January - June 2016

Shachar Shalev 03/07/2016 00:00
 

3.1.16

 



 

Wishing you all a happy new year without too many post-mortems on the past year- on a quick count I had 324 species for 2015.... which speaks volumes about the variety of species passing through our region and Israel.... and little about my birding skills!

 

We brought in the new year with cold, overcast conditions, something of a novelty in our region. The situation is fairly static but we're hoping the cold weather will push more birds in our direction. Friday morning I only had time for the pools - KM19 quite busy with a juvenile Greater Spotted Eagle posing beautifully, couple of Imperial Eagles, Booted Eagles and Sparrowhawks, Barbary Falcon and even a Black Stork heading south.

KM20 hasn't changed and at the IBRCE did a good walk around with Noam Weiss Great Bittern wasn't showing, loads of Penduline Tits and a few Moustached Warblers - otherwise predictably quiet.

 

This morning I started at Lotan with the Yellow-Browed Warbler- it was calling nicely but hardly showing itself - total failure trying to get a photo so decided not to bother with trying to get the Hume's Leaf Warbler which is even a tougher customer.

Ovda was cold and windy, 3 Spectacled Warblers, one Asian Desert Warbler, loads of Crows, Wagtail, Skylarks and a Barbary Falcon, minor numbers of Wheatears.

Yotvata had the same crowd as last week but at least the Imperial Eagle performed nicely. Nothing new at North Beach but I'm still confident that a surprise is on it's way!

2016 is going to be great, join us here on you're next trip!

 

 

 

10.1.16

 



 

It's mid-winter and you figure the birds you saw last week are the birds you are going to see this week. Another week and the first spring migrants will start arriving, Pallid Swifts, Barn Swallows, Whitethroats and maybe a Greater Spotted Cuckoo.

Friday it was certainly true...overcast, big dust storm, miserable visibility...so I did the pond rounds and North Beach plus a couple of parks. Numbers were up a bit especially at Km19 which was loaded with ducks, the Bonellis Eagle, Imperial Eagle and Greater Spotted Eagle were all circling high in the dust along with a Sparrowhawk and Marsh Harrier, 4 Black-necked Grebes etc.

 

The beach has the same pair of Brown Boobys, a Pallas's Gull and some Siberian Gulls and the parks the normal assortment of Chiffchaffs, Bluethroats and Black Redstarts.

So Saturday morning I treated myself to 4 hours at KM 76. There was a Gull-billed Tern at Elifaz and a Finsch's Wheatear flew in front of the car near Grofit. The weather was clear and warm and the birds were bouncing all over the place.

The Water Pipits, Bluethroats and Sardinian Warblers were enjoying the long grass and bogey areas, over 40 Stonechats, Corn Buntings, Skylarks, Wagtails, Pale Crag Martins etc everywhere.

At the Northern tip I picked up a pair of Whitethroats, early springers even for them.

Had 11 Spectacled Warblers all together, but just the lone Asian Desert Warbler, predictably bouncing around underneath a Desert Wheatear. Later I saw a Spectacled Warbler doing the same trick with another Desert Wheatear. Had a good long scan of the Jordanian side after their soldiers left...it was packed with Trumpeter Finch and Water Pipits mainly. Didn't find the Hoopoe Lark I suspect resides there but found an Isabelline Shrike being harrassed by a Southern Gray Shrike, one of 7 in the area.

 

On the way back there were 2 Oriental Skylarks, 5 more Desert Wheatears, Mourning and Hooded Wheatears and even an Isabelline Wheatear and just to top it off a Steppe Shrike....and I had all this wonderful area to myself!

Noticibly missing were the Tawny, Richards, Meadow and Red throated Pipits....have they already gone north?? Later in the day I took the family to Hi-Bar Safari near Yotvata. There were 3 Black Bush-Robins bouncing around the Visitors Centre and plenty to see inside too...worth a visit for the raptors rehabilitation too.

Spring is on it's way....be sure not to miss it!

 

 

 

16.1.16

 



 

This week was all about the Basalt Wheatear.

For the last couple of years, every time I would pass a young White-crowned Wheatear I would jokingly comment "another Basalt Wheatear". Finally another has arrived, only 8th record for Israel, and the twitchers have had a great time.

The bird was found on Tuesday by Lior Kislev and his group and since has been seen by dozens of birders.

I was itching to get there Friday but it was the only day my wife and I had together so we went for breakfast by the sea which was also wonderful.

 

Saturday morning I packed my 5yo daughter and dog into the car and headed off to find the bird. It was a very easy twitch....the bird was right beside the road and had seen so many birders you could put a bow tie on him and then photograph him!

Another tick for me and my daughter, very cool picking up species together. She also got a good look at an Asian Desert Warbler, no mean feat at her age. I saw six in the area and there were more singing. There were plenty of Desert and Mourning Wheatears prancing around and all these dry river beds are going to be very interesting in spring.

