July - December 2018

Shachar Shalev 16/12/2018 00:00
 

1.7.18

 



 

To say that birding this week in Eilat was slightly less exciting than the Argentina-France match might be the understatement of the current century.

Remarkably I met a Norwegian father/son team out birding and enjoying the birds they found… even the daily 43C didn't seem to bother them.

 

North Beach remained the only place to be and it consisted mainly of watching the same flocks of Common and Little Terns, White-eyed Gulls, Caspian and White-cheeked Terns, a couple of Gull-billed Terns... Itai had 2 Lesser Crested Terns, Rei had 2 Bridled Terns, the occasional Arctic Skua, a Sooty Falcon this morning and then came one of those Red Sea moments. The Red Sea is 2,250 kilometres long and we are a tiny bay at the furtherest tip. I reckon there are hundreds of thousands of seabirds that mill around the Red Sea each summer of which we see a tiny fraction. but the potential is there.

This is what drives us to sit on the beach watching an empty horizon. I'm at the beach at 5:30am and by 8am I'm thinking coffee is more attractive than any mega. I see a bird powering in from the southern horizon - probably a skua. There's a strong northerly wind and the bird has real speed coming in, part gliding the surface and partly up a bit, definitely not a shearwater action… probably a skua still. He's just close enough to see he's all brown, bit patchy, no wing markings of skua??? And in a flash he turns south and I can only watch the silhouette disappear over the horizon. too distant too quick to really know what it was.

 

Elsewhere the Autumn migration has just about moved into first gear. Plenty of Redshanks around, Greenshanks, Black-tailed Godwits, first Wood Sandpiper back again, some Eastern Olivaceous Warblers in Park Canada.

next week will be more of the same.

stay with the football!

 

 

 

7.7.18

 



 

First week of July is a time of very low expectations. My only wish for this weekend was to see Belgium beat Brazil and that turned out pretty damn good!

Thursday morning I was off work so I headed down to North Beach to see if there was something different. Well I soon ran into a true vagrant! A birder from Tennessee came wandering down the beach! He had obviously lost his bearings but he was having a good time and we soon picked up a group of Bridled Terns, Long-tailed Skua and Arctic Skuas or should I say Parasitic Jaegers (the names caused some confusion) alongside plenty of regular terns.

 

And then a small duck flew past us at high speed. I don't ever remember seeing a duck off north beach in summer!?? And it didn't look like any duck I know. I tried to get a picture but it was too quick for me. Chris Agee, the vagrant Tennessee birder was better prepared and managed a couple of pictures before the bird disappeared over Jordan. I am now waiting for him to download them and maybe someone will be able to ID the bird!

 

Later we went for coffee at the bird sanctuary where a Blue-cheeked Bee-eater was waiting for us by the front gate, a pair of Yellow Wagtails were seen there, a Black Bush Robin was seen by Ohad, the Oriental Honey Buzzard made an appearance. crazy stuff for July in Eilat! There are more waders moving in with the first Common, Marsh and Wood Sandpipers arriving, a Ringed Plover already returning as well as the first Red-rumped Swallows and Sand Martins.

 

KM20 now has young Hoopoe larks on the northern side, still well worth a visit with really big numbers of Flamingos summering this year. Friday afternoon I had the great fortune of being kicked out of the house by my 7yo daughter who wanted to clean the floor!!?? I took the dogs to North Beach just to see what was moving and found a great southerly breeze was cooling things and the birds were loving it. The Bridled Terns even came to sit on the nearby bouys while birds were coming up the outlet easily picking up small fish. This morning was surprisingly quiet but 11 Bridled Terns came in right over our heads and then four Skuas did the same, two Long-tailed and two Parasitic .....Jaegers. Have a great week all!

 

 

 

14.7.17

 



 

Less of the same would probably be the best way to describe this week. Our main summer hang-out, North Beach, was very quiet although it was still possible to see Bridled Terns and Skuas most days. Cory's Shearwaters are out there milling around and there is still a smell of rarities out there.

but this morning I went for a change of pace. 5am I headed up to Ovda for something we just don't have in Eilat during the summer - a breath of fresh, cool air. It was wonderful if somewhat short-lived but the birds were out enjoying the air too. White-crowned, Hooded and Mourning Wheatears were prominent all along the valley, Spotted Sandgrouse and Sand Partridge here and there, a few Trumpeter Finch, the Desert Larks were joined by some Bar-tailed Larks… still low key but very promising.

Small brown beatles are quite common and could attract lots of wheatears in autumn.

 

Elsewhere small numbers of waders coming through the ponds, first Eastern Orphean Warbler arrived, two Ferruginous Ducks dropped in.... not too exciting but also not too sad! Have a great week!

 

 

 

21.7.18

 



 

There aren't many places in the world where mid-summer and autumn happen at the same time. In Eilat it happens right now.... if you're a birder that is. The wader migration is in full flow now with groups of Redshanks, Greenshanks, Wood Sandpipers, Green Sandpipers, Little Ringed Plovers, Ringed Plovers, Little Stints, Black-tailed Godwits moving in and moving south.

