15th March - 22nd March 2011
Leaders Dave Read & Andy Shooter
Participants Andrew & Tracey Edwards, Derek & Molly Beech, Doreen Marsh, Richard Ness and Arthur Read.
This proved to be an extremely successful tour with far too many highlights to list them all, certainly amongst them would be the exceptional views of the diminutive Namaqua Dove, breeding plumage Caspian Plovers and displaying Macqueens Bustard. We were joined for the first two full days by the renowned Israeli birder and excellent guide Barak Granit who's help found us many sought after species including Long-billed Pipit, Striolated Bunting and up to 80 Syrian Serins. He also escorted us on two evening excursions, the highlights of which were excellent views of Nubian and Egyptian Nightjars as well as Pharaoh Eagle Owl. Add this to all five of the regions sandgrouse, seven species of wheatear and nine species of lark including Oriental Skylark and the stunning Thick-billed. Southern Israel in the migration season can be spectacular, with huge numbers of birds passing through and although during the period we were visiting migration was a little slow, there was still plenty to see. But Israel is not all about migration, we had a number of wintering birds still present such as Sinai Rosefinch and Cyprus Warbler as well as many residents difficult to locate elsewhere in the Western Palearctic. These included Striated Heron, White Eyed Gull, Palestine Sunbird, Fan-tailed Raven and Tristram's Starling to name just a few. Our accommodations were all of a good standard and we enjoyed extremely pleasant weather conditions.
The tour started with a trouble free direct flight from Luton to Tel-Aviv, landing just as the sun was setting at around 6.00pm. After a quick meal at the airport we drove to our first base, a charming Kibbutz in the Negev desert.
Still dark, we met at the minibus at 5.15am ready to meet local guide Barak Granit who would help us find some of the most sought after specialties of the Western Negev and Dead Sea areas. We started by driving about 40 minutes west to an area of stony desert close to the Egyptian border where our first target MacQueens Bustard was quickly found along with Cream-coloured Courser, Scrub Warbler and Brown-necked Raven. Next we visited a series of sewage pools where along with a selection of wildfowl and waders we found Crowned, Spotted, Black-bellied & Pin-tailed Sandgrouse all coming to drink. The surprise find here however came in the way of a late Oriental Skylark.
Returning back to the kibbutz we had a little time for a coffee while birding in the extensive gardens, adding a variety of commoner targets such as Laughing Dove, Palestine Sunbird and Spectacled Bulbul. Moving on we headed east towards the Dead Sea with a stop near Arad on the way, where we quickly added Finsch's Wheatear and with a little perseverance Long-billed Pipit. Continuing east we began our descent to the Dead Sea, where at 400m below sea level we reached the lowest point on the planet. After lunch we checked into the hotel quickly before heading back out to a nearby Wadi where Rock Martin, Fan-tailed Raven and Cyprus Warbler were all added along with Nubian Ibex and Rock Hyrax. After our evening meal back at the hotel we drove a short distance for an evening in search of Nubian Nightjar close to the Jordanian Border, where we very quickly found the birds with at least four present.
Started with another pre-breakfast outing, this time to try and locate Striolated Bunting, an increasingly difficult species to find nowadays in Israel. We drove about 40 minutes north to a deep and very steep sided Canyon where after much searching we managed to find this shy bunting. After breakfast we visited a nearby reservoir where Clamorous Reed Warbler was heard singing, but sadly remained well hidden.
Heading inland towards Mitzpe Ramon, Barak's wealth of local knowledge again paid dividend adding another much sought after target in the form of Syrian Serin. We then drove through the Ramon Crater to a military area which Barak had authorization to visit in search of larks, visiting a small wadi within the crater on the way where Mourning Wheatear and Trumpeter Finch were both recorded. Once at the lark site it wasn't long before we had found both Thick-billed and Temminck's Horned, while further searching also produced 2 Bar-tailed Larks and a nice male Desert Wheatear.
We then moved south as the sun began to set, eventually reaching Yotvata, where we ate dinner before once again heading out on a nocturnal excursion. Surprisingly the first thing of note was Caspian Plover which was found roosting in a field. Next we located Egyptian Nightjar along with a variety of mammals, the highlight of which was undoubtedly Striped Hyena, before eventually locating a stunning Pharaoh Eagle Owl. Happy with another fantastic days birding we said our goodbyes to Barak and thanked him for all his hard work before driving the short distance to Eilat, our base for the remainder of the tour.
