Saturday, 1 May 2010

April 13th to 21st 2010 Israel Part 2

A pre-breakfast check on Eilat North Beach, Palm Plantation and Ringing Station produced nothing new and our car had a slow puncture so we sorted that out while Terry and Colin set out for Lotan Kibbutz agreeing to meet up there. Once we arrived at Lotan we presumed T & C were on site so we worked the vegetation around Kibbutz swimming pool getting close views of 2 Hoopoe, Wryneck, Blackcap, Lesser Whitethroat and many variations of Blue and Black-headed Wagtails before checking the cattle shed area and the nature reserve. A place with palm leaves covering the hides giving plenty of shelter from the sun so we spent some time watching the birds coming down to drink seeing 7 Tree Pipit, Eastern Bonellis Warbler, Blackcap a few Lesser Whitethroats and very smart Wood Warbler.

Arabian Babbler by Terry Southgate

Unfortunately no overhead migration and after finally making contact with Colin who had some how missed the sign three times and was miles away we agreed to meet at Yotvata before heading back to Eilat with the temperature now 108c.
Part of the afternoon spent on the hotel balcony till it was cooler noting 2 Pomarine Skua coming in off the sea and going straight up the valley – a few Common Swifts and one Pallid Swift did the same.
The Brown Booby showed well again from Eilat North Beach at 5pm then we took the back road to K20 and drove round finding 2 Whiskered Terns before another attempt at K19 to see the Lichtenstien’s Sandgrouse but again they failed to turn up. One of the problems birders are facing is that it’s been a wet winter so there is plenty of water else where in the desert this spring. There were plenty of herons and egrets dropping in with 42 Little Egret, 12 Cattle Egret, 4 Night Heron, 2 Squacco and 3 Purple Herons while wagtails numbers were to numerous to count with plenty of Water and Red-throated Pipits. Hirundines were either coming to roost or pushing north minus one which was taken by a Hobby in front of us.

Red-throated Pipit by me

Black-winged Stil flock by me

April 14th 2010
The hotel informed us of the security procedures in place for tomorrows departure which meant it was pointless keeping the cars after today as there may not be time tomorrow to hand them back.
No sooner we were out birding it was pretty obvious there had been a massive clear out of pipits, wagtails and Red-rumped Swallow overnight with very few seen around the Eilat area.
The most common bird around the Palm Plantations were Bee-Eaters (30+) while the Ringing Station showed that raptors were on the move and in two hours we had 2 Osprey, Marsh Harrier, 20 Black Kite, Booted Eagle, 2 Hobby and 150 Steppe Buzzard, a possible Levant Sparrowhawk and two dark falcons to far away to identify. Also present were 2 Purple Heron, 3 Garganey and Masked Shrike among the usual waders and gulls.

Bee-Eater by Terry Southgate

The raptor movement continued in smaller numbers at K20 with 3 Marsh Harrier, 14 Steppe Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk while the 2 Whiskered Terns remained. At least 6 Kentish Plover chicks seen and 4 Marsh Sandpiper still around and 80 Glossy Ibis arrived which was very impressive.
Over Eilat in the afternoon we had 10 Black Kite and 40+ Steppe Buzzard and in the evening off Eilat North Beach the raptor migration continued with another 80 Steppe Buzzard going north low. Also on the move were 5 Black Stork plus two groups of Spoonbill with a 3 then a 6 coming in off the sea. Off shore were 40+ Garganey, 2 Caspian Tern, White-eyed Gull and 10 Common Tern.

