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Semien Mountains

For birders, the most popular access to really high altitude is the Bale Mountains National Park in the southern part of the eastern south-eastern highlands. Here the highest all-weather road in Africa crosses the Sanetti plateau (4377m), allowing easy access to alpine moorlands, grasslands and lakes. Highland endemics such as Spot-breasted Lapwing Vanellus melanocephalus and Rouget`s Rail Rougetius rougetii occur alongside spectacular giant lobelias and Ethiopian wolves.

Bale Mountains National park harbors some of the most exciting birdlife in Ethiopia. Among these is the Blue- Winged Goose, whose closest relative is in the Andes mountains of South America. The Spot- Breasted Plover is very striking and can be seen in large numbers at some times of year. The comical Rougets Rail is often seen in grass clumps near water, its tail flashing white as it is flicked up and down. The Yellow-Fronted Parrot is usually first noted by its call and its typical fast parrot flight through the tall juniper trees.

The Banded Barbet is found over a large area; its chest is streaked with black. The Golden- Backed Wood Pecker has a striking golden color and will be seen searching the bark of the st. Johns Wort trees in highland areas. On the other hand, the Abyssinian Long- Claw is ground dwelling, its bright yellow throat and chest a strong contrast to its black necklace. The White- Winged Cliff Chat has, as its name suggests, a white patch in the black wing and will be seen on cliffs or even on tall buildings in Addis Ababa.

Ruppells Chat is confined to the western highlands and is again seen on cliffs, often darting from the road as a car approaches, its white wing patches showing clearly. The White- Backed Black Tit is often missed because it is small and likes the shelter of trees. Large parties of Black- Headed Siskins are seen at high altitudes, often in the moorlands. White- Billed Starlings are in the Red-Wing group of Starlings and are distinguished by their ivory- white bills. In the group of seed- eaters, or serins, three are considered endemic, though there is some discussion over this. These are the Yellow- Throated of the Sidamo area and the Ankober and Salvadoris seed- eaters. Harwoods Francolin is a little- known species found only in the gorges of the western highlands leading in to the Blue Nile gorge.

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