Spring 2019

Frank Moffatt 16/05/2019 00:00

ISRAEL - spring 2019

 

EasyJet flight from Manchester into Tel Aviv on 14th Feb. Collected car and then the short drive south to Timorim where I was being hosted by Meir and Chen for a couple of nights. Very good of them and a big thanks.

 

15th Feb: Short sleep then up and away with Meir Capoya and Moshe Ben Artzi to the Negev south west of Be’er Sheva. Teamed up with David Raved, Orly Shamay and Micha Auerbach. Great Spotted Cuckoo was a nice start. Heard a Cream-coloured Courser then David picked up a bird feeding quietly. Good numbers of Isabelline but also 1-2 Desert Wheatears seen.

Fantastic to see and hear displaying Lesser Short-toed Larks. Wow! A small group of c.6 Black-bellied Sandgrouse zapped past us quite low before dropping out of view. A few Desert Larks dotted here and there. Despite scanning several times no sign of a Macqueen’s Bustard. Time for a lovely breakfast in the field.

 

Moved on towards a relatively quiet and dusty Urim but some very pleasant birding nevertheless. Long-legged and Common Buzzard, Merlin, E. Skylarks, Corn Buntings, White Wagtails, C. Stonechats, Spanish Sparrows, Cattle Egrets, Pallid Swifts, Isabelline Wheatears, 3-4 Hen Harriers.

Called at a couple of very interesting historic sights but nothing of note to add in terms of birds seen. Nice surprise at Timorim with a group of c.30 Stone Curlews. Incredible camouflage. And that was it for the day. Really enjoyed it. Many thanks to the team.

 

 

Teamed Up - 15.2.19

 

 

16th Feb: 0430hrs Meir Capoya collected Orly and we headed towards Ein Gedi an oasis on the western shore of the Dead Sea in the Judean Desert.

We battled torrential rain for the first part but thankfully it stopped by the time we approached our destination. We were met by local resident and wildlife expert Eldad Golan.

We began with a short trek up Wadi Salvadora. The Fan-tailed Ravens put on a great show for the duration of the trek and even joined us later for breakfast. Other birds included 3-4 White-crowned Black Wheatears, Desert Larks, Scrub Warblers, C. Kestrel, Tristram’s Starlings, Sand Partridges, Blackstarts, Rock Martins, Brown-necked Ravens, WSBulbuls, and Little Green Bee-eaters. Unfortunately no sign of any Striolated Buntings or Sinai Rosefinches.

 

We headed to Ein Gedi Reserve for a lovely cooked breakfast courtesy of Meir and were joined by Blackstarts, Arabian Babblers, Tristram’s Starlings, Chiffchaffs, Sardinian Warblers, Palestine Sunbirds, LGBee-eaters and Fan-tailed Ravens. The end of another really enjoyable short adventure. And another big thanks to the Team.

And then it was time for me to head south to Kibbutz Lotan my home for the remainder of my visit. Checked-in and settled in.

 

 
 

17th Feb: A wander around the kibbutz revealed a good sprinkling of Chiffchaffs, White Wagtails, Little Green Bee-eaters, P Sunbirds, and Bulbuls. Needed to get a few things sorted, buy provisions and take things easy and try and get some strength back.

Lunch with good friend David Schoneveld. Bumped into my buddy Mike Nitzan (massive thanks). Also said hello to the very busy gang in tourism: Tamar, Rony, Julio, Sinead, Maria.


18th Feb: Up and out nice and early and wandered a wadi to the north. Target species was Cyprus Warbler. Pleasantly surprised at the number of birds present. Several Lesser Whitethroats, 1-2 Common Whitethroats, numerous Sardinian Warblers, decent numbers of Chiffchaffs, Blackstarts, Desert Larks, LGBee-eaters, Sand Partridges, Spanish Sparrows, Collared and Laughing Doves.

And then something a little different, interesting song and calls. Settled down hoping… and there it was, a corking male Cyprus Warbler. Spent about 40 mins with it but tough to photo. Very nice. Some of the calls were especially interesting.

Returned to Lotan for lunch. Router arrived but as yet it still won’t connect to the internet. Tomorrow? A bit more sorting midday and finished with a wander around the organic gardens: at least 3 Bluethroats and a bunch of Chiffchaffs plus 1-2 E. Sparrowhawks were the pick. Rain was in the air.

 

 

Target species

 

19 Feb: Headed to Eilat to check the Steppe Eagle migration through the Eilat Mountains. A few very high birds heading down towards ‘low mountain’ was all I could muster but great to see them again. Fantastic birds.

I headed to the Eilat Bird Park and said hello to my good friend Noam Weiss. Good to also meet part of this years team there: Rei Segali, Robin and Oded. The narrow, light, steam of Steppe Eagles continued for much of the morning and could be seen high above the Eilat Birding Center - IBRCE (International Birdwatching and Research Center of Eilat) as it continued north along the Arava Valley. There was also a decent passage of Pallid and Common Swift, House Martins, Red-rumped Swallows. And I was reliably informed the wintering Crested Honey Buzzards put on a great show earlier. Moustached and Sedge Warblers present.


I checked-out a few sites on the way back north: Km19, km20: a few Little Stints, C. Redshanks, Black-winged Stilts, Pintail, Shelduck, Shoveler, G. Flamingo’s - this dark bird couldn't be Melani could it? Black-headed and Slender-billed Gulls, White Wagtails and 1-2 Yellow Wagtails. Nice group of Desert Finches mingling among the Crested Larks at Yotvata.

A nice gentle days birding. Spring is gathering momentum.

 

 
Melani?
 

20 Feb: Spent the morning at Yotvata agricultural fields, north of the north circular field. Plenty of good looking habitats, plenty of birds but a relatively low species mix thus far as you might expect this early in the season.

Sightings included: several hundred Spanish Sparrows in several flocks, good numbers of Crested Larks, small counts of Water and Red-throated Pipits, a few Corn Buntings, Barn Swallows, Sand Martins, Rock Martins, C. Kestrel, White Wagtails and you didn’t have to try hard to find some smart Desert Finches, Little Green Bee-eaters, Southern Grey Shrike, C. Stonechats, P.Sunbirds, White-spectacled Bulbuls, Collared and Laughing Doves, several Chiffchaffs in the adjacent shrubs and bushes, vocal Sardinian Warblers.


Checked the sewage at Yotvata but very little other than a pair of Egyptian Geese. Did a circuit of the fields and muck heaps but little to add. Plenty of Chiffs in the surrounding trees.

Checked-out a very dry KM76. Sightings included: Southern Grey Shrike, Rock Martins, C.Stonechats plus what may have been a distant eastern Stonechat ssp.


Finished off back at Yotvata agricultural fields but little to add other than a cracking male Hen Harrier and an increase in Sand Martins and Barn Swallows. The presumed same group of Cattle Egrets was still around. There’s been a cool north wind blowing for several days but I tried a short night safari without seeing anything. I’ll try again in ernest when the temp rises a little. It’s all out there I’m sure.

 

 
Goosebumps @ Yotveta sewage...
 

21 Feb: Headed to the IBRCE. Passerines are still a bit thin on the ground but there was plenty to interest including: Water Rail, Little Crake, several Bluethroats, Great Cormorants, Pygmy Cormorant, Moustached, Savi’s, Cetti’s and Sedge Warbler, Chiffchaffs, Lesser Whitethroats, Penduline Tit’s, Purple and Grey Heron, Cattle Egrets. Pulses of House and Sand Martins, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows and several swift sp.. The ringers flushed a Crested Honey Buzzard early morning.


I headed up to the Eilat Mountains. White-crowned Black Wheatear plus a few Steppe Eagles over low mountain. Nice fruit breakfast. Then down into Holland Park: Chiffchaffs, Lesser Whithroats, Sardinian Warblers - they seem to be absolutely everywhere, my first male Ruppell’s Warbler of the trip but played tough to get.

Bite to eat then a quick shop for provisions and finished off with a leisurely wander around Lotan. Decent numbers of Chiffchaffs, several Bluethroats, Black Redstart and a load more Sardinian Warblers. 4+ Little Green Bee-eaters.

The cool breeze F2-3 from the north continues. Cloud 4/8. Very pleasant birding conditions.

 

 
Purple Heron - on the wing
 

22 Feb: Cool start, little or no breeze, cloud 0/8 but hazy. Excellent birding conditions. Took a short drive north to KM94 area and spent the morning there. Wandered both sides of the road.

Seemed quiet but gradually found birds including: 4 Bar-tailed Larks inc. song from three areas, 4 male Desert Wheatears from three areas including song from all, single Isabelline Wheatear, single Tawny Pipit, 2-3 Desert Lark, Blackstart, single Southern Grey Shrike, Sardinian Warblers, Scrub Warbler, several Graceful Prinia, minimum 5 Chiffchaff inc. song, Barn Swallows north, several Crested Larks. Desert Rat, increasing numbers of Painted Lady butterflies (hundreds), several hawking dragonfly sp. Thoroughly enjoyable desert birding.


Headed to Yotvata for the last 2.5hrs. Minimun 80 Desert Finches in two groups but could hear calls from elsewhere. Single Marsh Harrier. Barn Swallows in good numbers over the circular field. BIG Surprise when an Eastern Imperial Eagle suddenly appeared overhead carrying prey! Wow. Nice finish to a good days birding.

 

 
Check that tail! Bar-tailed Lark
 

23 Feb: A little warmer today but still a cooling N F2 breeze. Cloud 0/8 hazy. Very pleasant. Began at the Eilat Birding Center - IBRCE. Good to see my Arava birding friends Shachar Shalev and Shimon Shiff.

Passerines still few but Sand and House Martins, Rock Martins, Barn Swallows, Baltic Gulls and possibly 1-2 Heuglini mixed in - they were fairly high and quite distant. The first hide is a hotspot right now: Little Crake, Water Rail, Little Bittern, Cetti’s, Savi’s, Sedge Warbler, Chiffchaff, Bluethroat, Moustached Warbler, Pygmy Cormorant all within touching distance… almost.

