November - December 2014

Shachar Shalev 31/12/2014 00:00







What a week! What a weekend!

The shorter days don't leave light for mid-week birding but Yael and Shimon Shiff are regular birders during the week as well.

yael found and took some stunning photos of a Black-crowned Sparrowlark, the first seen here in 5 years.


Beautiful weekend weather here brought the birders out in force. Friday morning the Eilat/Arava Birders with Itai Shani scoured the Ovda valley and Naot Smadar. The highlight was 12 Temmincks Horned Larks. I now know why they're called the Devil's bird...of about 50 pictures I took only 2 were in focus! Lots of Eastern and Caspian Stonechats coming through, smaller numbers of Wheatears, Trumpeter Finch etc.


We couldn't resist stopping in at Yotvata on the way home and Itai found a Yellow-browed warbler at the ponds and I picked up a Black-winged Kite in the fields, still there this morning.

The fields are crawling with interesting birds so went back there this morning with Noa. First up were 2 Bimaculated Larks who made low passes over our heads and always landed in the distance. One Lesser Short-toed Lark kept disappearing amongst a group of Short-toed Larks and Skylarks.


Desert,Hooded and Isabelline Wheatears scampered around the groups of Red-throated Pipits, Corn Buntings, Wagtails, Namaqua doves etc. Above were Hen and Marsh Harriers, a nice Pallid male, Booted Eagle, Keastrels and Sparrowhawks.


A Little Swift also brought a smile to the cheeks. In the south field a suspected Buff-bellied Pipit and first Desert finch kept me busy while nearly stepping on 3 Oriental Skylarks. In the afternoon went to take a friends dog for a walk in the local park, first Robin seen and then in the school playground a beautiful Red-breasted Flycatcher flittered around...


you can't ask for more than that!








A tale of two days: Friday I dropped my daughter off at the kindergarten and headed off to Yotvata for a quick look.

The north field had the usual range of Skylarks,Short-toed Larks, Red-throated and Meadow Pipits, Corn Buntings, Namaqua doves and a single lesser Short-toed Lark.


Got to the South field and found it covered with huge numbers of birds...everywhere...possibly due to the sand storm brewing. All the species in the north were also in the south but with the addition of Chaffinchs, a Brambling, Desert Finch, Water Pipits, Jack Snipe, 3 Cream-coloured Coursers, an Oriental Turtle Dove ( found earlier this week by Itai), Caspian Stonechats, Lapwings, Oriental Skylarks, a Richards Pipit, Bluethroats etc etc.


My biggest surprise was stumbling across the Black-crowned Sparrow-lark amongst all the masses of birds.


Saturday morning headed back with Limor for a longer look around the fields....but the fields were (relatively) empty!!? As happens in migration, many of the birds had packed up and left. Still we picked up the Stock Dove I missed Friday, a one-eyed Little Crake, Booted Eagle and Hen Harrier plus the regulars...still plenty of life left in the fields!


Elsewhere a wave of Hawfinches is covering the country and even Eilat has 4 ringed at the IBRCE and I saw a couple at Park Holland. K19 and Elifaz have large numbers of winterers coming in with Pochards, Wigeons and Black-necked Grebes joining the other arrivals. Two Imperial Eagles are hanging round K19 while Steppe Eagles, Booted Eagles, Black Kites, Buzzards and Long-legged Buzzards continue to pass over.


Salt ponds very dull lately as is the North Beach though I did see a suspected Storm-Petrel hovering around the border bouys, it was simply too small and too distant to know anything useful about it.



I wish you all a wonderful week and keep us posted!








There is nothing like exaggerated expectations to ruin a perfectly reasonable weekend.

After a great weekend last week and the mega-rarities in the north we headed out full of energy and expectations. What we found was less of the same...


but we can't complain. Weather was magnificent, the company waStarted in Yotvata with a walk through the Acacias - a Wryneck, Redstarts, Black Redstart, Sardinian Warblers, Song Thrush, Siberian,Caspian and regular Stonechats. The south field had a wonderful group of some 40 Desert Finch, Hen, Marsh and Pallid Harriers, Buzzards, Sparrowhawks, Corn Buntings, Water and Red-throated Pipits, full range of Stonechats etc.

s great and there are still plenty of birds to enjoy.

At Samar we finally found some Desert Wheatears alongside a load of Water Pipits and Lapwings. Elifaz had more Desert and Hooded Wheatears, Greater Spotted Eagle, Pochards and Black-necked Grebes.


