I am adding an update this time which is different from previous ones. Frank X. Moffatt, who has been to Lotan numerous times has been kind enough to let me have a peek at his birding diary. He, too, says that this year has been the best year for birding in at least ten years, if not more.
Here, a picture of the Semi-collared Flycatcher:
He told me that he did not leave Lotan at all for the first three days because birding was so good. Enjoy!
Here we go…
Black Redstart 3
C. Redstart samamisicus and nominate
E. Starling – single
CITRINE WAGTAIL – single male
Water Pipit 10+
Red-throated Pipit 2+
Cretzschmar’s Bunting – lots
CINEREOUS BUNTING – single
Common Whitethroat – single
Little Ringed Plover
Common Swift – good northward passage
Ruppell’s Warbler – single
The Cinereous Bunting was a bonus. Bit of a bogey bird in the Arava for me – this is the first! Was actually hunting for a reported ‘unusual’ wheatear but came across this among the hordes of Cretzschmar’s. Very nice.
I won’t report on the following as they are pretty much around all the time but if I sense a Spanish Sparrow movement I’ll note it: Laughing and Common Dove, Spectacled Bulbul, Graceful Prinia, House Sparrow, Spur-winged Plover.
Spanish Sparrows, Blackcaps and Lesser Whitethroats are everywhere. samamisicus Redstarts and nominates are common especially the former, as are White Wagtails, Water Pipits and House Sparrow. Easy to find are Red-throated and Tree Pipit, Hoopoe, Bluethroat -red spots usually (svecica) plus a single white spot (cyanecula) but I haven’t looked at all of them by any stretch, Stonechat – including at least two variegata and numerous maura – and Black-eared Wheatears. Also a couple of Desert Wheatears nearby plus the flock of c.250 Short-toed Larks on the east side of the cattle sheds. Also nice was Blue Rock Thrush which I’ve been told has been here for about a week, Citrine Wagtail still at the wetlands and of course the Cinerous Bunting.
The Common Swift movement seems to have stopped and there was litte obvious sign of overhead migration. Got to be careful because I wasn’t actually looking up a great deal. Still managed a Steppe Eagle, three Black Kites and a Steppe Buzzard. Early morning there were a few more noted apparently but involving the same species.
Also managed single Quail, Common Whitethroat, Black-headed Wagtail again (slight yellow super) and what looked like a single Ortolan plus Blackstart, Little Ringed Plover and Green Sandpiper. Add all the regulars into the pot.
Perhaps not a big species mix but impressive nevertheless. And you get the feel anything could turn up. Mind you I always think that here.
Early morning spent around Lotan again. Wetlands first, then across via the dunes to the eastern end of cow sheds, up through the organic gardens and then continue towards the goat herd.
Weather: cool, dusty, hazy, windy start. No real cloud just dust caused by the F3-4 gusting 5 northerly winds. Only plus is that it keeps the temps down and gives relief from the strong sunlight. As it turned out wind blew quite hard all day. Pretty dusty.
No obvious sign of a change here. Citrine Wagtail still around. A Little Stint was new in. Still loads of birds.
Wandered towards the cow sheds across the dunes because normally there’s a sizeable wet area but for whatever reason it’s just a smallish puddle right now. Still it attracted Water Pipit, White Wagtail, Cretzschmar’s and a couple of Short-toed Larks.
The rear of the cow sheds still held the flock of c.250 Short-toed Larks but no sign of any bigger ones among them.
The organic gardens were a little quieter if anything and no change here either except my first Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler.
Despite playing extremely hard to get yesterday I gave the area adjacent to the goats a try and low and behold first bird I saw was the Cinereous Bunting present now for at least three days. It was mixing among the hordes of Cretzschmar’s – at least 50 in this area alone.
Dust levels quite high now so headed back down to Lotan for a drink, a rest and a bite to eat. Another excellent morning.
Waited until mid-afternoon before braving the dust but restricted myself to the Kibbutz. Seems as good a place as anywhere right now. Finished off with a circuit of the swimming pool. A few Quail were flushed, still a few Common Swifts battling hard to make northward progress and a couple of Steppe Buzzards that seemd to give up and drop into the Kibbutz grounds. Two Little Green Bee-eaters were on the pool perimeter wires. So little change species wise. Still plenty of birds around and all still to play for. By night fall the dust hadn’t begun to settle. Hopefully a little less windy tomorrow or at least a change in direction that’ll enable things to calm down.
Unfortunately I have to leave Kibbutz Lotan tomorrow. I’m booked into Kibbutz Yahel which is a little further north. Some good areas close by so I’ll see what it brings. I return to Lotan on 25th March.
21 March – Day 4
Morning 0600-1145 Kibbutz Lotan
Slow walk across to the Wetlands then pretty much follwed same route as yesterday i.e. dunes and damp areas between; rear of cow sheds; organic gardens; swimming pool area; through kibbutz grounds to goat herd vicinity; breakfast; kibbutz grounds.
Weather: hazy start but clearly less wing F2 but still from north; cloud 0/0 but 8/8 haze; warmed considerably by late morning.
General birding: brilliant. Although I wasn’t seeing new species (for the trip) except for a stunning male Cyprus Warbler in the organic gardens, there were absolutely loads of birds everywhere. Plus I was getting stunning views at close range. I’m using my tried and trusted point and shoot Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20 but for the ‘real’ photographers out there this is paradise – surely. You can basically sit down anywhere that takes your fancy and the birds will come to you.
You’ll all have heard stories about bird numbers being dramatically reduced in the southern Arava during spring passage in recent years. Unfortunately these stories have not been exagerated; I can vouch for that. But so far this has been like a blast from the past. Fingers crossed it continues.
Cinereous Bunting – 4th day
Citrine Wagtail – still
feldegg – still
CYPRUS WARBLER – stunning male in the organic gardens
Savi’s Warbler – at least one singing at the wetlands
Reed Warbler – looked pretty much like this species at the wetlands.
Woodchat Shrike – single east of the organic gardens
Little Green Bee-eaters – two east of the organic gardens again.
Short-toed Larks – main group still rear of cow sheds but also several others around and small groups north overhead.
Penduline Tit – what sounded like one called 3-4 times east of the wetlands.
Common Whitethroat – organic gardens.
There were still hordes of the species noted on previous days. The lawns of the kibbutz gardens were interesting. You could see Quail, Tree Pipit, samamisicus and nominate Redstart, Blackstart, Black-eared Wheatear, Siberian Stonechat, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Lesser Whitethroat, Spannish and House Sparrow in a single garden.
Overhead migration was sporadic with kettles of 25-30 Steppe Buzzards occasionally, Black Kite, Common Swift and Barn Swallow all heading north.
A great morning. Checking out very soon and heading a little further north to Kibbutz Yahel, a first for me, but I’ll bird to the south first probably.
25 Mar PM
Back at Lotan