Birding update winter 2011

The winter here at Lotan has been quiet in terms of the birds that were here and in terms of rainfall. We have had several days with cloudy skies and heavy clouds, but they did not produce any large amounts of rainfall. So far this winter we have had about 5 mm of rainfall. That is not enough to make the surrounding wadis (riverbeds) green. Last year we had a day with a lot of rainfall and that had a profound effect on spring birding. My forecast is that most of the birds are going to be seen on the green spots in the Arava, namely the Kibbutzim and the agricultural fields that belong to them.

Winter species that we have had here are the samamisicus subspecies of the Common Redstart , the Stonechat and the Whinchat . The Pied Wagtail was here all winter, along with the Bluethroat , both in lesser numbers than in previous years. We had a few Tawny Pipits that were here a few days. We have had a flock of Hoopoes that have made Lotan their home. The Blackstarts are here, as usual, and completely not shy. In January we had a small number of Green Sandpipers in our constructed wetlands. We also hear the Graceful Prinia calling in the same area and see it flitting about in the shrubs. The resident Barbary Falcon hunts above the kibbutz regularly. I did see an enormous eagle flying about last week, but being without binoculars at that moment could not make a definite identification.  Today we had twenty White Storks flying overhead at 11:30 a.m. We did see the first Chiffchaffs show up this week, and the first House Martins come in.

A few days ago we saw a small colony of Dead Sea Sparrows in the canal behind the cattle quarantine station at Km 19. The day we arrived at the site, there was a strong southerly wind, and the makings of a sandstorm. We had heard a report from a group of Danish birders that there was a White Pelican at the sewage pond, but by the time we arrived it had flown on. We did have a relatively large group of Cormorants, along with a number of Shelducks. There were also three Pied Kingfishers in the canal north of North Beach, along with two Little Egrets.

At  Km 20 we had a larger group, perhaps over 50 Shelducks, over a hundred Green Sandpipers , and large numbers of Little Ringed Plovers. The Greater Flamingoes that are there year-round made for a beautiful backdrop for the other species. Most of the flamingoes were already pink, although a few gray ones were still visible.

I am waiting with bated breath for the start of spring migration which should get underway towards the end of February.

David Schoneveld

Licensed Tour Guide and birdwatcher

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