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Bird life arround the Lakes

lake_birdEthiopias lakes are famous for the sheer numbers of birds they harbor. In fact at each of two locations in the Rift Valley over 50% of all Ethiopias bird species have been recorded, because of the proximity of numerous aquatic and terrestrial habitats. These are the Awash National Park with Lake Basaka and the Abijata-Shalla Lakes National Park.

Abijata is a feeding ground for numerous great white pelicans and Various sorts of Flamingos, as well as flocks of Little Grebes. The Pelicans nest in very large numbers on an island in neighboring Lake Shalla, which is almost fishless. Every day the birds have to thermal up and across the isthmus separating the two lakes to feed. Every few years Lake Abijatas waters recede spectacularly, causing a rise in alkalinity accompied by major fish die-offs and a change in the algal composition of the waters. The Pelicans then have to fish further afield on lakes Langano, Ziway,  Awasha and even Chamo and Abaya, while the Flamingos move further afield into neighboring countries.

An island in Lake Shalla, a regular breeding ground for Great White Pelicans, is also known to be a nesting spot for the greater Flamingo. The thousands of ice-pink birds coming and going over the water against the background of lake_bird2the lake shores are as wonderful bird spectacle as anywhere in the World. In the Northern winters the shores of these lakes are ringed with all sorts of waders – Ruff, Plovers, Sandpipers, Stints and many other species well known to bird-watchers of the Northern hemisphere. At the same time a large number of Ducks, will be found further from the shores, particularly Garganey, Shovellers and Wigeon.

The waters of these lakes are especially rich as breeding grounds for the larvae of various lake fly species that in their turn attract thousands of Swallows and Martins from the North. For the same reason the trees and shrubs around the lakes shores are festooned in gossamer nets of dusty cobwebs as the spiders wait their turn for the hapless hordes as they hatch from the waters each day.

Fresher lakes produce a greater quantity and variety of fish. Here the day is punctuated by the haunting cry of the Fish Eagle soaring high above, with the occasional Osprey in the season. Malachite Kingfishers flit like jewels along the banks and the Pied Kingfisher carries out its spectacular bombing runs on surface fish further out. In nearby grasslands other Kingfishers species plaque the insects, the lovely duet ting call of the Gray-headed being typical of grasslands in drier areas.

ethiopia_bird3Marabu Stork Lake ZiwayThe mouth of the Horcallo River, which flows from Lake Langano to Lake Abijata, is an excellent site for bird watching, as it provides fresh water for the birds to bathe. The Goliath Heron and Marabou Stork await fish near the shore or in the case of the latter, watch for weaker birds in the milling flocks. There are also the Black-Headed and Gray Herons, which can be found inland feeding on the grass and crops. Egyptian Geese are also very common in these areas. Chestnut-Bellied Sand Grouse fill the air in their thousands near the lakes, leaving the water in groups that fly high and fast, wheeling and spinning, while giving their guttural calls. Spur-Winged Plovers are striking as they stand among the trees near the lakes, and the Crowned Plover resides closer to the shore here in more open grassland.