Januar - May 2015

Shachar Shalev 01/06/2015 00:00

3.1.15

 



 

No news is not always good news....

not a lot happening in the region and even a number of the more interesting winterers are missing.

 

Find of the week was a Fieldfare found by Mori, a bit of a local rarity. Yesterday found my first Pale Scops Owl of the winter in Nahal Shlomo during a chance Jeep trip with a friend.

 

A couple of common gulls have arrived as well as a Peregrine Falcon, the Lesser Flamingo still at home in KM20 and very little else of mention.

Not a single Pallas's Gull has remained and only a few Fuscus and Armenian Gulls to be found. We haven't escaped the cold snap so many birds may have continued south. Checked out Yotvata, Elifaz, Samar, all the ponds, the sea....it's a good thing the price of petrol is falling!

 

Have a warm and pleasant week and better luck next week!

 

 

 

 

10.1.15

 



 

While the rest of the country is having a magnificent time on the Mediterranean coast, here we are waiting for the storm to throw us a bone.

Strong cold winds, a sprinkling of snow on the Jordanian mountains and few birds to warm the heart...

Had a good walk around Evrona for the first time since the oil spill and the place looks in great shape...more birds than you generally find here in winter, plenty of Dorcas Gazelles and Cape Hares, trees and bushes in good shape, the oil has dried up and is being covered over by sand and dust storms....all looks very positive.

 

I found 1 Asian Desert Warbler, 1 Spectacled Warbler, around a 100!! Palestine Sunbirds, Scrub Warblers, Babblers and all the regulars.

At Ovda I picked up a pair of Thick-billed Larks, Itai bumped into the Temmincks Horned Larks, saw a group of Spotted Sandgrouse for the first time in quite a while, otherwise regular Wheatears and Trumpeter Finch.

 

Five Imperial Eagles can be found regularly in their favorite spots, including a juvenile on a power pylon at the entrance to Samar...

I wonder if it's the offspring of the Samar Imperial Eagle adult???

At KM19 5 Penduline Tits and 2 Moustached Warblers can be seen sunning themselves at dawn on the southern reeds.

The Dead Sea Sparrows are regulars on the eastern bushes, while good numbers of raptors, gulls and waterfowl can be seen all hours of the day.

 

Not much change elsewhere, keep trying the North Beach in hope of change but no luck...maybe next week! Have a good one!

 

 

17.1.15

 



 

 

This weekend I spent both mornings in the Eilat Mountains mainly because they got some good rain and they are stunningly beautiful after rain.

After a 10 year drought left many species moving out, not visiting or in decline, we now have a 4th year of good rain and some species are making a comeback.

 

Today I wandered down ravines carrying big pools of water, fresh growth and plenty of locals, something that is sure to attract migrants this spring. House Buntings have been seen in a number of locations after a long absence, Lichtensteins Sandgrouse have been seen further north than ever before and I had a beautiful Hoopoe Lark yesterday with Itai and a second one this morning with Sylvia (appeared different in coloration, maybe male and female).

It's a bird I haven't seen often and great to see him back in old habitats.

 

 

Also present plenty of Trumpeter Finch, Desert Larks, a couple of Bar-tailed Larks, Hooded, Mourning and White-crowned Wheatears, Scrub and Sardinian Warblers, Brown-necked Ravens etc. Friday with Itai an interesting looking raptor got away from us before we managed to identify it, similiar to Levant Sparrowhawk in flight and size, pale head, body and underwing, darker upperwing... ? Elsewhere 2 Buff-bellied Pipits at Yotvata (Itai), K19 had a number of Reed Warblers, a Cetti's Warbler along with the Penduline Tits and Moustached Warblers, a passing Steppe Eagle etc etc So join us for a great winter (lite!)...(PS disasterous weekend with the camera, couldn't get a single bird to sit still!)

 

 

 

24.1.15

 



 

Preparing for the spring migration!

In Eilat the spring migration is a crazy time when all the different birding sites fill up, long weekends and many events.

By next weekend the first migrants are going to be moving through, Pallid Swifts, House Martins, Steppe Eagles, possible Egyptian Vultures and more....

 

So this is a good weekend to spend with the family, we're not going to see much of them from late Feb to May.

After a good morning with the Bird club Friday morning, took the girls to the beach (25C here), out to dinner and up to a great spot in the mountains for a photo shoot.

 

Excellent weather, beautiful scenery, a stunning little oasis with a smattering of Scrub Warblers, Trumpeter Finch and Blackstarts....By next week we'll be back with some birding news!

 

 

 

31.1.15

 



 

Three Bird Weekend!

 

Expectations weren't high for the weekend as we can pretty much name each individual bird wintering in the area by now....

and then came the Golden Plover at Yotvata.

