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Bush crow bonanza - Lintworm returns to Ethiopia

Discussion in 'Ethiopia' started by lintworm, 21 Jul 2016.

  1. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member

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    Though it is not very special anymore that I am going to Africa again, it is special that I will give updates that are longer than simple species lists in the big year thread ;). The reason is that this time it will not solely be for working purposes, but I will actually have time for some holiday.

    Tomorrow, July 22nd I am flying to Addis Ababa and from Saturday onwards I will spend 9 days travelling through southern Ethiopia. Fortunately I will have a private driver, so I am rather flexible and I do not have to rely on the erratic public transport.

    The planning currently looks like this:

    July 23rd: Arrival in Addis, drive to Lake Langano
    July 24th: Drive to Dinsho (Bale NP)
    July 25th: Sanetti plateau (Bale NP)
    July 26th: Harenna forest (Bale NP)
    July 27th: Drive to (H)Awassa
    July 28th: Drive to Yabello
    July 29th: Drive back to (H)Awassa
    July 30th: Drive back to Addis
    July 31st: Visit to Debre Libanos

    This itinerary give the chance to see most Ethiopian special mammals and birds that I cannot see in my field sites in the east of the country. The two main species I won't see are the endemic Walia ibex and Prince Ruspoli's turaco. The latter was on the original program, but my driver doesn't want to drive the roads that would be necessary to keep the program feasible in 9 days, due to the bad condition they are in.
     
  2. vogelcommando

    vogelcommando Well-Known Member

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    Looking forward to read about your adventures in this beautifull country ! Have a great time and good luck by finding the species you want to see !
     
  3. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    Looking forward to this thread!
     
  4. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member

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    By now I should be birding next to a southern rift valley lake in Ethiopia, but as you see I have perfect internet connection and can leisurely write about the past day...

    Yesterday I flew from Basel to Frankfurt and this went very smooth up to the moment that we were supposed to take off, due to thunder storms the capacity of Frankfurt Airport was reduced and so I could enjoy views of Basel airport for over half an hour longer than I should have. When we finally took off, we had to stop before a traffic light on approach to Frankfurt, as we were not the only flight waiting to land. All in all we had a delay of over 1 hour, but as I had originally 2.5 hours to catch my flight, I did not worry and I felt sorry for all the people who missed there connection.

    Then boarding the Ethiopian Airlines flight to Addis also went smooth, but the weather was still rather bad and it took about 1.5 hours before we were finally aloud to go to the runway. Off course we were not the only plane that wanted to take off. When patiently waiting the clock came closer and closer to midnight and that was quite a problem in the end... People to Singapore were lucky, they took off 1 to 12, we were by then 3rd in line and we actually made it to the runway, but at the moment everybody was waiting for the plane to start take-off, we just started taxi-ing back to our gate. The fun thing of European airports is that they are often forbidden to handle flights at night and we were just a few minutes late... The result was off course a complete chaos and we were not aloud to leave the plane before 3 am. Because they first insisted that they should serve their tasteless dinner (with Bavaria beer, which is among the worst Dutch beers around, so the whole meal was basically tasteless, but alcohol was just what I needed....). Fortunately they had arranged a hotel for all of us and we were escorted to busses and I actually got some sleep from 5 am to 9 am...

    And now I am back again waiting for the same plane at the same gate as yesterday, but today without the bad weather. So I have good hopes that I will actually arrive tonight in Ethiopia. The main problem is now that my bush crow bonanza might well result in seeing 0 bush crows as I probably won't have the time anymore to visit that site. So I should probably rename the thread to bush crowless bonanza, which is much more apt in describing the trip so far....
     
  5. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    It's ok, this wouldn't be the first travel thread where the main aim of the trip and the titular taxon isn't seen. *Cough* Chlidonias *cough* ;)

    Enjoy your flight anyway :)
     
  6. DDcorvus

    DDcorvus Well-Known Member

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    Isn't that the whole purpose of these threads that the main target will not be seen and giving other zoochatters the opportunity to point out to the traveler how they did manage to see the taxon.
     
  7. Maguari

    Maguari Never could get the hang of Thursdays. Premium Member

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    Oh yes! Well...

