Posts of 2015

Noam Wiess 31/12/2015 00:00

 

The Return of the Striolated Bunting to the Eilat Mountains

 

20.1.15

 

The Striolated Bunting is one of the most beautiful and interesting birds of the desert.

The males, with their painted black and white faces and brown striped bodies, sit atop gigantic cliffs and sing their long trill at the sky and beyond.

Due to their nomadic nature they also come and go where the wind takes them. In dry years they are absent whilst in rainy years, when their favorite weed grows, they arrive out of nowhere, although they are never common.

 

In the Dead Sea area, in deep canyons and along the rift valley cliffs, the Striolated Buntings populations are steadier, with tens of birds in Wadi Dragot, and at a small spring in a remote valley that very few people know of. In the other wadis they are rare and difficult to see. It looks like they are declining as it has been harder and harder to see them the past few years.

 

 

In the Eilat Mountains, the Buntings used to be a scarce resident. Generations of visiting birders from all over the world used to come to the small cemetery above town to view this beautiful species that loved to feed between the graves or in the vegetation. In good years there were tens of them reported from different remote locations, mainly next to the legendary cemetery and near Neot Smadar (Shizafon). But since the late 90's the observations decreased to nothing. They were always on the list of birds of Eilat, but every birder would have told you to forget about them. They are not there anymore.

 

Nobody but a few enthusiastic birders that had bad luck in the Dead Sea mentioned them to me, and I had no good advice to give.

In the last few years scattered reports of single Striolated Buntings arrived every few months. I saw a male drinking in Neot Smadar Sewage last spring, Shachar Alterman saw one at the same location a year before and foreign birders reported that one bird showed up a few time in the cemetery, but it was very difficult to repeat these observations.

 

Two weeks ago, Christoph Gruneberg, an intern from Germany helping me with special projects at the IBRCE, reported to me that on the way to look for Pallid Scopes Owls, he had discovered a small flock of Striolated Buntings. He visited the flock every few days and they grew to number at least 15 birds. I joined him one afternoon and there they were - singing, jumping and so tame, letting me take pictures from 4 meters away, exactly like they always are - great birds. A small circle from my childhood is closing for me. The forgotten bird of Eilat is back.

 

 

 

 

The Buntings are just next to the main road of the Eilat Mountains (road 12) and are easy to find. Because they stay very close to a military camp's fence I'll give detailed directions with some safety advice, to whoever wants to see them in the new birding information office at the bird sanctuary.The desk will provide free information to all birders about rare or hard to see birds in the area and will gather new observations every evening.

 

 

See you in Eilat

 

Spring is just around the corner

 

Noam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A new spring is born!

 

18.2.15

 

 

If you are reading this in Europe you will be very familiar by now with all the wintering birds around you, but change is on its the way.

 

It’s increasingly visible down here in Eilat, and it looks like an exciting spring is on its way. This season seems to have kicked off with high energy early on.

The sky above the newly renovated lake at the bird sanctuary is full of hundreds of Barn Swallows, House Martins, Sand Martins and Pallid Swifts. In the reeds, the calls of Sedge and Reed Warblers (tens of each) bring back the familiar sounds of migration, and hundreds of Chiffchaffs are already fluttering high above the vegetation, catching flying insects attracted to the early bloom.

 

 

 

 

Some early arrivals noted were Little Swift, Lesser and Common Whitethroats, Eastern Orphean Warblers, and the raptor watch points report days with hundreds of Steppe Eagles, and some early Imperial and Short-toed Eagles too.

 

This year we will be focusing on surveying migration and developing services for visiting birders. After more than 20 years we have resumed the raptor migration survey. From the 1st of February we have had 2 watch points located in the Eilat Mountains. In order to be able to compare it to past data we opened the 2 good old raptor count station in "Low Mountain" just above town and "High Mountain at Mt. Yehoram.

