isrtrip6

BIRDTRIP REPORT TO ISRAEL

December 29, 1996 and January 2-3, 1997

Harry Lehto

ITINERARY (Times indicate time of arrival in local WINTER TIME)
Sunrise on these days at 6.50 and sunset at 16.30

29.12
10.50-15.20 Maga'an Michael, 16.15-17.20 Tishlovit Reservoir

30.12-1.1
Tel Aviv University, attending a meeting

2.1
07.00-12.00 Mount Arbel
12.30-13.40 Nahal (Wadi) Ammud
14.30-17.00 Hula (14.30-16.30 Private Fishing ponds and 16.40-17.00 Cotton plant road)

3.1
07.00-12.30 Hula (Cotton plant road + fields only)
14.30-16.00 Tishlovit Reservoir

WEATHER

    Temp wind clouds visibility
29.12 -13.00 12C->18C 12m/sW 7/8 Cb 2km ->10km
  13.00- 24C->20C 3m/sW 1-3/8 Cu,Cb 10km ->25km
2.1 All day 13C- 20C 0bf 0-1/8 Cu 20km ->50km
3.1 09.30 10C->17C 0bf 0/8 surface fog 100m ->1km
  10.30 - 18C- 21C 0bf 0/8 >50km
  15.30 - 18C->15C 6m/sW 0/8 >50km

LOCATIONS VISITED

Five main areas were visited during this short trip. For each site an approximate position (Northing and Easting) within 1km in the coordinate grid in the Survey of Israel is given (eg. Ben Gurion Airport (156, 139)).

The sites visited are all located North of Tel Aviv. Of my March 1996 iteneraries only one site, Ma'agan Michael, was revisited. This time the access to the coast was slightly different and the gate was open, enabling birding of all the ponds North of the Kibbutz by the car.

1) MICHAEL MA'AGAN (MM) (221, 143)
Located near the Coastal Highway from Tel Aviv to Haifa, about 100km from Ben Gurion Airport by road. Driving North along the coastal highway (Rte 1) take the exit to Rte 70 towards Zikhron Ya'aqov and Tiberias. Drive East. At first traffic light (2km from coastal highway) take a right (South) on Rte 2 towards Zikhron Ya'aqov. Drive a further 2 km or so. About 200 meters before the intersection to Zikron Yakoov or 50 meters before a police station (on your left) turn right onto what looks like a farm yard area. Exact access to the coast changes from time to time.

Continue west towards the coast along pavement following the powerline just right of the greenhouses. The fields on the right side just before the railroad crossing had about 65 Black Kites. The ponds between the railroad and the bridge over the highway had good numbers of Gulls and Herons, as well as all three Kingfisher species. The gate just after the bridge was open this time, so I

was able to drive into the "fish pond area". Water was being pumped out the ponds, so they had they had very little or no water, but a good bunch of happy gulls and herons. Ducks were almost absent. I checked every pool North of the Kibbutz.

2)TISHLOVIT RESERVOIR (TR) (228, 173)
Lies approximately 6km NW of Afula as the white-headed duck flies. Light is bad at the reservoir between about 9AM and 1PM, so be there early in the morning or after the siesta. Access is from the minor route 73. If you are coming from direction of Haifa (or Ma'agan Michael) on Rte 75, you shouldn't be able to miss Rte 73, because it is the first traffic light intersection for over 10 km. Turn right towards Afula on Rte 73. About 5km along this road you'll see an intersection posted to Kefar-Barukh on your right side.

