July - December 2016

Shachar Shalev 25/12/2016 00:00

3.7.16

 



 

Tough times for birding in Eilat …

so what better time can there be for heading up north to the Golan and Hermon mountain where the birding is great at this time of year. It's taken us a few years but with the great work of Michal Ucko and Itai we headed off with the Eilat and Arava Birders plus a few botanists to make up the numbers.

 

The mild weather and open spaces attract a whole range of great species to breed on the mountain. We stayed in the picturesque Druse village Majdal Shams at the base of the Hermon and enjoyed not only some great Druse hospitality but also the village is bouncing with birds. 5:30 in the morning and House Martins are thick in the air, some Short-toed Eagles cruise over and Woodchat shrikes are calling from every garden.

Just a short walk up the road, a bit of a scan over the improvised boulder walls and we had the Hermon special - a pair of Western Rock Nuthatches busily gathering food.

 

It's a short drive up to the ski-field where the snow-melt ponds attract large numbers of Linnets and Goldfinch plus the birds we really came to see - Rock Sparrows, Black-headed Buntings, Sombre Tits, Rock Buntings and Syrian Serins. They were all arriving continously in really good numbers alongside many Common Bee-eaters, Barn Swallows, House Martins, Jays,a Cretzschmar’s Bunting, a few Chiffchaffs, Great Tits, Lesser Whitethroats and some Nuthatches singing in the background.

 

A quick ride up the ski-lift to the summit also provided some nice views of a Nuthatch, Black-headed Bunting, Black Redstarts and a Long-billed Pipit on the upper slopes. The summit provided a stiff cool breeze that failed to dampen the very noisy groups of teenagers prancing around.

You could hardly hear the artillary shells and chatter of gunfire from the Syrian civil war over the local noise! Nonetheless we had Crimson-winged Finch regularly buzzing us, Syrian serins, Rock Sparrows, Northern Wheatears, Common Whitethroats, Spectacled Warbler, Montagu's Harrier, Upchers Warblers to add to the great veiws.

Only the Horned Larks and White-throated Robins failed to make an appearance.

 

In the evening we went to the valley to visit some ponds crawling with Clamourous Reed Warblers and home to the only known breeding ground of the Basra Reed Warbler in Israel.

A later search for Tawny Owls didn't bear fruit but it was a great days birding.

Saturday was a quieter wander around the Golan with Black-headed Buntings quite common, Linnets, Goldfinch, Corn Buntings, Woodchat Shrikes etc but no Calandra Larks we had hoped for.

An Eagle Owl fledgeling was a nice addition and there was time for a Roller before heading south again. One last stop near the Dead Sea and we added a pair of Sooty Falcons to the trip list, caught in the act while mating. Phew - what a great way to spend a weekend......

 

 

 

 

10.7.16

 



 

In Israel we are eternal optimists - we drag the spring migration out to the end of June and then tell ourselves the Autumn migration has started in July and pretend we have no summer.

In fact we have a long, long, very hot summer with only a few birds crazy enough to stick around here.... and we go out birding anyway.... because we're eternal optimists!

 

This week saw the arrival of the first Bridled Terns and the first Lesser Crested Tern. It's fairly slim pickings at the beach with just the occasional White-cheeked Terns, Common Terns and Little Terns. At the Km 20 ponds the Hoopoe Larks are putting on a daily show for all and are drawing some fans from out of town.

The flamingos continue to build empty nests, a trickle of Common Sandpipers, Green Sandpipers, Redshanks, Greenshanks, Marsh Sandpipers, Little Stints keep the local birds company and there was a quick visit from a Sooty Falcon and Barbary Falcon. All in all I tallied up 64 species on the weekend which is quite pleasant!

 

 

 

16.7.16

 



 

This weekend's excitement was my daughter’s 6th birthday, everything else takes a back seat.... but it was quite an exciting weekend.

Thursday evening I was going through the photos of the Tawny Eagle in the Negev - finally a vagrant arrives this summer. I got to North Beach the next morning at six hardly awake. Adi was there as always and I put my bag down beside her, a quick scan of the bay before going to get my camera and cup of tea from the car.

 

Even through weary eyes I picked up the large dark tern hovering over the border bouys in 2 seconds. Almost certainly a Bridled Tern, well worth getting the telescope up before a cup of tea. As the bird drifted across in front of us I'm thinking how strange his flight motion is, slow and heavy like a Caspian Tern, nothing like the quick elegant flight of the Bridled Terns. it came to within 70 metres of us and it was quite apparent it was an adult Sooty Tern in beautiful new plummage. As it circled I could easily see the black back that connected with the black of the nape. All the upper parts were an even very dark sooty black which contrasted with the snowy white underparts.

 

It was a really beatiful bird and I have to admit that only as he started to drift away it occurred to me that I should be taking pictures. I raced off to the car but it was out of range by the time I got back. There were plenty of other terns around, White-cheeked, Common, Little etc and even an out of season Curlew, but who can think of anything else when you've just seen such a mega.

 

The rest of the morning I spent with Le'a, Noam and Shahar Weiss cleaning reeds out of Anita lake at the bird park - actually quite a lot of fun. This morning we did some ringing and there are quite a few Eastern Olivaceous and Reed Warblers moving south with plenty of fat on them.

While closing the nets a Black Bush Robin popped up 1 metre away from us and has probably bred here in the park. This joins the wonderful news that Nubian Nightjars have returned to Eilat.

Noam found them about a month ago and we really need to leave them in peace and quiet so we can grow a viable group of these enigmatic birds. Things are looking up here, lets help it stay that way with responsible birding! have a wonderful week!

 

 

 

23.7.16

 



 

We had a very quiet weekend with fewer birds around and nothing particularly special.

