Israel 5 – 12 October 2000
This trip was really a 40th birthday trip for Bev, combining birdwatching with a bit of history and R&R. I must have had the most bizarre week – I only met TWO other birders – John from Wales and Hans from Switzerland. Undoubtedly, more birders means better information about local hotspots and sightings, and groups are likely to miss less. Although keen, I’m not an expert by any means, and tend to adopt the ‘safe rather than sorry’ approach to identification, so inevitably fail to get a proper I.D. on a lot of the raptors and other similar looking birds.
Decent maps of the area are not easy to come by – Reuben (pronounced Reuven) Yosef at The International Birding & Research Centre – Eilat (IBRCE) (open Sun – Thurs, 08.30-13.00) gave us one titled ‘Eilat & Aqaba – The place map’, which was about the best that we found. IBRCE is by the entrance of the first garage along the Arava valley road, shortly after the northern end of Eilat airport runway (and at entrance to Kibbutz Elot) – no longer in the shopping centre. I would recommend obtaining a copy of ‘A Guide to the Birding Hot-spots of Southern Israel’ (Shirihani, H., Smith, J.P., Kirwan, G.M. and Alon, D.) as soon as possible. Jill can provide details of tours available on firstname.lastname@example.org) and the web address is www.arava.org/birds-eilat – this site is due for a major update soon, so keep an eye on it. Thanks also to the other Rueben at the ringing station – very helpful and happy to share his knowledge of the finer points of identification.
IBRCE Trips Ringing Station and Bird Sanctuary – free, but donations appreciated – best time 06.30 – 08.00.
The Morning Birder – Early morning tour to the desert – min 4 persons – 4 hours – $30 each.
Desert Birding Trip – A day of birds and desert wildlife – min 4 persons – 8 hours – $50 each.
The Grouser – Lichtensteins & Crowned Sandgrouse – min 3 persons – 1 to 3 hours – $25 to $35.
IBRCE also offer membership at a rate of $20 p.a. for an individual, $25 p.a. for a family, or $100 p.a. for corporate membership – they always need funds to help them with their conservation work.
Other local information –
Along North Beach there are many of the larger hotels, amongst which you will find the Northern Marina and Lagoon. The easternmost hotel (at this time) is the Herod’s Sheraton. Immediately east of this is the New Marina (which looks more like a lagoon).All breakwaters were being fished by anglers – no birds present.East of the New Marina is the undeveloped part of North Beach – a pretty rough looking camp in essence, but I had no hassle at all. Sea watching provided virtually nothing – very few gulls, many Egrets & Grey Heron, and 2 Tern species. Most birds were on the pontoons towards Jordan, gulls also favoured distant buoys.Parks in Eilat may turn up quite a few species, although fairly quiet this week. Main parks are Ofira, and Central, and Fradkin Garden (at top of Central Park, across road).
National Speed limit is 90 kmh – fines are substantially more than in UK. Traffic cars can detect your speed whilst driving towards you and are difficult to differentiate from taxis.
Arrived at Ovda and after questioning by immigration transferred to Eilat by coach, staying at the Dan Panorama. At exit to Ovda saw Crested Lark, and brief sight of White-crowned Wheatear whilst on transfer. During hotel drop-offs sighted Rock Doves, Laughing Doves, House Martins and Spectacled Bulbul.
a.m. – Ofira Park, opposite Dan Panorama. ++ Spectacled Bulbuls, Laughing Doves & House Sparrows, 2 Hoopoe, Masked Shrike, distant raptor.p.m. – east of Eilat (bird reserve), along sewage ditch. ++ Swallows & Martins, Egyptian Vulture, Black Kite. Caspian Tern at North Beach. Ringing Station (closed) – Car Park Pool – ++ Greenshank, Black Winged Stilt, Ruff & Ringed Plover, also Great White Egret, Wood Sandpiper. Ringing Station Pool – 3 White Stork, 2 Spur-winged Lapwing, 3 little Green Bee Eater, Squacco Heron, Masked Shrike, Red-backed Shrike, raptor species.On return to Eilat along reserve road – 10 European Bee-eaters, Wheatear, Crested Lark, Spectacled Bulbul, Red-backed Shrike, House Crow.From hotel balcony good views of Caspian Tern over lagoon.
Late p.m. – Pumping Station – 1 male & 2 female Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse, Blackstart and Spotted Flycatcher.
