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Israel - 14th to 20th February 2019 - with extension 21st to 23rd February 2019 (2 Viewers)

Paul Chapman

Well-known member
I have been prompted to finish this off by a suggestion of getting away again very shortly so it was helpful preparation for that trip.

My first visit to Israel was on a bird tour between 23 and 29 March 2010 when I saw about 180 species. I missed several key ones including Hume’s Owl, Egyptian Nightjar, Nubian Nightjar, Fan-tailed Raven, Long-billed Pipit, Striolated Bunting & Syrian Serin. I picked those up on a second trip with three friends between 14 and 20 March 2013 when I saw about 150 species. Combining those two trips, I had recorded slightly over 200 species in the country.

I have also visited Morocco twice, Western Sahara, Turkey twice, Kuwait twice and Georgia where some additional species had been seen that would otherwise have been targets in Israel.

As a result, I had seven targets for the 2019 trip and my travelling companions were pretty relaxed about what else we would target:-

African Swamphen – not previously on my radar as a target before the split…..

Oriental Honey Buzzard – tried for but missed in 2010 and not seen on either trip to Kuwait.

Pharaoh Eagle Owl – a bogey species now missed from Kuwait, Israel & Morocco.

Basalt Wheatear – there had been sightings of an individual of this subspecies of Mourning Wheatear before our trip.

Cyprus Warbler – the earlier dates were intended to make this a realistic target.

Sinai Rosefinch – again, the earlier dates were intended to make this an easier target despite missing it on both March trips.

Vinous-breasted Starling – a range restricted Category C piece of nonsense that I had missed at Hayarkon Park, Tel Aviv in 2013.
 
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Paul Chapman

Well-known member
We left Heathrow early on Thursday 14th February and headed via Geneva to Tel Aviv. Geneva Airport was cold and a few Rooks and a Woodpigeon were the only birds noted during the brief stop. We landed at Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv, early enough in the afternoon to hope to slip in some birding. But the absence of one of my friend’s cases on arrival meant that instead we were caught up in red tape. On my second trip to Israel, I had mislaid my case so I knew how he felt. (I tend as a result to carry some spare clothes in my hand luggage. Unfortunately, he didn’t.) The whereabouts of the case punctuated our trip with messages and promises of my friend being reunited. However, despite that, my friend was only finally reunited with it at the airport on the journey home where it caused as much red tape for him picking it back up!

Only Common Buzzard, Hooded Crow and White Wagtail got our trip underway at the airport as a result and we only got away as dusk fell arriving at our first night’s accommodation at Bat Yam in the dark. The weather that night was more fitting for the Outer Hebrides in February with a roaring wind and occasional rain than a break in the sunshine.
 

Paul Chapman

Well-known member
The morning of Friday 15th February started without the rain but with the wind. I do enjoy waking up somewhere new. In an hour along the seafront before breakfast, the highlights were an adult fuscus Lesser Black-backed Gull, two first-winter Caspian Gulls and an Arctic Skua. I had been hoping for a Pallas’s Gull or a Yelkouan Shearwater but with no luck. The first Laughing Doves, White-spectacled Bulbuls and Common Mynas added some exotica.

After breakfast, we headed to Hayarkon Park arriving at 8.10am and birded generally for two and a half hours. I confess that my main focus was trying to unearth the Vinous-breasted Starlings. I thought I knew where to look having been provided with directions when I had dipped in 2013. I failed miserably but more of that later. The highlight amongst 36 species - https://ebird.org/checklist/S53091814 - was a Striated Heron that we knew had been at the Park for a little while. Also seen were our first Spur-winged Plovers, Cattle Egrets, Night Herons, Glossy Ibis, Hoopoes, White-throated and Pied Kingfishers, Monk Parakeets, Graceful Prinias, Palestine Sunbirds and a Heuglin’s Gull. Irritating to start with a dip but my friends were both under way with some new birds and some quality had been seen.

1. Spot the Striated Heron
2 & 3. Male & female Palestine Sunbird
4 & 5. Spur-winged Plovers
 

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Paul Chapman

Well-known member
6. Hoopoe
7. Pied Kingfisher
8. White-breasted Kingfisher
9. Cattle Egret
10. Chaffinch
 

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Paul Chapman

Well-known member
We headed south and stopped at Zikim Beach at 11.35am but that produced nothing memorable and only really Black Kite and Crested Lark onto the trip list reminded me that it was the first day of a short break abroad. Again, we had been hoping for Pallas’s Gull but to no avail.

At times en route, the Black Kites were in good number. We stopped at Yeruham Lake for lunch at 1.20pm and spent a little under two hours racking up 30 species – https://ebird.org/checklist/S53092745 - with a few common water birds slipping onto the trip list. A Black-necked Grebe was the most unusual bird but various additions included Chukar, Pallid Swifts, Great White Egrets, Little Green Bee-eaters, Brown-necked Ravens, Rock Martins, Arabian Babblers and Tristram’s Grackles. The first Sardinian Warbler of the trip stubbornly wasn’t a Cyprus Warbler. That would become a theme.