If you are coming from Afula try to find your way to Rte 60 towards Nazareth. At the last traffic lights continue North on 60 for 4.6 km and take a left onto Rte 73 towards Haifa. Continue West for 5.3 km and turn South towards Kefar-Barukh. At the Kefar-Barukh intersection on Rte 73, you'll see three major powerlines going over the intersection to Southerly Directions. The dirt road following the leftmost one is the one you want to follow. To get there drive 0.15km towards Kefar Barukh, turn left into a truck depot, and following the pylons take a right after 50m just before the gate. During the next 2.6km the road bends slowly left, then turns sharply left following the powerlines and continues East. After a further 1.6km you'll arrive to a small factory area. Take the rightmost dirtroad just right of an embankment. Continue 250m and make a right turn South leaving the powerlines. Continue for 900m. Park your car BEFORE the canal and the gate, even if it is open. If it has been raining a lot, you may want to park your car closer to the factory. The last kilometer can be muddy. Don't block the road. 50 meters after the gate there a telephone pole. Just left of it there is a hole in the fence. From hereon you can walk up to the embankment. The local warden told me that it is OK to bird and photograph birds in the reservoir area despite of a large number of warning signs, just don't go in the water.

There are actually two reservoirs. If it is early morning walk left (east) and if it is afternoon walk right (west) until you reach the second pond. The first reservoir is dirty waste water and the second one is "cleaner" water according to the warden, and that's where all the ducks are. DON'T SCARE THE BIRDS. Note that I did not find a single Marbled Duck (Ana ang), but that White-headed Ducks and Ferruginous Ducks were plentiful among the thousands of Shovelers and other ducks. I did not visit the other reserve (Kefar Barukh) in the area.

3) Slopes of MT ARBEL (MA) (248, 197)
From the traffic light intersection of Rte 77 (To Nazareth) and Rte 90 in Tiberias. Take Rte 90 North towards Qiryat Shemona. After 5.5km, at Migdal Juction, take a left towards Mt Arbel. After 1.2 km turn left, and 0.15km later park your car on the right side of the road. A steep trail takes you up towards the cliffs on the south side of the road. There are several trails paralleling the cliffs, and the highest one follows the very base of the cliffs. The trails can be very slippery even four days after rain and the grass is wet in the morning, when hiking is otherwise pretty comfortable. The site had nice fields of flowring cyclamens and interesting concentration of Stonechats and Black Redstarts. I did not find any Long-billed pipits.

4) NAHAL AMMUD (NA) (253, 197)
From the traffic light intersection of Rte 77 (To Nazareth) and Rte 90 in Tiberias. Take Rte 90 North towards Qiryat Shemona. At 10.4km (Huqoq Junction) take a left. After 2.8km park on the right side just before the bridge. You can walk North along the bottom of the canyon. This is an esthetically pleasing site. The birds can be quite skulky here.

5) HULA (HU) (approx 280, 206)
It takes about 40 minutes of real time to drive in the morning from Tiberias to Hula. In the afternoon traffic the trip takes a full hour. Hula is approximately 40km North of Tiberias. There are several sites worth visiting.

To mark the intersections to the bird sites I have used the Kilometer system of Route 90 (if you have been in Eilat you know what I mean by K 33 -- the same system is valid up here). The kilometer signs are on the right side of the road when driving North. They are small black numbers on a white base. The Tiberias intersection mentioned in previous two sites is about K415.0 on this system.

K450.5 Yessud and Hulata (35.5 km from Tiberias)
Apparently has nothing to do with the actual birding sites despite of the similarity in the name, but it serves as a warning that the the next marked intersection is the one for the reserve.

K453.4 Hamalah Ha Hula (The actual reserve intersection)
I did not visit this site, although I should have. I heard later rumors that the visitor center has a store with bird books and various other items.

K454.5 Private fish ponds
The entrance to the area is near the low point of the road, just before a demolished house. People were friendly. It is worth cheking all the small ponds as well as the large water reservoir. Beware that the gate (close to the entrance) can be closed relatively early in the evening. My main goal on this visit, was to watch for the evening flight of Spotted Eagles, but unfortunately it did not really materialize. Still the place was worth a visit, with good numbers of birds (Night Herons, Cormorants, Pelicans etc).

K457.9 Cotton Plant Road
The cotton plant is difficult to see if you are driving North. It is easier to spot the Eucalytpus trees boardering the road. Keep on driving straight past all the buildings, and you'll end up in the middle of the fields, and I guess the Northernmost parts of the Hula reserve. Here I experienced a marvellous evening flight of hundreds of Black Kites and simultaneously 4 Pallid Harriers, 2 Hen Hariers and a couple of Marsh Harriers within about 50 meters of me within and 1 minute! Unfortunately, the light was too low for photography.

