June - December 2015

Shachar Shalev 31/12/2015 00:00

 

 

6.6.15

 



 

 

Quiet days in Eilat but still worth keeping tabs on a number of areas here.

Friday morning down at the beach with Itai and Adi we had a pair of Cory's Shearwaters (possibly Scopoli's) along with 3 Sooty Shearwaters. Skuas are still coming through regularly, small numbers of White-cheeked Terns while Common and Little Terns continue to dwindle in numbers.

 

Quick trip round the ponds which are now waderless (except for 4 Red-necked Phalaropes). Generally the Redshanks have returned before the last migrant waders have passed through, but this year it hasn't happened.

There were 10 White-winged Terns, Little Terns and Common Terns, K19 still has 6 Coots which look like they're going to breed, a Pelican, White Stork, Shovellers, Little Grebe alongside the usual array of Herons.

 

On my wanderings I bumped into a couple of pairs of Lichtensteins Sandgrouse, but still no chicks in sight. Also had some Steppe Buzzards that might be breeding in the Date palms, a Long-legged Buzzard, Honey Buzzard and a couple of Common Bee-eaters.

 

This morning I went up to the Seyafim Plain for a cool change. Didn't find the Temmincks Horned Lark Itai saw earlier in the week, but there were plenty of Mourning Wheatears, Desert Larks and Scrub Warblers hopping around.

A Barbary Falcon arrived and got the 3 Cream-Coursers flying around, some groups of Trumpeter Finch are back on the plain after a month's absence and even a pair of young Sinai Rosefinch dropped in.

While exiting the plain saw a group of 9 Hooded Wheatears and among them a young Black-eared Wheatear and Desert Wheatear… very pleasant!

Hope you have had a good weekend too!

 

13.6.15

 




 

It's Sparrows and Bulbuls time....

low season in Eilat, the local birds get a breather from the competition. It is quite amazing how so few birds remain behind inspite of the milions that passed through just a short time ago.

 

By this weekend even the Swifts, Swallows and Martins have gone. The only migrants I could find were a Wood Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Gray Plovers, White-winged Terns, a Pelican and a Stork.

Still there is a nice list of local birds including 3 species of Sandgrouse, Palestine Sunbirds, little Green Bee-eaters, Namaqua Doves, Pale Crag Martins, plenty of Herons and some Spoonbills,

local Wheatears etc.

 

Lots of young birds and about so it makes for some pleasant views. At the beach we more of the same, lots of Terns, Common, White-cheeked and a few Little Terns. Two Cory's Shearwaters moved around most of the week and two Sooty Shearwaters were skimming around this morning along with two Arctic Skuas.

 

 

Hoping for more news next week!

 

 

 

20.6.15

 



 

Very slow week here- said good-bye to my legendary all-terrain Fiat Panda and hopefully the new car will arrive in the next week or so. This morning went out in a small boat with Avi and Itai full of optimism for new arrivals coming up the Red sea.

The weather was great (though we could have had more wind), the company was great and the cakes were excellent....the birds on the other hand were on siesta ro marking the start of Ramadan by fasting.

 

A lone Arctic Skua flew over and turned his nose up at us, a few White-eyed Gulls dropped in and quite a few Common Terns, Little Terns, White-cheeked Terns and Sandwich Terns passed us by while following groups of Tuna feeding on small fry.

Earlier in the week we had a pair of Long-tailed Skuas, more Arctic Skuas and quite large numbers of terns, up to 500 flying in a ball formation. Elsewhere a few Sand Martins, Greenshank, Steppe Buzzard etc very few and far between…

hopefully more luck next week!

 

 

4.7.15

 



 

For the last two weeks I've been without two essential birding items, wheels and luck.

Thursday evening the new car arrived and I headed straight down to the North Beach to celebrate. As luck would have it a young Bridled Tern was waiting for me, first of the season!

 

After a couple of very quiet weeks at the beach we also had a very friendly Sooty Shearwater, a few Arctic Skuas, White-cheeked Terns, Common, Little and Sandwich Terns.

The first returnees of the Autumn migration are also showing up around the ponds. There were 30 Caspian Terns at K19-K20, Redshanks, a Ruff, 2 Green Sandpipers lying in the water, a Little Bittern,some Barn Swallows and a Whiskered Tern.

The locals were also out enjoying the mild weather, a Barbary Falcon munching on a pigeon, a Hooded Wheatear, Little Green Bee-eaters, Pied Kingfishers, Kentish Plovers, Rufous Bush-Robins etc it's good to be back out in the field.

 

I had planned to visit the mountains but the road is closed due to the problems in Sinai… hope it reopens shortly. While the rest of the country is having a great summer with the Bateleur, lappet-faced Vulture, breeding Pale Scops Owls, Hill Sparrows breeding in many areas, possible Hawfinch breeding etc things are very low key here… but that never lasts long.

 

 

I'll be back with the new discoveries next week!

 

 

 

 

 

11.7.15

 



 

The great thing about birding is that your winning the moment you get out the door - nature! fresh air! great scenery! exercise! ....and of course the adrenalin of the hunt!

 

While the rest of the country was off hunting the Senegal Thick-knee, we in Eilat settled for more modest prey. This morning I went up to Seyafim Plain after the road was re-opened. There was a lovely cool breeze and I did a 10km walk round the plain just to enjoy the mild weather and wonderful scenery.

 

There were nice numbers of locals including 8 Bar-tailed Larks, 30 Desert Larks, 7 Mourning Wheatears, 12 Hooded Wheatears, a couple of White-crowned Wheatears, 40 odd Scrub Warblers and 10 Trumpeter Finch.

On the way back stopped off to look for Striolated Buntings and Lichtensteins Sandgrouse (which I didn't find) but found a pair of Eastern Olivaceous Warblers playing hide-and-seek in the Acacias, ‘autumns' passerines have begun arriving!

 

North Beach has been very dull - low numbers and nothing of interest.

Have a cool week and send the next mega our way!

 

 

18.7.15

 



 

While it may not feel like autumn, wader migration is now in full flow. Large groups of Green Sandpipers, Wood Sandpipers, Redshanks and Ruffs are pouring through and filling up the ponds around the IBRCE (Eilat Birdwatching Center) and at K20.

