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>>Birding Reports

Trip to southern Israel, 24-30/DEC/2005
Ignaas Robbe & Carlos Van De Ginste

Most foreign birders visit Israel in the spring, but the country has a lot to offer in the wintertime too. Different Central-Asian specialities winter in Israel and the sight of the thousands of wintering Black Kites in the NW Negev is overwhelming.

On the 24th, from Tel Aviv we drove to the Urim area in the NW Negev. We were welcomed there by 3 Imperial Eagles, 4 Long Legged Buzzards, 2 Pergrine Falcons, 2 Merlins, some Kestrels and hundreds of Black Kites. The "quality" of the observations was very good, as we stayed in the car and most raptors could be observed at close range. We spent some time at the Ze'elim reservoir as hundreds of dead fish attracted the Black Kites. We saw also an Isballine Wheatear there. The rubbish tip between Gevulot and Ze'elim was not such a nice sight, but the thousands of Black Kites and the 50 Cattle Egret offered some spectacular birding.

We stayed in the area the 25th as well as we wanted to see Sociable Plovers and Dotterels, but unfortunately we were not succesful finding them. Near the "Jojoba" reservoir on the Urim road we noted a female Marsh Harrier and a splendid male Pallid Harrier. There were also some Buzzards there. Near Revivim we found a Houbara as well as some Black-bellied Sandgrouse and Pintailed Sandgrouse. The sight of a hunting Fox in the desertvegetation was also very nice. There were some Cranes around Gevulot Kibbutz. We spent the night at Gevulot Kibbutz (recommended !) and on in the morning of the 26th we drove south.

We first went to Midreshet Ben Gurion, a fantastic place near the Zin wilderness in the Negev Desert. We saw a Bonelli's Eagle there, some Griffon Vultures, 2 Lanners, the first Desert Larks for our trip, Mourning Wheatears, a Sand Partridge, the common Yellow Vented Bulubuls, Sardinian Warblers. Later that day we went to the adjacent "Ein Avdat". A small colony of "Fat Sand Rats" near the parking lot gave us some good opportunities to photograph this species. We saw also a Waterrail there, Sardinian Warblers, Spanish Sparrow, Arabian Babblers, a Blue Rock Thrush, a small colony of Griffon Vultures, Black Redstarts, etc. We drove further on towards the Ramon crater where we enjoyed the fantastic scenery. Later that night we drove to Eilat.

On the 27th, we went to the North Beach in Eilat, but there was not much to see. The wind had been coming from the North for some time and nothing was "blown" into the bay. The track alongside the drainage canal produced a nice Pied Kingfisher and we saw some 50 Grey Herons roosting near the Salt Pans. At the Birdwatching Centre-Ringing Station we had some good views of wintering Bluethroats. There was a Purple Heron, a Squacco Heron, a striking White breasted Kingfisher, 2 Long Legged Buzzards. There were not many waders there, but we were surprised to find 2 Citrine Wagtails, 10 Dead Sea Sparrows, some Sardinian Warblers and a Little Green Bee-eater.

The Northers Saltpans at K20 proved to be a fantastic birding area ; there was group of Greater Flamingoes, about 200 Shelducks, one Ruddy Shelduck, 20 Pintails, about 600 Shovelers, a few Teals, 80 Black-winged Stilts, 10 Avocets, 15 Ringed Plovers, 10 Kentish Plovers, 1 Greater Sand Plover, 30 Dunlins, about 300 Little Stints, 1 Ruff, 3 Black tailed Godwits, 50 Redshanks, 3 Greenshanks, some Green Sandpipers, 20 Slender-billed Gulls, Water Pipits. Near the greenhouses we saw a Desert Wheatear, a Great Grey Shrike and numerous Stonechats.

We paid a second visit to the Northern Saltpans in the morning of the 28th. We saw more or less the same as the day before, and we added an Great Black Headed Gull and we saw a fantastic hunting Barbary Falcon.

We drove further north to check the K33 area, but we saw nothing noteworthy there. After that we went to search for the fish ponds of Neot Hakkikar, but we found only dried up fishponds. We were however surprised to find a big flock of about 400 to 500 Dead Sea Sparrows.

Our last birding stop on our trip was the Ein Gedi oasis near the Dead Sea. The place was very very busy with tourists and schoolchildren, but we managed however to see 41 Black Storks flying over, a White Breasted Kingfisher, some Sand Partridges, Tristram Grackles, Fan Tailed Ravens, etc.

Israel is a fantastic birding destination, also in winter.

Ignaas Robbe & Carlos Van De Ginste Belgium
Shelduck Long-Legged Buzzard Black Kites Black Kites Black Kites Water Rail Black-winged Stilt Greater Sand Plover Little Green Bee-eater Desert Lark Water Pipit Blackstart Mourning Wheatear Sardinian Warbler Spanish Sparrow Dead Sea Sparrow

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Bimaculated Lark
(Melanocorypha bimaculata) Arava valley, Mar.05
 
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