I found roosting eagles in the poplar woods in the North and North East end of the fields. Later some eagles were also seen soaring above the fields at various locations. Plowing tractors attract good numbers of Black Kites and Cattle Egrets.

From this road one can access the large fields North of the Hula reserve all the way to the Kefar Blum Road.

K464.5 Kefar Blum Road
A second access to the large fields according to the Israel Survey maps is some 6km ways along this road. Driving alone it was quite difficult to search for raptors in the Eucalyptus trees because of very heavy traffic. I did not visit the ponds by this road due to my limited time.

CAR RENTAL
I rented a car from Hertz through an Israeli Travel Agent for 1+2 days with unlimited mileage for a special price of 66+132 USD. The car was supposed to be the smallest size, but I ended up getting a Suzuki minijeep for the first day, and a 4 door Mazda for the latter two days. The Suzuki was a little pit shaky, and unlockable, but otherwise fine. The Mazda had one of these antisteeling deviced (not a proper alarm), which made a beeping sound EVERY time the engine was turned off or on. Birds clearly were afraid of this sound.

I drove about 280km + 540km. All roads were in excellent condition, but quite often rampacked with traffic, even roads that I thought would be quiet back country highways. General speed limit is 90km/h. Traffic flow followed usually the speed limit, and only one operating radar was noted. I was stopped once because of not having my headlights on. Gasoline price was on average 3.2NIS (=1$/liter), a slightly over a 10% rise in 9 months time.

The maps I used were excellent 1:400 000 maps using the base of the Israel Survey maps, but with Hertz written at various locations.

CURRENCY
During my trip the exchange rate in the hotel was 2.95NIS/USD. I did not look for altenative means of exchange. The official rate was 3.22NIS/USD (excluding commission). The cab drivers used 3NIS/USD.

MILITARY
NO problems what so ever.

ACCOMODATION
I stayed two nights at a friend's place in Tiberias and all other nights in a hotel in Tel Aviv.

Other information regarding car rentals and about entering and leaving Israel, see my previous trip report (March 1996).

NOTES ON SPECIES

SUMS OF SPECIES
MM = Ma'agan Michael, *= Birds seen en route to/from the site
TA= TelAviv, AR = Mount Arbel, NA =Nahal Ammud,
HU= Hula region, Note that on Jan 2, I visited the private fishing ponds and had views over the actual reserve and the fields, whereas on the 3rd of January I birded only the fields.
TR= Tishlovit Reservoir - number refers to the count on Jan 3, unless marked an "a"
a= Tishlovit Reservoir - species recorded only on 29.12.96
b= Tishlovit Reservoir - species recorded only on 3.1.97
sp = unidentified to species
s = sound
+= present, but no number estimate.
* = species seen only en route to or from the bird site.
cy = calendar year, male/female , eg. 1/2 = one male, 2 females.
u = University Campus

 