Finally caught up with several of the wintering Oriental Honey Buzzards: 5 quite distant soaring birds and one that passed quite close. Very nice.


Shachar and I headed into the Eilat mountains but no sign of any Steppe Eagles. 4+ White-crowned Black Wheatears. Reports suggested Seifim Plain is quiet but we gave it a good try regardless. It was very quiet: 6+ Scrub Warblers, male and female Desert Wheatear, Barn Swallow, and a small gazelle which might have been an Acacia Gazelle, the rarer of the two species around here.


Shachar’s place for a coffee and a bite to eat. Many thanks. Quick look back at the IBRCE and then I headed to Yotvata agricultural fields to dusk. Similar mix as recent visits: male Hen Harrier, C. Buzzard, the adult (or near adult) Eastern Imperial Eagle appeared again around 1630hrs, several Water and Red-throated Pipits, a few White Wagtails and the numerous Desert Finches, Barn Swallows and Sand Martins, Rock Martins, Crested Larks, many Collared Doves. And that was it for the day. Enjoyed it.

 

 
First hide
 

24 Feb: Gorgeous weather continues. Bright blue skies, slightly cool F1-2 N breeze. Warmest day thus far. Birded wadi north of Lotan. Birds included: several territorial Southern Grey Shrikes, 10+ Blackstarts, singing Bar-tailed Larks, 4+ Sand Partridges, male Hooded Wheatear, Common Stonechat, several Scrub Warblers, 3-4 Chiffchaffs, Barn Swallows north, another smart singing male Cyprus Warbler, Sardinian Warblers.


Called in at Ne’ot Samadar Sewage: 2 Green Sandpipers, C. Teal and a Little Egret. Finished off at Yotvata to dusk. Sightings included: E.Sparrowhawk, c.20 Corn Buntings to roost, c.60 Red-throated Pipits, c.40 Water Pipits, c.45 White Wagtails, Desert Finches still around. A nice day.

 

 
Scrub Warbler
 

25 Feb: Weather similar but definitely warmer and the wind was starting to pick up dust. Predicted sandstorm for tomorrow. Moved around quite a bit today but was unable to do as much birding as I’d have liked.

Began and finished at Yotvata with similar birds around as recent days. CC Marsh Harrier and smart Hen Harrier late afternoon causing trouble. Still plenty of Red-throated and Water Pipits, Corn Buntings, several each of C.Stonechat and Chiffchaffs, Barn Swallows and Sand Martins moving through, Desert Finches still, Crested Larks and Collared Doves, Spanish Sparrows.


It was getting quite late and I’d noted an interesting bird creeping through a vegetated field. Eventually spooked by a harrier no doubt - at least two and quite possibly three ORIENTAL SKYLARKS got up and zipped over. Got out of the car thinking I’d no chance of seeing them when one suddenly popped up singing and displaying just above my head but alas I'd left my camera in the car. I tried to get shots but although they were calling and flying quite regularly they were too distant and the light beat me. Great to hear them regardless. In the fields just north of the north circular field. Smart finish.

 

 

Men Power!

 

26 Feb: Strange weather today. Hazy, dusty scene with poor visibility after lunch but the winds remained calm from the N F2 gusting 3 before dropping right away late afternoon. Temps pleasant.

Headed down to the Eilat Birding Center - IBRCE. First bird was a Little Crake quickly followed by a smart WHITE-TAILED LAPWING albeit a little distant for photography. Always a very nice bird to see. A quick dash to let Noam Weiss know and a flurry of activity ensued as he gathered the ringing team and we all headed back to the hide and enjoyed the bird together.

Gull-billed Tern was also around plus a similar mix to recent visits. At least 2 Steppe Eagles over, Marsh Harrier and Robin had a Greater Spotted Eagle. A group of c.10 E. Spoonbills headed into Jordan. Nice to bump into Aviv Etzion and Limor at the IBRCE.

 

A quick trip into the Eilat Mountains brought no eagles. Finished at Yotvata to dusk: 3 females and single male Marsh Harriers, same immature male Hen Harrier. I didn’t hear the Oriental Skylarks but still c.60 Water Pipits and several Red-throated Pipits, Desert Finches, White Wags and Spanish Sparrows especially.

Got to be a good day when there’s a White-tailed Lapwing in it.

 

 
Always a very nice bird to see
 

Wednesday 27 Feb: Cooler temps due to increased cloud cover 8/8 by 1000hrs. Wind began in south, turned to west and finished in the north F2-3 gusts. Very pleasant again.


Good start at Yotvata early morning with 2 male Ruppell’s Warblers and brief glimpses of what looked like a female. Plenty of song from Savi’s Warblers, Sardinian Warblers, Bluethroat and Southern Grey Shrikes (2 birds). Lesser Whitethroat and several Chiffchaffs, a few swift sp. over north then south and plenty of Rock Martins and Barn Swallows. C.10 Tristram’s Grackles bombing around noisily. Greenfinch and what sounded like Meadow Pipit (or better?). Cream-crown Marsh Harrier. Water and Red-throated Pipit and White Wagtail numbers seemed down. Roamed around until near lunch but nothing significant to add.


A beautiful cup of rooibos tea at Kibbutz Lotan & Center for Creative Ecology courtesy of Moni. Many thanks. This was followed by a circuit of the swimming pool and the organic gardens. No sign of any real change: Sardinian Warblers, Bluethroat, Chiffs, Spanish Sparrows, Little Green Bee-eaters just a very nice walk.

Tried something a little different and wandered a few kms up a very quiet Wadi Ketura but some reward with a smart female Cyprus Warbler and a couple of Sand Partridges.

Then a return to Yotvata agricultural fields to dusk. A really nice male Desert and single Isabelline Wheatear were new and welcome arrivals. Wasn’t seeing too much other than single CC Marsh Harrier, Crested Larks and the regular Desert Finches, then close to dusk several Red-throated and a few Water Pipits dropped in. At that moment I could hear at least a single Oriental Skylark not too far away. Not sure where they’re all arriving from but presumably it’s just a late evening movement rather than an actual arrival? And last but not least, in fading light, what could be an Asian Buff-bellied Pipit appeared. Thoughts welcome please.

 

 

Buff-bellied in fading light

 

Thursday 28 Feb: weather was quite nice initially, F2-3 W or SW, coolish, cloud 5/8. By late afternoon the wind had strengthened considerably from W and produced a sand storm. Not ideal for birding.

Began at the Eilat Birding Center - IBRCE. C.70 Little Stints around the canal area and salt pans but didn’t do a full count of the area by any means. Greenshank, Green Sands, C. Redshank, Ruff, Marsh Sand, Black-winged Stilt and Wood Sand all present (latter Robin pers.com). Smyrna and Pied Kingfisher and most of the species noted recently. Reed Warbler, and my first Balkan Warbler.

 

Gave the Eilat Mountains a try but just 6 distant and very high Steppe Eagles, a few Pallid Swifts, White-crowned Black Wheatear. KM19 produced C.Teal, Shoveler, Pintail, Coot, Great Cormorant. KM20 3 Kentish Plover was the pick.

Birded the organic garden at Kibbutz Lotan during the sand storm: min. 3 Bluethroats, 8+ Chiffs, 2 Hoopoe, Sardinian Warbler.

Hoping for slightly better weather tomorrow but perhaps this will drop something in.

 

 
Bird on a wire
 

Friday 1 March: cloud 8/8, cool wind F2 W. Went for a wander around Kibbutz Lotan & Center for Creative Ecology including the Organic Gardens, the Lotan Bird Park and swimming pool area with Moni. Saw several nice species including Hoopoe, Sardinian Warbler and Chiffchaff, Black Redstart, Palestine Sunbird, Laughing and Collared Dove, Common Kestrel and Marsh Harrier, White Wagtail, Spanish Sparrow. No obvious sign of an arrival and not much moving overhead but very pleasant regardless.


I headed to Yotvata agricultural fields and just watched and listened. Around 0930hrs it started. A really nice burst of migration including: C.45 White and c.35 Black Storks, c.175 bugling Common Cranes heading north, adult Eastern Imperial Eagle, Northern Wheatear, Common and Pallid Swifts, Rock Martins and Barn Swallows plus a few Sand Martins, minimum 2 feldegg wagtails.

Oriental Skylark calling in the background and a group of c.75 Tristram's Starlings bombing around noisily. Really enjoyable. Had a short break and returned to dusk. At least 2 male Hen Harriers, single Marsh Harrier, heard Common Crane calling somewhere nearby, nice numbers of Water Pipits, single Meadow Pipit, a sprinkling of Red-throated Pipits, the Desert Finches were still widespread. Felt like the first real day of migration. Great stuff.

 

 

Buglers

 

Saturday 2 March: Cloud 4/8, coolish, little or no wind. Pleasant birding conditions.

To Yotvata agricultural fields. Strong Common and Pallid Swift movement, plus numerous Rock Martins and several Barn Swallows. Smart Little Swift went through early on but was past me before I could get a decent image.

At least 3 Tawny Pipits around which were new, plus Northern and Isabelline Wheatear, several Red-throated and Water Pipits. Adult Eastern Imperial Eagle soaring above the Kibbutz buildings. 3-4 Common Stonechats, Greenfinch, Southern Grey Shrike and what sounded like 2-3 Short-toed Larks distantly. The Desert Finches and small groups of Tristram’s Starlings were still around.


Quick coffee then went round nearby acacias. Birds included: Balkan and male Ruppell’s Warbler, several Sardinian Warblers and 2 Lesser Whitethroats, Palestine Sunbirds and Arabian Babblers. Finished off back at Yotvata to dusk but little to add other than a nice male Hen Harrier and a soaring Grey Heron.

Just back from a pizza night at David Schoneveld's place. Thanks to all. Really enjoyed it. My only significant contribution was to answer a quiz question related to Eric Cantona and his legendary kung-fu kick.

 

 
Quick Coffee and... Balkan Warbler
 

Sunday 3 March: cloud 0/8, slight haze, coolish start but warmed nicely by early morning. Light F2 ESE breeze. Made me feel like spring has sprung.