 

Golden Plovers are rare in the Arava and there's about the same chance of seeing the European version or the Pacific version.

So Friday morning I picked up Limor and went in search of the bird. It didn't take us long and he was quite friendly so we waited for Itai before pushing him into a short flight...very white underwing... definite Euro GP, beautiful bird!

 

Heading back to Eilat we got the word that a Red-billed Teal had been found in the northern Arava. So I picked up my daughter, packed the dog and Limor into the car and we all headed off for the twitch.

Nice outing, good place to meet some "twitching" friends. Nice bird, definitely gave the impression of a true vagrant, if so will be second, maybe 3rd record for Israel (one seen in August by Elon Gur came to light just now).

 

While the others headed off to look for a Bateleur, my crew headed back to Eilat happy with our veiws.

This morning I did the local round to leave time for the family. At the beach had a short view of a probable Cory's Shearwater and in general much more movement...maybe things waking up.

 

The ponds had all the regulars and finally had some 30 House Martins moving north with the occassional Barn Swallow and Pallid Swift. This evening took the dog for a walk in Nahal Shlomo and finally found the local Pallid Scops Owl, beautifully hidden...

must of passed him a few times in last few weeks(others have also searched there too)...what an artist.

It was last light so got to see him come out and sit in the open. When sleeping he is tiny and thin but when he awakes he puffs up his feathers and doubles in size... nature is something else!

 

 

7.2.15

 



 

Lets start at the end....WOW!!

 

I was milling around K19 this evening when I felt a southerly breeze spring up... Put my foot on the gas and headed straight down to the North Beach. This instinct generally ends in disappointment but after meeting up with Yorum & Dafna I soon spotted the Brown Booby on the border bouys.

 

it didn't sit around for long and after passing us about 100m out he headed in to where a group of White eyed Gulls were fishing right on the beach.

I did the 200m in 20 sec on sand and soon had this amazing bird skimming around my ears, diving in at my feet and pulling out fish with nonchalent grace...it is an absolutely stunning bird...wow I just live for these incredible moments.

 

We had 20 minutes worth... the only tragedy was my camera malfunctioned this morning and a camera I borrowed ran out of battery exactly as I got out of the sun's glare! Murphy!

 

Rest of the weekend was pleasant, interesting without being overwhelming.

Friday- Ovda Lesser Short-toed Lark, 4 Asian Desert Warblers, finally some Crowned Sandgrouse, 5 Bar-tailed Larks and plenty of Wheatears. Yotvata- plenty of Barn Swallows and House Martins otherwise quiet.

Elifaz has 4 Ferruginous Ducks and large numbers of regulars, Bonelli's Eagle at Samar, KM19 had nice array of raptors and well worth a look around. Migration is now picking up with Slender-bills arriving in big numbers and others also coming in. This morning went to check the water-hole in the mountains and was excited to find Sinai Rosefinch(9), Desert Finch(3),Trumpeter Finch (30) and a pair of Striolated Buntings all sitting on the cliffs around. Beautiful spot, great species!

 

 

I was expecting a quiet weekend but even out-of-season can be exciting here! Have a great week!

 

 

14.2.15

 



 

Stormy week in the country ended in a cool but fine weekend in the south as Eilat Birders headed off to Nitzana to see Houbara Bustards.

 

The week saw high winds, dust and sand storms, big waves at the North Beach that subsided and brought a wave of Steppe Eagles, 483 counted today!

Friday morning the team headed out... nice morning at the Mayshar turned up 10 Temmincks Horned Larks, around a 100 Spotted Sandgrouse, Asian Desert Warbler, Spectacled Warbler and a number of Wheatears....respectable!

 

We then moved on to Sde Boker to check out the Bonelli's Eagle couple and the Griffon Vultures. Had great views and picked up 5 tags, P05,P07,P25, K35, 12V4.

Moving on we tried our luck with the Syrian Serins in freezing winds but they continued to elude us all weekend.

 

We spent an unusual night at Nitzana with various groups of children but escaped early the next morning to go find Houbaras. With the generous help of Meidad Goren we soon had 3 males dancing in front of us, one dancing on the overlooking ridge, something of a novelty.

It is such a shame that these birds are now critically endangered here when once they were a regular sight in the Negev.

 

Next stop was looking for Sandgrouse coming to drink, but we only picked up two Black-Bellied Sandgrouse. Pintailed and Spotted Sandgrouse have also seen big drops in numbers meaning action is needed with these great birds too.

We then took a long drive to find the Saker Falcon which poachers had tried to trap the previous evening. We found him safely moving from pylon to pylon, but one wonders how much longer we will see this endangered species here. After another attempt for Syrian Serins(we did see a loving couple of Ravens) we headed home tired but happy.

 

 

Wishing you all a happy week!

 

 

 

21.2.15

 



 

The little fellas are back!

