Ethiopia is full of spectacular wild encounters, but few can beat the bright bombardment of her beautiful bird life. The salt and the rift valley suck the precious rain in to the Earth and the sun bakes its surface without respite. It's hard to imagine any living thing surviving in this savage wilderness. But look closely, and you will see some remarkable life not only surviving-but thriving.
It is the ravines and highland forests, high above the baking sands of the desert that have provided a world within a world for Ethiopia's birds to evolve in splendid isolation.
Many bird watchers will dream of seeing a golden Oriole, hoopoe or a bee- eater. Here, it is possible to see all three species sharing the same bush. Ethiopia boasts 857 bird species, of which 16 are endemic. Another is that, it is easier to amass a trip list of 400 species over a normal length holiday in Ethiopia than it is in any AfricaLeaving the capital behind in the direction of Debre Birhan, Gefersa reservoir gleams in the sunshine.
This is home to the melodious blue-winged goose. Fearless of man, it stands with chest thrust forward and head held above the back. Roget's rail skulk at the edge of the nearby marsh and black-headed sis kin call softly from the pine trees at the roadside. At higher altitudes the brilliant yellow belly and jet necklace of Abyssinian long claw may be seen and parties of spot-breasted plovers are common.
One of the reasons for the high degrees of endemism in Ethiopia is the country's topography. The plateau supports a urprising range of habitats. The Great Rift Valley, with its large freshwater and saline lakes, runs through the central highlands of Ethiopia from north to south. The highlands, which rise to 4620 mts. support Montana forest, juniper woodland, crags and escarpments, and grassland. Elsewhere, crater lakes and acacia savanna are found, and to the east of the highlands are large areas of semi desert.
On the edge of spectacular gorge are the grounds of the Debre Libanos monastery where white-backed black tits (so rare that no nest has ever been found), and beautiful golden-backed woodpeckers can be seen. At the gorges edge lurks ruppell's chat, while the white-billed starling flies by, displaying its brilliant scarlet under wing.