Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Israel: 19 - 21.03.2018

Day 42 19.03.2018
After a very rewarding day off I once again found myself at Low Mountain. The high numbers of the previous week had somewhat subsided but there were still a few raptors moving, and a good variety again. I had three Pallid Harriers, one of which was a stunning adult male, plus two Booted Eagles; one dark and one light phase bird. Then there was the usual; Black Kites, Steppe Eagles and Steppe Buzzards. There was a very nice pair of Trumpeter Finches in the valley below as well.
Because it was a much slower day we left the mountain a little early, giving me enough time to head into Holland Park and there try once again to see the Semi-collard Flycatcher. This time though I finally struck lucky with a very smart male showing for just a few minutes in late evening light before flying off into the park where I was unable to refind it.

Species List:
Low Mountain: Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Steppe Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Pallid Harrier, Steppe Buzzard, Long-legged Buzzard, Common Kestrel, Striolated Bunting, Tristrams Starling, Lesser Whitethroat, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Pale Crag Martin, Sand Partridge, Egyptian Vulture, Pallid Swift,
Holland Park: Afghan Babbler, Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler, Chiffchaff, Lesser Whitethroat, Semi-collard Flycatcher, Quail, Sand Partridge, Palestine Sunbird, Spectacled Bulbul, Little Green Bee-eater, Steppe Buzzard, Laughing Dove, Collard Dove, Feral Pigeon,

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Israel: 16 - 18.03.2018

Day 39 16.03.2018
I decided to return to Low Mountain so that I could be on my own to practice for an interview in the evening Ads it turns out though, today was an excellent day to be in Low Mountain with a near constant stream of birds. Most of the action occurred in the evening, when the birds flew high overhead with a nice variety of species.  The highlights included a Dark phase Booted Eagle, male Pallid Harrier, Osprey and just the sheer spectacle of the huge numbers, especially of Steppe Buzzards. Around Low Mountain I was joined by Sand Partridge, Bonelli’s Warbler and the regular Striolated Bunting. A really enjoyable day in all, with good numbers of birds!
-Sand Partridge
-Steppe & Long-legged Buzzard

Species List:
Low Mountain: Black Stork, Osprey, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Steppe Eagle, Imperial Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Pallid Harrier, Black Kite, Steppe Buzzard, Common Swift, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Sand Partridge, Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler, Spectacled Bulbul, Tristrams Starling, Laughing Dove, Collard Dove,

Day 40 17.03.2018
An insane day at High Mountain with 13000 birds, 10000 of which were Steppe Buzzards! Another 1000 Black Kits and nearly 1000 Black Storks, plus double figures of Egyptian Vulture, Marsh Harrier, Osprey and many more raptors! It was crazy, a none-stop stream of birds! At the same time we had Swifts, Swallows, Larks and Wagtails also moving overhead. To say it was the best day we’ve had in the mountains so far would not be an understatement. It was absolutely crazy; birds left, right overhead. At one point in the morning we were surrounded by birds all around us; mainly Buzzards and Kites. It was a nightmare to count but such an awesome spectacle.
-Black Storks

Species List: 
High Mountain: Black Stork, White Stork, Osprey, Egyptian Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Steppe Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Pallid Harrier, Black Kite, Long-legged Buzzard, Steppe Buzzard, Alpine Swift, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, European Bee-eater, Lesser Kestrel, Short-toed Lark, Swallow, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Tawny Pipit, Hooded Wheatear, Desert Lark, Brown-necked Raven,

