Spring 2016 - part 2

Frank Moffatt 06/04/2016 00:00

ISRAEL - Spring 2016

Sitting in Manchester Airport with Brian Beilby. 1030hrs flight to Tel Aviv.

Due to board in around 45mins. Looking forward to another great trip.

See you all soon



Day 1 - 22 March 2016


Nice morning in the Gilboa with Brian Beilby. Based at Kfar Ruppin. Great to see David Glassner again.Sung to sleep by the Eurasian Scops Owls and Stone Curlews last night.

Wadi Tzvia and surrounding areas..

Area packed with birds including 4+ Cinereous Buntings, Cretzschmar's Bunting, 4+ territorial Long-billed Pipits, Blue Rock Thrush, many Balkan and Eastern Olivaceous Warblers, Clamorous and Reed Warbler, Blackcap, G.& Lesser Whitethroat, Blackbird, C.Buzzard, many Black Kites, White Storks, W. Pelicans, a few Black Storks, Ospreys and much more.

Great stuff. Heading back out now.




Drove south from Gesher on the border road to Hamadya. Some really nice birding along the way but no sign of the Yellow-billed Stork. Could easily be hidden away somewhere.

Now settled at Kibbutz Lotan.


Day 2: 23 March 2016


Excellent mornings birding. Especially this BLACK BUSH ROBIN, found by Brian in the superb Organic Gardens at Kibbutz Lotan & Center for Creative Ecology shortly after breakfast.



Also Masked Shrike, 3 Orphean Warblers, several Balkan Warblers, Blackcaps, Lesser Whitethroats, Chiffchaff, E. Olivaceous Warbler, at least 3 groups of E. Bee-eaters heading north (c.60 birds involved), C. Redstart, Hoopoe, Blackstarts, Chukkar, E. Sparrowhawk.

Really nice overhead raptor and Black Stork migration north of Lotan between 0930 - 1030hrs. Several hundred Steppe Buzzard and Black Kite and 4-5 groups of Black Stork involving c.125 birds.

Supposed to be quiet here.


Cloud cover from mid-afternoon brought quite a few birds down including Steppe Eagle. Promise for tomorrow.

Another Orphean Warbler this afternoon near Ketura junction. Nice birding all round and didn't have to stray far. Male Collared Flycatcher turned up in Lotan's Organic Gardens late afternoon. Heavy rains forecast for the Arava on Saturday could be interesting.



Day 3 - 24 March 2016


Began at a relatively quiet KM76 with Brian. Not bad when you get a nice male Pallid Harrier through, Southern Grey Shrikes (2), Woodchat Shrikes (2), several L. Whitethroats, Ruppell's Warbler, Blackcap, Short-toed Lark, Black-eared Wheatear, a couple of Cretzschmar's and similar Trumpeter Finches

Back to Lotan's Tea Rooms for smashing breakfast and a corking male Collared Flycatcher.





Up to Wadi Grofit but just a few L. Whites and Blackcaps. Raptors were streaming past Mount Ayit (Eagle Mountain) : Steppe Buzzards, Black Kites, a couple of Steppe Eagles - very nice thank you.


On to Ne'ot Samadar Sewage: Garganey still, several Balkan Warblers, feldegg wags and variants, White Wags.

News broke of a possible Yellow Bittern at Eilat Bird Park but despite a good try we failed to see it. We did see Caspian Tern, Penduline Tit, and at least two Little Crakes however.

On to a date plantation close to KM20 but quiet other than L. Whites, Blackcap, I. Silverbills and what appeared to be a rather early 'calling' Thrush Nightingale.


Day 4 - 25 March 2016


Ketura Sewage to start with: c.20 Bl-w Stilts, 2 Little Stints, several Ruff, feldeggs, 3+ Bluethroats. Breakfast at Lotan.

Brian relocated the male Collared Fly in Lotan's organic gardens. Also Wryneck and 3+ Bluethroats.


Up to Ne'ot Samadar: 2 Booted Eagles, Garganey still, White Wags and feldeggs (inc. variants), Chiff and Balkan Warbler.

Ovda Valley: c.80 Short-toed Larks, c.10 Red-throated Pipits, Quail, Tawny Pipit. Small copse nearby held both Ortolan and Cretzschmar's Buntings.

