Early April 2005 - Birding field report
We all held our breath on March 31 st, when at around 10:00 am the winds started gathering momentum and sand started forming in the Lotan area. Around 11:00 the southeastern winds reached 50-60 kph and a sandstorm was in full swing. These conditions are good for only one thing birding wise, and that is a seawatch off the north beach at Eilat. And it was indeed a rewarding seawatch. Rami Lindroos, Tomer L, Avishay Shoresh and others were amazed to find a Lesser-crested Tern resting on the structure 250 meters ' offshore and 25 minutes later yet another rare Tern landed in the same spot. This Tern that nearly equaled in size with a nearby Black-headed Gull and was very dark overall was a Crested Tern, a great find with only around 20 previous records in Israel .
The days following the storm were relatively quiet. The cold front that moved in grounded most soaring birds and almost no migration was evident on the 1 st-3rd April.
I had an interesting stop at the Meishar plain on the 2 nd. A small green spot held several Bimaculated Larks, Tawny Pipits and a female Desert Wheatear. Not far I found 9 feeding Spotted Sandgrouse and a beautiful Asian Desert Warbler.
A bit further south in the Zihor area I enjoyed good views of 2 Temminck's Horned Larks, hopefully a breeding pair. Liron Ziv and I had another Tem. Horned Lark fly over at K33 on the morning of the 3 rd.
During the first days of April we had several Collared and Semi-collared Flycatchers in various sites here in the southern Arava. Always single birds and to date only males.The 4th was an awesome spring day and the Lotan-Yotvata area was the place to be.
The Australian Bottlebrush trees are blooming and are packed with Lesser Whitethroats and Blackcaps.The lawns on the kibbutz host Yellow Wagtails, Tree Pipits, Wrynecks, Quail, Hoopoes and usually a Shrike or two. On top of all these I found a beautiful male Collared Flycatcher near the dining room in the morning and around 40 European Bee-eaters passed low overhead. At the Yotvata circular fields we found good numbers of Ortolan Buntings, Tree and Red-throated Pipits and Yellow Wagtails of several races. 2 Richard's Pipits were feeding in the high grass and small parties of Short-toed Larks flew around. An exhilarating sight was a first year Lanner that sped by us in a low hunting flight and flushed 2 Squacco Herons from the ground. Dozens of European Bee-eaters and with them single Blue-checked Bee eaters passed over the fields. What an excellent patch. At the Ye'elim holiday village 4 Wood Warblers were flicking around the trees, a good bird down here.
To add spice to the day a probable first year male Rose-coulored Starling was seen briefly just west of the Lotan dining room around mid-day. Unfortunately it wasn't relocated… and Lotan is very small. This is Lotan's second ever record of Rose-coloured Starling.
The 5 th of April started with a party of 60 Black Storks on the ground near the Ketura date plantation where also a male Collared Flycatcher was busy avoiding a very aggressive Redstart. Raptor passage was very strong by the late morning hours and an estimated 4000 Steppe Buzzards passed over Lotan with dozens of Black Kites and several Steppe Eagles. An interesting site were 7 Baltic Gulls migrating over Lotan with the raptors. The gradual buildup of Ficedula Flycatchers is slowly gathering momentum with at least 3 Collared Flycatchers, 2 Semi-collared and one possible Pied Flycatcher on Lotan alone, and several more Coll. and Semi coll. seen elsewhere between Eilat and Lotan. This is still nothing like last springs awesome wave of Semi-collared Flycatchers, but it’s a start, and a fun one at that.
Pied Flycatcher is undoubtedly the rarest of Israel 's Ficedula Flycatchers, in spring at least, and I needed extensive looks at the Lotan bird that I first saw on the 5 th. I spent several hours during a 2 day period working the field marks before being happy with the identification as Pied Flycatcher. Two visiting dutch birders also saw the bird and believe it to be a Pied. I am attaching several images of this bird for your judgment. I will be happy to hear any comments.
More will follow soon.
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