Israel trip list, September 1997
The following is a complete list of all 100 or so species we saw on our backpacking trip to Israel in September 1997. We travelled fairly widely in the south of the country but did not touch the north so there are a lot of easy species up there that we did not see. Some of the sites were visited with a local birder and I am not sure of public access. Please use caution when visiting these sites, or better still, ask someone nearby!
I should point out that it was not an exclusive birding trip and so there are some glaring gaps in the list. In addition it was fairly early in the migration season so there were not the quantities of birds like raptors and storks. It was disappointing not to see many waders and warblers too. Still we saw enough to come home satisfied! Here's the list. If there are any questions or comments then please email me and I'd be happy to help in any way I can.
I appreciate that some of these species can be seen in many places but what I've done is list some places where we saw them. I think this is better than just saying "common" - it gives the serious lister a bit more information!
Our thanks goes to Arnon Tsairi who kindly drove us to many sites and provided us with invaluable local knowledge. He has a new website with some excellent and up to date bird and birding site information.
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis - Common in suitable habitat; Neot Hakikar Fish Ponds (I think this is a private site), Eilat Lagoons.
Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus - Common in suitable habitat; Neot Hakikar Fish Ponds, Eilat Lagoons.
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax - Seen in flight over Neot Hakikar moshav, flying into trees at Yeroham Park, a decent flock was flushed at Neot Hakikar Fish Ponds.
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis - locally common around Be'er Sheva (a colony resides near the city rubbish dump) - we saw a farmer ploughing a field being followed by what looked from a distance like gulls - not so! There were 100 or so Cattle Egrets! Also 3 at Eilat Sewage Ponds.
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides - Only seen at Eilat North Lagoons but probably found locally elsewhere too.
Western Reef Heron Egretta gularis - Only around Eilat. Can be seen around North Beach but we only saw them at the Eilat Sewage Ponds (dark and light phases).
Little Egret Egretta garzetta - Seen at the southern end of the Dead Sea around Neot Hakikar.
Great White Egret Egretta alba - Only one seen, at Neot Hakikar, only in flight too!
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea - Not common. Only around the southern end of the Dead Sea at Neot Hakikar and near Ein Bokek.
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea - Only seen at Neot. Flying over to roost in Jordan and one at Neot Fish Ponds.
White Stork Ciconia ciconia - 10,000 seen at Ein Gedi, roosted on hilltops overnight then departed about 0700 - the only movement witnessed. Few seen also at Neot and near Be'er Sheva.
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus - Just the one seen - on my birthday! - circled Neot Fish Ponds during the scorching afternoon!
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber - Winter at Eilat Lagoons; we were a bit early and only saw 7 - this was after I had just been told we would not see any!!
Shoveler Anas clypeata - One seen at Neot Fish Ponds with Garganey - I guess we had to travel to the north of Israel to see any decent numbers of wildfowl...
Garganey Anas querquedula - Seen twice, both times at Neot Fish Ponds. Up to 80 seen.
Black Kite Milvus migrans - Very small numbers seen passing through.
Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus - Seen at Sde Boker and Ein Gedi (breeding population).
Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus - Seen in the hills at Ein Gedi (breeding population).
Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus - One seen at Neot Fish Ponds.
Harrier sp. Circus sp. - Ringtail seen at Eilat Lagoons
Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus - One seen in Tel Aviv
Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus - One seen at Wadi Peres and a migrating flock seen near Dimona.
Steppe Buzzard Buteo buteo vulpinus - One seen over Yeroham Park
Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus - One seen on breeding territory at Ein Avdat and one seen near Dimona.
Verreaux's Eagle - Adult male seen at Nahal Arugot, Ein Gedi, had been present for some time (breeds in Jordan)
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus - Only one seen surprisingly! At Yeroham Park.
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni - Pair seen in Jerusalem over Dome of the Rock (they breed, I'm told, in the Wailing Wall!).
Sooty Falcon Falco concolor - 3 seen from Neot Hakikar village. We had to scope the sky over the moshav close to the Jordanian border. Some local knowledge helped us!
Barbary Falcon Falco pelegrinoides - Seen in various places - Ein Gedi, Eilat Kilometre 33 and Yeroham Park.
Sand Partridge Ammoperdix heyi - I am told that some birders have trouble finding this species but we found them very easy around Ein Gedi. The best place was along the entrance road to the Nahal Arugot reserve here.
Chukar Alectoris chukar - common around Mitzpe Ramon (that huge crater in the Negev) and Sde Boker.
Spotted Crake Porzana porzana - One seen at Neot Fish Ponds but again I would expect them at the Eilat lagoons because there is decent reed cover there.
Moorhen Gallinula chloropus - Only seen on the river at Ein Avdat.
Coot Fulica atra - Seen on the reedy pool adjacent to Eilat Lagoons.
Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus - Seen only on rough ground adjacent to Sde Boker High School. I am told that there are a few there all year round and on the day we visited I found a record number - 19!!
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus - Very numerous and vocal at Yeroham Park.
Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola - One seen briefly at Eilat Sewage Ponds.
Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula - Few at Eilat Sewage Ponds but I am sure they get on the Salt Pans and Lagoons too!
Spur-winged Plover Hoplopterus spinosus - Widespread. Seen on roadside ground from the bus. Common around Neot Hakikar especially.
Turnstone Arenaria interpres - Few seen at Eilat Sewage Ponds.
Little Stint Calidris minuta - Several seen at Eilat North Lagoons.
Ruff Philomachus pugnax - Several at Eilat North Lagoons.
Redshank Tringa totanus - Several but again only seen at Eilat North Lagoons.
Greenshank Tringa nebularia - One at Eilat North Lagoons.
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos - Seen at Neot Fish Ponds and Ein Gedi Sewage Pond.
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus - One on Eilat Sewage Ponds.
Armenian Gull - 2 seen in flight over Jaffa, near Tel Aviv.
Slender-billed Gull Larus genei - Seen at Neot Fish Ponds but common in Eilat, particularly on the lagoons/salt pans.
White-eyed Gull - Beach in Eilat is THE best place in Israel to see this species - scan the offshore rafts and pontoons. We saw 12 on one of our two visits.
Caspian Tern Sterna caspia - Several seen on Eilat Southern Salt Pans but they can be seen fishing off North Beach early mornings (so I am told).
White-winged Black Tern Chlidonias leucopterus - A flock of 20 at Eilat North Lagoon was our only sighting.
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus - Just 3 seen at Neot Fish Ponds (quite a good site this!).
Crowned Sandgrouse Pterocles coronatus - Supposedly widespread but we only saw a few in fields around Sde Boker.
Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis - Common in fields around Sde Boker (more vocal and numerous than Crowned). Saw one mixed flock of these two species.
Rock Dove Columbia livia - Seen in hills and towns.
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto- stupid bird! Few seen around Sde Boker High School.
Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur - One seen at Sde Boker High School.
Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis - Common and widespread in towns, oases and cultivated areas. Can be approachable for photographs too! Strange call...
Namaqua Dove Oena capensis - 2 seen in flight at Eilat Kilometre 20 over the scrubby area near the greenhouses.
Desert Eagle Owl Bubo bubo ascalaphus - Breeding site in Ein Avdat. Best seen and heard at dusk halfway down the valley from the main entrance. Look at the cliff to your right. The owls have a nest hole halfway up the cliff and sit out in view as dusk nears, calling. Best to go in after the reserve has closed or else you get turfed off.
[Hume's Tawny Owl Strix butleri - We did not see them but I should point out that the Ein Gedi site has not held Hume's Tawny Owls for some years. They are best in the Negev now and it is perhaps easiest to go with a local birder, such as Hadoram Shirihai.]
Nubian Nightjar Caprimulgus nubicus - In Western Palearctic this occurs only in the Arava Valley. The site near Neot holds a substantial percentage of the population. The breeding area is private and should only be visited with a guide. I believe Hadoram Shirihai has taken people here before for this species and for Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters. Outside the breeding season the nightjars are very difficult. Even with a local birder it took 3 tries before we saw one. But what a bird!!
Kingfisher Alcedo atthis - Common in suitable habitat. We saw them at Ein Gedi, Nahal Arugot, Neot Fish Ponds and Eilat.
White-breasted Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis - Stunning bird, very noisy and conspicuous wherever there was suitable habitat - Nahal Arugot, Eilat Lagoons and Neot Fishponds were our sites.
Little Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis - Common at Ein Gedi, mostly in the Nahal David reserve. Also Wadi Peres and Eilat Kilometer 20.
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater Merops superciliosus - Very localised. Best place in the Arava Valley is near Neot. I do not know where they breed exactly but they are easily seen (in season) over and around the Fish Ponds.
European Bee-eater Merops apiaster - I thought we would miss these but we eventually saw a noisy flock of about 8 (mostly juveniles) over an orchard near Sde Boker High School.
Hoopoe Upupa epops - Scarce due, I expect, to lack of grassy areas, at least this is so in Southern Israel. Saw 4 around Sde Boker after a brief flight view of one on our first day in Jerusalem as it flew over Damascus Gate into the Muslim Quarter!
Crested Lark Galerida cristata - Common around cultivated/vegetated areas.
Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla - Just 2 seen at Eilat Sewage Ponds.
Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens - Scarce. 2 in Ein Yorkeam and 1 at Neot Fish Ponds.
Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti - Common in semi-desert or desert areas.
Bar-tailed Desert Lark Ammomanes cincturus - Kilometer 33 is the place. We saw one at midday - early morning is undoubtedly best.
Rock Martin Ptyonoprogne fuligula - Common around Ein Gedi's 2 reserves.
Sand Martin Riparia riparia - Passage birds seen at Neot Fish Ponds.
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica - Few seen. Orchard near Sde Boker and in the village at Neot.
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica - Surprisingly few. Mostly Neot but a few seen over Ein Gedi.
House Martin Delichon urbica - Only a few seen, over Sde Boker.