We continued the journey south and stopped at Ben Gurion memorial park at 3.30pm in an attempt to connect with Syrian Serin. This proved fruitless but a brief Lanner from the car park was the highlight as well as an Alpine Swift. Around the park, the first Blackstarts of the trip and some more Arabian Babblers showed well.

We were soon losing light as we headed on but added Raven along route 40 and our first Black Redstart at the Mitzpe Ramon picnic site on a brief stop. We pulled into Eilat early evening and courtesy of the SatNav, we found our accommodation at the Blue Hotel in the back streets of one of Tel Aviv’s hotel districts.

11. Arabian Babbler
12. Black-necked Grebe
13. Green Bee-eater
14. Pallid Swift
15. Blackstart
 

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Paul Chapman

Well-known member
Saturday morning started early at Amram’s Pillars a little north of Eilat with my main target of Sinai Rosefinch. We headed down relatively slowly checking as we went - the ‘camping’ carpark, the ‘feeding/watering’ area in between often habituated by photographers and the end carpark. Sand Partridge, Desert Lark, White-crowned and Hooded Wheatears and Scrub Warbler were added to the trip list.

Settled back at the ‘feeding/watering’ area, I was getting that sinking dipping feeling when one of my friends called the first Sinai Rosefinch. Success as I twisted in the car to get a view of a female! Third trip lucky. A total of nine with three males were seen over the next fifteen minutes visiting some water and crumbs laid out on some isolated rocks. They disappeared around the edge of a ravine and I tracked them down feeding around some bushes. Creeping in to get some better photos, out of nowhere in the middle of the desert like a modern Monty Python sketch, an elite lycra clad bunch of expert Sinai Rosefinch flushers appeared from nowhere and ensured all birds left the area…… A total of ten species had been recorded including a Great Grey Shrike as we headed back to the main road - https://ebird.org/checklist/S53094771.

16. Male Sinai Rosefinch
17. Female Sinai Rosefinch
18. Crack team of Rosefinch flushers
19 & 20. Hooded Wheatear
 

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Paul Chapman

Well-known member
21. Scrub Warbler
22. Tristram's Grackle
23. Desert Lark
24. White-crowned Wheatear
25. Sand Partridge
 

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Paul Chapman

Well-known member
We next decided to visit the International Birding and Research Centre back at Eilat in the hope of connecting with Oriental Honey Buzzard arriving there at 8.35am. This was my other main target. We picked up some gen from the very helpful ringers at the centre and decided to concentrate on the northern date palms. I had checked these before back in 2010 later in the year without success. That bird had been right at the start of the wintering trend for the species.

A Common Buzzard started a spiral and then almost immediately success! It was joined by the distinctive silhouette of an Oriental Honey Buzzard. I should have fired off some photos straight away but instead decided to cover several hundred metres to get closer. As I pulled the car back up and leapt out, the Common Buzzard was still there and spiralling just above the palms but alone. We weren’t sure whether the Oriental Honey Buzzard had slipped back down into the date palms or away over the border as they seem to spend quite a bit of time at the Aqaba Sewage works in Jordan. I kicked myself at my schoolboy error which slightly tinged my elation. Nevertheless I had seen my two main targets and everything else from here would be a bonus!

A rather smug potter around the centre followed with the highlights of the wintering Pygmy Cormorant, a Moustached Warbler and a Savi’s Warbler in the hand. Clearly, there were lots of trip additions with Flamingoes, a Water Rail, Black-winged Silts, four Ruff, three Marsh Sandpipers, 20 Redshank, 40 Slender-billed Gulls, an immature & adult Purple Heron, Marsh Harrier, Bluethroat and House Crows. We decided to head on and check the North Beach area and as we left the centre and pulled away past the southern date palms, we were stopped in our tracks by a second Oriental Honey Buzzard in flight. Emergency stop and camera employed within an instant as it showed well but briefly. A total of 41 species recorded - https://ebird.org/checklist/S53095273

We added Temminck’s Stint and Common Sandpiper at the North Beach and it was quite birdy but it seemed time to try another area.

26. Oriental Honey Buzzard
27. Savi's Warbler
28. Pygmy Cormorant
29. Moustached Warbler
30. Marsh Sandpiper
 

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Paul Chapman

Well-known member
31. Purple Herons
32. Slender-billed Gull
33. Greater Flamingo (& Black-headed Gull)
34. Great Cormorant
35. Black-winged Stilt
 

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Paul Chapman

Well-known member
In distinct contrast to this year (2020), there had been very few reports of larks and sandgrouse before our arrival and the wintering Basalt Wheatear appeared to have gone but we wanted to look for ourselves and headed to the Ovda Valley arriving at 1.10pm. Sadly, the lack of reports reflected the lack of birds and it was quiet but in addition to more White-crowned Wheatears, we added Isabelline and Desert Wheatears, Spanish Sparrows and Tawny Pipits to the trip list.