Began at a lively Holland Park Eilat. Clearly birds are arriving. C.20 Ruppell’s Warblers with much song and territorial fighting, many more Lesser Whitethroats, a few Common Whitethroats, Sardinian Warblers, several Chiffchaffs, Indian Silverbill, Arabian Babblers, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows over. Very entertaining.


Called in at Eilat Birding Center - IBRCE. Nice to see a recovering Quail Molly's looking after. Gorgeous birds.

Despite the winds not appearing to be ideal I ventured into the Eilat Mountains for a relatively short while, enjoyed my breakfast, and saw little but always a nice place to be. Other birders were already up there and stayed on so I hope they were rewarded with some Steppe Eagles.


Finished my day at Yotvata Agricultural Fields where sightings included: several Red-throated Pipits (seems to have been another arrival) and Water Pipits, single Oriental Skylark (at least), two Marsh Harriers - female and a corking male. Game on.

 
 
Turkish Delight
 

Monday 4 March. Weather: gorgeous blue skies and after a slightly cool start it warmed up very nicely. Cloud 1/8, wind F1 WSW in the valley but higher up F2-3.


Did some more acacia wadi birding close to Kibbutz Lotan Desert Inn. The bushes were hopping with Sylvia warblers including: at least 3 Cyprus Warblers, c.20 Ruppell’s Warblers, many calling Sardinian Warblers, c.60 Lesser Whitethroats, a handful of Blackcaps and 3-4 Common Whitethroats. Also c.25 Chiffchaffs, Scrub Warbler, Arabian Babbler, c.12 Blackstarts, Little Green Bee-eater, several groups of Spanish Sparrows c.75 birds perhaps, Barn Swallows north plus the regular WSpec Bulbuls, Collared and Laughing Doves and Graceful Prinia. The bushes might be full of birds but getting a clear view and a decent photo is tricky. Really enjoyable birding though.


Headed up to Ne’ot Samadar Sewage, the grassy areas and the Cafe. Pretty quiet: Green Sandpiper, Bluethroat, single vocal Richard’s Pipit, 5-6 Corn Buntings but there was a noticeable number of White Wagtails - maybe c.40.


Took a wander around Kibbutz Lotan & Center for Creative Ecology during the afternoon to dusk: 5-6 LGBee-eaters, min.4 Bluethroats in the organic gardens, Sardinian Warbler, Common and Lesser Whitethroat and Chiffchaff, Black Redstart and single Robin. It was also interesting to note the increase in White Wagtails around the Kibbutz. Seems like there was an overnight arrival in the general area. Nice finish to a good day.

 
 
At least three
 

Tuesday 5 March. Weather: cloud 8/8 cooler start, wind F2-3 W. By midday rain was in the air and increasing dark clouds arriving from the west. Mid-afternoon F4 gusts, very dusty and rain became persistent.


Began by wandering around Yotvata acacia areas. Seemed to be less sylvias (here anyway) and more Chiffchaffs, Scrub Warbler, Arabian Babbler and Tristram’s Grackle but nothing new to add. After a quick coffee I roamed around the Grofit area. In what appeared a pretty birdless zone it turned out there was plenty around, mainly Chiffs, but also Black Redstart and a smart looking Stonechat, male Hen Harrier - been plenty of males but I can’t recall a female yet (also been even more Marsh Harriers). Desert Finches are everywhere and I must have seen over 100 birds this morning. The Hen Harrier shook everything up.


Was thinking of heading up to Ne’ot Samadar and Ovda but the wild conditions made me change plans and had me checking out the organic gardens at Kibbutz Lotan & Center for Creative Ecology. You get some protection from the elements here. No obvious sign of a change and still at least 3 Bluethroats, several each of Chiffchaff and Sardinian Warbler. The rain got heavier, the wind got stronger, the temperatures dropped and I headed back to my room.

Wonder if the rain will shake things up a bit?

 

 

Heading north - for the first time...

 

Wednesday 6 March. Weather: gorgeous blue skies, cloud 0/8, slight haze to east, wind a gentle F1-2 N or with just a hint of NNE. Temps just perfect.

 

Began at Holland Park, Eilat. Pretty obvious there’d been a clear out. Still birds around, however, as I made my way up the Park including: 10+ Chiffchaffs, a sprinkling of Lesser Whitethroats, Sand Partridge, Cape Hare plus the regulars. At the Top end it was a different story with the Retama Caper (Capparis decidua) living up to expectations big style. At one point I had 5 male Ruppell’s Warblers in view simultaneously and I estimated at least 3 others moved elsewhere for some peace and quiet - probably a minimum of 12 around. Top spot went to the Eastern Subalpine Warbler that was eventually forced out by the Ruppell’s. Shame as it would have been great to have enjoyed it for longer. Also Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap and Lesser Whitethroat in the same bush at one point.

 

Headed up to the Eilat Mountain. C.40 Black Storks was an encouraging start but all I saw of note subsequently were a few Steppe Eagles and Steppe Buzzards very high and distant above the Arava Valley. And so I made my way to the Eilat Birding Center - IBRCE. Great to meet again with Israel’s birding legend Ehud Dovrat and share some of his stories from way back. We scanned the skies for a while and noted a steady trickle of usually quite high Steppe Eagles but also at least 2 GSE and 2 Short-toed Eagles and single Marsh Harrier c/o the ringing team: Rei, Anton, Molly and Noam. Nice group of c.15-20 Baltic Gulls over. Saw my first House Martin of the trip among the Red-rumped and Barn Swallows.

 

Finished off around Yotvata then north to my base at Kibbutz Lotan Desert Inn but nothing different to report (see earlier reports). A very enjoyable day.

 
 
cantillans - some say he is the ONE
 
 

Thursday 7 March. Weather pretty much as yesterday. Glorious sunshine, cloudless blue skies, slight breeze F1-2 from north keeping temps down but beautiful birding conditions.


Began by heading north and then west along desert wadi - probably went 3kms in. Relatively quiet but still some nice birds including: 2 Cyprus Warbler MF and possibly a second female, male Ruppell’s Warbler, 2 Southern Grey Shrike, 8+ Scrub Warblers, several each of Chiffchaff and Lesser Whitethroat and single Common Whitethroat, 8+ Blackstarts plus the regular stuff. A group of 6 Dorcas Gazelle dashed through dust clouds and barren wastes, galloping hard on the plains and ran for the hills.


To Yotvata where I birded the sewage area and the adjacent scrub areas, date plantation shelter belts and muck heaps. Single E. Sparrowhawk, 30+ Chiffs, several Lesser Whitethroats, single Common Whitethroat and a few Sardinian.


Wandered around Kibbutz Lotan & Center for Creative Ecology to dusk but little change and if anything, other than White Wagtails which seem to have increased, a general reduction in birds.

Saved the best to last. Headed to Yotvata with Moni for a short night safari 1800 - 1930hrs. First a very brief flight view of an owl sp. but certainly too small for a Pharoah’s unfortunately. Then a couple of flyby Stone Curlews followed by much calling. And finally, Moni located a grounded Egyptian Nightjar. A couple more flight views and then two birds pretty much side by side in one of the agricultural fields. Superb finish.

 
 
A single Common
 

Friday 8 March. A day in the Deep Desert with my good friend Shachar Alterman. Superb weather so all looking good.


A little short of 1km from our target wadi we got a puncture. Whole new adventure changing a wheel on a Toyota Landcruiser but we managed it. Talk about a comfy ride though.

When we got among birds it was excellent but areas between were often fairly quiet. Sightings included: four Hoopoe Lark territories involving 5 birds, several Desert and decent numbers of Bar-tailed Larks including display flight and song. A handful of gorgeous Temminck’s Larks including a pretty aggressive territorial battle with a Hoopoe Lark. Two brief sightings of Desert Warbler and a distant Macqueen’s Bustard. Several groups of bugling Common Cranes, 4-5 Desert and 2-3 Isabelline, White-crowned Black, Mourning and a couple of Hooded Wheatears. Plenty of vocal Scrub Warblers, 6+ Ruppell’s Warblers, a few Lesser Whitethroats and Chiffchaffs. Quality birding.


Pretty remote area so no point risking too much. Took the sensible option and returned a little earlier than planned and had the tyre repaired. Coffee break at Ketura then a gentle drive around fields a little to the north where we had a smart Namaqua Dove. Steady flow of Barn Swallows heading north all day. Finished with an acacia wadi wander: Common Whitethroats have clearly arrived with at least 20 birds noted. Also several Lesser Whitethroats, at least 3 Ruppell’s and plenty of Chiffchaffs.

A really enjoyable day. Big thanks to Shachar.

 

 
Pull your horns in
 

Saturday 9 March. Weather: clear blue skies but a strong F3-4 N wind to midday then easing to F2 by mid-afternoon.


More acacia searching first thing. Seemed less birds for sure but still plenty of Chiffchaffs, a few each of Common (far less than yesterday) and Lesser Whitethroat, single male Cyprus Warbler. A roam around Yotvata and various places on my way back to Kibbutz Lotan but nothing new to add.

Tried Ne’ot Samadar mid-afternoon. Clearly been an arrival here. Sightings included: 2 Tawny and single Richard’s Pipit, single Eastern Olivaceous Warbler and single Eastern Orphean Warbler - both firsts for the trip for me, Quail, Savi’s Warbler, c.15 Chiffchaffs, Lesser and Common Whitethroat, c.20 Corn Buntings among the Spanish Sparrows, c.30 White Wagtails. Excellent stuff.


Wandered Yotvata to dusk: Marsh and Hen Harrier, Red-throated and Water Pipits. The dune bushes were very quiet. Most activity was over the north circular field: c.200 Barn Swallows but there had been a steady stream all day of Barn and Red-rumped Swallows and House Martins.

Enjoyable day.

 
 
Northeast for me please
 

Sunday 10 March. Clear blue skies with quite strong F3 gusting 4 NNE. By mid-afternoon quite warm and wind had eased F2. Very pleasant.


