Sunday 20 October 2013

To Awash National Park, Ethiopia

On Monday, our last full day in Ethiopia, Roger Butler and I hired a car and driver to travel to Awash National Park.  We started out earlier than the day before too so much more birding was possible especially on the way.

This is another National Park on the commercial bird tour circuit.

northern red bishop

Our first stop was at a pleasant churchyard which had plenty of fruit and other low trees as well as long grass. A northern red bishop was easily spotted towards the top of one of the taller trees. 

green dot marks where we visited at Awash National Park

Just outside the churchyard was a white-browed sparrow weaver.

white-browed sparrow weaver

Inside were several western palearctic wintering warblers. We didn't really have time to identify them as this was only a short stop. However I know that some at least were common whitethroat

common whitethroat in the churchyard

These weren't the only western palearctic winterers seen on the way. At a second stop in a drier area, I came across both a male northern wheatear and an isabelline wheatear.

Isabelline wheatear 

I found it odd that the landscape became generally drier and warmer as we rose in altitude towards Awash. I understand that this may be due to geothermal heating of the ground as well as the shape of the landscape (a crater) creating a sun trap.

male northern wheatear

At the same place as the very familiar northern wheatear, there was a much more exotic species. Here was long-tailed-paradise whydah. The male in breeding plumage has a very long tail and is a very slow flyer.

long-tailed-paradise whydah

It uses this presumably to attract females. It doesn't need to catch food for its young which might be difficult with it's ungainliness because it is brood parasite. It brood parasites green-winged pytilia which incidentally I didn't mange to see.

eastern chanting goshawk

Another very short stop a little further down the road produced just a single red-backed shrike and this eastern chanting goshawk flying overhead. Thanks are due to Tom Conzemi on BirdForum for identifying it from a single photo. This was yet another lifer.

saddle-billed stork

I had promised myself, we would visit at least one lake on the vacation to see some water birds. In the end it turned out to be on the last full day. Lake Basaka is on the side of the road on our  journey to Awash National Park. We stopped there for only about 20 minutes but it was long enough to see some good species.

Here were both marabou stork and saddle-billed stork. The former was more numerous. Both were lifers.

marabou stork

Marabou stork in the air reminded me of black stork though the build of the bird is quite different.

marabou stork flying

More familiar birds along the shore line were significant numbers of common sandpiper, wood sandpiper and cattle egret

great egret and purple heron

There was a single great egret too which helpfully landed next to the only purple heron on show.

another not so "beautiful sunbird"

The small birds were represented by many wintering yellow wagtail and by a couple of beautiful sunbird. Once again the male which was seen was in heavy moult.

hooded vulture

Between Lake Basaka and the entrance to the National Park is the small town of  Fentale. We stopped here for water and snacks but could easily see several fan-tailed raven as well as hooded vulture in the air while others were perching.

the waterfalls in Awash national park

The visit to the national Park started with lunch at the safara lodge next to the waterfall. 

It was all very pleasant but we had come at the heat of the day in an area that we had't realised was much warmer than Adama despite its altitude. I knew this would adversely affect my birding chances.  

To get the most out of the National Park you really need to stay there over-night which is what most commercial tours do.

From the lodge I looked out on a sole African grey hornbill perched in a tree above the falls. 

Hadada ibis

After lunch Roger, me and the armed ranger who must accompany you (never did find out what the danger was supposed to be) walked along the river in and out of the shaded areas.

In the shade were African mourning dove and more interestingly two Hadada ibis.

northern crombec from the rear

In the open were a mobile flock of northern crombec which is apparently a typical species of dry savanna.

The only other flocking bird seen was red-billed firefinch which kept nearer the shaded areas along the river bank.

village indigobird

Needless to say, the brood parasite of red-billed firefinch, the village indigobird was present.

black-billed barbet

As we headed back to the lodge to start the homeward journey, it began to cool. However we really couldn't stay any longer without having to drive for long periods in the dark, a hazardous occupation in Ethiopia.

Nevertheless I lingered long enough to see three black-billed barbet.

shining sunbird

One more sunbird put in an appearance before we arrived back at the lodge. It was the last bird that I identified on the whole trip. Ironically it's a shining sunbird which I have seen many times in Saudi Arabia. I have eliminated all other possibilities and it fits very well!

Namaqua dove

In the lodge were my first namaqua dove of the holiday.

The road to and from the lodge within the National Park is a dirt track and travel progress is necessarily slow. However it mean I could observe two of the best species of the day from the car. 

Olive bee-eater

All along the transmission cables which run in parallel to the road were perched olive bee-eater (a.k.a Madagascar bee-eater).

dark chanting goshawk

And four dark chanting goshawk we seen at intervals along the way on posts.  Both species were yet again lifers.

A large group of helmeted guineafowl were seen resting under a tree by the side of the road.

Vervet monkey

Even on our short visit with only two hours in the field at the National Park, we  came upon other wildlife including baboons and vervet monkeys.

type of monitor lizard

A large monitor lizard was also observed.

Awash National Park was the last visit of my Ethiopia tour. The tour was only an introduction to east African birding where species count was never the main goal. Having a greater understanding of the bird families and representatives was more important. Indeed I hope that will give me more underpinning knowledge for future visits to East Africa than a dash for a long list.

After returning from Ethiopia I had one days rest before  flying up to Tabuk and north west Saudi Arabia. 

In Saudi Arabia the list is more important to me as well as better  knowledge on geographic distribution of species . The Tabuk tour was a success in both regards as I hope the next series of blogs will show.

1 comment:

  1. The monitor is a Nile Monitor, Africa's biggest monitor species.