Little Stints, Little Ringed Plovers, Greenshanks, Common Sandpipers are also dotted around the ponds. Also seen was a Sanderling, Purple Heron, White Stork. a number of Spoonbills and a Mangrove Heron.

 

4 Cream Coursers were reported at Evrona along with the first Great Spotted Cuckoo. North Beach was very dull over the weekend with only a few Arctic Skuas and a couple of White-cheeked Terns.

Earlier in the week we went down to the beach in the evenings when a nice southerly was blowing. A group of some 70 Terns were flying around acrobatically and among them were a Lesser Crested Tern and possibly a Greater Crested Tern. It had a dirty yellow base to the beak but the end was nearly black...very unusual looking and unfortunately disappeared too quickly.

 

 

Things are warming up here....maybe time for a visit?

 

 

25.7.15

 



 

Things are warming up in Eilat and the Arava… 43C of warm to be precise!

It's been a good week down at the North beach with plenty of local birders enjoying the cooler southerly breeze and some good birds. Monday evening 5 birders were on the beach but only two remained when the sun went down and a Storm-Petrel began flitting around between the big freighters on the gulf.

 

Poor light and distance made it hard to work out what type it was ( I suspect Swinhoes) but very rare sight here whichever species it was. The next morning two Bridled Terns arrived and by Thursday 13 Bridled Terns were roaming the Gulf. They were joined by a pair of Lesser Crested Terns, plenty of White-cheeked Terns, 2-3 White-winged Terns, pairs of Arctic Skuas and dwindling numbers of Common Terns.

 

This morning a hot northerly gale was blowing and most of our visitors disappeared back down the gulf. At the pools (around the IBRCE - Eilat Birdwatching Center, and at K20) the waders are still arriving with Ringed Plovers, Curlew Sandpipers and a wave of 70 Kentish Plovers joining the other early arrivals.

Over the IBRCE bird park a Sooty Falcon was circling while plenty of Common Bee-eaters were noisily making the rounds. Reed and Eastern Olivaceous Warblers are passing through alongside Great Spotted Cuckoos and a Hoopoe Lark was seen near Evrona.

 

 

 

 

KM 19 had a Sooty Falcon (Noam) and a Pintail?! But the best moment of the weekend was during a short round with my 5yo daughter. I spotted a cute Lichtensteins Sandgrouse couple and spent 10 minutes explaining where to look. When she finally saw them her eyes lit up like a twitcher who had just seen his boogey bird of the last 20 years. I have a budding birder in the making and she already has some very rare birds on her list!

 

 

Have a cool week!

 

 

 

1.8.15

 



 

Long, hot, hot week in Eilat, 45C daily and no let up in sight.

Long week of few birds and crap photos but we had a few moments of excitement. Early in the week we were down at the North beach, the only place to be! one Long-tailed Skua and 2 Arctic Skuas, plenty of White-cheeked Terns and in the last rays of light a Sooty Falcon passed over us.

 

Thursday morning Barak Granit found an Arctic Tern, a rarity in this part of world, and while we didn't find it Thursday evening it made a couple of passes Friday morning. 6:50 in the morning Adi spotted the annual Red-Billed Tropicbird making it's way across the gulf.

It was really high and a long way out but in nice sunshine got quite a good look at it. Still waiting for one to come close enough for a photo.

There were a pair of Bridled Terns from Thursday morning till this morning, pair of Skuas plus plenty of local White-eyed Gulls, Mangrove Herons and Western Reef Herons. The pools are pretty quiet with only a few waders braving the extreme heat. Did catch a Curlew taking off from the bushes at the Bird Park and heading north, not a common visitor here.


There were reports from a couple of sources of a Black-Bush Robin at the Bird Park but I didn't find him.There were plenty of Common Bee-eaters, a couple of White-throated Kingfishers who appear to be colonising the area, 5 Teal and 4 Pintails, a Hooded Wheatear and a Southern Grey Shrike. I went back to the air-conditioning and left those brave birds out there...hope you all have a cool week!

 

 

 

8.8.15

 



 

The past week was one of the hottest on record, so much so that today's 45C felt mild!

But it didn't deter the birds or even some intrepid birders. The big news of the week was the discovery of White-cheeked Terns breeding in our area and they join the Black Bush-Robins which were documented breeding in the Arava for the first time at the end of May.

 

It's quite amazing to watch the dynamic situation of birds when logic says they should be in decline because of human expansion, some are actually spreading out and conquering new territory.

On the birding front, North Beach relatively quiet- Arctic Tern hung around until mid-week, up to 30 White-cheeked Terns daily, just a few Common Terns, 2 Lesser Crested Terns this evening, Caspian Terns, a couple of Little Terns, White-winged and Whiskered Terns and the first Armenian Gull arrived.

 

Friday morning we had a Sooty Falcon skimming across the water before heading inland. In a moment of madness/wild optimism I decided to head off to Yotvata this morning. The north of the north circular field is beautifully green but the only bird in sight was a Glossy Ibis. The south circular field is bone dry and dead ....so of course it's covered in birds... . Apart from hundreds of Rock Pigeons and Collared Doves there were also plenty of Namaqua Doves, just the one Turtle Dove, Crested Larks, first returning Isabelline Wheatear, Hooded Wheatear, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel.

 

The oxidation ponds have been stripped of all foliage and had just 3 Glossy Ibis and a Ruff. There were 70 odd Namaqua doves enjoying the special aroma of the ponds along with Rufous Bush-Robins, a Southern Gray Shrike and a Sedge Warbler. Elifaz has 30 odd Little Grebes, some Garganey, a Spoonbill and a pair of Sooty Falcons whistled past my ears on an early morning raid.

 

At KM20 the number of waders is growing with the first Broad-billed Sandpiper arriving today but the waders still prefering the IBRCE park pools this years with excellent numbers there, including Marsh, Wood, Common, Green and Curlew Sandpipers, Redshanks, Greenshanks, Ringed, Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers, Little Stints etc.

An unusual visitor to the Bird Park was a 60cm psychedelic green Viper basking on the path beside the first hide. I fear someone has released an illegal pet here.