Began with a look around Yotvata Hai Bar acacia areas: Common and Lesser Whitethroat in reasonable numbers but no sign of a big fall. On then to the Eilat Birding Center - IBRCE. Was hoping to see Eastern Olivaceous Warbler in the hand and as luck would have it they managed to trap one. Always informative. Plenty of excitement when a Little Crake turned up in a trap. Gorgeous birds. Lots of Chiffchaffs, Lesser Whitethroats and Bluethroats on the southern fringe of the Park but not many birds entering the nets. Several Little Crakes, Reed Warbler plus a trickle of Steppe Eagles and Steppe Buzzards heading east towards Jordan. Good stuff. Big thanks to Molly and Hannes, Anton and Robin- part of the ringing team. Nice to meet Yael Lehnardt back on her old stomping ground.


Had a few things to sort so got them out of the way. Finished with a lovely evening walk around Kibbutz Lotan & Center for Creative Ecology Kibbutz Lotan Desert Inn and the Organic Gardens. Seemed quiet at first but there were actually reasonable number of Chiffchaffs, Lesser Whitethroats and at least 3 Bluethroats, Sardinian Warbler, c.40 White Wagtails heading to roost.

Took things a bit easier today but still very enjoyable. Even when it appears quiet I've found if I'm patient the birds have been there.

 

 

Go West!

 

 

Monday 11 March. Weather similar. Blue skies with a brisk NW F3 wind that switched briefly to NE early afternoon and then back again. Temps very pleasant.


Began with what felt like a 30 minute walk around Yotvata acacias but it was actually three hours. Time flies when you’re enjoying yourself. What looked like a Great-spotted Cuckoo heading north over the car turned out to be just that. Amazing birds. Next up was a beautiful Woodchat Shrike, followed by male and female Ruppell’s Warblers, Balkan and Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Lesser and Common Whitethroat, Isabelline and Desert Wheatear, Scrub Warbler, Arabian Babbler, Desert Lark, at least 12 Blackstarts plus the regular species. I also managed to see (what I’m presuming should be) a distant Acacia Gazelle. Steady flow of Barn and Red-rumped Swallows overhead. Really enjoyable birding.


Was just parking up outside Holland Park, Eilat when I noticed a decent raptor migration was underway with several Steppe Eagles and Steppe Buzzards heading east towards Jordan and quite noticeable numbers to the south over the North Beach or perhaps further south. Changed plans and headed to the Eilat Birding Center - IBRCE to hopefully get better views. Similar movement above the Bird Park but it seemed like the bigger numbers crossed a little south. Itai Shanni also noted good passage north above Yotvata / Kibbutz Lotan & Center for Creative Ecology so seems like a broad front movement. Also Little Crakes and good numbers of hirundines including Sand Martins.


Headed to KM20 Salt Pans. Species included: Little Stint c.120, Kentish Plover c.10, Marsh Sand, Ruff, C. Redshank, LRP and Ringed Plover, Black-winged Stilt, C. Teal, Shoveler, Black-headed and Slender-billed Gulls, White Wagtails.

Finished off at a relatively quiet Yotvata agricultural Fields. Sightings inc. Hen Harrier, Red-throat and Water Pipit, Desert Finches.

Posted a selection of images from what was a really enjoyable day.

 
 
Don't miss Mrs. projection
 

Tuesday 12 March. Clear skies early morning but 4/8 by afternoon with a hint of rain in them. Light N winds F2 veering either side and keeping temps down. Still pretty warm mid-afternoon. Very pleasant again.


Began further north up close to KM101 and then a little south on eastern side of road. Seven Isabelline, two Northern and single Desert and Black-eared Wheatear. Another very nice male Cyprus Warbler - they’ve arrived on Paphos so they’re on the move. After watching for a while it appeared like the Cyprus had struck up a symbiotic relationship with one of the Isabelline Wheatears. Nice to watch them working together. Male Sardinian Warbler, Common and Lesser Whitethroat, Scrub Warbler, Chiffchaff, Desert and Bar-tailed Desert Lark. Steady stream of Barn Swallows north.


After a coffee break at Yotvata it was getting a little hot but I tried my luck at the agricultural fields and then various places on my way back to Kibbutz Lotan Desert Inn. Nothing different to add.

Had the last couple of hours up at Ne’ot Samadar alfalfa fields where species included: Tree Pipit, a couple of Yellow Wagtails ssp. over, Lesser and Common Whitethroat, several Chiffchaff, c.40 Corn Bunting, Tawny Pipit, 4 Common Stonechat, a redstart sp. probably black, a few White Wagtails, Barn Swallows and Rock Martins.

A couple of butterflies thrown in: Painted Lady and Clouded Yellow (I think - please let me know) plus thousands of black caterpillars in the northern wadis - got to be good news.

 

 

Up at Ne'ot Smadar

 

Wednesday 13 March. 4/8 cloud, blue skies, wind veering all over the place during the day F2-3 then dropping off late afternoon before picking up again late on. Temps pleasant.


Yotvata Agricultural Fields. Species noted included: Desert Finches - less - but still plenty around, could hear Short-toed Larks going over before a group of c.40 dropped in, 3 flava wagtails sp., smaller numbers of Red-throated and Water Pipits (some in corking breeding plumage), several White Wagtails, Lesser Whitethroats in adjacent bushes, at least 2 Southern Grey Shrikes, numerous Crested Larks plus the regulars.

Hirundines were heading north: Barn and Red-rumped Swallows plus Sand Martins. At least 2 Common Stonechats, 4+ Isabelline and 3+ Northern Wheatear, several House Sparrows and Spanish Sparrows around c.200, Cattle Egret 20+.


Small but decent raptor movement east directly over Yotvata to midday, largely quite high included: juv Eastern Imperial Eagle, 7 Steppe Eagles, single Short-toed Eagle, 13 Marsh Harriers, 35 Steppe Buzzards, ad female Montagu’s Harrier, 3-4 Common Kestrels.


Finished at Ne’ot Samadar to dusk. Most of the birds of the last few days had moved on and been replaced by Red-throated c.25 and Meadow Pipits c.15, my first Cretzschmar’s Buntings of the trip c.5, also flava wagtail sp., c.50 Corn Buntings, 3 C. Stonechats, a few Lesser and single Common Whitethroat.

Met my good friend Klaus Bjerre at Yotvata for a chat. Great to see him back out here and promoting his beautiful book: 40 Years with Birds and Camera which is on sale at the IBRCE or the publisher. https://www.birds.org.il/en/article-page.aspx?articleId=1172

 
 
Small but decent - Montagu's Harrier
 

Thursday 14 March. Weather: strong W or WNW F4 wind, quite cold early morning, cloud 5/8. Ominous dark clouds but no rain. Pleasant by midday and wind gradually tailed off.


Intended hitting Uvda but changed track due to winds and birded Ne’ot Samadar. Sightings inc.: 2 Richard’s Pipits, single Cretzschmar’s Bunting, single Eastern Orphean Warbler, 18+ Lesser Whitethroats, c.20 Chiffchaffs, 4 Black-eared Wheatear in a group and single Isabelline Wheatear, 4+ Bluethroat, 4+ Short-toed Larks north, at least 3 Feldegg Wagtails, c.20 White Wagtails, several each of Red-throated and Meadow Pipit plus Water Pipit, 2 Balkan Warblers, 4 Hoopoe.


Birded several areas between Yotvata and Lotan but nothing new.

Finished north of Lotan with Masked Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Eastern Orphean and Ruppell’s Warbler, Balkan Warbler, Lesser Whitethroats plus the regulars.

Nice finish after a tricky start.

 

 

 
Behind the mask
 

Friday 15 March. Overcast start 8/8 cloud with little or no wind. Temps very pleasant. Ideal for some desert birding so took the opportunity to head a little north of Kibbutz Lotan Desert Inn and work my way back.


Early to mid-morning species included: Common Whitethroat 2-3, Lesser Whitethroat c.25, Ruppell’s Warbler - 2 males noted, 2 Eastern Orphean Warblers in the same tree top, Balkan Warbler, several Chiffchaff, c.12 Scrub Warblers, singing and displaying Desert Wheatear, Isabelline Wheatear, 2 Hooded Wheatear, several Desert Finches, a few Blackstarts, Southern Grey Shrike and the regulars.

It appeared quiet at first but 3 hours later quite a nice bunch of species noted. Plus the encounter with a smart calling male Dorcas Gazelle.

By mid-morning the cloud had reduced 4/8, still little wind to speak of, temps had risen but remained very pleasant for desert birding. It’s become clear there’s a good population of breeding(?) Bar-tailed Larks throughout much of the northern reaches of the southern Arava with calling, singing and display noted very regularly and at what seems like quite a dense level to me. I’m sure it will have been noted in the recent surveys. Also two more singing Desert Wheatears.


Headed back to Yotvata for lunch where I met the hard working team from the Eilat Birding Center - IBRCE: Noam, Shachar, Rei and Robin. Took my usual route back to Lotan but other than a Woodchat Shrike little change but it was the hottest part of the day.

Sat watching Lesser Whitethroats and drinking tea from the comfort of my beautiful garden at Kibbutz Lotan when between the Chiffchaffs and Lesser Whitethroats a nice Eastern Orphean Warbler popped up. Seems to be a few around which is good news. Finished off in the excellent Organic Gardens at Kibbutz Lotan & Center for Creative Ecology where it was great to see a couple of corking Cretzschmar’s Buntings. Great birds.

 

 

Dorcas Gazelle, southern Arava.

 

You tend to bump into a few when you're out birding remote areas but this male today was a bit special. Heard him calling numerous times as he came to inspect what was going on. Not convinced I was what he was hoping for. Came very close then typically ran for the hills. I don't hear them calling often. Nice encounter.

 

Saturday 16 March. Weather: overcast 8/8, cool but very pleasant. What little wind there was, was S or SSW.

