Monday, 28 March 2016

Israel update part 1

I couldn't really think of anything more imaginative to be honest. I've now had a couple of days back in Israel, my first visit here since spring 2009. Little seems to have changed, though I seem to be surrounded by the global birding glitterati this year with the likes of David Lindo et al all competing for the title of Champions of the Flyway. I had my own mission, and it was a tough start yesterday...

I arrived on the Judean Plains at just after 8am, with the first Short-toed Eagles taking off soon after along with some nice sounds of Quail, Bee-eater, Red-throated Pipit, Fan-tailed Warbler and Corn Bunting. However, a lot of what this trip was planned around - a long staying Bateleur - failed to show to start off with, and Lee and Garry arrived soon after to provide some decent value and chit chat. Around midday, and I had headed to another spot to the north of Gal'on to view, when all of a sudden I got a call from Baggers saying that they'd got the bird (well, Lee and one other). Hearing it was distant and well to the east of where they were, we all descended on one spot and failed to locate it again. So getting a bit impatient and standing in a spot where some Hungarians had seen it last week, I headed back to the original location. and, within 10 minutes or so of getting back, there over the distant hillside was a bat like creature, wings held high and zero tail - the distinctive silhouette of a Bateleur! So I called the guys again, though within a minute or so it had dropped down where according to Lee it had dropped down on his sighting. And that was that, because Karen had patiently waited for over 5 hours in the car and it was time to head south - happy but not elated as views were pretty average.
migrating Black Storks Hazeva, Israel 27th March 2016
Anyway, stopped in at Hazeva and no sign of the Red-billed Teal. Probably no indicator as sounds like I got the wrong place! A group of 20 Collared Pratincoles, a couple of Sand Partridges and a dozen Black Storks overhead were nice. A load of White Storks had come down in the desert last thing, and always good to see and atmospheric with it.
Spanish Sparrows Eilat, Israel 28th March 2016
Hoopoe Eilat, Israel 28th March 2016
Eastern Bonelli's Warbler Eilat, Israel 28th March 2016
So I started to day off in familiar style, heading to Ofira Park; I've always been a sucker for this place and it didn't disappoint in the way of an introduction to migrants - among the copious numbers of Lesser Whitethroats, there were Tree Pipit, Masked Shrike, Hoopoe, Ortolan, Wryneck, Bluethroat, Eastern Bonelli's, Eastern Subalpine, a female Ruppell's Warbler and a few Spanish Sparrows. What was amazing was the presence of a couple of Tristram's Grackles - seems they've spread like wildfire since I was last here.
Tristram's Grackle Eilat, Israel 28th March 2016
After a decent breakfast and quick relax, it was back off up the road to km20 saltpans late morning. Enjoyable times here with a load of common stuff like Little Stints, Ruff, Wood Sandpipers, Spur-winged Plovers and Slender-billed Gulls - Marsh Sandpipers, Little Ringed Plover, a couple of Shelduck and Black-headed Gulls as well as a splattering of Greater Flamingos too.
Marsh Sandpiper km20 saltpans, Israel 28th March 2016
Slender-billed Gull km20 saltpans, Israel 28th March 2016
With a bit of time on my hands, I headed to Hai-bar, where in the reserve car park it seems there are some pretty faithful Black Bush Robins. And so there were, after an hour or so, one bird - great views but by the time I'd switched to the camera it didn't oblige. Incompetence on my part, though an Eastern Orphean Warbler didn't get away!
Eastern Orphean Warbler Arava Valley, Israel 28th March 2016
The late afternoon and evening were spent at North Beach where along with a couple of Brown Boobies and White-eyed Gulls offshore, eyes to the skies produced a flock of migrating Grey Herons with a couple of smaller Purples thrown in, some nice slick Baltic Gulls heading north and a group of fifty or so Glossy Ibises just prior to sunset. All this to the backdrop of the Eilat Mountains and loud voices of Champions of the Flyway contestants explaining to the media the significance of this year's event.

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