Despite that my 6yo daughter was up at 5am and demanding to go birding..... and how often is that going to happen!

 

North Beach had a couple of Lesser Crested Terns hanging around, around 10 -15 White-cheeked Terns, only single Common and Little Terns, some very young Striated Herons and a very out of season Baltic Gull.

There were very few waders around at the ponds but the Hoopoe Larks were giving daily shows, wandering around the cars quite happily. But the nicest moment of the weekend was Friday evening. Eilat is not just a wonderful place for birding, it's a great place to live. We have a favorite spot on the south beach area where we go at sunset - the water is great, it's packed with tropical fish and corals, the veiw is breathtaking, the beer is cool and the food is great.

 

We arrive around 6pm and spend half an hour in the water, stroll out of the water where a cool beer awaits (they know us well) and we have a shabbat meal while in our bathing suits, dripping with water and a pair of binoculars on the table. A few White-cheeked terns drifted past, a Sooty Falcon whisked past over the mountains behind and then a Lesser Crested Tern cruised straight over our heads just a couple of metres above us.

You just have to love this place!

Have a fun week!

 

 

 

30.7.16

 



 

The birds are on the move!

This week has seen a significant increase in numbers and variety of migrant birds. Bird of the week was the Terek Sandpiper, 3 found this week by Noam and Itai, a good number for Eilat!

Plenty of waders around with good numbers of Wood Sandpipers, Little Ringed Plovers, Common Sandpipers, Redshanks, Greenshanks, Marsh Sandpipers, lots of Little Stints and even a Dunlin.

 

The first Water Rail turned up on Anita Lake and the first hide is back in business with loads of Reed Warblers enjoying the space we cleared for them. In the bushes we also have newcomers with a Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Olive-tree Warbler, Eastern Orphean Warblers and Lesser Whitethroats.

 

North Beach has also had some nice mornings and evenings (alongside some rather dull ones)- Wednsday evening there were good numbers of White-cheeked Terns around alongside a Bridled Tern and a pair of Lesser Crested Terns.

Friday morning started very slowly with only some very loud trance music and waves of White-eyed Gulls. And then it changed in a flash, a Bridled Tern arrived with a group of Common Terns and among them a juvenile Arctic Tern ( quite rare here ) and around 10 White-cheeked Terns. They hung around for nearly an hour for some awful record shots and a juvenile dark morph Arctic Skua arrived and chased off to Jordan as he tried to steal some fish.

 

This evening there was a wonderful cool southerly breeze and still saw only 2 White-cheeked Terns in over an hour....and then out of nowhere 13 Lesser Crested Terns drifted past....

you just never know with that beach! Have a good week!

 

 

 

6.8.16

 



 

It's only the first week of August and we're already action-packed with one mega rarity, plenty of top quality birds, a strong wave of migration midweek and a growing variety of species coming through.

 

Thursday morning Noam was out on his regular survey of the bird park when he picked up a flash of gold under an Acacia tree. He got a really good look at the bird before it flew off and a quick check through the books revealed it to be an Arabian Golden Sparrow - a bird that's never been recorded in Israel. We spent quite a few hours trying to relocate it without success....which points strongly to the bird being a true vagrant (escapees are generally easy to find and indifferent to the presence of people). Quite an amazing find and we still hope it reappears.

 

Tuesday I managed to get a bit of birding in and it was rewarding. North Beach was pretty quiet, but 4 Bridled Terns brought some broad smiles… 5 Bridled Terns were seen Friday morning and one this morning.

Yotvata sewage had a nice number of waders and 13 Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters put on a nice show.

Km 20 was packed with waders - many Wood, Green, Common Sandpipers, Redshanks, Greenshanks, Little Stints and 3! Terek Sandpipers as well as the first Broad-billed Sandpiper.

 

Thursday evening a made a quick search for the Golden Sparrow but picked up a juvenile Rosy starling as well as the first Common Whitethroat and Willow Warbler. Friday we did some ringing and then dived into Lake Anita to clean out the reeds, Noam's kids doing a fantastic job. Quiet morning today, only a few birds around, met Yaniv doing the rounds and soon after parting he sent me a photo of the Caspian Plover ! Fantastic bird for this time of year....

Have a great week!

 

 

 

13.8.16

 



 

It was a much quieter week this week with very few birds around until the weekend when the IBRCE ponds filled up with waders.

There were plenty of birders around getting a look at the Arabian Golden Sparrow, and while he didn't make their lives easier, everybody eventually got a brief glimpse.

 

North Beach was very quiet during the week but a large group of White-eyed Gulls arrived over the weekend alongside plenty of White-cheeked Terns, a lone Lesser Crested Tern and a lone Arctic Skua plus a Sooty Falcon.

The pools are packed with Wood Sandpipers, Ruffs, Little Stints, Redshanks, Greenshanks, Marsh Sandpipers, Common Sandpipers, Curlew and Broadbill Sandpipers, Dunlin etc. Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters are continuing to move through and they've been joined by Yellow, Citrine and Gray Wagtails - seen together at Naot Smadar by Shahar Alterman, White Storks streaming through and the first Little Crake appeared at Lake Anita. Still no shrikes but tune in next week when they make their first appearance!

 

 

 

20.8.16

 



 

There may not be too many birds around and North Beach may be deader than a Monty Python parrot but..... there is a steadly growing variety and those little moments of beauty you only find when out in the field.  

Daily ringing started this week and Friday morning we had the first Blackcaps, Sedge Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Red-backed and Masked Shrikes, Eastern Orphean Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Rufous-tailed Bushrobin etc. ...still waiting for the Grasshopper Warbler!

