Wednesday 16 October 2013

Abidjatta Shalla National Park, Ethiopia

On Sunday which was the second full day of my short trip to Ethiopia, Roger Butler and I travelled to Abidjatta Shalla National Park.

This is a known park on the organised bird tour circuit. We however took public transport using local minibuses from our base at the Adama German Hotel.

We started out late as our research on the place was done early that same morning. Furthermore, travelling even 125 kilometres in Ethiopia takes a long time. As a result we had only two hours on site. We were not despondent. Half of the fun is the travelling and meeting local people in a local setting. 

Having only two hours, we chose no to go to the lakes but made a mental note to try to fit in a water mass somewhere else on the trip. 

male ostrich

The weather was thankfully cool enough for many birds still to be active. However one of the first birds we saw couldn't really hide in the shade anyway. There were two ostrich very near the front gate.

red marks the birded area

There was both a male and a female bird.

female ostrich

Also near the entrance were several warthog which our assigned ranger didn't seem to be worried about so neither were we.

adult male warthog

Ostrich were not the only "game" birds seen. Helmeted guineafowl were stumbled upon and they just gently but quickly walked away.

helmeted guineafowl

I also stumbled up another game bird. This time two of them flushed and flew to new cover. However one stayed behind and froze in the open. It was an immature bird.

 an unidentified immature francolin

On BirdForum both Coqui francolin and yellow necked francolin have been put forward as possibilities though we may never know. A francolin spur can be seen on its trailing leg. It's shame that it may not be fully identified as both birds would be lifers.

red-billed hornbill on the ground

For want of a better way to continue the report, I'll write about the remaining birds seen in rough order of size.

Red-billed hornbill were easy to pick up. 

Incidentally many authorities split this bird into up to five species. The reason I prefer Clements classification is it doesn't split as much as many and I am generally anti-splitting for reasons too long for a short blog.

red-billed hornbill in a tree

The largest starling I saw on the holiday was here. Ruepell's glossy starling was the largest primarily because of its relatively long tail.

Ruepell's glossy starling

Another relatively large bird was this white bellied go-away bird. It was so tame he refused to move into a better position for me to see. As time was short, I gave up waiting.

white-bellied go-away bird

Almost everywhere on the holiday outside central Addis Ababa were fan-tailed raven.

fan-tailed raven

Moving on to slightly smaller sized birds, I observed a small group of rufous chatterer which I recognised straight away even though it was a lifer. It looks like a slightly more intensely coloured bird than fulvous chatterer  (a.k.a fulvous babbler) I used to see when I worked in Libya.

rufous chatterer

The only resident shrike seen on the holiday was seen here and it was a lifer: northern white-crowned shrike

 northern white-crowned shrike

This was the only place I observed blue-spotted wood dove too but this wasn't a lifer. I had seen it previously in Senegal.

blue-spotted wood dove

We came across two African grey headed woodpecker and they were not shy which is a common feature of so many birds in Ethiopia. 

male African grey-headed woodpecker

Like the blue spotted wood doveforked tailed drongo was not new to me having been in Senegal first and then in other parts of Africa.

fork-tailed drongo

Among the smaller birds, I had never seen a black tit before. Here were white-winged black tit.

white-winged black tit

The south west of Saudi Arabia is essentially in the Afro-tropical eco-zone. Some of the birds seen in Ethiopia I had actually already seen in Saudi Arabia rather than in Africa. One such bird is little rock thrush which was present in the National Park.

little rock thrush

The two main small finches at the park were red-billed firefinch and red-cheeked cordonbleu. There were also a small number of village indigobird.

village indigobird

Village indigobird is a brood parasite apparently specific to red-billed firefinch. Given this information, what I couldn't work out was why the one above was spending all its time in with a flock of red-cheeked cordonbleu.


Finally the park is not designed just to protect birds. Gazelle are readily seen.


Lizards are present too. Roger got to see his target species of red headed agama (not the lizard above!)

To do true justice to the park, I would recommend staying in one of the three near-by hotels at Langano otherwise travel time from another base will cause problems. Nevertheless I was satisfied with what I saw. Any more birds and I wouldn't have been able to digest their identification and other features.

There are two more blogs left in this series. One looks at the hotel garden on another morning with a surprisingly different bird cast from last time. The other looks at our full day trip to Awash National Park.

As well as preparing these, I am off to Tabuk in North West Saudi Arabia tonight. This Eid break is turning out to be a busy time.

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