The migration bells are now chiming loudly as a wave of warblers join the masses moving north.

If on Friday I had one Ruppels Warbler, today there were eight in Park Holland.

There was also a Cypress Warbler each day,Blackcap, Whitethroat, plenty of Lesser Whitethroats and a big wave of Chiffchaffs.

 

At KM19 there were a couple of Moustached Warblers now joined by Sedge and Reed Warblers. Ringing began this week and their timing is spot on!

Down at the sea the Brown Booby has been hanging around, many adult Yellow-Legged Gulls arriving along with the Siberian, Caspian and Armenian Gulls and a Sandwich and White-Cheeked Tern also arrived.

 

This afternoon groups of Common Swifts and House Martins came dancing across the water and among them was a couple of Alpine Swifts and a Little Swift. Not much change at the ponds but met a visiting birder we had met at Nizzana last week who had found a Dunn's Lark at the Mayshar on the way down.

 

A quick visit to Yotvata saw only rain, cold and no birds but I'm sure next week it will spring in to life.

 

 

This is a great time to visit Eilat, see you here!

 

 

 

 

28.2.15

 



 

Slow weekend for me but plenty of birds coming through Eilat now.

Friday was hot and hazy, went out with Itai to search the fields of Yotvata, Lotan, Samar and Naot Smadar.

Yotvata south was covered with Chiffchaffs, some Bluethroats and Corn Buntings alongside the Swifts and Barn Swallows.

Lotan had a nice wave of Black-eared Wheatears but little else. This morning was freezing cold as headed up to Eilat mountains, blowing a gale....even the few birds hanging around were miserable...some Trumpeter Finch, Morning and Hooded Wheatears and a Cyprus Warbler.

 

The ponds were fairly low in numbers but had some big waves of Sand Martins and Red-rumped Swallows passing through.

Other new-comers were the Garganey, a purple Heron and some Woodchat Shrikes. Park Holland still has plenty of Ruppells Warblers, Lesser Whitethroats etc and even 3 Blackbirds...Itai had more luck in Ovda with Thick-billed, Temmincks and Bar-tailed Larks so that's an area well worth checking out.

 

Things are moving into high gear here, so now's a great time to make plans to visit!

 

 

7.3.15

 



 

Eilat is now officially boomtown for migration!

The numbers aren't that high this weekend but everywhere you look something new is passing by, another group comes swirling round your ears and you can't drag yourself home anymore.

 

During the week many birders enjoyed the Thick-billed Larks, Temmincks Horned Larks and fantastic views of 3-4 Egyptian Nightjars who have been wonderfully amiable.

In Park Holland a Subalpine Warbler has joined the Ruppells,Whitethroats etc and 3 Syrian Serins were also spotted... a great find for Eilat. Friday morning I had a Little Gull at Km19 alongside a nice array of raptors. In the mountains a steady stream of Buzzards and Steppe Eagles... but nothing compared to the weeks to come. Saw the Striolated Buntings near the road, another good reason to hang around Route 12.

 

In the evening had a quick look around South field of Yotvata before joining Noam and the IBRCE team for some great Nightjar magic. Not many birds but got a first Bimaculated Lark, a Siberian(Maura) Stonechat and a number of Quail coming out from underfoot.

This morning I picked up Sylvia and we headed off to Ovda. First bird of the morning was a Savi's Warbler! Some migrants coming through but we missed the Thick-billed Larks. Returning to the car we found a Mourning, Desert and White-crowned Wheatears fighting over a place on the car roof. Bar-tailed Larks, all the Wheatears, 2 Asian Desert Larks and nice to get some Crowned Sandgrouse who have been absent without leave much of the winter.

 

Yotvata was quiet apart from many Short-toed Larks and a nice passage of raptors including Steppe Eagles, Short-toed Eagles, Booted Eagles, Peregrine Falcon and Buzzards.

 

Way back to Eilat met up with Frank to do the ponds, nothing striking though the 3 dark-morph Marsh Harriers made an interesting talking point (saw one Friday). Then invited him back for coffee and cake where we could talk cricket! (My native NZ thrashed England....and needed someone to brag too!) Have a great week and get here ASAP!

 

 

14.3.15

 



 

Great week in the area with an impressive list of special species seen during the week.

During the week I sat at work eating my heart out as a Terek Sandpiper was found by IBRCE team, White-tailed Lapwing was found by Itai, a Pied Wheatear and Black Bush Robin were found by the crack IBRCE spotting team and then a Caspian Plover was found by Itai.

 

Friday finally arrived and got out with Itai and the Eilat/Eilot birders. After a visit to the ringing station (they caught a nice Subalpine Warbler the same morning) we headed off to Park Holland. The place is bouncing with warblers, many Lesser Whitethroats, Ruppells, Eastern Orphean, Bonelli's, Chiffchaffs, Whitethroat and a reclusive Menetries female.