 

Saturday morning I headed up to Km82 to check out our desert birds after the summer break. It's been surprisingly mild this August and early morning it was a pleasant stroll in 25C weather. The wadi was full of Trumpeter Finch, quite a few Bar-tailed and Desert Larks, White-crowned Wheatears, a few Lesser Whitethroats and an Eastern Orphean Warbler.

Ovda looks promising with a 2km carpet of Trumpeter Finch, loads of Desert and Crested Larks, White-crowned, Mourning and Hooded Wheatears and a small group of Crowned Sandgrouse.

 

Yotvata fields are empty but at least the south circular field is now being watered… there is hope. Yotvata sewage however is bouncing, loads of waders, always some Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, Yellow and Citrine Wagtails, a Stork, Ibis etc etc.

Headed back and stopped off at KM20. First bird up was a Greater Sand Plover columbinus.... bit of a tricky bird. Plenty of waders around and a Caspian Plover was waiting for me on the central strip… a nice way to end the outing.

 

This evening at the park, apart from the Arabian Golden Sparrow were a couple of Little Crakes, Spotted Flycatchers, Red-backed, Lesser Gray, Masked and Woodchat Shrikes, a couple of Olive-tree Warblers (Friday evening) and loads of waders....and we are just getting started!

Have a great week!

 

 

 

 

27.8.16

 



 

Migration stepped up a gear today with quite an impressive wave of migration for the early season. At the forefront of the early passerine migration in autumn are the shrikes and they arrived in force. Especially nice were good numbers of Lesser Gray Shrikes, 6 at the IBRCE, 9 in Park Holland and plenty more roadside sightings.
There were similar numbers of Red-backed Shrikes, good numbers of Masked Shrikes and the occasional Woodchat Shrike.

With them came more Eastern Orphean and Willow Warblers, Lesser Whitethroats, single Whitethroat and the first Wryneck.

The number of Waders has also skyrocketed with all the ponds sporting hundreds of birds with a full range of sandpipers, stints, Green and Redshanks, plovers etc, nearly 300 white-winged terns one evening, storks, ibis and more....a lot of fun.

And today for a third Saturday running a Caspian Plover appeared at KM20. In other areas Isabelline Wheatears are moving through with the ever-present Hooded Wheatears and occasional Desert Wheatear, more Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, Sand and House Martins becoming more common and Yellow Wagtails are now spending the night on Anita Lake.

The birds seem to be appreciating the work put into Anita Lake and this afternoon over 150 birds packed into the little lake....so if you're coming to visit, I guarantee you'll enjoy it!

Have a wonderful week!

 

 

 

 

3.9.16

 



 

It's a great time for birding in Israel and part of that is passing us by… but Eilat remains special and the birding around our area this week was wonderful. loads of birds, fantastic variety, wherever you happen to be birds are popping up.

 

This morning I started at North Beach which surprised with 30+ White-cheeked Terns, a Bridled Tern, some common terns and a Little Tern, all oblivious to a Sooty Falcon who was trying his luck.

The road from the beach through the date plantations to the IBRCE was dotted with shrikes and spotted Flycatchers. Lake Anita had Little Crakes wandering around, one being chased by a Little Bittern, loads of Reed and Sedge warblers, Gull-billed, Caspian and Whiskered Terns, Sand Martins, loads of waders, kingfishers, herons etc.

Quick walk around turned up no less than 40 Red-backed Shrikes, Masked,Woodchat and Lesser gray Shrikes, first Golden Oriole, Wood Warbler, many Willow Warblers, Garden Warbler, Nightingales, Eastern Orphean, Eastern Olivaceous, Lesser and Common Whitethroats etc.

 

Park Holland was also covered in Shrikes, same variety of warblers, a Wryneck and Golden Oriole plus Isabelline and White-crowned Wheatears. Even Park Canada near my home had plenty of migrants with shrikes, 2 Redstarts, Willow Warblers and Lesser Whitethroats and my first Whinchat and Tree Pipit for the autumn.

 

KM20 is packed with waders, terns, ducks etc really nice numbers with Broad-billed Sandpipers, Curlew Sandpiper, Greater Sand Plover and a Caspian Plover which we can now rename the "Weekend Plover" as they seem to appear every weekend!

The White-winged Terns are constantly dancing across the water and big groups of Ruffs, Godwits and Avocets are all over.

 

At dusk a number of birders gathered at Lake Anita to watch some 200 Yellow Wagtails coming in to roost and a Sooty Falcon hunting Barn Swallows in a leisurely manner. Our ringing team has been boosted by two volunteers who we wish a great and successful season and they got things underway with two Rosy Starlings alongside nice numbers of all the other passerines passing through. Have a great week!

 

 

 

10.9.16

 



 

We had a fairly low key weekend with lower numbers across most of the different sites, all part of the regular ebb and flow of migration.

The first Short-toed Larks and Red-throated Pipits arrived and by next week they will be coming through in big numbers. Meanwhile the Yellow Wagtails are pouring through bringing a big splash of colour and we also had a Citrine and Gray Wagtail in the nets.

Also had regular numbers of Savi's Warblers, Sedge and Reed Warblers, Garden and Willow Warblers, a Barred Warbler, Whinchats,Spotted Flycatchers, Redstarts, Nightingales etc.

 

The last of the Lesser Gray Shrikes are passing through while Red-backed Shrikes are just getting more and more numerous. The Yotvata South field is showing some green and drawing in more birds, will be worth watching and the Oxidation pond is bouncing with birds.

KM 20 has more Dunlins and less of the early migrants but is always worth watching.

The bird park has been great as always and even North Beach is resurging with many White-cheeked Terns and a couple of Lesser Crested Terns. So there is plenty here for everyone, you just need to get out there and enjoy it.

Have a fascinating week!