 

 

 

 

Every day, an hour after sunrise till sunset, we have 2 birders counting every raptor they see migrating towards Europe and Asia. Our main focus is on the Steppe Eagles, which are reported to be declining in their breeding range due to habitat destruction, hunting, poisoning and nest thefts. In the past some 3 million raptors were counted here, so we are all very excited to repeat this important work. In the Arava valley we are also conducting a migration survey that will count migratory birds along the main birding sites in Eilat and southern Arava.  The ringing station continues its long term monitoring of physical conditions of the migratory birds.

 

Along with the research and nature conservation efforts, we are trying to improve the services for the visiting birders. The Eilat Bird Sanctuary’s habitats have been improved and a new hide has been built. Anita Lake (fresh water) has been widened and the water is now much shallower and more inviting for Waders, Herons, Gulls and Passerines.

 

Our office is now also operating as an information center for birders, both gathering information and happily giving it out, helping birders locate their desired species. The entrance is free.

If you are in our neighborhood and feel like giving a hand with the survey, just message us at ibrce.office@gmail.com. We would appreciate it very much.

 

 

 

 

A day in the ringing station - Eilat

 

25.2.15

 

 

Our ringing station is bursting with migratory birds - and it is only mid-February!  In a usual year we would not normally start ringing daily before the 1st of March and only do some a small amount of sample ringing, but this year is different.

 

Euan Ferguson, who spent last autumn ringing here, came back on the 16th of February and since then we have been ringing over 100 birds daily, the diversity and colors are just fantastic. Carmen, our Spanish ringer who was on her way here with Turkish airlines, has been stuck under heavy snow in Istanbul for 3 days and no doubt curses every airline company employee as she knows what she is missing here. It is only the very beginning of spring migration, so it should only get better from here!

 

 

 

 

 

We are planning to move the ringing station to the public side of the bird sanctuary, so soon you can be a part of it too.

 

So enjoy the pictures and come and visit us soon.

 

 

 

Cross border nature conservation

we won't let political conflicts stop us

 

1.3.15

 

Prof. Yossi Leshem always says that birds know no boundaries.

This is true also of environmental problems. In a conflict area like ours, where any kind of cross border cooperation is a complicated political issue with danger attached, even a small step is a long journey.  

 

With naturalists in Egypt, Syria and Lebanon, we have very little contact. We do follow each other's Facebook pages and press the "like" button occasionally, and sometimes we meet in international forums, but we cannot do much above ground with them. They are too scared of the "anti-normalization" movements that threaten to boycott any person or organization that will work with Israel in the Arab world.

 

With Jordanians and Palestinians on the other hand, we do have some cooperation, but it is always under the shade of the political events and "the problem". Nevertheless, nature conservationists always have the tendency to ignore politics. Although political conflicts are certainly large obstacles, not even they can stop us. Even in the days of war and bloodshed we always keep in contact.

 

One of spark of hope is a project run by the German Hanns Seidel Foundation and funded by the Partnership for Peace program of the European Union, with partnership from the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and the Palestinian Wildlife Society.

 

 

 

 

The project deals with building Palestinian capabilities for nature conservation and aims to develop a network of Israeli and Palestinian experts that will work together. Unfortunately the Palestinians have been busy with other kind of problems and therefore do not possess many experts that can systematically survey nature. This project's aim is to improve the capabilities of Palestinian wildlife experts, train them with an understanding of the concept of nature parks, create 2-3 of these parks in Palestine, and show the local population that nature conservation creates opportunities for eco-tourism and other kinds of income.  

 

Last week we had a workshop together down here in the Arava valley. The course was on taxonomy for and was guided by the best Israeli experts we have down here. It was a great opportunity to meet fellow researchers from Palestine who perhaps know less, but share our enthusiasm for nature and for learning.

 

During the days we had lectures and guided field trips, and in the evenings we enjoyed activities designed to help us get to know each other. Zeiss also donated to the project 20 great binoculars and 2 telescopes that will serve the experts for the next 3 years.

