Israel Trip Report

Eilat area only

October 25th-November 1st 1999

This was a family holiday with ‘Dad’ nipping out for a little birding on the side. Consequently only 94 species(depending on Gull taxonomy) were seen and many sites were not visited. Also with me being unfamiliar with the area and it’s birds, identification was sometimes a struggle(particularly Wheatears) and many times I had to get out the ‘rubber’ to make deletions.

We stayed in the Eilat area the whole time apart from one member of the family going to Petra for the day and all four doing a coach/air day trip to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, stopping briefly for a dip in the Dead Sea on the way. Expensive but good value as it incorporated all the main Biblical sites though most had been covered with buildings in the Middle Ages making their real events harder to picture.

We took a package through Longwood Holidays Monday/Monday from Manchester staying in a self catering apartment at the Club Inn significantly 5k’s south of Eilat itself and right by the much better water attractions. This proved to be much better than staying in Eilat itself so that the beach-goers could walk while the car was being used for birding! Very good value at £338pp all in despite being half term.

We hired a car which for birding was necessary but from the southern area the family could have managed without-there are lots of taxis and buses and most of the attractions are walking distance. Petrol is cheaper than UK (isn’t it everywhere?) but eating out more expensive. It was difficult to get ordinary plain food but the fish was good for those who wanted to experiment.

We flew to Ovda which we had not appreciated was 50+k’s away and many car hire companies charge a significant drop off charge. We found a company that didn’t but it wasn’t necessary-we easily could have got the coach and hired the vehicle from Eilat. However the biggest potential problem was the fact that we thought we had ordered it fully comprehensively insured but found there was a $400 excess but more significantly they insisted on full liability for under body damage. This was apparently quite normal but never made clear when we booked from UK. We had no option but to accept. Maps were a problem. Maps of Israel are available as are maps of Eilat. However if you want to explore the desert up to 100 k’s from Eilat we found no map with enough detail.

Being completely unfamiliar with the area we started by calling in at the Birdwatching Centre and booked a day trip ($50) in the desert. We did not see many birds but we went to areas we could not possibly have found ourselves and it was an initial help with id. It was worth it as an introduction to the area.

The week was meant to be the big one for Steppe Eagles but there was no really large passage. However on three short ‘watches’ we saw plenty. I was though relieved to find that even the locals could not id everything-70% is regarded as good for raptors. Sometimes though they came really close which is something we are not used to. We are used to getting all raptors on shape but they don’t expect to; they expect to be close enough to get plumage features as well.

Although not my personal interest a visit to the ringing station could be seen as worth it and certainly may add to the ‘list’ as small birds seemed generally pretty sparce at this time of year, and it is worth reflecting that a longer list would be achieved at home in the same time!

It is traditional to visit the North Beach right up to the Jordan border in the late afternoon and this can be worth doing. Unfortunately it did not produce my only target bird for the trip-Great Black Headed Gull. Too early apparently but there was gull interest in that in addition to the obvious Slender billed and White eyed there were Armenian, Caspian, Siberian (Heuglini) and Lesser Black Backed (Fuscus race)-1,2,3 or 4 species, take your pick. Indeed the Gulls were easier when they came in from the beach to roost on the salt pans.


Mon 25th Arrived when dark

Tue 26th Visited Birding Centre, Red Canyon, Pumping Station for Sandgrouse(arrived when virtually dark 5.30)

Wed 27th Eilat.North Beach, Pumping Station, Cemetery (Raptors), Saltpans, Football Field, Ofira Park, North Beach, Saltpans 8-5pm

Thur 28th Yotvata – short but productive visit round sewage pits, Amram’s Pillars- No Sinai Rosefinch for some time now. 6.30-12noon, Dolphins and Oceanarium with family pm

Fri 29th Desert Trip with Birdwatching Centre (7-3pm), North beach-Ringing Station,-North Fields,-Up valley to near Hai-Bar NR, Then across desert westwards coming out on Ovda road north of Red Canyon. Back down road stopping at Mt Yoash for Raptors

Sat 30th Jerusalem trip stopping at Dead Sea

Sun 31st Yotvata, Hai-Bar NR, Amram’s Pillars 9-3pm, North Beach and pools 4-5pm

Mon 1st Eilat. Cemetery, Pools, North Beach 9.30-11.30am, Return to Manchester

Systematic list:

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Yotvata 28/10

Striated Heron Butorides striatus
One seen from North Beach on 29th and 31st, probably present all the time, sometimes hard or totally impossible to see.

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
North Pools 29/10,Saltpans 31/10

Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Saltpans 27/10,31/10

Western Reef Heron Egretta gularis
Always some individuals present at North Beach in Eilat. Also on pans. In fairness at any range separation from above species does not seem straight forward.

Great White Egret Egretta alba
Saltpans 27/10

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Numerous on Saltpans

Purple Heron Arde purpurea
Juvenile in flight Yotvata 28/10.

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus
North Pools 29/10

Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
Saltpans 27/10.

Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber
Saltpans 27/10,29/10 Northern Pools 31/10 .

Teal Anas crecca
Yotvata 28/10,31/10

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Yotvata 31/10

Pintail Anas acuta
Yotvata 28/10,31/10

Shoveler Anas clypeata
Yotvata 28/10,31/10

Pochard Aythya ferina
Yotvata 28/10

Lappet faced Vulture Torgos tracheliotos
Hai Bar NR 31/10

Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus
Hai Bar NR 31/10

Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus
Yotvata 28/10,Near Saltpans 1/11.

Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
Yotvata 28/10,31/10

Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus
Cemetery 27/10,Mt Yoash 29/10

Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga
Mt Yoash 29/10

Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis
Seen in reasonable numbers from the Cemetery, Mt Yoash and Amram’s Pillars 27/10,28/10,29/10,31/10,1/11

Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca
Mt Yoash 29/10

Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus
Mt Yoash 29/10

Osprey Pandion haliaetus
North beach 27/10,31/10

Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Cemetry 27/10,Way to Yotvata 31/10

Barbary Falcon Falco pelegrinoides
North Beach 29/10

Sand Partridge Ammoperdix heyi
Eilat Desert 29/10,Amram’s Pillars 31/10

Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Yotvata 28/10,31/10.

Coot Fulica atra
Yotvata 28/10,31/10

Crane Grus grus
Two small groups in flight. Eilat ringing station 29/10,Cemetery 1/11

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Saltpans 27/10,29/10

Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta
Saltpans 27/10,29/10

Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
Saltpans 29/10

Spur-winged Plover Hoplopterus spinosus
Yotvata 28/10,31/10.Northern pools 29/10

Little Stint Calidris minuta
Yotvata 28/10,31/10.Saltpans 29/10

Dunlin Calidris alpina
Saltpans 29/10

Common Snipe Gallinago galinago
Yotvata 28/10

Redshank Tinga totanus
Common on Saltpans

Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Northern pools 29/10

Curlew Numenius arquata
Northern pools 29/10

Common Sandpiper Actitis Hypoleucos
North Beach 27/10

White-eyed Gull Larus Leucoptalmus
North Beach all visits

Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
Probably there but all similar gulls actually identified were next species

Slender-billed Gull Larus genei
North Beach all visits

Caspian Gull Larus cachinnans cachinnans
Mostly 1st winters North Beach and Saltpans; thought to be almost all this race.

Armenian Gull Larus armenicus
Mostly adults North beach and Saltpans

Siberian Gull Larus heuglini
2 adults Saltpans 27/10

Baltic Gull Larus fuscus fuscus
Adults 27/10,31/10

Great Black headed Gull Larus marinus
None. Too early. My only target bird for the trip!

Caspian Tern Sterna caspia
Saltpans all visits

Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse Pterocles lichtensteinii
Pumping station in Eilat on 26/10

Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon) Columba livia
Numerous everywhere

Collared dove Streptopelia decaocto

Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis
As previous species

Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
Yotvata 28/10

Little Green bee-eater Merops orientalis
Yotvata 28/10,31/10.Cemetery 1/11

Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula
North Pools 29/10

Crested lark Galerida cristata

Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti
Eilat Desert (Raham Wadi) 29/10

Pale Crag Martin Ptyoprogne obsoleta
North Pools 29/10,Yotvata 31/10

Swallow Hirundo rustica
Yotvata 28/10,31/10

Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus
Eilat football field 27/10,1/11. Northern pools 29/10

Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
Eilat football field 27/10

White Wagtail Motacilla alba

Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus xanthopygos

Bluethroat Luscinia svecica
Yotvata 28/10,Ringing station 29/10

Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus
Various around Eilat most days

Blackstart Cercomela melanura
Red Canyon 26/10,Eilat 28/10,1/11,Desert 29/10

Stonechat Saxicola torquata
Yotvata 28/10,31/10+ 1 Eastern, Desert 29/10

Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti
1 probable saltpans 27/10,Eilat desert 29/10,Yotvata 31/10

Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica
1 probable 1st W on way to Amram’s Pillars

Mourning Wheatear Oenanthe lugens
Eilat desert 29/10

Hooded Wheatear Oenanthe monacha
Red Canyon 26/10

White-crowned Black Wheatear Oennthe leucopyg
Red Canyon 26/10,Yotvata 28/10,Desert 29/10,Eilat Cemetery 1/11

Graceful Warbler Prinia gracilis
Yotvata 28/10,31/10

Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala
Ringing Station 29/10,Eilat Desert 29/10

Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
Ofira Park 27/10

Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
Yotvata 28/10,Ringing Station 29/10,Yotvata 31/10

Scrub Warbler Scotocerca inquieta
Eilat Desert 29/10

Reed Warbler Acrocephalus baeticatus
Ringing Station 29/10

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata
Northern pools 29/10

Arabian Babler Turoides squamiceps
Eilat Desert 29/10

Palestine Sunbird Nectarina osea
Yotvata 28/10,31/10.Eilat Desert 29/10

Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor
Yotvata 28/10

Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio
4 Ofira Park 27/10,Northern pools 29/10

Masked Shrike Lanius nubicus
Ofira Park 27/10

House Crow Corvus splendens
Always on North Beach

Brown-necked Raven Corvus ruficollis
Seen regularly

Tristrams Grackle Onychognathus tristramii
Hotel Complex Dead Sea 30/10,Yotvata 31/10

House Sparrow Passer domesticus

Spanish Sparrow Passer hispanolensis

Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia
Yotvata 28/10

House Bunting Emberiza striolata
2 at cemetery in Eilat 1/11


Dorcas gazelle

Area south of Hai-Bar NR 28/10

Nubian Ibex

About 5 groups on trip across Eilat Desert 29/10

Hare sp

Desert Trip 29/10

Red Sea Bottle nosed Dolphin

Various Butterflies

Various Dragonflies

Various Fish

Various Lizards

Mike Robinson

November 1999

email: Mike Robinson for more information