After a couple long days in the field we had a bit of a lay-in and a late breakfast, after which we briefly checked Ofira Park which lay directly in front of the hotel. House Crow was soon added along with Ring-necked Parakeet and a selection of common migrants. We then walked the short distance from the hotel to the Marina, where it didn't take long to locate a single Striated Heron. From there we continued to the North Beach and sewage canal where again we almost immediately found a striking blue phase Western Reef Egret. Walking further north along the canal was a little disappointing with little of note and as it was now becoming very hot we changed tactics and retreated to the nearest bar for a refreshing cold drink.
Refreshed and rested we drove to the International Birding & Research Centre Eilat (IBRCE Park) where we completed the nature trail. It was by now midday and not the best time to be birding but we still managed to add Squacco Heron and Olivaceous Warbler amongst others. We also had our first good views of Graceful Prinia and as with any area holding water Spur-winged Plover were ubiquitous.
Next we visited the KM19 sewage pools where good numbers of wildfowl included Pintail, Wigeon, Pochard and Tufted Duck. A search of the nearby scrub revealed only a few common migrants but it did provide us with exceptional views of Little Green Bee-eater. Moving on, the KM20 Res was to be our final destination of the day, with this being one of southern Israel's premier birding sites. Large numbers of birds were immediately evident including Greater Flamingo, Marsh Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, Kentish Plover and Shoveler. Searching through these produced Gargany, Avocet, Greater Sand Plover and Slender-Billed Gull as well as an immature White Pelican and a single Purple Heron.
Another pre-breakfast outing saw us trying for Sinai Rosefinch at Amram's Pillars where we found one very obliging individual. We also enjoyed excellent views of White-crowned Wheatear and Desert Lark. After a late breakfast we started in the usual way with a quick look in Ofira Park where amongst the common migrants we found a very confiding Wryneck.
The Kibbutz settlement of Yotvata c40 km north of Eilat was our next destination starting with a walk through the Acacia scrub adding Eastern Bonelli's Warbler before reaching the sewage pools where Citrine Wagtail and Bluethroat were much appreciated. After refreshments in the café we headed to the circular fields where the 3 Caspian Plovers first seen a few days earlier by torchlight were still present and showing much better in daylight. Nearby a pumpkin field held several wagtails, pipits and larks, including 5 Bimaculated. Other highlights included good views of Little Green Bee-eater and Palestine Sunbird.
As the evening sun began to fall we repositioned ourselves at the KM19 sewage pools, where on arrival there was a very showy male Little Crake in addition to huge numbers of wagtails getting ready to roost. A rather nervous wait then ensued before our target bird Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse eventually flew in to drink, giving reasonable albeit brief views in the near darkness.
Today we started with a visit to the North Beach, where we soon found a single White-eyed Gull and enjoyed fantastic views of the blue phase Western Reef Egret. The Eilat Mountains were our next destination, where a number of viewpoints were visited to watch the raptor migration. Although no large movements were noted we still clocked up a reasonable tally with c200 Steppe Buzzards, 16 Long-legged Buzzards, 4 Steppe Eagles, 2 Marsh Harriers and a few Black Kites. Descending back down to Eilat we visited Holland Park where Rüppell's Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat were both plentiful and we enjoyed good views of Sand Partridge.
It was however now midday and scorching hot so we decided to have a short break and a cold drink before continuing for another look at the KM20 Res. Again this site was very productive and new birds added on this visit included Ruddy Shelduck, Wood Sandpiper, Gull-billed Tern and Pallas's Gull. Other birds of note included 7 Steppe Eagles, 3 Greater Sand Plover and a single Caspian Plover. We finished the day by returning to the north beach for the last hour where White-eyed Gulls now numbered 20.
We started with another pre-breakfast outing, this time into the desert looking for Hoopoe Lark, though unfortunately we were unable to find any. We did however note many birds moving north including several flocks of Short-toed Larks as well as many hirundines and wheatears. With this in mind we decided to re-visit Holland Park after breakfast hoping there would be good numbers of migrants there too. As with our previous visit Rüppell's Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat were numerous, while Eastern Bonelli's and Eastern Orphean Warblers were also recorded along with Ortolan Bunting.
We then returned to Yotvata stopping off on the way at an area of Acacia Scrub where again we looked for migrants, the highlight of which was a Masked Shrike. At Yotvata itself new additions included Booted Eagle, Common Snipe and Water Pipit though the star bird was without doubt this Namaqua Dove. Other highlights included exceptional views of a male Pallid Harrier, our second Barbary Falcon, a pair of very obliging Stone Curlew and a mixed group of wagtails, pipits and larks including 6 Bimaculated Larks and several Red-throated Pipits.