It was time to move on and having not seen any White-eyed Gulls at North Beach, we headed back to the Eilat area and on to Dolphin Reef. Arriving at 4.10pm, White-eyed Gull was easy from the carpark with sixteen seen. Time was slipping away but the remaining target was to return to the centre to try for Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse overflying at dusk. We arrived back at 4.55pm. A similar species mix to before but with Gull-billed Tern, two Caspian Terns and 20 Night Herons coming into roost. Sadly, no performance by the sandgrouse. The Pygmy Cormorant however did put on a show rising up before crossing the border and heading down into Aqaba Sewage Works in Jordan. A total of 30 species seen - https://ebird.org/checklist/S53098302

36. White Wagtail
37. Tawny Pipit
38. White-eyed Gull
39. Pied Kingfisher against Jordanian mountains
40. Pygmy Cormorant heading to Jordan for the night
 

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Paul Chapman

Well-known member
On Sunday 17th February, we started the day at North Beach. Good numbers of waders supplemented the trip list with Ringed Plover, two Little Stint, Green Sandpiper and Greenshank and the other addition was Water Pipit. A return to the centre again produced good birding but limited additions. Best were the views of Bluethroat but the main addition was Penduline Tit. Many birds were present from the day before such as the two Purple Herons, the Gull-billed Tern and the Pygmy Cormorant. In an hour and a half, we recorded 38 species - https://ebird.org/checklist/S53100168

41. Bluethroat
42. Graceful Prinia
43. White-spectacled Bulbul
44.House Crow
45. Laughing Dove
 

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Paul Chapman

Well-known member
We decided to work our way north to Kibbutz Samar to look for Black Bush Robin. We visited various sites as we headed north. From 8.55am, the K20 pools produced good numbers of ducks and waders including 70 Little Stint together with an Isabelline Wheatear. In an hour and thirty five minutes, we recorded 26 species - https://ebird.org/checklist/S53101231

46. Greater Flamingo
47. Little Stint flock
48. Ruff
49. Isabelline Wheatear
50. Crested Lark
 

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Paul Chapman

Well-known member
A 40 minute stop at K19 from 10.30am added a Steppe Eagle and Yellow Wagtail together with an immature Night Heron and at least ten Bluethroats amongst 22 species - https://ebird.org/checklist/S53102535 However, popping into Yotvata for an hour from 12.15pm proved pretty birdless though it did add Siberian Stonechat.

After enough prevaricating, we headed on to Kibbutz Samar arriving at 1.40pm. I have always been quite lucky with Black Bush Robin seeing one in Holland Park in 2010 and one at Neot Smadar Sewage Works in 2013. I followed those sightings with one in Kuwait in 2017 at Mutla’a Ranch. So I was a little surprised to have been so excited about trying for another but let’s face it, there are few species that get the pulse racing in the same way. Thirteen species seen included at least two Black Bush Robins - https://ebird.org/checklist/S53102957 - fantastic stuff!! The other notable bird was a nice male Black Redstart.

The success must have gone to our heads so we tried Amram’s Pillars mid-afternoon. A predictable birdless hour was punctuated by Hooded Wheatear and establishing all the sylvias were simply Sardinians rather than Cyprus Warblers. Returning to North Beach and then the centre for another Lichtenstein Sandgrouse dip simply added Armenian Gull but it was nice to be amongst the birds again even though we didn’t dig anything out.

51. Night Heron
52. Siberian Stonechat
53 & 54. Black Bush Robin
55. Black Redstart
 

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Paul Chapman

Well-known member
We were up and out early on Monday 18th February to head north. We had had some discussions about trying for some of the owls and nightjars and had been offered some contacts but decided to stick with Plan A which did not include such efforts. We arrived at Navit Pools (now Ashalim Reservoir on ebird) at 7.10am. This stunning site was stuffed full of birds but with clear warning signs about encroachment because of mines. Clamorous Reed Warblers croaked away and there were at least ten Ferruginous Duck amongst at least 500 duck. The target was African Swamphen (split from the Purple Swamphen from Spain and Morocco and the Grey-headed Swamphen from Turkey and Kuwait). At least four could be seen with their characteristic green mantles. In a brief 45 minutes, we recorded 19 species and headed on - https://ebird.org/checklist/S53105062

Now three of my targets (Sinai Rosefinch, Oriental Honey Buzzard and African Swamphen) had been seen and photographed, the Basalt Wheatear had apparently departed and no Cyprus Warbler had been dug out amongst the Sardinian Warblers. But now we headed on to try what we had been told was the best Cyprus Warbler site being Wadi Mishmar arriving at 8.40am. A long story short – lots of sylvias but only Sardinian and Spectacled Warblers were confirmed together with a very large number of Tristram’s Grackles and a Griffon Vulture. I anticipate a lack of familiarity with Cyprus Warbler call was at the heart of our failure as more experienced observers recorded good numbers of Cyprus Warbler at the Wadi within a few days of our dip. Maybe next time……..

We travelled a little further north and picked up a couple of Fan-tailed Ravens from the carpark at Ein Gedi spa at 10.40am. I had recorded Striolated Bunting on the hillside here in 2013 but that was not to be on this occasion. The day then took some interesting turns at that point with some heavy rain, flash floods and road closures. However, a bit of patience and the odd detour got us back heading south. We stopped at Lot Reservoir (now Heimar Reservoir on ebird) at 1.10pm with another Ferruginous Duck, croaking Clamorous Reed Warblers and Bluethroats and then Navit Pools again at 2.00pm with a similar mix of species to the morning including better views of African Swamphen.

