Flight was booked through British Airways. Outward Flight Left London Heathrow (Terminal 5) at 08:25 on Saturday 12th March and arrived at Terminal 3, Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv at 15:40. Return Flight left Tel Aviv at 16:40 on March 22nd and arrived back in London Heathrow at 20:05. Total Cost of Flights was £230.00. From my experience it’s worth turning up at Ben Gurion Airport at least two hours before departure because of the rigorous and time-consuming security checks. Security staff went through my suitcase with special swabs and I was asked lots of questions about the purpose of my visit to Israel. I had a Moroccan stamp on my passport which prompted a lot of questioning about time spent there and contacts in that country. Israeli Airport Security is probably the most rigorous anywhere in the world.
Car Hire was through Argus Car Hire Online and the local partner was Europcar, who don’t really have an office in Ben Gurion Airport, so some time was wasted trying to find the Europcar contact. When I eventually located him, he drove me to the Europcar Main Offices which are located in Golan St (Airport City) which is some distance from the Airport. This is an important factor to bear in mind when returning the car as this location is not easy to find. The car was a Suzuki Automatic and the very helpful rental guy gave me a quick lesson as I had not driven an automatic before. The cost of car hire for 11 days was $350 approx.
Europcar Offices Number 00972 36222240
I did not pre-book any hotel accommodation and managed this on a day to day basis. Hotel and Guest House Accommodation is not cheap in Israel and many places do not provide breakfast. Nightly accommodation varied in price from 180 ILS (£32 or €36) to over 400ILS in one instance. On the first night I stayed at the Israel Youth Hostel in Bet She’an which charged 250ILS for a large double room (very noisy and packed with kids + no breakfast). The following 2 nights were spent at the Neve Eitan Kibbutz (Head towards Jordan on Route 71 outside Bet She’an and turn right at the sign) which is a fairly convenient & reasonably affordable option if birding in this area (Contact Pesi on 00972 523554159). On the Tuesday night (March 15th), I stayed at Metzoke Dragot Holiday Village which is located high above the Dead Sea in a spectacular location (although it is expensive). On Wednesday Night (March 16th), I stayed at the Nizzana Project Kibbutz, which is ideally located for birding the Nizzana-Ezuz Road and the Nizzana Sewage Ponds. The following 4 nights were spent at the Dolphin Hotel in Eilat, which is located right in the city centre and provides a good/affordable base for exploring the Eilat Area / Southern Arava Valley, Eilat Mountains. (To get to the Dolphin turn right at the roundabout before the Main Airport roundabout and go up the street for about 500m, turning down a sidestreet on the right marked by an Ethiopian Restaurant Sign). The final night (March 21st) was spent at the Hotel Maimon in Zichron Yaakov which is about 50Km from Ben Gurion Airport or about an hour’s drive.
Finding Birds in Israel by Dave Gosney (Birdguides 1996)
A Guide To The Birding Hot-Spots of Northern Israel - Hadoram Shirihai, James Smith, Guy Kirwan, Dan Alon (SPNI 2000)
A Guide To The Birding Hot-Spots of Southern Israel - Hadoram Shirihai, James Smith, Guy Kirwan, Dan Alon (SPNI 2000)
Collins Bird Guide 2nd Edition – Mullarney, Svensson, Zetterstrom, Grant et al (Collins 2009)
Map of Israel/ Palestine – Freytag & Berndt (Seems to be the best map of the area)
The 2 Shirihai Guides are great and an indispensable trip companion.
Trip Reports Used For Research
Israel December 2005 – Richard Bonser http://www.osme.org/tripreports/IsraelDecember2005.pdf
Israel Spring 2008 – Richard Bonser
Israel March 2007 – Chris Landsdell
Israel March 2008 – Daniel Lopez Velasco
Diary of Day-To-Day Sightings
Sunday March 13th
After checking out of my accommodation in Bet She’an I made my way to Mount Gilboa to try for the target species Long-Billed Pipit. I made my way past the quarry and up the mountain until a fairly obvious large pull-in appeared on the left at Km 5 (approx) A quick scan around produced Graceful Prinia, Corn Bunting, Common Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Short-toed Eagle, Great Grey Shrike, Sparrowhawk, Common Kestrel, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Palestine Sunbird, Crested Lark. A Quail was calling in the surrounding fields. Soon afterwards, I was joined by other groups of birders but nobody had any real joy with the Pipits. I hooked up with an English birder and we searched the area lower down between Km 2 and Km 3. We followed the track off to the left (marked by the red & white metal posts) and had Stonechat, Syrian Woodpecker, Jay, Black Redstart and a a group of unidentified Eagles migrating far overhead (possibly Spotted or Steppe). Migration seemed to be well underway as a group of Cretzschmar’s Buntings were spotted as well as a single Cinereous Bunting. Eastern Black-Eared Wheatear and Finsch’s Wheatear, Eastern Orphean Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Chukar & Blue Rock Thrush were also recorded here. Large Flocks of Common Crane were also seen flying over Mount Gilboa.