It was exciting to see the same passion on display that we ourselves had many years ago, when we started discovering the diversity of nature for the first time, filling us with a feeling of doing something really important.

 

 

Fruitful cooperation was also achieved during the birders competition held in Eilat last year, the Champions of the Flyway, in which a joint Israeli Palestinian team -  The Palestinian Sunbirders  won the race with the amazing score of 169 species observed in 24 hours.

This year we are running together for the race again and you can see our team and support us.

 

The future of cross border cooperation is mainly up to us. We have learned to "use" the conflict to raise money for our mutual cause and spend it wisely on things that promote nature conservation and build real capabilities.

 

We have been wise enough not to let politics stop us from doing this and we have sealed it with personal friendship and by working together daily. We are lucky to have practical and wise partners whom with we can promote wildlife conservation with even in this turmoil we live in.

 

 

 

 

Migration is just crazy, Eilat.

 

19.4.15

 

The big events of the Spring Migration Festival and the Champions of the Flyway are finished. We've had some good birds and great birders and I was reunited with lot of old friends, so I've just been too busy to update the Eilat Blog. Sorry about that.

 

The winners of the Champions of the Flyway competition were none other than The American Dippers led by Doug, who is on the IBRCE field monitoring team. I was going to write that "for us it was a game but for them it was war" as the reason why they won, but I guess that's just because I lost…They were sharp, organized, calculated and very wise, which is what made them an exceptional team. I should have seen it from the first minute of the race. Very well done and very well deserved.

 

 

Now that the rush of important birders is gone I'm left here with the migration, and it is doing fantastically. There is now time to look carefully at every bird and ponder the birding questions we always carry in our minds.

Hadoram Shirihai, the founder of IBRCE, visited us for two weeks and lit the fire in our minds with the Oriental Skylark mystery. These larks are supposed to be a non-migratory bird with the closest known population in Pakistan. Nevertheless we get them here annually every winter, sometimes in good numbers.

Very few larks were caught and ringed about 25 years ago and the measurements were not completely within the range of the Pakistani subspecies, so Hadoram asked us to try and catch one. We spent 2 days trying a bird in Eilot's fields, but we missed it again and again by centimeters from the top of the nets. We will try in autumn again with hopefully more success.

 

 

Besides that migration is brilliant. We had some cooler days and the ringing station filled up with many birds, with 300 to 500 being ringed daily. Blackcaps, Lesser Whitethroats and all kinds of Swallows are in huge numbers. No less than millions are around the Arava now.

The air is sometimes so thick with them that it is scary to walk around the bird sanctuary as you feel one might fly into your eye.

 

The diversity of species is also great. It is now that we get the "changing of shifts" of migrants. Chiffchaffs and Bluethroats are out and Thrush Nightingales, Collared Flycatchers, Blue-cheeked Bee eaters, Barred Warblers and many others replace them. The desert is blooming and the birds responded with a male Black-crowned Finch Lark, 3 Dunn's larks, 2 Thick-billed Larks and some Temminck's, Hoopoe and Bar-tailed Larks, all in one location at Meishar Haseifim, a small valley in the  Eilat mountains. Amazing.

 

 

 

The North beach is still fairly quiet with just one Sooty Shearwater and some Common, Little, Sandwich, Gull-billed and White-cheeked Terns.

 

Rarities include already 2 Crested Honey Buzzards, Caspian Plovers and Black Bush-robins here and there, and whilst writing these lines my phone vibrates and a picture of a possible male Taiga Flycatcher, photographed by someone who had no clue what it is, appears on my screen. Damn, this is good.

Get moving for that flycatcher!

 

See you

Noam

 

 

 

A Danish Ringer in Israel with a Danish Ringed Bird!

 

27.4.15

 

Eilat, Israel; a place where your dreams come true - especially when your dreams involve birds! Every day for the last 3 weeks I have been here, I have seen many new birds, which only in my wildest dreams could I imagine seeing in my homeland of Denmark!