 

Began at a very birdy Yotvata agricultural fields. Several Savi’s reeling from the North Circular. At least 7 Marsh Harriers roaming the place. Obvious migration underway and good numbers grounded including: c.30 Red-throated and c.10 Water Pipits, many in smart plumages. Short-toed Larks had increased to c.120, 2 Tawny Pipits, 2 Oriental Skylarks, c.35 flava wagtails north - those that I could see well were feldeggs, White Wagtail c.50, Northern Wheatear 2, Isabelline and Black-eared singletons. A lone Greenfinch,still several Desert Finches plus a steady passage of swift sp. (high) and Barn Swallows.

 

Raptors began moving up the valley from about 0900hrs, heading east into Jordan a little south of Yotvata Cafe area before veering west again and over-flying me at Yotvata N. Fields. Sightings included: adult Egyptian Vulture, at least 9 Steppe Eagles, 17 Black Kites and around c.60 Steppe Buzzards. As I sat in my lovely white plastic chair a couple of Cattle Egrets could see I was struggling and did their best to let me know when raptors were close. Red-throated Pipits joined the party.

 

The wind really picked-up during the afternoon W F3-4. Checked the small copse at the Ketura junction: 2 Balkan Warblers, Cretzschmar’s Bunting, Blackcap and at least 2 Lesser Whitethroats. In what was now a duststorm F4 W I finished in the Organic Gardens at Kibbutz Lotan & Center for Creative Ecology: 21 bugling Common Cranes battling their way north, single Common Redstart male which could quite easily have been Ehrenberg’s, Bluethroat, Balkan Warbler, several Chiffchaffs and Lesser Whitethroats.

Called it a day. Very enjoyable despite the dust.

As I type this the wind has dropped totally. Rained quite hard around 2000hrs but has stopped for now at least. Real weather in the southern Arava.

 
 
Red-throated - many in smart plumages - Yotvata 'Birdy" agriculturel fields
 

Sunday 17 March. Firstly I'd like to wish everyone a very HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY.

Weather: 3/8 cloud. Bright blue skies. Little wind to speak of. Lovely temps. Great birding weather.


2 bugling Common Cranes over Kibbutz Lotan & Center for Creative Ecology first light as I headed to my car. To a very birdy Yotvata agricultural fields. Strong hirundine and swift movement overhead: Barn and Red-rumped Swallow, House, Sand and Rock Martins, Pallid and Common Swifts. Where are the alpines?


c.150 Short-toed Larks, several Red-throated and Water Pipits, White Wagtails and a nice arrival / movement of (feldegg) Black-headed Wagtails. Northern Wheatears had also increased c.15, also nice male Desert and a Black-eared plus c.6+ Isabelline Wheatear. Two Tawny Pipits, c.300 Spanish Sparrows (the harriers will be after them soon), Lesser Whitethroats and Chiffchaffs in the adjacent bushes. Small departure of c.25 White Storks, at least 8 Marsh Harriers, 30+ Steppe Buzzards and 4 Lesser Kestrels.


After a coffee at Yotvata I checked a few places heading north.

Kibbutz Lotan’s approach road was flooded with Pallid and Common Swifts, plus hirundines all over, but pride of place went to the cracking Alpine Swifts (c.10) zooming around me. Great action and I got my wish. Superb.

Next up Ne’ot Samadar where I checked a few places at the eastern end. Relatively quiet but still managed a group of 9 Hoopoe, 3 Cretzschmar’s together, 2 smart Savi’s Warblers, feldeggs going over, Lesser Whitethroats and Chiffchaffs.

Lotan for lunch. Active Eastern Olivaceous Warbler just outside my garden and feldeggs heading over.

Finished by birding an acacia area a little to the north: another Eastern Orphean Warbler and possibly a second individual, Woodchat Shrike, Blackcap 3-4, several Chiffchaffs and c.20 Lesser Whitethroats. Arrived back at Lotan around dusk to the sight and sound of 15 European Bee-eaters - my first of the spring. Love’em.

 

 
Got my wish.
 

Monday 18 March. Weather: cloud 2/8 bright blue skies, cooling N F1-2 breeze but very pleasant shirt-sleeved birding.


Began at Yotvata Agricultural Fields. Clearly an arrival of wheatears, c.45 Northern, 10+ Isabelline, 3-4 Black-eared and no doubt a Desert in there somewhere. As I was scanning through the Short-toed Larks and Red-throated and Water Pipits I could hear a least one Oriental Skylark (still) in the background. Plenty of Desert Finches, Woodchat Shrike, Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier, a handful of Steppe Buzzards, numerous Crested Larks, several hundred Spanish Sparrows and plenty of White Wagtails, at least one Tawny Pipit, Lesser Whitethroats, Common Whitethroat, Chiffchaffs and Balkan Warbler in the nearby adjacent bushes. Still very birdy.


Had a coffee and paid a visit to a very quiet (and smelly) Yotvata sewage area. Not the place it once was, but Water Pipit, Bluethroat, White Wagtails nevertheless and still the potential to pull in a big one … just!

Not much to add on my way back to Lotan but decent numbers of Barn and Red-rumped Swallows moving and I noted a few high swifts sp..


After a mid-afternoon break spent drinking tea and birding from my garden, I decided to enjoy the delights of the grounds at Kibbutz Lotan. On my way to the Organic Gardens I found my first Wryneck of the spring. Incredible birds so took time out to enjoy it. Balkan Warblers in the nearby bushes. The Organic Gardens produced at least 2 Bluethroats, Chiffchaffs and Hoopoes and reflected an arrival of Blackcaps into the general area with several dotted around. A lovely way to finish my day.

 
 
Drinking tea and birding from my garden
 

Tuesday 19 March. Weather 1/8 cloud, fresh N wind F2, felt quite warm. Lovely birding weather once again.


Began with some very enjoyable acacia birding around Yotvata. Plenty of sylvia warblers including this very nice second year male Eastern Subalpine Warbler. In the same bush were Lesser and Common Whitethroat, Blackcap and a striking male Ruppell's Warbler. Not bad for starters. Just sat back and enjoyed it.


After a coffee at the cafe had a brief look around the agricultural fields. Plenty of birds and i was reliably informed by good friends Eran and Doug there were still plenty of Northern Wheatears and Short-toed Larks around plus at least one Oriental Skylark. Raptors passing high overhead.


Teamed up with David Schoneveld fellow Lotan Birding Center birder and friend and headed to Uvda via Ne'ot Smadar Sewage. Eurasion Sparrowhawk carrying prey, Stone Curlew, Bluethroat, flava and white wagtails, Green Sandpipers at the latter. Sightings in a luxuriant Uvda Valley included c.12 Pale Rock Sparrows, a small flock of Short-toed Larks, Northern, Black-eared and Isabelline Wheatears and a smart male Hen Harrier. Nice finish. Thanks David.

 

 

Just sat back and enjoyed it

 

Wednesday 20 March. Weather N F1-2 cooling breeze. Pretty much clear bright blue skies. Still extremely pleasant birding conditions.

 

Began at Yotvata. Didn’t seem to be a great deal of change generally but migration is so dynamic anything might happen. Still plenty of Northern and Isabelline Wheatears, plus Desert Finches. Got the impression there’d been an arrival of Chiffchaffs generally with many dotted around. Similar story with Lesser Whitethroats. Nice male Hen Harrier, came quite close eventually.

 

 

Eventually

 

Had a coffee and headed a little north of Kibbutz Lotan. I was banking on a few raptors coming up the centre of the valley but began by checking a few trees and shrubs. At least two Balkan Warblers, several Chiffchaffs and Lesser Whitethroats plus the regulars.

Around 0930ish I noted raptors heading my way so I jumped to a vantage point and got ready. And very nice it was to. They were already quite high against an extremely bright blue sky but they came right overhead. Birds included: a steady stream of c.200 Steppe Buzzards and a few less Black Kites, 5 adult Egyptian Vultures, a couple of Steppe Eagles, c.50 Black Storks, Lesser Kestrel plus Barn Swallows north. A nice male Ruppell’s Warbler appeared from nowhere along with a Lesser Whitethroat - in a lone bush nearby. Great stuff.

 

To Kibbutz Lotan Desert inn and a visit to the Bird / Wildlife Garden with Tamar Barda Weinner and Mike Kaplin. Plenty of sterling work going on to reinvigorate the whole area. I can already see big improvements and things are looking really good for later in the year and especially for next spring. Great work Team.

After lunch I headed up to the alfalfa fields at Ne’ot Samadar. Doug Gochfeldand Eran Banker were already there guiding a group from the US (I believe). Tipped me off about a Caspian Stonechat they’d found earlier. Thanks guys. Eventually relocated it at the western end. What a corking bird. Also Common Redstart, c.50 Meadow Pipits, a few less (perhaps) Red-throated Pipits and a handful of Tree Pipits, two Richard’s Pipits, Common Quail, several Corn Buntings. Very nice way to wind up a days birding.

 
 
hemprichii

 

Thursday 21 March. Weather. 0/8 cloud but quite hazy probably due to dust being picked up by the F1-2 NNE breeze - apparently much stronger in the Eilat Mountains. Temps beautiful again.

 

Black Kites first up typically, shortly after first light followed by a steady stream of Steppe Buzzards and a smart pale Booted Eagle - all northward bound right in the centre of the Arava Valley above Yotvata my first port of call. By mid-morning they were already very high in some cases but the stream continued.

 

Even more obvious than the raptor movement was the huge migration of Painted Lady butterflies coming out of Jordan and heading due west. They were up in the Eilat Mountains (85 in 5 mins Klaus Bjerre pers.com) and stretched from Eilat to Lotan for definite and surely beyond. The main news channels reported huge numbers on the Mediterranean Coast. Millions of them surely? I had 1250 in 30 mins from three sites at Yotvata and 131 in 5 mins at Lotan. Grofit was full of them.

Little change otherwise at Yotvata agricultural fields although there was an early morning wave of feldeggs. Returned later but seemingly the same. Plenty of birders visiting so they may we'll have sighted something different. We’l have to wait for reports to emerge.

 
 
Millions of them
 

Friday 22 March. Deep blue clear skies, just a hint of N F1 breeze helping out. Fabulous.


