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ISRAEL 
Spring Migration & Specialities
16th - 24th March 2020

Israel is one of the world's finest migration hotspots, with millions of birds passing along this important corridor annually. Countless passerines find the many Date Palms & Wadis around Eilat and the Arava Valley an irresistible place to rest and feed, and with these come the regular discovery of rare and exciting vagrants. The area is also home to a long list of resident specialities, many of which are difficult or impossible to find elsewhere within the Western Palearctic, and include such sought-after species as Striated Heron, Sand Partridge, Namaqua Dove, Arabian Babbler, Tristram's Starling and Sinai Rosefinch. Additionally, comfortable accommodation and a favourable climate both add to Israel's popularity as a top birding destination.

Day 1
Meet at the airport for our flight to Tel Aviv and transfer to our first base, a charming kibbutz in the heart of the Negev Desert, where we spend one night.

Day 2
An early start is required this morning, to give us our best chance of finding McQueen's Bustard and Cream-coloured Courser, two of the Negev's star attractions.  We will also look for Desert Wheatear and Desert Lark, while others in the area may include Desert Warbler and Brown-necked Raven. After breakfast we will visit a series of pools, where up to four species of Sandgrouse - Spotted, Crowned, Pin-tailed and Black-bellied can all be seen coming to drink and bathe.

Afterwards we will head eastwards to our next base overlooking the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth.  Along the way we shall make a number of birding stops as we travel through some truly remarkable desert scenery. Birds along our route may include Mourning Wheatear, Tristram's Starling, Blackstart and Syrian Serin. A number of raptors may also be seen, including Griffon Vulture, Egyptian Vulture and if we are lucky Bonelli's Eagle.
Upon arrival at the Dead Sea, we'll check into the hotel, before visiting a number of sites nearby, where we'll search for targets such as Dead Sea Sparrow, Clamorous Reed Warbler and the distinctive Fan-tailed Raven.

Day 3
Today we will spend the full day exploring the Dead Sea, starting with a pre-breakfast visit to an impressive gorge, where we hope to locate Sinai Rosefinch and Striolated Bunting.  After breakfast we will visit a regular site for Long-billed Pipit, while others in the same area could include Finsch's Wheatear, Chukar, Lesser Kestrel, Alpine Swift, Blue Rock Thrush and Spectacled Warbler.  Later, those who choose to, can take some time out from birding and enjoy a dip in the Dead Sea, or simply take a little rest before dinner, as today will no doubt be a long day.  After dinner, we will head back out in search of two of the regions most sought after birds - Desert Owl and Nubian Nightjar.

Day 4
To make the most of our time at the Dead Sea we will have another (optional) pre-breakfast excursion, although after the previous late night some may select to skip this and start with a more leisurely breakfast, after which we will check-out and make a start on our journey south to Eilat.  Once again we will make a few stops along our route, and the first of these will be made to look for the rare Arabian Warbler, while others in the area may include Cyprus Warbler, Scrub Warbler and Arabian Babbler.


Days 5 - 8
At the southern end of the Arava Valley and the very northern tip of the Red Sea, Eilat is ideally situated to witness thousands of migrating birds each spring, and our itinerary for the next four days will be kept flexible in order to take full advantage of the changing patterns in weather and migration. Eilat is perhaps most famous for its raptor migration, and as the day warms up we'll head into the mountains, where on a good day it is possible to see thousands of Steppe Buzzards and Black Kites. These in turn are often accompanied by smaller numbers of Steppe Eagles & Long-legged Buzzards as well as the occasional Short-toed, Booted or Lesser Spotted Eagles. White Storks also pass in their thousands, along with smaller numbers of Black Storks and Common Cranes.

During our time here, we will visit a number of different habitats in order to see a wide range of species. In Eilat itself, we can expect to find such targets as Laughing Dove, Palestine Sunbird and White-spectacled Bulbul in the parks and gardens, which often hold a surprising number of passage migrants, including Quail, Wryneck, Red-throated Pipit, Rüppell's, Sub-alpine & Eastern Bonelli's Warblers, Masked Shrike and Cretzschmar's Bunting to name but a few.

Just a short walk away, the Marina should hold Striated Heron, while the nearby North Beach may provide us with Western Reef Heron and White-eyed Gull, as well as House Crow, Pallas's Gull and Pied Kingfisher. From here a gentle stroll along the sewage canal should give us Graceful Prinia and Spur-winged Lapwing, along with the chance of Little Crake, Citrine Wagtail or Bluethroat. Meanwhile, the nearby date plantations should provide us with another much sought-after speciality - the stunning Green Bee-eater and if we are lucky perhaps even Crested Honey Buzzard. One evening we will also look for Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse.

