Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Israel Birds Part 02_09 IBRCE, K20 and K19, Yotvata Fields

Oops, this was our last full day in Eilat. IBRCE, K19 and K20 Ponds and Yotvata Fields. Highlights for my day were a Pallas's Gull, Namaqua Dove on the razor wire delineating Israel from Jordan, a vocal male Bluethroat and an Osprey catching a fish from pond 19. In taxonomic order ...


Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax

Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Displaying the definitive yellow socks.

Osprey Pandion haliaetus

Green Sandpiper Tringa achropus

Pallas's Gull  Larus ichthyaetus
Definitive black tail band

Namaqua Dove Oena capensis

Bluethroat Luscinia svecica

Graceful Prinia Prinia gracilis

A Blizzard of Buzzards

Sunday, 7 June 2020

Israel Birds Part 02_08 IBRCE, Mount Shlomo, Sachamon Park (Eilat town) and North Beach, Eilat

This was our last full day in Eilat and we didn't venture too far from town. First stop was another visit to the IBRCE.

 We celebrated World Migratory Bird Day

Got onto some real skulkers in the reed beds (crakes and rails - same MO as in Australia).

Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus

Little Crake Porzana parva

Also saw some birds-in-hand as caught in the mist nets.

Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus

Whitethroat Sylvia communis

Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca

White-spectacled Bulbul Pycnonotus xanthopygos

We also checked out the ponds around the IBRCE.

Great Cormorant Phalacrcorax carbo

Little Egret Egretta garzetta

Purple Heron Ardea purpurea

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius

Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula

Kentish Plover  Charadrius alexandrinus

Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis

Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus

Ruff Philomachus pugnax

White/Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba alba

Even the surrounding vegetation, sparse and dry, had birds.

Graceful Prinia Prinia gracilis

Next stop was up into the mountains, raptor migration watching.

Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinis

Back to town, Meidad's contacts came up trumps with 3 rarities. Humes Warbler in a small square on the main thoroughfare and Shachamon Park with two rarities (Yellow-browed and Subalpine Warblers). After that it was off to the beach, North Beach, which faces south at the "top" or northern end of the Gulf of Aqaba. All the heavy shipping docks at the wharves in Jordan so we had uninterrupted views of ... bouys and water.

The highlight of the day was watching a Booted Eagle do a ripper stop into a flock of feral pigeons in the cattle feedlot next door to one of the ponds and come up trumps with a meal. The flock of hundreds of pigeons "exploded" but too late for one!

Monday, 11 May 2020

Israel Birds Part 02_07 Wadi Hemda, Kibbutz Samar, Amran Pillars, K19 and K20

Day 06

The day entailed a very pre-dawn start so as to arrive at Wadi Hemda in the Arava Valley where the Great Hoopoe Lark can be found. This bird is rare and has a magical advertising flight whereby the male sits on a bush then suddenly flies vertically for 15-20 metres whilst calling then circles back to bush. Our guides heard the bird soon after arrival but it took an hour to actually locate one. A bit of triangulation was used to pinpoint it but once we got onto the bird, the experience was magical.

Greater Hoopoe Lark Alaemon alaupides

Whilst there, the wagtail, warbler and raptor migration cloud was continuing.

Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava feldegg
This subspecies is restricted to the Balkans, Caucasus and Turkey
Common (Steppe) Buzzard Buteo buteo vulpinus
Breeds in eastern and north-eastern Europe
Ruppell's Warbler Sylvia rueppelli

The other special bird at this site was a Pallid Harrier which quietly breezed past almost not being seen. The image is from 100 metres +.

Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus

After a bus breakfast, we went to Kibbutz Samar, a working dairy kibbutz which has a very small but mature "jungle" in which was a very special bird, a Black Scrub-Robin (Bush Robin), which usually breeds south of the Sahara or in Arabia. The species has been a breeding resident of Eilat since 1994. Why? Good question. We very quietly snuck into the jungle (30m x 20m), sat down and waited. Soon enough, just like a Grey Shrike-thrush or a Common Blackbird, through the undergrowth, the bird came into view looking for food by flicking the leaf litter.

Black Scrub-Robin Cercotrichas podobe

From there we went to Amran Pillars, a dead-end canyon up in the hills to the west of Eilat where there are spectacular rock formations and colouring. Two great birds were seen here.

Sand Partridge Ammoperdix heyi

White-crowned Wheatear Oenanthe leucopyga

Back at the hotel Heather and I went for a stroll specifically looking for that potential scourge of Western Australia, the House Crow.

House Crow Corvus splendens

After another session at K20, our day finished at the K19 ponds where we (and plenty of others) gathered to see Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse. When we arrived, there were a small group sitting on the top of the wall (Point A). We went over and were told this was the spot from where the Sandgrouse were best seen the previous night. As we were settling in, a brash lady came over and told us in no uncertain terms that this was the wrong place to wait and we should be around the corner of the bank 30 metres or so to not spook the birds (Point B). Our group splintered with most and eventually all but me, going over to Point B. From where I was sitting on the ground, it seemed to me that I was in the much better place to see the birds as I had a full view of the rocky area upon which they were alleged to land and then walk down to the edge of the water for a drink. I thought that from Point B it was quite difficult to see the landing point and impossible to see the drinking point. 

And so it proved to be, especially in the deep dusk when they finally came in. I saw two birds land, was able to distinguish the red chest and the black, Collingwood stripes on the head in front of the eye. Bingo. No image I am afraid. The camera only goes to ISO 32,000!!