K20 remained boring, K19 some interesting Gulls and at the beach a couple of Siberian Gulls amongst the Baltic and Black-headed Gulls. This morning I went up to the Sayifim plain for a change of scenery. It's green and flowering and great for walking. Biggest surprise for the weekend was a young Lanner Falcon sitting near the entrance.


On the plain a first Asian Desert Warbler bouncing along after a small group of Bar-tailed Larks, a dozen Scrub Warblers, 40 odd Trumpeter Finch, a couple of Mourning and White Crowned Wheatears and plenty of Desert Larks. Elsewhere Ilan caught up with the Black-winged Kite and the park ringed a Moustached Warbler, a local rarity here. I've taken a day off Tuesday so hoping for some bad weather to push some birds our direction! Have a great week!






Another great week in our wonderful area, numbers down a bit but still some great birds to be found. The Lesser Flamingo is still here and has had plenty of visitors. Tuesday took a day off covered loads of territory. Around 40 Temmincks Horned Larks are hanging round Ovda along with a nice range of Wheatears, will be an interesting area all winter. Itai found a Buff-bellied Pipit at Yotvata where the South field continues to be very interesting.


Big group of Desert Finch are entertaining all, smaller numbers of Larks but there are still Oriental Skylarks hanging around, a Richards Pipit, Caspian and Siberian Stonechats, Red-throated and Water Pipits, Hen Harriers and a Pallid female, Sparrowhawks etc.


Saw the Black-winged Kite near the Sewage ponds, a Whiskered Tern still hanging around alongside a Reed Warbler and the loads of Bluethroats and Chiffchaffs. Also a pair of Dead Sea Sparrows made an appearance.


Km 20 has the regular waders in good numbers and plenty of Shelducks arriving. KM19 saw the first Tufted Duck, some nice Wigeons and the regular Imperial Eagle, a returning Buzzard and a couple of Siberian Gulls. Went looking for an Olive-backed Pipit in the date plantations and was surprised by fairly large numbers of birds, Chiffchaffs, Sardinian Warblers, Wagtails and Stonechats but no OBP's...



Got to Park Holland and found a Cyprus Warbler singing his heart out, probably because he had the park to himself! The beach continued not to surprise while Noa surprised us with a great Rustic Bunting...what a great way to end the week!






Change of Scenery!


This weekend 19 Eilat Birders headed off to the western Negev to get a taste of another section of the country, vast green fields, trees, owls and raptors.


We started in Mitzpe Ramon where we missed the Ring Ouzel and the Syrian Serins but picked up a Raven and a ringed Black Redstart ochrurus. In the fields of the Western Negev we soon found tens of thousands of Skylarks, Pipits, Corn Buntings, Linnets, Chaffinch, thousands of Black Kites, Imperial Eagles, Long-legged Buzzards, Perengrine Falcons, Cranes,Pelicans, a distant group of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse doing sky-aerobics, starlings, Lapwings, Hen Harriers, a Pallid Harrier etc etc.


At Kibbutz Gvulot we spent the evening admiring large numbers of Barn Owls and Long-eared Owls flying everywhere. The next morning we had 30 odd Long-eared Owls come out of a single tree! The kibbutz is teeming with Robins, Bluethroats, Chiffchaffs, Kestrels, Mynas, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Stone Curlews, Syrian Woodpeckers, a Wryneck and many other locals


....all in all a fun weekend!







While the week started on a sour note with a massive oil spill through the Ein Evrona Nature Reserve I'm confidant that the tough fauna and flora of the reserve will bounce back and even be stronger in the long run.


On the bird front I recalibrated my expectations for the winter season and had a wonderful weekend full of pleasant surprises. Friday I went to Yotvata with Sylvia, still plenty of life in the south field though less variety. We found an Oriental Skylark and Richard’s Pipit among the numerous Skylarks, Red-throated Pipits, Water Pipits, Wagtails, Lapwings etc.


Samar now has plenty of Water Pipits and a Desert Wheatear but no Buff-Bellied Pipits in sight. The Elifaz reservoir had 13 Pallas's Gulls, 6 Black-necked Grebes, a pair of Caspian Gulls, Greater Spotted Eagle, Osprey, Marsh Harrier with a wing tag, 2 Little Swifts, an Alpine Swift and a number of Pallid Swifts plus plenty of regulars.