 

Other birds are also turning up, White-winged Terns, Gull-billed Terns, Sand Martins, a Glossy Ibis, a Spoonbill.... everywhere you look a new arrival. At the same time the North Beach summer continues to provide some highlights alongside numerous quiet times. Thursday evening was one of those special moments when a southerly breeze brought in the biggest number of Bridled Terns I've ever seen here - 47 to be precise. They filled the bouys along the Jordanian border and ruled the skies now the Common and Little Terns have gone. There are good numbers of White-cheeked Terns around and while both yesterday morning and this morning were fairly quiet there were a couple of Pomarine Skuas, Long-tailed Skua and Arctic Skua.

My daughter also had an interesting find at North Beach, garden eels in just a few centimetres of water.... worth looking for, interesting creatures. And finally something that has nothing to do with birds but seeing as we all have telescopes the night sky has a number of planets showing especially clearly. Saturn, Mars and Jupiter are especially close and you can see their moons without straining that much! Keep an eye on the sky and an eye on next week's report.

it's going to be a good one!

 

 

 

28.7.18

 



 

With fires and heat waves sweeping Europe and much of the northern hemisphere, this is the time to visit Eilat! There is no heatwave in Eilat - 45C is perfectly normal at this time of year! And the birding is pretty damn good too. well at least I enjoyed myself.

 

Last weekend I found a colour-ringed Caspian Tern but only today the details became available. The bird was ringed as a juvenile in 2017 on the west coast of Finland 3,800 kilometres from here! That's certainly shaking up everything I thought about the Caspian Terns here and they are moving through in good numbers, 21 of them at KM20 today, one with a metal ring.

 

 

From the west coast of Finland!

 

After a few very dull evenings at North Beach, on Wednesday I hit the jackpot with a strong southerly breeze and the bay dancing with loads of Bridled Terns, 3 groups of Lesser Crested Terns that eventually banded together - 17 of them powering around the beach, 11 Skuas having a whale of a time plus plenty of locals.

Since then absolute misery. waiting for the next southerly. So with the beach quiet it was time to hit the ponds which are picking up nicely, plenty of waders, a couple of Broad-billed Sandpipers, Red-necked Phalaropes, Godwits, Wood Sandpipers etc etc all very pleasing. Even had time to pop into KM19… had just pulled in when a raptor settled on a post of the cow sheds. It looked just like the Steppe Buzzard that sits on that post all winter but it's mid-summer and there shouldn't be any raptors here. And that pale yellow bill looks very suspicious. Obvious conclusion - Yellow-billed Kite.

With only two previous records, one of which was an injured bird brought in for medical attention, I thought I'd err on the side of caution and called Noam and Rea to come have a look. We all watched it for a while and then just to be absolutely certain decided to send pictures to our specialists. And then when I downloaded my photos I couldn't understand why I just didn't call it the moment I saw it. Anyway the bird has been around for at least two weeks and will probably be around for a while.

twitch anyone?

 

 

 

4.8.18

 



 

This week started with another Yellow-billed rarity - a Greater Crested Tern. Every few years one of these birds is spotted but rarely sticks around. This bird was no different - picked up at 2pm by Avner Rinot in 40C+ conditions and not seen again. Along with the Yellow-billed Kite, which is sticking around, it was enough to attract a trickle of birders from the far north (any place further north than Yotvata).

 

The Kite is increasingly shy but patience always pays off while the beach remained quiet even on the two evenings with a southerly breeze. This morning a small group went out with chum to assess the presence of Storm Petrels on the gulf. We had no luck, a single Cory's Shearwater, a few Bridled Terns, White-cheeked Terns and a lone Swift.

Wader numbers continue to grow with the canal beside the Bird sanctuary pools being their favourite spot. A load of Reed warblers jumped into the nets Friday morning along with Eastern Orphean and Olivaceous Warblers and even a Blackstart. A quick tour up at Neot Smadar and Ovda produced absolutely nothing except an odd looking Trumpeter Finch juvenile and a group of Glossy Ibis. Next week we will start to feel passerine migration, some good waders and who knows what… a good reason to stay in tune! Have a really hot week. just like we will!

 

 

25.8.18

 



 

We are back in town after a couple of wonderful weeks of rest and recreation in Prague and Karlovy Vary. Didn't do much in the way of birding there, just short walks up into the forest above Karlovy with my daughter.

It's not easy seeing birds in the forest when you're eight years old but we had a couple of great moments. One was with an adorable Goldcrest that sat perfectly still just an arms length from us. The second was when she heard the Black Woodpecker we were searching for call, identified the call instantly and then found him… Dad was so proud!

We got lots of Tits, Woodpeckers, various Finches etc a few deer and a Red Squirrel.

 

Today was my first day back at the park and things are moving along slowly but surely. With our new volunteer Kylynn Clare, we ringed 30 birds including a Red-backed Shrike, Willow Warbler and Wryneck. We had lots of Water Rails running around including a very young individual (have they bred nearby?), Little Crakes, Storks migrating along the Arava, a Baillons Crake at Ketura, Temminck’s Larks at Ovda and loads of waders at the ponds.

In short we have plenty of birding to be done and it's going to be fun....hot but fun!

 

 

 

1.9.18

 



 

While migration is now flowing on all fronts, 30+ Israeli birders came to Eilat Friday morning in search of the elusive Storm Petrels. In the past we considered them vagrants to the gulf but with monitoring of the gulf bringing a surge of sightings we now believe they are rare but regular visitors.

Five hours out on the gulf with plenty of chum failed to attract any Storm Petrels but we need to keep going out to further understand the movements of these birds.