Returned to Lotan for a break. Still quiet but by 15:00hrs the Bottle Brush trees were jumping with Blackcaps and L. Whitethroats thanks to a small fall mid to late afternoon.



Headed down to Yotvata Circular fields to finish: male and ring-tail Pallid Harrier, male Marsh Harrier, Long-legged Buzzard, Kestrel and E. Sparrowhawk. Also c.20 Corn Buntings, Red-throated Pipits and flava/feldegg wagtails plus single Desert Finch.

The rains are approaching. Could be interesting over the next couple of days.


Day 5 - 26 March 2016


With Brian Beilby. Up and out early with packed breakfasts to Ne’ot Samadar Sewage. No real indication of a fall and a similar mix to previous visits. We than checked most of the copses on route 12 for a few KMs.


Actually plenty of birds around: a really nice Rock Thrush got things off to a good start, Ortolans and Cretzschmar’s, what sounded like C. Nightingale giving brief snatches of song, at least 4 Orphean Warblers, 3+ C. Redstarts, c.20 Blackcaps and decent numbers of Lesser Whitethroats, single Common Whitethroat, Sardinian Warbler and a few Steppe Buzzards resting up plus a distant Syrian Serin and a few C.Swifts over.




We followed that by walking a broad circuit on the east side of the Ovda Valley: c.125 G. Short-toed Larks, single Pallid Harrier, 2 Marsh Harriers, 7+ Northern Wheatears and at least three pairs of White-crowned Black Wheatears, Southern Grey Shrike, Desert Larks, Scrub Warblers and Linnets. And then the rain started. Quite heavy for a time but it had eased after an hour or so.


Break at Kibbutz Lotan for a drink and then a roam round the southern end produced 5 corking Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, at least 4 C. Redstarts, single Collared Pratincole, several Steppe Buzzards, a few Black Kites, feldeggs, White Wags, Red-t Pips and a handful of Marsh Harriers.


Headed the short distance south to Yotvata, finishing off at the Northern Field: c. 150 flava/feldeggs over, a steady stream of B. Swallows, single House Martin and a flurry of Rumpers all dashing north. Red-t Pipits, a few Corn Buntings, 14 European Bee-eaters, plus a few Steppe Buzzards and a couple of Marsh Harriers.


To the café for evening meal. By the time we’d returned to the car it was raining hard and as I write this it’s still pouring down 1.5hrs later. Continuous steady rain in the southern Arava in Spring is a first for me and Brian. It was forecast and perhaps it’s played its part in the strange migration thus far. Definitely more birds around today but much of it seemed in a hurry to get somewhere.

Tomorrow will be interesting.

The light today was terrible so sorry about the photo quality; but it did make birding the deserts a heck of a lot easier.



Day 6 - 27 March 2016


With Brian Beilby

Began at an extremely busy and noisy Ketura Sewage thanks to no less than 600 Black-winged Stilts. Also Common, Green, Wood and Marsh Sandpiper, C. Snipe, Ruff plus feldeggs and White Wagtails and a Black-eared Wheatear. Very nice start. Clearly the change in weather has opened the flood gates.





Up into the Eilat Mountains 0830 - 1230 hrs

6 Marsh Harriers, just short of a thousand Steppe Buzzards, c.400 Black Kites, single Imperial Eagle,4 Osprey,2 Booted Eagles, 189 Black Storks, 15 Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters.


On the old road between km19 - 20 we bumped into (another) Back Bush Robin.

KM20 Salt Pans: c.120 Collared Pratincoles, Greenshank, Redshank, Ruff, Little Stint , Bl-w Stilt, Garganey, Shoveler, Pintail, Shelduck, Teal, Kentish Plover, 2 Red-n Phals.

Kibbutz Lotan late afternoon: 4 Steppe Eagles, 160 White Storks, 88 Black Storks, 5 Alpine Swifts, several Steppe Buzzards, 2 TreePipits and 36 E. Bee-eaters..


Steady stream northwards all day of B. Swallows, Red-r Swallows, the odd Sand and House Martin.

Plenty of people reporting plenty of birds.

And to finish a really good day off we've just returned from a hugely successful opening ceremony of the Champions of The Flyway at the Eilat International Bird Park.