This morning at KM20 the Lesser Flamingo was closer than normal, nice numbers of waders, Shelducks, some Wigeons etc. KM 19 saw the return of the Greater Crested Grebe, 51 Pelicans, a couple of Pallas's Gulls, Imperial Eagle, Dead-Sea Sparrows and many others. Still plenty of birding to be had here....have a great week!








Another beautiful week in the Arava which saw some rain for a nice change.


The most interesting find of the week was the 3 Egyptian Nightjars found by Noam Weiss in the Yotvata fields.

We don't know a lot about the movements of these birds, but Noam's find points to these birds wintering here… another piece in the puzzle of these elusive birds.


My weekend was similar to last weekend (unsurprisingly) with the same birds at most sites but also no small amount of movement. K19 and Elifaz reservoir have a wonderful variety of regular winterers - among the raptors, Imperial Eagles, Greater Spotted Eagles, a Booted Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard, Buzzards, Kites,Harriers, Sparrowhawks etc.


On the water Greater Crested Grebe, 10 Black-necked Grebes, many Little Grebes, Pochards, a Tufted Duck, Pintails, Shovellers, Teals, Wigeons, Mallards, 6 Pelicans, many Cormorants, Coots, Moorhen etc .


Plenty of gulls have arrived with Pallas's Gulls being the biggest arrival. There were 51 at Elifaz today and over 150 came to KM20 yesterday evening. With them plenty of Baltic Gulls, a few Armenian Gulls, 2 Siberian and 2 Caspian gulls, many Black-headed Gulls and one Slender-bill.


The Lesser Flamingo is still at KM20 and 4 cranes flew over the ponds in the evening.


Yotvata is well populated with a variety of Pipits, Corn Buntings, Skylarks, Hen Harriers etc’ with the chance of something interesting popping up. Itai saw a Hoopoe Lark near the main road so maybe these rare birds are bouncing back???


Happy Hannukah to all and have a great bird week!






This morning I headed out with Itai to look for wintering larks in remote areas north of Ovda and along the Jordanian border north of KM76.


I don't know if it was more out of curiousity or more a need to break out of our immediate area.

It was freezing cold on the Hemda plain and we covered a large area to find a few Asian Desert Warblers, some Scrub Warblers and a couple of Desert Larks and Blackstarts.

The blood red sun at dawn gave us a nice look at the sunspots, other than that not too exciting. The border area including KM76 was not exactly bouncing with birds either but we had some Desert and Hooded Wheatears, a couple of Asian Desert Warblers plus a Spectacled Warbler, Southern Grey Shrikes. Still no Sandgrouse (Spotted or Crowned) or larks though.


We are so spoiled here this is considered a slow morning. On the way home I popped in to see the Sinai Rosefinch at Amrams Pillars and a great variety of birds at KM19. A nice group of raptors were combing the area, 2 1cy Imperial Eagles, a Bonelli's and Booted Eagle, Osprey, Long-legged Buzzard and Sparrowhawk.


On the water all the birds from last week plus a nice range of gulls including a massive Siberian Gull and very small Caspian Gull. Next week Eilat's birders are heading north for a taste of winter, a change of scenery and hopefully some great birds. You can hear about it here next week!



Have a great week!






The Eilat and Arava Birders go north!

There are many species that are taken for granted in the north that we rarely or never see in our area. So once a year we make a pilgramage to see some of the birds we are missing.


We started at Arbel cliff in search of Wallcreepers which we didn't find. There were some Blue Rock Thrushes, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Tits, etc but nothing too exciting.

That only left us time for a visit to the Hula where thousands of Cranes run round like chickens after a tractor spitting out corn.

I'm not a big fan of this phenomena but it is an interesting study in the strained relations between man and bird.


Next morning a quick walk around Tel-Hi campus brought the first Hawfinch, Serins, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Goldfinch, Linnets etc and then off to the Upper Gallilee Vineyards in search of Thrushes... but the vineyards were empty.


We headed off to Biria for a change of luck and had plenty of Hawfinches and regular passerines but no thrushes or buntings. It was then off to Kfar Baruch to catch the Lesser White Fronted Goose and some waterfowl.

Good to meet Frank there adding to his impressive Israeli list and plenty of good birds around....would have liked to have stayed longer but Eilat is a long haul...


so until next time have a great week and a Happy New Year!




Shachar Shalev

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