A Walkabout For Birds 2

(Re-posted from previous Birdfarer blog)

Well the walk is over and I lived to tell the tale!  I set out from Frampton on September 19th and arrived in Radipole a fortnight later.  This meant covering an average of around 20 miles a day, which in hindsight was too much!  In training this was easily manageable, but in the event day after day carrying a heavy backpack it was a real test of endurance.  My muscles and joints had been complaining vociferously since about day three and, after I refused to stop, my major body systems shut down and went on strike from day seven onwards.  I limped into Radipole feeling barely half alive.  I had not lost half my body weight though as some had feared.  On the contrary I was so hungry each evening that I consumed the biggest sounding thing on the menu at each local pub, followed by a couple of the stodgiest sounding puddings!

Smiling at Frampton at the Off

I passed through eight counties on my route and kept a bird list of course.  I saw 80 species altogether and had to consider that almost the first bird I saw on day one at Frampton, curlew sandpiper, turned out to be the best spot of the two weeks!  Although my walk finished at Radipole on Friday Oct 1st, I was booked in at Portland Youth Hostel for a few days recovery before heading home.  I had thought maybe I would see 100 species altogether but was only on 77 when I got to Portland.  Down on the Bill on the Saturday I carried on counting when I added wheatear to my list, and then ticked a shag sitting on some rocks.  Its always frustrating to be stuck on a 9, and I wanted something to turn up to move me onto 80!  The sky was blue and the winds were calmed though, and yesterday’s Lapland buntings had gone in the night.  With a sudden flash of inspiration I went down to the cliff edges and sought out rocky inlets of weed and swash.  It was not long before I found what I was looking for, a rock pipit made my day and my list up to 80 for the trip!  The next day was pouring with rain so it seemed a good time to go home.

The Smile Has Become A Grimace by Radipole!

Its not quite the end of the story though as I have the Ethiopia leg to do yet. With over 1000 species in the region and 53 endemics I certainly hope to see more than 80 species there!  In fact if I don’t I will give up birding and become a train spotter!  (Do they have those in Ethiopia?!)  Where to begin when planning a visit to somewhere you have never been before, and do not know anyone who has either!  For any country this would be a concern, but Ethiopia has a few idiosyncrasies that are daunting from the off.  Not least is the fact that while the rest of the Gregorian-based world is content to accept that this is 2010, in the Ethiopian calendar it is 2002!  Their Christmas Day I found out is celebrated on 7th January, a bit out but a close miss compared to their New Year’s Day which apparently falls there on September 11th!  I already began to doubt whether I would ever get the hang of this, but then when I found out that they have 13 months in the year, each new day starts at 6.00 a.m. and that between them the Ethiopians speak 82 different languages, I decided that I would probably fit in fine as perhaps no one there could really ever be sure quite what was going on either!

Then I saw an article in the African Bird Club Bulletin about finding special endemic birds in southern Ethiopia.  This was written by the remarkable Claire Spottiswoode, author, traveler, and scientist, and contained clear and precise tips on where exactly one might hope to find for instance Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco.  The most intriguing tip suggested that if one stopped about 3 km south of the main bridge at Genale by some fig trees a local turaco guide, one Adem Dube, ‘may well appear’!  I wanted all the more now to go there and see this guide materialise genie-like from the figs, a fittingly amazing guide for such an amazing bird.


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