Day trip to Masada, a round trip of about 460 km. Fantastic experience for anyone with an interest in history – check out the massive cistern near the southern end – how on earth did they fill it?
Birds seen :
Km 44 – 2 Brown-necked Raven
Km 68 – White-crowned Wheatear
Km 71 – White-crowned Wheatear, Little Green Bee-eaters
Km 73 – Little Green Bee-eaters
Km 74.5 – Hooded Wheatear
Km 118.5 – Mourning Wheatear
Ein Bokek, just before hotel area – Red-backed Shrike
Km 221 – pair of Long-legged Buzzards
Masada – ++ Tristram’s Grackles, ++ Fan-tailed Ravens, Blackstarts, Hooded Wheatear, Desert Lark.
Mid p.m. – Dead Sea visit at Ein Bokek public beach – spare the time, it shouldn’t be missed!
Km 167 – Blackstart
Km 130 – unidentified raptor in treetop (in front of setting sun!)
06.15 hrs at ringing station. Reed Warbler, Redstart, Masked Shrike, Red-backed Shrike, European Bee-eater, European Kingfisher.
Not a great deal on the ponds – 13 Black-winged Stilt, 1 Ruff, 1 Booted Eagle, 2 Spur-winged Lapwing, 2 Great White Egret, 2 Grey Heron.11.50 hrs – Camel Ranch – 29 raptors came over in 4 waves – believed mainly Steppe Eagles. Tree opposite ranch – ++ House Sparrow, Laughing Dove & Rock Dove, 1 Turtle Dove.13.00 hrs – Km 20 – ++ Ringed Plover, Swallow, Sand Martin, Redshank & Flamingo, also Greenshank, Black-winged Stilt, Sanderling, Kentish Plover, Spur-winged Plover and Desert Wheatear. 2 Slender-billed Gulls.15.00 hrs – Ringing Station – Grey Heron, ++ Redshank & Ringed Plover, Greenshank, Honey Buzzard.Return through bird reserve – Stonechat, European Bee-eater, Red-backed Shrike, Yellow Wagtail, Spectacled Bulbuls, Palm Doves, Collared Doves, Spotted Flycatcher, Tree Pipit, White Wagtail, Purple Heron flying along Jordanian border.
06.40 hrs – North Beach – House Crows, White-breasted Kingfisher (on line across drainage ditch, and later in palm in S.E. of New Marina). Drainage ditch – 4 Spur-winged Lapwing, Red-backed Shrike, unidentified but interesting LBJ, Bunting species (brief view only). Salt Pans – 3 Caspian Terns, 3 Black Stork, 3 White Stork, 82 Grey Heron, Black Kite. Far side of fields towards Jordan, moving along hedgeline – 5 Arabian Babblers. One juvenille Slender-billed Gull on New Marina island on return. Met up with John & Hans this morning!11.00 to 14.00 hrs – Eilat Parks with John and Hans. Ofira Park produced Red-backed Shrikes, Masked Shrike, ++ House Sparrow, Spectacled Bulbul & Laughing Doves, female Blackcap Rock Doves, 14 raptors (incl. Steppe Eagles) soaring with 1 Black Stork! Central Park & Fradkin Garden also produced 2 Tree Pipits, a Spotted Flycatcher and an adult male Red-backed Shrike.15.45 to 1800 hrs – Salt Pan area – ++ Grey Heron, Swallows, House Martin, House Sparrows & Spectacled Bulbuls. Also 3 Purple Heron, 5 Caspian Tern, 3 G.W. Egret, Black Kite, 2 White Stork, 3 Black Stork, Spur-winged Lapwing, palm side produced Spotted Flycatcher, Kestrel, Peregrine (type), Collared & Laughing Dove, 2 Little Green Bee-eaters.
