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Ethiopia: send champagne and skis

February 17, 2011
The scarce Spot-breasted Lapwing, Vanellus melanocephalus, on our Ethiopia birding tour © Callan Cohen

The scarce Spot-breasted Lapwing, Vanellus melanocephalus, on our Ethiopia birding tour © Callan Cohen



“Send champagne and skis” suggested one guest — we’ve had an amazing start to the Ethiopia tour that included a vagrant Egyptian Plover at our feet and a freak, 5 minute bout of snow — all in one day!

The first day (13 Feb) started off (after a good breakfast and relaxing in the hotel gardens) with no less than 14 endemics, including the scarce Spot-breasted Lapwing (Vanellus melanocephalus, on the left © Callan Cohen,  White-cheeked Turaco at a monastery forest, and an hour spent with Gelada Baboons at a dramatic cliff edge. The following day (14 Feb) we recorded for the first time the display of the rare and localised Harwood’s Francolin, before finding a rarity for Ethiopia – an Egyptian Plover – among many other good endemics and specials including Fox’s Kestrel. On our way back to Addis in the highlands we went from 25 degree heat to a sudden storm which lasted all of 5 minutes and we couldn’t believe our eyes as we drove through a valley fresh with snow when we were still wearing t-shirts!

Gelada Baboon, cape, canines and chest, Ethiopia © Callan Cohen

Gelada Baboons, endemic to Ethiopia, know how to show off! Adult males bristle their capes and facial tufts, or yawn to reveal their canines. A female's chest turns redder when she's fertile and mimicks her posterior that is so often sitting. This juvenile is scared, shows a lip-flip and helps reduce aggression. © Callan Cohen

Egyptian Plover, a rarity in Ethiopia © Callan Cohen

We found a rarity for Ethiopia: Egyptian Plover! It's the only species in its family. We've also seen Pluvianus aegyptius on our tours to Cameroon and Mali (see trip reports on © Callan Cohen

Gelada Baboon on cliff, Ethiopia © Callan Cohen

Gelada Baboons live on the edge. They occur only in Ethiopia, where only the Simien Mountains National Park offers them official protection. Geladas live on high grass plateaus - they stay close to escarpment edges and roost on steep cliffs. They eat grass and pluck it blade by blade. Or they dig for underground stems and rhizomes. As they eat such low energy foods while sitting, they've evolved to mimic their rear's sexual signals on their chest. It looks like a red hour-glass and earned them the name of 'bleeding-heart monkey'. © Callan Cohen

Gelada Baboon, 1 of 5 baboon species, Ethiopia © Callan Cohen

We watched this band of Gelada Baboons for over an hour. A band contains several harems, led by an adult caped male such as this one on the left. Gelada Baboons, Theropithecus gelada, only occur in Ethiopia. It's the only species in its family and one of Africa's 5 baboon species. © Callan Cohen

Forest birding for White-cheeked Turaco, Ethiopia © Callan Cohen

We birded this highland monastery forest for White-cheeked Turaco... © Callan Cohen

White-cheeked Turaco, Ethiopia © Callan Cohen

White-cheeked Turaco! Occurs in Podocarpus and juniper forest in Ethiopian Highlands above 2400 m © Callan Cohen

HIghland scene, Ethiopia © Callan Cohen

Ethiopian Highlands near Addis © Callan Cohen

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