 

This morning we had a nice round of ringing with nearly 60 birds, 13 species and plenty more in the sky, bushes and ponds. There were plenty of Shrikes, Woodchat, Red-backed, Masked and Lesser Grays all present, Thrush and Common Nightingales, Willow Warblers, Whitethroats, a Wryneck, Crakes and Rails in the lake, Yellow Wagtails and Whinchats popping in, Terns, Gulls, Herons, Storks, Garganey....in short birds wherever you look.

Wader season is peaking and two Bar-tailed Godwits were the pick of large numbers of regular waders. KM 20 also had some Broad-billed Sandpipers, Curlew Sandpipers, a Greater Sand-Plover, 20 odd Caspian Terns - well worth a couple of hours of birding.

Next weekend stretches into the Jewish New Year and we'll have time to check out areas north of Eilat. It's going to be great - don't miss it!

 

 

 

 

8.9.18

 



 

The Jewish New Year arrives tomorrow and the migrants are pouring in to enjoy the holidays with us. The evenings in the park have seen the best numbers with hundreds of swallows, Yellow Wagtails and Bee-eaters flocking over Lake Anita before roosting, waders, terns and gulls crowding the banks of the salt ponds, Sooty Falcons swooping in looking for a meal, Lichtensteins Sandgrouse passing over on their way to drink nearby and passerines bouncing around looking for a snack before dark.

 

Ringing numbers are gradually increasing with lots of Red-backed Shrikes, Nightingales, Willow Warblers, Savi's and Reed Warblers, Kingfishers, a Whinchat, a Spotted Crake and today two Nightjars. KM 20 is packed with waders, 50+ Grey Herons, 20+ Caspian Terns, Spoonbills, Glossy Ibis etc everybody on the move. North Beach still had a lot of White-cheeked Terns plus some migrant terns.....may still be worth a visit in the evening. Today I did a quick visit to Ovda with Jasper, little too warm but there were Isabelline Wheatears , a Cream Courser, local Wheatears and lots of Desert Larks. Neot Smadar sewage was full of waders and regular migrants while Yotvata was empty. Kibbutz Samar has a pair of friendly Black Bush-Robins but little else at the moment.

So Happy New Year ( Shana Tova) to all and get some birding done!

 

 

 

15.9.18

 



 

Good times in the south are only getting better as the variety and quantity of birds passing through gradually grows with the bonus of milder weather.

Bird of the week was an early Oriental Turtle Dove found by Itai Shani in the Yotvata fields. I didn't find it amongst the hundreds of Collared Doves and pigeons there but there were Turtle Doves, lots of Short-toed Larks, Shrikes, Isabelline Wheatears etc ...Yotvata is back on the map!

 

White-tailed Lapwings also starred this week throughout the south. The first appeared Tuesday, two more on Thursday and another one today, all at the bird sanctuary. There were big numbers of waders at KM20 this evening with 10 Broad-billed Sandpipers, Curlew Sandpipers, Dunlins, Turnstones, a big group of Wood Sandpipers, Ringed and Kentish Plovers, all the common species plus big gulls, terns and herons. Anita Lake at the bird park is packed with Crakes, Rails, Little Bitterns, Kingfishers, Waders, Bee-eaters etc well worth an hours meditation first thing in the morning!

 

Passerines continue to arrive in growing numbers, Garden and Barred warblers, Savi's Warblers, Willow Warblers, Whitethroats, Wrynecks, many many Shrikes and many more to come. With Isabelline Shrikes and Red-breasted Flycatchers already arriving in the Negev we could see more surprises next week. I'm certainly looking forward to it! Have a great week!

 

 

 

22.9.18
 


 

Wednesday was Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement - in Israel and many people spend the day fasting and praying. It was a slow week and we were praying for more birds and cooler weather. So far it hasn't happened. Ringing numbers are really low and even the Red-backed Shrikes are passing us by.

Liviu Parau arrived to study these birds and we hope next week will see a new wave. What did we have? Lots of Isabelline Wheatears and the first Black-eared Wheatears are here. Wader numbers are still really good, a White-tailed Lapwing is still on the canal, Rails and Crakes are still moving round Anita Lake, small numbers of raptors are passing through and some of the local birds amused us with their antics. Next week sees the Succot holiday where visitors are invited to eat in your "Suca" (tabernacle) - I hope lots of birds will come to eat and enjoy our hospitality. You are also welcome to come and enjoy our hospitality and see lots of birds… they are sure to arrive!

 

 

 

29.9.18

 



 

Last Sunday was a half-work day in Israel wedged between the weekend and Succot holiday. Almost nobody works on these days but for some sad reason I was only one of two people working that day in my factory in Grofit.

When the news of the Arctic Warbler at the IBRCE came I had no transport and no-one to look after the machines. Even worse I actually felt confident I would find it later that day or during the coming days. Needless to say I never saw it… but hey - another stunning record for the park and a second first for Israel in two weeks! How weird is that! And there aren't that many birds around which may mean migration routes are more fluid this season.

I think there are good chances for more surprises and some eastern species arriving early may be a forebearer.

 

After the White-tailed Lapwings, a Turkestan/Daurian Shrike turned up at Neot Smadar, another Daurian Shrike this evening at KM 19, Common Rosefinch at the IBRCE and an Egyptian Nightjar jumped up from under my feet this morning in the park. Yesterday we had a Eurasian Nightjar sleeping in the tree above the ringing station as hundreds of visitors moved around underneath it, completely oblivious to it's presence.... these birds can sleep through anything.