We had decided to try the Pharaoh Eagle Owl site on page 110 of ‘A Guide To The Birding Hot Spots of Southern Israel’ near Idan so journeyed there to check the area out mid-afternoon. We arrived at 3.20pm and sorted out where we considered was the relevant area of cliffs for that evening. A pair of Sand Partridge were seen during the reccy. We headed on to the nearby Sheizaf Nature Reserve where I had seen Arabian Warbler in 2013. I am not sure whether things were subdued because of the weather or the fact that it was mid-afternoon. Nevertheless four Hoopoes, an Isabelline Wheatear, four Palestine Sunbirds and ten Spanish Sparrows brightened the attempt but it ended without Arabian Warbler. Back at the Pharaoh Eagle site at 5.10pm, the day was ended with another dip for me of this species on a bit of a cold damp evening.

56. Ferruginous Duck
57. Ashalim Reservoir
58. Tristram's Grackle
59. African Swamphen
60. Sand Partridge
 

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Paul Chapman

Well-known member
We had plans to start Tuesday 19th February at Nizzana so we had booked accommodation at Sede Boqer en route. This looked a superb location and it was a crying shame that we arrived and left it in the dark! We spent the first four hours around Nizzana picking up a couple of displaying Macqueen’s Bustards from the disused railway carriage hide before 7.00am and a Great Grey Shrike near the fortress at 8.00am.

We checked out the Nizzana drinking pools for the best part of two hours from 8.35am recording 26 species - https://ebird.org/checklist/S53108982 Four Black-bellied Sandgrouse, a flock of thirty Ruff, 4 Green Sandpiper, Great Grey Shrike, Scrub Warbler, Bluethroat and Water Pipit were the highlights.

Afterwards, as we were heading close by, we popped into Yeroham Lake again at 10.55am. One of my friends needed Syrian Woodpecker and it seemed a reasonable bet. We were unsuccessful but recorded 28 species with a similar mix to the visit on Friday - https://ebird.org/checklist/S53109474

We then headed to Mount Amasa where a Persian Wheatear was wintering and I had dipped Long-billed Pipit in 2010. Our rather intermittent luck continued with Woodlark and Finsch’s Wheatears as well as Linnet onto the trip list but neither of the main targets. Maybe the pace and lack of sleep the night before had caught up with us. We decided to sort out our accommodation which was an apartment in Dimona and then consider our options. Once the apartment was sorted, we popped out to get some provisions for dinner.

I confess that at this point, I became slightly distracted. A text to my phone with a mega alert had told me that a Tengmalm’s Owl was giving itself up on Shetland. My twitching career had started after the suppressed bird at Spurn in 1983 but I knew plenty of people who would foam at the mouth at the sheer mention of it despite the fact that the suppression had been supported by the editors of British Birds…...

Of course, even manic twitchers calm down eventually and indeed, it had even become possible 35 years later for people to hold conversations with those who had seen it without breaking into tourettes. However, those emotions had resurfaced in the autumn with a bird on Orkney that had been brief and inaccessible. Even that had still led to a short-lived storm because a few had made efforts to find out the location and one or two may have even travelled to the archipelago just in case. Can you imagine the horror?

None of this was doing me much good though. I was sitting in a supermarket carpark slightly over 4,000 km away. Getting there by dark seemed unlikely and I couldn’t think of a bird I wanted more for my British list despite the fact that I had had good views abroad…... A few text exchanges with friends and some checking of flight options made an immediate flight and connecting the next day also seem impossible. This was reaffirmed when I found out that some back in the United Kingdom were struggling on options for the next day. Private plane options for various reasons had become more complicated - https://www.manchestereveningnews.c...s/pilot-jailed-crash-landing-risking-15981019 and https://www.yorkmix.com/updated-yor...ath-of-cardiff-city-footballer-emiliano-sala/ - and scheduled flights seemed limited.

I brooded as we headed back to the apartment, did some mental calculations in my head on timings and once back there, booked a flight from Edinburgh to Sumburgh for just after 10.00am on Thursday 21st February. My first available chance. I was rolling the dice but that was a day and a half away. A few messages back home followed congratulating one friend on success that day, wishing other friends luck for the next day and arranging company for the journey to Edinburgh. Julian Thomas a long term friend and twitching companion of a quarter of a century would be joining me. I just needed to get back to Somerset to rendezvous for the trip.

61. Black-bellied Sandgrouse
62. Brown-necked Raven
63. Great Grey Shrike
64. Black Kite
65. Finsch's Wheatear
 

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Paul Chapman

Well-known member
On Wednesday 20th February, as we had breakfast in Dimona, I was wondering what was happening in the dark on Shetland. Our flight was not until mid-afternoon so we planned to head into Tel Aviv and if time allowed return to Hayarkon Park. We picked up Skylark and Corn Bunting for the trip list as we drove through the agricultural landscapes on the way back.