    I went wildlifing in Ethiopia and I... didn't see a bush crow.

    Doesn't quite work the same. Someone else will need to oblige!





    Good luck lintworm! Sorry to hear you've been delayed.
     
  8. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    I don't believe I have entitled any of my threads with something I didn't see?

    "Chlidonias Goes To Asia" parts one, two and three: I definitely saw Asia.

    "Doucs and Dong: Chlidonias Goes To Asia, part four": I saw several doucs, millions of dong, and also Asia.

    "Chlidonias Also Goes Tropical": I saw the tropics.

    "Chlidonias In Australia": I saw Australia.

    "Chlidonias Versus New Caledonia": I saw New Caledonia.

    :p
     
  9. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    Well you didn't see as many doucs as you were hoping for... but I get your point :p
    How many Chlidonias terns did you see though? ;)
     
  10. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    well I've seen Chlidonias on several of the trips, but I believe you may have misinterpreted the usage that particular word in the titles of the threads.



    :p
     
  11. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member

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    I have now almost finished my slightly shorter Ethiopian holiday and I am now back in Addis enjoying the first wifi of the week (though I also very much enjoyed the wifi-less moments along the way)

    Though I ended up not seein Bush crows, as I did not even try to go there, I did see a lot of other interesting stuff, some expected and some unexpected creatures made an appearance ;).

    Day 1 Addis Ababa – Lake Langano

    At Saturday evening I finally arrived in Ethiopia, with a delay of “only” 15 hours and the passport control of the airport gave us all a very warm welcome, with a waiting time of over half an hour…. So after mid-night I arrived at my hotel and after a small dinner, I went straight to bed.

    In the morning my driver would pick me up at 8 am, but as usual 8 does not actually mean 8 and my driver did not arrive before 9. So in the meantime I had the chance to find my first birds of the day. Allthough the hotel I stayed does barely have a garden, I was still able to see Dusky turtle dove, Tacazze sunbird, Hooded vulture, Montane white-eye and the first regional endemic the Brown-rumped seedeater, a rather boring looking small brown bird.

    Fortunately it was a Sunday so the traffic of Addis Ababa was not nearly as bad as it usually is and before we hit the expressway I saw another Horn of Africa endemic, the wattled ibis. The expressway is a 3 lane highway which has just opened and was as usual built by Chinese, operated by Chinese, owned by Chinese and the toll also directly goedto Beijing. Though Ethiopia has officially never been colonized, it is a de factor Chinese colony at the moment, much to the dislike of most Ethiopians…Birding with a speed of 100 km/hour is not the easiest, but apart from usual roadside birds such as Marabou and Augur buzzard, I saw my first lifer of the day in a swampy meadow: a pair of Black crowned cranes. After some 50 km we left the expressway and turned into the Great Rift Valley.

    The first stop of the day was Lake Koka, unlike the other lakes in the Rift Valley, this is not a natural lake, but a human creation, because a dam was built. A short stop here yielded Banded martin and African comb duck as most interesting species and we quickly departed to our next destination: Lake Ziway.

    At Lake Ziway there is supposed to be a Hyrax tree, a fig tree with a colony of Bush hyraxes. I got the coordinates from this tree from Maguari, but as my GPS was having problems I could not find the right tree. Actually, I ended up checking the wrong fig tree and the only interesting animals I saw were African fish eagle and Bruce’s green pigeon. Fortunately the birding around the lakeshore was rather good with many Great white pelicans, hamerkop, reed cormorants, African darters among others. The trees on the shoreline also contained many Diederik’s cuckoo and some beautiful sunbirds, which are very beautiful indeed.

    We then quickly continued to Lake Langano and left the main road for a gravel road, which we followed for another 20 km to paradise. Paradise here comes in the name of Bishangari, a lodge located on the lake shore, with a backdrop of good forest. Though they have over 25 rooms, I was 1 of the 3 guests and I was allowed to stay 2 nights for the price of 1 in a small hut with lake view. I quickly dropped my stuff and went birding. Before I entered the forest I already saw a good bird: the red-shouldered cuckoo shrike, a beautiful black bird with a red shoulder (duh…). The first mammals were the olive baboons, which are off course ignorant of human presence. The colobus monkeys however did mind my presence and were rather shy. Birding in and around the forest on the lodge ground was rather good and yielded Silvery-cheeked hornbill, Bare-faced go-away-bird, Abyssinian ground hornbill and as a highlight several Yellow-fronted parrots. These parrots are endemic to Ethiopia and although widespread are sometimes tricky to find. Around Bishangari they were however extremely common and although they are noisy, they are very pleasant company. At sunset I realised I had seen exactly 98 bird species on my first day, so I off course wanted at least two extra bird. I got good help from a Rueppell’s robin thrush, which was number 99, but there were no owls for me that night….