After failing to connect with the Long-Billed Pipits, we headed for the Kfar Ruppin Fishponds in the Afternoon. I approached from the junction at HaNaziv (Route 669 and 90) and after turning in, we had a Spotted Eagle almost immediately. It took off from the ground and we watched it flying powerfully away to the North. A couple of Osprey and Black Kite were quickly recorded resting in a nearby field. We entered the Kfar Ruppin complex from the Southern end where there are a couple of large reservoirs and one of the first birds spotted here was a couple of Pallas’s Gulls (both adult and juvenile types). We walked around the perimeter of the reservoir, recording Spur-winged Plover, Common Coot, Shoveler, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Peregrine, Grey & Purple Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret and Common Sandpiper. As you go North, the smaller fishponds come into view and several Pied Kingfishers were spotted. One of the shallower ponds was particularly productive with many Ruff ( some males already coming into full display plumage ), Marsh Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Redshank, Dunlin & Little Stint. A couple of Bluethroat were spotted in the large Papyrus Reeds surrounding this pond and Clamorous Reed Warbler was also heard, grinding away from cover. The Kfar Ruppin Complex is right on the international border with Jordan and you can easily seen Jordanian hill villages.
Returning from the Kfar Ruppin Complex we had Barn Owl at one of the next boxes which have been erected and Stone Curlew on the road. Golden Jackals were also seen.
3 Barn Owls were also seen in the grounds of the Neve Eitan Kibbutz after nightfall. Interestingly, the Jackals can be heard howling even from Neve Eitan.
Monday March 14th
Awoke at 5 am to try for the Long-Billed Pipit. From Neve Eitan Kibbutz, had Black Kite and White Pelican leaving their roosts. Was in place at Km 2.5 on Mount Gilboa for 5:30. A Common Buzzard was spotted roosting in a bush, as well as Hoopoe. After half an hour my companion spotted a Long-Billed-Pipit on the rocks high above the road and to the left as you go uphill. This bird only gave brief views but I picked up another one a few minutes later. Views of this species were very distant and not very satisfying. Also present here were Blue Rock Thrush, Cinereous Bunting, Chukar, House Martin and Lesser Whitethroat. Returning from Mount Gilboa we had stunning close-up views of Clamorous Reed Warbler singing at the HaNaziv junction of route and 669 and Route 90. A Spotted Eagle was seen here, engaged in aerial combat with a Black Kite and a Steppe Buzzard flew through the area. White-throated Kingfisher was picked up from it’s laughing call.
After breakfast we headed to the complex of Fishponds at Neve Eitan which proved highly productive after the somewhat underwhelming morning. Armenian Gull was spotted straight away as well as Hoopoe and a couple of Rose-necked Parakeets. A Steppe Buzzard took off from a nearby telegraph wire. Pied and White-throated Kingfishers were very much in evidence. There seemed to be a good deal of Raptor movement here and several species of eagle were kettling on the thermals. Steppe, Spotted and Juvenile Eastern Imperial were all found as well as Black & White Storks, White Pelicans and Great White Egret.
A walk around the complex of Fishponds produced Pygmy Cormorant, Osprey, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Spur-winged Plover, Spoonbill, Garganey, Little Ringed Plover, Snipe and some beautiful Citrine Wagtails coming into breeding plumage. Also seen were Crested Lark and White Wagtail.
I walked towards the far end of the complex where there was a large mixed flock of Gulls (mainly Armenian & Black-Headed) and many singing Clamorous Reed Warblers. I flushed 3 Female-type Marsh Harriers from the reeds while walking.
In the late afternoon, I returned to the Kfar Ruppin Fishpond complex on my own and headed for the pond which had been so Wader-productive. I spent a bit longer working through the flock and picked up a group of 6 Temminck’s Stints, feeding amongst the Spur-winged Plovers. A Peregrine was spotted on a telegraph pole nearby as well as a couple of Laughing Doves. I also spotted a couple of Richard’s Pipits perched on nearby wires. A Quail was also spotted flying into cover.
Tuesday March 15th
I left Kibbutz Neve Eitan early and headed South on Route 90, which takes you into the West Bank. Before reaching the border crossing, I took a wrong turn into another Kibbutz at Rewaya (just before the West Bank Crossing )and picked up a Black Francolin calling from somewhere. I did not stop anywhere in the West Bank but continued towards the Dead Sea, finally pulling in to the Rest Area/Coffee shop at Nahal David near En Gedi. You can do some easy birding here in the seating area as there is a resident flock of Tristram’s Grackle which are very approachable. Semi-tame Nubian Ibex can also be seen in the car park.
I headed for Nahal Arugot which can be reached from Nahal David by driving through a Green gate and continuing through the Date Palms to another carpark. I paid the entrance fee (about £5) and headed into the Nahal Arugot which is extremely popular with tourists, walkers and pilgrims. Fan-Tailed Raven was quickly spotted and Blackstart soon afterwards. A Sand Partridge flew across the Wadi further up and Tristram’s Grackles kept up a chorus all around. I did not encounter any Cyprus Warbler in the Acacias but it was perhaps too late in the year(?). Returning to the carpark, I had a pair of Little Green Bee-eater on some wires.
I decided to head for the Striolated Bunting Site mentioned in the Bonser Trip Report (between Km 251 and Km 252 on Route 90). This is quite a touch walk over very loose boulders and stones. No Striolated Buntings were found but I did see Desert Lark, Sand Partridge and White-crowned Black Wheatear here.
