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Sunday 9th January 2000

Having camped at the T-junction, it was only a matter of a few hundred metres to reach the "site" for the Sidamo Lark.  It only took a few minutes to start finding them - and I must have seen about 10 within as many minutes.  In the same area were Tiny Cisticola and Rufous Sparrow.

As I travelled on towards Wachile I stopped regularly, finding a variety of different species, the most notable being Black-faced Sandgrouse, Bare-eyed Thrush, Somali Long-billed Crombec and Pygmy Batis.  This stretch of road was in relatively poor condition, but on reaching Melka Ghuba, I met a grader, which meant that the remainder of the road to Yavello was in excellent condition, and I was able to travel far further than I expected when I set out.

Walking upstream along the river at Melka Ghuba there were few species to be seen, but those that were found were all well worth the effort.  The first bird seen was a Pringles' Puffback, followed immediately by the dodsoni race of the Common Bulbul.  After only about 250 m I had seen several African White-winged Doves, and then settled down to search for the Jubaland Weaver.  After about 1 km I found a colony of weavers, but all were in transition between breeding & non-breeding plumage.  This made identification very problematic, as the Jubaland Weaver in full breeding plumage looks exactly like birds in this transitional phase.  After about 10 minutes at this colony, I found one male that was in full-breeding plumage, and so I was finally certain of my identification.  On the way back, I found a Smaller Black-bellied Sunbird.

Continuing on towards Yavello, I kept my eye out for the White-tailed Swallow, this being the optimal area.  On the way II came across several White-crowned Starlings, Long-tailed Shrike, Crested Lark and Golden-breasted Starling.  It was only when I was within 10 km of Yavello that I found a single swallow in the distance, and then a moment later came across 6 Swallows circling a tree right next to the road.

On reaching Yavello, it was still early afternoon, so I decided to head straight south to the border, so I could cross over first thing the next morning.  However, there was still time for bird-watching on the trip, and Chestnut-naped Francolin, Yellow-necked Francolin and Vulturine Guineafowl were all found just south of Mega.

I arrived in Moyale at around 17:00, by which time the border post had closed, so I stayed at the local government hotel - which was prepared to accept Kenya Shillings.

Monday 10th January 2000

The border post only opened at 08:30, so there was no rush in the morning.  Passing through Immigration and Customs took about 20 minutes for both sides, and I should still have time to make the convoy.  First, though, I needed to use my credit card to get some cash.  But it was a new unpublished holiday - I couldn’t even find out what it was celebrating.  Hence I was going to have to stay an additional day in Moyale.

While the banks might have been closed for the day, mechanics were still prepared to work, so I decided to carry out a thorough check of the Landrover.  This resulted in me getting rid of the front springs which had now been re-welded 4 times, and probably wouldn't survive the next couple of days.  The difference between Ethiopia and Kenya was again highlighted: In Ethiopia 95% of all 4x4's are Toyota Landcruisers while 95% are Landrovers in Kenya.

I stayed the night in the best hotel available in Moyale - which was worse than any I had found in Ethiopia.  Another sad reflection on Kenya.

Tuesday 11th January 2000

I could only leave after visiting the bank to get cash to pay for the Landrover repairs and to fill up with petrol.  I then joined the "convoy".  Since I had previously arranged to start a bit late (the convoy leaves at 09:00), I was allowed through to catch up with the other vehicles.  When I asked how many were in the convoy, the response was "none"!  So I set off by myself, without any guard, to travel to Marsabit at my leisure.

This allowed me to stop whenever I saw bird activity - which on this road is not often.  Nevertheless, I found D'Arnaud's Barbet (in exactly the same spot I saw it on the way north), Yellow-vented Eremomela, Masked Lark and Magpie Starling.

On arriving at Marsabit, I had to replace the front U-bolts, since the old ones we used in Moyale had cracked when a stone had hit them.  I camped that night at the Marsabit NP, and the water worked again.

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

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