Day 41 18.03.2018
A day off was well overdue, but this time I decided to head to sanctuary to have a go at some ringing. Dan was also coming out to Israel, so I was meeting her at the Bird Park to get her familiar with some of the commoner species in Israel. It was an awesome first net round, although it quickly died off, with Nightingale and an awesome Little Crake. Most of the other birds caught were common migrants, but still nice to get up close with Eastern Bonelli’s and the like. After that we headed around the bird park where there were really good numbers of birds. An Asian Desert Warbler was a nice surprise, Red-necked Phalarope a bit more expected but still nice and Namaqua Dove was brief but nice. The real highlight though was finding two Crested Honey Buzzards! I could see the birds overhead, and considered that they might be honey buzzards looking at the tail and structure, but the primary windows had me concerned. I took a few photos then went back to watching them, but I could make nothing out until I actually looked at the photos to see a perfect Crested Honey Buzzard looking back at me. It was then joined by another. What a crazy sight, I was absolutely buzzing.
In the afternoon we went to Holland Park to hopefully find some migrants. We had a nice Ruppell’s Warbler, and a smart adult Masked Shrike, my first of the trip. The best of it sadly passed me by, when we found a flock of eight Lichtensteins Sandgrouse right next to the path. I saw the first bird and thought it looked off for a Sand Partridge, but failed to notice the other seven sat right by the path. Had I noticed them, frame filling pictures would have been available, but alas not. We found them again in cover but no chance for photos.
-Little Crake
-Little Green Bee-eater
-Crested Honey Buzzard
-Lichtensteins Sandgrouse

Species List:
IBRCE Bird Sanctuary: Lesser White-fronted Goose, Egyptian Goose, Mallard, Glossy Ibis, Squacco Heron, Grey Heron, Cormorant, Slender-billed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Steppe Eagle, Steppe Buzzard, Black Kite, Crested Honey Buzzard, Common Kestrel, Temmincks Stint, Kentish Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Redshank, Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Greater Flamingo, Red-necked Phalarope, Little Crake, Pied Kingfisher, White-throated Kingfisher, Water Rail, Spur-winged Plover, Ruff, Namaqua Dove, Collard Dove, Laughing Dove, Feral Pigeon, Tawny Pipit, Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Lesser Whitethroat, Ruppell’s Warbler, Eastern Orphean Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Asian Desert Warbler, Chiffchaff, Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler, Graceful Prinia, Sedge Warbler, Bluethroat, Cretzschmar’s Bunting, Little Green Bee-eater, Woodchat Shrike, House Crow, Nightingale, Northern Wheatear, Desert Wheatear, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Sand Martin, Rock Martin, Barn Swallow, Common Swift, Pallid Swift,
Holland Park: Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse, House Crow, Feral Pigeon, Laughing Dove, Collard Dove, Blackstart, Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler, Chiffchaff, Masked Shrike, Ruppell’s Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Palestine Sunbird, Spectacled Bulbul, Little Green Bee-eater, Sand Partridge,

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Israel: 13 - 14.03.2018

Day 36 13.03.2018
Low Mountain was the destination of choice for today’s raptor count. Sadly it was lacking in numbers of birds, but from our position we could clearly see large numbers of Buzzards and Black Storks heading over High Mountain, meaning it was not a tedious watch. In addition to this, we had a few Black Kites, as well as a dark phase Booted Eagle. As for the passerines; we had a flyover Striolated Bunting and flyby Syrian Serin. We tried to locate the bird, as it looked like it may have landed, but we had no joy on that front. After the mountains we went for a look round the bushes of Liebzi where we found a few nice birds, namely a female Ruppell’s Warbler and a Cretzschmar’s Bunting.

Species List:
Low Mountain: Black Kite, Booted Eagle, Steppe Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Steppe Buzzard, Black Stork, White Stork, Feral Pigeon, Laughing Dove, Collard Dove, Tristrams Starling, Striolated Bunting, Syrian Serin, Common Whitethroat, Spectacled Bulbul, Blackstart, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Alpine Swift,
Bushes of Liebzi: Lesser Whitethroat, Ruppell’s Warbler, Chiffchaff, Spectacled Bulbul, Cretzschmar’s Bunting, Sand Partridge, Blackstart, Laughing Dove, Collard Dove, Spanish Sparrow, House Sparrow,

Day 37 14.03.2018
My return to High Mountain produced an excellent day of migration. By far the most abundant bird was Steppe Buzzard with 1709, but a supporting cast of Storks, Eagles and other Raptors kept us on our toes, filtering through the flocks looking for other species. 118 Black Kites was an excellent count, as was 6 Egyptian Vultures. Osprey was notable in being my first for the trip. The first was quickly followed by the second.
After the mountain, it being a warm day, we headed to the beach for my first snorkel in some time. It produced some very nice fish, including my first ever garfish, specifically a Red Sea Houndfish. As with every dive there were a few new species to add to my growing fish list for the trip.