We arrived at Hayarkon Park just after 10.00am and spent a couple of hours birding. In 2013, a friend had told me that he had seen the Vinous-breasted Starlings around a fenced off area containing some water slides. The first time I visited the site I had assumed that this was a reference to the Meymadian Water Park area and that was the area I had mainly searched in 2013 and indeed on the earlier visit on Friday. On this occasion, we headed in the opposite direction past the TLV Balloon and towards the Wohl Amphitheatre. As I approached the lake, I picked up a group of Vinous-breasted Starlings feeding on the grass. Excellent – fourth target of the trip and four out of seven in total……. They landed on a hedge and then popped over the top. A look through the gate to see what was on the other side revealed a pool and a couple of water slides.

I now needed to find my friends who had disappeared ahead but a bit of shouting produced the desired effect as well as some very deserved odd looks from park goers. We recorded 29 species in total - https://ebird.org/checklist/S53110289 - but other than the starlings, I think that the only trip additions were Jay and European Starling. Nevertheless, a real highlight was ten Golden Jackal pottering around in full view as if they had just been let off the leash.

It was time to get to the airport and continue brooding about a bird 4,000 km away. Save for my friend’s challenging reunion with his case, things went smoothly at the airport and we were under way back to Heathrow.

66 & 67. Vinous-breasted Starling
68. Stonechat & fly
69. Common Myna
70.White-spectacled Bulbul
 