 

 

17.9.16

 



 

It's been a mega week with two mega surprises… in the same photo frame!

Storm Petrels are rare visitors to Israel and even rarer in the Gulf of Aqaba. Noam had already been out twice to the deep water station in the middle of the gulf without seeing a single bird and there were those who turned down the chance to go with him that fateful monday.

 

Despite arriving relatively late (9am) two storm petrels arrived and spent nearly an half hour near the research vessel. The first was a Wilson's Storm Petrel, Israel's second record (first record 1983!) and a Swinhoes Storm Petrel (6-7 record for Israel). This has to be one of the most exciting observations in Israeli birding history and two megas in the same frame must be one of the great photos ever taken here.

 

It is also a just reward for Noam who does all the hard work and thankless work like counting Bulbuls etc in park Holland and Evrona in mid-summer. I spent the same evening ringing Yellow Wagtails and Sand Martins at the park, not even daring to dream about seeing the birds. Then came the call from Shachar Alterman, they had a boat and were going out 5:30 the next morning.... well twist my rubber arm, even if I didn't rate our chances highly, the chance of two storm-petrels is irresistible.

So 6 twitchers headed out and it didn't take long until the Wilson's Storm Petrel came dancing across in front of us. While everyone lept for their cameras I just watched him get to within 4 metres of the boat. It was fantastic getting all the detail, such a stunner. He disappeared quite quickly but an hour later we found him walking the waves about 100 metres west of us. This was a much longer look where we got a wonderful display of his unique behaviour.

 

As he came across our bow Rami picked up the Swinhoes Storm Petrel not far from the Wilson's. He's quite different not just in plumage but also in structure, flight and behaviour.

 

We were 6 very happy twitchers. Even more amazing is that these were the only two birds out there! Back on land the migration is continuing steadily, growing numbers in the fields and bushes without anything new. Plenty of Black-eared, Northern and Isabelline Wheatears around, Shrikes, Warblers, Whinchats etc. Itai found a Dunn's Lark near Ovda and a River Warbler was found by Aylon at the park. There is less variety among the waders but the fresh-water ponds are filling up with Ducks, Grebes etc and quite a few big gulls. And we still have plenty more to look forward to, have a great week!

 

 

 

 

24.9.16

 



 

Still trying to come down from the Storm-Petrel high of last week, which has become even more incredible as the Wilson's Storm-Petrel Noam saw is a different individual to the one we saw the next day!!The second and third records for Israel are 24 hours apart whereas the first and second records are 33 years apart!

 

Back on terra firma we have had plenty of great birding this week without any spectacular finds. While raptors only dribble through here in Autumn, we had a nice selection this week with a surprise Lanner Falcon at the Yotvata oxidation ponds, young Egyptian Vulture fishing at KM19, Black-winged Kite at KM20, Honey Buzzards, Booted Eagles, Montagu's Harriers, Ospreys, Lesser Spotted Eagles,Sooty and Barbary Falcons and a few hundred Levant Sparrowhawks one morning at the IBRCE.

 

The North field of Yotvata is packed with Short-toed Larks along with Wagtails, Isabelline, Northern and Desert Wheatears, Shrikes, Whinchats and Namaqua Doves...shaping up nicely. Ringing numbers are down a bit but the variety is great...40 birds of 23 species ringed this morning, including Eurasian Nightjar, Turtle Dove, Common Bee-eater, Kingfishers, Redstarts, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, Spotted Flycatcher, House Martin etc, Anita Lake is bouncing with life, packed with waders, Herons, Grebes, a first Coot, Kingfishers, Marsh Terns, Crakes, Yellow Wagtails, Citrine Wagtails, Swallows, Martins etc.

 

The Salt ponds are packed with waders including some latish Broad-billed Sandpipers and Wood Sandpipers plus many more ducks and Flamingo arriving daily. The big Gulls, mainly Heuglin gulls, are also seen at the park and KM19 which also had a Purple Swamphen.

North beach is still alive and kicking with lots of White-cheeked Terns and even a lesser Crested Tern. With many more birds to come and more birders arriving I'm sure we're going to have plenty to report soon! Have a really good week!

 

 

1.10.16

 



 

It was a beautifully cool morning this morning on Lake Anita at the IBRCE and there were plenty of signs that the second phase of the autumn migration has begun.

While the early migrants have disappeared southwards, this morning we had Bluethroats, Chiffchaffs, a group of Pied Wagtails, a Black-headed Gull and even a Black-necked Grebe swimming amongst the flamingos on the salt pond.

 

They are all sure signs that fun times are ahead of us. Earlier in the week a young Rosefinch was caught alongside the regular numbers of Redstarts, Blackcaps, Reed and Savi's Warblers, a couple of Common Bee-eaters, plenty of Shrikes etc.

North Beach still has plenty of White-cheeked Terns, a long-staying Lesser Crested Tern and a few more big gulls.

The salt ponds have plenty of waders, a few more regular ducks, marsh terns and a lone Collared Pratincole. The Hoopoe Larks are still putting on a show for anyone who hasn't seen them and their plumage is looking smarter these days.

The north field of Yotvata is packed with Short-toed Larks along with a few wheatears, 8 Cream-colored Coursers and a Curlew. This week is the Jewish New Year holidays so I'm hoping to get around a bit more....

have a great holiday! Shana Tova to all our readers!

 

 

8.10.16

 



 

With the Jewish New Year falling in the middle of the week there was plenty of time for birding and lots of quality birds were present this week.

We started Sunday morning with a Menetries Warbler, a rare migrant and one of the more difficult Warblers to ID. It was followed by a young Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush in the Yotvata North Circular Field who very pleasantly decided to stay all week and give everyone really good views.