-Black Storks & Steppe Buzzards
-Black Kite

Species List:
High Mountain: Black Stork, Osprey, Egyptian Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Steppe Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Black Kite, Long-legged Buzzard, Steppe Buzzard, Alpine Swift, Lesser Kestrel, Swallow, House Martin, Hooded Wheatear, Collard Dove, Feral Pigeon, Laughing Dove,

Day 38 15.03.2018
Low Mountain was once again the destination of choice, and it was a very good destination with a really good passage of raptors. Although not huge numbers, there was a steady stream  of birds throughout the morning, mainly Steppe Buzzards but with a few more nice additions. A pale phase Booted Eagle was a highlight, as was an adult Egyptian Vulture, as well as the smartest Lesser Kestrel I have ever seen a stunning male. Throughout the day there was also a steady passage of Swifts, and the Striolated Bunting was around as usual.
-Pallid Swift

Species List:
Low  Mountain: Steppe Buzzard, Steppe Eagle, Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Egyptian Vulture, Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Pale Crag Martin, Striolated Bunting, Trumpeter Finch, Blackstart, Spectacled Bulbul, Palestine Sunbird, Tristrams Starling, Laughing Dove, Collard Dove, Feral Pigeon, House Crow,

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Israel: 10 - 12.03.2018

Day 33 10.03.2018
Final day in the mountains before my next day off was a vast improvement on what had been before during the week. Instead of empty skies, there was roughly an hour in which there was a slow but steady stream of Steppe Eagles and Buzzards. Alongside them was the occasional Short-toed Eagle, so it felt like things were in motion again, with birds coming and moving through.
To add to that feeling was the discovery of a Caspian Plover at Yotvata. It was a long day before I got the chance to go up and see it, but as it turned out it was well worth the wait. The bird showed so well beyond imagination, down to less than ten meters away. In addition to the Plover there was also a nice flock of Bimaculated Larks to look at, which were less showy but still awesome to see. Since it was evening when we finally got there we decided to linger and once again search for the eagle owl present in the area. Whilst we were unsuccessful with the owl, we got something much more exciting with Arabian Wolf. It casually strolled alongside the torchlight in the south field, a large open dry area, allowing us to get nice views. A really unexpected bonus to the day!
-Striolated Bunting
-Caspian Plover
-Bimaculated and Short-toed Larks

Species List: 
Low Mountain: Striolated Bunting, Tristrams Starling, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, House Martin, Rock Martin, Barn Swallow, Steppe Eagle, Steppe Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard, Spectacled Bulbul,
Yotvata: Hen Harrier, Pallid Harrier, Caspian Plover, Hoopoe, Bimaculated Lark, Crested Lark, Greater Short-toed Lark, White Stork, Isabelline Wheatear, Northern Wheatear, Red-throated Pipit, Water Pipit, Common Swift, House Martin, Barn Swallow, Little Green Bee-eater, Collard Dove, Laughing Dove, Red Fox, Arabian Wolf,