 

KM 19 had a number of Garganey, Coots, Little Grebes, 2 White Storks and the local Barbary Falcon. And last (and least) a visit to Park Holland rewarded me with a single Eastern Olivaceous Warbler and one Itzik Cohen trying to photograph an unhelpful Rufous Bush-Robin- we must both be mad...have a great week and congratulations to the English on winning the Ashes( Frank, you finally have a great reason to smile!)

 

 

 

16.8.15

 



 

Bit of a strange weeks birding this week with numbers fluctuating rapidly.

It started Sunday evening at the North beach with 5 Lesser Crested Terns and a pair of Bridled Terns along with good numbers of White-cheeked Terns, a couple of Common Terns, Little Terns and a Sandwich Tern. Rest of the week there were very few birds until Friday morning a young Kittiwake meandered up the gulf, went over our heads headed off towards the ponds.

A Kittiwake is exceptional at this time of year and after talking to Barak Granit I realised I may have ruled out a Sabine's Gull for the wrong reasons.

First summer's of both species are very worn at this time of year and look very simillar. Spent the rest of the weekend searching for the bird to no avail.

Saturday morning I was out on a small boat with Itzik but the birds refused to come near us. We had a Cory's Shearwater and Lesser Crested Tern all quite distant. Wader numbers rose and fell with the tides, a couple of Broad-billed Sandpipers, first Greater Sandplover and first Temminck's Stints including the one pictured who tried to get in the car after I lured him closer with playback calls.

 

Saw almost no movement in the bushes except for one exceptionally early Icterine Warbler, a couple of Lesser Grey Shrikes, Long-legged Buzzard and an Osprey cruising over the trees near KM20.

KM19 has arriving Shovellers, Garganey, a Pintail, a few Teal and Coots and the first Kingfisher of Autumn. Lichtensteins Sandgrouse were spotted drinking at the Timna Lake so things looking up this species locally.

Ringing begins this week so hopefully we'll get more news next week!

 

 

 

22.8.15

 



 

Action packed week here in southern Israel despite some of the worst heat waves in recent years. For a few days the North Beach was inundated with birds with more than 10 Lesser Crested Terns cruising the shoreline daily, 30 odd White-cheeked Terns, an Arctic Tern, a probable Saunders Tern and a couple of Cory's Shearwaters.

 

Monday morning I was watching a large group of Terns and Gulls feeding on the fish-filled dancing waters when I spotted a very large, very white bird heading down the middle of the gulf.

My eyes opened like saucers and saliva started dripping out both sides of my mouth.

There was no missing the flight-style of a gannet along with the long dives into the water.....and then I lost him....so close and yet so far!

 

Barak arrived in the evening and was well cooked by evening. Next morning along with Noam we scanned the sea for the damned bird to no avail. But there was still plenty of action with an Arctic Tern, probable Saunders Tern plus all the other wonderful birds of the week.

 

Thursday morning started at the ringing station with a nice range of species. The highlights were a Marsh Warbler ringed in Belgium, a Great Reed Warbler looking very much like the eastern Zarudni sub-species and of course the kids enjoying every moment.

Above we had a very early Heuglin's Gull, Glossy Ibis and Storks everywhere, Lesser Gray, Red-backed and Woodchat Shrikes on the bushes and a steady influx of waders on the ponds incl: Dunlins, Broad-billed and Curlew Sandpipers etc.

 

This morning I headed off to Yotvata to look for a Grasshopper Warbler. No luck but plenty of Yellow Wagtails moving into the North field and a pair of Black-headed Buntings which were particularly friendly. Really looking forward to next week, hope you are too!

 

 

 

29.8.15

 



 

Another busy week here in the south with plenty of good news.

Ringing has been good with good numbers for August (60-70 birds each morning) and a nice variety of species. Eastern Orphean, Lesser Whitethroats, Whitethroats, Sedge and Savi's Warblers plus a few Barred Warblers, Garden Warblers and Blackcaps have joined the many Reed Warblers moving through.

 

Shrikes are flooding the trees with many Red-backed, Lesser Gray, Woodchat and Masked Shrikes throughout the Arava. My 5yo daughter has fallen in love with ringing and bounces out of bed at 5am to be there first.

North Beach has been very quiet with only Yaron Charka finding anything of note with an Arctic Tern and 2 Bridled Terns. Midweek Itai survived a very scary accident on the Arava road so Friday morning we went for a relaxing time at an oxidation pond way out the back of the Eilat mountains.

More than 100 Crowned Sandgrouse and 70 odd Spotted Sandgrouse made the 2 hour wait well worthwhile. There was a great sideshow of local wheatears, Trumpeter Finch, Sand Partridge, waders, Yellow Wagtails and more. Unlike the raptor-fest of spring, very few raptors pass through here in Autumn so I was happy to see a young Steppe Eagle, Egyptian Vulture, Red-Footed Falcon and Montagu's Harrier this week.

 

Yotvata is coming to life with nearly 150 Yellow Wagtails, Isabelline Wheatears, Shrikes everywhere and 3 Cream-Coursers to boot.

The KM 20 ponds are also seeing many more birds with a breif visit of a young Black-winged Pratincole, many Marsh Terns, Garganey and Shovellers, many waders and Yellow wagtails etc.

The Park ponds are equally productive and even Park Holland is worth the rounds with many warblers and shrikes offering close views. Temperatures have dropped below 40C so come join us for yet a another great migration season!

 

 

 

5.9.15

 



 

Quiet but fulfilling week for me.... most of the good birds were seen by Noam at the IBRCE... young Lanner Falcon, Baillon's Crake and Black-winged Kite.

A juvenile Bonelli's Eagle kept the rest of us smiling at KM19 while another adult hung around the date palms of KM20.

More and more species of song birds are trickling through with the first Wryneck today, Willow Warblers, Citrine Wagtails, Whinchat, Tree Pipit and Water Rail.

 

Fairly low numbers of birds over the weekend but it's just the usual ebb and flow of migration. Overall it looks like we're going to have a very good autumn.

Down at the North beach this morning we had large numbers of White-cheeked Terns, a few Marsh Terns and a Sooty Falcon and then we headed up the canal for International Shorebird Day.

