Birding southern Israel Mid to Late April 2007 Summary
April is coming to an end and one of the most interesting periods of the spring is upon us. The huge numbers of passerines have all moved through and the huge numbers of Blackcaps and Ortolan Buntings have all dwindled with most birds having departed.
Good numbers of birds still remain and some late spring specialties are in full swing. Honey Buzzards and Levant Sparrow hawks are reaching their peak periods and thousands of Honey Buzzards have been passing daily since around the 25th of April.
In this page I will bring a summary of some of the good days and good birds we enjoyed during the last 2 weeks of April.
April 16th-19th – 4 day tour
This turned out to be a highly successful tour with Martin Wettstein, Ron and Andy from the UK and others. The first morning was devoted to the Eilat Mountains. We enjoyed excellent migration of several thousand Steppe Buzzards around 30 Honey Buzzards and no less than 1100 Levant Sparrowhawks, including 600 in one awesome flock. What a way to start. At the K20 pools there were good numbers of Curlew Sandpipers (9) and more common species.
In the afternoon we visited the Yotvata area. First we visited a good site for Arabian Warbler and got good looks at a secretive female. An added bonus was an adult male Barred Warbler. At the fields we had 3 species of Harrier and more. At night Ron and Andy from the UK brought me an Exhausted River Warbler they collected near the dining room at Lotan. I roosted the bird overnight and after giving it some sugar water I ringed it and let it go.
We left early on the 17th on our way to Mitzpe Ramon. We had breakfast at the park at the entrance and a short stroll around produced a Roller, 2 Pied Flycatchers, a single Semi-collared flycatcher, both Desert and Trumpeter finch and more. What a place. Near the field school we saw an adult Cuckoo and a male Rock Thrush.
The next stop was Sdeh Boker where we had excellent views of Lesser Spotted and Steppe Eagle migration. A short visit to the Avdat Canyon area produced excellent views of the resident Bonelli's Eagle pair, several Griffon and Egyptian Vultures and singing male Mourning Wheatears. In the afternoon we visited North beach and got good views of Western Reef Herons, White eyed Gulls, Striated Heron, Gull billed, Sandwich, Little and Caspian Terns and a distant Sooty Shearwater.
The 18th found us around Yahel where we searched for Sandgrouse with no luck, so we headed back to Yotvata; here we found large numbers of Yellow Wagtails, several Tawny Pipits, several Dead-Sea Sparrows, Namaqua Doves and more.
In the afternoon we headed to Neot Smadar, at the sewage the resident male Hooded Wheatear gave us a show and a Little Bittern at the lake was a nice surprise. On the 18th we had a nice round a t K20 with a female Curlew, 9 Glossy Ibis, several Greater Sand Plovers, a single Broad-billed Sandpiper and 2 White-winged Terns.
It was an excellent tour and we got close up and personal with many of the species, we didn't mention the Indian Silverbills, Stone Curlews, 3 Cuckoos and thousands of Yellow Wagtails and Ortolan Buntings that were everywhere that week.
On the 21st of April I guided a large group and we started the day with a stroll around Lotan. At the pool the long staying male Rock Thrush gave great views and good numbers of Yellow wagtails, Pipits and Wrynecks (4) were seen. Near the dairy barn we were enjoying a nice male Namaqua Dove when I noticed a small dark bellied bird with the feeding Ortolan Buntings. It was a male Black-crowned Sparrow Lark !!!
The handsome Lark was seen by most of the group but it was flushed after around a minute and not seen again. Black-crowned Sparrow lark is an incredibly rare Lark with this being only the 3rd in the past 15 years. What an excellent bird for our local patch, and what a lucky group.
The 3rd week of April was rather slow but numbers of Honey Buzzard reached thousands per day and late spring migrants like Spotted Flycatchers, Red-backed Shrikes,Golden Orioles, barred and Garden Warblers are an everyday thing.
On the 27th there was strong migration over Ketura junction. Over 8000 Honey Buzzards passed with nearly 1500 Levant Sparrowhawks in about 3 hours. On the 28th I guided hank and Dorothy Levy and we had a great morning. A short stroll around Lotan produced an Olive-tree Warbler and a Red-breasted Flycatcher that called but refused to show itself… Down to Eilat where several thousand Honey Buzzards over the mountains with 3 Lesser spotted Eagles and several dozen Levants. At the IBRCE Lake there were 5 Red-necked Phalaropes. At the K20 pools there was a nice arrival of waders. A single Black-winged Pratincole was a nice find amongst 20 or so Collared, 2-3 Broad-billed Sandpipers and the Terek Sandpiper that was apparently seen a couple of days earlier.
On the 29th I noted large numbers of raptors rising over the Ketura ridge and set out there. Between 8:15-11:00 no less than 9700 Honey Buzzards passed and with them 2 classic male Crested Honey Buzzards a single Griffon Vulture and a male Pallid harrier.
On the 30th a short visit to the beach produced 6 White Cheeked Terns (4 in 1 flock) 4 Sooty Shearwaters and 3 Arctic Skuas. Up at the mountains with the Danish bunch, 1 classic male Crested Honey Buzzard amongst 3500 or so Honeys. At the IBRCE park still 5 Red necked Phalaropes and at least 7 more at K20, where also 20 Curlew and 7 Broad billed-Sandpipers.
Stay posted as May kicks in.
Jonathan Meyrav and the Biridngisrael team
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