Further afield, the Arava Valley also holds vast areas of rich desert habitat, and we will head out early one morning in search of some of its most sought after residents. Several species of larks make these barren lands their home, including Bar-tailed and Temminck’s Larks, along with the enigmatic Greater Hoopoe-Lark and the nomadic Thick-billed Lark. Other specialities of these deserts include Desert Finch and Trumpeter Finch, while migrating wheatears frequently include Northern, Black-eared and Isabelline. At the same time we will also visit a number of Wadi’s (dry river valleys), which run through the otherwise featureless desert, where we can expect to find Sand Partridge, Rock Martin and White-crowned Wheatear amongst others.

In stark contrast, we will also visit a selection of wetlands, including saltpans, sewage lagoons and freshwater pools. Here Greater Flamingo will be a conspicuous bird, while Squacco and Purple Herons, Cattle Egret and Glossy Ibis are also possible. Waders will also feature heavily and should include large numbers of Little Stint, Kentish Plover, Ruff, Wood Sandpiper and Black-winged Stilt, along with smaller numbers of Collared Pratincole, Greater Sandplover and Marsh Sandpiper. Amongst these many rarities have turned up over the years, including Terek Sandpiper, Caspian Plover and White-tailed Lapwing. Slender-billed Gulls can also be found in good numbers, along with Gull-billed Tern and Garganey.

Another important habitat in the Arava Valley is acacia scrub, with perhaps the best known area being found at Yotvata, and it is here we stand our best chance of finding the much sought-after Black Scrub Robin and Namaqua Dove. Yotvata also provides areas of irrigated fields, sewage pools and date plantations, which attract large numbers of pipits, wagtails and larks, which in turn regularly attract raptors such as Pallid Harrier and Barbary Falcon. Over the years it has earned a reputation for first-class birding, with some of the scarcer species such as Semi-collared Flycatcher, Bimaculated Lark, Hooded Wheatear and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater all possible here. One day we will also make a late evening visit in search of nocturnal species including Egyptian Nightjar and Pharaoh Eagle Owl, although sightings of both are somewhat unpredictable in nature. Mammals are also frequently encountered here, and may include Fox, Jackal and if we are lucky maybe even Striped Hyena.

Day 9
Today we have another morning in Eilat, where we can search through any newly arrived migrants for something new, or perhaps have another attempt at any species that has so far eluded us. Later, we will make our way back though the Negev Desert towards Tel Aviv, where if time permits we may visit one of the city parks in search of White-breasted Kingfisher or Syrian Woodpecker.  Our tour then concludes with our return flight to the UK.

 

 

 

More Details

Total Cost
£1850
  Price Breakdown
Deposit
£300
  Air price
£200
Single room supplement
£300
  Ground price
£1650

 

Whats Included
All Flights, All ground transport once in Israel, Accommodation, Breakfast, Drinking water, All excursions listed in the itinerary and Guiding services throughout.

Not Included
Lunch and Dinners, Additional drinks, Insurance and Items of a personal nature.

Group Size
Maximum of 9, including leaders.

Leader
Dave Read and Ian Cowgill.

General
The tour will be run at a relaxed pace, although early mornings will be the norm, in order to make the most of the day before it gets too hot. The climate is usually dry and hot (up to 35°C some afternoons), although it can feel quite chilly early morning, especially out in the desert. There will be no long walks, although some of the wadi's may require a little extra effort. There are no special health requirements and insects are not usually a problem. The importance of drinking plenty of water should be noted however, as dehydration can affect some people quicker than others and we recommend carrying a drinking bottle with you at all times. The areas we will be visiting are all perfectly safe, but do be prepared for increased security at the airport, which is normal in Israel. Visas are not required.

 

    

 

Financial Protection
Many of the flights and the flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more information about financial protection and the ATOL certificate go to www.atol.org.uk/ATOLCertificate

Black Scrub Robin

McQueen's Bustard

Sinai Rosefinch

Steppe Eagle

Green Bee-eater

Temminck's Lark

Namaqua Dove

White-breasted Kingfisher

Western Reef Heron

Palestine Sunbird

Wryneck

 

 

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