    The dinner consisted of a simple pasta, but in Ethiopia this is not a punishment. The Italians have occupied Ethiopia for 5 years during WW II and they have had some lasting influences, not only do you find espresso machines in the most remote corners of the country, they have also thaught the Ethiopians how to cook a proper pasta. In Kenya people cook pasta like it is rice, so it boils for 30 minutes until the water has evaporated, leaving a whitish porridge with vaguely recognizable spaghetti strings. In Ethiopia pasta is fortunately always a safe choice and as I am vegetarian it is sometimes also the only option…

    After dinner I went for a small night walk, which unfortunately did not yield much. Though the logo of the lodge is a bushbaby (of which they claim that this species was before it’s “discovery” in 2001 on the lodge grounds only known from Senegal and Zanzibar. They forget that there is about 20 species all over sub-saharan Africa….), the bushbabies had left the lodge forest according to the owner and he urged me not to go to the larger forest behind the lodge, as a might get lost. Off-course I do not believe in getting lost, but after I sneaked out of the back gate my torchlight met the eye-shine of 3 larger animals, which must have been spotted hyena due to their way of walking. I thought that a troup of spotted hyena was a much better reason not to walk in that forest at night alone, than the prospect of getting lost. And after some spotlighting close to the lodge I went to sleep early, having seen only one Abyssinian hare. However the owner told me that Aardvark were regularly seen, I had a goal for the next day, and that day would indeed yield a very nice surprise mammal.
     
  12. vogelcommando

    vogelcommando Well-Known Member

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    Great story sofar and already some very intresting species ! Looking forward to the rest of the trip !
     
  13. Maguari

    Maguari Never could get the hang of Thursdays. Premium Member

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    I remember this well - I would describe the passport control area at Addis as 'organised chaos' but that 'organised' bit doesn't seem to apply...

    When we were there this had been open only a fortnight or so - there were still people herding goats along it, and even playing football on the yet-to-open section in Addis. And lots of Tawny Eagles!

    Koka was where we saw our Black Crowned Cranes. :D

    Sorry you couldn't find the hyraxes - I really hope that little colony has survived the building work that going on next to it.

    Gravel!? Not when we were there - this was one of the worst roads I've ever been along! Bishangari is well worth it, of course, but as you don't mention it I can only assume the road has been greatly improved in the last two years.

    Which one did you get? Me and robmv were in Gararraa, the Chamaeleon. ;)

    Yes indeed - worth the bumpy road in themselves!


    We saw a galago on a night walk with our guide (and some mongoose eyeshine) - no Aardvarks for us, and we only heard the hyaenas.


    Looking forward to the rest of the report! :)
     
  14. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member

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    The passport control could not be said to be chaos, but it was also not organized, just way too many people waiting for the few people at work...


    The expressway is relatively clear of strange things, though there was a donkey grazing on the left lane yesterday and a defence car which broke down did the repairings on the middle of the road....

    I was stupid to miss the hyrax I now realize, but I will very probably see them when I am travelling through Tanzania in December/January.

    The road now was really good all the way to Bishangari, maybe I was just lucky as the big rains are yet to come, but other roads in this area have been swept away already (I will come to that later...)