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Paul Chapman

Well-known member
71 & 72. Monk Parakeet
73. Glossy Ibis
74 & 75. Golden Jackal
 

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Paul Chapman

Well-known member
I had recorded 134 species on the Israel leg of the trip:-

1 Egyptian Goose – up to 10 seen on both visits to Hayarkon Park on 15th & 20th February
2 Shelduck* - up to 20 seen on the K20 pools on 17th February
3 Muscovy Duck – two seen on the river at Hayarkon Park on 15th February; so many feral populations that I tend to record this species when ‘at large’
4 Shoveler – good numbers seen at K19 & K20 pools on 17th February, on both visits to Ashalim Reservoir on 18th February and at Nizzana drinking pools on 19th February
5 Gadwall – maybe 10 seen on both visits to Ashalim Reservoir on 18th February
6 Wigeon* - three seen on the morning visit to Ashalim Reservoir on 18th February
7 Mallard – seven sightings – Hayarkon Park, Yeruham Lake, Ashalim Reservoir and Nizzana drinking pools
8 Pintail – maybe 40 seen between IBRCE, K19 and K20 on 17th February and both visits to Ashalim Reservoir on 18th February
9 Eurasian Teal - six sightings – Yeruham Lake, K19, K20, Ashalim Reservoir and Nizzana drinking pools
10 Pochard – seen on both visits with up to five at Ashalim Reservoir on 18th February
11 Ferruginous Duck – up to 10 seen on both visits to Ashalim Reservoir and a single at Heimar Reservoir on 18th February
12 Sand Partridge – a pair at Amram's Pillars on 16th February and a pair seen on both visits to the Pharaoh Eagle Owl site near Idan on 18th February
13 Chukar* - sightings from Yeruham Lake on 15th February and Mount Amasa on 19th February
14 Greater Flamingo – nine sightings of up to 100 between IBRCE, North Beach & K20 during 16th and 17th February
15 Little Grebe - nine sightings between Yeruham Lake, IBRCE, Ashalim Reservoir, Heimar Reservoir & Nizzana drinking pools
16 Black-necked Grebe – single at Yeruham Lake on 15th February
17 Feral Pigeon – widely recorded
18 Eurasian Collared-Dove – widely recorded
19 Laughing Dove – widely recorded with sightings at Bat Yam, IBRCE, K19, Samar Jungle, Ein Gedi, Nizzana drinking pools & Yeruham Lake
20 Black-bellied Sandgrouse – four at Nizzana drinking pools on 19th February
21 Macqueen's Bustard* - two at km 7 along the Ezuz Road on 19th February
22 Alpine Swift* - one at Ben Gurion memorial park on 15th February
23 Common Swift* - most sightings identified as Common from Bat Yam, Yeruham Lake, Ben Gurion memorial park & IBRCE but tricky to separate as always
24 Pallid Swift – good numbers on both visits to Yeruham Lake and Ashalim Reservoir but tricky to separate as always
25 Water Rail* - single at IBRCE on 16th February
26 Moorhen – six sightings from Hayarkon Park, K19, Ashalim Reservoir, Nizzana drinking pools and Yeruham Lake
27 Coot – seven sightings from Hayarkon Park, Yeruham Lake, K19, Ashalim Reservoir, and Nizzana drinking pools
28 African Swamphen – up to four seen on both visits to Ashalim Reservoir on 18th February
29 Black-winged Stilt – ten sightings from IBRCE, North Beach, K20 & Ashalim Reservoir
30 Spur-winged Lapwing – widely recorded – Hayarkon Park, Yeruham Lake, IBRCE, North Beach, K20, Yotvata, Samar Jungle and Nizzana drinking pools
31 Ringed Plover* - four at North Beach Lagoon and Canal on 17th February
32 Ruff – small numbers at IBRCE and North Beach on 16th and 17th February and a flock of 30 at Nizzana drinking pools on 19th February
33 Temminck's Stint* - single at North Beach Lagoon and Canal on 16th and 17th February
34 Little Stint – two at North Beach Lagoon and Canal and 70 at K20 on 17th February
35 Common Sandpiper – two at North Beach Lagoon and Canal on 16th and 17th February
36 Green Sandpiper – four sightings of up to five - North Beach Lagoon and Canal, K19, K20 and Nizzana drinking pools
37 Greenshank – three sightings of singles - North Beach Lagoon and Canal and IBRCE on 17th February
38 Marsh Sandpiper – seven sightings of up to three – IBRCE, North Beach Lagoon and Canal and K20 on 16th and 17th February
39 Redshank – seven sightings of up to four – IBRCE, North Beach Lagoon and Canal and K20 on 16th and 17th February
40 Arctic Skua* - a single seen in strong winds at Bat Yam on 15th February
41 Slender-billed Gull – seven sightings of up to forty – IBRCE, North Beach Lagoon and Canal and K20 on 16th and 17th February
42 Black-headed Gull – widely recorded – Bat Yam, Hayarkon Park, IBRCE, North Beach, Dolphin Reef and K20
43 White-eyed Gull – sixteen recorded at Dolphin Reef on 16th February
44 Yellow-legged Gull – identified as the default large white headed gull from Bat Yam, Hayarkon Park, North Beach, Dolphin Reef and IBRCE
45 Caspian Gull – not an officiando of large white headed gulls but identified from Bat Yam, IBRCE and Hayarkon Park on 15th, 17th and 20th February
46 Armenian Gull* – not an officiando of large white headed gulls but singles identified from IBRCE and Hayarkon Park on 17th and 20th February
47 Lesser Black-backed Gull – single fuscus identified from Bat Yam on 15th February and K20 and IBRCE on 17th February and single heuglini identified from Park Hayarkon on both visits and IBRCE and K20 on 15th, 16th, 17th and 20th February. It may be that I misidentified some barbarensis as heuglini?
48 Gull-billed Tern – singles at IBRCE on 16th and 17th February
49 Caspian Tern* - two at IBRCE on 16th February
50 Pygmy Cormorant – a single at IBRCE on 16th and 17th February
51 Great Cormorant – widely recorded – Bat Yam, Hayarkon Park, Yeruham Lake, IBRCE, North Beach, K19 and K20
52 Grey Heron – widely recorded – Hayarkon Park, Yeruham Lake, IBRCE, Dolphin Reef, North Beach, K19 and K20
53 Purple Heron – two seen at IBRCE on 16th and 17th February
54 Great White Egret – seven sightings – Yeruham Lake, IBRCE and North Beach Lagoon and Canal
55 Little Egret – ten sightings with a highest count of five – Bat Yam, Hayarkon Park, Yeruham Lake, IBRCE and North Beach Lagoon and Canal
56 Cattle Egret – four sightings of up to thirty – Hayarkon Park, Yeruham Lake and Nizzana drinking pools
57 Striated Heron – single at Hayarkon Park on 15th February
58 Black-crowned Night-Heron – five sightings – three at Hayarkon Park on 15th February, up to 20 at IBRCE on 16th and 17th February and singles at K19 and Yeruham Lake on 17th and 19th February
59 Glossy Ibis – up to 12 at Hayarkon Park on both visits
60 Oriental Honey-buzzard – two at IBRCE on 16th February
61 Griffon Vulture* - single at Wadi Mishmar on 18th February