 

The ponds have lots of waders but variety is dwindling. KM 19 is coming alive with more visiting raptors, especially busy are the Sooty Falcons hunting in the evenings. Levant Sparrowhawks are regulars most mornings and evenings and other raptors are also trickling through. October is going to be busy, make a plan to be here!

 

 

 

6.10.18

 




 

Who needs an Arctic Warbler to have a great week? True, it doesn't hurt to have a celebrity arrive but we had a fun weekend with the regular migrants. Despite the very low numbers of passerines (only 27 birds ringed today) we had a whopping 97 species inside the park this morning. After opening the nets we went to sit in the greatest birding spot in the world, the hide on Anita Lake. It's not the greatest because of the birds (though they do help) but because fresh coffee and biscuits are only one minute away and you just sit there and soak it up.

This morning we were treated to drama as two Marsh Harriers tried to pick a Little Bittern out of the reeds. To make life even harder for the poor Bittern a Jackal dived through the reeds forcing him to fly through the claws of the Harriers. But our hero Bittern escaped unharmed, the Harriers had a mid-air dust up on who was to blame and the Jackal swam back to the mainland, still hungry. The Rails and Crakes were wandering around as usual, the Oriental Honey Buzzard made a cameo appearance, the first Cormorants arrive, a Spoonbill popped in, Turtle Dove, Kite, a late Common Swift, Red-rumped Swallows....all during coffee. And when we got up a cute Scops Owl was waiting for us in the nets. Bluethroats and Redstarts are the main arrivals but there are also plenty of Wheatears and raptor migration has been really good all week.

 

Steppe Eagles are flowing towards Egypt while Black Kites have inundated KM19. Booted Eagles are heading to Jordan while the Short-toed Eagles are just going round in circles....

 

Ovda is perking up really nicely with plenty of Wheatears and the first Temminck’s Larks while the ponds have loads of regular waders, big gulls and herons. Other birds of interest this week were the Yellow-browed Warbler ringed at the park and finally a Barbary Falcon has returned to KM19. With temperatures finally dropping next week is going to even more fun...make it a date!

 

 

 

13.10.18

 




 

The change of seasons is sometimes sharp and obvious while at other times gradual and almost impercievable. This week was a gradual week, not much changed. But there are more White Wagtails, fewer Yellow Wagtails, the first Northern Lapwing, some Black-headed Gulls, many more Baltic and Heuglin Gulls, fewer Shrikes, a few more Bluethroats, Redstarts....all regular species with their very specific migration plan.

 

Friday morning I did the Ovda run, lots of birds gathering there across the flood plains. There were 10 Cream-coloured Coursers, just a small group of Temminck’s Larks but lots of Bar-tailed Larks. Sandgrouse and Trumpeter Finch are still around in minor numbers but wheatears are everywhere with Desert Wheatears now bossing the area.

Neot Smadar and Yotvata were painfully quiet but KM 19 is rocking with clouds of raptors (mainly Kites), ducks, Herons, Egrets, Storks etc and the Black Kites have learnt to pick fish out of the water like Ospreys.

There are big numbers of regular waders at the park and Km20 but passerine migration remains quiet with days of under 20 birds ringed. Nothing very exciting found this week but a young Goshawk cruised over Lake Anita this morning, a Sooty Falcon raced through on his final hunts before heading south, the local Oriental Honey Buzzard has been cruising around and the scent of a vagrant is still in the air! We will see if we can find it next week!

 

 

 

20.10.18

 



 

I didn't get out as much as usual this week, Friday I was at the Ringers Conference in Jerusalem and today I got around the local patch quickly.

Our passerine blues are continuing but at least the Bluethroats are arriving in better numbers. Still virtually no pipits whatsoever, the last of the Yellow Wagtails and shrikes are moving on, only seen one Stonechat… but we are optimistic!

Tonight a thunderstorm dropped a whopping 6 mm of rain on us, that should get things hopping! The big group of Kites at KM19 have moved on but there are still Steppe Eagles and Greater Spotted Eagles dropping in, the first Imperial Eagle passed through and 3 Griffon Vultures also put in an appearence over the park.

Another notable visitor was a Purple Swamphen that was found limping around the beach and has taken up residence on Lake Anita. Cranes were finally seen passing through today but bird of the week is the humble Flamingo. The appearance of a melanistic Flamingo at KM20 has the conspiracy theories doing the rounds. Is it the same individual as the 2012 bird that spent a year at KM20 and now has a pale neck and pink legs. It is possible as we saw changes in the melanistic Flamingo in the year he spent here. Perhaps this is an offspring of the melanistic Flamingo which might explain the half and half appearance? Or is it simply an unconnected individual with the same syndrome? Whatever the answer I hope we have more interesting news next week! Have a splendid week!

 

 

 

 

27.10.18

 



 

I was really hoping to be twitching a certain Buff-breasted Sandpiper today but as fate would have it I had run out of "get out of jail free" cards and spent the weekend at the park while the sandpiper went missing. We got another good dose of rain this week, big puddles are all around Eilat and the passerines are finally pouring in in good numbers.

