Two Big days in the Arava valley – 24-25 March 2007
Dunn's Lark, Saunder's Tern and a Blyth's Reed Warbler!!!
All images courtesy of Yoav Perlman
We woke up to cool misty conditions on March 24th. This didn't look promising and by the time we had set out on the morning tours to the Eilat Mountains and the north beach a large portion of the sky was covered by dark grey clouds.
I was on the north beach when it started to rain. We had time to find a nice group of 7 Pallas's Gulls and several Gull-billed and Sandwich Terns when the rain became stronger and caused us to retreat to the vans.
It was evident that this surprising weather system had seriously affected birds. More and more Passerines (mainly Short-toed Larks, Yellow Wagtails and Wheatears) were coming down and it was evident that we were in the middle of a nice fall of migrants.
It was then that I had received a call from Marcus Craig reporting a Dunn's Lark at K76.
Dunn's Lark is one of our rarest Larks, with single records every year and other years it is completely absent. The word was immediately spread out and many people were able to connect with this handsome Lark. The "knock-on" effect of many birders in the area searching for the lark also produced a nice Temminck's Horned Lark. (Unfortunately for some us the Dunn's Lark was not relocated the following day).
The weather started gradually clearing up in the afternoon and the north beach was the place to be.
Our festival group was joined by Klaus M. Olsen, the worldwide specialist on Seabirds, for an identification workshop in the field.
The conditions here were perfect and many newly arrived birds were present. At around 1630 a nice flock of Terns was spotted flying in. Klaus Olsen picked out an adult Saunder's Tern in the flock and Yoav Perlman and several other people managed to find the bird. The Tern fed close to shore, just east of the canal and gave good views for 5 minutes, and then flew back out to sea and disappeared.
Saunder's tern's status is not fully understood in the Eilat area. It breeds on islands in the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Peninsula and the Red Sea, but its movements outside the breeding season are still not clear. We believe that Saunder's Tern is an annual non breeding summer visitor to our shores.
This handsome little Tern is very difficult to identify and thus probably overlooked. Given good views the identification of adults is not simple but possible, while young birds (1st-2nd year) are usually inseparable from Little Terns of the same age. Luckily we had Klaus on the beach and his intimate knowledge of the species is what allowed him to find the bird quickly and early enough for many birders to get on to it.
In the same flock there was also a White-cheeked Tern. What a day.
The next Morning (25/3) an intensive ringing session was held at Yotvata. It was around 10:00 that Yoav called me and reported he had just trapped a possible Blyth's Reed Warbler and that we should come down quickly.
Blyth's Reed Warbler breeds in NE Europe from Finland eastwards to C. Asia. There are only a handful of confirmed records in Israel all concerning birds ringed at Eilat. The Identification of Blyth's Reed Warbler is nearly impossible in the field and thus is probably overlooked.
The Yotvata bird was a 2nd cal year bird and looked very small and compact. In the hand and especially in direct comparison with a Reed Warbler the Blyth's Warbler wing seemed short and round. The overall color was a cold brownish grey and lacked the warmer rufous tones of Reed Warbler, especially on the rump. For the ringers amongst you the biometrics of the bird are as follows:
The images of the wing formula and notches are attached. We were all very excited about the find and Yoav was very efficient and professional in handling the bird and the documentation.
Jonathan Meyrav on behalf of the festival team and the Lotan center for birdwatching
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