    I was in one of the tukuls left from the entrance, these are a lotcheaper then the named rooms and thus only have a number ;)

    My second night walk was a bit more productive, but we will come to that ;)
     
  15. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member

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    Day 2 Bishangari

    After two nights with only 4 hours of sleep, I wanted to sleep as long as possible, but early morning the forest was calling and by 6:30 I was awake and within 5 minutes I was birding outside. I started in the Fig tree forest on the lodge grounds and after a quiet start, I soon found my first lifer in the form of an Abyssinian oriole, which is also a regional endemic. Apart from the oriole I saw no really interesting birds and I left for the larger forest 5 minutes away. This meant crossing a grassland area that was infested with flies and midges, but without any birds. As I reached the forest I already heard several Yellow-fronted parrots and white-cheeked turacos calling. The parrots were easily located, the turaco took about 10 minutes, but after that I saw them everywhere. I birded along the main road through the forest and I attracted the attention of all the Ethiopians that were going to their fields, my attention was however attracted by some monkeys high up in some fig trees, they turned out to be olive baboons. Apart from the baboons; grivet monkey and Colobus monkeys were also common, just as Gambian sun squirrels. I then turned away from the main road and soon I saw a rather cuckoo-like bird flying, but it didn’t look quite right. It went out of my sight very quickly, but it flew to a tree right above my head soon afterwards. Then it became clear that I was looking at my first wild trogon ever, but this Narina trogon did not like the attention and flew away… Other birds before I left the forest included even more Yellow-fronted parrots, White-rumped babbler and a Lesser honeyguide. After the forest I wanted to see whether the lake-side would be just as productive, it however was not really. Apart from the ubiquitous Red-knobbed coot, White-winged tern, Egyptian goose and African fish eagle, only a goliath heron was interesting. When I walked back to the lodge, a group of brown looking waders landed on the far end of a peninsula. After some minutes walking I was watching a whole group of Senegal thick-knees. As with many birds that have Senegal in their name, they are by far not restricted to western Africa. The same goes with birds called Cape – something, but this was apparently just the first place some white guy saw the species. I walked back to the lodge and by the time I ate my breakfast I had already seen over 55 diffferent bird species.

    After breakfast I wanted to go the the larger forest again, but at the grassland I was this time met not by an intifada of insects, but of children. African children can be categorised into 4 groups.
    1. The children that have never seen a white person before. These generally just stare at you and the smaller children sometimes start crying.
    2. The second group has seen white people more often and is very happy to see them and just waves and smiles
    3. The third group is persisting in that they want a lot of attention from you and they are very persistent. They often ask for money, as if white people are trees where money is growing on
    4. The fourth group are the children that have seen too many white people to be bothered, they are almost only seen in larger towns.
    Group 1,2 & 4 are easy to deal with and not a big deal, the children around Bishangari however belong to the 3rd group and are particularly annoying and persisting. Apart from “money” and “bird”, they also speak no English and as I speak no Oromiffa or Amharic there is not much conversation possible. After entering the forest I luckily quickly got rid of them, as they had their cattle to herd. Birdwise the forest was now very quiet and except a mountain wagtail there was not much interesting to see. I did find however fresh diggings from an aardvark, so they were definately around. When leaving the forest, I was again harassed by a loads of children, I did however see a black-billed wood-hoopoe and a White-winged black tit in the time that I was trying to get rid of these children. I actually prefer mosquitoes to this type of children, as mosquitoes you can just kill, but with children this is less accepted.

    After lunch I tried to read a book in a hammock, but when you lie in a hammock, you tend to face a tree canopy and there were loads of interesting small birds, so reading was not very fast. Species above my head included red-faced crombec, banded barbet and Abyssinian white-eye In the late afternoon I went to the lakeshore again in the hope of seeing some hippo, which failed miserably. I did however see multiple Abyssinian ground hornbills, a nightjar and many more fish eagles. I also found some recently used aardvark/warthog burrows, but waiting in front of such a burrow is quite chanceless and I naturally did not see anything. On my way back to the lodge, I did see another Abyssinian hare and I flushed a common duiker, also new for the trip was a shikra, a small species of sparrowhawk. After dinner I went for another nightwalk and I could confirm again that nightlife inside the lodge grounds is not particularly interesting, I saw nothing… But once I went to check the forest and the lakeside north of the forest, I found a Senegal galago (bushbaby) within 5 minutes, so that was a hopeful start. Galago are among the most amazing groups of African wildlife and they are insanely agile and cute, so I am always happy to see them. Senegal galago was even a lifer for me. The rest of the walk did not yield anything, not even an owl, so I went back to the lodge. Just before passing through the gate I turned one last time and to my surprise there was green eye-shine 40 meters away on the rocky lake shore. When getting closer it looked somewhat cat like, so I thought it would be a genet, when I came close enough and could get a look through my binoculars, I saw however that this “genet” had large ears with ear tufts and was a small cat. I realised I was looking straight at a caracal! The caracal was also looking at me and decided that he did not like people too much, so he ran away. Fortunately he made several stops to see whether this human was still following him (and it was), so I could see it in total for over a minute. I then did return back to the lodge and before I could reach my hut I saw again green eye-shine. This time it was indeed a genet (a small-spotted genet to be precise). And 5 minutes later I saw again green eye-shine, this time it was however just a feral cat. But with a caracal and 90 bird species in one day, I was very content. And my trip could only get better as my next destination was Bale Mountains National Park.
     
