Spring Summary 2004 - Part 2
Quails could be seen in good numbers and late Bluethroats could be seen scurrying on the ground, acting territorial and a few even seen singing, perhaps practicing for their northern breeding grounds.
A group of ringers from the UK spent 10 days on Lotan from early April. The mornings were devoted to ringing in Lotan's organic garden and we birded in the afternoons. Over 700 birds were ringed, many of these being "ringing ticks" for Chris, Gary , Jackie and Oscar, we hope to bring a detailed summary of the teams ringing adventures soon.
On the 1 st of April we noted a beautiful flock of 1600 White Storks over K33 where there were also 4 Temminck's Larks and 40 Short-toed Larks.
At Eilat's north beach there were 4 Pomarine Skuas, 4 Palla's Gulls and a nice flock of 59 Night Herons that came in from the sea. A long duck like bird in the water about a kilometer away had us puzzled, but was thought to be a Merganser. On the morning of the 2 nd we were delighted to find a Red-breasted Merganser at the K19 sewage pool with some other ducks, probably our mystery bird from the evening before. The season's first flocks of migrant Collared Pratincoles and breeding Turtle Doves made an appearance during the first week of April. The green and moist circular fields of Yotvata acted as true magnets holding up to 300 Red-throated Pipits, hundreds of Yellow Wagtails and good numbers of Short-toed Larks and Ortolan Buntings. On April 9 th 2 Richard's Pipits were present as was a juvenile Pallid Harrier.
This is when we understood that we are in the middle of an invasion of this extremely rare passage migrant, an invasion that occurred for the last time exactly 10 years ago. On April 14 th no less than 6 White-throated Robins were seen in the southern Arava, and an astonishing 7 birds were found the following day.
This major influx of White-throated Robins coincided with an amazing wave of Semi-collared Flycatchers. No less than 80 birds were seen, with the first groups of birds arriving at precisely the same dates as the White-throated Robins. On the 10 th of April we saw 2 birds, but on the 11 th no less than 22 Semi-collared Flycatchers were seen around Lotan only !! .The following week large numbers of Semi-collared Flycatchers were present all over southern Israel, and in the Arava it seemed that every bunch of trees held a few. I actually noted birds while driving on the Arava road.
The second week of April was so exciting with so many White-throated Robins and Semi-collared Flycatchers, that the arrival of many interesting and rare migrants was overshadowed. The year's first Corncrakes showed up, large numbers of European Bee-eaters and smaller numbers of Blue-cheecked Bee-eaters could be seen hawking over Lotan daily. Common and Thrush Nightingales could be found and good numbers of Whinchats and Wood Warblers were seen. On the 10 th of April we ringed a Scops Owl on Lotan.
As if all this was not enough the year's first Olive-tree Warblers and the rarer yet Upcher's Warblers showed up, as a preface to a good wave of Hippolais warblers a bit later in the season.
Another male Caspian Plover gave good views at Yotvata fields on the 16 th .
On April 19 th there was a male Ferruginous Duck at Yotvata, where we noted the year's first group of 10 Honey Buzzards that flew over with an adult Hobby.
Amazing birding carried on into the third week of April. Single Collared Flycatchers, Golden Orioles, Spotted Flycatchers and the first Barred Warblers were noticeable. The birding sites around Eilat were excellent with Sooty and Cory's Shearwaters and Arctic and Pomarine Skuas seen daily off the north beach, and wader numbers increasing at the various pools and reservoirs. On the 21 st of April we noted 400 Honey Buzzards and a female Pallid Harrier over the Eilat Mountains . At k20 there was a female Curlew and a Terek Sandpiper was still present. Casual as it may sound, on the 21 st and 22 nd of April up to 4 White-throated Robins and up to 12 Semi-collared Flycatchers were still present at various locations.
The 28 th of April opened with raging winds and heat and I was back on Lotan with my clients by 11:30 in the morning. In the afternoon the wind died down and I decided to change our plans of going to the north beach and instead checked the fields of Yotvata. This turned out to be a good choice as I was fortunate enough to find a spectacular male Black-crowned Finch Lark. This extremely rare Lark has not been recorded in Israel in the past 15 years and was a great "lifer" for me and for the many birders that managed to get to it on time. The knock on effect of many birders in the area also produced yet another male Caspian Plover and a late Thick-billed Lark.
Many birders are aware of the potential of spring in southern Israel . Much has been said about the great variety of species and great views that are the norm. Every Spring Has it's surprises, but there really isn't a way to describe the feeling of birding when you know that the next bush or field might hold an astonishing rarity. Such was the feeling nearly every day of April 2004, and May still had a few surprises for us. Stay tuned.
Jonathan Meyrav and the birdingisrael team
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