DATE 29 2 2 2 3 3(&29)
MM TA MA WA HU HU TR
Little Grebe Tac ruf 9 - - - 40 10 40
Black-N. Grebe Pod nig - - - - - - 80
Slavonian Grebe Pod aur - - - - - - 1b
Cormorant Pha car 800 - 30* - 1K 100 4b
White Pelican Pel ono 3 - - - 100 25 -
Night Heron Nyc nyc - - - - 100 - One flock, private ponds
Cattle Egret Bub ibi 35* - - - 50 80 4
Little Egret Egr gar 110 - - - 100 70 4
Great Egret Egr alb 120 - - - 150 250 2
Grey Heron Ard cin 280 - - - 300 120 18
Black Stork Cic nig - - - - 2 2 -
White Stork Cic cic - - - - - 8 -
Glossy Ibis Ple fal - - - - 2 - -
Spoonbill Pla leu 95 - - - - - -
Shelduck Tad tad - - - - - - 15b
Gadwall Ana str - - - - - - 10b
Common Teal Ana cre 50 - - - 80 + 500
Mallard Ana pla 2 - - - 250 + 300
Pintail Ana acu - - - - - - 3b
Wigeon Ana pen 10 - - - 50 - 60
Northern Shoveler Ana cly - - - - 1000 - 8000
Pochard Ayt fer - - - - - - 350
Tufted Duck Ayt ful - - - - 50 - 120
Ferruginous Duck Ayt nyr - - - - - - 15b
White-head. Duck Oxy leu - - - - - - 68
Black Kite Mil mig 90 - - - 800 1000 3a
Marsh Harrier Cir aer 15 - - - 40 20 -
Hen Harrier Cir cya - - - - 1/1 1/1 -
Pallid Harrier Cir mac - - 1/ - 5/ 1/ -
Sparrowhawk Acc nis 1* - - 1 2 1 -
(Steppe+)Buzzard But but - - - - 5 50 40
L. Spotted Eagle Aqu pom - - - - 1+1sp - 3.1: 1ad+one possible 2cy
Spotted Eagle Aqu cla - - - - 2(2cy)5 - 3.1:(1ad, 2subad, 2-2cy)
Imperial Eagle Aqu hel - - - - 1 - 3.1: 2cy plumage
Eurasian Kestrel Fal tin 3 4 2 2 8 25 20* 16 MM to TR
Peregrine Fal per - - - - - - 1 on 29.12
Chukar Ale chu - - 4+2s s - - -
Moorhen Gal chl 6 - - - 120 40 2a
Eurasian Coot Ful atr 40 - - - 170 60 500
Common Crane Gru gru - - - - 1500 1500 -
Black-wi. Stilt Him him - - - - 2 - -
Avocet Rec avo - - - - 50 - -
Stone-curlew Bur oed - - - - - - 1s
Ringed Plover Cha hia 12 - - - - - -
Kentish Plover Cha ale 4 - - - - - -
Spur-winged Plover Van spi 40 - - - - 30 20
Lapwing Van van 45 - - - 8 20 -
Temminck's Stint Cal tem 50 - - - - - -
Dunlin Cal alp 35 - - - - - -
Snipe Cap gal 5 - - - - 1 -
Curlew Num arq - - - - - - 1
Spotted Redshank Tri ery 1 - - - - - -
Redshank Tri tot 6 - - - 1 1 2
Green Sandpiper Tri och 2 - - - - - 8
Common Sandpiper Act hyp 10 - - - 2 - 1
Gr.Black-Headed Lar ich 12 - - - - - -
Black-head. Gull Lar rid 900 200 150* - 150 10 >50a
Lesser BB Gull Lar fus 3 - - - - - -
Armenian Gull Lar arm 450 50 10* - 80 20 -
Rock Dove Col liv 40 200 8 15 20 200* -
Collared Dove Str dec 35 10 30* 50* 50 80 20*+250 MM to TR
Laughing Dove Str sen - 20 20* 10 15 15 10*on 29.12
Little Owl Ath noc - - - - - - 2
WB Kingfisher Hal smy 6 2 - - 6 5 2a
Kingfisher Alc att 6 - - - 4 3 -
Pied Kingfisher Cer rud 12 2 - - 6 6 2
Hoopoe Upu epo 3 3 - - - - -
Syrian Woodpecker Den syr - 1u - - - - -
Crested Lark Gal cri 4 - - - 5 200 30
Skylark Ala arv - - - - 8 40 -
Crag Martin Pty rup - - 25 2 - - -
Barn Swallow Hir rus 30 - 20* 20 - - -
Meadow Pipit Ant pra 4 - 6 - 2 20 6
Red-thr Pipit Ant cer 9 - - - - 4 -
Water Pipit Ant spi 3 - - - - - -
White Wagtail Mot alb 8 8 - - 5 8 5
White- sp.Bulbul Pyn xan 1 30 8* 15 10 15 4
Wren Tro tro - - 6 - 1 1 -
European Robin Eri rub 2 2 1 1 1 1 1
Bluethroat Lus sve - - - - 1 4 -
Black Redstart Pho och - 2 30 15 20 - -
Redstart Pho pho - - - 2 - - -
Stonechat Sax tor 6 2 20 10 15 - -
Blue Rock Thrush Mon sol - - 1 - - - -
Blackbird Tur mer - - 1 - - - -
Cetti's Warbler Cet cet 2 - - 1 2 2 2
Graceful Prinia Pri gra 8 - 10 30 15 20 10
Sardinian Warb. Syl mel - - 2 2 1 - -
Chiffchaff Phy col 2 - 3 2 4 2 -
Great Tit Par maj - 10 15 4 4 2 -
Penduline Tit Rem pen 2s - - - 1s 3s -
Palestine Sunbi. Nec ose - 20 20 15 8 4 -
Starling Stu vul - - - - 400 250 50
GreatGrey Shrike Lan exc - - 1 - 2 - -
Jay Gar gla 2* - - - - - -
Jackdaw Cor mon - - - - 700 50 -
Hooded Crow Cor nix 15 50 4 2 150 30 10
House Sparrow Pas dom 20 50 3 - 100 20 -
Spanish Sparrow Pas his - - 8 - - - -
Chaffinch Fri coe 6 50 50 80 150 80 30
Serin Ser ser - - - 4 - - -
Greenfinch Chl chl 4 - - - - - -
Goldfinch Car car 2 - 3 2 2 3 2
Linnet Car can - - - - - - -
Reed Bunting Emb sch 2 - - - - - -
Corn Bunting Mil cal - - 2 2 - 2 2a