Day 34 11.03.2018
After nearly a week solid in the mountains I finally had the day off, and with the success of the previous evenings birding at Yotvata, that’s where I decided to go once again. The birding was good but hard work. With the exception of Lesser Whitethroats there were no big numbers of migrants. That being said, I did get two warbler lifers today; Eastern Orphean Warbler and Eastern Olivaceous Warbler. Sadly neither posed for photos but the field views were adequate enough to confirm the identification of both.
My main aim for the day was to photograph the larks and pipits that were around, but sadly I struggled to get close to most of them. A few individuals made life a bit easier, but the Bimaculated Larks, the ones I really wanted, were not having any of it unfortunately. The Yellow Wagtails were much better behaved,  and I even had a race tick; Superciliaris, possibly the most beautiful race I have yet seen. All the while there were a good passage of Swifts and Swallows overhead, with a few Lesser Kestrels, Hen Harriers and a stunning male Pallid Harrier also around.
And then in the evening to cap it all off, Frank offered to do a night drive around to see if we could find the Pharaohs Eagle Owl that had eluded us the past couple of times. And we struck gold, as the owl showed very well right in front of the car, and then on the ground not far from us. It really was a stunning beast and well worth waiting for. We also had more excellent views of Egyptian Nightjar, sat right on the road in front of us.
-Eastern Bonelli's Warbler
-Superciliaris Yellow Wagtail
-Red-throated Pipit
-Short-toed Lark
-Lesser Kestrel
-Cretzschmar’s Bunting
-Spanish Sparrows
-Pharaohs Eagle Owl

Species List:
Yotvata: Hen Harrier, Pallid Harrier, Steppe Buzzard, Lesser Kestrel, Marsh Harrier, White Stork, Pharaohs Eagle Owl, Egyptian Nightjar, Little Green Bee-eater, Collard Dove, Laughing Dove, Feral Pigeon, Caspian Plover, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, House Martin, Pale Crag Martin, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Red-throated Pipit, Water Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Tawny Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Bimaculated Lark, Greater Short-toed Lark, Eurasian Skylark, Crested Lark, Eastern Orphean Warbler, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Black Redstart, Bluethroat, Spectacled Bulbul, Palestine Sunbird, Afghan Babbler, House Crow, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Cretzschmar’s Bunting, Red Fox, Cape Hare,

Day 35 12.03.2018
After the relief of getting out birding, once again I found myself at High Mountain. However, it was not the chore that it had been the previous week. Today I got to witness Black Stork migration to the full with 700 birds migrating overhead. Add in the 800 Steppe Buzzards and a mixture of other raptors and it really began to feel like the migration of raptors had begun to kick off. Alpine and Little Swift passage was also nice to see, mixed in with flocks of Common and Pallid Swift.
After my success the previous evening, tonight the rest of the team wanted to try for the Pharaohs Eagle Owl, so we made our way back to Yotvata for sunset. We arrived just before so once again could look at the Bimaculated Larks and male Pallid Harrier. After dark we followed a similar circuit to the one Frank and I had success with before, and once again it proved successful as the Owl as sat in the same place, showing just as well.
-Black Storks
-Bimaculated Lark
-Pharaohs Eagle Owl

Species List:
High Mountain: Egyptian Vulture, Steppe Eagle, Steppe Buzzard, Black Kite, Short-toed Eagle, Black Stork, Alpine Swift, Little Swift, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, House Martin, White-crowned Black Wheatear, Hooded Wheatear, Desert  Lark, Brown-necke Raven,
Yotvata: Hen Harrier, Pallid Harrier, Lesser Kestrel, White Stork, Pharaohs Eagle Owl, Collard Dove, Laughing Dove, Feral Pigeon, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, House Martin, Pale Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Red-throated Pipit, Water Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Bimaculated Lark, Greater Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Chiffchaff, Lesser Whitethroat, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Red Fox, Cape Hare, Desert Hedgehog,

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Israel: 07 - 09.03.2018

Day 30 07.03.2018
After the outstanding experience of just one eagle yesterday, I was not overly optimistic that there were any huge numbers on the horizon. However, after eight hours in the mountains I can safely say that I would have even taken one eagle, or maybe one raptor. Were in not for the resident Desert Larks and the local White-crowned Black Wheatear I may have well lost my mind in the mountains today, it was not the finest shift I have ever endured.
But once free from the mountain I had a lovely afternoon snorkelling. For whatever reason the reef was alive with fish today; swarms of fry, shoals of Anthias and Damselfish, and Jellyfish littering the surface. What caused this sudden bloom of life I can only guess, but I would think it was something to do with the southerly winds, perhaps in combination with the recent rainfall.
-White-crowned Black Wheatear