Superb birding in the wadis north of Lotan, along the roadside and just anywhere in between that looked good. Seems like the place is full of birds up this way and no doubt elsewhere. Fantastic setting to go birding

Began with a stroll around Lotan: 2 Common Redstarts were the pick but all the regulars and plenty of Chiffchaffs, White Wagtails and Lesser Whitethroats.


Headed north and just checked anywhere with acacias until 11ish. Brunch. And then it was more acacia areas north of Lotan. Species noted included: Masked Shrike 5, Eastern Orphean Warbler 8-10, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler 3+, Ruppell’s Warbler 7+, Balkan Warbler 6+, a bucket load of Lesser Whitethroats, many Chiffchaffs, single Sardinian Warbler, Southern Grey Shrike, at least 3 Cretzschmar’s Buntings, at minimum 20 Spotted Sandgrouse plus all the regulars. A Cape Hare made a dash for it from under my feet. A glance upwards brought a steady flow of Steppe Buzzards and Black Kites and an occasional Marsh Harrier, several Rock Martins and Barn Swallows north. Still many, many Painted Lady butterflies. Great stuff.

Acacia wadis can be tough places to get good images but you can always just sit and watch and enjoy. Brilliant birding.

 

 

Sweet for my sweet

 

Saturday 23 March. Deep Desert 2 starring Shachar Alterman. Slightly scary moments even in a Jimny x4WD. We didn’t travel as far in as last time but it was definitely worth the effort.

Weather: overcast 8/8, cool start (in our favour) but warmed up and cleared 4/8 by midday. Very light N F1 cool breeze. Grey clouds and drops of rain in the Arava 1600-1700hrs.


The acacias were packed with sylvias (again) especially Lesser Whitethroats and Blackcaps but also several each of Ruppell’s, Eastern Orphean and Common Whitethroats. But one of the highlights this morning for me was the sound of so many singing Balkan Warblers. Amazing. Several flocks of Short-toed Larks including one of c.60. Also 6+ Tawny Pipits, an obvious widespread arrival of Northern Wheatears but also several Desert, Isabelline and Black-eared. Hoopoes all over the place, a couple of Southern Grey Shrikes and plenty of Scrub Warblers. Encounters with 5-6 groups of Dorcas Gazelles. A few White and Black Storks and a Steppe Eagle overhead (we were looking down for the most part), a few Steppe Buzzards, an Osprey (always nice to see them in the desert) but best of all for me was a relatively tight-knit group of 5 Short-toed Eagles. Gorgeous birds.

Really nice when a flock of Pale Rock Sparrows dropped out of the sky right in front of us. Thanks. Hoopoe, Desert and Bar-tailed Larks plus many Crested - including much mimicry from the latter to keep us on our toes. A few Cretzschmar’s Buntings, single Trumpeter Finch and a lone Blue Rock Thrush to finish off..

Many wadis are in full bloom so even if birds are not your main interest you can simply sit and admire the fantastic colours and enjoy the lovely aromas.

Brilliant stuff as always and a massive thanks to Shachar.

 
 
Pale Rock N Roll
 

Sunday 24 March: Weather overcast 8/8, coolish start. Warmed and brightened by 1100hrs. Very light F1 NNE in the Arava Valley. Around 1300hrs winds strengthened F3, clouded over, rain spots. Light rain early evening. Storm predicted to arrive tomorrow.


Had to drag myself away from the wadis somehow so began at Yotvata agricultural fields. Plenty of Red-throated, a few Water and a sprinkling of Tree Pipits. White Wagtails, good numbers of Northern Wheatears and Short-toed Larks. Itai had Bi-mac(s) calling just beyond the north circular field and a Canadian birder had a Turtle Dove perched on a pumpkin (the Dove not the Canadian birder). Desert Finches still around and plenty of Crested Larks. Barn and Red-rumped Swallows heading north. A few flava wagtails in the sparsely vegetated areas. A nice male Marsh Harrier and Hen Harrier, at least 4 Lesser Kestrels, Steppe Eagle and a few Steppe Buzzards. Steady movement of passerines overhead. Most impressive is the build-up of Spanish Sparrows (c.500?) and the sight of small groups of them pushing on. Plus all the regulars.

The winds seemed good for a likely raptor movement and a decent number of them began appearing around 0900hrs. I shifted my position a little to the north in anticipation. Good move. Steady stream directly overhead included: c.500 Steppe Buzzards, c.40 Black Kites, a few Black Storks 10+, 3 E. Sparrowhawks… in around 15 minutes!


Couldn’t resist it. Into to a wadi to finish off. Sightings inc.: Masked Shrike, Ruppell’s and Eastern Orphean Warbler, Chiffchaff and Lesser Whitethroat, several Balkan Warblers, E. Sparrowhawk and the lovely sound of Red-rumped Swallows as they streamed north.

Last few hours to dusk wandering around Kibbutz Lotan. Looked like Common Swifts high and zapping north, also Red-rumped Swallows still. No real change otherwise.

Heading south to Eilat for the Champions of the Flyway opening ceremony tonight. Should be good fun.

 
 
On the wing
 

Monday 25 March. Spent a very nice evening, yesterday, at the CoTF opening Ceremony at the Eilat Birding Center - IBRCE. Congratulations and a big thank you to the organisers Dan Alon, Jonathan Meyrav, Noam Weiss and Yoav Perlman and the hard working members in their teams that made it all possible. And, of course, the very best of luck to the teams in this year’s race.

Helping save Africa’s Vultures.http://www.champions-of-the-flyway.com/


Great to see many old friends and to meet new like-minded people from around the World.

Very loud thunder overnight and some rain but we weren’t hit too hard. Predicted storm. It threatened all day but in the end we got away with it here and it turned out to be a pleasant, if windy, cool, fresh spring day, E F3, 4/8 cloud. Elsewhere, others were not quite so lucky.


Kibbutz Lotan & Center for Creative Ecology first light: Pallid Harrier, Egyptian Vulture (Swiss CoTF Team pers.comm). Increase in Blackcaps and Balkan Warblers, plus several Lesser Whitethroats, Bluethroat and a Squacco Heron (Mike Kaplin) at the Bird/Wildlife Garden but relatively quiet generally. C.50 White Storks over the kibbutz later and a steady raptor passage (Mike Nitzan pers.com).

Yotvata next: Desert Finches, Pallid (Itai Shanni), Hen and Marsh Harrier, flava wagtails over, Red-throated Pipits and Northern and Black-eared Wheatears, Greater Short-toed Larks and White Wagtails, Woodchat Shrike, E. Sparrowhawk, pale phase Booted Eagle, c.20 Lesser Kestrels, a few White Storks, Cattle Egrets, swift passage and those I could see well enough looked like Pallid.

 

 

Yotvata 


After lunch took an early afternoon walk around the organic gardens but no sign of an arrival although Blackcaps and Balkans were up a little.

Finished with a bit of acacia birding just north of Kibbutz Lotan Desert Inn. Sightings included: single Eastern Subalpine and Common Whitethroat (Swedish birders), male Ruppell’s, 8-9 Eastern Orphean Warblers, 3 Balkan Warblers, 2 Masked Shrikes, several Sand Partridges, at least 7 Cretzschmar’s Buntings and a stack of Lesser Whitethroats and Blackcaps, single Sardinian Warbler. Nice sight of c.160 Black Storks dropping in to roost at dusk brought things to a close.

Yet another enjoyable day.

 

Tuesday 26 March. Weather: cloud 4/8, bright blue skies, lovely coolish day although quite warm for a while midday. Winds appeared to be in the southern quarter at one point but finished up W F2-3 late afternoon. More great birding conditions.

 

CoTF race day. Bumped into several teams and all seemed to be enjoying themselves Good luck to them.

Began at Lotan with a good wander around. Increase in Blackcaps, also several Lesser Whitethroats, Balkan Warblers, Chiffchaffs, White Wagtails, Bluethroats, Reed Warbler and Common Nightingale.

Next to Yotvata agricultural fields where I met good friends Yoav Perlman and Klaus Bjerre. Species here included: a striking Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (YP), several Collared Pratincoles (KB), a few beautiful Black-eared Wheatears, good numbers of Savi’s and Sedge Warblers in the NCField (YP), still many Desert Finches, a few White Storks. There was a very nice overhead raptor passage though the birds were already high early morning. Posted a few poor quality images but gives a flavour.

Glanced at a few of the more obscure areas around Yotvata. Sightings included: C. Nightingale, Great Reed Warbler and some smart insects.

 

After lunch it was acacia time. Less birds generally but still: male Ruppell’s Warbler, female Blue Rock Thrush and many Blackcaps and Lesser Whitethroats, Chiffchaffs, Eastern Orphean, Balkan and Sardinian Warbler. Another day with at least three Masked Shrikes in it. Good passage throughout the day of Barn and Red-rumped Swallow and many swift sp. extremely high.

Really enjoyable.

 

 
Young Masked
 

Wednesday 27 March. Felt like the warmest day so far. Bright blue skies with a light N F1-2.

A walk round the Organic Garden at Kibbutz Lotan to start included at least 3 Common Nightingales, 2-3 Balkan Warblers, 3 Bluethroats, several Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Lesser Whitethroats, C.Kestrel and E.Sparrowhawk.

Sightings at Yotvata Agricultural Fields included: at least 3 Ruppell's Warblers, 5+ Lesser Kestrels, Red-throated and Water Pipits, c.45 Short-toed Larks, Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters calling, a few White Storks and a nice raptor passage of Steppe Buzzards and Black Kites. A soiled S.G Shrike performed well.

Ketura Sewage included Baillon's Crake, Green Sandpiper, feldegg wagtail, 4+ Bluethroats, Glossy Ibis.

Ye'elon was rather quiet and included: E.Orphean, Ruppell's and Balkan Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Lesser and Common Whitethroat, 3 Masked Shrikes, 4+ Greenfinch, Blue Rock Thrush, Red-rumped and Barn Swallows overhead.