 

We checked out another area around Km 84 which was packed with regular species and a lone Cyprus Warbler.

Spring is upon us with hundreds of Pallid Swifts moving through, 150 at Elifaz reservoir this morning. Small numbers of Steppe Eagles have been passing over the IBRCE and some big groups of Grey Herons have been heading north.

Also seen by others this week were Steppe Shrikes at KM76 and Ovda, a Bimaculated Lark at Ovda, Black Bush Robins near KM20 and Striolated Buntings on the south beach walkway....and things are only going to get better!

Have a great week!

 

 

 

23.1.16

 



 

This weekend a good friend, Dominic Standing, came down for some birding alongside family duties.

He wasn't alone, many birders were moving up and down the Arava this weekend and this is what their schedule probably looked like: First stop Shittim - Hume's Leaf Warbler and Pale Scops Owl, next KM94 - Basalt Wheatear plus plenty of Asian Desert Warblers, Desert Wheatears, bar-tailed Larks and possibly a Cyprus Warbler.

Moving down to Km76, Steppe Shrike and many Spectacled Warblers, one pair singing away and looking for nesting material. Just down the road at KM 69 Eran Dvir and Adi Gantz found a Kurdish Wheatear. It's been a number of years since the last Kurdish Wheatear in our area. It was my first Kurdish Wheatear and if last week I had my first Basalt Wheatear with my daughter, this week I went one better and shared the bird with my daughter and my wife!

 

Moving on our visitors had easy views of Black Bush Robins at Hai Bar, 14 Sinai Rosefinch playing ridiculously close to the car at Amram's Columns, Lichtensteins Sandgrouse wandering near KM19, a pair of Barbary Falcons fighting above KM19, Pallas's Gull and Black-necked Grebes also at KM19 along with The Imperial Eagle and Greater Spotted Eagle and then polishing things off with a beer and a pair of Brown Boobys at North Beach.....

not a bad weekend by anyone’s standards. I did all this (except Shittim) at a stroll and still had time for the family!

If you weren't here and your mouth is watering, then it is time to move! Come visit us, you won't do better anywhere else! Have a great week!

 

 

 

30.1.16

 




 

It was a very cold week for us and with people coughing all over me all week at home and at work, I got the bug just in time for the weekend.

Many of our birders went north to enjoy the Negev, but we had Jerusalems birders coming south. All the birds have remained exactly in the same spots. The only new sighting was a Syrian Serin seen near the Kurdish Wheatear by Shimon Shiff. They are occasional winterers here but quite elusive.

 

There is a another development creeping up on us which is very very disturbing. At first it was just rumours or futuristic plans to build a row of wind turbines in the Arava. Now it seems to be moving to concrete plans.

You can hardly imagine the carnage a row of wind turbines would cause when 450,000 Honey Buzzards and 60,000 Levant Sparrowhawks move low down the Arava in two days.

This insane plan could seriously endanger many of Europe’s migratory raptors, and it is not just raptors that will be affected.

I hope this crazy idea dies in it's planning stages but we need to be prepared to fight it.

have a great week's birding.

 

 

 

13.2.16

 



 

Spring is now upon us and things are warming up.

The trickle of Steppe Eagles is now over 200 daily. They are now being joined by Short-toed Eagles, Steppe Buzzards, Lesser Kestrels, Kestrels and Sparrowhawks.

Pallid and Alpine Swifts plus Barn Swallows and House Martins are streaming across the country and over the Yotvata fields a cloud of them can be seen hunting the insects.

The bushes are still empty but I had 3 Cyprus Warblers at the KM88 wadi this morning, a sign of things to come. Because of the excellent conditions throughout the region the birds will be more spread out this spring which means working harder to find them.

I think the wadis from KM76 to Km94 are going to be the best places for birding. They look fantastic and are a real magnet in years like this. Km76 will be great but Ovda is too green?! and we will need to see if it can attract something other than Storks and Short-toed Larks.

I'm hoping 3 of the 4 Yotvata fields will soon be watered and planted which will give us good birding by late March. The Seyafim plain is flowering wonderfully and will also attract nice numbers of birds and hopefully a couple of rarities.

 

Around Eilat may be weaker than normal in March but late April it will boom as usual. And the raptors? They never disappoint! So make your plans now, there are birders already here from Europe!

Footnote: The Basalt Wheatear appears to have left but the Kurdish Wheatear can be found very easily in his same spot. The early birder will get migration and some of the excellent wintering species here- take them into account!

 

 

20.2.16

 



 

The quiet before the storm - ringing began in earnest this week and it was very quiet. Apart from the wintering Bluethroats and Chiffchaffs, there was a Reed Warbler, Little Bittern, Arabian Babbler, Little Crakes in the pond and some poor Cetti's Warblers getting caught three times a day in the same net.