 

Despite getting cut on barbed wire and mired down in mud we had a pretty good morning with plenty of waders and good company. In an evening pass through the ponds I found the numbers higher with a couple more species and a group of large gulls that came in for the night not to mention less mud!

Next week the holiday season begins and I'm sure we'll have plenty of birds to celebrate .... join us if you can!

 

 

 

12.9.15

 



 

The power of nature!

This week featured some of the most miserable weather on record and finished with a breathtaking Red Sea storm.

All week we suffered extreme heat (43C), humidity and suffocating dust storm which blotted out the landscape and the birds. Our two new volunteers Ya'ari from Finland and Ed from Britain put on brave faces but must have nearly died.

 

This evening I went to the North beach with the family, still insufferably hot and dusty but started noticing more and more White-cheeked Terns moving in. I started counting and found all the bouys in the gulf packed with terns. I got to 87 White-cheeked Terns!!

a Lesser Crested Tern that danced a few metres in front of me, a pair of Bridled Terns sitting on the closest buoy with another 5 probables further out when suddenly a strong southerly breeze hit me. "Dromit!"(Southerly) I roared and everyone looked at me as if I had gone mad.

A minute later all 50 odd tents had been blown off the beach by 80km gusts, metre high waves threw water metres in the air (we never get waves here!) and big groups of birds hugged the shoreline.

 

A group of 40 White-cheeked Terns were blown into us, passing between us in touching distance - fantastic experience!

Another extraordinary feature of the week was the birds - they just kept coming through in ever greater numbers!

 

At the ringing station we are close to 100 birds daily, lots of Sand Martins and Barn Swallows, Willow Warblers, Whinchats, Whitethroats, Lesser Whitethroats, Barred Warblers, Blackcaps, Nightingales, Reed, Marsh and Great Reed Warblers, Bee-eaters, Savi's Warblers, Sedge Warblers and even a Black-eared Wheatear today, really nice variety.

 

In the air we have Booted Eagles, a Bonellis Eagle, young Steppe Eagle, Montagu Harriers, some exhausted Storks and many others heading south. Big numbers of waders are flooding the ponds with Turnstones and Godwits arriving today, Snipes popping up everywhere and a Spotted Crake at the station.

 

In the field Black-eared Wheatears pouring through with first Northern Wheatears also joining in, massive waves of Shrikes and the first Tawny Pipits also arriving. Tomorrow is Jewish New Year so I wish you all a Happy New Year and some great birding...I'm certainly going to enjoy the next few days!

 

 

19.9.15

 



 

It was another interesting week with really good numbers of passerines passing through and fattening up and the week finished with most moving on and a quiet weekend.

 

There were some nice species in hand and great variety in the field. The highlight was a pair of Cinereous Buntings ssp Semenowi that wandered round the Southern Beaches promenade for a couple of days, great little birds.

The other highlights were an Upcher's Warbler and Icterine Warbler (rare here) in the hand at the IRBCE.It's really nice to see these birds up close and learn some new signs for field identification. Ringing numbers have been good with a full range of warblers, shrikes, bee-eaters, a Cretzschmars Bunting, Ruppels Warbler and many more.

 

Yotvata is now a real hot spot with Black-headed, Cretzschmars, Ortolan and Corn Buntings, many Short-toed Larks plus a Lesser Short-toed Lark, acres of Yellow Wagtails, Montagu's and Pallid Harriers, Peregrine Falcon, many Wheatears, Warblers....in short a great place to spend a full morning. Good numbers of waders in all the ponds with Godwits, Turnstones and Grey Plovers joining the regulars.

 

The bushes and fences around KM20 are also bouncing with life after flashflood waters from Jordan have left big fresh water pools everywhere. Park Holland also had excellent numbers of warblers while my local Park Canada has been quiet but an Isabelline Wheatear has taken up residence there for the last ten days.

 

 

Perhaps the most intriguing part of birding this area for European birders is watching the common garden species passing through the desert, swamps, extreme heat, harsh conditions… once you have seen them here you will never look at them the same way again. So come and watch the miracle of migration, even the mundane becomes miraculous....see you here!

 

 

 

26.9.15

 



 

This week was marked by Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. On this day we apologise profusely for all the birds we have misidentified in the year passed, to those we have ignored and to those we have bad-mouthed....and then we go and do it all again in the following year.

 

It was a quiet week here with low numbers as the first phase of the autumn migration ends and the second phase begins. The early migrants are disappearing, last call for Montague's Harriers, Barred Warblers, Orphean Warblers, Broad-billed Sandpipers etc. The next wave is arriving with Red-throated Pipits, Larks and Bluethroats starting to arrive.

 

At the ringing station we had time to enjoy the Barn and Red-rumped Swallows, Sand and House Martins and even a Pale Crag Martin. There was more time for the wide variety of Lesser Whitethroat sub-species and variations along with the Reed, Great Reed, Marsh, Sedge, Olivaceous and Willow Warblers, a Nightjar, an early Cetti's Warbler, dwindling numbers of Red-backed Shrikes and many Masked Shrikes.

 

Seen in the area were small numbers of Levant Sparrowhawks, an Alpine Swift, Rock Thrush, 3 Bitterns, Little Crake and another White-tailed Lapwing at KM 19. Yotvata is filling up with Pipits and Larks while 3 Cream-Coursers keep the locals happy.

 

At North Beach very high numbers of White-cheeked Terns, a Lesser Crested Tern and some migrants continue to surprise us. Even more surprising was a pair of Golden Eagles lazily moving across the Gulf from Sinai to Jordan, quite rare in this area these days. Here's hoping for a cooler, busier week next week!

 

 

3.10.15

 



 

The week of the "Succot" holiday is when huge numbers of Israelis head out into nature.... which is a blessing and a curse. 

One of the reasons I love birding is getting away from people, especially crowds of people, and this week we invited the crowds in. We suffered in silence because educating people about birds and nature is the only way we are going to be able to preserve these wonderful natural resources. but I'm glad it's over! 

 

Another interesting week in the region with the ebb and flow of migration. Numbers were generally average to low but plenty of great species for all. The Yotvata fields are still the hottest spot with Pallid Harriers playing a starring role. The fields are crawling with birds, Pipits, Larks, Wagtails, Wheatears, Shrikes, Sparrows and Raptors. 