Our last day and sadly it was time to leave Eilat behind and make a start on our return to Tel-Aviv, this was a long journey and with a few comfort stops on the way, meant we wouldn't have much time in Tel-Aviv before needing to be at the airport. The journey itself didn't offer much bird-wise though a pair of Egyptian Vulture and a Long-legged Buzzard was noted. As we approached Be'er Sheva it was obvious there was a good movement of Black Kites through the area with many birds involved, while a stop at a service station nearby produced our only Woodchat Shrike.
Once in Tel-Aviv we drove to one of the parks on the northern bank of the Yarkon River but sadly only had c20 minutes to enjoy it. None the less we managed to find Pied Kingfisher, Syrian Woodpecker, Monk Parakeet and Common Myna. Birding over we returned the minibus and after some mix up with the busses, arrived at the airport in good time, concluding what had been an amazing tour.
We recorded a very respectable total of 170 species of birds, along with 7 species of mammal. Both Andy and I thoroughly enjoyed the tour and we would like to thank everyone not only for joining us on it, but also for their excellent company, making it one of our most memorable tours to date.
SYSTEMATIC BIRD LIST
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Recorded on three dates and from three sites.
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Noted on three dates.
White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus
An immature was found at the KM20 Res where it showed well both in flight and on the deck spending much of the time stood on a causeway with Grey Herons. Next day it was relocated roosting at the KM19 sewage pools.
Striated Heron Butorides striatus
This is one of Eilat's most sought after birds; found here at its very northern limit of its range. Breeding inside the Western Palearctic is confined only to the mangroves in southern Sinai in Egypt, from where occasional visitors make it north to Eilat. After some searching we managed to locate a single bird under the pier in Eilat Marina where reasonable scope views were enjoyed.
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Noted near Arad and at the Yotvata sewage pools.
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides
First recorded at the IBRCE park and subsequently at Yotvata sewage pools.
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Singles were present at the IBRCE Park and nearby on the canal, with small numbers also recorded at Yotvata.
Western Reef Egret Egretta gularis schistacea
A single dark morph was found at the North Beach by the side of the sewage canal where it gave excellent views. A white morph was found at the IBRCE Park, where it's subtle structural differences could be compared with a nearby Little Egret; at least 4 other white morphs were also noted nearby on the Saltpans. The birds in the Red Sea region belong to the race E.g.schitacea which differ from the nominate E.g. gularis in having a longer slightly down tipped bill, also dark morph schitacea are a paler blue grey and are out numbered by white morphs, the opposite in gularis with 99% being dark. This is a potential future split and is already treated as separate by some authorities using the name Indian Reef Egret.
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
By far the best site was the KM20 Res.
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea
A single bird was noted with a flock of c40 Grey Heron which moved north over the KM20 Res.
White Stork Ciconia ciconia
Three birds were noted in the Western Negev, with the only other record involving a single bird at Yotvata.
Black Stork Ciconia nigra
A flock of 13 birds were found roosting in the desert, with another two found nearby.
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber
The KM20 Res held c400 birds on both visits.
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna
Only recorded at the KM20 Res.
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea
A rather tatty washed out individual was found amongst Common Shelduck at the KM20 Res.
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
A commonly recorded species with sightings most days.
Pintail Anas acuta
Good numbers were present at both the KM19 sewage pools and the KM20 Res.
Shoveler Anas clypeata
Large numbers were noted offshore from the North Beach in Eilat, it was also the most abundant duck species at many wetland sites including KM19 sewage pools and the KM20 Res.
Wigeon Anas penelope
A pair was noted at the KM19 sewage pools, with at least 12 at KM20 Res.
Teal Anas crecca
Several were noted from various sites.
Garganey Anas querquedula
The KM20 Res held up to 8 birds.
Pochard Aythya farina
A single drake was found at KM19 sewage pools.
Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca
A drake was seen in flight near Ein Bokek.
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula
A single drake was noted at the KM19 sewage pools.
Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus
Two were noted over a high ridge at the back of our hotel in Ein Bokek, with one also noted here the following morning. Elsewhere a pair flew low over the desert south of the Dead Sea.
Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis
A visit to the Eilat Mountains raptor viewpoints produced just 4 singles, one of which gave reasonable views. However later that day 7 passed northeast over the KM20 Res, with 3 of these quite low providing our best views of this species.
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus
One was found roosting in the top of an Acacia tree near Nizzana.
Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus
At least 2 singles possibly more were noted at Yotvata, where good views were enjoyed, including one being harassed by a Hen Harrier.
Black Kite Milvus migrans
A common raptor in the region with many sightings, including a movement near Be'er Sheva involving c100 birds.
Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus
Small numbers were recorded most days.
Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus
Three were noted in the Western Negev, elsewhere a ringtail was at Yotvata.
Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus
A male showed well at Yotvata on the 19 th , where presumably the same bird was again seen on the 21 st when it gave prolonged good views chasing wagtails and perched on irrigation pipes.
Black-winged Kite Elanus caeruleus
One was seen briefly from the minibus close to Be'er Sheva. This species is normally a major Israeli rarity though the last year has seen an unprecedented increase with at least a dozen records.
Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus
Recorded on three dates, with 16 from the Eilat mountain raptor viewpoints the most notable.
Steppe Buzzard Buteo buteo vulpinus
By far the commonest raptor with sighting daily and from many locations, the most notable of which was the raptor viewpoint above Eilat where c200 were noted.
Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
Only recorded twice.
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Recorded on 4 dates from a number of locations.
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni
At least 8 birds were noted near Arad, with the only other record being a single male near Tel-Aviv.
Barbary Falcon Falco pelegrinus
One drifted slowly past as we looked over the Ramon Crater near Mitzpe Ramon with the only other hunting over the fields at Yotvata.
Chukar Alectoris chukar
Only noted in the Negev.
Sand Partridge Ammoperdix heyi
Three were noted at Wadi Mishmar, but by far the best sight was Holland Park on the outskirts of Eilat where good views of up to 4 birds were enjoyed.
Little Crake Porzana parva
A male showed very well on the edge of a small patch of reeds at the KM19 sewage pools.
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Small numbers were noted.
Common Coot Fulica atra
Only recorded at KM19 sewage pools.
Macqueen's Bustard Chlamydotis macqueenii
Formally considered a subspecies of Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulate , but now widely acknowledge as being a separate species. On the 16 th a dawn visit into the Western Negev provided good views of this endangered bird. Our first sighting involved a displaying male, which although a little distant was none the less a delight to watch. Later a group of four birds were located close to the road, with one male staying fairly close as we drove down to them giving amazing views. To top it off as we drove away one was seen in flight very close to the road. The Negev Desert holds a population of perhaps just 300 birds, with over 90% of these found within off-limits military bases.
Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta
Only recorded at the KM20 Res.
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
A common wader at many suitable wetlands.
Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus
One was seen by torchlight at Yotvata, with this site also providing our only other record of a pair which showed well near the compost heap.
Cream-coloured Courser Cursorius cursor
A dawn visit to the stony desert close to the Egyptian Border provided a number of sightings involving at least 8 birds.
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
Recorded at just two locations
Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
A single bird was present at the North Beach.
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus
Good numbers were present at the KM20 Res.
Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii
Up to 3 were found roosting on an embankment at KM20 Res, all were in winter plumage as were most of the waders.
Caspian Plover Charadrius asiaticus
On the 17 th we heard news that three birds had earlier been found at Yotvata on one of the circular fields. Barak having heard this was pretty optimistic we would see them that night while looking for nocturnal species, and was very quickly proved right when we found one bird almost straight away. Although happy with this sighting we were all anxious to return and see the birds in daylight, which we did on the 19 th when all three birds were observed. Next day we were lucky enough to find another bird at the KM20 Res though sadly it was only seen in flight as it flushed from the bank ahead of us. Unlike the majority of waders present these were all in full breeding plumage with two of the three Yotvata birds and the KM20 bird being stunning males.
Spur-winged Plover Vanellus spinosus
Probably the commonest wader in the region with several sightings daily.
Sanderling Calidris alba
A few were noted at the KM20 Res.
Dunlin Calidris alpina
Small numbers were present at the KM20 Res.
Little Stint Calidris minuta
The KM20 Res held small numbers on both visits.
Ruff Philomachus pugnax
Fairly common with birds recorded at many wetland sites.
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago
One at Yotvata sewage pools was the only sighting.
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
Small numbers were present at the KM20 Res.
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
Four birds were at the KM20 Res.
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
Fairly common with good numbers present at the KM20 Res as well as a number of other wetlands.