Friday morning the park was absolutely hopping with Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, Sardinian Warblers, Bluethroats, Redstarts and there were more Lesser Whitethroats, Reed Warblers, Blackcaps and Red-backed Shrikes than lately. After the rain a huge group of Swallows turned up and even a group of Pallid and Common Swifts arrived accompanied by an Alpine Swift. This is highly unusual late autumn and I'm sure these birds are smelling the rain which immediately generates large numbers of insects. A pair of Great Bitterns have arrived on Lake Anita,( one Finnish birder got a stunning close-up of one) and there are more at KM19. A Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush passed through and the local Oriental Honey Buzzard is being seen daily now. An Isabelline Shrike is still hanging around KM19, Asian Desert Warblers are starting to arrive, Temminck’s Horned Larks are moving into Ovda, more Wheatears are moving in and next week will see more and more wintering species moving in.

I'm really hoping to have some great birds in the next week and with the super cheap flights now available to Eilat it would a great time to visit! Have a great week!

PS my camera died this week so I have a new one which I tried clicking at anything and everything....I hope for some improvement in the near future!

 

 

 

3.11.18

 



 

This week Israelis had a day off to vote in municipal elections, a bit of a joke considering it takes 5 minutes to vote. I moved my day off to Thursday so I could go birding all day without telling anyone and without distractions!

I was getting excited about how much territory I could cover and how many birds I would see when I hit the first snag. When my wife realised I had the day off it was "well the least you can do is take Le'a to school and me to work....". That was the best 3 hours of the morning gone but I cut my losses by going to Park Holland before they woke up. The park got lots of flood water, is really green and had quite a few migrants, Chiffs, Willow Warblers, Redstarts, Bluethroats, Lesser Whitethroats, Sardinian Warblers, a whole load of local Babblers and a female Menetries at the very top of the park. not a bad start to the day.

Things soon got worse though as I reached Ovda at 8:30 and it was hot and blowing a dust storm. There were almost no birds around, a few Spotted Sandgrouse, Desert Wheatears etc but I mainly wanted to see if the Red-rumped and Basalt Wheatears had returned. Indeed the Red-rumped flew past me but disappeared in a huge cloud of sand as an army truck flew past. The Basalt Wheatear was nowhere to be found but one of friendly Finns found it the next day.

 

Neot Smadar had lots of Stonechats but little else, I travelled all the way to Km 94 to see a single Desert Wheatear (no sign of the Red-rumped Wheatear pair), Km 76 empty, Yotvata depressing, Black-necked Grebe at North Beach and Red-breasted Flycatcher at Ophira Park finished the day.

 

Friday morning I thought "well I'll go ring some Chiffchaffs and Bluethroats and sit around drinking coffee". The day started with a Crested Honey Buzzard gliding across and going to sit beside an Imperial Eagle and Greater Spotted Eagle… not a bad line up for 6am! the Great Bittern put on a show in the hide and by the lake and then things got stranger. I went to survey the park and soon bumped into an Isabelline Shrike. As I attempted a photo I virtually stepped on a Nubian Nightjar which flew up in my face. I soon found him again but three Crested Honey Buzzards started circling above me - too many choices! Later two volunteers from the spring, Anna and Anton, joined me for a round of the pools. We were steaming down the back road when my daughter screams out "big raptor on the tree!". I slammed on the brakes, reversed and sure enough there was a Levant's Sparrowhawk right next to us, doesn't he know it's November!

 

Km 20 had a nice variety incuding some Wheatears, a Tawny Pipit and then a lark flew across the pools and landed right beside the passenger side wheel. Anton was taking lots of photos while asking what it was...like I could even see it! Damn bird hid under the car and I had to chase it out...Oriental Skylark! It even called a few times just to make sure we knew it was Oriental!

 

This morning we were back at the park and we soon met the Great Bittern which was pawing the net looking for a way through. Instead of fleeing the bird just gave me the mean look that said "you are deadmeat if you come anywhere near me!" He was very unimpressed when I picked him up but he is one beautiful bird! We also had the first Dead Sea Sparrow of the season, a Song Thrush, another Isabelline Shrike, Peregrine Falcon at KM20, Macqueens Bustards at Yotvata and lots of Eastern Stonechats everywhere. It was actually a great weekend and you won't regret a visit!

 

 

 

10.11.18

 




 

Didn't make it past KM20 this weekend… but I didn't have to. Friday morning was just a beautiful morning of migration at the bird sanctuary with Cranes, Pelicans and an endless flow of Steppe Eagles flowing past. The trees were bouncing with passerines and the ponds had plenty of action too. There were over 90 species seen during the morning including a Red-breasted Flycatcher (ringed), 3 Great Bitterns hanging around the nets, a surprise Little Swift who stayed all weekend, lots of Red-rumped Swallows, two Imperial Eagles, the Oriental Honey Buzzards, Desert Finch, Dead-sea Sparrows, a couple of Ferruginous Ducks, a five year old Chiffchaff controlled for the fifth time straight and much much more.

 

The weather is brilliant and plenty of birders are making use of the insanely cheap flights to Eilat and really lapping it up. Today was quieter but the variety remained fantastic. A Menetries Warbler lit up the morning and an unusual Eastern Stonechat also kept us busy. Another Great Bittern was brought in and ringed which the many visitors enjoyed immensely as he tried to pick my eyes out. A Greater Spotted Eagle and a couple of Long-legged Buzzards joined the lower numbers of Steppe Eagles...and I still had time for coffee and cake by the lake...I am in heaven.

