Tuesday, 28 February 2012 11:25

Bale Mountains National Park

Written by  Fekade Daniel
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Bale Mountains National Park( 39o 43' East 6o 45' North) covers an area of about 247000 ha and is situated between 1500 and 4300 meters altitude. Bale Mountains National Park is on the south-east Ethiopian plateau. The zonal capital, Goba, is on the north-eastern side of the park. The park headquarters are on the northern border at Dinsho, 400 km by road from Addis Ababa.

The Bale mountains are formed of ancient volcanic rocks that are now dissected by rivers and streams that have cut deep gorges, in some places resulting in beautiful waterfalls. The mountains rise from the 2,500-m plateau to the west, north and east of the park. The Sanetti plateau, which dominates the northern section of the park, reaches 3,800–4,200 m on top of the mountain block, and is broken by several peaks including Tullu Deemtu (4,377 m), the highest mountain in southern Ethiopia and second-highest in the country.

Small lakes form in the numerous shallow depressions on the Sanetti plateau during the wet season. Larger, permanent lakes like Garba Guracha, Hora Bacha and Halla Wenz, are mostly found on the eastern side of the plateau.

The northern section of the park covers the valleys of the Web and Danka rivers. The northern highland block is separated from the Harenna forest by the spectacular Harenna escarpment that runs diagonally from west to east across the middle of the park.

The southern border of the park, at 1,600 m, represents the southern limits of the Harenna forest, the largest intact forest block in the country. Bale Mountains National Park supports a wide range of habitats and encompasses the largest tract of Afro-alpine vegetation in continental Africa.

The Harenna forest increases in species-richness from the low-altitude, open-canopy dry forest at 1,500 m to the very moist, often cloud/mist-covered forest at and above 2,400 m. At these higher altitudes the trees support a high density of epiphytes and woody climbers and, as the canopy is not very dense, a rich herb layer is present. Juniperus procera forest is found in the northern parts of the park and also on the east around and above Goba.

Around Goba there are also patches of Olea europaea cuspidata. The tree-heathers Erica arborea and E. trimera form a forest (up to 8 m tall) that replaces Juniperus procera at c.3,200 m. Such forest is best-developed on the top of the Harenna escarpment where the trees are festooned with lichens, particularly Usnea. Above this, only the tree-heathers persist, and then only as scrub 1–3 m tall. This vegetation continues up to the Afro-alpine moorland at 3,800 m.

The Afro-alpine moorland in this park is extremely rich in endemic plants, with predictions of 30% highly plausible. The most striking plants are the giant Lobelia spp. and cushions of everlasting flowers Helichrysum spp., particularly H. citrispinum and H. splendidum. A shrubby lady’s mantle Alchemilla haumannii that is endemic to the mountains in southern Ethiopia is also present.

The park is used for grazing domestic animals, and consequently fire is used to control the growth of woody vegetation (Erica spp.) and to stimulate new growth for grazing. The park contains hot (mineral) springs that the farmers value for their animals. There is also some cultivation of barley to c.3,000 m (sometimes to 3,500 m). The forests are traditionally used for gathering honey and other forest products, and for grazing.

Birds of Bale Mountains National Park

Bale Mountains National Park is extremely important for its avifauna. Over 265 species have been recorded, including six Ethiopian endemics (Vanellus melanocephalus, Poicephalus flavifrons, Dendropicos abyssinicus, Macronyx flavicollis, Parophasma galinieri and Serinus nigriceps) and many threatened species.

Due to its unique diversity and density (4,000 kg/ha) of rodents, the Bale mountains are very important for wintering (and passage) raptors. Both Aquila clanga and A. heliaca are uncommon migrants with some birds wintering. Aquila nipalensis, A. rapax and A. pomarina have all been recorded on passage and/or wintering. Circus macrourus is ‘not uncommon’ on the moorlands of the Sanetti plateau during passage and in winter, and small numbers of Falco naumanni have been recorded at similar times.

The area supports the only sub-Saharan population of Aquila chrysaetos. Rougetius rougetii and Macronyx flavicollis are ‘not uncommon’ residents. The wetlands and moorlands of the Sanetti plateau are particularly important for small numbers (1–4 pairs) of Grus carunculatus.

Breeding attempts have been reported on the tarns of Sanetti (at c.4,000 m) in the wet season between June and September, with birds leaving the high plateau in the dry season. A unique, isolated sub-Saharan breeding population (c.30–80 birds) of Tadorna ferruginea exists on tarns on the Sanetti plateau. The breeding population of 60+ Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax is the southernmost population in Africa. The endemic subspecies Sylvia lugens griseiventris frequents the low, scrubby junipers above Goba and elsewhere, and Corvus ruficollis edithae occurs, particularly around Goba.

Key Species at Bale Mountains National Park

Moorland Francolin (Francolinus psilolaemus) 
Erckel's Francolin (Francolinus erckelii) 
Chestnut-naped Francolin (Francolinus castaneicollis) 
Blue-winged Goose (Cyanochen cyanoptera) 
Wattled Ibis (Bostrychia carunculata) 
Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus) 
Mountain Buzzard (Buteo oreophilus) 
Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca) 
Rouget's Rail (Rougetius rougetii) 
Wattled Crane (Grus carunculatus) 
Spot-breasted Lapwing (Vanellus melanocephalus) 
White-collared Pigeon (Columba albitorques) 
Dusky Turtle-dove (Streptopelia lugens) 
Black-winged Lovebird (Agapornis taranta) 
White-cheeked Turaco (Tauraco leucotis) 
Abyssinian Owl (Asio abyssinicus) 
Montane Nightjar (Caprimulgus poliocephalus) 
Scarce Swift (Schoutedenapus myoptilus) 
Nyanza Swift (Apus niansae) 
Banded Barbet (Lybius undatus) 
Abyssinian Woodpecker (Dendropicos abyssinicus) 
Dark-headed Oriole (Oriolus monacha) 
Thick-billed Raven (Corvus crassirostris) 
White-backed Tit (Parus leuconotus) 
Brown Woodland-warbler (Phylloscopus umbrovirens) 
Brown Warbler (Sylvia lugens) 
African Hill Babbler (Pseudoalcippe abyssinica) 
Abyssinian Catbird (Parophasma galinieri) 
Montane White-eye (Zosterops poliogastrus) 
Sharpe's Starling (Cinnyricinclus sharpii) 
Slender-billed Starling (Onychognathus tenuirostris) 
Abyssinian Ground-thrush (Zoothera piaggiae) 
Rueppell's Robin-chat (Cossypha semirufa) 
Moorland Chat (Cercomela sordida) 
White-winged Cliff-chat (Myrmecocichla semirufa) 
Little Rock-thrush (Monticola rufocinereus) 
Abyssinian Slaty-flycatcher (Dioptrornis chocolatinus) 
Tacazze Sunbird (Nectarinia tacazze) 
Swainson's Sparrow (Passer swainsonii) 
Baglafecht Weaver (Ploceus baglafecht) 
Abyssinian Crimson-wing (Cryptospiza salvadorii) 
Abyssinian Longclaw (Macronyx flavicollis) 
Abyssinian Siskin (Serinus nigriceps) 
African Citril (Serinus citrinelloides) 
Brown-rumped Seedeater (Serinus tristriatus) 
Streaky Seedeater (Serinus striolatus) 
Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea)

Last modified on Wednesday, 29 February 2012 06:51
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