Eilat Weekly Updates

Shachar Shalev 12/12/2018 00:00







When is a twitch not a twitch?

When I told my wife I was taking Le'a to visit friends in the north for the weekend she looked at me skeptically… "So you're not going birding while you're there?" she asked disbelievingly. "Well maybe a little" I answered "but the important thing is some father/daughter bonding, just the two of us together on a road trip". That was met by hysterical laughter.

"so you're dragging our daughter across the country so you can see a goose!"

"Maybe but Le'a also needs to add some birds to her list", I replied to rolls of laughter. It doesn't matter how much packaging you do, a twitch is a twitch is a twitch. And when that twitch entails two days,over 1,000 kms and an eight year old you need to figure in stops at McDonalds, icecreams and avoiding boring birding stops.


We headed off bright and early, no not 4am, 7am, checked a few places on the way without anything of note and arrived at Gamla by 2pm. They were closing at 3pm and the ranger at the gate didn't want any more visitors. One hour is fine I told him, we only want to see the vultures. "There are no vultures today" he told us, "come back another day". "I'll be the judge of that", I replied "now give me a damn ticket!" We muscled our way in and sure enough a couple of Cinereous Vultures floated in and 12 Griffons were sitting around. A Blue Rock Thrush popped up too alongside plenty of passerines wintering there. We spent a really nice evening in Hanita with friends and awoke to Great Tits singing and Jays cackling.

It was time for a twitch but first we stopped at the Ha'ela picnic area which was buzzing, a couple of Hawfinch and Brambling among the many regular winterers, really nice spot. Down to the Hula valley before the crowds arrive and the good news is the goose has been seen already. We stroll in confidently and crawl out three hours later with no goose or Demoiselle Crane anywhere to be found. it was going to be a long drive back.


Le'a was more than happy with what we saw and demanded a celebration - at McDonalds of course. We did manage a little more birding on the way back. The reservoir beside the Dead Sea factories had a Purple Swamphen, a hundred Pallid Swifts, half a dozen Common Swifts, Pochards, Ferruginous Ducks etc.

Yotvata at night, the Pharaohs Eagle Owl was sitting on the irrigation mobile line and the 3 Egyptian Nightjars were flushed as we headed out to buy icecream.

All in all we had a pretty good time together and I'm sure we'll do plenty more twithcing. I mean bonding, in the future!





It's a brand new year and all the birds just got a year older... at least as far as ringers are concerned. We are hoping for a bumper year with loads of migrants, vagrants and pleasant surprises but in the meantime we still have last years birds.

There was just one notable arrival this week, a Pygmy Cormorant at the park. While it is a resident species in the north it is very rare here in the south. I didn't go far or see anything particularly interesting but I have found just sitting around watching the regulars at work and play to be very enjoyable.

So what can a visitor to Eilat expect to see this winter?

North Beach has good numbers of White-eyed Gulls, big gulls and Black-headed Gulls and the Striated Heron is back on the bouys.

The canal and southern most salt ponds have 60+ big gulls coming in to roost and occasionally Pallas's Gulls. There are a load of flamingo's, herons, ducks and waders on the canal, well worth an evening visit.

The park has the Great and Little Bitterns, Rails, Bluethroats, Moustached Warblers, Penduline Tits etc. The Olive-backed Pipit makes the occasional visit, the Oriental Honey Buzzards were out and about most of the week, the Menetries Warbler is only occasionally seen, a Common Rosefinch is still hanging around and a Barbary Falcon comes blasting through most days.

At KM19 the Lesser White-fronted Goose is more absent than present, the raptors come through fairly regularly, Citrine Wagtail plus the usual ducks, Cormorants and herons. The Merganser is still at Elifaz, the Humes Warbler and Black-Bush Robins are still at Samar, Sinai Rosefinch and Striolated Buntings at Amrams columns, Basalt Wheatear and hoopoe Lark at Ovda and at Yotvata the Egyptian Nightjars and Pharaoh's Eagle Owl were playing hard to get ... but they are still there.

In two weeks the big desert survey will give us a better idea of what is out in the desert, till then we'll enjoy what we have!





Shachar Shalev



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