I guided a Dutch group of birders around Israel to see the types of birds that are around at the tail-end of the fall migration. We did not see anything spectacularly rare on our trip, but we did come to 115 species. Some of the highlights will be mentioned below. Although one of the focuses was birding, we did go and do the “regular” tourist things such as Sea of Galilee, Nazareth and Jerusalem.
Despite inclement weather, with downpours, we did have a good time at the Ma’agan Michael fishponds. Great Egrets and Little Egrets were about, as well as about a dozen Spoonbills. We had all three types of Kingfisher at these ponds: Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher and White-fronted (Smyrna) Kingfisher. There were some spectacular views of them. Although we did not see any White Pelicans at the ponds themselves, we were served a treat when about a 150 of them circled above us on a backdrop of increasingly threatening skies. Our next stop, the Hai-Bar Carmel nature reserve was washed out, so there was nothing to see.
Our next birding site was Gamla, in the Golan Heights. There are only 12 Griffon Vultures left in the wild there, so it was quite satisfying to see four of them circling right above us. We did quite a lot of Stonechats, Northern Wheatears, and one Great Grey Shrike.
In the Hula valley, we were treated to the daily ritual of the Common Crane leaving the fields and coming in to spend the night in the lake, far away from potential predators. A survey that was just completed the day after we were here placed the total number of Cranes at a record of nearly 47,000 individuals. Together with them we saw hundreds of White Pelicans, Spoonbills, Glossy Ibises, Shovelers, Coots, Redshanks, Green Sandpipers, Black-winged Stilts and others. This is always a sight to behold, and even though it was a Muslim holiday with lots of people around in golf carts and four-person bikes, the birds did not seem to be overly disturbed by it. We were practically kicked out of the park by the staff because the sunset was so spectacular, and the incoming birds were overwhelming.
Kfar Ruppin yielded a few Yellow Wagtails, lots of White Wagtails, four Gazelles (gazella gazella), hunderds of Black Kites, Greater Cormorants, Great Egrets, Little Egrets, and a small number of Black Storks. Among them was one lonely Steppe Eagle and one Booted Eagle. We also got to see a Marsh Harrier pick up dead fish from the ponds.
A visit to the Jerusalem Bird Observatory (JBO) was very inspiring, although yielded few birds. This site, smack-dab in the middle of the city, next to the Knesset, does such good work keeping a wild area for birds to go to. The nets yielded a Syrian Woodpecker, and the staff there was very forthcoming.
At Kibbutz Tzor’a, we went to the waste water treatment plant, and the surrounding fields. There were at least four Goldfinches about, Graceful Prinia, Stonechats, several dozen Common Mynas, Jackdaws, 10 Lapwings, several dozen Spur-winged Lapwings, and the first Bluethroats that we saw on the trip.
Going into the desert proved to be rewarding. At the Dead Sea there were of course the Tristram’s Starlings that are abundant in any green area. We did not try for Dead Sea Sparrow, and did not find any. At Ein Avdat we immediately saw the Desert Lark, which is a bold little bird, as well as the Blackstart, and the Arabian Babbler. Walking in to the ravine where the water source is, we spotted seven Griffon Vultures overhead that were sometimes soaring, and sometimes perched high above us on the cliffs. Here we saw a Grey Wagtail and a Kingfisher. From there we went to David Ben Gurion’s gravesite. On the way there, we located a female Masked Shrike, and several Chiffchaffs. We also had a few Lesser Whitethroats. The view from there is spectacular, even in the conditions of haze that prevailed that day.
In Lotan the situation at the moment is that there are several Bluethroats around, along with a few Stonechats. This will hopefully intensify as the fall continues. Yellow Wagtails have all but left, and now they are replaced by White Wagtails. We also have some Red-throated Pipits about. The Cyprus Wheatear that was here as moved on.
We did get to see the White-crowned, the Mourning and the Hooded Wheatear within the space of a day. In addition, we had the Northern Wheatear, the Desert Wheatear, and the Black-eared Wheatear. We were unsuccessful seeing the Bar-tailed Desert Lark and the Trumpeter Finch at Uvda Valley. The Spotted Sandgrouse were not visible, but we did see them at the Km 76 Qa es-Sa’eddin site, with a good 40 of them barely visible through the scope.
Yotvata circular fields had two Common Cranes and three Hen Harriers. In addition, there were bunches of Crested Larks and Red-throated Pipits about.
On the way up north we were treated to the migration of about 100 White Storks overhead.
Some people of the group kept a list of birds that we saw, which I hope to be able to post here in the near future.
Licensed Tour Guide and Bird Guide