 

Waders are on the move with greater Sand Plovers arriving, some Black-tailed Godwits plus larger numbers of the different Sandpipers. Citrine Wagtails are now regular around the ponds and big numbers of ducks are moving up the gulf.

Thursday evening some 60 big gulls moved northwards over North Beach but the really nice thing was the love story between the Brown Boobys. Friday evening they sat together, there was some sky-pointing followed by over half an hour of bill clashes and stroking.... this evening they were at it again..... love is in the air!

 

Over the mountains Steppe Eagles are hitting around 500 daily with minor numbers of Steppe Buzzards, Short-toed Eagles etc also passing through. Yesterday Noam and Chen reported 8 Syrian Serins at Grofit wadi so today I went to check them out with my best girl. There were four drinking when we arrived and more than 20 at the southwest end of the wadi. I was determined to get a decent photo of them but the little buggers sat in their trees singing their hearts out as we sat silently only a few metres away for over an hour.

The first Ruppels Warbler of the season was still hanging around and a couple of pallid Scops Owls made the wadi the place to be this weekend!

Yes, even a quiet weekend can be pretty busy with lots to see!

See you next week when the floodgates open!

 

 

 

 

27.2.16

 



 

The first small wave of Rüppell's warblers arrived midweek and we were warming up to a good weekend. Tuesday evening I had Cyprus and Rüppell's warblers at Park Holland so I put my bet on the Wadis just north of KM76.

 

Expectations weren't too high but to find the place empty was very surprising not to mention disappointing. There wasn't even a single Lesser Whitethroat. I jumped to the Basalt Wheatear but it wasn't there and tried the Kurdish Wheatear which was also absent. At Km 76 there were 2 Oriental Skylarks, the Steppe Shrike, Barbary Falcon, some Isabelline Wheatears, lots of Corn Buntings, not too exciting. Finally I checked out the Syrian Serins and predictably they were nowhere to be found. Meanwhile Steppe Eagle migration hit a new high with 1,400 eagles in a single day.

 

There are plenty of Steppe Buzzards, Black Kites and Short-toed Eagles coming through and the first Egyptian Vultures are also passing over.

Ringing has been very, very slow so I headed to the mountains at 9am and there were good passages of raptors through the morning.

Tonight we went to Yotvata with Itai and the volunteers and failed to find any Nightjars..... sincerely hoping for better news very soon! Have a good week!

 

 

 

5.3.16

 



 

With many birders arriving in Eilat and many more on the way, I would like to extend a warm welcome to you all.

Please feel free to post your sightings here, ask questions or just tell us how your birding holiday has been. If you see me charging around in a white Dacia with a big white dog and 5yo daughter, feel free to ask questions or just say hello!

The IBRCE staff are also really good source of information and happy to help wherever they can. Getting up to date reports is going to be critical this spring as the green environment will mean the birds will move through faster. The waves of migration are going to be less predictable and a great place today will be a lemon tomorrow!

 

This weekend the pace picked up a little though passerine migration is still slower than normal. Earlier in the week a massive group of Hill Sparrows were found at Ovda plain, at least 224 individuals with some birders putting them at over 300. I took IBRCE ringer Anders there today and we didn't find even one. There were plenty of Short-toed Larks, Red-throated and Meadow Pipits and even a Tawny Pipit. Most striking were the hundreds of thousands of butterflies covering the plain, but disappointing to see so few Wheatears there.

 

The Seyafim Plain is quite a different landscape and Friday evening there I found the central area swamped with Wheatears. Isabelline and Northern Wheatears were everywhere but there were also Mourning, Hooded, Desert and Black-eared Wheatears.

There were also plenty of Trumpeter Finch, Bar-tailed Larks, 3 Hill Sparrows, Scrub Warblers and Chiffchaffs.

Raptor migration has been excellent with many Steppe Eagles moving low over the bird Park. They have been joined by Short-toed Eagles, Booted Eagles, Black Kites, Egyptian Vultures, Steppe Buzzards and even a juvenile Golden Eagle.

 

Lots of Gulls arestreaming through daily and a rare Mediterranean Gull was spotted at the Bird Park ponds. This morning saw a nice wave of Lesser Whitethroats at Park Holland (around 60), Cretschmars Buntings at KM76, Savi's, Reed and Bonellis Warblers being ringed and lone Rueppell’s Warble and Eastern Orphean warblers in the bushes.

It is not going to be easy but it's going to be fun!

 

 

 

 

12.3.16

 



 

This weekend I targeted two places I figured to be the hot spots of this spring and one place no-one ever goes. The first place was the wadi at KM82, a place I checked two weeks ago and didn't find a single migrant.

 

Friday morning I returned bright and early and the place was packed. The shorter section to the east of the road was covered in Lesser Whitethroats and Bonellis warblers. There were a few Ruppell’s Warblers and a crazy group of 20 Hoopoes screaming their heads off.