  16. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    I am totally going to steal that line to use in one of my travel threads!
     
  17. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member

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    As long as you use proper references that is fine ;)

    Day 3 Bishangari – Dinsho

    Though today’s destination was the Bale Mountaind National Park, I did not leave Bishangari before I had birded some more. Again my internal clock woke me up at 6:30 and I was off to the larger forest immediately. My goal was to get better views of the Narina trogon and that proved to be exceptionally easy. Before I had entered the forest proper, a trogon that had just caught a praying mantis, landed in a small tree next to me and offered good views. And 20 minutes later I saw another trogon in the forest. I had expected that seeing trogons would be difficult and thought that I might miss them, but the trogon gods were in my favour this week. Just before I left the forest I saw another bird that was still missing from the list: an Abyssinian ground trush. This bird likes to skulk in the dense undergrowth, so I did not get very good views unfortunately. On my way to breakfast I however did see more new birds on the lodge grounds. Gabar goshawk are supposed to be common throughout Africa, but I had not seen them before, green twinspot and black cuckooshrike are however trickier birds to find. But I obtained good views of both of them. I was especially pleased with the twinspots, as twinspots are very neat small finches, that are not that common.

    This time my driver was on time and we started our 5 hour drive to Dinsho. Nice birds on the first stretch included bare-faced go-away-bird, black-billed barbet and Thick-billed raven. Thick-billed ravens are endemic to the Abyssinian highlands and are possibly my favourite Ethiopian birds. They are extremely large, even for a raven and have a ridiculously large bill (hence the name), this make them look very prehistoric and very cool. Fortunately these birds are very common in the highlands, even inside towns, where they visit rubbish dumps… After a good glass of Avocado juice in the town of Shashemene, we started our ascent to the Bale massif. Before we would arrive in Dinsho, where the park HQ is located, we would have to climb about 2000 meters altitude to a pass at 3600 meters above sea level. Right after Shashemene we passed the most ridiculous collection of speed-brakers, along a stretch of over a kilometre there was one huge speed-braker every hundred meter. After this section, two smaller sections of speed-brakers followed, all with the same ridiculous principle. Normally you cannot travel fast on Ethiopian roads because of potholes, but if they have a new road without any holes, they add bumps all over to keep the feeling the same as before there was good tarmac…

    Birding along the way was quite boring, though I saw a white-headed vulture, which means that except Cape vulture I have now seen all African vulture species. Apart from a few birds and wide vistas over farm land, we saw a lot of social unrest. Ethiopia consists of many different tribes and cultures and they in general do not get along very well. The country is ruled by minority tribes from the northern highlands, mainly Tigrayans. We were travelling throughout the southern highlands in the Oromiya region. The Oromo people are by far the largest minority and especially for their size a very neglected one. Last year’s elections saw the ruling party win all seats in parliament bar 1, so opposition is now something of the past in Ethiopia. For some reason, people do not really like that and the great drought of 2015 (el nino….) did only speed up the building tension. And though the rains have been very good since April, people are still not happy. All along the road we saw old road blockades and in several villages the houses of government officials or government offices were burnt down. Armed military was off course also present. It all seemed to me as a ticking time bomb and within a few years Ethiopia will see very large unrest, at least that is my prediction as a biologist… And unrest can never be a really good thing for the remaining wildlife (which is not that much anyway).