April 15th 2010
To avoid a long queue we went to the hotel down the road being used by the Airport booking and security staff early to check in for our flight which then gave us time to do Ofira Park before our coach took us to the Airport at midday
In a 90 minute walk we managed 2 Nightingales, Icterine, Wood and 4 Olivacious Warbler, 2 Pied Flycatcher and 4 Woodchat Shrike so there had been a small fall and our last three birds in the park were Masked Shrike, Indian Hill Minor and Alexandrine Parakeet.
Back at the hotel and after an hour’s wait our flight was delayed due to the Eyjafjallaj√∂kull Volcano eruption in Iceland till the evening so the hotel allowed us to use our rooms again.
Once in our rooms we realised there was a massive raptor migration going over Eilat heading for Jordon and though we did not have our scopes luckily we travel with our bins in the hand luggage and so watched from the balcony as they came over, managing an impressive 850 Steppe Buzzard, 47 Black Kite, Marsh Harrier, 2 Booted Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk, 6 Steppe Eagle, dark phase Short–toed Eagle, 4 Sparrowhawk, 2 Kestrel and a Hobby. Also passing were 7 Great White Egret, 17 Glossy Ibis, many Baltic Gulls, 15 Common Tern and 16 Swift.
From our advantage point we also saw Laughing Dove, Tristram’s Starling, Indian house Crow, White-eyed Bulbul, Rock Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Kingfisher, Hooded Crow and White-eyed Gull. While all this was going on the hotel informed us the flight was delayed till the early morning.

April 16th 2010
The early morning flight was cancelled with a possibility of one in the evening so it was back to the balcony with other impressive 1149 Steppe Buzzards and among them we were 3 Steppe Eagle, 7 Booted Eagle, 5 unidentified eagles, Levant Sparrowhawk, Osprey and Peregrine plus 10 Great White Egret.
We were informed there would be no flights for at least 24hrs so had to collect our luggage now it had been released by Airport security then a quick shop for necessities before returning to our hotel for a clothes washing session.
By mid afternoon you couldn’t move on our balcony for scopes and washing but managed 3 Glossy Ibis, 6 Purple Heron, Great White Egret, Sparrowhawk, Peregrine, Caspian Tern over and a Whitethroat in the garden of the Hotel opposite but the raptor passage had ceased.

April 17th 2010
As we were not going any where today we discussed the possibility of hiring a car but with the situation changing by the hour we decided we could not risk being out of the communication loop. Dave, Terry and I had worked Ofira Park finding 2m & 1f Cretzschmar’s Bunting, 3 Olivacious Warbler, 3 Lesser Whitethroat, 6 Blackcap, Masked Shrike and 2 Meadow Pipit before we moved on to Eilat North Beach after Colin rang to say he had a Striated Heron on the fishing platform but it had gone by the time we got there. Birds of note were Pomarine Skua, Sooty Shearwater, 20 Common Tern and 17 Glossy Ibis in off the sea.

Eastern Olivacious Warbler
While Dave walked to the Ringing Station I had second look at Eilat North Beach searching for the Striated recording Osprey, 3 Pomarine Skua, 2 Sooty Shearwater, 2 Pied Kingfisher, Common, Caspian and Gull-billed Tern, 3 White-eyed Gull and a Western Reef Heron.
A short walk along the canal produced Great Reed Warbler, Kingfisher, 2 Pied Kingfisher, Pied Flycatcher, Hoopoe, Rock and Crag Martin, Black-winged Stilt, 4 Wood Sandpiper, Squacco Heron, Cattle Egret, Night Heron, 3 Black Kite and 2 Steppe Buzzard.
I met up with Dave who had seen 2 Lesser-spotted Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Osprey, Black Kite, Steppe Buzzard, and Reed Warbler among the more usual birds at the Ringing Station and a Semi-collared Flycatcher in the Palm Plantation.
Hotel balcony produced 2 Booted Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk, 8 Kestrel sp very high up and 230 Common Tern which landed on the Salt Ponds
Evening look at Eilat North Beach where there were over a 1000 Common Tern off shore, 20 Garganey, 3 Pomarine Skua, Artic Skua, 100 Baltic Gull and 6 Swift