Redshank Tringa totanus
As with many waders the best site was easily the KM20 Res.
Greenshank Tringa nebularia
One at the IBRCE Park was the only record.
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis
Four were at the IBRCE Park, where one showed well side by side with a Greenshank, allowing the structural differences between these similar species to be noted; meanwhile up to 15 were noted at the KM20 Res.
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
A single was noted on the sewage canal at Eilat's North Beach.
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
The KM20 Res held between 20 – 30 birds on both occasions we visited, elsewhere a 1 st winter bird on the Yarkon River in Tel Aviv was the only record.
Slender-billed Gull Larus genei
Several birds were noted offshore from the North Beach, where they would form tight groups on the sea. Elsewhere c20 birds were present at the KM20 Res where good views were obtained.
Pallas's Gull Larus ichthyaetus
An adult moulting into breeding plumage was found roosting on the embankment at the KM20 Res, where it gave reasonable scope views for some time before departing to the south. Some time later presumably the same bird reappeared and circled along with an immature bird.
White-eyed Gull Larus leucophthalmus
The North Beach yielded just a single bird perched on a distant buoy on our first visit, however returning that same evening rewarded us with at least 20.
Gull-Billed Tern Sterna nilotica
One was at the KM20 Res.
Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis
Only recorded in the Western Negev where c20 showed very well at a drinking pool.
Pin-tailed Sandgrouse Pterocles alchata
A flock of 32 was seen in flight while in the Western Negev, with a second flock of 13 was seen nearby at a drinking pool.
Spotted Sandgrouse Pterocles senegallus
A group of four was observed in the Western Negev where they made several circuits around a drinking pool giving good flight views before eventually dropping down to drink just out of sight.
Crowned Sandgrouse Pterocles coronatus
A flock of 17 dropped down on to an embankment straight in front of us at a drinking pool in the Western Negev where they gave exceptional views as well as a good photo opportunity.
Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse Pterocles lichtensteinii
A late evening visit to the KM19 sewage pools in search of this elusive species was rewarded when a single male dropped in to drink. Although it was already near darkness when it flew in, luckily for us it chose to drop in more or less straight in front of where we were sat. This allowed good, albeit brief views before it moved along the waters edge and out of sight, where it continued calling periodically.
Feral/Rock Dove Columba livia
Feral birds were noted daily around many urban and agricultural areas.
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
Abundant in any urban or agricultural areas.
Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis
This striking bird appeared to be very common in any urban areas, with daily sightings. The Resorts of Ein Bokek at the Dead Sea and Eilat in particular provided several sighting including nesting birds.
Namaqua Dove Oena capensis
One of the most sought after species in the region and in recent years one of the hardest to find. While at Yotvata we had all but given up when Andy put up a single male which had been feeding out of sight in cut grass just yards from him. Luckily for the most of the group it flew and landed to drink from a puddle just in front of where we were stood. It then took back to the air and was watched to land in an Acacia tree some distance away. Two of the group who were sheltering from the sun back at the minibus unfortunately missed this, so we all walked across to the tree in question where two males promptly flew out, one of which appeared to land nearby and was quickly relocated. This bird then gave excellent views, even posing for photos, and was one of the highlights of the trip for many of the group.
Barn Owl Tyto alba
One or possibly two was seen in flight at Yotvata while searching for nocturnal species.
Pharaoh Eagle Owl Bubu ascalaphus
On the 17 th an extensive torchlight search at Yotvata was eventually rewarded with prolonged and exceptionally good views of a single bird, probably a male. This proved to be one of the trips highlights for many of the group.
Egyptian Nightjar Caprimulgus aegyptius
As with the previous species one gave excellent views by torchlight at Yotvata, it was seen at close quarters both roosting in a bare field and in flight.
Nubian Nightjar Caprimulgus nubicus
On the night of the 16 th we visited a restricted location close to the Jordanian border where the last few pairs of this, the Western Paleartics rarest regular breeding bird are found. Once there we didn't have long to wait before our first sighting, a single sat in the middle of the track. We kept our distance and scoped the bird, which easily allowed us to note its small size and compact shape. Once the bird had flown we continued along the track, but not before noting the large white patches on the tail and conspicuous wing patches. Driving a little further revealed at least four birds, one of which stayed on the track even though we drove right by it, giving our best views of the species along with this photo.
Common Swift Apus apus
Several birds were noted at while in the Western Negev and included a few of the paler eastern race pekinensis which breeds from Iran, east through the western Himalayas to Mongolia and northern China.