Since it was getting late at this stage, I started to look for accommodation and was pointed towards Metzoke Dragot which is reached by driving up a steep mountain road on the left as you drive North on Route 90 (near the West Bank Border Crossing). A couple of White-crowned Black Wheatears were seen on the drive to Metzoke Dragot.
Wednesday March 16th
After breakfast at Metzoke Dragot, I stopped to look at the massive and spectacular gorge down the road. The only species encountered here was White-crowned Black Wheatear (which really is fond of desolate, lonely spots). I continued South towards the Negev, taking the road for Be’er Sheva at the junction. As you enter the Negev, you increasingly see military activity and large sections of the desert are army firing zones, into which entry is forbidden as well as dangerous. The main species encountered on the road was Brown-necked Raven. After going through Be’er Sheva, I headed towards Urim which was massively disappointing in terms of the lack of birds, although I guessed it was too late in the year for wintering raptors. The only species seen here was a large flock of Black Kite.
I headed South and West from Urim towards Nizzana where I would spend the night at the interesting Nizzana Project Kibbutz. I made one roadside stop outside Nizzana and picked up Spectacled Warbler but was moved on by a member of the Army.
After checking into my accommodation, I headed down the Nizzana-Ezuz Road to look for Macqueen’s Bustard. It was still late afternoon and there was very little bird activity. I did spot a pair of Arabian Babbler near Km 6 and some Spanish Sparrows closer to Ezuz. A Female Pallid Harrier was hunting over the scrub on the right hand side of the road close to Km 8. As dusk approached, I started scanning the area to the left of Km 8 and was finally rewarded by distant views of a male Macqueen’s Bustard sheltering under a bush. He eventually emerged and began to display, spreading out the neck plumage.
A Short-toed Eagle also flew over here. I started noticing small flocks of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse calling around me and flying past rapidly. Two more Macqueen’s Bustards were seen (both displaying) as well as a single Cream-coloured Courser.
Thursday March 17th
I got up for 7:00 am in order to try for the Sandgrouse at Nizzana Sewage Ponds. This can be a little tricky to find as the track to the Ponds is not an obvious road (but it is directly opposite the road to Telalim). I waited in the car near the first large pool and soon had some Black-bellied Sandgrouse flying in to drink. A Female-type Hen Harrier flew through the area, flushing some of the waders. Shortly afterwards a birding group appeared and we all moved to the far side of the pool to watch. Some more Black-bellied Sandgrouse flew in to drink but the numbers were small (two’s and three’s). Some Spotted Sandgrouse flew over calling. A group of raptors were spotted kettling in the vicinity of the ruined Nizzana Fortress. Short-toed Eagle, Long-legged and Steppe Buzzard were seen as well as White Stork. I spotted a Great Grey Shrike in distant scrub. Other birds seen in the vicinity of the sewage ponds were Peregrine, Spur-winged Plover, Green Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, Yellow Wagtail (feldegg race), Little Grebe, Common & Pallid Swift.
I left Nizzana around 10:30 and headed towards Mitzpe Ramon. I stopped at the Sewage Works North of Mitzpe Ramon which is supposed to be good for Mourning Wheatear but only had Spur-Winged Plover here.
I stopped at the layby on the outskirts of Mitzpe Ramon to view the spectacular, outer-space-like crater and had Desert Lark and White-crowned Black Wheatear.
35 Km outside Mitzpe Ramon, I reached the flat expanse of the Hameishar Plain and stopped briefly at Km 58 on Route 40 to look for desert larks. The only species I managed here was Desert Wheatear before being moved on by the army (the entire area is a vast firing zone).
An hour or two later, I was on the outskirts of Eilat, driving South on Route 90. I stopped quickly at the Km 33 “Lark Area” but only encountered Desert Wheatear here. I moved on to the Km 20 Saltpans and had a good scan around, picking up numerous Slender-billed Gulls, Black-winged Stilts and Greatear Flamingos. Also present were Marsh Sandpiper, Ruff, Little Stint, Dunlin, Avocet, Black-headed Gull.
I made my way South to the Km 19 Sewage Ponds, hoping to connect with Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse and soon found some other birders already present at the Site. It was around 17:00, so we still had some time before nightfall (when the Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse come to drink). A Little Crake was giving spectacular views in the reeds at the North-West corner of the pool. Red-throated Pipit, Bluethroat, Sedge Warbler, Willow Warbler, White Pelican, Yellow Wagtail, Squacco Heron, Green Sandpiper and numerous hirundines were seen here. Darkness fell just after 18:00 and about 10 minutes afterwards, somebody picked up Lichtenstein’s calling overhead. 3 small Sandgrouse were spotted flying in to the North West corner of the pool and they waited on the bank for a few moments before drinking. The double breast band on one bird was still distinguishable in the half-light. The birds had just commenced drinking when an irate Spur-winged Plover arrived, peeping angrily and driving off the Sandgrouse.