 

At Km 20 a nice row of Isabelline, Black-eared and Northern Wheatears were bouncing along the border fence interspersed with Tawny Pipits and various warblers. This morning headed off to Yotvata where I met up with Shachar Alterman. In a "golden" 20 minutes on the eastern side of the south field we had 6 Bimaculated Larks amongst a group of 150 Short-toed Larks, a Temminck’s Horned Lark accompanied by a Lesser Short-toed Lark, Desert Finch and Trumpeter Finch, a Pallid Harrier and a Pied/Cyprus Wheatear which looked very interesting(but escaped too soon)... and all this to the music of a Hoopoe Lark singing his heart out.

 

Also in the field: Tawny, Red-throated, Meadow and Water Pipits, Eastern Stonechats, Reed Warblers, Bluethroats, Hen Harrier, Buzzards, Booted Eagle, Swifts, Swallows and more and more... great place to hang out for a few hours. Other areas had Little Ringed Plovers, Green Sandpipers, Greenfinch, a group of 20 Desert Finch, the White-tailed Lapwing still posing, first Masked Shrikes....great morning out!

 

 

It's all going off now, come help us see it all!

 

 

21.3.15

 



 

The annual Bird Festival in Eilat got underway this week and just when you expect major migration the birds stayed away in droves.

There may be a major wave waiting just south of us or they are bypassing us to the east and west due to good conditions all around.

There were still some nice species found this week including Cyprus Wheatear, Black Bush Robins in a few sites, Cinerous Bunting, Rock Thrush, Subalpine Warblers etc.

 

Raptor migration is strong with thousands of Buzzards passing daily, Steppe Eagles, Lesser Spotted Eagles, Black Kites etc...first Montagu's Harrier seen today.

 

Park Holland has continued to draw many birds and birders but other areas are struggling. Park Canada has a lone Semi-Collared Flycatcher, Ortolan Buntings and some Redstarts. The Eilot fields have seen Wheatears, Eastern and Caspian Stonechats, Tree Pipits, Cretzschmars Buntings, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Quail etc.

 

The sea is very quiet but a couple of Common Terns and 5 Gull-billed Terns showed up today.

 

 

This week is the big race and like other teams I am scouting out areas. Short trip to mountains found breeding pairs of Desert, Hooded and Mourning Wheatears, an Asian Desert Warbler and Scrub Warblers. Really hoping for an improvement this week and good luck to all for the race!

 

 

 

28.3.15

 



 

The Big Race - It was great to see so many birders from around the world in Eilat for a great cause - stopping the illegal slaughter of migrant birds in Cyprus and the region.

Everybody had a great days birding and raised money at the same time. On the birding side it was a hard slog with a strong northerly wind leaving many areas birdless.

 

What we did have was fantastic raptor migration, tens of thousands of buzzards plus Steppe, Lesser Spotted, Booted, Short-toed, Egyptian Vulture and more...

 

The day after the race a whole array of new migrants arrived, Pratincoles, Phalarope, Greater Sand Plover, Nightingales, Pallid and Montagus Harriers, Barbary Falcon,Turtle Doves and many more...

 

I had a pair of Hill Sparrows at Yotvata, 3 Great Bitterns were seen at Km19 and a Caspian Plover seen at the Bird Park ponds. Another favourite with visiting birders are the Striolated Buntings and a group of Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse who are roaming the same area.

 

The beach scene has come alive with Common, Little, Sandwich and Gull-billed Terns patrolling with a lone White-cheeked Tern hanging around.

More waders are arriving and KM20 is changing daily while big numbers of gulls are overnighting at the park ponds.

While we locals are complaining about a slow migration our visitors are smiling from ear to ear...

 

 

so come to visit...you are sure to enjoy it!

 

 

 

4.4.15

 



 

First week of April generally brings a lull in the migration and this spring being a bit slow means hard times for birders during this lull in proceeding.

 

This weekend was so slow I couldn't buy myself a bird! Well maybe I'm exaggerating a little. There has been the caspian Plover and Black Bush Robins during the week...  and yesterday I had an early Sooty Falcon upsetting the residents of KM20.

 

There were also 5 Montagu Harriers sitting at Yotvata north this morning along with a Peregrine on the dunes… in fact there are raptors everywhere...Buzzards and Kites cover the skies and trees, some Steppe Eagles, Short-toed Eagles, Booted Eagle passed within a few metres of a plane at Eilat airport, young Imperial still at Samar…

 

a few waders around also, couple of Broad-billed Sandpipers, a first Curly Sandpiper, 50 odd Collared Pratincoles, one Black-winged Pratincole seen Thursday, 13 Red-necked Phalaropes, a few Greater Sand Plovers, plenty of Wood and Marsh Sandpipers, Little Ringed Plovers and Kentish Plovers in good numbers, still Black and White Storks coming over, Garganey, 2 Ferruginous Ducks and a Pochard, a nice Steppe Gull alongside many Baltic Gulls, Gull-billed and Common Terns.