 

Five Cream-Coursers are resident in the North fields and a Temmincks Horned Lark had many visitors smiling. I had a big group of 28 Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters and the Bird park  pond is also crammed with birds. The ringing was fairly quiet but Spanish Sparrows, Sardinian Warblers and Bluethroats have started arriving.

 

There are only small numbers of raptors but we have seen Pallid Harriers, Steppe and Lesser Spotted Eagles, Sooty and Barbary Falcons plus a first Lesser Kestrel. The ponds are steady with plenty of waders including 3 White-tailed Lapwings and 28 Black-winged Pratincoles. 

Park Holland chipped in with the first Yellow-browed Warbler and the North beach still has plenty of White-cheeked Terns, some big Siberian Gulls and one possible Lesser Black-backed Intermedius Gull. 

Tomorrow more holidays so we'll be out again tomorrow!

 

 

 

10.10.15

 



 

The week started with a bang and ended with a bang.

On Monday a Paddyfield Warbler in the hand (10th record for Israel) and this evening a Sociable Lapwing in the Yotvata fields. And while the great mass of migration is passing west of us, it's quality not quantity!

 

While numbers were very low for much of the week, only 30 odd birds ringed today, we had an Isabelline Shrike (Itai) and Steppe Shrike (Shimon) at Yotvata, Jack Snipe on the canal, late Black-headed Bunting, Unwini Nightjar at the IBRCE, sleepy Nightjar right beside the nets, Little Crake on Lake Anita, Citrine Wagtails and plenty of variety wherever you looked. My 5yo daughter added the Paddyfield Warbler, Sociable Lapwing, Isabelline Shrike, Steppe Shrike and Little Crake to her impressive list of sightings, 3 of them this evening at Yotvata.

 

We missed the Pharaohs Eagle Owls but a pair were seen in the middle of the North Field this week too.

On the regular species, Pied Wagtails are pouring in as the Yellow Wags are moving out. Still only minor numbers of Red-throated Pipits and Bluethroats, but still plenty of Tawny Pipits, Short-toed Larks and waders.

 

Desert Wheatears becoming more common while Black-eared Wheatears are dwindling, Teal and Pintails are pouring in while Garganey are dwindling, Lesser Kestrels, Kestrels and Sparrowhawks arriving while Levants are long gone and the last Sooty Falcons are now hunting constantly before going south.

 

Rare Bird Season has opened! See you here soon!

 

 

 

17.10.15

 



 

Slow week....slow but sure... . On Sunday we said goodbye to the Sooty Falcons and on the weekend we said hello to the Cormorants, Oriental Skylarks and Richard’s Pipits. Numbers were very low for ringing and in the parks but the Yotvata north field remained heavily populated and the ponds are filling up rapidly. The first hide at Lake Anita has become a magnet for photographers with Little Crake, Little Bittern, Water Rail, a Great Bittern, Reed and Sedge Warblers all seen at close range.

 

There is some minor raptor migration coming over with 40-50 Steppe Eagles daily, Black Kites, Booted Eagles, some Pallid Harriers and a number of Lesser Kestrels. Not to many warblers around but Bluethroats, Redstarts and Pied Wagtails are common, Spanish Sparrows are in plague proportions, only a few shrikes left and the best birds of the week, a Common Rosefinch and Red-breasted Flycatcher, I missed.

 

Surprisingly the North beach is still active with a Brown Booby arriving, still quite a few White-cheeked Terns and plenty of big Gulls. Next week is going to be a good week...I feel it it my bones....so keep a watch here for the next big finds!

 

 

 

24.10.15

 



 

I had a great day...and I mean a really great day!

Firstly New Zealand beat South Africa in the Rugby World Cup semi-final…

and then I had some really great birds too! I turned up to ringing Station this morning "Guys, I need some photo's for the Weekly Update...anything will do, Bluethroat, Sardinian, Prinia anything!" All morning just 35 birds, half retraps...some of them like the Savi's Warblers and Great Reed Warbler have been hanging around for weeks.

I snuck off to look for the African Purple Swamphen that had been found the day before by Douwe De Boer, a regular visitor from Holland who always comes up with something. It was wandering around in the open when I arrived and then disappeared for the rest of the day.

 

A great Bittern in the same corner of KM19 proved a slippery customer too...not coming out too often. Back at ringing a Red-Breasted Flycatcher jumped into the nets along with a couple of stunning Bluethroats. It was then back to KM19,20 and the canal. Had a couple of very dark Eastern Black-eared Wheatears and then had the first Imperial Eagle of the season circling above us with a Bonelli's Eagle while a Caspian Stonechat sat beside us (also my first of the season).

 

Km19 is packed with birds, it's a real magnet not only for waterfowl but also many other species. Managed to drag myself home for a bit before going out for an evening run with my daughter. Picked up the Isabelline Shrike at KM20 along with a Desert Wheatear, plenty of waders and gulls including my first Pallas's Gull for the season.

 

Went back to KM19 where a Pied Wheatear was waiting for me on the back of the Purple Swamphen (same corner anyway) The question is: Is this the same bird that I called a Cyprus Wheatear on Thursday evening?

Both are first winter males and same spot. But they looked quite different to me, thursday's bird being more colorful with a redder buff to the breast and sharp line on the throat dividing black and buff areas (also bird wasn't seen between thursday evening and this evening despite constant flow of birders in area) ....both are Pied's some I'm a happy camper.

 

Went down to North Beach to cap off a great day, 27 White-cheeked Terns! Brown Booby, Common Gull, 40 White-eyed Gulls and plenty more regulars. Didn't make it to Yotvata but great birds there too, Sociable Lapwing showing well, Northern Lapwing, Oriental Skylarks, Richards Pipits (one at Eilot too), Lesser Kestrels, first Hen Harriers.... well worth a good visit.

Rarities season is off with a bang...bring them on! Have a great week!

 

 

31.10.15

 



 

I'm sure you'll all be thrilled to know New Zealand are Rugby World Champions again.... let the party begin!

On Sunday we changed the clocks to winter time, the skies opened up and heavy rains caused wide spread flooding across the area. While in the north the storm brought an extraordinary wave of Cyprus Wheatears, here the storm brought life.

