Ethiopia April 2019

This was a family trip and my, and their, first ever mostly guided trip, as Ethiopia doesn’t lend itself to doing independently easily. My wife had been before, briefly, and was keen to go back. Our budget was fairly low and I’d agreed this was her trip and was going to be primarily as walking trip plus a visit to the village that she had been to before. This is just a summary of some of the wildlife seen and nowhere near a full account of everything seen.

It was organised through Trek Ethiopia travel and tours. It was a customised trekking tour not a birding tour however they do now do them. The owner has contacted us as he has been subject to some undoubtedly fake poor reviews and I am happy to say that they were very reasonably-priced, efficient, well-guided and we would have no hesitation in recommending them, although please remember that I cannot comment on the birding tour although our tour leaders had a very good knowledge of natural history.

7 April - 10 April, Bale Mountains

A long drive from the airport and then the least scenic of our nights camping at the disused Dinsho Lodge and its revolting toilet. This area did have good birding but I had a very short time to see as much as possible - a matter of hours.

This group of olive baboons were seen on the drive.

On the primate front two Guereza colobus were seen around the lodge.

It was a good spot for mammals. 

Menelik’s bushbuck

Bohor reedbuck

Mountain nyala

For me the undoubted bird highlight was Abyssinian ground thrush which I quickly found when making a misguided trip to the disgusting toilet.

Another bird that I was really pleased to see was Abyssinian catbird which I managed to see before we set off.

Other birds included white-backed tit

and African citril.

We then spent three days walking to the Sanetti Plateau. We were wild camping in beautiful scenery with no other trekkers around, although the high altitude did make it hard work.

Not surprisingly, the highlight was Ethiopian wolf: we saw around 15 (there may have been some replication between days), including one group of 8!  Fantastic.

The other mammals seen were:

Starck’s hare

giant molerat

And Blick’s grass rat.

A distant wildcat was also seen.

Perhaps the most pleasing bird was an Abyssinian longclaw - our guide was surprised when I called him over. 

Ethiopian cisticola was common

We saw about 20 spot-breasted lapwings.

Blue-winged  goose was another endemic bird.

Ethiopian siskin was an extremely common endemic both here and in the Simien Mountains.

Augur buzzard is a widespread but very smart species which was fairly common.

We then had a long drive to Addis before a flight to Gondor and a much needed night of comfort at the AG Hotel is Gondor.

12 - 17 April Simien Mountains

We were a little confused on arrival at the HQ, but soon we met our guide: David (actually an Anglicised version of Dereje). We took to him immediately and he proved to be a great guide and great company: being as interested in what we said as he was at telling us about Ethiopia, having a great knowledge of the area - having being brought up in the Simien mountains - and, just as importantly, if there was something he wasn’t sure about being honest about it rather than trying to bluff it. 

The mammal highlight here had to be the superb groups of geladas. Considering how acclimatised to humans they are, I should have done better with the photos.

An Ethiopian wolf was seen but it was brief and my photo poor.

Two more endemic mammals were seen.

Walia ibex

and Abyssinian grass rat.

At the Chennek campsite two African golden wolves came to the tip at night.

The birding was good as well, although there was a very large overlap with Bale.


Ruppell’s vulture

tawny eagle

yellow-billed kite

red-throated pipit

moorland chat - very common (as they were in the Bale Mountains) and ridiculously tame

white-rumped babbler

Abyssinian thrush

cinnamon-bracken warbler

thick-billed raven

Ethiopian thrush

Phymateus viridipes

17 April Gondor

It was actually rather sad saying goodbye to David and the rest of the crew. Then it was back to life’s luxuries, although Lent meant our food choices were limited. My daughter made the right choice with pizza.

We had a tour of Gondor arranged. I was totally torn between the fantastic historical sites and the fact that their grounds had lots of new birds. The birds mostly won. It was a very frantic few hours!

Fassil Ghebbi

Ethiopian boubou

Bruce’s green pigeon

Abyssinian oriole

white-cheeked turaco

citrus swallowtail

The following reptiles were identified by Vlada Trailin who runs the Ethiopian herp.s website.

Trachylepis varia or T. isselii

Probable Acanthocercus cyanogaster

18 - 20 April Gorgora

Definitely not on a normal birding itinerary but Michelle had been before - as her school used to have a link with the local school - and was keen to go back. We stayed at the Tim and Kim village and had a pleasant few days, doing some general birding and pottering around the village. We were blown away by the friendliness of the people many of who were extremely keen to have their photographs taken.

white-faced whistling duck

sacred ibis, long-tailed cormorant and great egret

Abdim’s stork

hooded vulture

dark chanting goshawk

whiskered tern

Red-cheeked cordon-bleu,

red-billed firefinch 

and village weavers were very common around the accommodation.

baglafecht weaver

Ruppell’s robin-chat seemed to be common anywhere there were trees in Ethiopia but I can never get bored of any species in this genus.

lesser honeyguide

yellow-fronted tinkerbird

African citril

African thrush

African grey woodpecker

little green bee-eater

black-billed barbet

black-winged lovebird

Being a big kingfisher fan I was delighted to see three new-to-me species of kingfisher plus a , distant, giant kingfisher.

striped kingfisher

African pygmy kingfisher

grey-headed kingfisher

I am really not sure what this cisticola is and there seems to be no agreement among the people I have asked. Any suggestions welcome.

eastern plantain-eater

Abyssinian white-eye

African paradise flycatchers may be common and widespread but they are also superb.

female banded groundling

I’m not sure what this rodent is. Harrington’s scrub rat Desmomys harringtoni has been suggested.

A big thank you to the wonderful people of Gorgora for being such enthusiastic models for my photographs.