 

But the fields were very quiet, a few Pipits, Ortolan, Cretzschmar’s and Corn Buntings, a few Larks, Yellow Wagtails etc Sewage ponds had a Little Crake and a couple of Masked Shrikes and of course some Blue-cheeked and Common Bee-eaters now coming through, add to this a nice passage of Lesser Whitethroats, a tailless Common Whitethroat, many Bonellis orientalis and Willow Warblers, Blackcaps, Sedge and Reed Warblers, the odd Nightingale and Eastern Olivaceous Warbler plus the never-ending flow of Swallows, Martins and Swifts....

 

 

yes the migration is slow but it is everywhere! And then you have the locals with some Namaqua Doves reappearing, Rufous Bush-Robins looking for breeding sites, Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse and Striolated Buntings keeping the birders happy… life is not so bad here after all...and just wait to see what is yet to come! Happy Holidays and see you next week!

 

 

11.4.15

 



 

Firstly I would like to apologise to all my readers who weren't in Eilat this week, this is not going to be easy....eat your hearts out!

 

Black-Crowned Sparrowlark, Dunn's Larks, Caspian Plover, Black-Bush Robins, Hoopoe Lark, Bimaculated Larks, Cream Coursers, Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, Bar-tailed Larks, Thick-billed Larks, Citrine Wagtails, Goshawk, Pied Flycatcher, Sooty Shearwater, Pratincoles, Phalaropes, Raptor Migration, Buntings, Warblers, Terns and much more.

 

It all started Sunday with the discovery of the Sparrow-Lark… I get home at 5pm and drove like a madman up to the Se’i’fim Plain in hope of getting a glimpse of this rare visitor.

Frank, very generously waited for me and within 10 minutes we found with fantastic views from a few metres away. Then Itai called with a Dunn's Lark at KM20.

We had to beat the setting sun and got there just in time with the help of the IBRCE team, again fantastic close up views.

 

Long weekend and wife and daughter in Jerusalem… I had a ball! (Though I do miss them...). Thursday was out all day with visitors and Se’i’fim Plain was the main course. It is in fantastic condition, everything flowering, great variety of plants and fantastic birds,

many of whom are there to breed.

 

Birders have been flocking there all week with the Sparrowlark starring daily, Dunn's Larks, Thick-billed Larks, Bimaculated Larks, Bar-tailed Larks, the Hoopoe Lark giving all a great show out in the open, 6 species of Wheatear, Trumpeter Finch, Pipits, Buntings and other migrants.

 

A couple of unusual moments were a Hoopoe chasing the Hoopoe Lark and a Kingfisher flying round the desert plain. Elsewhere there were Cream Coursers at Ovda which is otherwise barren.

The south field of Yotvata is bouncing with migration, thousands of Swallows, Martins, Swifts, Yellow Wagtails, Pipits, Whinchats and occasional raptor including a Goshawk and Steppe Eagle.

 

Friday I headed north of Yahel to find a dry river bed to replace the Ya'alon stream which was flattened by a flood. Found a great one packed with Lesser Whitethroats, Eastern Olivaceous, Blackcaps, Masked Shrikes and a Great Spotted Cuckoo.

It will be a great place for warblers in the coming weeks. KM76 is dead but then got the call for Caspian Plover male at Yotvata… what a stunner… thanks again to the IBRCE team who are doing fantastic work throughout the area.

 

Then it was the pools and Se’i’fim plain again… evenings on the plain are better than the mornings! So beautiful, few birders and all the birds out and about… can't beat it.

 

This morning it was up at the plain with Eilat/Eilot birders and the Sparrowlark was bouncing around without a care in the world, Hoopoe Lark was also fantastic sitting in the open surrounded by 20 birders and not a care in the world.

 

Then it was some Raptor migration with 4 Osprey passing among numerous buzzards and Kites and lone Lesser Spotted. More pools with Citrine Wagtail, Pratincoles, Curly Sands, large numbers of Marsh Sandpipers, Barbary Falcon, Whiskered and Little Terns great fun.

 

Short rest and then Park Holland… after 3 weeks in hiding the Black Bush Robin came out dancing. Crazy bird did circles around me changing tree every 2 minutes. And when I left he followed me! Half way down the park!

Down to the beach which is now open to birding after being heavily populated during the holiday. Big southerly wind and with it the first Sooty Shearwater, hundreds of Terns, 300 Garganey etc Last stop Park Holland, 2 Cretzschmars and a Pied Flycatcher…

what a week! Beat that!