April 18th 2010
The pressure of not knowing what’s going on has been eased as we met up with another traveler Catherine who has her ear to the Hotel grapevine who kindly kept us updated.
Our now regular session on Eilat North Beach produced Common Sandpiper, Baltic Gull, White-eyed Gull, 200 Common Tern, Little Tern, Kingfisher, 2 Pied Kingfisher, Crested Lark, Purple Heron 6, Little Egret, 10 Great White Egret, 2 Artic Skua, 5 Pomarine Skua, Wood Sandpiper, 2 Caspian Tern.
Called in on Ofira Park on our way back to the hotel and found a tired Upcher’s Warbler so back to hotel to check the identification and any news on flights before returning for a second session, confirming its identification. At least one male Cretzschmar’s Bunting remained, Icterine Warbler, Olivacious Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat present.
The balcony was quiet till mid-afternoon when the wind dropped and a mixture of raptors went through with Hobby, 2 Levant Sparrowhawk, immature Pallid Harrier, 2 Booted Eagle, 4 Steppe Buzzard, 2 eagle sp and a Sparrowhawk along with 10 Black-winged Stilt and 40 Common Tern.
Still very warm when we checked on Ofira Park where this morning birds were elusive due to the heat but the raptors were on the move with 2 Levant Sparrowhawk hunting in the park while both Montagu’s and Pallid Harrier went over with a few Steppe Buzzard before we moved to get a clearer view of the Eilat Mountains where kettles of Steppe Buzzards were forming with at least 2000 birds present. As we were leaving I spotted 2 Levant Sparrowhawk very close and shouted to Dave only to find him absorbed in a spectacular movement of hundreds of um pouring in over Eilat Airport very low – magical.

April 19th 2010
Oops the wind got up last night and we lost some of our washing.
After a very warm night it was already 23c as we walked to Eilat North Beach at 6am with 2 Levant Sparrowhawk already out hunting at first light and a Montagu’s Harrier coming in low over the marina, Artic Skua and 2 Sooty Shearwater off shore.
The Upcher’s showed briefly in Ofira Park and Olivacious Warblers had increased to 7 with male Cretzschmar’s Bunting still present plus 2 Meadow Pipits, Blackcap and Masked Shrike.
Too hot for me and Terry so we stayed on the our balcony while Dave and Colin took a taxi up to ringing in station but yesterdays raptor movement only involved birds that had roosted locally, 2 Black Stork, Lesser-spotted Eagle, 3 Levant Sparrowhawk, 15 Steppe Buzzard, 3 Black Kite and 4 Purple Heron seen leaving the Palm Plantation. There was brief excitement at 11:30am when a Long-legged Buzzard flew low over Eilat and started hunting over the salt ponds, Levant Sparrowhawk perched in trees opposite our hotel and 50 Swifts over.
Dave and Colin returned from ringing station with the best being 2 Booted Eagle, 8 Levant Sparrowhawk, 20 Steppe Buzzard, 2 Black-headed Wagtail, Red-throated Pipit, Purple Heron, 5 Night Heron and 9 Red-necked Phalarope. With the temperature reaching a dry dusty 39c the rest of day spent doing nothing.

April 20th 2010
A lot cooler this morning and we added two new birds to our trip list off Eilat North Beach with a Black Tern coming in off the sea and heading north with a group of Common Tern then a White-winged Black Tern appeared on its own heading towards Jordon, also Gull-billed Tern and one Sooty Shearwater. The walk back to hotel via Ofria Park also brought another one for the list with female Barred Warbler and there seemed to be a lot more birds about with arrival of Rufous Bush Robin plus Levant Sparrowhawk, 3 Blackcap, 3 Olivacious Warbler and Hoopoe.
Just after breakfast we found out from Catherine that a plane was leaving so we had a mad dash in packing but it was cancelled. The disappointment killed the rest of the day.

April 21st 2010
A plane was definitely leaving today so packed again and had time for one last look at Ofira Park producing Icterine Warbler, Tree Pipit, 10 Lesser Whitethroat, 4 Olivacious Warbler, Nightingale, 2 Masked Shrike, Reed Warbler and 12 Swift and the last birds seen from the balcony were 2 Sooty Shearwater resting off shore and Osprey over Eilat. Only a Kestrel noted on the journey to the Airport
On arrival at Luton Airport they were slow off the mark so a delay in getting off plane and longer wait for our luggage. It was a shock to the system having to scrape ice off the windscreen but good to be back on the proper side of the road.

Dave and I took to looking for fish in the clear waters of the marina finding 17 species with this the biggest - showed how sad we had become- me


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