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Ethiopia revisited on contact zones project!

Sifiso Lukhele and I spent 22 days in Ethiopia from 21st June 2023 on the contact zones Research and Innovation Foundation (RIF) project. Our aim was to be there during the breeding season to focus on playback experiments when the birds would be most active. But the rains had come early this year and the tinkerbirds were not in song. Instead they would intermittently perform their alternate trill song that both sexes emit year round. Still, responses to playback were strong and we managed to perform our experiments and collect a total of 49 samples across the contact zones of yellow-fronted tinkerbird there (Pogoniulus chrysoconus xanthostictus) and two subspecies of red-fronted tinkerbird (P. pusillus affinis and P. p. uropygialis). The former of those contact zones can be found in the Harena Forest in Bale Mountains National Park, where we even caught individuals of the two species several times in the same net.

This was achieved thanks to our record day for ringing tinkerbirds! To achieve the record of 10 individuals ringed in a day, we erected several nets during the course of the day, including this double height net. Such efforts are occasionally needed to catch canopy birds such as tinkerbirds. The two birds in the net are those pictured above!

Bale Mountains National Park is a spectacular field site. We were very grateful that Guy Levene allowed us to stay at in the researchers' accommodation at the Bale Mountain Lodge, even though it has been closed for over a year. It has a stunning backdrop of the mountains.

Further down there are some odd shaped trees, including this one that reminds me of a terrier!

As ever in Ethiopia, we got to enjoy the unique culinary delights, such as shiro tegabino and shekla tibs, served of course with injera.

Our trip took us through Hawassa and Dilla and we even visited Nechisar National Park where we performed a good number of playback experiments. We then returned to Wondo Genet to work some more in the contact zone there before heading back to Addis Ababa for our trip back. It was a challenging trip overall, but successful in the end!

Alex Kirschel


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