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>> Birding Reports

Southern Israel, 1-8/FEB/06
Wouter Puyk

To escape the Dutch winter cold, a short winter visit was made to the Southern deserts of Israel. Being my third trip to Israel, the main purpose was not to see as many species as possible but doing some general birding focussed on Raptors and Sandgrouse.

After arriving late afternoon the 1st at Ovda airport, just enough time was left to drive to the North Beach Eilat .A few White-eyed Gulls were offshore, 1 ad. Caspian Tern was fouraging and quite a lot of Little Egrets and Slender-billed Gulls were going to roost on the saltpans.

Next morning whilst taking the luggage to the car, a small group of birds was crouched close together on the pavement at the edge of the car park of kibuttz Eilot. With my hands full, being unable to reach for the binoculars, I could only guess what these birds were until they took flight calling as Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse. After breakfast the nearby wadis were searched in order to relocate the sandgrouse . They were found in the nearest wadi to the kibbutz giving close views.
After the curious experience with the Sandgrouse a journey was made to the NW Negev. Highlight along the way was an ad. Bonelli’s Eagle working it’s way to the north, mobbed by a Common Kestrel and a large falcon spec., 1 km southeast of the Shizzafon sewage pools.
A Great Spotted Cuckoo crossed the road at the Telanim junction. Arriving at late afternoon to the NW Negev gave the opportunity to spend the last hour of daylight on the Ze’elim – Urim road. Best birds were 2 ad. Peregrines, 1 female type Merlin, 1 ad. Eastern Imperial Eagle , 2 Long-legged Buzzards ,1 female Hen Harrier and a distant large unidentified falcon perched on a pylon East of the road, which proved to be an ad. Saker on the following days. The night was spend at kibbutz Gevulot, Barn Owl is a common bird in the kibbutz surroundings and fairly easy to see.

Next day was spend at the fields along the Ze’elim-Urim road mainly by walking, since the tracks were to muddy to drive through. The ad. Saker was sitting most of the time in one of the pylons and took flight twice to steal prey from a Common Kestrel and a Black Kite, with ease. The fields were full of Larks, mainly Skylarks, and also Corn Buntings, Spanish Sparrows and Pipits.

On the 4th of February an early start to Nizzana was made. The sewage pools attracted ducks (Shelduck, Shoveler, Common Teal, Mallard), waders (Little Stint, Redshank, Spur-winged Plover, Green Sandpiper) and 3 Little Grebes. Runners in between the Nizzana Project and Nizzana Fortress flushed 3 Macqueen’s Bustards.
Sandgrouse numbers were low, 55 Black-bellied- and 7 Crowned Sandgrouse came in to drink.
Late afternoon large numbers of Black Kites were above the rubbish dump near Gevulot, amongst them a pale morph Booted Eagle and a Common Buzzard.

On sunday the 5th some birding was made near Sede Boqer. A few kilometres north of there, a Black Vulture was soaring with 2 Griffon Vultures and an ad. Bonelli’s Eagle was hunting above Ein Avdat. A small flock of Syrian Serins were flying to a roost near the entrance of kibbutz Sede Boqer.
Before travelling to Ein Gedi on the 6th, a second visit to Nizzana was worthwile with 4 Macqueen’s Bustards at their regular site. Also there a few singing Bar-tailed Desert Larks, 1 Desert Wheatear, small numbers of both Sand Partridge and Chukar and a group of 22 Crowned Sandgrouse flying overhead, with Pintailed and Spotted Sandgrouse heard only.
At the sewage pools, 1 male Spotted and over 50 Black-bellied Sandgrouse came to drink.

At Ein Gedi and surroundings, on the following day, the best bird was a male Cyprus Warbler in the wadi near the nature reserves.
After lunch I set out back to Eilat. Just north of the Dead Sea factories, a fully hooded Barbary Falcon was patrolling the cliffs.

Last morning some sites in Eilat were made with the regular birds.
A Daurian Shrike at the scrub south of the 20 km saltpans was a beautiful bird to end the trip.


Wouter Puyk, Holland

Long-legged Buzzard Saker Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse Daurian Shrike

Little Owl
(Athena noctua) Ashalim, Feb.06

White-breasted Kingfisher
(Halcyon smyrensis) Hula reserve, Jan.05

Greater Sand Plover
(Charadrius leschenaultii) Eilat, Mar.05
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