Birding Report: 1-2 March, 2010

After an unusual winter here in the Arava desert where there was much more rain than had fallen in the past five years, I went out to have a look around within twelve kilometers from home. I was with another birder and we started out going north to Km 76. Because of the rains, the plain was one green carpet. It was raining again in the morning. We saw the usual wintering and early migratory species around here: Crested Lark, White Wagtail and Stonechat. In addition, there were a large number of Chiffchaff and Northern Wheatear, primarily females. Among them were three Isabelline Wheatears , that stood up especially straight. It started to rain harder, so we decided to head further south.

On the way down we kept scanning the sky for overhead migration, but it was very lean. We did see one Steppe Buzzard and one Lesser Spotted Eagle , though.

A quick stop at Ketura Sewage did not reveal a lot of interesting birds, just a large number of Spanish Sparrows. We were looking for Namaqua Dove, which likes to sit on the fence of the sewage ponds, but no luck this time. Also, there was little going on south of the Ketura dairy barn, so we decided to continue on south. We stopped at the Yotvata Inn for a coffee and went around the back to have a look. There we saw at least 20 Tristram’s Starlings in one bush, both the males and females displaying well. They are residents there, so it was no surprise. For my birding partner this was a first, as well as three Hoopoes that were playing a game of catch around one of the trees.

We decided to continue south about two kilometers to the Acacia grove west of the road. We were greeted with the song of the Palestine Sunbirds from the tops of the trees. Last year there was a pair of Arabian Warblers sighted there, so we tried our luck. We saw quite a few Blackstarts and Yellow-vented Bulbuls, that are very common. After about an hour of searching, we finally sighted one Arabian Warbler, which was playing a game of hide-and-seek with us. For a long time, we just got glimpses of it, but finally we got a good look at it. There were also at least six Little Green Bee-eaters around in the grove. Just as we were about to leave, we saw the silhouette of an Arabian Babbler, which was back-lit by the sun. The characteristic swishing of the tail was very obvious.

From there, we went back to Yotvata and went to the circular fields east of the kibbutz. The northern and southern fields presented a lot of Crested Larks and Red-throated Pipits. To top off the day, we wanted to see whether the Hoopoe Lark would still be around. After a short drive, we got out of the car and almost immediately heard the beautiful call of the bird. Since we were right at the border road with Jordan, we were limited to the west side of the border. We heard the call at least another six times, but even after more than one hour of searching, we could not locate it. It was obviously quite far in Jordanian territory, and had no intention of presenting itself.

On the way back home, we decided to have a look at Ketura Sewage again, and saw one Green Sandpiper. There were of course the obligatory Spur-winged Plovers and the Collared Doves that are in the area by the hundreds. On a whim we went to the northern edge of the Ketura date plantation, and saw two Arabian Babblers perched on top of a dead branch. Little Green Bee-eaters were flitting all about here too. I bid farewell to my fellow birder who was heading back north, and headed home.

The next day, I had a guiding job unrelated to birding to do in Eilat and headed down earlier to see what was going on at North Beach. On a raft off-shore there was a whole colony of gulls, White-eyed Gulls and White-headed Gulls. I heard a report that a Pied Kingfisher might be in the canal north of the beach, but no luck. There were a few Grey Herons and Little Egrets about, but that is quite normal for this part of the year.

After finishing the guiding work, I headed back home to Lotan to bird around the kibbutz. There were Chiffchaffs and Lesser Whitethroats, as well as Whitethroats. A small flock of Red-throated Pipits arrived at the pool in the afternoon.

I wanted to take a look at Km 76 again, not in the rain and that proved very successful. There were at least three dozen Temminck’s Horned Larks on the green pasture, which makes a very dramatic picture against the backdrop of the barren mountains. In addition, I saw twenty Northern Wheatears and five Isabelline Wheatears. It was a good ending to the day.

David Schoneveld

Licensed Tour Guide and birder, Kibbutz Lotan

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