Pallid Swift Apus pallidus
Small numbers were noted in the Western Negev and in the Dead Sea area.
Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba
One was noted over a ridge behind our hotel in Ein Bokek.
Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis
At least three birds showed very well in parkland bordering the Yarkon River in Tel Aviv, this was the last species to make it on to the list and fitting way to end the tour on a high.
Little Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis
This beautiful little bird was recorded on five dates and from several locations, including Yotvata and KM19 which both provided excellent views.
Ring-necked Parakeet Psittacula krameri
A pair was noted daily while in Eilat at Orfia Park, with another pair also noted in Holland Park. Elsewhere small numbers were present in Tel Aviv.
Monk Parakeet Myiopsitta monachus
A pair was seen briefly in flight in Tel Aviv.
Hoopoe Upupa epops
Recorded on 4 dates with Yotvata providing both the bulk of the records as well as our best views.
Syrian Woodpecker Dendrocopos syriacus
Singles were noted in the garden of the Kibbitz and in parkland in Tel Aviv.
Wryneck Jynx torquilla
Surprisingly only recorded on three dates, the most notable of which was a very obliging bird which gave exceptional views in Orfia Park as it fed from an ant nest.
Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis
Two birds were seen in flight while in the Western Negev with the only other records from Yotvata.
Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgua
While watching Sandgrouse at a drinking pool in the Western Negev a bird was put up along with two Skylarks which was noticeably smaller in size with shorter rounder wings. Barak immediately called it out as being an Oriental Skylark, fortunately it broke from the others and dropped just in front of us allowing the entire group to view and even get a few quick photos including this one.
Crested Lark Galerida cristata
A common bird with daily sightings.
Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla
Recorded on a number of dates and locations.
Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti
Recorded on five dates from several locations.
Bar-tailed Lark Ammomanes cincturus
Two birds were present at Wadi Trashim where they gave reasonably good scope views.
Bimaculated Lark Melanocorypha bimaculata
At Yotvata a small flock of up to 5 was found in one of the agricultural fields, though the heat haze made views less then satisfactory. Luckily a return visit a few days later rewarded us with much better views of up to 6 birds.
Thick-billed Lark Ramphocoris clotbey
Probably about 15 birds were noted at Wadi Trashim, though all but one of these was seen distantly or in flight only. Luckily for us the one bird that did show, a striking male in breeding plumage gave prolonged good views.
Temminck's Lark Eremophila bilopha
A distinctive and striking lark recorded just once, with up to 10 providing good views at Wadi Trashim.
Sand Martin Riparia riparia)
Recorded on three dates with most of the records coming from KM19 sewage pools and KM20 Res.
Rock Martin Ptyonoprogne fuligula
Reasonably common in suitable habitats, with sightings on four dates.
Swallow Hirundo rustica
Common at many wetlands as well as some agricultural areas e.g. the cut grass field at Yotvata which attracted several hundreds.
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica
Recorded on five dates, though only singly or in small numbers.
House Martin Delichon urbica
Seen in small numbers on just three dates.
Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris
One was noted on an abandoned football pitch in Mitzpe Ramon.
Long-billed Pipit Anthus similis
After much searching one was found singing from a boulder on near Arad, where it was subsequently seen a number of times while in the area, at one point even in display flight. Though the species has a wide distribution throughout Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and South Asia, with many races, some potential future splits, within the Western Palearctic it has a tiny breeding distribution, the bulk of which is in Northern Israel with smaller populations in W Syria, W Jordan and Lebanon.
Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta
One or possibly two were at Yotvata sewage pools.
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis
Small numbers were present at Yotvata.
Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis
One was found in Orfia Park in Eilat.
Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus
By far the best site was Yotvata where several birds were present; elsewhere singles were noted on the football pitch in Eilat and parkland in Tel Aviv.
White Wagtail Motacilla alba
Common in many locations, with daily sightings.
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
Reasonably common with sightings on five dates and including several races, with Black-headed M. f. feldegg , the most numerous.
Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola
Recorded on three dates with the sewage pools at Yotvata by far the best site with a total of four, including three males here.
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
Singles were noted at the North Beach and at Yotvata sewage pools.
Spectacled Bulbul Pycnonotus xanthopygos
A very common and widespread species within the region, with several sightings daily.
Bluethroat Luscinia svecica
A fairly common migrant with sightings on five dates.
Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus
A male was present in the hotel grounds in Ein Bokek, Dead Sea, with the only other record coming from Yotvata.
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
Recorded just twice.
Blackstart Cercomela melanura
A fairly commonly recorded species in dry rocky habitats with sightings on four dates.
European Stonechat Saxicola rubicola
Recorded on five dates, from several sites.
Siberian Stonechat Saxicola maurus
Noted on two dates. In the past this bird along with European & African Stonechat was usually lumped together as “Common Stonechat” S. torquatus but analysis of DNA together with the evidence from morphology, behaviour and biogeography confirms the suspicion that these are three distinct species. In light of this many authorities now give them full species status, and are treated as such here.
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
Fairly common with records on five dates.
Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina
Birds were noted in the Western Negev, Wadi Trashim, KM33 ands on the edge of Holland Park.
Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti
Males in breeding plumage were noted on three dates.
Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica
Small numbers were recorded on five dates.
Finsch's Wheatear Oenanthe finschii
A stop near Arad produced good views of a stunning male, with possibly up to 8 birds recorded in the area.
Mourning Wheatear Oenanthe lugens
One showed briefly at a small wadi inside the Ramon Crater.
White-crowned Wheatear Oenanthe leucopyga
A pair showed well at Wadi Mishmar and an immature was noted at the Ramon Crater. An adult and an immature both gave exceptional views at Amram's Pillars while small numbers were noted in the Eilat Mountains.
Blue Rock-Thrush Monticola solitarius
A male was noted near Arad.
Graceful Prinia Prinia gracilis
A fairly common and widespread species with daily sightings, included singing birds at the IBRCE Park and along the canal scrub in Eilat .
Scrub Warbler Scotocerca inquieta
A pair noted in the Western Negev was our only record.
Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus
One was noted at KM19 sewage pools.
Clamorous Reed Warbler Acrocephalus stentoreus
A morning visit to a reservoir south of Ein Bokek produced two birds which were almost continually singing. Frustratingly however they were reluctant to show themselves, with only Andy and Dave rewarded with the briefest of views.
Olivaceous Warbler Hippolais pallida
First recorded at the IBRCE Park when a single showed briefly from the hide, elsewhere it was noted at Yotvata sewage pools.
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
Recorded on five dates with the majority of sightings coming from the south.
Eastern Orphean Warbler Sylvia hortensis
Recorded on three dates.
Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca
One of the commonest migrants with sightings on five dates and from many locations.
Cyprus Warbler Sylvia melanothorax
Up to 4 birds were noted at a regular wintering site close to the Dead Sea.
Rüppell's Warbler Sylvia rueppelli
A common migrant with sightings on four dates, by far the best site was Holland Park where several birds were present.
Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata
At least two birds were found near Arad, with one giving good views.
Eastern Bonelli's Warbler Phylloscopus orientalis
Several were noted at Yotvata with one or two also present in Holland Park.
Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
Reasonably common with sightings on four dates.
Palestine Sunbird Nectarinia osea
First recorded in the gardens of the Kibbutz where a male gave prolonged views as it visited the many flowering plants here. Birds were also noted at Yotvata and in Holland Park.
Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator
A male at a motorway service station near Be'er Sheva was our only record.
Masked Shrike Lanius nubicus
A male was seen well but briefly by some in Acacia scrub just south of Yotvata.
Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis
One was noted in the Western Negev.
Jackdaw Corvus monedula
Small numbers were seen in Tel Aviv.
Hooded Crow Corvus cornix
Only seen on two dates, with no sightings while in the south.
Common Raven Corvus corax
Two birds were seen in flight near Arad.
Brown-necked Raven Corvus ruficollis
The commonest of the three raven species in the region with sightings on four dates.
Fan-tailed Raven Corvus rhipdurus
Our first sighting came when 2-3 birds gave good views at Wadi Mishmar; one bird was seen chasing a Brown-necked Raven which illustrated its distinctive shape wonderfully.
House Crow Corvus splendens
Recorded daily in Eilat with Orfia Park providing our best views.
Common Myna AcridotheRes tristis
Several birds were recorded in parkland on the River Yarkon in Tel Aviv.
Tristram's Starling Onychognathus tristramii
Recorded on four dates from several locations, more common in the Dead Sea area but also recorded at Yotvata and Holland Park.
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
A common bird present in many urban and agricultural areas with sightings daily.
Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis
Fairly common with sighting on four dates, the most notable was at KM20 Res where c30 were present.
