Eilat – Israel
25th November to 2nd December 2001
From 25 November to 2 December 2001 Eus van den Burg, Bas van Wijk and Justin Jansen made a bird journey to Eilat, Israel. We made several trips around Eilat, and the main birding was not further than 30 kilometres from Eilat. Almost daily we visited the North Beach, Northern Sewage Ponds and Switzerland Park. Other trips where to the Northern Fields, Pumping Station, Eilat Mountains and other spots in and out of Eilat.
The target of the trip was some general birding, as for Eus it was the fourth trip and for Bas the third and the first trip for Justin. We saw 144 species of birds and four mammal species.
We flew with Transavia from Amsterdam to Tel Aviv and from there to Uvda. On the way back straight from Uvda to Amsterdam. The price in total including Hotel (Red Rock), car and flight was around Fl 1000 – and we used around FL 100 on petrol during our stay.
We left in around 12 in Amsterdam and arrived after sunset at Uvda. From Uvda (40 km from Eilat) we where transported with a coach to Eilat. On the sea out of the Hotel we could observe some Black-headed Gulls roosting and that was the end of the day.
At first light we start birding from our balcony and soon located at sea my first 3 new species an Adult Armenian Gull and few undermined first winter large gulls, few White-eyed Gulls, 28 Western Reef Herons and also loads of Black-headed Gulls, few fly over Parakeets (Common Ringed-Parakeet?), 20 Great White Egrets, White Wagtails, Eurasian Kingfisher, House Sparrows and few Cormorants.
From the Hotel to Ovira park I noted 2 new species Laughing Dove and Garden Bulbul. Also noted where a Black Redstart, Common Stonechat, House Crow and Chiffchaffs.
A walk through Ovira Park soon resulted in three new species for me a nice White-breasted Kingfisher, 2 Masked Shrikes and 2 Little Blue Bee-eaters. Other species recorded here where a juvenile Red-backed Shrike, 3 Black-crowned Night Herons, Song Trush, Blackcaps, Lesser White-throat (smaller ssp), Bluethroats belonging to the volgae and pallidogularis ssp, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Sardinian Warblers, Laughing Doves, Garden Bulbuls, Collared Doves, House Crows, White Wagtail and House Sparrows.
After breakfast and getting the hire car we went up to the north beach for some birdwatching. Over here soon we located three new species for me a young Steppe Eagle who flew from Eilat Mountains into Eilat and landed over here and few Rock Martins flying around the beach and several nice Pied Kingfishers. Also a juvenile Long-legged Buzzard prolonging a fantastic sight circling over our heads. A new ssp for me where 2 Striated Herons brevipes over here. Further here several large Gull species, who where hard to identify, only an adult Armenian Gull was a positive identification. Also here Laughing Dove, White Wagtail, Western Reef-heron (10+), Slender-billed Gulls, Black-headed Gulls, Little Blue Bee-eaters, Little Egrets, White Wagtails, House Crows, Collared Doves, Common Greenshank and House Sparrow.
From here we drove up to the Date Palm Plantations and surrounding fields to the Israel/Jordan border. In this area I recorded two lifers in the form of African Silverbill and Graceful Prinia. Also here Meadow Pipits, Tree Pipit (1), Water Pipits, Red-throated Pipits, Sardinian Warbler, Grey Plover (fly over), Siberian Stonechat maura, Common Stonechat, Garden Bulbul and Chiffchaff. Also we recorded several nice Dragonfly species like Globeskimmer Pantala flavescens, Red-veined Darter Sympetrum fonscolombii, Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum sinaiiticum and also Tristhemis annulata and Scarlet Dragonfly Crocothemis erythraea. As butterfly species we recorded many Leptotes pirithous.
From here we went to the Northern Sewage Ponds where a Red-wattled Lapwing was recorded 3 days ago.