 

The next day it was a Sociable Lapwing at KM 20, a rare visitor here and quite unusual to see at the salt ponds. There were Black-winged and Collared Pratincoles, a number of Black-winged Kites, 19! Cream Coursers at the Yotvata fields, a first Red-Breasted Flycatcher at the IBRCE alongside a first Oriental Skylark. The IBRCE has good numbers of birds with around 70 species daily counted, Crakes, Rails, Little Bitterns and Striated Herons wandering round the hides and a few days with raptor passages including Pallid Harriers, Levant Sparrowhawks, Black Kites, Booted Eagles etc alongside the occasional Sooty and Barbary Falcon.

 

The Yotvata North Circular field has become a magnet again attracting many Wheatears, Pipits, Larks, Wagtails, Cream Coursers, Shrikes, Whinchats etc don't pass up a chance to visit there! Yesterday I took Hendrik, a volunteer ringer, up to Ovda. We had over 100 Sandgrouse with a majority being Spotted Sandgrouse surprisingly. The Crowned Sandgrouse were also in reasonable numbers and worth checking out. 6 species of Wheatear accompanied our every move while Short-toed Larks, Bar-tailed and Desert Larks and Trumpeter Finch were also present in good numbers.

I haven't made it to the North beach but I have reports on 100!! White-cheeked Terns there. Rarities season is just around the corner- a great time to come and visit!

Have a great bird week!

 

 

 

 

15.10.16

 



 

It's been another great week in the south - no Siberian Accentor yet but I did get a bogey bird off my back in the best possible way. Common Rosefinch are a regular rarity that one or two pass through here each autumn, inevitably showing up midweek and I always miss them. Friday morning was doing a round of the nets with Hendrik when he nudges me and points to a branch 2 meters away - 2 Common Rosefinch staring at us curiously...brilliant!

 

After finishing the round I came back with the camera and there were 5 Rosefinch jumping around and by the end of the morning there were 6 on the same tree eating their hearts out while I snapped away only 3 metres away. And this morning I topped off the festival by ringing one of the seven birds that were scattered around the park- what a treat! Also around the park are plenty of Bluethroats, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs, Redstarts, a Red-Breasted Flycatcher, Eastern Stonechats, Eurasian Nightjars, Shrikes etc.

 

Not many raptors this week but some Red-footed Falcons have arrived alongside a dribble of Lesser Kestrels, Lesser Spotted Eagles, Short-toed Eagles etc.

KM 20 is packed with birds, you can spend a good couple of hours taking them all in and watch the fenceline and sides of the pools carefully - they are great places for Wheatears, Eastern Stonechats, Raptors, Larks and Pipits.

Yotvata north field is still rocking with plenty of birds for everyone and incredibly the young Rock Thrush is still posing for everyone! For those who like Desert Wheatears - I counted 21 in the field and five cheeky young males were flitting around my ears and one even landed on my telescope! It's a great time for rarities to start appearing and I have a good feeling!

See you here next week!

 

 

22.10.16

 



 

No megas but another busy week throughout our region and a great time to visit as temperatures are now under 30C for most of the day!

This weekend over a thousand visitors flocked to the IBRCE open days to learn about birds, migration and conservation. Getting the message through is not easy and Noam and the many volunteers did a great job not only entertaining everyone but also educating them.

 

We had a steady stream of migrants to show off with many Bluethroats (including returning birds) Redstarts, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs, Sardinian Warblers, Blackcaps, Reed and Savi's Warblers, Shrikes, Spanish Sparrows, Pipits and Wagtails and a Purple Heron who got his beak stuck in the net. Some wintering species also arrived in the nets including Penduline Tits, Cetti's and Moustached Warblers.

 

KM 19 has filled up with ducks, cormorants etc but the best bird there was a magnificent Greater Spotted Eagle Fulvescens. Yotvata north field is still packed with great birds including Steppe Grey Shrike, Oriental Skylarks and Bimaculated Larks. I made a visit to Km82 and Km76 which had a nice flow of Willow Warblers and some of the locals but really need some rain to wake them up.

It's a really good time for Ovda though and I need to get there soon. Raptors have been trickling though during the late morning, Black Kites, Steppe Eagles, Steppe Buzzards, Short-toed Eagles etc while late evening have seen Sooty Falcons, a couple of Red-footed Falcons and a Black-winged Kite. Cranes are also becoming commonplace and I still need a Demoiselle crane!

 

Also hoping to see more Eastern Stonechats this week, there are some interesting looking birds amongst them. Hope you have a great week, I'm sure I will!

 

 

 

30.10.16

 



 

Rain is a rare and welcome visitor to Eilat.

Our annual average rainfall is 22mm and in just a few hours we got 35mm of rain - enough for a year and half. It's great news for birds as everything grows and there will plenty to eat. Even today, just 24 hours after the rain, the birds being ringed were considerably fatter than normal!

 

There was of course some heavy flooding and getting to birding sites is a rather muddy business but everything looks better after the rain and the IBRCE narrowly survived the embankments being eaten away.

There was also plenty of good birds around although the mega we were waiting for seems to have stopped short in Yerucham! (Pallas's Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus The 4th for Israel caught at Yerucham lake on the 28.10.16).

 

Around the park we had 2 Isabelline Shrikes, another Common Rosefinch, Cyprus Warbler, Red breasted Flycatcher, many Eastern Stonechats including variegatus, Redstarts, Bluethroats, Chiffchaffs and Black-winged Kite who has taken up residence. Today the first Robin was caught, Song Thrushes have arrived and common Stonechats are also arriving, it must be winter!