 

 

 

 

 

 

18.4.15

 



 

To be a Taiga or not to be a Taiga? That was the question of the weekend…

and the answer seems to be no. Still a Red-breasted Flycatcher is a good find for Eilat-especially from your living room!

 

No other big finds that I know of but migration is back in 5th gear. All week the parks in Eilat have been packed with warblers and none more so than Park Canada, a gem of a spot at this time of year. Hundreds of Blackcaps, Lesser Whitethroats everywhere, plenty of Eastern Olivaceous Warblers, Willow and Bonelli’s Warblers.

One tree in Park Canada is bringing in the Wood Warblers with up to 8 in the tree at one time. Also around lots of Ortolan Buntings, Tree Pipits, Masked Shrikes, Nightingales, Wryneck etc’ and finally got a Collared Flycatcher.

 

Raptor migration was strong today even though we arrived late. First big groups of Levant Sparrowhawks steamed northwards with Buzzards, Kites, Black Storks and Steppe Eagles and the first Honey Buzzards.

One very light eagle caught our eye, probably Steppe but showing some unusual features. A Golden Eagle was seen twice during the week, possible Sinai resident?

 

Seyafim Plain remains a great spot to visit but the Black-crowned Sparrowlark appears to have moved on. Today we saw the Hoopoe Lark being quite viciously attacked by a Hooded Wheatear for over 3 minutes!

Plenty of migrants also moving through the mountain plain though was up at Sayarim Plain this morning which was dry and mainly deserted. Yotvata is still good value with plenty of birds in the Southern field and north of Yahel plenty of warblers now filling the dry river beds.

Great time to come to Eilat, even the weather is mild!

 

 

25.4.15

 



 

Heavy migration throughout the week ended with a fantastic day for birders here as strong winds forced the migrants down and birds were absolutely everywhere. Raptor migration was hectic today as thousands of raptors could be viewed from all points around Eilat from sun-up to sundown.

 

Leading the way were thousands of Levant Sparrowhawks battling the winds throughout the day. From individuals to groups of up to 300 they were everywhere! Hundreds of Honey Buzzards are pouring through and the first Crested Honey-Buzzard has been chalked up. Large numbers of Steppe Buzzards and Black Kites still making their way north along with impressive numbers of Steppe Eagles, Lesser Spotted Eagles, Egyptian Vultures, Booted Eagles, 3 Eleanora's Falcons, Harriers and hundreds of Black Storks.

On the ground extraordinary numbers of Thrush Nightingales coming through, 2-3 under every bush! Olive-tree Warblers have arrived and seen in a number of sites. A constant flow of Bee-eaters has joined the flood of Blackcaps, Spotted Flycatchers, Whinchats, Eastern Olivaceous Warblers, Tree Pipits, Redstarts and Masked Shrikes.

 

Other highlights of today were a Eurasian Nightjar flying around in the middle of the day (KM20), a cute Scops Owl in Park Canada and a Reed Warbler that looked suspiciously like a Basra Reed Warbler... . Plenty of good waders coming through too with up to 10 Broad-Billed Sandpipers, Greater Sand-Plovers, Phalaropes, Pratincoles though my bird of the week was a Kittiwake, something we don't see to often here.

 

 

Down at the sea the first big wave of White-winged Terns arrived, 3 Arctic Skuas this evening but the real fun is watching wave after wave of migrants coming across the water- Purple Herons, Spoonbills, Waders, Raptors a never-ending procession of all sorts of birds! Join us quickly because it's going to be all over way too soon!

 

2.5.15

 


 


 

Honey Buzzard Mania!!!!

One of the great sights of birding anywhere in the world is the spring Honey Buzzard migration over the Eilat Mountains. On a good day you can see 40,000 birds. But 250 000 Honey Buzzards in a single day?!?!?! That is insanity!!!

 

After a quiet start to the week big numbers of Honey Buzzards starting moving over the Mountains and the Arava. Thursday was excellent, Friday was amazing and today was pure insanity! Friday I worked but managed to sneak out to Yotvata for an hour. For an hour a 2km wide autobahn of tens of thousands of Honey Buzzards and Levant Sparrowhawks flowed overhead.

 

Thousands dropped in to the ponds to drink. Along with them 15 Booted Eagles, Steppe Eagles, Egyptian Vulture, Kites, etc hardly managed to lower my eyes to see the Pallid and Montagu's Harriers.

This morning I started really early at Seyafim Plain, great to be alone there. The Hoopoe Lark landed 2 metres from me and began singing his heart out. Unbelieveably who followed me around until we left and never stopped singing.

The Dunn's Lark was also close by but wary. Loads of breeding birds around incl. 9 Scrub Warblers in a single shrub! Wheatears, Bar-tailed Larks etc all prominent.