At the Northern Sewage Ponds we met Dave Murdoch a British Birdwatcher and he signalled us that he had the Red-wattled Lapwing over there. Attempts failed to find it, about an hour later just after Dave was gone we found it again (a new species!) and we could point it out on Killian Mullarney who just arrived. The bird showed himself nicely in a group of Spur-winged Plovers. Also we where tipped by Killian for a female Pied Stonechat what was present at the parking lot from Switzerland Park, he just saw it, also Dave already mentioned that the might still be there. And we decided to go there after finishing the complete round at the Sewage Ponds. Over here we recorded except for the Red-wattled Lapwing, 2 males Hooded Wheatear (new!), Penduline Tit (5), Red-throated Pipits, Water Pipits, White Wagtails, Crag Martins, Rock Martins, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Arabian Babbler (small flock, new for me!), Common Snipe (2), Green Sandpiper, Little Stint, Dunlin, Little Grebe, Tufted Duck, Northern Shoveler, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Zitting Cisticola, Spanish Sparrow and Chiffchaff. Also Eus and Bas saw a Common Pochard over here.
Arriving at Switzerland Park indeed the first bird we saw at the parkingspot as was mentioned by Killian was the first winter female Pied Stonechat, this bird was very confiding and approached us to 3 metres distant. A true new species for us all three. Some quick birding around produced my first (although distant) Dead Sea Sparrows flying over, and some Bluethroats volgae, Common Stonechat, Chiffchaff, Spanish Sparrow, House Sparrow, Red-throated Pipits, Little Egret and a lone juvenile Greater Flamingo. Eus had also a Great White Egret here.
From Switzerland Park we went back to Eilat and went to do some shopping and afterwards we went up to the pumpstation, after a quick check where it was located before we did the shopping. A stop at the cemetery produced two new species: 2 Blackstarts and a nice Desert Lark. Also here a male Hooded Wheatear, Chiffchaff, Steppe Eagle and Common Buzzard.
Just before dark we arrived at the pumping station and after a while 2 males and 1 female Liechtenstein’s Sandgrouse arrived and prolonged nice views in the telescope. After complete darkness we heard also few birds but it was too late to find them. Dave Murdoch arrived one minute too late to see the sandgrouses and heard them only, flying over after complete darkness. Also a quick scan earlier produced a (male) Blackbird, Sardinian Warblers, Blackstart and House Sparrow.
Early morning found us at the North Beach and we noted the following species: a fly over Greater Sand Plover, Eurasian Kingfisher 2, Pied Kingfishers, 2 Striated Herons, Great White Egret (10), 10+ Western Reef-herons, Little Egrets, 2 Cattle Egrets, Caspian Tern, White-eyed Gulls, Slender-billed Gulls, Grey Heron and Common Ringed Plover.
After breakfast we went up to the Adrams Pilars for Sinai Rosefinch, despite many fruits on the ground and an intensive search we failed in locating these birds. Despite that I recorded two species and both where new to me: Sand Partridge and Brown-necked Raven.
After this visit we went up to the Northern Fields, and over there our attempts (as also the following days) failed in locating Namaqua Dove!
A drive around the fields and the surrounding area produced never the less a nice variation on species. We recorded here: Dead Sea Sparrow (50), Spanish Sparrow, Marsh Sandpiper (2), Blackbird (male), Sardinian Warbler, Steppe Eagle (1), Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank, Common Ringed Plover, Greater Flamingo, Whiskered Tern (1), Slender-billed Gull, Common Stonechat, Siberian Stonechat variegata, Bluethroat, Water Pipit, Red-throated Pipit, Common Shelduck, Common Teal, Common Kestrel, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Curlew, Little Stint, Dunlin, Ruff, Black-winged Stilt, Little Blue Bee-eater, Palestine Sunbird and Arabian Babbler and some other commoner species.
At Yothvatta we stopped at the Petrol Station for a sandwich and for Tristrams Starling. None where there at the moment, but luck was with us. While searching the area we had a migrating flock of 60 starlings that flew into Jordan. Again a new species. An other new species here where tens of Palestine Sunbirds. Also it was nice to see two Ruddy Shelduck on an agricultural piece of ground. While approaching these birds several Red-throated and Water Pipits flew in front of us as was a Pintail, Crested Larks, SkyLark and a Meadow Pipit. Birding in the bushes here produced except for the Palestine Sunbirds also: Chiffchaff, Blackstart, Common Stonechat, Black Redstart, Siberian Stonechat variegata, (2) Greenfinch and Sardinian Warbler.
