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Trying to sweep up in Southern Israel 21-26 February 2020 (1 Viewer)


Well-known member
This was my 4th visit to Israel, each time staying for around 4 days, and each time gradually picking up the vast majority of the Country's ornithological gems along the way - so I have now seen all the Sandgrouse, nearly all the larks, all the wheatears, most other passerines, gulls, & most of the occurring raptors.

Each visit seems very different, with migration pretty slow compared to February 2018 when I was last here. Having said that, the weather was perfect for me this time at around 24C, compared to sweltering 30C averages last time. On my final full day there was heavy rain which was to create carnage and affect my plans considerably.


21 Feb - Flights with EasyJet from Luton at 9am, landing Tel Aviv late afternoon, drive to Be'er Sheva where I would overnight.

22 Feb - Urim, Sde Boker Fields, Hameishar Plain, Ovda Plain, overnight Eilat

23 Feb - North Beach Eilat, IBRCE, Yotvata, overnight Eilat

24 Feb - IBRCE, Yotvata, Ashalim Reservoir and Lot Reservoir, Daed Sea wadi's, overnight Neve Zohar (Dead Sea)

25 Feb - Palestinian West Bank area of Dead Sea - Kalia Plantation, checking out a few Dead Sea wadi's

Car Hire and driving in Israel

I rented a nice Nissan Elantra from Hertz which was probably overpriced, and also paid full insurance - all came to nearly £300. But I wanted to be sure I would be fully covered for all those rough roads and also an easy to get car at the Airport that did not involve transit to some distant location away from the airport. The last words once I had paid up at the airport "No going off road". FFS, how the hell are you supposed to get to see all those wonderful cultural sites?

I have nightmares with Israeli cars, as people know you have to punch in a 4-digit security code each time you start up, but this confused things for me, and as I had an unfamiliar 'automatic' with Drive, Park, Neutral, or Reverse options only, I had my usual crisis's that are quite laughable to be honest. I still retain the instinct to just stop the car by turning the ignition off and jumping out to look at something (as I would do back home), but on one occasion out on Sde Boker fields I forgot to put the damn thing in P mode (Park), and then it wouldn't restart!

Key things to remember about driving in Israel: -

1) With Automatics always stop in P mode.
2) Take a mobile phone photo of your pin code
3) If you get 4 beeps when you put in the pin code, rather than the normal 2 beeps, it means something has confused the system. "If" this happens, you may have to leave it untouched with key taken out for a minimum of 15 minutes in which time it should reset! But you really do have to wait that long. Eventually I got used to the system and to be fair I found the Nissan a pretty steady car.
4) Paying for petrol by credit card is possible but will require the aid of the grumpy assistant, because it’s so damn complicated and seems to vary from petrol station to petrol station. If you can, pay by cash, if you want an easier experience. Its quite strange how Israel hasn't made things easier for westerners, with all instructions at petrol pumps in Hebrew.


Armed with plenty of up to date information and little snippets about where to hopefully see specialities, I was full of hope that I may contact with at least 50% of my key top targets - Desert Owl, Pallid Scops Owl, Egyptian Nightjar, Desert Finch, Thick-Billed Lark, Clamorous Reed Warbler, African Green-backed Swamphen, and Fan-tailed Raven. I would also hope for better views of Temminck's Horned Lark and Pharoah Eagle Owl, special birds of Israel that I had seen before but would like better views of. And I also just wanted to enjoy good birding along the way and also investigate areas of the politically sensitive Palestinian West Bank along the Dead Sea, controlled of course by Israel. Regards this latter issue, I 'ummed and arred', based on the considerations of other birders on here, and went for it! It partially back-fired but not for reasons you might expect, and ultimately you must make up your own choice, but the fact that several birders retain lists from Kalia Plantation and fields, suggests that it is feasible with some discretion.

21 February 2020

My EasyJet flight to Tel Aviv was possibly the scariest I have been on, simply due to the worst turbulence I have ever experienced, with the Airbus and its stewardesses being thrown all over the place at sudden unpredictable points. So I was pleased to get down on terra-firmer, where I quickly got through security and was on the road with my Hertz hire car by late afternoon. First birds seen en-route to my overnight stop were 2 separate Black-winged Kites that always catch the eye. A good start I thought! Plenty of Kestrels patrolled the verges of Route 6 to Be'er Sheva, where I arrived about 7pm. I checked in and slept well after some snacks.

22 February 2020

I was out on the road for the 20 minute journey to Urim, where I was looking forward to spending a couple of hours, but it quickly became evident that the tracks, as Steve Arlow had found a few weeks earlier, were still very tricky and I did not fancy getting stuck in the slime and mud. So rather forlornly, I did half-an-hours birding from the main 234 road, noting 15 Common Cranes, a Calandra Lark in flight, several Black Kites of course, and possibly a distant Eastern Imperial Eagle perched on a bare tree, which itself stood on an isolated mound a couple of km's to the north of where I was standing. The weather here was cold and windy, and with rain showers encroaching I moved southward and stopped at Habesor NR. There is a rough but hard-baked driveable track here that if time permits, may be worth checking out, but I just spent an hour by the rope bridge and adjacent reed bed, picking up a single White-Throated Kingfisher (a bird which is easier further north), Little Bittern, Black Kite again, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Chiffchaffs, the only Great Tit of the trip, and plenty of those delightful Palestine Sunbirds. Yellow-Vented Bulbuls and Crested Larks, House Sparrows, Collared Doves, Laughing Doves, and Rock Doves abound wherever you go and you quickly just ignore these.