SOME COMMENTS ON SOME OBVIOUS RACES, COLORMORPHS AND UNUSUAL BIRDS:

SLAVONIAN GREBE
A winter plumaged bird among the ducks at Tishlovit Reservoir. Direct comparison to Black-necked grebe revealed:-
1) the high contrast between foreneck and hindneck, lacking the duskiness of a BN grebe.
2) general appearance "cleaner colored"
3) head shape rounder, with a gently sloping forehead
4) head and thicker neck made the bird appear bulkier than a BN grebe.
5) bill thicker and appearing straighter.
Good light, 27X Kowa, distance about 300m.

BUZZARD
One very pale individual reminiscent of North American species Ferriginous Hawk (Buteo regalis). Underside very light (wings, belly, head), with dark at wing bend and tips of flight feathers. Detailed coloration to be confirmed from photographs. Upperside: Tail light buff and wing coverts light. Flight feathers darker.

BLACK-HEADED + ARMENIAN GULL
In Tel Aviv. BH Gulls were flying South along the shore every morning while the Armenian Gulls headed SE over Northern TelAviv.

COLLARED DOVE/LAUGHING DOVE
Collared Doves were often in large flocks, where as Lauging Doves trended to be single birds.

BLUETHROAT
One white and one red- spotted bird identified with certainty. Former possible cyanecula and the latter appeared quite bright, could have been svecica.

GREAT GREY SHRIKE
In apppearance quite similar to the Northern races. Possibly L.e. elegans.

JAY
Race: G g. atricapillus.

MAMMALS

Mongoose Spp
2, Ma'agan Michael.

Rock Hyrax
10 (I guess they are these), Nahal Ammud.

FLOWERS

Magaan Michael: Anemone coronaria, Iris sp.
Mount Arbel: Asphodelus lutea, Asphodelus sp, Cyclamen persicum

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Thanks for providing useful info for this and future trips or giving critical assistance: Gilles Balanca, Jean Bickal, Richard Billington, Annika Forsten, Risto Juvaste, Heikki Karhu, Jarmo Komi, Henry Lehto, Matikka Family, Matti Pajunen, Meeri Pallasrinne, Juha Piipponen, Visa Rauste, Liisa Sutinen, Pierre Unge and anybody else, who I left out unintentionally.

Harry Lehto
For more information, email to hlehto@astro.utu.fi