In Kibbutz Lothan I received a call from James Smith that he just had a juvenile Pomarine Skua at Switzerland Park, after some general birding around the Kibbutz, with regular species like Palestine Sunbird, Chiffchaf, Goldfinch, African Silverbill, Brown-necked Raven and few other commoner species we went up to Switzerland Park. We recorded a Saudi Arabian butterfly species a Caper White.
Few kilometres from Lothan to the south we braked for an Imperial Eagle that was harassed by a Brown-necked Raven. After good views we drove to Switzerland Park. A police officer seems not to agree that we drove a bit faster and put a hold on us and fined the driver for speeding (Eus!). After this incident we arrived just before dark at Switzerland Park.
At Switzerland Park we didn’t saw a sign from the skua, but some quick birding produced the female Pied Stonechat, Whiskered Tern, Graceful Prinia, Greater Flamingo, 2 Marsh Sandpipers, Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank, Little Stint, Ruff and Chiffchaff.
Eus and Bas started at the North Beach as I slept a bit longer. They encountered the normal species there. After breakfast we went to K33 where we tried to find some nice desert species. During this day strong winds appear and made birding hard, but when we arrived at K33 we saw immediately a young Imperial Eagle at close distant, this superb bird gave some nice views over here. After a while walking in this desert landscape I had two new species some Trumpetter Finches (4) and a fine Hoopoe Lark. Also a Desert Lark showed itself nicely. On our way to Ein Envrosa we had a Hooded Wheatear and I had a Spectacled Warbler.
Ein Envrosa was productive in huge clubs off Dorkas Gazelle Gazullus dorkus about 60 ore so where seen here and a Desert Haze. Also nice where two males Desert Wheatear and a singing Siberian Chiffchaff tristis.
Other birds here included my first Scrub Warbler, Graceful Prinia, Sardinian Warbler, Palestine Sunbird, many more colour variation Chiffchaffs, Arabian Babbler, Blackstart and Common Stonechat.
At our next stop the Northern Fields and surrounding field we recorded: Desert Wheatear (1 male), a nice Barbary Falcon (new!), Southern Grey Shrike aucheri, Greater Sand Plover (1), Greater Flamingo, Black-tailed Godwitt (5), Marsh Sandpiper (1), Kentish Plover (5), Common Ringed Plover, Ruff, Black-winged Stilt, Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank, Avocet (5), Desert Finch (4), Red-throated Pipit, Water Pipit, Dead Sea Sparrow, Palestine Sunbird, Spanish Sparrow, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Bluethroat, Little Blue Bee-eater, Little Stint and Dunlin. Also Dorkas Gazelle and Desert Haze.
After the Northern Fields we left for Switzerland Park, to close the day.
At Switzerland Park we noted several species like Pied Stonechat (1), Siberian Stonechat maura, Common Stonechat, Bluethroat pallidugularis, cyanecula and volgae, Barbary Falcon, Spanish Sparrow and Chiffchaff.
The last light of this stormy day we closed at the North Beach where we head 3 nice Cory’s Shearwaters (these birds where also seen by Killian Mullarney and he got the same opinion like we had), 125+ White-eyed Gulls, Slender-billed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Armenian Gull (1), Great White Egret, Striated Heron, Western Reef Heron and 1 Song Trush.
When it turned light we where already watching from our balcony on sea to find some nice species and it produced the normal species like Western Reef-herons, White-eyed Gulls, House Crows, Grey Herons, Black-headed Gulls.
Then we went soon to the Wadi Netafin in trying to find Striated Scops Owl, the first bird in the first Acacia was indeed a find and tame Striated Scops Owl. We observed this bird for nearly an hour and could see every single plumage detail. Also here a few dark morph Common Buzzards and an adult Long-legged Buzzard flew around. Further we recorded here: Blackstart, Palestine Sunbird, Sardinian Warbler, Common Kestrel and Chiffchaff.
When we arrived back at the highway we saw a flock off 4 raptors it turns out that it where 2 Steppe and two Imperial Eagles also a male White-crowned Black Wheatear was located here.