Every day is different and you never know what the next thrill will be! There have been many new birds for me as the new Danish IBRCE ringer, but also a surprising connection to "back home".

 

 

One morning turned out to be very special for me. A week after my arrival at IBRCE we caught a bird with a foreign ring. When we read the information upon it we discovered we were holding in our hands a Lesser Whitethroat with a Danish ring around its leg! - Wow what a thrill! On top of it I, as a Dane, had the luck of reading it.

 

Two days later we got a reply from The Danish Zoological Museum informing us that the bird was ringed in Denmark on 26th April 2014 at Blaavand Bird Observatory in Western Jutland. A distance in a straight line of 3587 kilometers in 10 months and 25 days. Not bad for a bird that weighs about 12 grams! Of course it has also been south of the Sahara Desert and now is on its way back north again.

 

What a very special recapture for me having a ”Danish” bird in my hands, and on top of that it was a bird ringed at Blaavand Bird Observatory, where in 2009 assisted the ringer of this bird Henrik Knudsen. What an amazing coincidence, and yet another example of the magnificent international flyways migratory birds use, and how they are linked together. The distances on earth are great, but at the same time the closeness and the connection in it all becomes clear, when something like this happens. l wonder if the "Danish” Lesser Whitethroat will appear in 3-4 weeks in Blaavand again?

 

 

 

This bird has been the highlight for me, but the ringing station is bursting with a rich variety of other birds, with the many species of warblers never ceasing to amaze me! As well as the standardized ringing sessions in the morning, we try when it is calm enough to catch gulls and waders on the salt pans in the evenings. This has resulted in some very interesting ringing with a variety of at least 10 species of waders and 2 species of gulls caught, including the "charming" Slender-billed Gull. This Thursday we also ringed the first Steppe Buzzard for the season.

 

 

 

Furthermore I have spent some days now in the Eilat Mountains monitoring migrating birds of prey as part of the raptor team. The Steppe Buzzards are peaking now with days with well over 30.000 individuals recorded. There are still a pretty good number of Steppe Eagles passing by, with 120 seen by myself one day. Now we look forward to the arrival of the Levant Sparrowhawks and the Honey Buzzards, which should begin very soon

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So all in all, what more can a Danish birder like me ask for on this his first time to Israel in the legendary "birding hotspot" of Eilat!

 

Johan H. Funder Castenschiold

 

 

 

The best ever Raptor day count in Eilat - 250,000 Honey Buzzards

 

2.5.15

 

The 2nd of May will be remembered as Eilat's Big Day, when at least 250,000 Honey Buzzards passed through the region. The madness commenced right from first light when rivers of Buzzards streamed through Wadi Shlomo just below our Raptor survey post at "High Mountain". It looked like as if the wadi was flowing, only that it all went upstream and then glided down to the next wadi.  

 

The wave was endless and got thicker and thicker as the air warmed up.  Johan from Denmark, the main raptor surveyor of the Israeli Ornithological Center of the SPNI in Eilat, counted 40,000 by 09:00 and then called the other surveyors for help. At the same time, our other monitoring team that focuses on migration hotspots for passerines and waders, already knew it was a special day as they witnessed tens of thousands of Buzzards passing above Yotvata.

At the Bird Sanctuary in Eilat there was a massive amount of Honey Buzzards stopping for a drop of fresh water, and people everywhere in the area had called to report more and more flocks.  Doug, our American team member, drove to the North Beach just to discover tens of thousands more Buzzards short cutting-above the bay to the east towards Jordan.

 

 

This is not only Eilat's big day but also Johan's. Johan came here 2 months ago for bird ringing but fell in love with the raptors and insisted to spend every possible day in the mountains counting them. He was happy with 500 Steppe eagles a day in March and super excited when 40,000 Buzzards flew above him in early April. Today he got rewarded for his very hard work and could hardly talk on the phone from High Mountain station. At 12:00 he had 100,000. At 14:30 more than 150,000. By sunset it climbed to 198,000. Between the Honey Buzzards also 11,000 Levant's Sparrow Hawks made it north through the region.