Day 7 - 28 March 2016 (morning to 1230hrs)


With Brian Beibly

Began at Ketura Sewage. Couldn’t live with yesterday in terms of noise and numbers but still plenty of interest: 2 C. Snipe, Sedge Warbler, Wood and Green Sand, c.60 Bl-w Stilts, couple of Little Stints, Woodchat Shrike, feldeggs, White Wagtails, Ruff - a similar mix to previous visits.


Back to Kibbutz Lotan for breakfast. Checked the Organic Garden and swimming pool area but no real change or sign of a fall. What I did note, however, was a big raptor movement through the centre of the Arava and along the western Mountains. We dashed to a vantage point west of the road. Wow!


Big numbers of Steppe Buzzards and Black Kites and c.200 Black Storks, 24 E. Bee-eaters, Lesser Kestrel, and a surge of Barn and Red-rumped Swallows, House Martins and Swifts.

Just when it looked like it had ‘stopped’: BOOM! BOOM! Incredible. A huge cloud of White Storks on their way north. One of the most amazing spectacles I’ve seen since I first started coming here in 1990. I had a group of c.2500 from the same vantage point last year but this flock absolutely dwarfed that.

Finished off with a really smart Wood Warbler in a small copse nearby.

What a great morning. Cuppa time.





Day 7: 28 March (PM)

With Brian. Walk round a relatively quiet Lotan: similar mix plus single E. Olivaceous Warbler, 14 European Bee-eaters. Up to Ne'ot Samadar: Savi's Warbler, many flava/feldegg and White Wagtails, Woodchat Shrike plus at least 2 Masked, male Marsh Harrier and a few Steppe Buzzards, Squacco Heron, Wryneck, Red-throated Pipits, Golden Jackal.

Temps were cool all afternoon with a F4 NW wind. Lots of cloud cover for much of the morning with threatening grey skies to the north where it rained.


Day 8 - 29 March 2016


With Brian

Began at Yotvata Sewage: many Reed Warblers, singing Savi’s and Sedge Warblers, Coot, Garganey, Little Egrets, Grey heron, Green and Wood Sands, Ruff, Marsh Harrier, C. Nightingales, 2 Egyptian Geese, what sounded like Clamorous Reed Warbler, L. Whitethroats, Blackaps and Masked Shrike. Interesting Chiffchaff that could be a decent candidate for Siberian perhaps. Any thoughts? Didn't hear it call unfortunately.


Yotvata South Circular Field: 5 Desert Finches, Marsh Harriers, Steppe Buzzards.

Breakfast at Lotan:

followed by a circuit of the Organic Gardens: male Collared Flycatcher, Balkan Warblers and small numbers of the regulars.

Raptor Watch a little north of Lotan: c.300 White Storks, c.60 Black Storks, Steppe Buzzards and Black Kites in smallish numbers, single Booted Eagle, Black-eared Wheatear, 3 C. Redstarts, C. Nightingale, Balkans and the regulars, 34 E. Bee-eaters.

Coffee Break at Yotvata.


KM20 Salt Pans: Osprey, 2 Red-necked Phals, 36 Collared Pratincoles, 4 Bl-tailed Godwits, Marsh, Green, Wood Sands in smallish numbers, and a few Kentish and Little Stints, Bl-w Stilts, Greenshank and Redshank, Shoveler and Pintail and Wigeon, Glossy Ibis, Sl-billed and Black-headed Gulls, G. Flams. C. Swifts, H. Martins, Barn and Red-r Swallows overhead.


A couple of route 90 roadside copses: Collared Flycatcher and Black&White Flycatcher sp., C. Redstart, Bl-eared Wheatear, Masked and Woodchat Shrike, C. Nightingales, Hoopoe plus the regular warblers etc.


At dusk we observed a Black Stork and a few Steppe Buzzards low overhead and a nice flock of c.130 Black Kites dropping into a date plantation to roost.

Evening meal at Yotvata and that was it. Yet another good days birding.



Day 9 - 30 March 2016


With Brian Beilby.

To KM82 with packed breakfasts early morning. Bumped into David Cotter and Team so plenty of eyes in the field. Wadi acias were packed with Lesser Whitethroats and Blackcaps but also many C. Nightingales. Balkan Warblers, Orphean Warbler, Quail, the occasional Ortolan and Cretzschmar’s and also a single Cinerous Bunting.


