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Remaining there until it was dark, I then drove across the plains towards Lake Chamo, and then back to the northern edge of the plains.  During this time I saw several Spotted Dikkops and a few Nightjars, mainly Dusky, but one Plain Nightjar was also identified.  As always, there were many that "got away".  I camped just off the side road leading to Lake Abaya, under the happy impression that not much traffic would be expected.  During the night several hundred people passed by, at least 8 groups before 10:00 p.m., and many more throughout the night.  I saw no sign of them during the day, so am not sure where they came from, or went to.

Wednesday 5th January 2000

The dawn chorus was notably absent.  After a brief walk which produced almost nothing at all, I returned to the park entrance.  No new birds were found on the way, although White-rumped Babblers were in evidence..  From Arba Minch, I returned to Sodo and then eastwards to Shashamene, all on good tar.  On reaching Shashamene, I took the short road to the edge of the rift valley at Wondo Genet.

The Hotel allows camping in the flat grass area next to the parking lot, under a number of large trees.  I spent some time sitting on the roof area of the restaurant, which gives an excellent view into the canopies.  Here I was able to find a variety of birds including Yellow-fronted Parrot, Brown Woodland-Warbler, Brown Parisoma and Black-headed Forest Oriole.

I then visited the hot-springs, which are genuinely hot, and you need to be careful not to get too close to the water inflow into the pools.  Afterwards I walked up along a nearby path, past a quarry, and reached a wooded valley, one area of which comprised endemic forest.  White-cheeked Turaco's were very common here, as were Rameron Pigeon, Abyssinian Ground-Thrush and Yellow-bellied Sunbird.

Thursday 6th January 2000

Early next morning I returned to the forest, and found a whole range of species, including Double-toothed Barbet, White-cheeked Turaco, Red-shouldered Cuckoo-Shrike, Ethiopian Hill-Babbler, Slender-billed Chestnut-winged Starling, Ethiopian Crimson-wing and African Citril. In the small quarry just below the forest, Black Saw-wing (race antinorii) and Green Sandpiper occurred. Before leaving Wondo Genet I returned to the hot-springs, and while relaxing, saw several Sharpe's Starlings in the trees nearby.

On leaving Wondo Genet, I returned to Shashamene, before taking the road west up towards the Bale mountains. The first part was uneventful, and I continued until I reached the Long-eared Owl site at Kofele.  The moment I stopped in the location indicated by Richard Webb, about 20 children and young adults raced towards me screaming, while a comparable number ran over to a particular tree.  Clearly there was no doubt about where the Owls were, but it was not a very comfortable form of bird-watching.  Sadly, it was the type of environment where, once one has seen the bird, one leaves.  However, there was just no way of continuing bird-watching with everyone milling about screaming.  It didn’t affect the owls.

From there the road started to climb up towards the mountains, and I encountered quite large numbers of Spot-breasted Plovers (endemic), most of which were on the road itself.  Further on I encountered a flock of about 8 Steppe Eagles circling low.

Given the relatively poor quality of the road, and the steady climb (by now the road was at over 3500m, I was travelling quite slowly.  I reached Dinsho, and considered turning off and camping there for the night, but my cash reserves were so low, I decided to continue and find somewhere to camp by the road further on.  However, after passing Dinsho, there was a lot more agricultural activity, and I even saw my first combine-harvesters, all other harvesting having been carried out by hand.

Near to Robe, I pulled of into a small area of woodland, having first checked with some of the locals as to whether this was OK.  Since there seemed to be no problem, I prepared to camp there. It was only later in the evening that some soldiers came along and asked to move on, although they couldn't suggest where to.  So they posted a soldier to keep an eye on me over night, saying there were many "insurgents" in the area.  I must admit, there was much gunfire that night, but it sounded rather like the "celebratory" gunfire to be expected on a night such as this - Christmas Eve.

Several Mountain Nightjars called in the evening and early morning from the ground around the Landrover, and a Brown Parisoma was seen the following morning.

An Ethiopian trip: 27/11/1999 to 17/01/2000Giles Mulholland 31 January 2000

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