 

Dan Alon, the director of the Israeli Ornithological Center can still clearly remember the last time we had such a day. It was the 2nd of May 1985, when he observed 200,000 Honey Buzzards in High Mountain in a single day. That crazy year the survey counted 850,000 Buzzards in about 10 days. Today is probably the best ever day count in Israel, and the highest ever day count of Honey Buzzards.

 

 

 

 

It's the first year we have counted Raptors after 20 years of no consistent surveying. The Steppe Eagles seemed to decrease sharply from numbers recorded in the 1980's, and also the Steppe Buzzards didn't do so well this spring. It is so exciting to discover that at least for the Honey Buzzards it is still happening just like good old days.

 

I would like to thank my staff that have worked so hard today, with endless smiles on their faces and red eyes, The SPNI survey team - Johan, Denmark - High Mountain, Dave, UK and Doug, USA, Arava, North beach and Low Mountain, Tim, UK and Euan, Scotland at the bird sanctuary. Just myself, in Tel Aviv, getting ready to fly for fund raising to the US, has missed it all. I think they call It in America "when sh*t hits the fan". I'm soon to find out.

 

Noam

 

 


 

Ringers for autumn 2015 at the International Birding & Research Centre,

 

Eilat - IBRCE

 

25.5.15

 


Background Background Background Background Background


 

 

 

Israel, and particularly the Eilat surroundings, has ranked high among foreign destinations for European birders for many years. Sometimes described as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of Israeli birding, Eilat is a fine and logical place to begin any desert birding tour.

 

Extraordinary concentrations of migratory birds use the area, making Eilat one of the busiest migration areas in the world. While the largest bird movements occur in spring (March–May) many interesting species occur in autumn. In addition to migrants, Eilat offers a rich and varied local avifauna, comprised of desert species, tropical species typical of the Rift Valley, Mediterranean and Red Seas.

 

Finally, Eilat has a proven record for attracting vagrant and accidental species, with new species for the country and the Western Palearctic recorded Every now and then.

 

The International Birding & Research Centre in Eilat has been operating a Bird Ringing Station for the last 25 years which has contributed greatly in monitoring and understanding bird migration along the Eastern Flyway while utilizing hands on approach to train and educate many bird ringers and visitors

who come to volunteer at the park.

 

 

 

 


Job Description - Passerines Ringer vacancy at the IBRCE


 

- The ringing period is August 20 to 30 November. Minimal staying period is six weeks.

 

- During the staying the volunteers are expected to take part in all ringing duties: 7 mornings a week and afternoon ringing if occurs (afternoon ringing happen up to 3 times a week and according to migration).

 

- In addition, ringers are asked to take part in tasks of the maintenance of the station's equipment and ringing site, entry of data on a daily basis to the computer and in accommodation general duties - cleaning of own room, cooking evenly with and for all etc.

 

- Monitoring - In the afternoons the team will be asked to take part in birding monitoring activities in Southern Arava and Eilat area.

 

- Some assistance with updating our Blog might be asked- from writing text to putting some of your photographs (with full credit). All volunteers might appear in the Blog, with names or pictures, during their voluntary period.

 

 

 

 

"Typical" day schedule*

 

- 05:30 nets opening and breakfast before first round.

 

- Ringing days typically start at 05:30 a.m. and end around 11 a.m, affected by weather and migration, 7 days a week. During ringing days checking of nets+ Helgoland traps will be done according to "Eilat Ringing Manual" as a guideline and guiding of groups will take place (not by the volunteers).

 

- Right after ringing- Fast cleaning of the ringing station and kitchen (toilets when needed).

 

- Breakfast/early lunch break.

 

- 12:00-14:00 Site/ equipment/ station maintenance and\ or data punching.

 

- 14:00-16:30 Lunch, Noon break (heat), time for birding around or visiting the beach (free time).