Our first Rufous Bush Chat of the trip plus Short-toed Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Lesser Kestrels, Steppe Buzzards and Black Kites. Masked and Woodchat Shrikes, C. Redstart, Black-eared and Northern Wheatear, a couple of Tawny Pipits, Red-throated and Tree Pipits, Scrub Warblers and Blackstarts. B. Swallow, Red-rumped and E. Bee-eaters passing through. The place was jumping.

Pick of the bunch, however, was 3 Thick-billed Larks - we kept well back so as not to disturb them.





Did a raptor watch which was productive though many of the birds were extremely high: Steppe Buzzards, Black Kites, Marsh Harriers, Booted Eagle plus Black and White Storks, Lesser Kestrels, E. Bee-eaters, C. Swifts. Very nice.

South to KM20 pools: single Red-necked Phal and 3 Black-tailed Godwits, Osprey and small numbers of the regular waders and gulls.

Black-crowned Night Heron, Balkan Warblers and C. Nightingales in a roadside copse.


Yotvata Fields: 14 Lesser Kestrels, many L. Whitethroats, 2 Black-eared Wheatears, 2 corking Caspian (variegatus) Stonechats, Marsh Harrier, Red-throated Pipits, a few feldeggs came in to roost, Turtle Dove.

Over the last two days there’s been a very obvious arrival of Common Nightingales. Masked and Woodchat Shrikes are found very frequently.

Another excellent days birding.


Day 10 - 31 March 2016


With Brian Beilby  

Pre breakfast wander in a wadi north of Kibbutz Lotan was relatively quiet: at least one Orphean Warbler, several L.Whitethroats and Blackcaps, Masked Shrike and the regulars. Lotan for brekky.

Ketura Sewage: Also relatively unchanged: C. Snipe, Reed Warbler, Green, Wood and Marsh Sands, feldeggs and White Wags.


Yotvata Sewage: Reed Warblers, C. Nightingales, Masked Shrike and regular waders

Yotvata North Fieds: Woodchat, Southern Grey and Masked Shrikes, Reed Warbler, E. Olivaceous Warbler, Lesser Kestrels, many L. Whitethroats and Blackcaps. Overhead migration included: Marsh Harriers, Steppe Buzzards and Black Kites, Black Storks.


Seifim Plains: kept to roadside and had a superb group of around 9 Thick-billed Larks drop in calling. Fantastic. Also Desert and Short-toed Larks. Several Tawny Pipits, and many Trumpeter Finches. Wheatears: Northerns widespread, also Mournings and Hoodeds and at least 2 Black-eared. C. Redstart.





Carried on and checked a few roadside copses heading north and route 12 towards Lotan: C. Redstart, and not much else.

Ne'ot Samadar: at least c.100 feldeggs, Wryneck, Grey Wagtail, many White Wags, c.10 Ortolans.

A thoroughly enjoyable day


Day 11 - 1 April 2016


With Brian Beilby  

Straight to a quiet Holland Park. Balkan Warblers were around as were a few L. Whites and Blackcaps, one or two E. Oli's and a Masked Shrike.

Up into the Eilat Mountins for a raptor watch. Many hundreds of Steppe Buzzards and Black Kites, at least 6 Steppe Eagles and 1-2 E. Imperial Eagles, Egyptian Vulture, Booted Eagle, a few Black Storks plus Alpine Swifts. Very nice.


Down to the canal area and KM19-20. No real change here but perhaps fewer waders around: Barbary Falcon, Booted Eagle, a few Collared Pratincoles, 5 Red-necked Phalaropes, some nice flava/feldegg wags,

Hotter today but a pleasant breeze helped make it feel a little cooler.





Day 12 - 2 April 2016 - AM


With Brian Beilby

Wandered around some desert type scrub as far as the border north of Lotan: 3 Wrynecks, L. Whites numerous, several Blackcaps, also several Woodchat and Masked Shrikes, Trumpeter Finches. Bluethroats, Barn Swallows heading north in a light stream and E. Bee-eaters calling overhead, Tree Pipis and feldeggs/flavas all north. Lots of birds.