Friday March 18th
This day turned into a bit of a write-off. I had started the day by leaving the hotel in Eilat and heading for North Beach. From the area where the canal meets the Red Sea, I scanned the offshore platforms but no White-Eyed Gulls were seen. I did see several Slender-billed Gulls and a Caspian Tern flying in from the sea. Indian House Crow was also noted in a Palm Tree by the Lifeguard station, After an hour there, I headed to the Eilat mountains hoping to see some raptor migration. I found the watchpoint at Mount Yoash and climbed up close to the aerial mast. Virtually nothing was passing except for one or two Steppe Buzzards, slowly making their way north. I decided to try the Spring at En Netafim for Sinai Rosefinch as it was only a stone’s throw from Mount Yoash but ended up getting completely lost and going for quite a walkabout up the Wadi and doing some quite hard climbing. I did record Desert Lark, Blackstart, Sand Partridge, White-crowned Black Wheatear and Sardinian Warbler. When I eventually located the Spring (A patch of green moss in a grove), the only birds present were Tristam's Grackle and a single Sand Partridge. Access to the Spring is not easy, either going down or coming back up again.
I had wasted so much time in the Wadi, that there was very little time remaining to go anywhere else. I did try the Lark Area at Km 33 off Route 90 again but saw absolutely nothing. This area seems to be quite unproductive (at least in my experience).
Saturday March 19th
Saturday proved to be a far more productive day. I headed north on Route 90 towards the Southern Arava Valley & pulled in at the gas station and café at Yotvata. I did a circuit of the Southern Fields but recorded very little there. I bumped into a group of Finnish birders at the Café who very kindly directed me towards some Caspian Plover in the North Fields at Yotvata. These birds showed really well in the bare field to the South of the area of newly-cut grass. There were two males and a female. The mowing was attracting a lot of other birds to the grassy area. Many feldegg race Yellow Wagtails were feeding here, along with Water Pipits, Red-throated Pipits, Isabelline Wheatears and White Wagtails. Quail were also seen alighting in the grass.
I moved around to the far side of the grassy area closer to the melon field and watched a large mixed Lark flock with some other birders. About 80 Bimaculated Larks were feeding in this area with Short-toed & Crested Larks. Everybody was checking for Oriental Skylark but none were seen (at least while I was there).
The Finnish birders had given me directions to a flock of Thick-billed Lark, so I left Yotvata in the afternoon and headed to the Ovda Valley. After taking Route 12 and turning off at the sign for “Camel Riders”, I headed down the road for ~2Km, scanning the desert on the right-hand side. After a while, I picked up birds moving and set up the scope. About 80 Thick-billed Larks were feeding in the scrubby undergrowth and proving fairly approachable. I spotted at least one Trumpeter Finch bobbing around with them and picked up the parping toy-trumpet call. After spending an hour here, I headed back to the North Fields at Yotvata for the late afternoon. The birds were a lot more viewable without the heat haze and I got more good views of the Bimaculated Larks. A couple of Pallid Harriers were moving through the area, including a stunning grey male. A Female-type Pallid was hunting over the mown grass as well as a Marsh Harrier. Returning to the main road, I had a Cretzschmar’s Bunting in a bush.
Sunday March 20th
Sunday morning saw me heading back up North towards the Arava Valley. I took a quick detour to the Km 40 Sewage Ponds. The small amount of water was attracting several birds including Squacco Heron, White & Yellow Wagtails, Water Pipit, Eastern Black-eared Wheatear and Green Sandpiper. A Bluethroat emerged from the Papyrus Reeds, tacking loudly and a couple of Blue-Cheeked Bee-eaters were spotted on the Perimeter Fence. I continued North and pulled in to the area of Acacia between Km 50 and Km 51 just South of Yotvata in order to search for Arabian Warbler. I could hear the chattering calls of Sylvia Warblers from many of the larger Acacia trees but they were proving very reluctant to show themselves. One bird gave brief views but I think it was more likely to be a Female Orphean Warbler.
I did find other interesting species here including a Scrub Warbler and an Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler hovering around the branches of an Acacia. A male Ruppell’s Warbler also appeared briefly but no Arabian Warblers were seen.
After thoroughly flogging this area I headed back to the North Fields at Yotvata for another look at the Larks and Pipits there. While having a coffee in the café, I met some UK birders who gave me directions to a Hooded Wheatear Site which I was eager to check out. This was at Km 25 on Route 90, heading back towards Eilat. There is a signpost to “The Hidden Valley” on the right hand side and I went up here for about 1 Km where I did get good views of Hooded Wheatear in the rocky bare landscape.
I finished up on Sunday by going back to the Km 19 Sewage Ponds for the nightly Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse Spectacle. On the way to the ponds, I had a Short-toed Lark and a Long-legged Buzzard perched in a bush. They appeared on cue just after nightfall. Again it was just 3 birds and this time closer to the North East side of the pond before being driven off by the resident Spur-winged Plovers (again). There were over 50 people present to view the Sandgrouse that evening
Monday March 21st
This was to be my final morning in Eilat, so I again headed to North beach to try and find the White-eyed Gulls. I walked from the Marina eastwards, past the sun loungers but saw none at all. I then drove over to the Canal outlet spot but had no joy either. The only consolation was a Striated Reef Heron (Blue Phase) feeding in the Canal. The rest of the day was spent on the long drive back North, through the Negev.