 

- 16:30-20:00 afternoon birding monitoring in the area or ringing in the afternoons a few times a week (no more than 3).

 

- 20:00 Dinner (Cooked by the volunteers).

 

- After dinner- Finishing all data punching for the day and free time (including possible visits at Eilat). All volunteers are very welcomed to bring slideshows or pictures to enrich the others.

 

*Times may vary along season due to changes in day length, weather conditions, waves of migration etc…

 


Requirements Requirements Requirements Requirements


 

- "B" or "A" bird ringing license.

 

- Proven experience with ringing of passerines (experience with raptors and/or waders- helpful).

 

- Basic English/Hebrew level which enable fluent work as team.

 

- Health and/or travelers insurance will not be provided and is needed while traveling abroad.

 

- While working and living at the park, it is vital to keep all the facilities in a proper and inviting condition. These include: Sleeping Room, Shower & Toilets, Kitchen and Ringing Station. A cleaning-duty round should be maintained by all volunteers and staff throughout the season. At all times of work, both at the IBRCE Park and outside, as well as while participating in any event (lecture, festival…), you are representing the IBRCE. Thus, all staff and volunteers should follow a proper dress and behavior codes.

 


Benefits Benefits Benefits Benefits Benefits Benefits


 

- The ringers will benefit from a great experience in working at one of the most exciting and interesting Eurasian-African Flyway ringing stations as well as gaining field and ringing experience with many near-eastern and eastern species and subspecies.

 

- We provide a full coverage of the basic  accommodation and food at the IBRCE volunteer's camp next to the ringing station.

 

- As time will allow, birding activities in Eilat & Arava region will take place as other free time activities- swimming at the red-sea, snorkeling, enjoying Eilat's night life etc.

 

- Free days for traveling and birding around will be positively considered and permitted during your staying, and will be approved if manpower allows it.

 

 


Conditions Conditions Conditions Conditions Conditions Conditions


 

- We supply our basic shared accommodation at the bird sanctuary (2 Km from town), basic food for you to prepare (No drinks) and a rental car.

 

- You will have to come to Eilat at your own cost.

 

For applications, please send

 

- Copy of your valid ringing license.

 

- Copy of your driving License.

 

- Preferred volunteering period

 

1. Longest range of suitable dates for staying with us.

 

2. Total length of staying you would like to actually have out of it.

Your CV (in ringing and any relevant additional information).

 

- Some basic personal data - name, age, country, ringing site/station (you may add anything you think is relevant).

Please let us know about any relevant health issues, for your own safety (allergies for example). Any questions you would like to ask us back.

 

To: Ibrce.office@gmail.com and nbayda@yahoo.com

 

Thank you and see you in Eilat

 

Noam Weiss

 

Director

 

IBRCE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Night Ringing

 

25.5.15

 

 

Eilat is renowned for the huge volume of passerines and raptors that pass through during the spring, but waders, gulls and terns can also be found in good numbers. These birds are difficult to ring, due to them frequenting water and open areas combined with their keen eyesight, which means mist netting them in daylight is near impossible.

 

However at night they can successfully be caught, but with strong light pollution from the city combined with regular blustery winds billowing the nets and increasing their visibility, it can be a real challenge. Yet when conditions are good, with no wind and a dark sky, you can have some very successful sessions. Last night the settings were perfect and we ringed 75 birds, a record for the season.  

 

We ring on the salt pans at the IBRCE Park and at Anita Lake within the sanctuary. The lake was recently successfully renovated and the habitat improved, and it now teems with birds, when before it was practically devoid of life. Waders feed and roost on the shorelines of both throughout the season, and we have ringed a good variety of species.

 

The waders most frequently caught have been Little Stint and Ruff, with Common Ringed, Little Ringed and Kentish Plover, Greater Sand plover, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper and Turnstone also being ringed in smaller numbers.

A Corncrake was also a nice surprise to find in the nets!

 

 

 

The wader highlight has undoubtedly been catching 3 Red-necked Phalaropes.