The eastern part of Wadi Slomo produced except for some Desert Larks and some Brown-necked Ravens only few birds like Blackstart and Sardinian Warblers. A highlight in this part was a Rock Dove. Also some 5 Hyrax, the main food for Verreaux’s Eagles.
The western part produced on a big flat area in the Wadi two nice males Cyprus Warblers and several Sardinian Warblers here. The Cyprus Warblers showed themselves very well in the telescope. Further we recorded here: Desert Lark, Sardinian Warbler, White-crowned Black Wheatear (3), House Sparrow, Sand Partridge (10), Laughing Dove and Chiffchaff. And we saw some Nubian Ibex.
While driving to Switzerland Park we came across an Osprey at Eilat South.
At Switzerland Park we drove straight into the Pied Stonechat, as usual again at the same spot at the Parking space. Also here we found a cyacenula summer plumaged male Bluethroat again who was also on several other previous date there, also a caught pallidugularis and a volgae Bluethroat here, the same juvenile Greater Flamingo, a maura Siberian Stonechat and loads of Common Stonechats, (2) Marsh Sandpipers, Waterrail (few), Coot, Chaffinch, Graceful Warbler, Common Redshank, Ruff, Blackbird (male), Little Stint, Dunlin, Grey Heron, Western Reef Heron, Spur-winged Plover and various different types of Chiffchaffs.
After this show we went to the North Beach to close the day in style. Over here soon a moulting Shearwater (p8 both sides growing) was found, later discussion with Killian proved that we both could agree in the identification of this bird as a Scopoli’s Shearwater. Other birds here where the 125+ White-eyed Gulls, Slender-billed Gulls, Western Reef Herons, Baraba Gulls (2), Common Teal and Rock Martins.
At first light we where at the pumping station to try for House Bunting but our attempts failed. Only Desert Lark, White-crowned Black Wheatear, Palestine Sunbird, Blackcap, Spanish Sparrow, Chiffchaff and House Sparrow could be found here.
From here we went back to the Hotel for breakfast and after this we went to the Northern Sewage Pools.
The Northern Sewage pools where more productive and together with Killian Mullarney we saw 2 nice Buff-bellied Pipits feeding. Also a fly over Small Skylark was very nice. The Red-wattled Lapwing was also around and gave nice views between the Spur-winged Plovers. Various other species where around like: (2) Glossy Ibis (juvenile), (1 juvenile) Black Kite, (1 juvenile) Long-legged Buzzard, Wood Sandpiper, Zitting Cisticola, Little Grebe, Tufted Duck, Osprey (juvenile), Gadwall (a flock off 45), Common Ringed Plover, (3) Song Trush, Dead Sea Sparrows, Bluethroat pallidugularis and volgae, Reed Bunting, White Wagtail, Common Teal, Rock Martin, Barn Swallow, Penduline Tit (5), Water Pipit and Red-throated Pipit.
After Killian tips us for a reliable spot for Arabian Warbler, we went of to Yothvatta. After the turn of near the petrol station we took the first road to the right and after passing the last house we walked into the scrub on the right hand side. Here we found 3 Arabian Warblers. The first two birds I missed but an intensive search trough the acacia’s and the nearby sewage pools it produced fortunately a female for me! Also here a Hoopoe, Imperial Eagle, Moorhen, Spur-winged Plover, Little Ringed Plover (Eus), Eurasian Wigeon (Eus), Common Teal, Chiffchaff, Bluethroat, Penduline Tit (fly-over), Graceful Prinia, Palestine Sunbird, Coot, Siberian Stonechat variegata, Common Stonechat and Common Snipe.
We heard that a female Finch Wheatear was around at Kibbutz Lothan so we drove up there but missed on this species. The bird was resident and was recorded again at 3 December when we left Israel. No notable birds where recorded here and we went up to Shizzafron.
Over here a desperate search for Syrian Serin and Menetries Warbler produced few species. Species seen where: Calandra Lark (Eus only), Siberian Stonechat ssp, Palestine Sunbird, Crested Lark, Arabian Babbler, Chiffchaff and many White Wagtails. At the so-called sewage ponds here we recorded a nice male Mourning Wheatear (new!), Desert Lark, Crested Lark and two Dorkas Gazelle.