The Yotvata fields have had a good dose of rain and I'm betting they will be great all winter, a Cyprus Wheatear and some Desert Finch have already arrived and it is still a Pipit and Lark paradise. The second Yellow-browed Warbler turned up in Itai Shani's garden, another important birding hotspot!

 

The desert areas will spring to life very quickly and hopefully I'll get around them next week. Even North Beach has quite a lot of action in the evenings and I think a mega is just around the corner! Pelicans and Cranes have filled the air while Steppe Eagles, Booted Eagles, Imperial Eagles, Steppe Buzzards and the Fulvescens Spotted Eagle have drifted through...so much birding to do in such a little time!

Come help me out and have a great week!

 

 

 

 

6.11.16

 



 

After the rain comes the flood.... of birds!

It was the perfect week and weekend, beautifully cool weather, clean clear air, big puddles throughout the Arava and a great wave of migration that brought plenty of high quality birds, new wintering birds and probably the highest number of Eastern Stonechats we've ever seen in the park.

Itai Shani's garden starred again with a Hume's Leaf Warbler before he and Eyal Shohat flushed a Little Bunting at Yotvata. The bird is still there but is playing hard to get..photowise that is.

There were Yellow-browed Warblers at the IBRCE Thursday and this morning and two I found genly bouncing around just above the tables in the garden of the Naot Smadar Roadstop. It's a great place to eat and often attracts good birds.

 

There were Isabelline Shrikes at Ovda and Naot Smadar, a Goshawk alongside the Fulvescens Spotted Eagle at KM19 and a rare visit from a Griffon Vulture yesterday.

I skipped out in the middle of work on Thursday to check out Yotvata and Ovda. Ovda was packed with Spotted and Crowned Sandgrouse, the normal Wheatears, couple of Bimaculated Larks, local Larks, many Pipits and Trumpeter Finch everywhere. Yotvata North Field has stocked up again with hundreds of Red-throated Pipits, a Richards Pipit, the first Water and Meadow Pipits, Oriental Skylarks, Desert Finch, Corn Buntings etc’

 

The IBRCE is blooming and midweek some Siskins, Chaffinch and even a Brambling arrived. Big numbers of Bluethroats and Chiffchaffs covered the park and around 30 Eastern Stonechats were present Friday morning. A special treat for the ringers were a Little Grebe and Black-winged Kite who were caught on Friday, really beautiful birds in the hand.

KM19 is filling up nicely especially in the evenings- a great place to watch the sunset as hundreds of herons, ducks, grebes, cormorants, gulls and raptors come cruising in for the night. All around KM19 are huge puddles who are attracting many waders including a Golden Plover, one of three seen this week. Not too many new arrivals at KM20 except for some Pochards and a Crane who seemed to think the flamingo's were other Cranes in drag!!

Time to take a deep breath and prepare for the next week...have a good one!

 

 

 

 

12.11.16

 



 

It's been another busy week and busier weekend despite the gradual fall in numbers and variety of birds. The week started with a Little Bunting at the IBRCE, a couple of Fieldfares at KM76 (rare here), a Griffon Vulture at Timna and the return of the Samar Imperial Eagle for the eighth straight year!

 

Thursday I got out for a round in the Arava and Naot Smadar. It was fairly quiet but I had 3 Isabelline Shrikes including a nice adult male for a change. There was also a Cyprus Warbler and a couple of Spectacled Warblers at KM 76 but the area didn't get much rain and I think most birds will head for Ovda and the Eilat area.

Naot Smadar is looking good with many Stonechats, the first Black Redstarts and a range of Pipits. The IBRCE is green and inviting with plenty of birds kicking around. There was still a Nightjar, late Sedge Warbler, loads of Chiffchaffs including one tristis, Bluethroats, Redstarts, Penduline Tits, Cetti's and Moustached Warblers and plenty of Steppe eagles still moving over.

 

At North Beach a Mediterranean Gull has arrived and a White-cheeked Tern is still hanging around. KM 19 and KM 20 are full of birds and worth just sitting for an hour and surveying it all. This afternoon I took Mike and Caroline, two of our volunteers, to see some different birds at Ovda. Afternoons can be hard work in the desert but today we were lucky. We had over 500 Spotted and Crowned Sandgrouse in the air at one time, many large flocks of Trumpeter Finch, Eastern Stonechats everywhere, 4 species of Wheatear including a stunning Desert Wheatear adult male who lead us straight to a lone Temminck's Horned Lark. There were some Bar-tailed Larks, Desert Larks and Skylarks while a female Hen Harrier kept the birds wary. A pair of Asian Wild Asses completed the scene and the visitors left smiling broadly.

 

With the last rays of light we got to Yotvata north field under a stunning sunset. A Barbary Falcon whisked past us and then an adult male Hen Harrier chased an adult male Pallid Harrier around the field to our great joy. Back at the park we have had a non-winged visitor running around for a month now. Friday we managed to get close to him and eventually identified him as a Persian Squirrel. The question is whether he is an abandoned pet or a true vagrant??? (wink) Have a busy busy week!

 

 

 

19.11.16

 



 

This week I blamed everything that went wrong on the huge moon that hung over us.... and it was a pretty crazy week!

It started with an Oriental Honey Buzzard at the IBRCE, possibly coming to winter? It was followed by a White-tailed Lapwing that was taken by a small raptor, got free and spent the rest of the week in a puddle at the entrance to KM19 completely oblivious to people passing by. Then came the Cinereous Vulture that was snapped by a happy birder from the balcony of his hotel room!! The bird was seen at Ovda yeaterday so I'm hopeful we will see it hanging around. Crazy thursday at the IBRCE saw the return of the Arabian Golden Sparrow, this time in winter plummage. Is it the same bird??? I think it probably isn't but now that he has a ring we are going to find out if more birds are moving in.