I stopped at Mitzpe Ramon to try for Syrian Serin and scanned the area of Pines/ Football Pitch from the rear of the gas station at the roundabout. No joy with the Serins but there was an Orphean Warbler here and a couple of Willow Warblers.
North of Mitzpe Ramon, I had a Mourning Wheatear flying across the road. I was on the outskirts of Tel Aviv by about 15:30 and decided to press North to Ma’agan Mikhael which is about 50 Km further on. I reached the entrance to Ma’agan Mikhael about 16:30 and parked near the barrier, exploring the Fishponds on foot. There are Pied Kingfishers everywhere here, hovering over the ponds and perched on the netting. White-throated Kingfishers seemed to be far scarcer and I only saw one or two as well as a single Common Kingfisher. One large pond which was being drained for it’s fish held Glossy Ibis, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Armenian Gull, Ringed Plover and Green Sandpiper while others held Black-winged Stilt, Marsh Sandpiper, Spur-winged Plover, Common Sandpiper & Redshank. Several Northern Wheatears and Crested Larks were spotted as well as a Common Kestrel and as dusk fell, Night Herons started to come out of their day roosts and fly down towards the ponds. I spotted a couple of Alpine Swifts soaring over the hillsides to the East. It was dark when I started to look for accommodation in the nearby hill town of Zichron Yaakov, eventually stopping at the Hotel Beit Maimon.
Tuesday March 22nd
This was my last day in Israel, so after breakfast I headed down to the Fishponds at Ma’agan Mikhael again to have a last look. There was a large flock of gulls in a pond near the barrier which contained several Slender-billed Gulls. An Egyptian Mongoose was seen crossing a stream in a quite leisurely fashion. While having a look at the Pied Kingfishers, a Common Mynah was spotted on a wire and gave good views for a couple of minutes. A Marsh Harrier was also seen resting on the bank of one pond. I finished up around 10:20 and headed South towards Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion Airport for the flight back to London.
Target Species Seen
Western Reef Egret
Seen on the penultimate day of the trip at the canal outlet on North Beach, Eilat. The bird was feeding in the canal and then moved to the beach near where the fishermen set up. ( Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 24, Site 1 )
Seen first at Nahal Arugot near En Gedi. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 113, Site 4) A single bird flew across the Wadi about 1 Km up. Seen afterwards at En Salvadori (between Km 251 and Km 252 on Route 90) and also at En Netafim in the Eilat Mountains.
Seen at Mitzpe Ramon just outside the town at the large layby which overlooks the crater. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 91) Also seen at the En Salvadori Site and at En Netafim where there was a singing bird on the ridge about 500m to the right of the Spring.
White-Crowned Black Wheatear
Seen initially at the En Salvadori Site and afterwards in the boulder landscape on the way up to Metzoke Dragot. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 113, Site 1). One was seen very well at the Gorge down the road from Metzoke Dragot. This is about 500 m downhill from the Holiday Village/ Kibbutz and on the right-hand side of the road. A confiding bird was also seen at the layby overlooking the crater just outside Mitzpe Ramon on Route 40 (right hand side of the road).
First encountered near Km 58 on Route 40 South of Mitzpe Ramon in the plain of Hameishar. Also seen in the Km 33 Lark Area Site but on the left hand side of Route 90 as you come from Eilat (i.e opposite side of the road to the Lark Area, Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 60, Site 6)
2 birds seen in the “Hidden Valley” near Eilat. Turn right at Km 25 (if driving South on Route 90 towards Eilat) and continue for about 1 Km to a flat area. A distant bird was seen perched on a signpost and also another one much closer, near a ditch. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 60) I had searched at the Km 40 Sewage Pond Site for this species but didn’t see any there (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 60, Site 4c)
A single bird was seen about 10 Km north of Mitzpe Ramon and flying across Route 40. I tried for this species at the Sewage Works North of Mitzpe Ramon. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 91, Site2) but was unsuccessful here. Didn’t encounter any around the Nizzana-Ezuz Road area either, although it is supposed to be good for the species.
Cyprus Pied Wheatear
A single bird was seen in the vicinity of the Km20 saltpans. I was leaving the area of saltpans and heading back towards Route 90 when the bird was seen on the right hand side perched on a bush.
1-2 birds seen at Mount Gilboa from Route 666 between Km 2 and Km 3 posts, looking up towards the rocks on the left. (Shirihai Northern Guide, Page 98, Site 2).
Clamorous Reed Warbler
One singing bird seen very well at the HaNaziv junction of Route 669 and Route 90 where there are stands of Papyrus Reeds. (Shirihai Northern Guide, Page 80) Also seen at the far end (North End) of Neve Eitan Fishponds where there is extensive Reed growth and at Kfar Ruppin Fishponds. (Shirihai Northern Guide, Page 80, Sites 2 and 1).
First encountered at the junction on the track leading to Kfar Ruppin from the HaNaziv Junction on Route 90. (There is a pond marked here on the Freytag & Berndt Map). Also seen in the fields near the HaNaziv Junction (where Route 90 and Route 669 meet). Other birds seen kettling over Neve Eitan Fishponds (Shirihai Northern Guide, Page 80, Site 2)
Juvenile type seen kettling over Neve Eitan Fishponds. (Shirihai Northern Guide, Page 80, Site 2). Unidentified Eagles seen over Mount Gilboa on March 13th were possibly Steppe.