 

 

Ketura sewage

 

28 Mar. Weather: Blue skies and the warmest day thus far but still very pleasant. 2/8 cloud and a light breeze.

Began at Yotvata birding with good friends Tuvia Kahn and Yaron Charka. Nice passage with Barn Swallows and Sand Martins heading north, occasional Common Swift, Red-throated Pipits, flava and White Wagtails, Short-toed Larks, Tree Pipit, Desert Finches, Northern and Isabelline Wheatears, Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters. Nice performance from the harriers and a smart Short-toed Eagle. Steppe Buzzards and occasional Black Kite. Several White Storks.

Common Nightingales and Bluethroats at several locations, also Balkan Warblers, Blackcaps, Common and Lesser Whitethroats, Chiffchaffs.

Finished my day at Kibbutz Lotan Desert Inn. Nice and tranquil. Sightings included: C. Nightingale, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Chiffs. L&C Whitethroats, Blackcaps.

A lovely day.

Kibbutz Lotan & Center for Creative Ecology

 

 

Limbo!

 

Friday 29 March. Weather cloudy 6/8 coolish start but little wind. Pleasant again.

Began at Yotvata agricultural fields: Hen, Marsh , Montagu's Harrier, Black Kites, Steppe Buzzards all around early doors. White Storks feeding up having roosted nearby. The Spanish Sparrows numbers have really built up so if you're familiar with this place you know what's coming - harrier trouble!

Northern and Isabelline Wheatears, Red-throated and Meadow Pipits, an increase in flava wagtails, still several each of GSTLarks and Desert Finches, Masked Shrike, Sedge and Reed Warblers in the alfala alongside calling common Quail. Despite all the above it felt quieter than of late and visible migration appeared less but more likely it was at a greater height and not viewable.

Around 1000hrs it all kicked off. Big raptor passage for the next hour at least. Thousands and thousands of Steppe Buzzards with several Black Kites mixed in and a nice Egyptian Vulture. They drifted north east from the Eilat Mountains heading into Jordan just south of Yotvata before turning north and continuing their journey up the centre of the Arava. It was relentless and spectacular. I was actually in the sewage area so not the most comfortable place to witness it but in truth I didn't notice the smell for the duration. Great stuff.

Next I headed down to Eilat for a piece of the International Bird Observatory Conference - IBOC. Great event and big thumbs up to the organiser Dan Alon - Israel Ornithological Center director

Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) and his Team of helpers and to the Partner Organisations.

I ended my day in a windy, dusty, slightly unpleasant Yotvata. Conditions were totally against Shachar Shalev and I as we attempted to relocate a Grasshopper Warbler somewhere in the pumpkin field. Needless to say we failed. Tomorrow?

Kibbutz Lotan & Center for Creative Ecology

Kibbutz Lotan Desert Inn

 
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Route 90
 

 

30 Mar. Today was almost a write off. A little under the weather. Managed to get up to a very quiet Ne'ot Samadar but nothing to report. Headed to the organic gardens to Lotan in very windy conditions and saw my first Ortolan of the trip. Worth the effort and that was it.

 

31 Mar. Weather: winds seemed to be WSW F2-3 with 6/8 cloud cover. Looked like rain clouds over the Eilat mountains but only a few drops down at Eilat. Heard later that it rained hard at Grofit, 30 mins to the north.

 

I did a tour of the salt pans at km20 but pretty quiet: a few sp. Curlew Sandpipers plus a couple still in wp,, several each of Little Stint, Redshank, Ruff and Kentish Plover, an odd Marsh Sand, Dunlin, Greenshank and Black-winged Stilt. The bushes to the west were quieter still but I did see a Dorcas Gazelle.

 

The strange conditions undoubtedly played a major part in a six-fold increase in birds trapped at the Eilat Birding Center - IBRCE: mainly Reed Warblers, but also Lesser Whitethroats and Blackcaps. When I walked round later the bushes were jumping with them, plus Eastern Orphean and a really smart female Subalpine Warbler (they ringed a male earlier).

This was replicated at Park Canada, Eilat, where the trees were very busy with Reed Warblers, Blackcaps, Lesserthroats, Balkan Warblers and a Masked Shrike.

Gave the North Beach a try. Several Common and a few Sandwich Terns, Black-headed and Slender-billed Gulls plus at least three White-eyed Gulls.

A fascinating day. Be interesting to see what effect this weather has on the raptor migration and anything else for that matter.

 
 
 
Black&White(-eyed Gull)
 

1st April. Spent most of my time at Yotvata where, by recent standards,it seemed relatively quiet but still plenty of birds and overhead migration. Red-throated Pipits, Short-toed Larks, Black-eared Wheatear, Desert Finches and at least c.100 flava wagtails moving through in a short period of time. Reports of European Bee-eaters moving through. I took things easy. Still recovering.


2 April. Weather: once again pleasant, cool temperatures, with increasing cloud throughout the day 5/8. WInd relatively light NW but swinging and gusting F3-4 at times.


Headed to the acacia wadis north of Kibbutz Lotan Desert Inn early morning. Packed with birds including: many Lesser Whitethroats, Blackcaps, plenty of Balkan Warblers, saw 5-6 Ruppell's, Eastern Orphean and 2-3 Masked Shrikes, Common Whitethroat, Scrub Warblers, 1-2 Wrynecks. Good numbers of Steppe Buzzards and Black Kites moving through the centre of the Arava. Really very impressive and thoroughly enjoyable.

Nice lunch at Ne'ot Samadar with Rei Segali before he heads north shortly. Then we birded the alfalfa areas where sightings included: 4+ Wrynecks, at least 2 Masked Shrikes, c.50 Tree Pipits, c.25 Ortolans, Richard's Pipit. Good hirundine passage with Sand and House Martins, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows. Several Common Nightingales, Reed and Sedge Warblers, Bluethroats during the course of the day.

Good stuff.

 
 

 

Wednesday 3 April. Weather: Hazy, cloud 4/8, bright and sunny, feeling quite hot in the lee but a cooling SW breeze F2-3 helped. As had been pretty typical throughout much of March the winds continued to pick up mid-afternoon W F3 gusting. I’m hearing reports that temps are about to rise. We’ll see.


Had breakfast with two performing Black Bush Robins, Reed Warbler and several each of Lesser Whitethroat and Blackcap. Down to the Eilat Birding Center - IBRCE where the ringing team was hard at it. Interesting Collared Flycatcher processed and recorded as adult female. Less birds around generally but still plenty of the common sylvia warblers and Balkan Warblers especially plus European Bee-eaters through.


To a pleasant Park Canada, Eilat: more of the same really. Been a clear out since the fall day of a few days ago but still plenty around including: Masked Shrike, Balkans, Lesser and Common Whitethroats, Blackcaps. Another male Common Redstart but they’ve been thin on the ground for me with probably less than 10 noted. Also single Ortolan. Called into a virtually empty copse along route 90 before arriving back at Lotan.


Finished with a slow wander around the organic gardens and the bird/wildlife park at Kibbutz Lotan & Center for Creative Ecology where sightings included: several Balkan Warblers - it’s been a very good spring for them with birds at virtually every site I visit and for several days now, 2-3 Wrynecks, clearly very hungry, devouring the profusion of insects in the gardens, plus a calling nightingale sp..

Really nice way to end my day.

 
 
 
Black Bush Breakfast
 

Thursday 4 April. Weather. Warmer day but a light F1-2 N helped keep things cool. Cloud variable 2/8 to 6/8 but lengthy sunny periods. Pleasant.


More acacia wadis to begin my day, north of Lotan, and they delivered once again. Packed with birds including: many Blackcaps, Lesser Whitethroats, Balkan Warblers, Masked and Woodchat Shrike, 3-4 Common Whitethroats, at least 5 Eastern Orphean Warblers including a blast of song from one, several singing Eastern Olivaceous Warblers and a single male Ruppell’s, Scrub Warblers and 2+ Common Nightingales. A brief visit from a pale phase Booted Eagle spiced things up even more.


Very little to report from a lunchtime visit to Yotvata agricultural fields and a few areas nearby. Obvious departure of many birds from the area.

Stayed close to home and finished with a walk around the Kibbutz Lotan organic gardens and grounds: 3+ Common Nightingales, several each of Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap and Balkan Warbler, male and female Common Redstart.

Close to dusk a party of c.40 Red-rumped Swallows appeared above the organic gardens, gulped down flies for about 10 minutes and continued northwards. Really nice. And a final check of the trees opposite the swimming pool produced a spanking male Semi-collared Flycatcher.

 

 

Spanking...

 

Friday 5 April. Weather: cloud variable but largely bright sunny day with a cooling N F1-2 although switched to east for a time then back. Pleasant.


Straight down to North Beach Eilat this morning to see if last nights Crested Tern was still around. No sign. Good to see Oz Horine, Amir Ben Dov, Noam, Ilan Biel, Aviv Etzion. A small group of White-winged Terns over, Marsh Harrier, Steppe Buzzard, E. Sparrowhawk.


To the IBRCE and a wander with Shachar Shalev. A Crested Honey Buzzard drifted over but difficult light conditions, Also two singing Rufous Bush Robins. A rather nice Great Bittern wandered over the road in front of me.

 

Walk in the park


Tried the Eilat Mountains but few raptors moving at the time. Down and into Park Shahmon. Birds included: Wryneck, Tree Pipits, many Lesser Whitethroats, several each of Blackcap and Eastern Olivaceous Warbler.


Gave KM20 salt pans a try. Sightings included: c.70 Little Stints, c.30 Kentish Plovers, around 15 each of Greenshank and Ruff, a few C. Redshank, Ringed Plover, Black-winged Stilt, two Green Sands, single Common Sand and an E. Curlew. A Steppe Eagle headed north. The date plantation: 3 Indian Silverbills, a brief Black Bush Robin, nightingale sp., c.20 E. Bee-eaters, Savi's Warbler, 2 Squacco and a Night Heron.

Finished off back at the beach: 10+ White-eyed Gulls, several Common, a few Sandwich and two Caspian Terns. Small party of Ruff through, several hundred Garganey.