 

Same day there was also the latest Barred Warbler I can remember- these birds are gone by late september! And the Thrush Nightingale???He is also very,very late. Then we have this crazy Osprey that catches a large fish in the sea each morning and flies over the IBRCE with the fish continuing kilometres northward???Where is he taking all these fish....is he farming them in a private pond??

 

Other good birds around the IBRCE were an Isabelline Shrike, Yellow-browed Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher, some nice Maura Eastern Stonechats, nice passages of Steppe Eagles and Buzzards, Brambling, plenty of Song thrushes, Robins, Bluethroats, Chiffchaffs, a late Common Whitethroat and finally the Dead Sea Sparrows have arrived. This morning Lake Anita's first Gadwall and the White-tailed Lapwing also came to visit.

KM 19 has a bit more variety with some Gadwalls, Wigeons, Pochards, a Ferruginous Duck, some Pelicans and all the usual herons etc.

KM20 is well stocked with all the regular winterers and I didn't manage to get out to the desert areas but they are going to be really good this winter.

Stay tuned next week for more action!

 

 

 

26.11.16

 



 

It's the end of November and the migration is petering out and things are only getting stranger! Let's start at the end. Having been out birding all friday and saturday morning I owed the family an afternoon outing.

As per usual we went for a walk down the southern beaches and finished up on the jetty of Bar-Beach for a bite to eat. It was blowing a strong cold northerly and I had two 6 year-olds on my knees hiding under my jacket. I had binoculars with me but very little moves here at this time of year. There was a Kingfisher, some Cormorants, Siberian and Black-headed Gulls....all battling the wind.

 

And then I spot this Shearwater/Petrel going north at full speed a few centimetres above the water. The girls nearly ended up in the sea as I jumped for the binoculars - which fortunately they thought was very funny.

I got only a quick look from the side but a long view from the back as he headed north. It was about the size of a Manx Shearwater, compact but sturdy build. It was quite unlike any shearwater I've seen with a very pale back and tail that shone white in the sun but his wings were dark both above and below, reaching all the way to body, all the underparts being clean white. The top of the head was slightly darker grey than the back but I didn't get much of a look at the face, it appeared mostly white.

The only thing I could think of was a Fea's Petrel but a Soft-plumage Petrel is probably a better fit. After taking the family home I spent another hour looking for him with no luck...but there were plenty of birds moving around in the evening - the sea will be well worth watching in the next couple of weeks.

 

Elsewhere we have had a really good week for common European birds that rarely make it here, some nice wintering species and some mutant migrants!? At the IBRCE this morning I had my first Reed Bunting here, a mutant Ortolan Bunting and a long-billed Babbler (see pictures!) The Ruddy Shelduck invasion of Israel has been well felt here with no fewer than 25 at Yotvata and others seen at Elifaz, KM19 and the IBRCE.

Two White-fronted geese and Curlews are also unusal visitors here. There is a big flock of Desert Finch at Yotvata, big group of Temmincks Horned Larks at Ovda, Asian Desert Warblers and Spectacled Warblers have arrived and some big groups of Dead Sea Sparrows at the IBRCE and KM19.

There are plenty of Desert Wheatears around and we even had a late Black-eared Wheatear. With so many good reasons to come visit, what are you waiting for! Have a great week, see you here next week!

 

 

 

 

3.12.16

 



 

Winter has finally set in, the migrants have moved on and the winterers have settled in.

After some very cool, windy and dusty days we had a beautiful weekend. It's a great time to get out in the field especially the desert areas.

 

Ovda is in great shape and a group of nearly 100 Temminck's Horned Larks have made it their home. A really beautiful juvenile Pallid Harrier kept them moving but they are very approachable. There are plenty of Sandgrouse around, Wheatears, Trumpeter Finch, various Larks and Pipits and the occasional Asian Desert Warbler.

Mishor Seyafim has only small numbers of birds but it got plenty of rain and will be excellent by late winter, early spring.

Yotvata is a pleasure for the locals with plenty of Ruddy Shelducks wandering around, a couple of Dotterals, Golden Plovers, 2 White-fronted Geese and a pair of Curlews....all relatively for the region. There is a big group of Desert Finch, a few Wheatears, Lapwings, Pipits and Larks plus the chance of some good raptors.

 

Daily ringing at the IBRCE has finished but Noam and Tzaddok are still busy educating the public. They are the beating heart of bird conservation in the area and this morning a Long-eared Owl volunteered to help with the education process. I found him surrounded by crows but he was released healthy and happy after doing a wonderful job!

We are almost certainly going to lose the Yotvata North Field to solar panels in the near future and the south field may also be lost. There is so much work to be done to preserve areas for the birds in the area and our support is critical. You can do that by coming to the park when you visit…

see you here soon! Have a great week.

 

 

 

 

10.12.16

 



 

It was a quiet week as one would expect at this time of year.

Apart from a late Daurian Shrike at the IBRCE and still more Steppe Eagles passing through, we have pretty much the same birds as last week.

There were 10 Ruddy Shelducks at Yotvata along with the White-fronted Geese, Curlews, Richards Pipit, Red-throated and Meadow Pipits,Desert Finch etc. Went to Nahal Grofit to look for Syrian Serins and Pallid Scops Owls and didn't find either. But the Sinai Rosefinch were at Amram's columns along with an Asian Desert Warbler on the entry road, Hooded, Mourning and White-crowned Wheatears and a large number of Trumpeter Finch.

 

KM 19 has a number of Tufted Ducks, Pochards, Ferruginous Ducks, Pelicans but few raptors hanging around.

Elifaz has few ducks but was swarming with Pale Crag Martins, Kentish Plovers and Water Pipits. There are still wintering birds on their way and there is no better place to take a winter break than Eilat and the Arava.