By 07:00 rushed back to the mountains for the Honey Buzzard. An Egyptian Vulture sat near the entrance to the Racham Wadi (Racham is the Hebrew name for the Egyptian Vulture) Met Yohan at the top of mountains and despite the chilly morning thousands of Honey Buzzards were streaming past at a great height.

Saw even bigger numbers low down towards the Shlomo Wadi and headed down there. People started stopping on the side of the road....incredible numbers of Honey Buzzards covered the sky from every direction... it looked like a Monarch Butterfly migration... just incredible! I took my daughter to a party in a park in Eilat and spent the whole time staring at the sky. Thousands of Honey Buzzards kept streaming over the city right through the middle of the day.

 

Everywhere you looked today the Honey Buzzards were there. And with all this action who could even see the other birds?? All time Record? Probably...Unforgetable? Definately!

Footnote: North Beach is back in action with Arctic, Pomerine and Long-tailed Skuas plus a Sooty Shearwater seen throughout the week.

 

If you weren't in Eilat you have missed a very special day...

 

 

4.5.15

 



 

These are special days in Eilat, days of record breaking migration, great species coming through and now a mega rarity.

The Red-necked Grebe is only the fifth record for Israel and the first since 1986! Douwe found the bird yesterday but found it hard to convince anyone that the bird existed!

 

The bird has now spent 2 days close to the North Beach giving everyone great views and photo-ops. This evening we watched him fishing, eating 7-8 large fish and we were also treated to a short flight/walk on the water.

 

Raptor migration numbers dropped today but still great numbers of raptors are coming through low giving fantastic veiws from all points.

I had raptors moving between the hotels at 5:30 in the morning! Also seen today: a Dunn's Lark at the Beach, Rose-Coloured Starlings near the airport, Crested Honey-Buzzards, Bar-tailed Godwits, Golden Orioles, groups of migrants pouring through...and all this in the stunning landscape of Eilat and the Arava!

 

 

Even the weather has been splendidly mild. Many birders have changed their plans, dropped everything and headed to Eilat- and believe me they have not been disappointed!

 

 

9.5.15

 



 

Last week we drowned under record numbers of Honey Buzzards and Raptors, massive migration and topped it off with a mega rarity, the Red-necked Grebe.

 

The Red-necked Grebe is still here but migration has dropped to a dribble. Last week I saw tens of thousands of Honey Buzzards, today I saw three. One of those was covered in mud from the Yotvata pond so I took him to Chai Bar for a clean-up and check-over. Last week the nets and ponds were full and this week the ringers were coming back with single birds and the ponds were near empty.

 

But today is International Migration Day so we headed out to see what we could find. Started north of Yahel in one of the wadis which are generally good for late passerines. It wasn't full but better numbers than around Eilat. Many Eastern Olivaceous Warblers and Lesser Whitethroats. One Barred Warbler, Eastern Orphean, 2 Whitethroat, Lesser Gray Shrike, Golden Orioles, Spotted Flycatchers, Masked Shrikes, constant flow of Bee-eaters, House Martins and Barn Swallows.

A Booted Eagle sat around preening and a Steppe Eagle glided over.

 

KM76 was largely empty but a Hoopoe Lark is calling there and some Rufous Bush-robins are nesting. Yotvata had a Roller,Red-backed Shrike, Short-toed Lark, Turtle Dove, Ortolan Buntings, Silverbills, etc' relatively busy for a dry field!

Pools still quiet but there are many Phalaropes, Greater Sand Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover etc' And that is what I managed to see today...

 

I wonder what the others found???

 

 

 

 

 

16.5.15

 



 

Two weeks after the tsunami of Honey Buzzards and massive migration, not a single Honey Buzzard this week and very little migration.

 

Common Bee-eaters and Red-necked Phalaropes (over 100 in southern salt ponds this evening) are still coming through in numbers, everybody else in dribs and drabs. Friday had minor numbers of passerines, mainly Eastern Olivaceous, Garden Warblers and Blackcaps.

 

Had a nice Olive-tree Warbler sitting between two Blackstarts iPark Holland, two late Eastern Orpheans, Lesser Whitethroat, Collared Flycatcher, quite a few Spotted Flycatchers, almost no Barred Warblers and still plenty of Masked Shrikes. Apart from a few Buzzards and the occasional arriving Sooty Falcon (one this evening over date plantation) raptor migration is over...but it will be remembered for many years to come!

 

The pools are very quiet, only small numbers of waders, one Bar-tailed Godwit, one Greater Sand Plover, a number of large Gulls and Terns of all sizes.

Went up to Seyafim plain this morning but found it eeriely empty. Still many Bar-tailed Larks and their offspring, the Hoopoe Lark and Desert Larks, but the Wheatears and Trumpeter Finch were nowhere to be seen. 

