Birding this year in the Arava is very unusual compared to previous years. The amount of rainfall that we had, more than we had in the past 20 years, has made finding birds more diffuse. The hotspots around Lotan are km 76 (Qa e-Sa’eddin) and Ovda Valley. Both are very green, and very muddy, because of the rains.
Yesterday I went with another birder to Ovda Valley. The lush greenery there, where I am used to seeing brown and sand colors was amazing. The wildflowers were just magnificent. We saw a lot of larks flying around, but as soon as they landed they disappeared in the grass. We had heard that there were Thick-billed Larks , and after a bit of looking, we did spot two. The white trailing edge on the wings was very obvious in flight. Other birders had said that there were at least 10 in the area.
Today at km 76 it had been raining and that put a damper on overhead migration. There were at least 40 White Storks and well over 50 Steppe Buzzards that were resting. Some of the storks looked very exhausted. There were at least 50 Red-throated Pipits around as well as Water Pipits, along with lots of wheatears. I saw several Black-eared Wheatears, Northern Wheatears and at least one Isabelline Wheatear. When the rain started to let up, the overhead migration got underway.
The first Steppe Buzzards got underway at around 9:30 a.m. After a short hiatus, we saw well over 200 Black Storks , with a few White Storks mixed in. They were migrating with Black Kites , Short-toed Eagles , and one Egyptian Vulture . We went from there to the Neot Smadar date plantation, just north of the Lotan date plantation. We saw two Ortolan Buntings, a Kestrel in a tree, a Turtle Dove and what seemed like a Steppe Buzzard resting in every fifth date tree. The Lesser Whitethroats and the Chiffchaffs were bounding around in the trees too. We got a rare bird alert that there was a Grey Hypocolius and a Black Bushrobin in Holland Park in Eilat, but decided to wait it out so that the excitement would die down a bit. On the way back into Lotan I saw five Hoopoes sitting on the electricity wires, and remarked that there were usually many around this year.
Licensed Tourguide and Birder, Kibbutz Lotan