06.45 hrs – Palm area of reserve – 12 Black Storks flying along border, 3 Arabian Babblers, 3 House Crows.07.00 hrs – Ringing Station – Car Park Pool – 35 Black-winged Stilt, 30+ Ruff, 14 Redshank, Palm Doves, Masked Shrike, Grey Herons, 3 Spur-winged Lapwing, Spectacled Bulbuls. Ringing Station Pool – Black Kite, Swallows, Caspian Tern, Pied Kingfisher, European Kingfisher, White Stork, Squacco Heron, Red-backed Shrike, ++ House Sparrows. Ringing Station added Rosefinch, Lesser Whitethroat and Great Reed Warbler. Reed Warbler and Graceful Prinia. Purple Heron disturbed in drainage ditch behind ringing station.10.30 hrs – diving with dolphins – excellent if you can afford the time!1300 hrs – Camel Ranch – 1st year White-crowned Wheatear, ++ Laughing Dove, Collared Dove & House Sparrow. 1 Willow Warbler.13.30 hrs – snorkelling at Aqua Sport (www.aqua-sport.com and email@example.com for details of activities available).15.30 to 17.30 hrs – North Beach – 5 White-eyed Gulls, 1 Caspian Tern, ++ Egrets & House Crows. Road through reserve (along drainage ditch) – Squacco, ++ Collared Doves, Laughing Doves & Swallows, 3 Namaqua Doves opposite northernmost greenhouses between road and large piles of cut wood.Ringing Station – 2 Red-backed Shrike, ++ Collared & Laughing Doves. Ringing Station pool – 1 White Stork, 2 Grey Heron, 2 Squacco, 2 pied Kingfisher, 5 Black-winged Stilt, 1 Spur-winged Lapwing. Car Park pool – 5 Little Stint, 2 Ringed Plover, ++ Redshank, Ruff & Black-winged Stilt.
07.00 to 08.00 hrs– Ringing Station bushes. 8 Little Green Bee-eater, Masked Shrike, Red-backed Shrike. Ringing Station Pool – 3 Squacco, 2 Pied Kingfisher, Grey Heron, Egret, White Stork, Yellow Wagtail, 3 Graceful Prinia, Spur-winged Lapwing, Caspian Tern. Ringing Station – female Bluethroat, 2 Whinchat, Shrikes & ++ House Sparrows. Car Park Pool – ++ Redshank, Ruff & Black-winged Stilt.08.10 hrs – Cemetery – ++ Redstarts, 3 Blackstarts, Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Tree pipits, 2 Desert Larks, 2 White-crowned Wheatear, Spectacled Bulbuls, Laughing Doves, Masked Shrike, distant raptor (eagle).11.00 hrs – Ovda road to Mount Yehoram. Virtually nothing. 2 Desert Larks at Mt Yehoram campsite.12.15 hrs – Camel Ranch – still only ++ House Sparrows, Laughing Doves & Rock Doves.12.35 hrs – western road around Eilat – White-crowned Wheatear.12.45 hrs – Return hire car.13.15 hrs – Central Park – Laughing Doves, Red-backed Shrikes incl. adult male, House Crow, Spotted Flycatcher, Spectacled Bulbuls, Lesser Whitethroat, 6 Yellow Wagtail, 1 White Wagtail and…. 12 Squaccos disturbed from roost in trees on airport side of the park.14.00 hrs – Ofira Park – Hoopoe, Laughing Doves, Red-backed Shrike, Masked Shrike, ++ House Sparrows & Spectacled Bulbuls.16.30 to 17.30 hrs – North Beach – 5 Caspian Terns, 2 adult and 4 sub-adult White-eyed Gulls, 2 Pied Kingfishers (flew along drainage ditch and out to sea), 2 Yellow Wagtails, ++ Egrets, 3 Grey Heron, 2 House Crows.
07.00 hrs – trip with Hans on his scooter to small wadi immediately north of the Ovda road roundabout (near blocks of flats) – Spectacled Bulbuls, Masked Shrike, ++ warblers and 1 male, 2 female Palestine Sunbirds.13.00 hrs – Ofira Park – Spectacled Bulbuls, Masked Shrike, House Sparrows, Laughing Doves. Also good raptor count (for this trip, anyway) of 34, incl. possible Steppe Eagles, Imperial Eagle, Booted Eagle & Short-toed Eagle (believe there were at least 6 species represented, but without expert advice I won’t be ticking any!)15.30 hrs – return to Ovda airport – I looked hard but saw nothing but 2 Raven sp. – taxi was doing up to 130 kmh but there really didn’t seem to be much about at all.
Summary – I was rather disappointed with the overall bird count, although pleased with what I did see. The 2 Reubens confirmed that the main migration had not really started, being later than usual this year – this included raptors as well. Lack of birders also meant that birding trips were not running – I would have liked to go on several guided trips to get a better feel for the birds. Also, despite the amount of time that I did get for birding, I couldn’t expect to be doing it all day, every day – given that it wasn’t purely a birding trip, I don’t think that you can expect to see everything. But at least we couldn’t complain about a lack of shrikes!