Ethiopia – April 2019 Part 1 (North)

This was a custom trip organized by Judith Allanson with “Birding Africa”. Our Birding Africa tour leader was Michael Mills and the group was Judith, Don MacGillivray and Alex Torborg, Anita Smyth and Cassia and I.

Cassia and I arrived in Addis Ababa quite late on Friday the 5th of April at the famous Ghion Hotel, but not too late to enjoy a nightcap in the lounge before we spent the night being savaged by mosquitoes!

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The choice of hotel by Birding Africa was deliberate as the gardens are lovely and provided good birding.











On Saturday morning, after some birding in the gardens of the hotel, the group jumped into a couple of old taxis and went to the National Museum of Ethiopia mainly to see Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis)Afterwards, however, we chose to take the long walk back to the hotel past the Royal Palace grounds to take in some of the sights of the city.
















On Saturday afternoon, our Birding Africa tour leader Michael Mills arrived and on Sunday morning (after breakfast and some early morning birding in the hotel gardens) we headed north, destination Debre LibanosOur first birding spot was the Sululta Plain. The heat waves on the plain were terrible for photography.





















After the Sululta Plain we drove to the town of Fiche and checked into the C-lale our hotel for the night. After lunch a couple of birds were picked up in a field over the road.











Then it was off to Debre Libanos where we spent most of the afternoon in the old Portuguese bridge area.































The next morning, we were up early for the long ride into the Jemma Valley. The first stop on the escarpment near the village of Lemi quickly produced some Erckel’s Spurfowl feeding way below us in a field. A little further down the escarpment we had to work hard for some time, to get what eventually turned out to be good views of Harwood’s Spurfowl.
















Time was moving on and we continued down the rocky escarpment until we came to a spot on the side of the road that had a good view of an impressive ?sandstone cliff-face where we had a late breakfast. Then on into the valley where we stopped at a stream where Seedeaters and other small birds were drinking and walked along the stream for a while.











Unfortunately, however, we dipped on the Red-billed Pytilia. After one more birding stop further on, a short way up the opposite escarpment, we turned back across the valley floor again and started to crawl our way back up the winding escarpment pass. We stopped on the side of the road again for lunch where Cassia picked up an Ortolan Bunting above us on the cliff-face which was a lifer for Judith. It was around this time that we were informed that the the road to Debre Birhan was closed due to inter-sect clashes that had led to a couple of deaths. This meant that the itinerary would have to be reshuffled and that we would have to head back to Addis Ababa via the western road. Shortly after lunch, we were lucky enough to come across a troop of Geladas. We did a little birding along the road and then stopped to pick up a couple of beers for the last haul back to Addis Ababa.
















We stayed in a hotel on the south side of Addis Abbaba and managed to leave early the next morning before the rush hour traffic. We stopped for about an hour’s birding at Lake Hora before pushing on to the Awash Region, starting with the  Basaka Lava flow fields (from the Fantelle Volcano in 1820).




































After lunch, we headed for Doha Lodge (our accommodation for the night) on the Awash River on the border of the Awash National Park. We arrived early afternoon in blistering heat, so after checking in, we rested up for a while before doing a late afternoon birding walk and drive.









































After a pre-dawn breakfast the next morning, we headed back to Awash town to collect our Ranger/Guard to visit the Alledeghe (Ali Dege) Plains. Unfortunately when we arrived on the plains, we were not able to go very far for two reasons – 1) The guard and our driver were looking very nervous, because they feared an attack by nomadic Afar tribesman who had been causing trouble in the area and 2) Our small bus looked as if if it might get stuck in the muddy surface. Also the early morning haze was very bad and everything was very far away. The scope was set up for viewing and a few long distance, blurred, record photos were taken and then we were off. All in all, a bit of a waste of time on the day.
















The next birding stop, before lunch back at the excellent chicken restaurant in Awash town, was around the now defunct and derelict Bilen Lodge
















After lunch we left for the Awash National Park where we were to spend the next couple of days.







Work in progress……






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