62 Steppe Eagle – single at K19 on 17th February
63 Eurasian Marsh-Harrier – six sightings – IBRCE, North Beach and Lagoon, K19 and Ashalim Reservoir
64 Black Kite – five sightings mainly whilst travelling with a concentration of 240 along Route 25 on 15th February
65 Common Buzzard – six sightings of singles including three whilst travelling plus Ben Gurion Airport, Zikim Beach and IBRCE
66 Hoopoe – up to five at Hayarkon Park on 15th February, a single at Wadi Mishmar and four at Sheizaf Nature Reserve on 18th February
67 Kingfisher – a single at Yeruham Lake on 19th February
68 White-throated Kingfisher – singles at Hayarkon Park on 15th February and IBRCE on 16th and 17th February
69 Pied Kingfisher – four sightings – Hayarkon Park, Yeruham Lake and IBRCE
70 Green Bee-eater – eight sightings – Yeruham Lake, IBRCE, North Beach Lagoon and Canal, Yotvata, Samar Jungle, Ashalim Resevoir and near Idan
71 Kestrel* - seven sightings – mainly when travelling but also Bat Yam, Zikim Beach and Mount Amasa
72 Lanner – single at Ben Gurion memorial park on 15th February
73 Rose-ringed Parakeet – five sightings – Bat Yam, Hayarkon Park, IBRCE and North Beach Lagoon and Canal
74 Monk Parakeet – around 100 seen on both visits to Hayarkon Park – 15th and 20th February
75 Great Grey Shrike – singles at Amram's Pillars on 16th February and at Nizzana Fortress and Nizzana drinking pools on 19th February
76 Jay* - single at Hayarkon Park on 20th February
77 Jackdaw – up to ten at Hayarkon Park on both visits – 15th and 20th February
78 House Crow – up to 20 seen around Eilat – IBRCE, North Beach and Dolphin Reef on 16th and 17th February
79 Hooded Crow – widely seen on the northern half of the trip – Ben Gurion Airport, Bat Yam, Hayarkon Park, Zikim Beach, Yeruham Lake, Ben Gurion memorial park and Nizzana drinking pools
80 Brown-necked Raven – four sightings – five at Yeruham Lake on 15th February and three sightings around Nizzana on 19th February
81 Fan-tailed Raven* - two from Ein Gedi carpark on 18th February
82 Raven – two seen whilst travelling on 15th February and two at Yeruham Lake on 19th February
83 Desert Lark – five sightings – Amram’s Pillars, Wadi Mishmar, near Idan and Sheizaf Nature Reserve
84 Woodlark* - a single at Mount Amasa on 19th February
85 Skylark* - seen when travelling on Route 6 on 20th February
86 Crested Lark – widely seen – a dozen sightings
87 Rock Martin – widely seen – fifteen sightings
88 Swallow* - widely seen on all bar one day
89 House Martin* - five sightings - Yeruham Lake, IBRCE and K20
90 Great Tit* - seen on both visits to Hayarkon Park and at Mount Amasa on 15th, 19th and 20th February
91 Penduline Tit – two at IBRCE on 17th February
92 White-spectacled Bulbul – very widely seen
93 Scrub Warbler – two at Amram's Pillars on 16th February and a single at Nizzana drinking pools on 19th February
94 Cetti's Warbler* - singles at Yeruham Lake on 15th February and IBRCE on 17th February
95 Chiffchaff* - widely seen - a dozen sightings
96 Moustached Warbler – single at IBRCE on 16th February
97 Sedge Warbler – singles at IBRCE on 16th and 17th February
98 Reed Warbler* – single at IBRCE on 17th February
99 Clamorous Reed Warbler* - singing birds on both visits to Ashalim Reservoir and Heimar Reservoir on 18th February
100 Savi's Warbler – single in the hand at IBRCE on 16th February
101 Graceful Prinia – widely seen – seventeen sightings
102 Lesser Whitethroat* – single at IBRCE on 16th February
103 Sardinian Warbler – widely seen - eleven sightings with ten in Wadi Mishmar on 18th February all stubbornly avoiding being a Cyprus Warbler
104 Spectacled Warbler* - sightings in Wadi Mishmar on 18th February and at Mount Amasa on 19th February
105 Arabian Babbler – sightings on both visits to Yeruham Lake and at Ben Gurion memorial park on 15th and 19th February
106 Black Scrub Robin – at least two in the Samar 'Jungle' on 17th February
107 Robin* – singles at IBRCE on 16th and 17th February and Yeruham Lake on 19th February
108 Bluethroat - six sightings – IBRCE, K19, Heimar Reservoir, Nizzana drinking pools and Yeruham Lake with at least ten at K19 on 17th February
109 Black Redstart – four sightings – Mitzpe Ramon, Samar ‘Jungle’, Sheizaf Nature Reserve and Mount Amasa
110 European Stonechat – widely seen – thirteen sightings
111 Siberian Stonechat – only one confirmed with a single at Yotvata on 17th February
112 Blackstart – widely seen - Ben Gurion memorial park, Amram’s pillars, Uvda valley, Samar ‘Jungle’, Wadi Mishmar and Ein Gedi carpark
113 White-crowned Black Wheatear – three sightings - Amram's Pillars, Uvda valley and Ein Gedi carpark with five in the Uvda valley on 16th February
114 Hooded Wheatear – singles at Amram's Pillars on 16th and 17th February
115 Finsch's Wheatear – at least five at Mount Amasa on 19th February
116 Desert Wheatear* - single in the Uvda valley on 16th February
117 Isabelline Wheatear – singles in the Uvda valley, at K20 and at Sheizaf Nature Reserve on 16th, 17th and 18th February
118 Song Thrush* - singles at Hayarkon Park and Wadi Mishmar on 15th and 18th February
119 Starling – four at Hayarkon Park on 20th February
120 Common Myna – widely seen – Bat Yam, Hayarkon Park, Zikim Beach, Ben Gurion memorial park, Yotvata and Ein Gedi
121 Vinous-breasted Starling – eight at Hayarkon Park on 20th February
122 Tristram's Starling – six at Yeruham Lake on 15th February, two at Amram’s Pillars on 16th February and around 150 around the Dead Sea and Wadi Mishmar on 18th February
123 Palestine Sunbird – five sightings – Hayarkon Park, Sheizaf Nature Reserve, near Idan, Nizzana Fortress and Yeruham Lake
124 Western Yellow Wagtail* - a single at K19 on 17th February
125 White Wagtail – very widely seen with a concentration of 100 at North Beach Lagoon and Canal on 17th February
126 Tawny Pipit – two in the Uvda valley on 16th February
127 Water Pipit* - singles at North Beach Lagoon and Canal and Nizzana drinking pools on 17th and 19th February
128 Chaffinch – singles at Hayarkon Park on both visits – 15th and 20th February
129 Sinai Rosefinch – three males and six females at Amram's Pillars on 16th February
130 Greenfinch* - single at Ben Gurion memorial park on 15th February
131 Eurasian Linnet – ten at Mount Amasa on 19th February
132 Corn Bunting* - seen when travelling on Route 6 on 20th February
133 House Sparrow – widely seen – sixteen sightings
134 Spanish Sparrow – five sightings – Uvda valley, Yotvata, Amram’s Pillars approach track, Sheizaf Nature Reserve abd Nizzana drinking pools

