Friday, 23 February 2018

Israel: 23 - 25.02.2018

Day 18 23.02.2018
Now that we have decided to have three observers stationed in the mountains, the possibilities for days off become more limited. As a result I have to make the most of them when they come around, and today I did just that!
I went early morning with the sanctuary team, who dropped me off at K19 ponds just after first light. My plan was to hike to Amran Pillars to hopefully finally see Sinai Rosefinch, but I had a quick look on the pond first. As soon as I looked over the bank, BOOM! Three Great White Pelicans sat there. They did not sit there for long though, as soon as they saw me they took off and after a couple of flybys headed in Jordan.
Speaking of Jordan, the previous day the Lesser White-fronted Goose that had wintered in Israel yesterday reappeared in Jordan, a first for the country. Since it was less than kilometre from the border, I had hoped it would return to Israel. Scanning the water produced nothing, and as a result the idea passed that I might see it again. However, I was wrong, as the bird appeared from behind me with two Egyptian Geese, flew around the pond a couple of times and then returned from where it came. I can’t say I seriously expected to see it, so I was buzzing when that happened.
Two lifers in, and I hadn’t even begun on the days birding really. I worked the scrub around the pond, all the while making my way towards the Wadi containing Amran Pillars. It was some walk, but considered it to be worth it. As I arrived at the Wadi a car pulled up, containing a young German birder that I had met the previous day. We drove to the site and there, waiting for us, were a flock of 15 Sinai Rosefinch, including at least four males. There were a few photographers in the valley, and they had put down food and water for the birds, drawing them in stupidly close. It also drew in White-crowned Black Wheatear and Scrub Warbler.
After that I took a lift back to K19, and then birded my way back to the bird sanctuary. On the way I had a host of awesome birds; Barbary Falcon, Black-eared Wheatear, Caspian Stonechat, Woodchat Shrike and an awesome flock of 70+ Dead Sea Sparrows, which were something of a surprise.
Once I had returned to the bird sanctuary I then headed to Holland Park to see what new migrants were in. The first bird I saw was an Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler, my fourth lifer of the day. It showed substantially better than the Western I had seen in Spain, so I can now finally feel like I’ve properly seen a Bonelli’s Warbler. I also had three Cyprus Warblers and three Quail, plus a host of Sardinian Warblers, Lesser Whitethroats, Sedge Warbler and Chiffchaffs. You can now feel that the birds are coming, and it’s very exciting.
-Great White Pelican
-Lesser White-fronted Goose
-Acacia Gazelle
-Sinai Rosefinch
-Sinai Rosefinch & Scrub Warbler
-Arabian Babbler
-Dead Sea Sparrow
-Eastern Bonelli's Warbler
-Cape Hare
-Palestine Sunbird

Species List:
K19: Great White Pelican, Shoveler, Teal, Mallard, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Spur-winged Plover, Coot, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Grey Heron, House Sparrow, Egyptian Goose, Garganey, Marsh Harrier, Steppe Buzzard, Ruff, Lesser Whitethroat, Lesser White-fronted Goose, Tawny Pipit, Crested Lark, Chiffchaff, Spanish Sparrow, European Stonechat, Spectacled Bulbul, Laughing Dove, Collard Dove, Isabelline Wheatear, Hoopoe, Bluethroat, House Crow, Brown-necked Raven, Sardinian Warbler, White Wagtail, Trumpeter Finch, Barbary Falcon, Little Green Bee-eater, Arabian Babbler, Scrub Warbler, Graceful Prinia, Pintail, Wigeon, Dead Sea Sparrow, Barn Swallow, Marsh Sandpiper, Woodchat Shrike, Common Whitethroat, Caspian Stonechat, Black-eared Wheatear,
Amran Pillars: Southern Grey Shrike, Hoopoe, Spectacled Bulbul, Sardinian Warbler, Hooded Wheatear, Desert Lark, Sinai Rosefinch, Scrub Warbler, Blackstart, Crested Lark, Brown-necked Raven,
Holland Park: Chiffchaff, Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler, Tristrams Starling, Sedge Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Arabian Babbler, Common Whitethroat, Sardinian Warbler, Cyprus Warbler, Quail, Hoopoe, Black Redstart, Sand Partridge, Crested Lark, Feral Pigeon, Collard Dove, Laughing Dove, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Little Green Bee-eater, Spectacled Bulbul, Graceful Prinia, Palestine Sunbird, Common Kestrel, 

Day 19 24.02.2018
After my day off, today I was back in Low Mountain. It had rained heavily overnight, and as a result there was debris across many of the roads, and the wadi at High Mountain had a stream running through it. As has been the case for the last few days, there was a shortage of raptor movement; less than 20 Steppe Eagles, four Steppe Buzzards, Marsh Harrier and Barbary Falcon, but there were a few nice passerines around. Without doubt the peak of these was a superb male Rüppell's Warbler that had lingered after being found yesterday evening. It showed very well, and as there were not many raptors I was able to spend some time watching and photographing it, and it obliged with its performance. Because it was so slow, we left early to go and collect Gaidis from High Mountain. No sooner had we arrived than a sudden burst of 300 Steppe Eagles and 20 Black Storks moved through, so we did get to enjoy some good raptor passage in the end!
-Rüppell's Warbler

Species List:
Low Mountain: Rüppell's Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackstart, Hooded Wheatear, House Crow, Trumpeter Finch, Barn Swallow, Collard Dove, Feral Pigeon, House Sparrow, Pallid Swift, House Martin, Chiffchaff, Spectacled Bulbul, Steppe Eagle, Black Stork, Red-rumped Swallow, Desert Lark, Steppe Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Barbary Falcon, Sand Partridge, Sparrowhawk, Rock Martin, Common Kestrel,

Day 20 25.02.2018
Low mountain was once again my destination for the day, as a result of how the shifts had worked out with the over volunteers. The day was generally very slow but between 15:00 - 16:00 there was a good passage of around 150 Steppe Eagles, as well as 10 Steppe Buzzards, 5 Marsh Harrier plus a single Short-toed Eagle and Hen Harrier. The Hen Harrier took on one of the Steppe Eagles on its passage through, creating quite the avian duel. There was not very much happening on the passerine front, two Striolated Buntings that flew past were about the best we managed.
A Long-toed Stint was found at the bird sanctuary during the afternoon but our attempted twitch when we left the mountain resulted in disappointment. We saw some nice bits though, including my first Kentish Plovers of the trip, and two Caspian Terns perched in the centre of the lake.
-Steppe Eagle
-Steppe Buzzard
-Hen Harrier vs Steppe Eagle

Species List:
Low Mountain: Steppe Buzzard, Steppe Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Short-toed Eagle, Common Kestrel, House Crow, Striolated Bunting, Trumpeter Finch, Little Green Bee-eater, Spectacled Bulbul, Blackstart, Common Swift, House Martin, Barn Swallow, Pallid Swift,
Eilat Bird Sanctuary: Greater Flamingo, Grey Heron, Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Redshank, Kentish Plover, Ringed Plover, Little Stint, Temmincks Stint, Dunlin, Black-winged Stilt, Shelduck, Caspian Tern, Black-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, 

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