Spring Summary 2004 - Part 2

[+] Click on the pictures to enlarge

April is always a transitional period in spring migration in the southern Arava. The spring's slow start was now forgotten with large "waves" of Wrynecks (up to 20 birds a day) and Blackcaps (hundreds) feeding on every green patch. E Bonnelli's and Olivaceous Warblers dot the acacia Scrub and on the ground hundreds of Red-throated Pipits and Yellow Wagtails could be found anywhere with some water.

Scops Owl
Scops Owl [+]

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.

April 10 th was the first day of an unforgettable period of birding in the southern Arava. The morning on Lotan was good with 2 Citrine Wagtails present, but the big news came later. D.Shapiro found a beautiful male White-throated Robin at the Acacia scrub in Yotvata. This rare passage migrant caused a great stir and many of Israel 's birders came to get great views of this attractive bird. No one could have predicted that during the following 10 days or so, over 30 birds would be seen in southern Israel

.Another beautiful male White throated Robin was found at Lotan's organic garden on the 12 th and more birds were seen every day. Single White-throated Robins were seen at various locations on the 13 th of April.

White-throated Robin
White-throated Robin [+]

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.

The 13 th of April was one of my best birding days ever. It started with 14 Levant Sparrowhawks , the first flock of the year, seen rising from Ketura date plantation. I found the springs only male Cinereous Bunting at Yotvata, where I noted 14 Semi-collared Flycatchers. That afternoon in Eilat there were 2 Terek Sandpipers, 2 Caspian Plovers and a Citrine Wagtail. A mini wave of Lesser Grey Shrikes was noticeable on the 15 th and 16 th of April, with up to 6 birds daily.

Collared Flycather
Collared Flycather [+]

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.

On the 25 th of April I noted my last White-throated Robin for the season on Lotan where we also found an Olive Tree Warbler, an Upcher's Warbler and a late female Semi-collared Flycatcher.

At the end of April, with such amazing birding that proceeding month I knew that there was still a rare bird to be found to really wrap up one of the best birding months I remembered.

Lesser Grey Shrike
Lesser Grey Shrike [+]

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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Contact info

Daphna Abell
Program Coordinator

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