Meet the birds of Eilat

Noam Weiss 07/01/2018 00:00




Black Coffee, White Front




Winter at the bird sanctuary - no ringing, mornings are cold (15°C), birding is kind of slow. In this non dramatic environment little rituals are created to maintain the daily routines - writing programs and proposals, habitat maintenance and management, planning new exciting things for the next seasons and so on.


The day's first cup of coffee is, by far, my favorite ritual. I drink it black, hot, with a pinch of sugar. Yesterday though,  my coffee ceremony was brutally interrupted.

The annual wintering Greater Cormorant count was conducted from early morning by Noam. He asked me to help him by counting the Cormorants at Anita's lake, while he start the "real" survey at the north beach. I can't say I was over thrilled to say the least, especially as my boiling mug was just about at the right temperature. Nevertheless I braved out of the ringing station towards the lake.


Initially, I considered not taking my bins - I could have easily counted 13 cormorants from 25 meters with the naked eye. Eventually I did end up taking it with me, not sure why - perhaps it was the notion of the Great Bittern that has been eluding me since November…  or maybe just my basic birding instinct.


At the lake, me to myself:

Me: one Cormorant, two Cormorants…9 Cormorants…wait, what is swimming in the back?

Self: Lesser white-fronted Goose.

Me: oh…


Me: wait, what!?!?

Self: wasn't I clear? Look at the white front, tiny pink bill, a complete orange orbital ring, and its size. Now get yourself together and call Ohad and Noam before it buggers off!




Lesser White-fronted Goose - Lake Anita 3.1.18

Photo: Noam Weiss


Two minutes later Ohad joined me to enjoy the goose, swimming around, feeding on reed leafs and generally acting calmly, A lifer for me and an extreme rarity (10th national record). I was overwhelmed, but I felt something was missing…my coffee!

I went back to the ringing station, had a warm-ish coffee gulp, and headed out, just to meet Ohad with the news that the bird just flew away. Oh well, back to writing autumn 2017 ringing summary.


This is a 2nd cy bird, with an incomplete white blaze and almost no dark belly patches. Geese are generally rare in Israel. Greater white-fronted Geese are scarce but regular winter visitors, Greylags are very rare and irregular, Bean Goose is a vagrant with 4-5 records. Quite amazingly, I have seen all of them around dry Eilat. The Lesser White-fronted Goose is listed as vulnerable and decreasing by BirdLife International.




Lesser White-fronted Goose in Eilat - 10th for Israel - Januar 2018

Photo: Noam Weiss


So things are not really as slow as you may think. End of December and the beginning of January are the slowest days of the year, with virtually no migration, but still some good birds are seen around - a Brown Booby at the north beach (sadly, tangled with some fishing wires), an occasional Syrian Serin or two at the bird sanctuary, a breeding plumage White-winged black Tern at KM20 Flamingo ponds.

The desert is as good as ever before, with all the rare Wheatears (Basalt, Red-rumped and Kurdish) still showing well, abnormal numbers of Asian desert Warblers, Sinai Rosefinches in several locations and so on.

We are still waiting for a winter storm that will bring the first rain to the southern Arava, though spring is just around the corner - last week the first House Martin flew north overhead!









See you in Eilat


Spring is just around the corner















Little Green Bee-eater. Photo - Shlomi Bachar


Eilat - birders HOTSPOT