The longer west section also had many warblers but also a Caspian Stonechat, Greater Spotted Cuckoo, first Subalpine Warbler of the spring, Black-eared, Northern and Isabelline Wheatears, Woodchat and Masked Shrikes, Steppe Buzzards on the trees and more.

This place is going to provide some great birding for this spring.

 

I then moved onto one of these forgotten plains out the back. They look barren and empty but they are exactly what some larks like. I had hardly gone ten metres and 5 Thick-billed Larks landed all around me. I love these enigmatic larks and I think we're going to see them breeding here this spring.

This is great but it also means being very careful about where you wander around and giving them their space. There were also Bar-tailed Larks, Tawny Pipits and Wheatears on the plain, these areas are alive this year!

 

This morning I went to Seyafim Plain which is a great place now loaded with birds. Apart from the 120 Pale Rock Sparrows there were Bimaculated Larks, Short-toed Larks, many Trumpeter Finch, Tawny Pipits, 5 Cream Coursers, great range of Wheatears including 15 asssorted Wheatears who stood side by side on a ridge looking down on me.(Hitchcock?).

It was really cold but really every corner of the plain is worth visiting.

 

On the way back and at the IBRCE we were treated to some great raptor migration, Steppe Buzzards pouring over low all day interspersed with Steppe Eagles, Kites, Short-toed Eagles and an Egyptian Vulture low over the nets.

At KM 20 we had the first Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters and an early Phalarope while the  beach has added another Brown Booby and the first Sooty Shearwater. Elsewhere there was a Kittiwake at the IRBCE ponds and a Menetries Warbler at Yotvata.And if your mouth isn't watering by now you've picked the wrong hobby! If you're not already here then get your skates on!

 

 

 

 

19.3.16

 



 

This week was the Thick-billed Lark festival.

With the birds breeding here probably in a number of areas, everyone gets to see and enjoy them. Even better is that the best migration is at KM82 and it leads you right to the larks. The scrub bushes and Acacia trees are bouncing with Lesser Whitethroats, Whitethroats, Blackcaps, Eastern Orphean Warblers, Ruppels Warblers, Cretzschmar’s Buntings, Striolated Buntings and if you're lucky a Subalpine Warbler.

 

Alongside the Thick-billed Larks are Bar-tailed Larks, Short-toed Larks, Tawny Pipits and a range of Wheatears - really nice way to spend the day!

The Seyafim plain also continues to shine with Thick-billed Larks and Arabian Dunn's Larks seen this week. I had 3 Bimaculated Larks there this morning and as an English birder remarked to me: This is wheatear heaven!

 

Raptors were slow during the week but poured through today with many staying low over KM19 and KM20 throughout the day. Storks are also pouring through and they can turn up absolutely anywhere.

Ovda is packed with large flocks of mass migrators like Short-toed Larks and something good is going to turn up there soon.

Yotvata is very quiet as are many sites around Eilat though a nice Menetries was found in Park Holland. It is still early days and next week will bring a new wave of migrants, so we'll see you here soon!

 

 

 

 

26.3.16

 



 

This week started with a very nice wave of Passerine migration.

A good number of Subalpine Warblers were seen, many species of Warblers, Nightingales, Wheatears, Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters and Semi-collared Flycatchers. By the weekend the wave had passed and the rain had arrived.

 

At Km 82 there were still plenty of Ortolan and Cretzschmars Buntings, still teeming with warblers but no sign of Thick-billed Larks. The strong northerly wind kept the raptors low all day with thousands of Kites moving down the centre of the Arava and Buzzards covered the Arava mountains like a blanket.

Nice numbers of Lesser Kestrels were seen in a number of places including 21 over Eilot fields this evening. Swallows were everywhere throughout the day sometimes forming clouds over the Bird Sanctuary.

 

At Ovda the first Caspian Plover was spotted by the crack birders of the IBRCE team and while much of Ovda is empty, in a far corner I found a range of Pipits, Wagtails, 3 Linnets, Quail and Warblers.

The rain made things awkward much of the day and the heavy rain is yet to arrive. Mid-week we have the Champions of the Flyway race and a wet playing field is going to be very challenging...time to change strategies!

With that the post-storm wave should provide plenty of new species for all the teams...it's going to be fun!

 

 

 

2.4.16

 



 

The great race, Champions of the Flyway, has come, conquered and left a wonderful taste for more in the air.

It was a day packed with excellent migration, great fun and great camaraderie. One team got 163 species between Eilat and Naot Smadar which shows how much fantastic birding you can do in a single day here.

Especially pleasing were the nice numbers of Flycatchers, Rufous Bush-Robins who arrived that day and Whinchats who swamped the area.

 

The next few days were windy and birding was more challenging but today it was back to migration as usual in the field. Especially pleasing was this Subalpine Warbler that I picked out of the nets this morning.