 

Saturday 6 April. Weather: overcast, cool, very light N F1 breeze but switched to SSW with very light rain drops late afternoon.


Ideal desert birding so headed to the HaMeishar first thing. Wow! Amazing sight as I approached the plain. A vast sea of green. As I got closer it became a mosaic of colours and gorgeous aromas full of insects and birds and an Arabian Wolf. Never seen the place looking better.

It all kicked-off with an Arabian Wolf that scent marked an area and then casually walked past me as if I wasn't there. Incredible.

European Bee-eaters going through as were Red-throated Pipits. Bushes full of Blackcaps, Lesser Whitethroats and Ortolans. Many Spanish Sparrows, hundreds of Greater Short-toed Larks displaying, flava wagtails, Tree Pipits, Trumpeter Finches, Tawny Pipits. Breeding Bar-tailed and Temminck's Larks, Cresteds everywhere. The constant sound of singing Pale Rock Sparrows. Breeding Spectacled Warblers. Desert, Black-eared and Isabelline Wheatears. First it was Spotted then it was the turn of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse as they called and hurtled past. Barn and Red-rumped Swallows. Amazing stuff.


Late afternoon walk around Lotan was quiet but as the cloud cover thickened and a few drops of rain appeared a group of c.10 Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters suddenly arrived and settled in a tree at the south side. Looking south I could see raptors dropping down to roost in the central Arava so could be a good lift-off tomorrow morning.

 
 
I'll huff, and I'll puff...
 

Sunday 7 April. Weather: first hot day, touching 30C, but with a brisk SSW then W F2-3 breeze to help, cloud 3/8.

 

I could hear yesterday's Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters at dawn from my room. Seen heading north and then presumably the same group of c.8 went south over Kibbutz Lotan & Center for Creative Ecology. They seem to prefer the southern end for some reason.

 

Headed to a 'relatively' quiet Yotvata agricultural fields. Plenty of Sedge Warblers in the north circular alfalfa. At least 4 Marsh Harriers around. Quite a few of the roosting raptors were up early and headed west to the mountains: Steppe Buzzards and Black Kites. A little later several kettles of Black Kites mainly then north. Desert Finches still around and several hundred Spanish Sparrows. Single Northern Wheatear.

 

Needed to get a few things sorted then up to Ne'ot Samadar sewage but again pretty quiet: 5 Little Egrets and a Squacco. Tree Pipits over. Barn Swallows moving.

To the Organic Gardens at Kibbutz Lotan Desert Inn. Nice singing Rufous Bush Robin, male Common Redstart, what looked like 2 Thrush Nightingales (rather than Common - brief views), a few Lesser Whitethroats and Blackcaps, several Hoopoes.

Let's see what tomorrow brings.

 
 
 

 

Monday 8 April. Weather: Pretty hot first thing, 2/8 cloud, little or no breeze. By midday hazy with high cloud 8/8 and a light F1-2 W all helping make things feel more comfortable.

Began with a hike round Kibbutz Lotan & Center for Creative Ecology grounds and the Organic Gardens. Pretty quiet but clearly a significant increase in Blackcaps, still a few Balkan Warblers, also Lesser Whitethroats, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Barn Swallows, Sedge Warbler and at least two singing Rufous Bush Robins, Woodchat Shrike and a Common Nightingale.

Gave Wadi Ye’elon a try next and Kibbutz Yahell approaches. Much quieter than recent visits but still birds around; in fact a similar mix to Lotan.


Headed up to Ne’ot Samadar Sewage area and surrounds. Similar mix again plus Squacco, several European Bee-eaters, my first Turtle Dove of the trip, Steppe Buzzard and Rock Martins. Took a quick coffee break then birded the alfalfa fields and the vegetated areas to the west of the kibbutz entrance. Very birdy.


Up to 5 Namaqua Doves (shame I couldn't catch them at a better angle), at least 3 each of Wryneck and Masked Shrike, c.50 Red-throated Pipits, several Ortolans, White Wagtails and Tree Pipits, c.20 Balkan Warblers, Chiffchaff, decent numbers of Blackcap and Lesser Whitethroat, E. Sparrowhawk, flava Wagtails over, Rock Martins, Barn Swallows, Graceful Prinia and the other regulars. Got views of an obscured sylvia warbler that then hopped very briefly onto the ground in front of me and away. Managed to see just enough features to rule out anything scarcer than female Subalpine. Searched for some time without relocating it. Late lunch.


Finished my day with a good walk around Kibbutz Lotan Desert Inn to dark. No change in the Organic Gardens and a really nice walk to the Bird and Wildlife Park produced several Arabian Babblers and a singing Eastern Olivaceous Warbler.

 
 
 
Neot Samadar - Very birdy
 

Tuesday 9 April. Was pretty hot today low 30s. Little breeze or cloud cover although was quite hazy.

 

Began with a look round Kibbutz Lotan & Center for Creative Ecology: Reed and Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, several Blackcaps and a few Lesser Whitethroats.


Up to Uvda Valley. Pretty quiet at the south end with several Pale Rock Sparrows and Spotted Sandgrouse over. Moved northwards checking but little to report although the more heavily vegetated areas held Blackcaps and Spanish Sparrows.

The small copses nearby were much more interesting and included: European Scops Owl (struggled to see it well), male Collared and Pied Flycatcher, at least 3 Common Redstarts, 3-4 Wrynecks, a few Ortolans, Tree Pipits over, Hoopoes, Blackcaps and Lesser Whitethroats. Enjoyable.


A quick glance at Yotvata produced: Tree Pipits over and at least 2 Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters plus single Tawny Pipit.

Another check at Kibbutz Lotan Desert Inn  revealed a spanking Wood Warbler, Pied Flycatcher, Common Redstart, I heard a group of European Bee-eaters passing through quickly.

A final check at Yotvata: 2 Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters at least, Red-throated and Tree Pipits over, single Marsh Harrier and c.400 flava Wagtails. Did a short night-safari: 2 Golden Jackals and a Red Fox.

 

 

Circular Field of Flava

 

Wednesday 10 April. Weather: beautiful blue sky, a little hazy, around 28C with a light N breeze F1-2, cloud 1/8. Gorgeous day.


Began at Kibbutz Lotan & Center for Creative Ecology but little change from yesterday. Pied Flycatcher still present. European Bee-eaters going through.

Moved to Yotvata agricultural fields. More E. Bee-eaters on the move. Red-throated Pipits, flava wagtails in decent numbers, ring-tail Hen Harrier, 2 Marsh Harriers, Barn Swallows streaming through. Desert Finches still around but much reduced, Northern Wheatear. Checked a couple of areas nearby but nothing to add.


Down south and a wander around the Eilat Birding Center - IBRCE. Purring Turtle Dove (only my second), close encounter with a pale morph Booted Eagle, several Balkan Warblers, Blackcaps and Lesser Whitethroats, single Wryneck, c.150 Slender-billed Gulls that couldn't make their minds up about whether to move on or not.


Short hop to Park Canada. Very birdy: 5 Wood Warblers - turning into one of my best springs for them, vocal male Collared Flycatcher and an even louder Red-breasted Fly, Wryneck, Common Redstart, smart Barred Warbler, several each of Balkan Warbler, Blackcap and Lesser Whitethroat. Great fun and all in a city center park.

Took a break at the IBRCE and got views of what some people consider to be Indian House Sparrow. I'll try and get images.

Yotvata again on the way home: 4 Marsh Harriers, more E. Bee-eaters.

A nice day.

 
 
Red-breasted... Even louder
 

Thursday 11 April. Weather: Clear blue sky, bright sunshine, 25C with a lovely cooling N F1-2 breeze. Perfect conditions.

What a storming days birding. Packed with birds from start to finish. Quality and quantity. Superb.


Began at Lotan first light with a walk round the grounds and the organic garden. Clearly an arrival of Blackcaps and Lesser Whitethroats, an increase in Balkan Warblers and the Pied Flycatcher was still around. European Bee-eaters over. A grand start.


Next to Yotvata agricultural fields. Marsh and Hen Harrier, several Kestrel sp., definitely Common and most likely a few Lessers present, Booted Eagle pale phase through, two groups of Collared Pratincoles north, more European Bee-eaters, Black Kite and Steppe Buzzard. Just sat back and watched the migration go through. Red-throated and Tree Pipits, flava wagtails, GSTLarks, a Common Swift (I think), a group of c.50 House Martins plus a stream of Barn Swallows and a few Sand Martins. Excellent stuff.


Headed north a little beyond Lotan and birded a date plantation which had numerous Blackcaps and Lesser Whitethroats, Common Nightingales and a few each of Balkan and Eastern Olivaceous Warbler. Checked the scrubby areas adjacent and found a breeding pair of Stone Curlew (behaviour suggested they were), stacks of Lesserthroats and Blackcaps. Followed the course of the wadi and it was packed with birds. Singers included a confiding Eastern Orphean Warbler, Eastern Oli and Balkan Warblers. Rather nice. More European Bee-eaters over, Common Nightingales, Common Redstart, a mass of Blackcaps and Lesserthroats. Bumped into my fav phyllosc, at least 3 Wood Warblers - definitely my best spring for them, and a vivid Rose-coloured Starling to complete my circular walk. Really enjoyable.

Ended the day back at Yotvata with Pallid, Montagu's and Marsh Harriers, at least 2 Collared Pratincoles, Turtle Dove (they're beginning to build I hope). Fabulous day.

 
 
Quality & Quantity
 

Friday 12 April. Weather: similar to yesterday, blue sky, sunshine but with a cooler N F1-2 breeze keeping temps into the lower 20C. Cloud 1/8. Very pleasant once again.


As I was leaving Kibbutz Lotan Desert Inn a MacQueen's Bustard was at the side of the approach road. Part of the Jordanian release scheme this individual has taken up residence around here. They're already breeding further up the Arava so maybe it's here next?


Yotvata had plenty of birds but way less than yesterday and the vismig was much much slower (or higher). Couple of Marsh Harriers, Red-throated and Tree Pipits, flava