    Enough politics… After we passed the pass, we descended into the Gaysay valley, which is part of Bale Mountains NP (Bale is actually pronounced as Baaleeh, so not like the football player). The Gaysay valley is a broad valley full of wet grassland with tall Juniper forest on the hills on either side. The first pool next to the road is the home for several blue-winged goose, another highland endemic. And throughout the valley there are dark-brown and chestnut-brown blobs grazing. Unlike in the rest of the country these are not cows and horses but Mountain nyala (Gedemsa) and Bohor reedbuck. Except some few remnant pockets in other parts of Ethiopia, almost the total remaining population of Gedemsa is concentrated in the northern parts of Bale and they are very common here indeed. Not only antelopes call this valley home, warthog and olive baboon are also very common and Ethiopian wolf is also supposed to occur here, though we did not see any. Birding was also good with Fan-tailed widowbirds, Ethiopian cisticola and many Rouget’s rails.

    After passing the small town of Dinsho we left the main road and entered Bale NP again, this time the Juniper – Hagenia forest around the park HQ. Several hundred meters behind the gate in the middle of the forest lies the Dinsho lodge, which would be my place to stay for the next 3 nights. Though the location is amazing, the “lodge” itself is a bit run-down and looks more like a hostel than a lodge. It was also privatized recently, which meant that prices increased insanely. For a small 2 person room you would now pay 65 USD, which is an increase of several hundred percent. I was however the only guest and they offered me this room for 25 USD, which I gladly took as I am not the pickiest person, except when it comes to good views. Around the lodge mountain nyala are extremely common and within 1 minute walking of the lodge there is always at least 10 present. Together with Menelik’s bushbuck (a dark mountain subspecies), Bohor reedbuck, Common duiker and Warthog, this made up for good company. It was also the only company I would get, as all three nights I was the sole person staying in the lodge. An hour walk in the forest with my guide yielded some rabnge-restricted birds such as white-backed black tit, Abyssinian ground trush (again, but now with good views), Chestnut-naped francolin and other nice birds such as Yellow-fronted canary. Also all antelope species were abundant and we even saw a small group of Colobus monkey. After a short rain I met up with the owl man, who keeps track of the day-time roosts of the owls in this forest. This guy has amazingly sharp eyes and every morning he finds Abyssinian owl, African wood owl and Verreaux’s eagle owl. As the owls tend to choose a different spot daily, it takes him about 3 hours every day to find the owls back, which is still astonishingly fast given their camouflage. Within one hour he showed me 1 Abyssinian owl, 2 African wood owls and 3 Verreaux’s eagle owls. We also heard many Abyssinian catbirds, a very charismatic (and loud) endemic, of which I only got good views the next day. After the owl man left for home I decided to try to get some pictures of Gedemsa and I was following a mother and her calf. I left the path and was not partly concealed by a bush. Then I thought I heard some movement on the path and when I took a step back, I was watching straight at a Serval. The Serval was watching back and decided quickly he disliked me and he vanished. But 5 seconds later a second Serval appeared, which stood on the path for 15 seconds before following his mate. I then tried to find them back, but only saw a Bohor reedbuck. Somehow I have been incredibly lucky with cats this week, which I was not before, as until last week the only wild cats I had ever seen were Lions in Etosha NP. I went to bed early, as the next day I would try to see Ethiopia’s most famous endemic mammal.
     