Wood Warblers are present in pleasing numbers, Tree Pipits and Eastern Olivaceous are still low in numbers but they will arrive. Down at the beach still relatively quiet but last rays of light this evening I saw 3 Long-tailed Skuas power over and Common Terns are growing in numbers.

 

Seyafim Plain is still wonderful with 9 Thick-billed Larks seen there this week and Bimaculated Larks, Cream Coursers and many Wheatears making life wonderful there. KM 82 is excellent too and the raptors are ever-present especially during the days of northerly winds.

Keep an eye on the pools, they get interesting now as Phalaropes, Pratincoles, Broad-billed Sandpipers and more start arriving.

The Bird Festival is over but the birding is just getting better!

 

 

 

9.4.16

 



 

Like most years the first week of April brings a lull in migration with lower numbers but still plenty of variety.

The first of the late migrants are arriving - some Levant Sparrowhawks, occasional Honey Buzzard, the odd Barred Warbler. And there are still some late early migrants so it's a little, but best of both worlds.

Raptor numbers are down but a really nice variety of raptors are passing through for those who are patient. Ringing numbers are down but we had a really nice morning with plenty of variety.

 

Collared and Pied Flycatchers were prominent around the entrance to the park and one was ringed. A number of Wood Warblers shared the same trees but the star of the morning was a Siberian (Tristis) Chiffchaff, quite an interesting little bird. Also caught were Blackcaps, Reed and Sedge Warblers, Lesser and Common Whitethroats, a Wryneck and a few locals.

 

Seyafim Plain was pretty quiet but still nice numbers of Wheatears, Black Bush robins are popping up everywhere including the middle of town! and only the Caspian Plovers are proving to be partypoopers this season.

Yotvata sewage was packed with birds, waders, Red throated Pipits, Yellow Wagtails, etc well worth checking out and the south field is being watered so it may just spring to life late in the season.

North Beach has been very slow but tonight’s southerly breeze brought in a wave of White-Eyed Gulls and 5 Arctic Skuas squabbling over a rather small fish.

The Salt ponds are growing in variety with even Temmincks Larks seen there, Gull-Billed Terns and Pratincoles moving through. There are still many more birds on the way and next weekend will see a sharp rise in numbers…

see you there!

 

 

 

16.4.16

 




 

For me, this is the best time to be in Eilat... you just have to look up, look around… listen.

There was heavy rain in Eilat and parts of the Arava early this week, but the late migrants are pouring through the Eilat area in spectacular numbers which will only grow in the next two weeks.

 

After work, whether going down to the IBRCE park, to North Beach or just sitting in Park Canada, big streams of raptors kept pouring over, the trees are bouncing with battalions of Blackcaps and astonishing numbers of Collared Flycatchers (55 counted in Naot Smadar in a single visit by Doug Gochfeld).

Ringing numbers are well up with Barred and Garden Warblers being welcome additions alongside the numerous Blackcaps, Lesser Whitethroats, Reed Warblers with occasional Flycatchers, Willow and Wood Warblers, Great Reed Warblers, Wrynecks, a Turtle Dove and even a Corncrake caught by Noam and 2 very excited young children.

 

At the beach the Little Terns have joined the Common Terns and Long-tailed and Arctic Skuas are becoming more regular. At the ponds the wonderful White-winged Terns have started arriving alongside Gull-billed, Little and Common Terns with wader numbers and variety also growing.

 

Amongst the raptors, Levant Sparrowhawks are now into the thousands daily, Honey Buzzards nearly into the thousands and the other raptors continuing to pour through. In 20 minutes over the Eilat cemetery today I had some 500 Steppe Buzzards, 30 Honey Buzzards, 15 Levants, 20 Black Kites, 3 Steppe Eagles, 4 Booted Eagles, one young Egyptian Vulture and 2 Long-legged Buzzards.

Early this morning I went to KM82 which is predictably inundated with Blackcaps and Lesser Whitethroats. But there was also a number of Flycatchers, 4 of the beautiful Eastern Common Whitethroats, Ortolan Buntings, Barred Warblers etc.

On the plain (Se’efim plain) I sat and watched the Thick-billed Larks having fun. Their numbers have grown to 17 with 7 new youngsters. The older juveniles are now chasing Wheatears, fighting each other and generally being boisterous and surprisingly still being chaperoned by an adult.

Plenty of other birds breeding around too and it will probably stretch well into summer as the area got another good load of rain and is wonderfully green.

Next week will be even better, don't miss it!

 

 

 

23.4.16

 



 

The week started really nicely with some 2,000 Levant Sparrowhawks dropping into the date plantations, Arabian Dunn's Larks breeding and North Beach coming to life with all the Skuas, a Sooty Shearwater and now hundreds of Common Terns, Little Terns etc.

I caught the Levants in the evening while watching a Temminck’s Stint and suddenly the air filled with the Sparrowhawks. They were everywhere just above my head for 5 minutes then disappeared- they are crowd pleasers but you have to be quick.

