Saturday, 17 February 2018

Israel: 17 - 19.02.2018

Day 13 17.02.2018
Having miss out on the desert survey yesterday, today it was my turn. The area I was given was the same area we had been last weekend, so I knew what to expect. The species were much the same as before; Temmincks and Desert Larks with Spotted Sandgrouse flying overhead. Mourning, Isabelline and Desert Wheatears completed the common species, whilst two Stone Curlew were a nice additional surprise. However the route took us on the other side of the road where we had not been before, into a sandy wadi. There was not a great deal of birdlife until the end of our route. We had just finished our last count and were preparing to leave when a flock of c.30 birds flew past us. Small, finch like birds with an unfamiliar call, plumages a mixture of green and grey; they could only be Syrian Serins, a species I did not think I would get the chance to see. Fortunately we followed the flock to where they landed and had exceptional views of the flock feeding on the desert vegetation. Apparently it’s the largest flock seen in the region for a few years. A really exciting find.
It was lunchtime when we wrapped up the survey completely. As feedback from areas began to drift in we were optimisitic of something good being found. We were lucky that a new group of Thick-billed Larks was found on our route back, so we decided to call in and have a look. A notoriously tricky species due to their being extremely mobile, I was not over optimistic, and even less so after an hour in the wadi yielded no sign, only a nice flock of Temmincks Larks. However, it was once we had given up and were on our way back to the car that we finally struck gold, when I stumbled across a group of eight birds, including a few males. When I picked them up I was initially overcome with shock, and could only half whistle and stutter to the others that I had them, but it was no problem as they quickly picked up the birds. They showed really quite well, and fairly close! It was an awesome encounter!
In the evening we went snorkelling for the first time in a few days, and to cap off an excellent day I got to see a stingray, more specifically a Bluespotted Ribbontail Ray. It was a beautiful fish, and my first wild cartilaginous fish. What an awesome day!
-Syrian Serin
-Desert Agama
-Temmincks Lark
-Thick-billed Lark

Species List:
Ovda: Feral Pigeon, European Stonechat, Hen Harrier, Spotted Sandgrouse, Stone Curlew, Desert Wheatear, Desert Warbler, Desert Wheatear, Crested Lark, Temmincks Lark, Steppe Eagle, Syrian Serin, Desert Lark, Scrub Warbler, Mourning Wheatear, White-crowned Black Wheatear, Blackstart, Brown-necked Raven, Isabelline Wheatear, Spanish Sparrow, Rock Martin, Southern Grey Shrike, Laughing Dove, Collard Dove, Palestine Sunbird, Hoopoe, Spectacled Bulbul, Chiffchaff, House Sparrow, Graceful Prinia, White Wagtail, Thick-billed Lark, Dorcas Gazelle, Wild Ass, Desert Agama, 

Day 14 18.02.2018
Because of my success yesterday, and the lack of success that the raptor counters suffered with just 10 eagles, I volunteered to take a shift in the mountains. After an extended absence I returned to High Mountain hopeful that the lack of eagles the previous day would not be repeated. It was! I did not see a single eagle, and the only raptors I saw were three Steppe Buzzards.
However, there was some solace in the fact that I got the spent most of my time with the Desert Larks that frequent the site, as well as Hooded Wheatear and on one occasion White-crowned Black Wheatear as well. The highlight though was when a Nubian Ibex came round to investigate my watchpoint. It was fearless and rather inquisitive, allowing me to get some rather nice photos of it.
-White-crowned Black Wheatear
-Nubian Ibex
-Desert Lark

Species List:
High Mountain: Steppe Buzzard, Scrub Warbler, Hooded Wheatear, Brown-necked Raven, Desert Lark, White-crowned Black Wheatear, Common Kestrel, Nubian Ibex

Day 14 19.02.2018
It was decided, for whatever reason, that we should have two counters based in the mountains. As a result I was positioned at Low Mountain where I got to enjoy a very slow passage of just eight Steppe Eagles. It was not all tedious though, as we also had passing visits from a Striolated Bunting and the Hooded Wheatear showed extraordinarily well, possibly even better than it ever has before.
-Hooded Wheatear
-Striolated Bunting
-Sand Partridge

Species List:

Low Mountain: Steppe Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard, Hooded Wheatear, White-crowned Black Wheatear, Striolated Bunting, Barn Swallow, Rock Martin, Pallid Swift, Sand Partridge, Spectacled Bulbul, Feral Pigeon, Laughing Dove, 

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