Join us here next and have a great week!

 

 

 

 

17.12.16

 



 

Anyone following the birding news in Israel will have heard of the mega finds in the north including the first Asian House Martin for the Western Palearctic!

It's a fantastic winter for birding in Israel and you won't find better weather than in Eilat! We had our own excitement with a pair of Greater Scaups (extremely rare here). I found them again yesterday but after some motorbikes decided to do some rounds at KM19 almost all the birds disappeared (didn't find them today).

 

This weekend was a tale of two mornings.

Both Friday and Saturday morning we did some winter ringing. The weather both mornings was identical and you would expect to get more or less the same results. Friday morning the park was bouncing with birds and we ringed 36 birds of 13 different species...Cetti's warblers, Blackcaps, Stonechats, Chiffchaffs, Bluethroats, Penduline Tits, Sardinian Warblers, Pale Crag Martin, Spanish and Dead Sea Sparrows etc.

 

It's an unusually large number for winter here. Saturday morning we did the same and got 5 birds?!?! It's even more perplexing because Friday we had many retraps of birds that have been here for weeks.

 

Elsewhere Yotvata is still pleasant with plenty of birds including the geese and Ruddy Shelducks, wheatears, Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Linnets etc.

At KM 20 plenty of birds including a couple of Greater Sand Plovers and a couple of Ruddy Shelducks.

KM19 has 3 Citrine Wagtails and the usual array of Waterfowl and North beach has 5 Western Reef Herons, a couple of Striated Herons and loads of Gulls.

 

This week we got some more rain and it's getting very green everywhere. Some birds are already breeding and I'm betting some Thick-billed Larks will be breeding here somewhere shortly!

So come join us here for some winter sunshine and great birding!

 

 

 

24.12.16

 



 

This weekend we had a wonderful European weekend.... cold, wet and overcast.

These are rare treats here and every small amount of rain is a big bonus in the desert landscape.

 

This morning I went up to Seyafim Plain to see how the flowering was progressing. The plain is very wet and in perfect condition for a bumper spring and lots of breeding. Many plants are already flowering and even the deadest shrubs have sprung to life and sporting loads of new green branches.

There are more birds than normal for this time of year too. Two Hoopoe Larks were the highlight alongside two Asian Desert Warblers, Trumpeter Finch, many Desert Larks, Scrub Warblers and Mourning Wheatears.

 

On Thursday I managed a round at Yotvata and was pleased to see a few more raptors. A Pallid Harrier, Goshawk, Long-legged Buzzard and Merlin were the best visitors but also 4 Hen Harriers, Imperial eagle, Kestrels and Sparrowhawks were enjoying the conditions. The Ruddy Shelducks and White-fronted Geese are still regulars alongside Cranes, Lapwings and many Desert Finch.

 

KM 20 and KM 19 have plenty of birds moving in and out without any visitors of note. I was wondering why we were seeing so few big Gulls and then I stumbled upon about 100 of them sitting just south of the Salt factory. Many young Baltic Gulls, Heuglin Gulls, Cachinnans, Armenian and one Barabensis and a lone Michahellis.

North Beach has plenty of Gulls, Cormorants etc but still waiting for something special!

 

A very happy Hannukah and Merry Christmas to all, celebrate with a great bird! Have a wonderful week!

 

 

 

1.1.17

 



 

This weekend we saw out 2016 in fine fashion with the Hannukah Happening at the IBRCE.

The weather was magnificent and over 2000 locals and tourists flowed into the park to learn a little about the birds and conservation. It was a fitting way to celebrate the scrapping of plans to build a wind turbine farm north of the park.

 

The birds played their part with over 30 birds ringed each morning from 14 different species and over 60 different species within the park. Most surprising was the good number of Blackcaps and a Reed Warbler still heading south with plenty of fat onboard. Even the PendulineTits are still moving with some weighing in over 12 grams. Elsewhere a first Thick-billed Lark has turned up at Ovda, a good sign for the near future.

 

Didn't take any photos so instead we have the top birds of 2016 for our wonderful area.

Top of my list are the Storm Petrels with Israel's 2nd and 3rd Wilson's Storm Petrels seen one day after the other! That they were seen with the country's 7th Swinhoes Petrel is just incredible and the 6th Swinhoes was seen earlier in the year.

 

Second on my list is Israel's 5th Crab Plover. You need extraordinary luck to see this brief visitor and two Frenchmen who were in the country for only 24 hours picked him up on a crowded beach...unbelievable! (I was also extremely lucky to be there!).

 

Third on my list are the Nubian Nightjars, magically reappearing at the IBRCE after a 30 year absence! Even more amazingly one appeared on the Municipality building in the middle of town!

 

The Arabian Golden Sparrow (along with the Persian Squirrel) are our mystery visitors this year. We don't know where they came from but they made our year more colourful and more interesting.

The Basalt Wheatear, Kurdish Wheatear, Greater Scaup are very rare visitors who gave great views to all who came to see while the Turkestan Shrike left town too quickly but still a good record.

Some local birds that are generally hard to find also starred by coming out in full view. The Hoopoe Larks at KM20 were stars for all visitors for almost 6 months and the Thick-billed Larks breeding in the Arava also gave many birderssome memorable moments.

Caspian Plovers in autumn are almost unheard of but this year they arrived every weekend throughout August. They were followed by a big group of Rosefinch who were also very obliging, quite a rare event in Israel.

 

And lastly we have the annual migration stars, the raptors. The Levant Sparrowhawk and Honey Buzzard migrations are one of the great sights of world birding, they will make any list!


Looking forward to 2017! Happy New Birding Year!

 

 

land marks