 

The weekend came and numbers dropped all over. Only 35 birds ringed yesterday and today was similiar. Hardly any Thrush Nightingales, Willow Warblers, Masked Shrikes low, etc.  Are they waiting down the road or bypassing us?? I think they are passing us through Jordan which is still green.

Some eastern species like Caspian Plovers and White-tailed Lapwings just haven't arrived this spring. A Red-breasted Flycatcher was in Lotan yesterday and in KM82 this morning alongside growing numbers of Spotted Flycatchers.

Still plenty of Blackcaps and Lesser Whitethroats at Km82, one big group of Ortolan Buntings....everything else struggling to find singles - one Barred Warbler, a late Ruppell’s Warbler, Tree Pipits, Common Whitethroat, garden Warbler etc. Thick-billed Larks have been found breeding up in the mountains alongside Temmincks Horned Larks and Bar-tailed Larks while at KM82 I found only six today, mostly females collecting food. I suspect their are many more pairs here than those we've seen.

 

KM 20 is really nice in the evenings with 6 Broad-billed Sandpipers, plenty of Collared Pratincoles, Curlew Sandpipers, Wood Sandpipers, White-winged, Whiskered, Little and Gull-billed Terns while Honey Buzzards have been landing on the canal. Next week Honey Buzzard mania! Tune in for the madness!

 

 

 

30.4.16

 



 

The week started with lower temperatures and even lower numbers of birds.

Ringing numbers dropped to an all time low of only 14 birds/session, raptors weren't arriving and little migrating joy anywhere.

Then came the weekend and like clockwork the Honey Buzzards arrived in force and numbers. Friday the numbers jumped from 6,000 to 28,000 with many continuing on straight over the IBRCE park.

Today the number doubled and a virtual river of birds "swam" down the Shlomo wadi all day long, battling the strong northerly wind. Between the masses are numerous Black Kites, Steppe Buzzards, Black Storks, Common Swifts plus nice numbers of Lesser Spotted Eagles, Booted Eagles, Egyptian Vulture, Marsh Harriers, Montagu’s Harriers, a lone Griffon Vulture, Eleanora Falcon, some Hobbys… never a dull moment! It is something you have to see to believe… and far too few birders were in the mountains today.

 

Thursday I spent the morning at KM82 and found all the missing passerines. It was packed with Masked Shrikes, Blackcaps, E. Olivaceous, Thrush Nightingales, Lesser Whitethroats, Golden Orioles etc. This place is going to be good until the end of the season.

Naot Smadar had a White-throated Robin today, Ovda had a McQueens Bustard and some good breeding sites for larks, Sayerim Plain also is seeing a number of breeding territories and at Seyafim I had 20 Northern Wheatears, mostly Leucorhoa, Masked Shrike, Ortolan buntings and Common Whitethroat… all on a desert plain.

 

The ponds have a nice variety of waders with the first Terek Sandpiper, Pratincoles, Phalaropes, many Terns and Sandpipers. In and around there were Rollers, Black Bush Robins, Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, first Olive-tree Warbler etc.

 

The next week is going to be a blast...don't miss it!

 

 

 

8.5.16

 



 

The past week started with high expectations and low numbers.

There were some wonderful moments with White-winged Terns putting on an incredible mass-acrobatic show over North Beach, 20 Rollers in Park Holland, massive numbers of Common Bee-eaters, Swifts, House Martins and Swallows pouring over the landscape but the Passerines were still low and the Honey Buzzards weren't doing it.

 

And worse the migration was grinding to an end without a single rarity. Ringing numbers were up a bit towards the weekend and KM82 had good numbers of Barred Warblers, Garden Warblers, Common and Lesser Whitethroats, Blackcaps, E. Olivaceous and a lone Olive-tree Warbler, Spotted Flycatchers, Golden Orioles quite regular, many Masked Shrikes etc.

 

The ponds had a lot of Broad-billed Sandpipers (22 at the IBRCE ponds), Curlew Sandpipers, Gray Plovers, Wood Sandpipers etc while the first Sooty Falcons also began arriving. Saturday evening I went to sit on North Beach with wife, daughter and friends and had the binoculars on just in case... On a quick sweep I picked up a black&white bird, very unusual looking, skimming across the water straight towards the beach.

My first thought was the Masked Booby from autumn was back (if it was one?!) but it suddenly rose sharply up in the air and disappeared high and far back down the gulf. It certainly wasn't a Booby… but what the hell was it??

I told my friend " I've just seen a very rare bird and I have no idea what it was." He was totally disinterested… Half an hour later I got a call from Oz Horine (my saviour!) saying a Crab Plover was sitting on North Beach… and then I understood what I'd seen.

 

I flew down the beach and found Eric and Pierre-andre who had just had it sitting a few metres from them despite the beach being packed with people, tents, caravans and Eastern music… Fortunately the bird came flying back past us and looked like it was going to land again then without warning turned around and flew high and far southwards.