 

This aquatic species can be found in a flock sometimes numbering up to 70 individuals on the salt pans, their constant swimming reflected by their amazing webbed feet, unique for a wader.

 

 

 

 

 

Although I started the season targeting waders, gulls and terns eventually became the bulk of the catch.

45 gulls have been ringed, mostly Slender-billed and also some Black-headed.

One Slender-billed Gull was recaptured by ringers at Allit on the Mediterranean coast a few weeks after ringing.

 

 

 

 

The past few weeks it has been terns that have dominated, with over a hundred being ringed. These have mostly been Common Terns, along with 16 Little Terns, a couple of Gull-billed Terns and a single stunning White-winged Tern.

The highlight has been two Common Terns on subsequent nights bearing rings from the Czech Republic. We are awaiting the details for where and when these birds were first ringed.

 

 

Although trudging through mud in the dark is hard and tiring work, with having to get up at first light for passerine ringing the following mornings increasing our fatigue, night ringing is extremely rewarding and allows us to monitor migrants birds passing through Eilat that are not often ringed.

 

These species are far more likely to produce recoveries than passerines, as has been demonstrated already, so we await to see if we hear back from any more of our ringed birds as they head to north to their breeding grounds.

 

Euan Ferguson

 

 

 

The autumn that was, Eilat

 

16.12.15

 

 

The Birds of Eilat blog went into early winter hibernation this autumn due to high work pressure. Now that the autumn monitoring program is over I once again find the time to update you all about the special autumn we had down here.

 

The birds did their job properly and migrated in good numbers towards Africa. To make our lives more interesting we caught some rarities at the ringing station such as a Paddyfield Warbler, and two Pale Scops Owls in the last days of the season. Local rarities included an Oriental Turtle Dove in Yotvata by our team and a Grey Hypocolius found by Shimon and Yael Schiff at KM 76.

 

 

 

 

The wintering birds have arrived too with Oriental Skylarks at Yotvata and KM 76, Buff bellied Pipits also at KM 76, Desert warblers around the Evrona Doum Palms and other locations, Pale Scops Owls in desert wadis and two Brown Boobys at North Beach. Sinai Rosefinches sent a respected delegation this year with up to 15 in the Amram's Pillars area. It also looks like a Sociable Lapwing is going to spend the winter at Yotvata and an Olive-backed pipit at Elifaz.

 

Hoopoe Larks are now forming their winter territories north of KM 20 and around Samar and Elifaz whilst the skies of KM 19 skies are dominated by Imperial, Greater Spotted and Bonelli's Eagles and Barbary Falcons. At least four, probably eight Black Bush Robins are long stayers in the Hai Bar reserve after their successful breeding there last summer.

 

 

We are looking forward for an interesting winter in the desert following the very impressive storm we had three weeks ago. Clouds that came from nowhere left tens of millimeters of rain in most of the Eilat region and sites like KM 76 and the Uvda valley were totally flooded and now look like green football pitches.

If it stays green the Lady Butterflies that arrive in early spring will take the chance and lay their eggs here, which may in turn tempt the nomadic desert species such as Thick-billed, Temminck's and Dunn's Larks along with sandgrouse and wheatears to stay and breed.

 

 

 

 

Good news comes also from the airport near Eilat. More than 22 low cost flights now come directly to Ovda airport weekly. Among them are Finnair from Finland, Germania airlines from Düsseldorf, Monarch from Luton, Ryanair from Budapest and Krakow (for as low as 39 Euros return) and many others from Russia, France and Denmark.

 

It is now more affordable and easy to get to Eilat than ever and we already see the results with tens of birders that have spent the last few weeks birding in the area. If you come for a visit, please remember that our office at the Bird Sanctuary serves as a birders information center so if you need advice and coffee, please come and say hi.

 

 

 

I would like to thank our fantastic international volunteers Jari Laitasalo and Edwarnd Jenkins for their great help here.

See you in Eilat

 

Noam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

land marks