Did a raptor watch from a decent viewpoint a little north of Lotan: heavy and excellent: Many thousands of Steppe Buzzards and many Black Kites but also 3 Egyptian Vultures and 3 Steppe Eagles, two Booted Eagles and Lesser Kestrels. Superb.


A very quick glance in one or two local areas brought Blackcaps and Lesser Whitethroats. A good morning birding. Pretty hot today so we're taking the opportunity to relax with a coffee before heading back out.





Up to Ne'ot Samadar: Quite a lot of birds with a notable increase in Chiffchaffs, several Balkan Warblers, at least 6 C. Nightingales, 2 Wrynecks, Masked and Woodchat Shrike, C. Redstart, Grey Wagtail, 2 Squacco, 2 Cattle Egrets, Common and Green Sands, decent numbers of flava/feldeggs and White Wagtails.


Finished off at Yotvata North Field male Marsh Harrier, Masked and 2 Woodchat Shrikes, Red-throated Pipits, Northern and Black-eared Wheatear.

Very pleasant way to close the day.


Day 13 - 3rd April 2016


With Brian Beilby

Began with a very brief look at KM20 pools and there appeared to be a slight increase in waders generally especially Kentish Plovers. Also 1-2 Curlew Sandpiper. Returning later for a more thorough look.


Checked the area west of the salt pans - off the north west corner: clearly more Tree Pipits around. Also a group of c.9 Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters north. Three Tawny Pipits, a Short-toed Lark, Masked Shrike, small numbers of Lesser Whitethroats, at least 2 C. Nightingales.


Up to the Eilat Mountains. We stayed high initially and had a nice passage of 18 Steppe Eagles, 1-3 Lesser Spotted Eagles, Booted Eagle and several hundred Steppe Buzzards and Black Kites. Close White-crowned Black Wheatear.

The main raptor stream appeared to be lower so we moved down. Very nice continuous passage of Steppe Buzzards and Black Kites but also single Pallid Harrier and 3 more Steppe Eagles. The raptors were still coming but we left it to the hard core Danish raptor watchers and headed to Eilat.





Returned to KM20 salt pans: single Broad-billed Sandpiper, Common Sand, single Spotted Redshank and Dunlin plus the regulars waders of late. Decent numbers Red-throated Pipits scattered around plus a few Water Pipits, single Booted Eagle, E. Bee-eaters, at least 4 Collared Pratincoles, some really smart flava/feldegg wagtails.

Roadside copse held C. Redstart, Balkan Warblers, L. Whites, Hoopoe, Masked Shrike.


Finished off at Yotvata Fields: White Storks, male Merlin, Lesser Kestrel, 3 Tawny Pipits, 3 Marsh Harriers, Rufous Bush Robin, 2 Southern Grey Shrikes, male Namaqua Dove, Black-eared Wheatear, male Pallid Harrier, a few Steppe Buzzards, lots of Lesser Whitethroats, as usual this trip Masked and Woodchat Shrikes.

Clearly more birds today including a subtle change/increase in species and numbers. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Dorkas Gazelle with young, Golden Jackal.


Day 14 - 4th April 2016


With Brian Beilby.

Tried a desert scrub area a little north of Kibbutz Lotan & Center for Creative Ecology.

Marsh Harrier, ringtail harrier sp., Quail, Tawny Pipits, Black-eared Wheatear, Wryneck, flave/feldeggs overhead, several L. Whites and Blackcaps, Short-toed Larks over, Osprey, E. Bee-eaters.

Our last breakfast at Lotan. Lovely.





Short raptor watch produced 11 Steppe Eagles, single Levant Sparrowhawk, what appeared to be single Lesser-spotted Eagle, single Booted Eagle, a few Black and White Storks, Steppe Buzzards, Black Kites, 17 E. Bee-eaters, small numbers of Barn Swallows and Swifts sp. north.

Small copse nearby held C. Nightingale, Balkan Warbler, L. Whites, Blackcaps.


Yahell Sewage isn't the place it once was but it still turns up birds: Green and Wood Sands, Grey and White Wags, a few LRPs, Squacco Herons, Little Grebe.

Then it was back to Lotan to shower and pack after a great trip.

Stop off at a copse at Mitzpe Ramon produced Wryneck, Grey Wag and White Wag, C. Redstart, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and L. White.

Just a little shy of Ben Gurion having a bite to eat before our evening flight home.




land marks