Species List
High Mountain: Desert Lark, White-crowned Black Wheatear, Hooded Wheatear, Rock Martin, Brown-necked Raven, Collard Dove, Sand Partridge,

Day 31 08.03.2018
Once again I faced a long shift on the mountain, Low Mountain this time, and once again I was left with absolutely no migrating raptors. Its disappointing to have a string of days with no birds, but that’s the nature of visible migration. There was one highlight today; when a flock of around 15 Syrian Serins flew past us. They were already level with us when I picked them up and were very quickly gone, but still nice to see only my second flock.
After the mountains we did a bit of birding around Eilat, and whilst there was nothing exceptional there were a few bits and pieces. A nice flyover White-eyed Gull was probably the best view I have had of this species, although I was a little late on the camera. In the evening we had a smart Desert Hedgehog visit the field school.
-House Crow
-White-eyed Gull
-Desert Hedgehog

Species List:
Low Mountain: Striolated Bunting, Syrian Serin, Tristrams Starling, Spectacled Bulbul, Feral Pigeon, Laughing Dove, Common Swift, Pallid Swift,
Eilat: Baltic Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Caspian Gull, White-eyed Gull, Cormorant, Redshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Little Stint, Black-winged Stilt, Sandwich Tern, Palestine Sunbird, Spectacled Bulbul, House Crow, Spur-winged Plover, Red-throated Pipit, White Wagtail, House Sparrow, Reed Warbler,

Day 31 09.03.2018
Fortunately today in the mountain was a marked improvement on the previous days watch. That being said, the four Steppe Buzzards and five Black Storks were hardly the streams of birds that we should be expecting any day now. Other birds at High Mountain were also thin on the ground, with only a smart Isabelline Wheatear being of any note. Even the regular, showy, birds seemed to be keeping their distance.
After my watch had ended the day really began to pick up. We headed to K20 salt pans so we could have another look at the Lesser Flamingo. It was still present, associating with the ever-present flock of Greater Flamingos, but the change in light from my last visit meant I was able to vastly improve on the photos I had. The salt pans were alive with Ducks; Shoveler, Pintail, Teal, Shelduck and Garganey, Whilst flocks of Black-headed and Slender Billed Gulls wheeled low over the water. There were also a few waders around, the highlight of these being two very nice White-tailed Lapwings,  the first for the season, of which we found both. There was much excitement after the first and we could hardly believe it when we saw the second.
On the way back we called in at K19, and whilst there was nothing new or exceptional it was fun to scan through the ducks looking for something different. As we left the site in near darkness we had a Wadi Racer snake and a Golden Jackal both within a few minutes of each other.
-Black Stork
-Lesser & Greater Flamingo
-Slender-billed Gull
-White-tailed Lapwing

Species List:
High Mountain: House Martin, Sand Martin, Black Stork, Steppe Buzzard, Desert Lark, Hooded Wheatear, Isabelline Wheatear,
K20: Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier Steppe Buzzard, Slender-billed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Shelduck, Garganey, Shoveler, Teal, Pintail, Greater Flamingo, Lesser Flamingo, Common Redshank, Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Little Stint, Dunlin, Kentish Plover, Ringed Plover, Spur-winged Plover, White-tailed Lapwing, Black-winged Stilt, Collard Dove, Laughing Dove, White Wagtail, Barn Swallow, House Sparrow, Spectacled Bulbul,
K19: Teal, Garganey, Shoveler, Pintail, Cormorant, Little Grebe, Great-crested Grebe, Grey Heron, Marsh Harrier, Feral Pigeon, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, White Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Coot,