Friday morning I picked up Ed from the IBRCE and we went to check the desert areas. We started at Ya'alon stream which had seen heavy flooding, not too many birds, some Chiffchaffs, Redstarts and a nice male Pallid Harrier.

Moved on to KM76 which was astonishingly green. We worked our way around the muddy areas and slowly picked up Bar-tailed Larks, Richards Pipit, Tawny and Red-throated Pipits, lots of Siberian and Caspian Stonechats, Hooded, Mourning, Desert and Northern Wheatears, Southern Gray Shrikes and more.

We then tried Ovda which was covered with Pied Wagtails. It has had really heavy flooding and is already green. This area has been empty for over a year but is now bouncing with life. Skylarks, RT Pipits, a Wryneck!, Red-footed Falcon, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk, Buzzards, Wheatears, 750 Cranes moving overhead and finally the Holy Grail- 6 Thick-billed Larks! Unfortunately there were many warplanes flying low over us sending the birds in all directions!

 

These are going to be great places through the winter and spring- pencil them into your plans! Mud has made it difficult getting to many places but ringing goes on. Not a lot of excitement, Bluethroats, Chiffchaffs, Redstarts and Spanish Sparrows being the majority with a few shrikes, Lesser Whitethroats and Sardinians thrown in.

 

 

Km19 is packed but the regular Imperial Eagles haven't arrived yet. The Greater Spotted Eagle at Elifaz has arrived and we hope more raptors will come. At KM 20 I had an unusual find of 3 Temmincks Horned Larks but little else and the sea still has the Brown Booby, a Sandwich Tern and 5 White-cheeked Terns. Now we just need a few megas! See you next week with the news...

 

 

7.11.15

 



 

The first thing we forget each year when rarities season arrives is that rarities are still rare…

we certainly didn't have too many this week. I struggled to find an interesting bird this week but the weather is beautiful and it is so enjoyable just moving round in nature.

 

Sunday I had a day off, spending the morning at Yotvata and enjoying the the new greenery that the rains have brought with them. The Desert Finch and Linnets have arrived, plenty of Skylarks and Red-throated Pipits, Corn Buntings and Stonechats but still almost no Water Pipits.

 

There are a few Oriental Skylarks and Richards Pipits but very few Wheatears. The next day Ed and Jari picked up a rare Lanner Falcon over the Southern Field. During the week at the IBRCE a Common Rosefinch (which I missed for the 100th time) seen, Cyprus Warbler ringed, Black-winged Kite and Yellow-browed Warbler seen and an unusual 5 Siskins this morning spotted by Noam. Ringing numbers were up slightly despite more rain this week, Bluethroats, Chiffchaffs, Redstarts, Spanish Sparrows, still some Lesser Whitethroats, Reed Warblers and even a Great Reed Warbler still hanging around.

 

The beach is still sporting wonderful numbers of White-cheeked Terns, White-eyed Gulls, two Brown Booby, a Lesser Crested Tern, Black-headed Gulls and Siberian, Baltic, Armenian and Caspian Gulls.

Km19 is filled with water fowl and plenty of other birds lurking round the edges, Dead Sea Sparrows, Wheatears, Pipits, Wagtails etc.

 

Km20 attracted a late Oystercatcher but worryingly Flamingo numbers have remained very low.

 

Late this morning I took Jari and Matilda up to the Seyafim Plain to see what the rain has done for the place. It has had much less rain than Ovda but still plenty for everything to grow and fill up all the drinking holes in the local wadi. Not to many birds, Bar-tailed Lark, Desert Larks, 4 species of Wheatears and Scrub Warblers. 12 Sinai Rosefinch have arrived at Amrams Pillars so Seyafim should fill up shortly.... have a great week!

 

 

 

14.11.15

 



 

While the Autumn migrants are disappearing quickly, the winterers are now moving in and I think they are going to like conditions here this winter.

The weather is excellent, the fields are green and food is plentiful. I had a really good morning walking the fields of Yotvata on Friday. The low grass means everything is visible, all sections are accessible and each little area had it's own residents. The highlights were a Buff-bellied Pipit amongst a group of 20 Water Pipits (who are finally turning up), 7 Pichards Pipits, Lesser Short-toed Lark, a Lanner Falcon over the dunes,10 Siberian (Maura) Stonechats, 12 Desert Finch, 2 Oriental Skylarks, Hen Harriers along with the many Red-throated Pipits, Skylarks, Corn Buntings, Bluethroats etc. Didn't find the Oriental Turtle Dove seen the day before by Chen and Ed or the returning Ochruros Black Redstart but you can't get everything.

 

A Demoiselle Crane was seen passing over with a group of Cranes earlier in the week while the first Asian Desert Warblers are also appearing in their regular areas. Didn't see any Wheatears all weekend (unheard of!) and the Flamingos haven't been arriving either....cause for worry?

 

There was one other returnee that I was relieved to see and that is the Samar’s Imperial Eagle. I've been watching his favourite pylons for the last month and finally on Thursday he made an appearance.

KM 19 hasn't got anyone new (though always worth a visit) and Elifaz reservoir is strangely understocked though the Black-necked Grebes have arrived.

This afternoon I took my daughter to Yotvata for their excellent ice-cream and naturally had a quick look at the fields. Ended up with a 5yo on my shoulders dripping ice-cream on my head and poking sticky fingers in my eyes....but still managed to see a pair of Black-headed Buntings.

Finally by the sea a pair of Brown Boobys are still on the bouys, just 7 White-cheeked Terns left and lots of White-eyed Gulls....and that's it for yet another week- have a good one!

 

 

 

21.11.15

 



 

Very interesting week in the area with plenty of rare and unexpected birds. Earlier in the week Dominic and Rod Standing came for a few days birding so I got some good info on what’s happening in the area as well a good time with a few beers.