Eastern Imperial Eagle
Juvenile type seen with other raptors over Neve Eitan Fishponds (Shirihai Northern Guide, Page 80, Site 2)
Seen very well at Nizzana Sewage Ponds both on the ground and in the air (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 128, Site 4b)
Reasonably large flocks (~100 birds ) seen along the Nizzana-Ezuz Road between Km 6 and Km 8. These birds seemed to be a lot more active closer to dusk. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 128, Site 3)
Couple of Pairs seen flying over Nizzana Sewage Ponds. They did not stop to drink (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 128, Site 4b)
Seen very well at the reliable Km 19 Sewage Ponds Site outside Eilat. Sit along the Western bank and wait for them to come in just after nightfall. 3 birds seen coming in to drink on 2 nights.(Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 50, Site 5)
3 birds seen in total at the well-known Nizzana-Ezuz Road Site. First bird seen on the left-hand side of the road around Km 8 (quite distant and sheltering under a bush) and others seen on the left and right-hand sides around Km 7. South of the barbed wire military fence seems to be more productive. All 3 were displaying males. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 128, Site 3)
A pair seen well at the Nizzana-Ezuz Road Site on the left-hand side near Km 6 where there is a kind of pumping station. The birds were in the vicinity of the metal perimeter fence. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 128, Site 3)
Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler
One bird seen while searching for Arabian Warbler in the Acacia Grove on the left-hand side of Route 90 between Km 50 and Km 51 South of Yotvata. The bird was closer to the Km 51 mark. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 58, Site 2b)
One bird seen on the ground in the Acacia Grove between Km 50 and Km 51 off Route 90. This individual was closer to the Km 50 mark (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 58, Site 2b)
Little Green Bee-eater
First seen near the Ticket Booth at Nahal Arugot near En Gedi. There was a pair perched on wires in the area of Acacia. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 113, Site 4) Afterwards seen in the Acacia Grove off Route 90 and between Km 50 and Km 51 (South of Yotvata). (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 58, Site 2b)
A pair were seen at the Km 40 Sewage Ponds Site perched on the Perimeter fence of the Pond. (Shirihai Southern Guide, page 60, Site 4c)
Single Bird seen along the Nizzana-Ezuz Road on the left-hand side near Km 7. In the Macqueen’s Bustard area. Seen close to dusk, which seems to be the most productive time here. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 128, Site 3)
Single Bird seen in an area of scrub just outside Nizzana on Route 211 and on the right-hand side as you approach Nizzana. This is a Military Firing Zone.
First encountered in the Nahal Arugot. There was a group of 3 up on the rocks on the right about half a kilometre in. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 113, Site 4) Later seen at Metzoke Dragot, in the Wadi at En Netafim and in the Acacia Grove between Km 50 and K 51 South of Yotvata (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 58, Site 2b)
Easy to see at the Rest Area/ Café at Nahal David near En Gedi. There is a flock which frequents the seating area and carpark. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 113, Site 3)Afterwards seen in the Nahal Arugot and at En Netafim Spring in the Eilat Mountains
Seen quite easily at Nahal Arugot, zipping around the wadi. Obviously paler than Crag Martin (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 113, Site 4)
Seen well in the Dead Sea area at Nahal Arugot (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 113, Site 4) and at Metzoke Dragot. A pair were seen on a nest on the sheer canyon wall in Nahal Arugot.
Most frequently seen along the roadside between the Dead Sea and the Negev. Several seen along Route 90
Most common at Ma’agan Mikhael Fishponds where I saw over 50 on one evening. (Shirihai Northern Guide, Page 17, Site 2) Also common at Kfar Ruppin & Neve Eitan Fishponds (Shirihai Northern Guide, Page 80, Sites 1 and 2)
Best numbers of this species were at Neve Eitan Fishponds where they gave terrific views perched on the wires. (Shirihai Northern Guide, Page 80, Site 2) Also seen in smaller numbers at Ma’agan Mikhael. (Shirihai Northern Guide, Page 17, Site 2). One bird was seen at the Clamorous Reed Warbler Site at the HaNaziv Junction. Also a bird heard calling outside the Hotel Maimon in Zichron Yaakov.
3 birds gave extraordinary views at the North Fields at Yotvata. Two males and a female were in the large bare field South of the area of freshly-mown grass. The bare field is on your right as you approach the North Fields and had an irrigation boom in it. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 58, Site 1b)
A flock of ~80 was in the Ovda Valley. These were on the right-hand side about 2 Km down the side road which branches off Route 12 on the left (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 86, Site 4) The side road is marked by a “Camel Riders” sign.
One bird was seen with the Thick-Billed Lark Flock in the Ovda Valley (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 86, Site 4)
A flock of >70 was seen in the North Fields at Yotvata as they fed with a flock of Short-Toed Lark. They favoured the area of Melons, the area of newly-mown grass and the large bare field to the South. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 58, Sites 1a and 1b)
Two birds were seen at Yotvata around the area of newly-mown grass and the large bare field to the South (where the Caspian Plovers were). One was a classic adult male who flew through the area and the other was an adult female which was hunting over the mown grass. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 58, Sites 1a and 1b). A Female was also seen along the Nizzana-Ezuz Road Site ( Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 128, Site 3 ).