 

What is left for us is the sea. The Red-necked Grebe disappeared for 3 days and then reappeared, now completely at home, ignoring the boats and Kite-surfers passing within a metre of him. The week started with a great Long-tailed Skua, continued with Arctic and Pomerine Skuas, up to 11 Sooty Shearwaters and ended with a pair of Cory's Shearwaters and 15 Purple Herons coming in down the gulf. Hoping it's going to be a good season!

 

Like most warm areas, breeding is in full gear and possibly some rarer species are breeding in the area. The last thing we want to do is disturb them, so we won't be reporting until they have safely grown.

 

The people who need to know, know. Please don't ask and don't go looking for them, it can only harm them. Have a cool week! (Here it will be in the mid 40C!)

 

photo - Ilya Pachter

 

 

 

 

23.5.15

 



 

So the birders have packed up and gone, the nets rolled up and the volunteers have returned home....migration is over....we just forgot to tell the birds!

 

Sunday evening Chen, a home-grown IBRCE volunteer, spotted a Gray Hypocolius at KM20 entrance. It's a much sort-after vagrant in our area and I spent the rest of the looking for it with no success.

 

Thursday evening a Black-winged Kite came low over the Bird Park, still a rarity in our area, probably a new migrant heading north. Then today, 2 weeks without a single Honey Buzzard, I suddenly see 15 Honey Buzzards sitting in the middle of the road?! Looking up I see another 200 odd circling low and higher hundreds more streaming over the Bird Park.

 

We saw around 10,000 come over in an hour and a half, many dropping down to drink at the park pond. There a hysterical Egyptian Goose tore around trying to chase them away. It was so unexpected and also a real treat. If you haven't seen Honey Buzzard migration, put it on your bucket list, it is an absolute must!

 

Elsewhere still a great variety of migrants coming through in small numbers…

all of them late! Good week for Upchers Warblers with a number at Park Canada and one at KM20 this morning. A Red-Footed falcon is a rare spring treat here and great way to start the morning. Also around Garden Warblers, Blackcaps, Eastern Olivaceous, still a couple of Lesser Whitethroat, Red-backed and Masked Shrikes, Willow Warblers and loads of Rufous Bush Robins and Common Bee-eaters. Also milling around are Storks of both varieties,a late Pelican, Purple Heron, loads of Night Herons, Glossy Ibis, Spoonbills, plenty of Buzzards, a few Kites, Short-toed Eagle and even a Steppe Eagle.

 

Two Pintails flew over us at North Beach, they are seriously lagging behind their siblings! At Yotvata a Roller is hanging around with a whole crowd of Turtle Doves. Wader action is now dominated by the park ponds with still great numbers of Phalaropes, Dunlins, Curlew and Broad-billed Sandpipers, a Turnstone, Common, Little, Gull-billed, Whiskered and White-winged Terns and of course some late big gulls.

 

North Beach was pretty quiet but still had Long-tailed, Pomerine and Arctic Skuas, Sooty Shearwaters and a lone Cory's Shearwater, White-cheeked Terns, Mangrove Herons etc... . Phew, good thing migration is over....I wouldn't have time to write about any more birds!

Happy Shavuot to all in Israel, until next week!

 

 

 

31.5.15

 



 

Bit late this week having been sick last night but am soldiering on.... from my bed!

The birds are drying up which is understandable considering the row of 45C days we had this week.

 

Fortunately a pair of Terek Sandpipers decided to drop in and keep us company at the IBRCE salt pond, where there are still Curlew Sandpipers, Ringed Plovers, Little Stints, Ruffs, Red-necked Phalarope and Common Sandpipers.

 

For some reason KM20 is devoid of waders but I did have a pair of Sooty Falcons circling high above undoubtly looking for Swifts and Sand Martins who are still plentiful.

a few White-winged Terns and a Whiskered Tern were the only other birds of note.

 

The North beach has been a mixed bag with some evenings spent watching a vast empty blue sea. A Cory's Shearwater hung around for a few days a bit closer to the shore, low numbers of Sooty Shearwaters, the occasaional group of Arctic Skuas, one Pomerine and one Long-tailed Skua.

 

Also dwindling numbers of Terns, 3-4 White-cheeked terns, small groups of Common terns, some quite large groups of Little Terns, White-winged Terns and a pair of Black Terns plus 3-4 Sandwich Terns. Sometimes at North Beach you encounter some wonderful sealife too like the Lionfish that came out onto the rocks one evening. Saw a number of jumping Barracuda this weekend, a Sea Turtle and some Swordfish with an amazing 3 metre slinking jump.

 

In the bushes there are still the occasional blackcap, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat, still a couple of Masked Shrikes one Lesser gray Shrike at Yotvata. Well that's all from me this week, hopeour birds have arrived safely !

 

 

 

 

Shachar Shalev

 
land marks