  18. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member

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    Day 4 Sanetti plateau

    I woke up with the sight of Menelik’s bushbuck, Warthog and Mountain nyala grazing in front of the lodge, so the day could have started worse. The trees around the lodge were full of birds as well and I obtained good views from Abyssinian catbird, white-backed black tit, Abyssinian slaty flycatcher, dusky turtle dove and others. After breakfast we drove together with a local guide to the Sanetti plateau. Allthough both Dinsho and Sanetti are in the same national park, we had to drive about 40 km to reach the foothills of Sanetti. This drive took us through farmland not unlike Europe with lots of barley and wheat. At the foothills of the plateau the tarmac stopped and a good gravel road replaced it. The first kilometres are through boring Juniper and Eucalyptus plantations, but they are soon replaced by open Juniper-Hagenia forest. After this section it starts to get interesting when the landscape opens up and becomes dominated by shrubs and St. Johnswort trees (this genus I knew only as small herbs, not as trees). Birding was good here with the first Rouget’s rails, Slender-billed starlings, Chestnut-naped francolin, Yellow-fronted canary and many Wattled ibis. As we passed the park gate the vegetation was now dominated by heather species and apart from livestock that is not supposed to be there, we did not see much. It started to get interesting when we reached the plateau itself, which is located at over 4000 meters above sea level. The plateau is rather flat (at least from a Swiss perspective, a Dutch person would still call it mountainous) and the vegetation reminded me of Iceland and is unlike anything I have ever seen in Africa. Birding was especially interesting along the tarns, rainfed pools of icecold water. The first tarns held Ruddy shellduck, Blue-winged goose and yellow-billed duck. The shellduck are the only population in sub-saharan Africa. The heather vegetation was full of Thekla larks, Moorland chats and Black-headed siskins. And though a great variety of raptors occurs here, we saw only Augur buzzards and Tawny eagles for the first hours. There was no sign yet of my tAbyssinian ground rats[/B] and giant mole rats were very visible though. The giant mole rats are ridiculous compressed marmots with periscope eyes, which they use to see wolves coming… They are however endemic to the Sanetti plateau and given their odd appearance very fascinating to watch.

    We continued driving over the plateau and I was shocked to see many cows and sheep grazing in the national park, I know conservation has a very low priority in the Ethiopia, but seeing so many livestock in the single most important park around was rather shocking. We also saw several feral dogs, which is bad news for the wolves as Ethiopian wolves are very susceptible to rabies. Recently the population in Bale dropped from 250 to 125 by this disease…

    We drove all the way to the far end of the plateau, without seeing any cranes or wolves, we did see however two golden eagles and several Spot-breasted lapwing, the latter endemic to Ethiopia, the former only found here in Sub-saharan Africa. On our way back we took a small detour to check some tarns for the crane, this resulted in 50 more Blue-winged goose, many rats and some shellducks and lapwings. We also saw our second Starck’s hare of the day. This hare is an ice-time relic, most closely related to European hares and is now only found in some parts of the Ethiopian highland.

    On our way back to the main road we finally spotted our first Ethiopian wolf, though at a rather large distance and she soon disappeared behind a hill. We tried to follow her and first I could not find her back, until the guide found her resting 25 meters from the road. She then decided to check out our car and she passed 5 meters behind us and then disappeared. We then decided to slowly go back to the Dinsho area. But when leaving the plateau we found the first Lammergeier, a Mountain buzzard and a second Ethiopian wolf, this one we flushed very close to the road and gave very good views for some minutes. We would be back the next day on the plateau on our way to the Harenna forest, so we decided that we would try the cranes then.

    Our next destination was the Gaysay Valley close to the lodge. Our goal was to find the Abyssinian longclaw, an endemic pipit-like bird. Though I normally do not care about brown small birds, this one is an exception, as it has as black with yellow throat. We left the main road and started walking on a grassy track. Initially we saw only Ethiopian cisticola, yellow bishops and black-headed siskins. Then we flushed a bird which looked pipit-like but it turned out to be a Thekla lark. We then found red-billed oxpecker and Red-winged starling to species I did not expect in the middle of a grassland. Mammalwise it was also good as we saw many Mountain nyala, bohor reedbuck and warthog. When we started walking back to the main road we finally found two Abyssinian longclaws foraging on the road in front of us. So mission accomplished and we were going back to the Dinsho Lodge, where the owl man was waiting for us again. This time he brought us to a roost of two Cape eagle owls on a rocky outcrop. Here we were surrounded by children, but these turned out to be quite nice and they had a lot of fun naming all the animals I had photographed so far. I was astounded by how well they knew their species. If you would have tried the same with Dutch children, they wouldn’t have recognized most of them…

    When the sun went down I found an African wood owl calling next to the toilets, so I could have spared the long walk to their roost yesterday, but well, you can’t predict what you will find. In the night we went spotlighting around the village for Spotted hyena and we did see two very distantly, but it was all not very satisfying… I was actually hoping for an African civet, as I have seen hyena quite often, but apart from rain we did not see much else…