 

This afternoon I went to the shop for milk and up popped a Red-breasted Flycatcher in Park Canada. It was a young bird with quite black upper tail-coverts and very white throat… but no Taiga. While using playback a male Red-breasted Flycatcher joined in! Life is good.

it's time to make your life good too! See you here.

 
 

17.11.18

 



 

There are a number of signs that winter has arrived in Eilat - firstly it is the near freezing temperatures in the morning, it was less than 20C this morning when we opened the nets! Secondly the beaches fill up with crazy Europeans swimming, sunbathing and enjoying the clear blue skies, don't they know it's winter! And thirdly all we seem to catch is Bluethroats, Chiffchaffs, Sardinian Warblers, Robins, Blackbirds and damn Great Bitterns. They have turned from an attraction to a curse, waiting behind every bush and net.

Yesterday another one decided to stand and fight instead of run and was soon ringed. Today one got stuck in the thorns of an Acacia tree and died before he could be freed.

 

Friday morning was quite busy with plenty of birds around including a Menetries Warbler I met over a cup of coffee, a Yellow-browed Warbler, a Levant Sparrowhawk with a ring which I guess has U-turned for a winter in Eilat, 4 Oriental Honey Buzzards, just a few Steppe Eagles, the Purple Swamphen is back at KM19 and plenty of regulars also moving around.

Yotvata with Jani was nice, North Circular field is looking good with Desert Finch, Pipits, a few Skylarks etc, a Curlew and Eastern Stonechats in the northern fields and the Great Snipe reported earlier this week was nowhere to be found.

Today was pretty quiet but fun, after the regular areas we did Park Holland which is really nice, possible Menetries right at the top (not seen so well but heard nicely) and a Striolated Bunting.

So if you don't mind winter you will enjoy Eilat !

 

 

 

24.11.18

 



 

It's late November and migrants are becoming few and far between and still we have plenty of action to keep everybody happy. Wednsday I had a day at the park to do some ringing, guide a group of pensioners and do some birding with Jani before he left. It was a busy day at the park with many groups, birders and general public enjoying the great weather. It was great to see these pensioners faces light up like little children as I produced birds out of bags, they wanted to know all about them, asked many questions, donated money, threw away their walking frames and walking sticks to watch birds soar overhead... Okay the last part was a little exageration but they did enjoy themselves.

The birds didn't disappoint either, the Oriental Honey Buzzards put on a show, a Menetries Warbler was showing in the western corner, a very patchy House Martin had us wondering, a tiny Little Bittern got us thinking about Yellow Bitterns, Steppe Eagles continued to stream over along with some Storks along with 80 other species seen that day in the park. I also came across a nice mobbing where the smallest birds - Prinias, Palestine Sunbirds, Sardinian Warblers, Chiffchaffs and a lone Blackstart were mobbing a Schokari Sand Racer until he slinked off.

 

Friday morning Jani left and Jack arrived, ringing was pretty slow but we got a Pied Kingfisher, first Moustached Warbler and Common Rosefinch. Later we went to visit the Black Bush Robins at Samar, the North Fields of Yotvata for Desert Finch and Eastern Stonechats and then up to Ovda for the Basalt Wheatear. Just as we arrived the heavens opened up and in minutes the whole area flooded. We crawled down the road without seeing a bird in the belting rain but it stopped when we reached our target and sure enough he was sitting there - Jack was a very happy punter.

As we came back birds started popping up like mushrooms after the rain- loads of Mourning Wheatears, Desert and Isabelline Wheatears, Asian Desert Warblers, Bar-tailed and Desert Larks, Tawny Pipit and more. It's Jack's first trip to Israel and he has racked up a whopping 31 lifers in two days!

Today the rain continued in Eilat making life very muddy and awkward. Two cars and 3 tow trucks slipped into ponds at KM20, do not try these roads in the wet! Km19 is best, there was a young Bonellis Eagle, Peregrine and Barbary Falcon, the Lesser White-fronted Goose drops in occasionally, Purple Swamphen, Great Bitterns and Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse also regulars in the evening. An Egyptian Nightjar and Curlew were seen at Yotvata, Olive-backed and Richards Pipits at Naot Smadar, two Imperial Eagles at Samar and that was all I had time for!

Next week I hope to see even more, put it on your itinery - you won't regret it!

 

 

 

2.12.18

 



 

While the rest of the country was on a wild goose chase we had to make do with high quality birding in a range of fascinating habitats where surprises are the norm and the weather is always wonderful.

Most of the migrants are well gone and there is still plenty to see and areas to explore. All morning on Lake Anita over coffee we have a pardade of Penduline Tits,Bluethroats, Chiffchaffs, Indian Silverbills, Cetti's Warblers, Reed Warblers, a couple of Moustached Warblers and Prinias all vying for a place on the reeds.

Water Rails scamper past the hide, Common, Pied and White-throated Kingfishers perch around the lake while Caspian Terns, black-headed Gulls and a Marsh Harrier whirl above. A Purple Heron lands on a Great Bittern to reclaim his spot and then leaves, the Little Bitterns and Little Grebes are having screaming competitions as always, incoming waders are peeping loudly whereas the Pale Crag Martins are as elegant and quiet as ever... quiet morning.