Dead Sea Sparrow Passer moabiticus
On the 17 th a small group were heard calling from Tamarisks near Ein Bokek but unfortunately these shy sparrows remained well hidden, though some of the group did manage to see birds in flight.
Linnet Carduelis cannabina
Recorded only twice.
Greenfinch Carduelis chloris
Only recorded at Yotvata.
Syrian Serin Serinus syriacus
With a tiny breeding distribution made up of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and parts of northern Israel, this species is one of the regions most sought after birds. Luckily Barak knew of a wintering flock in the town Mitzpe Ramon, so on the 17 th we headed inland from the Dead Sea in the hope they were still there. Sure enough after a short wait we found our first birds in a small park next to an overgrown football pitch, to which they flew to feed. Waiting a little longer c30 birds flew up from over the wall which ran around the pitch and perched in the top of a nearby tree where good views were enjoyed by the entire group. Barak climbed an embankment to look over the wall and was surprised to find c80 birds at the other side, representing a very impressive count. We moved around to the eastern side where we could look through a fence to view the football pitch, but the birds had now moved down into the weeds to feed with only about a dozen visible.
Sinai Rosefinch Carpodacus synoicus
Another of the regions most sought after birds, with varying numbers wintering in the area annually. Despite being unable to locate any at a regular site earlier in the week, we were lucky to find a single bird at Amram's Pillars. We saw the bird, a 1 st winter male fly in from the desert and land close to where we were stood, in the campsite car park. It showed well here on and off for the next 20 minutes or so, where it was observed both feeding on the ground and perched on a nearby cliff face, though during this time it would also frequently move out of sight. It then flew back out into the desert in the direction from which it came.
Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus
Two birds gave brief but good views at Wadi Mishmar with another two giving even better views in the Ramon Crater, while a small flock of c12 were noted at Wadi Trashim.
Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana
One was seen very well in tall reeds on the edge of the date palms in Eilat, while three birds gave reasonably views in Holland Park.
Cretzschmar's Bunting Emberiza caesia
Three were noted at Wadi Mishmar, though a single male inside the Ramon Crater showed much better.
Striolated Bunting Emberiza striolata
A pre-breakfast visit to an impressive viewpoint over looking a deep steep sided canyon close to the Dead Sea found us listening to the distinctive song of Striolated Bunting. Frustratingly however we could not locate the bird despite much searching. Then from directly beneath where we were stood a single bird flew up over the canyon wall and flew out into the desert and out of sight. Although it was a long shot Andy and Dave walked into the desert in the direction the bird flew and before long had located the bird feeding in a small area of flowering vegetation in the bottom of a deep hollow. It stayed there feeding just long enough for the rest of the group to arrive with most enjoying scope views. It then took to the air again and returned to the canyon, where presumably it was nesting. Formally this species was considered a race of House Bunting but is now widely accepted as a full species.
Rock Hyrax Procavia capensis
Several were noted at Wadi Mismar, this is a strange mammal which despite looking like a large Guinea Pig at 40 – 58 cm is more closely related to elephants and manatees.
Tristram's Jird Meriones tristrami
One was seen while looking for the Nubian Nightjar.
Cape Hare Lepus capensis
Several were noted at Yotvata while searching for nocturnal species.
Striped Hyena Hyaena hyaena
On the night of the 17 th while searching for nocturnal species by torchlight at Yotvata, we were lucky enough to come across an individual which showed reasonably well from a safe distance for some time before it moved into cover and was lost to view. This truly was a stroke of luck and an unexpected find as Barak had never recorded this species at this site before despite many nightime visits over the years. This is a species of true hyena native to North and East Africa, the Caucasus, the Middle East and Middle, Central and Southern Asia. Despite this wide range the global population is estimated to be fewer than 10,000 mature individuals, which continues to experience a strong decline, partly due to deliberate persecution along with a decrease in its prey. It is the smallest of the true hyenas and though primarily a scavenger, large specimens have been known to kill their own prey, and attacks on humans have occurred on rare instances. A nocturnal animal, it typically only makes itself visible in complete darkness, and is quick to return to its lair before sunrise.
Red Fox Vulpes vulpes
One or possibly two were noted at Yovata while searching for nocturnal species.
Dorcas Gazelle Gazella dorcas
Five were noted in the in the Western Negev, with another five noted at Wadi Trashim and three at KM33.
Nubian Ibex Capra nubiana
Several were noted while in the Dead Sea area, with a female and two young kids also noted in the Ramon Crater.