 

They pointed at KM76 being the "birdiest" place so come Friday I headed off there for a good look around. The place has had even more rain, very muddy, very green and big pools of water everywhere. 6am and the sky is full of birds dropping down everywhere. I had 20 species in the first 5 minutes including Spectacled Warblers, Asian Desert Warbler, Richards Pipit and Siberian Stonechats. Spent 4 hours wandering through the mud and there was no end to the number and variety of birds. Large numbers of Water Pipits, Red-throated Pipits, Wagtails, Tawny Pipits, Skylarks, 21 Desert Wheatears (last week didn't see one!) Hooded and Mourning Wheatears, hundreds of Bluethroats, Corn Buntings, Chiffchaffs, Sardinian Warblers etc.

 

The variety included 6 Temmincks Horned Larks, Bar-tailed Larks, 6 Spectacled Warblers, 9 Crowned Sandgrouse, 12 Dead Sea Sparrows, 5 Desert Finch, Hen Harriers, a Siskin, Trumpeter Finch and a Citrine Wagtail. I was just nearing the date plantation on the southern edge when a Wheatear popped up in front of me- another Hooded I was thinking to myself until I saw the nice orange patch under the black line on the breast. He turned and flew off showing a nice "T" tail and plenty of white going half way up the back. Adult male Pied Wheatear it was. Tried chasing him but he disappeared in to the date palms.

 

If I had known there was a Grey Hypocolius there I would have kept on going! Today Yael and Shimon Shiff did it again, finding the bird in that very area.

 

Quick look around Yotvata showed dwindling numbers but picked a Goshawk(returnee?) and Greater Spotted Eagle.

Park Holland was largely empty except for 3 Cyprus Warblers - and who needs more than that! Elsewhere the Red-billed Teal has shown up again at Hatzeva, the ringers got a Pallid Scops Owl, Moustached Warbler and a Reed Bunting - very unusual here!

 

Lastly spent a few hours at North Beach this afternoon with visiting family and was amazed by the amount of activity. 39 White-cheeked Terns in a single count! 20 Shelducks, first for the winter, 35 Big Gulls incl Caspian, Siberian and Baltic Gulls( one Siberian had a fish hanging from a fishing line he held in his bill...flying!), an Alpine Swift very lazily picking food from the surface, Cormorants, White-eyed and Black-headed Gulls, the 2 Brown Boobys and a lone flamingo. What a week for late November.

See you here next week!

 

 

 

28.11.15

 



 

After reading Yoav Perlmans blog on birding in England, I went out feeling more priviledged than ever with the wonderful birding spots on my doorstep and the excellent variety of species we see without really appreciating them to the full.

 

End of Autumn sees dwindling numbers which generally leads to a post-migration depression. But the magic of our area is that there is always somewhere to go and something new to find. Late Autumn and KM76 has become an electro-magnet for late migrants. After a couple of barren years this site is suddenly on fire....Why?

 

I'm not sure but it seems the message travels wide and far. Friday morning I put 4 hours in there just wandering around between the micro-areas- short shrubs, tall bushes, bog, grass flats, dry mud-flats etc at the moment it has something for everyone. There weren't the huge numbers of last week but still there were plenty of birds to keep you very busy.

 

The Jordanian side was also bouncing with birds but a group of Jordanian soldiers got upset with me staring into Jordan with my telescope. Apart from the full range of Pipits, Bluethroats, Corn Buntings, Skylarks, Desert Wheatears, Spectacled and Sardinian Warblers, Hen harriers, Kestrels, a Sparrowhawk, a couple of Crowned Sandgrouse, Trumpeter and Desert Finch, there was a late Quail, Common Redstart, Semirufa Black Redstart and of course a personal first, a Little Bunting.

 

Two years ago a Little Bunting spent the winter at Yotvata and some 20 attempts at twitching him ended in failure. On Friday the account was closed when one bounced up in front of me posing like a model. The excitement must have been too much because I failed to even get him on the camera screen. Earlier in the week a Pied Flycatcher was seen there (late and rare autumn guest), a Barred Warbler was ringed at the IBRCE and a Daurian Shrike seen also at KM76. The North Beach scene remains stable with 40 odd White-cheeked Terns, two Brown Boobys, loads of gulls, 6 W.Reef Herons plenty of action! Ringing is all but over with the volunteers leaving now- they had a great time and we enjoyed there presence immensely.

 

Short round at Yotvata with a milkshake didn't bring any new birds but a mega-flock of over 100 Desert Finch was a first for me here. Good numbers of Pipits etc all in all still looks promising. Next week no expectations....just a lot more fun in the wonderful weather and brilliant conditions. Have a great week.

 

 

 

5.12.15

 



 

Autumn is over and winter has come with bitterly cold Siberian wind - hardly made it to 22C!

Still we braved it out ...and actually had a really good time. Virtually no migrants left but still clocked up 103 species over two mornings without anything special.

 

Started out at KM76 Friday morning- still good numbers of birds around and a nice variety. Missed the Buff-bellied Pipit but picked most of the others including the slightly suspicious Black-eared Wheatear. I've seen a few possible hybrids this autumn but really hard to know for sure.

Had a Finsch's Wheatear, Barbary Falcon, 2 Richards Pipits, Oriental Skylarks, Eastern Stonechat, Little Swift plus the more numerous Pipits, Wheatears etc... Breakfast with the birding club rounded off a great visit.

 

Up to Ovda which is greener than Wimbledon Common and has everything except the Desert birds we really want to see. With the amount of early rain they are spoiled for choice and I doubt we'll see too many before the higher areas dry up. There were some Crowned Sandgrouse, Wheatears, Skylarks etc and an unusual gathering of more than 100 Brown-necked Ravens.

 

Went down to the beach in the evening despite gale-force winds, the Brown Boobys were active and later sat together preening each other romantically- maybe a new breeding species for Israel in the making?? Only 5 White-cheeked Terns who may finally be heading south due to the cold?

 

This morning we tried Evrona- not so green but a reasonable number of regular species and 1 Asian Desert Warbler. Then I headed to Amrams pillars which was windless and bouncing with birds! 18 Sinai Rosefinch put on a show, 20 odd Trumpeter Finch, a Desert Finch, Desert Larks, White-crowned and Hooded Wheatears, Scrub Warblers and Sand Partridge, Pale Crag Martins- great spot well worth a visit.

Finally did the regular KM19 & 20 round, gale force winds had everyone clinging to the sheltered banks-not bad numbers but still lacking many Flamingo and Shelducks etc Really nice weekend- we are still worth visiting!

