Birding in May
Surprisingly few birders visit Israel in May, yet in our opinion, the first half of the month offers exceptional birding. Sooty Falcons are back on their breeding cliffs by mid-month. Seabirds are frequent off the North Beach, with Cory’s and Sooty Shearwaters, Arctic, Pomarine and Long-tailed Skuas, and a very real chance of White-cheeked Tern. There is also the opportunity of finding extreme rarities such as Streaked Shearwater, Red-billed Tropicbird and Atlantic Petrel. Extreme vagrancy is not only possible on the sea, and Southern Pochard, Crested Honey Buzzard (14 were seen in 1999!), Brown -headed Gull and Chestnut-headed Sparrow Lark have all be seen near Eilat in early, or mid-May.
Raptor passage can only be described as ‘massive’ as huge flocks of Honey Buzzard pass low over the Moon Mountains on their way to the forests of Eastern Europe. Counts of 110,000 on 2nd May 1994 and 114,950 on 5th May 1996 may seem mind boggling, but Hadoram Shirihai has recorded days with 200,000 birds at this time.
Enormous numbers of waders pass through the salt pools daily, with up 1000 Little Stint and 500 Ringed Plover. Broad-billed and Terek Sandpiper are not infrequent and beautiful summer plumaged Red-necked Phalaropes can be found ‘spinning’ in small flocks.
Kibbutz Lotan remains a magnetic attraction for songbirds as they stop to refuel on their north bound journey and this is not too late to see great concentrations of warblers with literally hundreds of Olivaceous Warbler, Blackcap and Lesser Whitethroat in the fields and scrub. Slightly more exciting fair will include Rufous Bush Robin, Thrush Nightingale, Olive-tree, Upcher’s, Icterine, Great Reed, Marsh, and Barred Warblers, Golden Oriole, Lesser Grey, Masked, Woodchat and Red-backed Shrikes and Black-headed Bunting.
One of the most intriguing annual events, is the appearance of small numbers of Corncrake on Lotan‘s lawns every May. Some may linger for up to a week, giving incredible views and photographic opportunities.
Birding in June
Considering the lack of migrants, most eyes turn to Red Sea watching in June, which has produced Wilson’s Storm Petrel, South Polar Skua, Sooty and Sabine’s Gulls, and Saunder’s Tern. The hectic nature of the previous three months leaves a dearth of migrants, however birds such as European Nightjar, European Bee-eater, Red-backed and Masked Shrikes and Olivaceous Warbler can still be seen through the first ten days. We have even had late parties of Honey Buzzard passing through, and the smaller herons such as Squacco are not infrequent on the local sewage farms. A trip to the Negev can be surprisingly productive; Houbara Bustard, Crearn-coloured Courser, four species of sandgrouse, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Spectacled Warbler, Desert Wheatear, Southern Grey Shrike and Desert Finch can be found.
A recent record of Lappet- faced Vulture in the Arava occurred in mid- June 1996, when an exhausted individual was picked up near Lotan and taken into care at the Hai-Bar Nature reserve. The bird was thought to have originated from Saudi Arabia. Occasional wandering birds are still reported to date.