Monday, 5 February 2018

Israel: 05. - 07.02.2018

Day 1 05.02.2018
So begins my two and half months as a volunteer at the IBRC in Eilat, Israel. To say I am excited would be a huge understatement, it promises to be amazing.
My overnight coach to the airport was pretty brutal, followed by a five hour flight, but I finally arrived in a surprisingly gloomy Tel Aviv at half two in the afternoon. Because of the way I had booked my connection, and the fact that the airline had then drastically altered said connection, I had to travel across Tel Aviv from one airport to another. However, I had plenty of time, so spent a good hour birding one of the parks near the Sde Dov Airport.
The first bird in Israel was Hooded Crow, but that was quickly followed by Spur-winged Lapwing, which is a bit more exciting. Once I made it to the park the number of birds increased dramatically, although a lot of it was plastic fantastic; Common Myna, Ring-necked Parakeet, Egyptian Goose and (regrettably) my first lifer of the trip, Monk Parakeet. My second lifer was a bit more exciting; Armenian Gull with quite a few roosting on the parks boating lake. There were other awesome birds as well; Palestine Sunbird, White-throated & Pied Kingfisher and Spectacled Bulbul. A great way to start the trip. 
In the evening I got my flight down to Eilat, ready for the morning when I would begin my raptor counts…
-Monk Parakeet
-Armenian Gull

Species List:
Ben Gurion Airport & Tel Aviv: Hooded Crow, Feral Pigeon, Common Kestrel, Spur-winged Lapwing, Common Myna, Eurasian Teal, Steppe Buzzard, Collard Dove, Ring-necked Parakeet, House Sparrow,
Hayarkon Park: Cormorant, Chiffchaff, Black-headed Gull, Little Egret, Mallard, Moorhen, Monk Parakeet, White-throated Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Spectacled Bulbul, Egyptian Goose, Jackdaw, Blackbird, Palestine Sunbird, Hooded Crow, Feral Pigeon, Spur-winged Plover, Common Myna, Collard Dove, Ring-necked Parakeet, House Sparrow, Armenian Gull, Great Tit, 

Day 2 06.02.2018
For my first full day in Israel I had the fun task of paperwork, to ensure I was fully covered by the IBRC. It worked out quite nicely though, as it meant I got to spend the early morning in the bird park, re-familiarising myself with many of the species I had seen in Oman. I had a single new bird in the park; Afghan Babbler, which perched up briefly.
Once the paperwork was complete myself and Gaidis set off to track down some of the overwintering Wheatear visitors to the north of Eilat. Our first was a female Finsch’s Wheatear, and then Basalt Wheatear in the same location. We saw both of these with ease, as well as Hooded Wheatear and White-crowned Black Wheatear, also both new birds for me. As a wheatear fan, it was paradise. And it got even better, as we then visited a site further north for Kurdish Wheatear, a stunning male which we also saw with relative ease. With our morning wheatear twitching wrapped up we then headed to Amram Pillars to hopefully see Sinai Rosefinch, but sadly we had no joy. Scrub Warbler was a new bird for me there though, and I was a big fan of them to be sure.
In the evening I headed out again, round the same sites with much the same result. The wheatears were all still present but the rosefinches were not. We also checked K20 for Lesser White-fronted Goose, but sadly it was not present.
-Palestine Sunbird
-Finsch's Wheatear
-Hooded Wheatear
-Basalt Wheatear
-Kurdish Wheatear
-Scrub Warbler
-Dorcas Gazelle

Species List:
IBRCE Bird Park: Sardinian Warbler, Laughing Dove, Spectacled Bulbul, House Sparrow, Collard Dove, Bluethroat, Graceful Prinia, Ring-necked Parakeet, Chiffchaff, Redshank, Ruff, Green Bee-eater, Black-winged Stilt, Greater Flamingo, Purple Heron, Grey Heron, House Crow, Marsh Harrier, Wood Sandpiper, Rock Martin, White Wagtail, Temminck’s Stint, Pintail, Shelduck, Mallard, Spur-winged Plover, Feral Pigeon, Afghan Babbler, Palestine Sunbird, 
Wheatear Twitching: European Stonechat, Trumpeter Finch, Desert Lark, Crested Lark, Scrub Warbler, Finsch’s Wheatear, Hooded Wheatear, White-crowned Black Wheatear, Kurdish Wheatear, Barn Swallow, Rock Martin, Basalt Wheatear, Southern Grey Shrike, Blackstart, Steppe Eagle, House Crow, Sardinian Warbler, House Sparrow, Collard Dove, Laughing Dove, Feral Pigeon, Dorcas Gazelle,
K20: European Starling, Coot, Moorhen, Shoveler, Pintail, Greater Flamingo, Steppe Buzzard, Feral Pigeon, Spur-winged Plover, Grey Heron, Marsh Harrier, Crested Lark, 

Day 3 07.02.2018
Today was my first day in the mountains as an official raptor watcher. My first count was from Low Mountain, a positon overlooking Eilat and the bay, and the site where most of the Eagles would come through. As it happened today was the first day with any real movement, and as a result I was able to enjoy some 30 Steppe Eagles as they drifted past me, as well as a Long-legged Buzzard and a Short-toed Eagle. The site was also home to some cool local birds; Tristrams Starling, Sand Partridge, Striolated Bunting etc. A Blackstart was also stupidly tame and hanging around the site.
In the evening once we had finished counting we moved on to North Beach. It was my first experience of Seawatching in Israel and it was pretty good, although most of my time was spent sifting through the gulls on the beach looking for White-eyed Gulls. I was able to find some, but tragically they were all on the other side of the Jordan border. The Brown Booby that had been around was still in the bay, and a Caspian Tern flyby was nice. A sweet way to finish the day to be sure!
-Steppe Eagle
-White-eyed Gull

Species List:
Low Mountain: Hooded Wheatear, Blackstart, Brown-necked Raven, Tristrams Starling, Feral Pigeon, Collard Dove, Sardinian Warbler, Steppe Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard, Sand Partridge, Sparrowhawk, House Sparrow, Desert Lark, Rock Martin, Short-toed Eagle, Pallid Swift, Striolated Bunting,
North Beach: Caspian Tern, Western Reef Egret, Heuglin’s Gull, Caspian Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Common Snipe, White-eyed Gull, House Sparrow, Ring-necked Parakeet, House Crow, Grey Heron, Black-winged Stilt, White Wagtail, Brown Booby, Great Crested Grebe, 

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