 

It was great for me, Joachim, Anders and Noam who all manged to see it but really hard on Doug and Ben who missed by a minute after spending nearly every evening for three months on this spot ! Today they got consolation prizes with the Paddyfield Warbler (11th record for Israel) and a Swinhoes Storm Petrel off South Beach… good times are here again!

 

 

 

14.5.16

 



 

Spring migration is going out with a bang!!!

The week started with 4! Megas: Crab Plover (5th Israeli record) Swinhoe’s Storm-Petrel (6th IR), Paddyfield Warbler (12th IR) and a Bataleur (14th IR)...

and while numbers are obviously dwindling we've seen great numbers of Rosy Starlings, Broad-billed Sandpipers, record number of Sandwich Terns amongst a huge wave of Common Terns, 2 Arctic Terns (rare in Israel) and Rollers everywhere.

big numbers of Temminck’s Horned Larks breeding near Ovda alongside Thick-billed Larks, Hoopoe Larks, Bar-tailed Larks and a pair of Dunn's Larks.  

And daily sightings of Crested Honey Buzzards amongst the sporadic waves of Eurasian Honey Buzzards.

 

 

A holiday weekend came just in time for me take advantage of the situation and I managed to get just about everywhere. KM 82 still has good numbers of warblers, really nice range of birds and included a Red-breasted Flycatcher.

Yotvata fields north of the Circular fields still have 13 Lesser Kestrels, loads of Turtle Doves, Buzzards and Namaqua Doves. The Yotvata Sewage is mainly quiet but a big wave of Honey Buzzards dropping in made my day, especially the Crested Honey Buzzard that decided to park beside the car!

 

Naot Smadar is quiet but had an Olive-tree Warbler on the Olive trees...The breeding areas behind Ovda are really busy but best left to themselves.

Km20 changes every half hour with a great variety of waders, terns and raptors passing through. KM19 quiet but you never know when the mega will drop in there and North Beach has seen wave after wave of terns, gulls, skuas and other migrants.

The Paddyfield Warbler and Rosy Starling kept the ringers happy alongside some interesting subspecies of Lesser Whitethroats etc. Very,very cool week! If you weren't here you've missed it! Have a good week anyway!

 

 

 

 

21.5.16

 



 

The week started with record high temperatures for May hitting 47.5C around Yotvata and over 46C in Eilat… not much fun.

The numbers of migrants is dropping rapidly but there are still birds coming through. Honey Buzzards are still coming through in groups, over 40 sitting in the IBRCE park this morning and 150 passed over the cemetery in 20 minutes.

A lot of Sand Martins pouring through with smaller numbers of Eastern Olivaceous, Warblers, Masked Shrikes, some Golden Orioles, Spotted Flycatchers etc. Wader numbers have dropped rapidly but still a nice variety of birds at the ponds. There was a late White Wagtail at KM19 along with Yellow Wagtails, 3 Garganey, Pintails and Shovellers.

Over 100 Pelicans were seen at Km 20 as well.

 

With the change of seasons all attention turns to North Beach. Friday morning the weather was cool and visibility was brilliant but after 45 minutes I still hadn't seen a single bird. I wasn't feeling well and ready to give up but a couple of Pomerine Skuas arrived giving some hope. Then a Sooty Shearwater came whistling across the gulf and I caught a flash of white high above him.

I quickly latched onto the bird, a Red-billed Tropicbird adult with the fantastic streamers.

A couple of times he circled and dropped a little and I thought I might get a fishing display but no such luck. Just past the middle of the Gulf I picked up a second bird tagging along behind the adult, probably a subadult as I couldn't pick up much in the way of streamers. They reached the Eilat side of the Gulf and started moving north - will they come in camera range??? No such luck, I lost them as they turned south again.

 

Rest of weekend was very quiet, couple of Sooty Shearwaters, very few terns, Baltic Gulls and a lone Caspian Gull.

Wish you all a relaxing week, I'm sure mine will be.

 

 

 

28.5.16

 




 

The biggest surprise of the week was the mild weather. Temperatures in the low 30's are rare at this time of year and there was a minor wave of late migrants who took advantage of the break.

 

Mid-week 40 birds were ringed in one morning including 20 Reed Warblers. There was a late Spotted Crake on Lake Anita alongside an ailing Purple Heron, Collared Pratincole, 7 Red-necked Phalaropes, Little Ringed Plover, Common Bee-eater, many Swifts, Swallows and Martins, Little Terns and White-winged Terns and a steady stream of Honey Buzzards.

 

The local birds are also returning from breeding activity with plenty of Namaqua Doves around, some Hooded Wheatears, Blackstarts etc. Sooty Falcons are arriving around dusk at the Bird Park and the Barbary Falcons are easily found around KM19 and the park.