*34 species not photographed
 

Paul Chapman

Well-known member
The return flight was via Zurich and a text exchange with Julian around 7.00pm from there established that the owl had not been seen all day. However, we decided that we had at least to put ourselves in a position to get our Edinburgh flight.

So I landed back at Heathrow shortly after 9.00pm as a man on a mission. The flight was booked for shortly after 10.00am the next morning from Edinburgh. I had driven to Heathrow which was a minor inconvenience as I needed to get my friends back home but the timings allowed all responsibilities to be met. I had dropped my friends, said hello and goodbye to my wife and teamed up with Julian by 12.30am. I was going to be away for another couple of days. It was a trip extension.

There was no other decision to make. Julian drove north. At times, Julian was struggling as the sole driver but we knew how to keep each other alert. We had just about kept on track as dawn was breaking on Thursday 21st February and we were travelling through the Borders when news broke that the bird had been seen. Clearly the adrenalin did the rest. Approaching Edinburgh Airport via the minor roads did the trick and we had plenty of time to pace backwards and forwards and arrange car hire before the flight.

We landed on Mainland Shetland at around 11.30am. Car hire was quickly arranged and we were en route to Bixter. As we pulled out of the airport, various familiar faces were arriving back there having safely got the owl under their belt. As we pulled up at Bixter, we went into the field to where a scope had been set up. However, someone explained that the bird had recently dropped out of sight.

This wasn’t the plan. The bird had been located that morning inside the plantation and then pinpointed from outside. It was believed to still be in the same tree but out of sight. There was no permission to enter the plantation to relocate it. Minutes passed like hours and hours passed like days. A conversation with a birder doing the liaison secured a reasonable donation to the charity collection and permission to enter the plantation to check its tree. Massive relief. However, when the tree was checked the bird was nowhere to be seen……

Julian and I secured permission to check from the patio of the house. We were in for the long haul. Again, minutes passed like hours and hours passed like days. We both worked our way patiently from tree to tree through our scopes. An unexpected Blackbird alarm call gave us some hope and shortly afterwards at around 2.20pm, Julian picked it up. A scopeful of Tengmalm’s Owl!!! @%”#ing brilliant. I was happy. News was broadcast that the bird had been relocated and a steady stream of admirers arrived during the afternoon whilst the bird eventually shuffled itself more and more out of view.

We stayed till dusk in the hope of some further views. In the gloom of the early evening, the owl shuffled out and perched on the front edge of the plantation to the audible pleasure of the crowd. After giving full views for maybe five minutes, it flew towards the crowd and perched up on a small conifer on the edge of the garden at around 5.40pm before eventually dropping off the back and away across the fields for an evening of hunting. It doesn’t get better than that.

Other sightings that day were minimal but there appeared to be good numbers of Greylag Geese and Fulmar around and a backdrop of calling Red Grouse. We headed into Lerwick to secure some accommodation, dinner and a celebratory drink.

76, 77 & 78.Tengmalm's Owl
 

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Paul Chapman

Well-known member
We didn’t rise particularly early on Friday 22nd February but after breakfast, we headed back to Bixter. A fresh contingent of twitchers had arrived. Some had done Wednesday but not Thursday though for others it was their first attempt. There was no sign of the owl. There were plenty of eyes and the plantation was being checked. We could add nothing so we headed off to do some general birding.

Every location on Shetland brings back memories and Julian and I swapped reminiscences of birds seen in the past throughout the day as we either visited sites or pointed them out as we travelled around south Mainland – Pallas’s Sandgrouse, Caspian Plover, Pine Grosbeak, Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler, Little Bustard, Killdeer, Bobolink, etc and some reminiscences of trips that we had shared like Brunnich’s Guillemot and Siberian Accentor.

The first highlight was a Slavonian Grebe at 10.15am as we drove back along Tresta Voe to Lerwick. Back at Lerwick around 10.40am, we checked Shetland Catch and the Harbour with a near-adult and two immature Iceland Gulls of which the near-adult was indicative of kumlieni and a small adult Glaucous Gull. Also in the harbour, as always, the Tysties, Eiders, Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Shags, Gannets, Ravens and Grey Seals provided constant entertainment over the next hour or so.

79. Slavonian Grebe
80, 81 & 82. Iceland Gulls
83. Glaucous Gull
 

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