Bird of Autumn 2017

Barak Granit 04/12/2017 00:00

So who’s gonna be the bird of autumn 2017? Will it be the boring looking Yellow-throated Sparrow? No it can’t be it. The Wilson’s Storm Petrels at Eilat? They were here the previous autumn too so it can’t be that one either. Let’s make it short - it will clearly be one of the november megas: the male Red-rumped Wheatear at km 94 or the Red-Wattled Lapwing at the Hula valley. I go for the Wheatear and while writing this short article I am once again amazed recalling how strange and nonchalant was the twitching scene in Israel prior to 2004 (a year when twitching in Israel came out of its closet).




Male Red-rumped Wheatear - November 2017 K94 - Arava valley


I think now of the young and kin birders in Israel, being 15-16 years old, who started birding not so long ago, just as I was in 1991. They didn’t need to wait 26 years of birding to see RRW as I had. On the other hand, Just like myself in winter 1992, they didn’t need to spend much time for a total surprise species as RWL, but with only one tiny giant difference: the attitude. Back in winter 1992, the rumor spread (extremely slowly) from mouth to ear literally, that there was a Red-wattled Lapwing - the first for Israel, in the Eilot date plantations near Eilat. When it finally reached my ears, I, as well as several other young birders, thought it was too much of an effort to travel all the way to eilat by bus just to twitch a bird. Well screw it.

Actually one of us did go and managed to take a shot with his 500mm mirror lens which was the only affordable telephoto around back then. I remember him showing us the photo. “Ok, nice, are you crazy? Taking the midnight bus to eilat for one bird?”. None of us went for it and I had to wait till December 2001 to close in together with another dead body that I have berried in November 1996 - Pied Stonechat.



Left - Peid Stonechat - Yerucham lake, October 2012

Right - Grey Hypocolius - Samar, May 2011


In November 1996 I was far more into twitching than in 1992. But still, there was timmmmmeeee before going on a twitch, and sure, with the growing passion pain emerged. I think it was November 1st when my Dutch friend Stijn Brand, with whom I had just spent 3 months in the Northern Valley Survey, called me breathless from Eilat and reported franticly about that black and white stonechat as it was a male. I was frantic too but for some reason I have waited 3 more days before taking the bus only to arrive one day too late. So it took another 5 years to close in with both the lapwing and the stonechat as both species wintered at Eilat in winter 2001/2.



Pallas's Warbler - February 2017 - Wadi David


There were few more examples like this, and I’ve already wrote here about my first ever big twitch of the 2nd Pallas’s Warbler for Israel, that was found in early March 1992, and bothered me that much that it took me 2 more weeks before twitching it successfully. It went something like that: traveling to Sde Boker where it was in mid march, I had a talk with one of the local birders, getting advised of what was there to see around “oh really? It is still here? Oh, great! So can you show it to me tomorrow morning? Excellent”. Comprande? I even was not sure it was still there when I went there. But...I got better in 1997 - really much better.

One evening during march I just arrived home from EiIat on a bus, after an excellent day: In the morning I joined Dubi Shapiro counting raptors in the mountains and there we had a soaring Verreaux’s Eagle - an Israel tick for me back then and at noon time I have finally twitched my first Black-bush Robin at Shulamit Garden - what a day! But that is not the story. While arriving to Tel-aviv I got a phone from Stijn that Grey Hypocolius was found at km 20 - the first one to appear in the 1990’s and at midnight I was back on the bus to Eilat.



Verreaux's Eagle - 22.12.2013 Eilat Mountains


So back to last month, when finally after... I don’t know how many attempts to find spots for Red-rumped Wheatear in Israel, on October 21st, when the news came about the female RRW at Uvda valley, I postpone working duties for the next morning and did what any responsible and mature adult would do in my place. And although it was not about adding number to my list two weeks later - I just had to return to the far south to see the male at km 94. Quite a fine looking bird I must say, and that was the only birding I did during the last excellent November.    


land marks