North Beach is generally the hottest spot at late May but was very subdued this week, often without any birds at all. Still Friday evening I had 7 Skuas including 1 Long-tailed Skua and this evening the first 3 White-cheeked Terns arrived.

Hope you're enjoying yourselves wherever you are, a good week to all!

 

 

 

4.6.16

 



 

“Do everything tern, tern, tern… there is a season tern,tern, tern…” (The Byrds 1966).

It was a byrdless week here and things were looking bleak for the weekend with heavy heat predicted.

Still we shrugged off all the omens and Friday evening things took a tern for the better. Started at KM 20 which had over a 100 White-winged Terns and 40 odd Little Terns plus a few new Caspian Terns. KM 19 had 50 odd Little Terns and 30 White-winged Terns and the Park ponds had the biggest groups with 150 Common Terns, 30 Whiskered Terns, 40 Little Terns, 20 White-winged Terns and 6 Phalaropes.

 

North Beach was now bouncing too, Saturday morning had 120 Common Terns, 100 Little Terns, 6 White-cheeked Terns, 2 Caspian Terns, 4 Sandwich Terns, a Gull-billed Tern, over 60 White-eyed Gulls and this evening 4 Arctic Skuas.

Virtually all other migrants are gone but still ran into Swifts, Swallows, Martins, Ringed and Kentish Plovers, a couple of Ruffs and Little Stints, a Sooty falcon at the Park, Barbary Falcon at KM19, a few Marsh Harriers, plenty of Herons and Egrets, some Pintails and Shovellers etc.

 

Considering the season and 45C heat, I had a pretty good weekend! My daughter was also thrilled to witness the birth of the pigeons on our balcony - hope you have a good week too!

 

 

 

12.6.16

 



 

It's hard to get enthusiastic about birding when there are so few birds around but I enjoy scouring the area for late birds and the outside chance of an African vagrant.

And when you stop to think about it we have a pretty good variety of birds for low season! North Beach is fairly quiet but there were 3 Pomerine and 5 Arctic Skuas one evening, single skuas in the mornings, a Sooty Shearwater, up to 9 White-cheeked Terns, plenty of Common Terns, Little Terns, Caspian Terns, Marsh Terns and a late Common Kingfisher.
 

On the ponds there are still big numbers of White-winged Terns, some Whiskered Terns, Little Terns plus the occasional straggler- Spotted Redshank, Curlew Sandpiper, Ringed Plovers, Spoonbill, Shovellers, Masked Shrike, Steppe Buzzard and a Great Reed Warbler.

Also fascinating are the endless stream of Pallid and Common Swifts, Barn Swallows, Sand, Desert and House Martins.... are they going north...or south??

 

Add to that the hardy local birds and the migrants that breed here and you have quite a nice list! So till next week, vote White-eyed Gull for Eilat's bird and sign the petition against wind turbines in Eilat!

 

 

 

18.6.16

 



 

The main news of a very quiet week's birding was the choice of Eilat's bird. The vote itself was probably more important than the result. It brought the birds into the community, the schools and onto the street corners throughout the city. In a city that has been largely apathetic to the birds we started to see real involvement and people learnt something about the importance of the region to the birds.

 

Noam Weiss did a brilliant job bringing the birds to the community and the future looks much brighter for it. It was a nice bonus to get the right choice, a great local bird with loads of character and hopefully change people's perception of gulls… they are great birds.

 

In the field not much change… North Beach had a few Pomerine and Arctic Skuas, Sooty Shearwater, White-cheeked, Common, Little, Sandwich and even a Gull-billed Tern.

At the ponds the first Redshanks have returned as the very last Ringed Plover and Spotted Redshank remained.

But the highlight was the appearance of three Hoopoe Larks at KM20. Two young birds were very wobbly on the wire picking off insects and a couple of times went down to the water for a salty sip.... quite unusual behaviour for these larks. Also very encouraging to see them spreading back to former territories inspite of the heavy presence of man and machines building yet another ugly wall.

Have a wonderful week!

 

 

 

25.6.16

 



 

This weekend we have hit the tipping point with no birds moving north and the first birds moving south.

Quite predictably there are very few birds around, even the Barn Swallows and Sand Martins are gone. The arrivals hall had only the Redshanks, a couple of Marsh Sandpipers and a young Gull-billed Tern.

 

But it is a start and through July that trickle will gradually increase. North Beach has been very quiet, a few Arctic Skuas, up to 10 White-cheeked Terns, only a handful of Common and Little Terns, a late Baltic Gull and the locals.

 

KM20 has still got plenty of White-winged Terns and Whiskered Terns - nothing too exciting but the local Hoopoe Lark is very obliging - surely there will never be a better chance to see this species from the car up close and for as long as you please...  It's been a good few years for desert species and we can expect even more of them to make a comeback in this area…

 

 

Shachar Shalev

 

 

 

 

land marks