 

Late morning a Pallid and Common Swift come over and then the Oriental Honey Buzzards were spotted over the Eilot fields. They swirled around high above the park, four birds in all along with a Steppe Eagle, Sparrowhawks and Kestrels. As we follow them Rei picks up an Olive-backed Pipit flying straight over us. The bird made a couple more passes before heading off into the date palms.

Friday afternoon Noam, Jack and myself went to check the Elifaz reservoir and sewage ponds. The reservoir had similiar birds to KM19, a Greater Spotted Eagle etc but worth checking early morning for larks, it looks active. The sewage was bouncing with birds, dozens of Bluethroats, Chiffs, Spanish Sparrows, Silverbills,Pendulines, Babblers etc plus a Jack Snipe to remind Jack of home in Wales.

Saturday afternoon Jack, Rei, Le'a and myself headed up to Ovda to see what the rain had brought. We stopped to check out the Yellow-browed Warbler at the Neot Smadar sewage and then to an open area about 1km from the junction on the left as you drive towards the base. It got the best rain and didn't disappoint. We soon had Spotted Sandgrouse, then a Hoopoe Lark battling an Isabelline Wheatear, Temminck's Larks, Bar-tailed and Desert Larks, a Hooded Wheatear, many Mourning, White-crowned and Desert Wheatears... a nice piece of territory. The Basalt Wheatear is still faithful to his spot but that area is still very dry.

 

We stopped for coffee at Yotvata and as it was already dark decided to check for the slim possibility of an Egyptian Nightjar. We just entered the onion fields when it flew right up to my window. Jack got the flashlight on him and we got really nice views as he hunted moths. The pumpkin field also had a good sized owl drifting away from us. I think it was a Short-eared Owl but there wasn't a consensus after we didn't find it again. Very nice parade of birds for a quiet weekend! If it is snowing where you live, you will definately enjoy every minute here! Jack certainly is!

 

 

 

8.12.18

 


 


 

Road trip.

I was in New Zealand earlier this year when the Persian Wheatear was found so I missed it. When it reappeared and a Wallcreeper was found in Avdat (first since 1996 there!) that was all the excuses I needed for a twitch! I

loaded the car with Eilat's finest twitchers - Shimon, Jacques and Le'a - and we set off bright and early Wednsday morning. First stop was the Meyshar, a normally desolate dry plain. It was very green, grass and flowers everywhere and looking like the Serengeti (sort of) with 50+ Dorcas Gazelles grazing, plenty of Wild Asian Asses, some Sandgrouse, plenty of Spectacled Warblers but few desert birds.

We arrived at Avdat nice and early with only a handful of visitors present, notably Yaron Charka and Sara Deutch who joined us. The Wallcreeper appeared before we started looking for it, I still had cofffee in my hands when it began feeding on the wall a few metres away. It's a dreamy bird in a dreamy location, do not miss it! by midday we were at Mount Amassa, a liitle green hill in the middle of nowhere. There were Finsch's Wheatears everywhere but the Persian was playing hard to get. After a pleasant hour of wandering she finally showed up flying overhead a number of times but I still needed to get the others on the bird. We had a bossy Finsch's Wheatear to thank as it chased her to within a couple of metres of us. Great views standing and in the air...that's a tick for me and Le'a!

 

We went looking for Arabian Warblers around Moshav Idan but failed to get a bite...so we went for a bite to eat at Yotvata. Should we look for the Nightjar? Yeah, why not....not really expecting to see anything. But lady luck was really shining that night - we hadn't even got to the fields when the Pharaohs Eagle Owl swooped low over the car and sat beside the road 10 metres away...he didn't even move when 4 people jumped out of the car to take photos.

Five minutes later the Egyptian Nightjar was flying around the car completely oblivious to the torch on him. And we still found a Jack Snipe in the north circular field and some Stone Curlews for Jacques list! A nice day's work if I do say so myself. Meanwhile back in the park great excitement- a Great Tit!!??a very rare visitor to Eilat. There was also a Cyprus Warbler and Fruit Bat in the nets!.

Hannukah brought many visitors to the park and few birds but our Oriental Honey Buzzard population is now 5 birds and quite obliging (took a load of terrible record shots), Dead Sea Sparrows, a couple of Peregrines plus another 60 species of regular wintering birds. Well worth a visit- the winter sun is waiting for you!

 

 

 

 

15.12.18

 


 

 

Wherever i look - Basalt Wheatears!

 


 

The big news this week is that I recieved my copy of Western Palearctic Birds - Passerines! and it is pure bird pornography. I spent all night salvating over stunning photos of birds I can only fantasize about seeing. Yes it is expensive but your life will be better for it!

 

On the home front - winter… 25C, sunshine, great birds… it's a win,win,win situation. It may not be the bonanza of desert birds we had last winter but it's good enough to keep the visitors happy - very happy even. Friday morning I was on school duty so could only look longingly out the window until 8am. and would you believe it ,the young Golden Eagle flew past the window at 7am!! The park is fairly quiet but the Great Bitterns are still around, the Oriental Honey Buzzards weren't seen but are surely still around, plenty of Dead Sea Sparrows, Bluethroats, Penduline Tits etc The ponds have really good numbers of waders, herons etc and North Beach this evening was packed with gulls of all descriptions.