 

 

 

12.12.15

 



 

With the coming of winter we have recalibrated our expectation meter and gone out to enjoy our regular winterers....

if you can't find the bird you love, love the bird you find! Then again, with Israel’s 8th ever Great Bustard appearing today who knows what one might find...

Friday morning headed up to Seyafim plain to see how it's coming along. Expectations low and turnout was the same. The plain has a nice green tinge to it and will be great in the spring. A few Desert Larks, Trumpeter Finch, Scrub Warblers, Mourning Wheatears and a big family of Rock Hyrax down by the water holes.

Had a look for the Striolated Buntings and Pallid Scops Owl near Route 12...no luck.

 

Afternoon at the beach was pleasant with the Brown Boobys still glued to the buoys, lots of gulls and a last two White-cheeked Terns. Today me and my best girl (5yo daughter) had the whole day together. Both KM19 and Elifaz were packed with Cormorants, 9 Pelicans, loads of Shovellers, Pintail etc one late late Gull-billed Tern, a few Heuglins, an Osprey, Imperial Eagle.... very pleasant. Km20 has good numbers of waders including 5 Avocets, Marsh Sandpiper and Greenshank ,still only 50 odd Shelducks and not enough Flamingo.

 

Made a visit to Samar lawns, only 30 odd Water Pipits, Desert Wheatear and Stonechats....but still has potential. Yotvata north field kicked off with an Imperial Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard and Sparrowhawk circling above and 2 male Hen Harriers below. Good numbers of Water Pipits, Red-throated and Meadow Pipits, 4 Oriental Skylarks and a very late Yellow Wagtail. The 5 Cranes were still present and well scrutinised by my daughter. South field had 40 odd Desert Finch, more Pipits, Lapwings, Skylarks etc still worth a good look around. This morning a Woodlark was seen near KM20, something of a novelty in this region.

Have a great week!

 

 

 

19.12.15

 



 

Winter is not peak season for birding but it is a fantastic time for some leisurely birding.

No need to get up early or rush around. The weather is constantly wonderful and the birds aren't going anywhere.

 

Friday I headed out for a twitch with the whole family onboard. Generally that is a recipe for disaster but on such a wonderful day there is something to keep everyone happy. Our target was a Hume's Leaf Warbler that was found by a local birder Liri, and identified by Itai midweek. Our first stop was Neot Smadar Cafe/Restaurant. This little place has great food and even better garden out the back where Itai had seen a Yellow-browed Warbler earlier in the week.

Didn't find the bird but all enjoyed the food.

 

Quick stop at Ovda to see the magnificent green carpet stretching across the desert, plenty of Wagtails and Pale Crag Martins...little else. 20 minutes north of Neot Smadar is a small community called Shittim which includes an Ashram but also a very green oasis in a barren landscape. Only took a few minutes to find the bird, one playback and he was flying around my ears like a kamikaze pilot.

He's a very impressive little bird and very noisy, perhaps the easiest way to identify him. Spent an hour trying to get a photo but he was faster than lightening. Also in the area was a Pale Scops Owl and it may be well worth putting Shittim on the birding map during migration too.

 

From here we did the loop to KM76, bypassing the Dunn's Lark at KM93, and despite the mid-afternoon hour the place was bouncing with birds. The Black-eared Wheatear hybrid (?) was very friendly but no sign of the Persian Wheatear that was reported at this spot two weeks ago by an Austrian birder.

There was also a Yellow Wagtail, Pipits including one Richards Pipit, Bluethroats and Sardinian Warblers everywhere, Hen Harrier, Black Redstarts, Desert and Mourning Wheatears etc. All together a very enjoyable day out.

 

This morning I did the local area, two Boobys still at North Beach but no Terns, plenty of waders around (including a Curlew at Yotvata) and waterfowl also got plenty of attention from the photographers.

Greater Crested Grebe and Osprey at KM19, a few Wigeons and Avocets at KM20, not too many Raptors, almost no Teal?!, Flamingo numbers are finally up but Chiffchaffs are seriously low.

So I wish all who celebrate a very merry Christmas and lots of great birding!

 

 

26.12.15

 



 

Christmas birding is best done in sparkling sunshine, in a place with a great range of birds and where nobody knows what Christmas is!

It's a warm winter in Europe and I suspect many wintering birds may arrive very late or not at all. While last weekend I had only 6 Chiffchaffs in Park Canada this week I had over 40. All over numbers appeared to be up and I think this trend will continue. Frank Moffatt, our number 1 visiting birder, arrived this week and kept us busy with reports from all over the region.

The Hume's Leaf Warbler starred again and a pair of Yellow-Browed Warblers at Lotan were also prominent. Friday I had just a couple of hours for KM19 +20 but it was good. A pair of friendly Black-necked Grebes were a good start, a Pallas's Gull was sitting patiently in a group of Heuglin and Baltic Gulls, a Greater Crested Grebe still here and the Bonellis Eagle made an appearance being constantly hassled by crows.

 

Km 20 was very slow but still beautiful! This morning I stopped in at the Elifaz reservoir which was low on waterfowl but the southern side was jumping with 16 Bar-tailed Larks, Water and Red-throated Pipits, Wagtails, Kentish Plovers and Little Stints. Quick stop for a look at the Samar’s Imperial Eagle, he's a survivor, and then on to Yotvata. North Field was packed with regular winterers and the South field had even more. Big numbers of Skylarks and Pipits, 120 Desert Finch, Lapwings, 7 Richards Pipits, 4 Tawny Pipits, Starlings, Corn Buntings, Stonechats, Namaqua Doves, even the sand dunes were fully loaded with birds and flowers.

 

Went to Lotan for the YB Warblers but got a call about an injured Sparrowhawk in Yotvata. It was in good condition, gave me a good run around but was safely bagged and off to Hi-Bar for treatment. Down at the North beach the two Brown Boobys still keeping us company and a nice range of large gulls also. Went back to KM19 to look for a Grey Phalarope that had been reported the evening before. Didn't find it and i have a sneaking suspicion it might be a Ruff which can look very similiar after sunset. Hope everyone celebrated appropriately and if not next weekend we'll do it all again!

 

 

Shachar Shalev

land marks