew off or showed briefly amongst vegetation or were glimpsed as we whizzed past in the mini-bus or that I could only assign to a family and not to a species. Highlights were thick billed ravens, one of my favourite birds of the trip, endemic and with the most amazing thick bill; lammergeiers flying past at eye level along a mountain ridge and almost close enough to touch; a stop at a rubbish dump near Bahir Dar where griffon, hooded and Egyptian vultures scavenged with marabou storks while various races of yellow wagtails fed between their feet; and an amazing early morning boat trip on Lake Tana where the birds were overwhelming in quantity and variety and included little bee-eater, great white pelican, African darter, hammerkop, black headed coucal and silvery cheeked hornbill.

 Thick Billed Raven, Simien Mountains (Endemic)
 African Paradise Flycatcher, Addis Ababa
 Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Harar
 White-winged Cliff Chat, Harar (Endemic)
Male Little Rock Thrush, Harar
 Greater Blue-eared Starling, Harar
 Feeding Yellow Billed Kites in Harar
 Augur Buzzard, Lake Bishoftu
 Hemprich's Hornbill, Lake Bishoftu
 Ruppell's Weaver, Lake Bishoftu
 Abyssinian Slaty Flycatcher, Addis Ababa (Endemic)
 Silvery Cheeked Hornbill, Lake Tana
 Black Crowned Crane, Lake Tana
 Griffon Vultures, Bahir Dar Rubbish Dump
 Male Village Weaver, Lake Tana

 Yellow Billed Stork, Lake Tana
 Giant Kingfisher, Lake Tana
 Male Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Bahir Dar
 African Harrier-hawk, Gondar

 Immature Tawny Eagle, Gondar
 Pied Crow, Debark
 Ruppell's Robin Chat, Debark
 Groundscraper Thrush, Debark
 Bruce's Green Pigeon, Axum
 Abyssinian Wheatear, Axum (Endemic)
 Speckled Pigeon, Axum
 White-billed Starling, Axum (Endemic)
 Male Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, Axum
 Hemprich's Hornbill, Axum
 Black-winged Lovebird, Axum (Endemic)
 Juvenile White-winged Cliff Chat, Lalibela (Endemic)
White-collared Pigeon, Lalibela (Endemic)

And so it was a fantastic holiday - with an amazing tour guide called Sue who really helped to make the country come alive.It was exhausting, frustrating, uplifting, fun, humbling, upsetting, thought provoking and breath taking - I need a holiday to get over it all especially as I returned with a stinking cold and having experienced a 7 hour flight delay on the way home with a very chilly night trying to sleep in Addis Ababa airport!

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