Yotvata has pipits everywhere, plenty of Desert Finch, a few Desert and Isabelline Wheatears and there is always the Egyptian Nightjar and Pharaohs Eagle Owl to keep the evenings busy. By chance I popped into the Elifaz reservoir this morning before heading up to Ovda and surprise, surprise a Red-breasted Merganser was cruising about happily, quite a rare visitor to the Arava region. There were also quite a lot of other birds around, well worth a visit.

 

Ovda is really nice until 10 am, a Merlin was the first bird I saw followed by the Hoopoe Lark, a few small groups of Temminck’s Larks, nice numbers of Bar-tailed Larks, a couple of Asian Desert and Spectacled Warblers, Mourning, Desert, Isabelline, White-crowned, Hooded and the Basalt Wheatear, growing numbers of Spotted Sandgrouse… all in quite a small area.

The first Thick-billed Larks were seen on the Sayerim Plain by Ohad along with numerous Temminck's Larks and the place is also known for good numbers of Spotted and Crowned Sandgrouse. Last but not least are the Steppe Eagles, they just keep on coming....every time I look up another passes over headed south...over the park, my house, Ovda, the mountains....do they know they need to turn around shortly!!

This holiday season love yourself a little - come to Eilat!

 

 

22.12.18

 



 

There's nothing like a winter weekend for a quiet time at home with the family... no birding… well maybe just a little birding... 5-6 hours nothing more!

Friday morning the reeds on Anita lake were absolutely bouncing with Chiffchaffs, Spanish Sparrows, Penduline Tits, Bluethroats, a few Dead Sea Sparrows, a Moustached Warbler etc Water Rails running around, Pied and White-throated Kingfishers, a Great Bittern, Little Bitterns, Gull-billed Tern, some mallards,cormorants, waders etc Can't complain about all these over a cup of coffee.

 

Elifaz reservoir was nice again, a Greater Crested Grebe has joined the Red-breasted Merganser, Storks, Spoonbills, Osprey, Ducks, Egrets and herons, Cormorants, loads of Kentish Plovers, Wagtails and Water Pipits, Pale Crag Martins and over 40 Pallid Swifts who are definately wintering here. Elifaz sewage is still bouncing with loads of wintering passerines but Samar's owls aren't where they should be.

Late afternoon K19 had a very obliging Bonelli's Eagle, Barbary and Peregrine Falcons, an Oriental Honey Buzzard passed by and while I was standing talking to Rei the Lesser White-fronted Goose came flying out of the canal only 50 metres away with his Egyptian Geese friends and went to eat in the cow pens. Just before sunset I checked out the salt ponds and canal south of the park (just before the road to North Beach). In the evening big numbers of gulls come to roost and eat fish in the canal. There were two Pallas's Gulls, 60+ big gulls of all types, Heuglin mainly but also Caspian, Baltic and Steppe Gulls. There are also plenty of Flamingo, Egrets, Herons, Caspian Terns etc the place is buzzing.

 

 

I didn't visit any desert areas this week but I'm sure they are steadily getting better, Yotvata now has 3 Egyptian Nightjars, an Olive-backed Pipit and Yellow-browed Warbler have been seen in the park…  and it isn't raining! Still plenty of birding to be done here this winter so come and visit!

 

 

 

29.12.18

 



 

It's a real Eilat winter....while most of the country had rain, cold and thunder storms we slapped on the sunscreen and got the T-shirt and shorts out again. Friday morning on Lake Anita, all the normal culprits still bouncing around, Great Bittern, Little Bittern, Rails, Gull-billed Tern, Pied and White-throated Kingfisher, Waders, Herons and Egrets, a couple of Pallid Swifts, Chiffs, Moustached warbler, Bluethroats etc. A little bit of ringing, a quick survey of the park which picked up the wintering Menetries Warbler, then headed off to Samar with Rei Segali to see the Hume's Leaf Warbler that Guillermo Rodríguez Lázaro found (he also found another one just inside the entrance of Neot Smadar) . It took us forever to find it, nearly 30 seconds... . Just hit the call on the telephone and he was all over us calling loudly and constantly. And then he just disappeared...40 minutes not a peep.

 

We decided to go see the Black Bush Robins (about 100 metres away from the Hume’s) and they were playing coy as well. I was beginning to think Rei was bad luck but all 3 birds eventually came out and strolled around. We headed back to the Hume’s and sure enough he was calling his heart out (no playback needed) and we got him at point blank range.

In the evening I went to KM19 which is attracting quite a few raptors but it was the Lesser White-fronted Goose that put in an appearance near the entrance with her Egyptian Geese entourage… she is looking good.

 

Today I started at Elifaz, the Merganser is still there but not much else hanging around. Up to Ovda for a look around the Hiyyun which got most of the rain. It's a bit patchy but there are some good sections with plenty of Wheatears, nice number of Spectacled Warblers and a few Asian Desert Warblers. Didn't see much in the way of larks, Sandgrouse… need to check some more areas. Later in the day I met Rei at KM19 and the raptors gave a reasonable showing. One of the Oriental Honey Buzzards passed high overhead, the Bonelli's Eagle was sitting around, a Greater Spotted Eagle drifted over, a stunningly pale Long-legged Buzzard had a constant duel with a pesky Marsh Harrier and two Steppe Buzzards also joined the fray.

 

Elsewhere pretty quiet as one would expect but you won't be worried about that as life is just too good! Have a wonderful new year! Spend it here.....!

 

 

 
land marks