Time for an overview now that i have been here 10 days…..
First off - Eilat is fooking expensive and I mean pricey. It’s a resort at the other end of Israel which makes it like buying stuff on an island as most items are trucked down here (remember prices on the Scillies?). OK I had been shopping in a small supermarket, friendly and helpful staff and family run, so it’s like a big corner shop and we know they have to charge more. I will now cycle a bit further to a bigger place - not just to eke money out but for more choice. I don’t actually have to watch the pennies but it’s force of habit because I have generally had to. I will be 95% self-catering in the hostel. I don’t see the point in spending a King’s ransom to sit on my own at the local Schwarma and tuck into the Elephant’s leg without a cold beer to wash it down. I like cooking and do it all at home and have done for The Bride for 20+ years. I don’t honestly know how she is going to manage as 6 weeks is not really long enough to learn a knew skill. She could do with losing some weight.
Eilat is the polar opposite of where I would stop to bird if I was in Iberia, Maroc or anywhere else for that matter - we all know it’s all about the birds. I look around and it feels like an upmarket building site dotted with bits of Blackpool for added charm. Surprisingly there is a very good but small museum which documents the history since 1948 when the strategic importance of having a Red Sea port was realised. I have not visited yet but it has to be the best value in Town at 5 Shekels already. There are loads of old pictures including stuff like the then Prime Minister with the first baby to be born in Eilat. I can imagine the ‘Settler’ mindset back in the day.
I have already decided to leave at least 3 full days in order to leave Israel with some cultural and historical ‘feel’ by spending some time mooching around Jerusalem as opposed to a totem to hedonistic consumerism. There I will not self-cater but dine out at local eateries and have local beer and maybe a bottle or two of wine. Again I will stop in another Hostel Abraham albeit one a tad smaller. The Eilat one sleeps 400 and is a large, modern, edifice. I have to say that I like it. The staff are super-friendly and the s/c kitchen is good. I have found the people very friendly OK there is the odd chancer wanting this and wanting that but as they usually have a fag and a beer to hand plus look smarter than me I’m sure you can fill in the blanks. There does seem to be a habit, if the hostel is anything to go by, of folk talking across you whilst you are asking advice from the staff. I pointed that out to the receptionist and she agreed that they do and it is rude. I then pointed out to her that she answered them instead of saying she was dealing with another customer - go figure.
It has generally been acknowledged that it has been quiet birdwise and hopefully this period of “phoney war’ will be over with the arrival of not only birds but birders. Today has been really quiet with zilch raptors but more of todays sightings on a separate post. Birds moving through the Eilat Mountains are either low and hidden or high and dottish. Stragglers do drop down over the reserve but not in any number certainly as far as I have seen. The same applies to both passerines and waders and there are far fewer Gulls than I expected. This has been reflected in the amount and variety of ringing. The station has loads of ringing bags and can collect a fresh catch every half an hour or even more frequent as they have a few intern and voluntary ringers. Personally I have enjoyed it but I always knew there would be loads of new birds as I am at the other end of the Med with all its Eastern ‘splits’ and new regional breeders although I do not anticipate many of them on this trip. If my only week was the first one then migration-wise I would have returned disappointed. I am already planning on coming again but probably mid-April to mid-May. I am here purely for migrants with limited range from the IBRCE as I wish to look for, at, and bird local habitats. I already know that I was over-optimistic in my cycle plans and have adjusted accordingly. I look forward to accepting the odd lift but I haven’t come here to spend time in cars. My days are generally up at 5am shower and sort some food out and up at Holland Park for about 6:15. Out all day more or less. If I plan on the North Beach for 16:30 I get back to the hostel for a beer about 3-3:30 and down North Beach until 5:30 back for 6 as the light drops. A few beers, notes, pics etc. Cook some food and abed by 10. No matter what I see or where I cycle it is quite a long day and I sleep like a log in a dorm of upto 4. Then repeat. By the time I finish my 42 days in the Wilderness I know I shall be glad to get back home to Dog, Curry and Bride…..in that order but knowing one day later I will wish I hadn’t made it a return ticket.
Good birding -