Flava wagtail spp. - Many seen at Neot Fish Ponds and Eilat Sewage Ponds. Presumably different races present. Most were Black-headed though.
Rufous Bush Robin Cercotrichas galactotes - Locally common around Ein Gedi and Yeroham Park. Also seen in Eilat's parks.
Blackstart Cercomela melanura - Common in rocky desert areas with some vegetation. Conspicuous as they sit on top of bushes and rocks and flex their black tails out.
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe - On passage. We saw just one!
Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina - Winter visitor and passage. We saw two.
Mourning Wheatear Oenanthe lugens - Stunning birds! Seen at Kilometre 45 and Ein Avdat.
Hooded Wheatear Oenanthe monacha - Kilometre 33, Wadi Peres, Wadi Zin.
White-crowned Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucopyga - Quite common, resident and widespread in desert areas. Often seen on the roadside. Conspicuous.
Blackbird Turdus merula - One female seen on grass beside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. I think they get more numerous (with things like Robin and Wren) in winter.
Savi's Warbler Locustella luscinioides - Passage. We saw just the one as it dropped out of a tree having been struck by a kestrel or barbary falcon or something. Still warm but dead as a dodo and really frustrating that I couldn't count it!!
Graceful Warbler Prinia gracialis - Found easily in vegetated areas at Ein Gedi in the two reserves.
Scrub Warbler Scotocerca inquieta - Seen at Ein Gedi in Nahal Arugot but was easier at Wadi Zin.
Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti - Several heard calling in lakeside scrub at Yeroham Park. Nowhere else.
Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus - Common at Neot Fish Ponds and in reedbeds around Eilat's lagoons.
Clamorous Reed Warbler Acrocephalus stentoreus - Huge things! Heard one clambering though the reeds like a herd of elephants!! Difficult to see though. Neot Fish Ponds was the place but I guess they can be seen elsewhere given a reed or two.
Olivaceous Warbler Hippolais pallida - Common in vegetated areas. That tail flicking thing is a giveaway!
Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca - Don't ask me which race, Simon! Few seen at Wadi Zin.
Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis - Passage migrant seen by us at Nahal Arugot, Ein Gedi, only.
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla - A taste of home on our first full day in Israel. Having just ticked Little Green Bee-eater down to 3 metres, we found 3 male Blackcaps in one bush!
Orphean Warbler Sylvia hortensis - Quite big these. Saw small numbers (it was early in the season) at Wadi Zin and Wadi Peres.
Eastern Bonelli's Warbler Phylloscopus orientalis - One at Wadi Zin. Nice yellowish rump!
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus - Very few but early in autumn.
Flycatcher sp. Ficedula sp. - One female Pied/Collared/Semi-collared type in Yeroham Park was too darned elusive for its own good!
Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata - One of the most common migrants we saw. Bushed areas at Ein Gedi and Eilat were particularly good. One was in the same bush as a Lesser Grey and a Red-backed Shrike (Km 33)!
Arabian Babbler Turdoides squamiceps - Any bird that has such a cool latin name is alright with me. Weird birds very much like North American thrashers. Seen in good numbers at Ein Gedi and, in particular, at Sde Boker.
Palestine Sunbird Nectarina osea - Cracking little birds. Common at Ein Gedi and almost anywhere in the south of the country with scrub cover, acacias especially.
Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus xanthopygos - Conspicuous and vocal. Common around Ein Gedi and Sde Boker we found. Seems to like gardens, cultivated areas etc. Behaves like flycatchers sometimes.
Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio - Quite common. Seen around Eilat, Ein Gedi and Sde Boker.
Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor - Uncommon but a couple seen around Eilat and Sde Boker.
Southern Grey Shrike Lanius pallidostris elegans - One near Eilat North Beach.
Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator - One seen at Kilometre 20.
Masked Shrike Lanius nubicus - The commonest shrike we saw. Common around Ein Gedi and, in particular, at Sde Boker (6+ in the High School garden one morning).
Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus - Passage birds seen at Wadi Zin and near Yeroham.
Tristram's Grackle Onychognathus tristramii - Abundant around Ein Gedi and Sde Boker and common in many other places. Seems to like date plantations in particular.
Jackdaw Corvus monedula - in Jerusalem only.
Brown-necked Raven Corvus ruficollis - Seen at Ein Gedi and Masada.
Fan-tailed Raven Corvus rhipidurus- Easy at Ein Gedi (or from a bus through Ein Gedi).
Hooded Crow Corvus corone cornix - Jerusalem.
House Sparrow Passer domesticus- Common in Jerusalem and other towns.
Greenfinch Carduelis chloris - Few around Sde Boker High School.
Desert Finch Rhodospiza obsoleta - The only birds we saw was a flock of 30 or so near Sde Boker High School.
Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus - Easy to see at Ein Avdat but we saw greater numbers at Ein Yorkeam.
Cretzschmar's Bunting Emberiza caesia - One male seen in Nahal Arugot. They do get more common than that though!
Black-headed Bunting Emberiza melanocephala - 2 immature males at Eilat Sewage Ponds.