First encountered at Mount Gilboa near the large layby near Km 4.(Shirihai Northern Guide, Page 98, Site 3). Also seen in the Acacia Grove between Km 50 and Km 51 off Route 90 South of Yotvata. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 58, Site 2b) and in Nahal Arugot at the Dead Sea (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 113, Site 4)
Recorded in good numbers at Kfar Ruppin Fishponds (Shirihai Northern Guide, Page 80, Site 1)and at the Km 20 Saltpans outside Eilat. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 50, Site 1) Also a single seen at Ma’agan Mikhael
A group of 6 seen in one of the ponds at Kfar Ruppin feeding with Little Stints, Ruff and Marsh Sandpipers. (Shirihai Northern Guide, Page 80, Site 1)
Pallas’s Gull ( Great Black-headed Gull )
Seen well at the Kfar Ruppin complex around the Southernmost of the two large reservoirs. Both adult and juvenile-types seen. (Shirihai Northern Guide, Page 80, Site 1) Also seen at Neve Eitan Fishponds. (Shirihai Northern Guide, Page 80, Site 2)
Seen first at Neve Eitan Fishponds where there were several loafing on the banks (Shirihai Northern Guide, page 80, Site 2) and also at Ma’agan Mikhael Fishponds.
Seen very well at the Km 19 Sewage Ponds outside Eilat. 3 birds seen in the reeds at the North-Western corner including adults and juvenile-types. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 50, Site 5)
About 4 birds were seen at Kfar Ruppin Fishponds perched on wires (Shirihai Northern Guide, Page 80, Site 1)
Seen at the Km 40 Sewage Ponds Site outside Eilat (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 60, Site 4c) Also seen at Kfar Ruppin Fishponds in the areas of Papyrus Reeds. (Shirihai Northern Guide, Page 80, Site 1) One bird seen at the North West Corner of the Sewage Pond at Km 19 outside Eilat (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 50, Site 5)
Target Species Not Seen
Searched for fairly thoroughly at the Acacia Grove between Km 50 and Km 51 on Route 90 South of Yotvata on the left hand side as you approach from Eilat. Several Sylvia Warblers were present in the area including Eastern Orphean and Ruppell’s but Arabian was not seen. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 58, Site 2b)
Tried the En Netafim Spring Site for this species but no joy whatsoever. Only Tristram’s Grackles & Sand Partridge seen here. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 41, Site 2). Did not try the Amram’s Pillars Site
Searched the offshore fishing platforms at North Beach, Eilat on a couple of occasions but no birds of this species seen. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 24, Site 1) I also had a look by the Marina on the morning of the 21st.
Tried the area of Pines adjacent to the football pitch beside the roundabout/ gas station at Mitzpe Ramon but no birds seen. Was scoping the Pines from the rear of the gas station on a fairly windy day. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 91, Site 1)
Several Sites looked promising for this species i.e Neve Eitan Fishponds, Kfar Ruppin Fishponds and Ma’agan Mikhael Fishponds but none were seen.
Hoped I might get this species at the Nizzana Sewage Ponds but none were seen, although I did get Black-bellied & Spotted Sandgrouse here. This is supposed to be the most difficult of the Sandgrouse Species though. I didn’t try the Shizzafon Sewage Ponds Site.
Searched for at North Beach, Eilat on the offshore fishing platforms and by the canal outflow but none seen. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 24, Site 1)
Tried the Km 33 Lark Area Site for this species on a couple of occasions but it was devoid of any birds at all. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 60, Site 6)
Tried the En Salvadori Site located between Km 250 and Km 251 on Route 90 but no birds seen, although I did get Desert Lark, Sand Partridge and White-Crowned Black Wheatear here. This is the steep climb marked by blue & white stones (Richard Bonser Trip Report, Spring 2008)
Tried for this species at the North Fields, Yotvata. Although I didn’t see any, this must be the ideal Site for this species as it attracts so many Larks & Pipits. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 58, Site 1a)
Didn’t really hold out any major hopes of seeing this species but thought the Km 33 Lark Area might be productive. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 60, Site 6)
Bar-tailed Desert Lark
Searched for at the Km 33 Lark Area which proved really unproductive (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 60, Site 6)
Temminck’s Horned Lark
Searched for this species around the Km 58 point on Route 40 South of Mitzpe Ramon (Hameishar Plain) but none were seen. Also searched for at Km 33 Lark Area outside Eilat. (Shirihai Southern Guide, page 60, Site 6)
Hoped I might encounter this species in the Acacias at Nahal Arugot but none seen. Possibly too late in the year for wintering Cyprus Warbler(?). (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 113, Site 4). None encountered in the Acacia at En Netafim or at Km 50-51, Yotvata either. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 58, Site 2b)
Searched at Urim for this species but the area was devoid of interesting raptors bar a large flock of Black Kite. Maybe the end of March is too late in the year for this Site(?) (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 145, Site 3)
Checked North Beach, Eilat and offshore buoys and platforms for this species but none seen (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 24, Site 1)
Lesser Spotted Eagle
Had been hoping for some migrating through the Eilat Mountains but none were seen.