As we arrived at the Northern Sewage Ponds Killian was already there to made some soundrecordings, and soon after we started chatting with him he heard a Citrine Wagtail somewhere in the sky, soon he located it back and this bird a adult male in winter plumage gave nice views down to few metres. Also the Red-wattled Lapwing was still around together with a 20 Spur-winged Plover and 3 Northern Lapwings. Also nice where the following species here: Desert Finches, Osprey, Caspian Tern, Bluethroat volgae, Eurasian Spoonbill (adult), Hen Harrier (adult female), Marsh Harrier (female), Glossy Ibis (3 juveniles), Gadwall, Black Kite, Reed Bunting, Penduline Tit, Red-throated Pipit, Water Pipit, Rock Martin, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow and Common Teal. Bas and Eus heard a Quail here.
And we located a Vagrant Emperor Dragonfly Hemianax ephippeger where a bit of discussion started between Eus and Killian about the identification.
Around 4 PM we went together with Killian to the Saltpans near Eilat to watch gulls. Many gulls where present ore arrived and the most couldn’t be identified. Present were a metal ringed third year Baltic Gull and a first year bird. Two nice adult Heuglins gulls and 3 first year bird looked nice as where several adult Armenian Gulls and was a second year Common Gull. Also various Baraba Gulls where around, a first year Yellow-legged Gull and a second year Caspian Gull. Other bird species here included a dark and white morph Western Reef-heron, several Cattle Egrets, Little Egrets and Little Stints. An Osprey tried to scare the gulls off but they appeared quickly again.
Around 6 we where at the North Beach where we recorded for the last time 3 Pied Kingfishers, 3 Cattle Egrets, about 10 Great White Egrets, few Western Reef Heron, Slender Billed Gulls, Black-headed Gulls, Eurasian Kingfisher, House Crows (far offshore as normal on the fishing nets), a Caspian Tern and the highlight was a Whiskered Tern in winterplumage.
After breakfast and the check out from the Hotel we went up to Switzerland park for our last visit, a warm welcome was given from the female Pied Stonechat and she showed herself nice together on a branch with a Common Stonechat. Few Bluethroats of the volgae and pallidogularis ssp feeding at close range. A male Common Pochard was at the pond together with 3 Pied Kingfishers, Gray Heron and a Baraba Gull. Above the Saltpans and at the Saltpans here we recorded the same Greater Flamingo juvenile, Rock Martins, Crag Martins, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Redshanks, Ruffs, Great White Egret, Spur winged Plovers, Caspian tern, Barn Swallow and Little Stint.
After this we bought some books at the little shop near the last Petrol Station and Reuven Yosef was so friendly to sign the raptor in hand book.
A short stop at the Pumping Station produced an Imperial Eagle, White-crowned Black Wheatear, Blackstart, Spanish Sparrow and few Desert Larks.
From here we drove up to Uvda and on our way up there we recorded in various Wadis along the road few Scrub Warblers, Arabian Babblers, Sardinian Warblers, Garden Bulbul, Spanish Sparrow, Chiffchaff, Bluethroat, Desert Larks and some 40 ore so Nubian Ibex. Like in the past days we recorded in these Wadis also both butterfly species we saw more, the Euchloe falloui and Pontia edusa. On our way to Uvda we had a stop few kilometres past Mount Yosh where we looked for two Verreaux’s Eagle’s what has been seen the past days. We didn’t see a single bird here, but our big reward where two Dromedaries walking in Egypt.
While coming at K40 we took the turn to the Egyptian Border and we drove until we reached a plain just near some buildings along the border. In this area we recorded 10 Trumpetter Finches (new!) and a Mourning Wheatear. This was a shooting zone, so soon we where summed to get off this area. This area could be accessed in the weekend, as Eus and Bas recorded in the past here Desert Warbler and Temmincks Horned lark without problems.
We drove this road back and went up to Uvda where we left few hours later this fantastic country.
Justin Jansen, Blitterswijckseweg 3, 5871 CD Broekhuizenvorst, the Netherlands Justinjansen@hotmail.com