Didn’t really search too hard for this species. Thought that Yotvata or the Cattle Sheds behind the Km 19 Sewage Ponds might produce them but none seen. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 50, Site 5)
Dead Sea Sparrow
Searched the mixed Sparrow flocks at the Cattle Sheds behind the Km 19 Sewage ponds for Dead Sea Sparrow but only House and Spanish Sparrow were seen. (Shirihai Southern Guide, Page 50, Site 5)
Pale Rock Sparrow
Did not know any good Sites for Pale Rock Sparrow and had no chance encounters with this species
Checklist of Species
Bold = Personal First Time Sighting
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Pintail Anas acuta
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
Eurasian Teal Anas crecca
Garganey Anas querquedula
Common Pochard Aythya farina
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula
Black Francolin ( heard but not seen ) Francolinus francolinus
Chukar Alectoris chukar
Sand Partridge Ammoperdix heyi
Common Quail Coturnix coturnix
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
White Pelican Pelecanus crispus
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Pygmy Cormorant Phalacrocorax pygmeus
Black-Crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
Cattle Egret Bulbulcus ibis
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Western Reef Egret Egretta gularis
Great Egret Casmerodius albus
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea
White Stork Ciconia ciconia
Black Stork Ciconia nigra
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus
Osprey Pandion haliaetus
Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca
Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga
Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis
Short-Toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus
Black Kite Milvus migrans
Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus
Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus
Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus
Long-Legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus
Steppe Buzzard Buteo buteo vulpinus
Eurasian Sparrrowhawk Accipter nisus
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Peregrine Falco peregrines
Little Crake Porzana parva
Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Common Coot Fulica atra
Common Crane Grus grus
Macqueen’s Bustard Chlamydotis macqueenii
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta
Black-Winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus
Cream-Coloured Courser Cursorius cursor
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
Caspian Plover Charadrius asiaticus
Spur-Winged Plover Vanellus spinosus
Dunlin Calidris alpina
Temminck’s Stint Calidris temminckii
Little Stint Calidris minuta
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Common Redshank Tringa tetanus
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis
Black-Tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago
Ruff Philomachus pugnax
Black-Headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Slender-Billed Gull Chroicocephalus genei
Armenian Gull Larus armenicus
Pallas’s Gull Larus ichthyaetus
Baltic Gull Larus fuscus
Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia
Black-Bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis
Pin-Tailed Sandgrouse Pterocles alchata
Spotted Sandgrouse Pterocles senegallus
Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse Pterocles lichtensteinii
Rock Dove Columba livia
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
Laughing Dove Streptopelia sengalensis
Barn Owl Tyto alba
Common Swift Apus apus
Pallid Swift Apus pallidus
Alpine Swift Apus melba
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
White-Throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis
Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis
Blue-Cheeked Bee-eater Merops persicus
Little Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis
Syrian Woodpecker Dendrocopus syriacus
Crested Lark Galerida cristata
Greater Short-Toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla
Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti
Bimaculated Lark Melanocorypha bimaculata
Thick-Billed Lark Ramphocoris clotbey
Sand Martin Riparia riparia
Rock Martin Ptyonoprogne fuligula
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Red-Rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica
House Martin Delichon urbicum
Long-Billed Pipit Anthus similis
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi
Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta coutelli
Red-Throated Pipit Anthus cervinus
White Wagtail Motacilla alba
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava feldegg
Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
Bluethroat Luscinia svecica
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros semirufus
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina
Eastern Black-Eared Wheatear Oenanthe melanoleuca
Cyprus Pied Wheatear Oenanthe cypriaca
Finsch’s Wheatear Oenanthe finschii
Mourning Wheatear Oenanthe lugens
Hooded Wheatear Oenanthe monacha
White-Crowned Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucopyga
Blackstart Cercomela melanura
Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti
Stonechat Saxicola torquatus
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitaries
Scrub Warbler Scotocerca inquieta
Graceful Prinia Prinia gracilis
Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis
Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca
Eastern Orphean Warbler Sylvia crassirostris
Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala
Ruppell’s Warbler Sylvia rueppelli
Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata
Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus
Cetti’s Warbler ( heard but not seen ) Cettia cetti
Reed Warbler ( heard but not seen ) Acrocephalus scirpaceus fuscus
Clamorous Reed Warbler Acrocephalus stentoreus
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus
Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler Phylloscopus orientalis
Great Grey Shrike Lanus excubitor
Yellow-Vented Bulbul Pynonotus xanthopygos
Palestine Sunbird Cinnyrus osea
Arabian Babbler Turdoides squamiceps
Jay Garrulus glandarius atricapillus
Jackdaw Corvus monedula
Hooded Crow Corvus cornix
Brown-Necked Raven Corvus ruficollis
Fan-Tailed Raven Corvus rhipidurus
Indian House Crow Corvus splendens
Tristram’s Grackle Onychognathus tristramii
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis
Greenfinch Chloris chloris
Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus
Cretzschmar’s Bunting Emberiza caesia
Cinereous Bunting Emberiza cineracea
Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra
Common Mynah Acridotheres tristris
Rose-Ringed Parakeeet Psittacula krameri