I then drove on to Sde Boker Fields, an area I knew very well from my previous visit. I had my first crisis here, for after carefully pulling off the highway at the safest and most sensible point, I made my way along various sandy rough tracks, but pulled to halt and turned my ignition off without parking up in 'Park-mode', to look at 2 canines which I am sure were Wolves! They were about 300 metres away and were being pursued by people in a couple of 4 x 4's. I know they occur at night-time around Sde Boker, but was very surprised to see them in day light hours. I got back in the car, but whatever I did I could not get the car to start, because I had turned it off in Drive (D-mode). After half an hour stressing, with what little hair I have left in my ears and nose starting to drop out, I decided to walk to the petrol station half a mile away, where the petrol attendant rang Hertz for me (I couldn't get a link using my phone for some reason), and he put them on to an advisor who told me to return to the car and try again, which I did but it still wouldn't start. So with blood pressure tablets in the boot, I walked back again where the attendant was about to ring the fairly unhelpful Hertz chap again, when a Bedouin man coincidentally just paying for petrol, with his 4 kids offered help. He told me he supported Liverpool in the little broken English he had, and I told him I followed Wolves (my home town team) thinking he would at least have now heard of them due to being in the premiership. He looked at me in a bemused fashion, and said something to his lads who laughed (which was quite obviously something like "who the **** are they?"). Don't get me wrong, he was not being rude, and he drove out along the bumpy track obviously wondering what the hell was I doing out there. He jumped in my car and started it in 3 seconds flat. I still don't know what he did to manage to shift it from D to P mode, but I guess they get used to this happening. Anyway, he wouldn't take any money off me for his kind help, and he waved me off and ensured I got to the road ok, for the next stage of my journey on. What a lovely man.

But there was a plus-side to my crisis, as I was able to bird watch on foot as I trudged to and from the petrol station, and just as dear Paul Chapman had suggested, check the reservoir pool perimeter fence, and yes in deed I at last connected with a long-overdue lifer in the form of a lovely male Desert Finch. Also noted were 2 Egyptian Vultures, 6 Spotted Sandgrouse, Stonechat, Whinchat, 25 Corn Buntings, and Spanish Sparrows. So having been guided back to the road by my friend, I then made my way southward via the spectacular Mitze Ramon crater, with a single Griffon Vulture patrolling the skies overhead. Quite a few Swallows, House Martins, and Swifts too.

I arrived a the famous Hameishar Plain off Route 40 in the heart of the Negev Desert by about 2pm, an area that is normally a firing-range, but is open to the public on Israeli weekends (Friday and Saturday), so with today being the latter I had to make the most of my chance. I parked by the small roadside monument, and headed due west for about a mile, zig-zagging as I walked, which is the best way to flush out any larks in the absence of birding colleagues who can form a line and constitute a far more effective search party. I quickly located about 50 Crowned Sandgrouse, which were present in several small groups, and enjoyed close views of these. Apart from several Isabelline Wheatears, Crested Larks, and a couple of Spectacled Warblers, there was no sign of any avian life. A few Pale Crag Martins zipped though, but my 5 mile walk paid off when I located a breeding pair (presumably) of Temminck's Horned Larks, down to about ten metres. I had seen a group of these at some distance previously, but the stunning male complete with horns was a real eye-pleaser, and made all my effort fully worthwhile, even though I couldn't find any Thick-billed Larks disappointingly. The area to cover is vast, and as a single birder my efforts were perhaps always destined to only unearth a few gems.

My sore feet were to be made even worse when I decided to call into the Ovda Plain on my way to Eilat. I parked up and circumnavigated the famous 'black hills', but only clocked up a Hooded Wheatear frantically chasing a butterfly in a spectacular aerial dispute. A few White-Crowned Black Wheatear's and Isabelline Wheatears were present, but nothing better than that disappointingly. But I only gave it an hour here and wanted to get to my hotel in Eilat, the very reasonably priced 3-star Vista Boutique Hotel, which I had used before. I enjoyed an evening meal and a couple of beers before retiring to bed. I thought it had been a reasonable first day, but knew my chance of seeing Thick-billed lark had dissipated.

23 February 2020

Up at the crack of dawn for a 6.45am breakfast in the restaurant, I drove the very short distance to Eilat North Beach and the adjacent canal which were stuffed full of herons, egrets, and 7 Black Storks. A single white-morph Western Reef Egret was present, along with Black-winged Stilts and several other waders. But I progressed quickly so that I could get to the mound by Eilat's IBRCE birdwatching centre by 7am, to scan for Crested or Oriental Honey Buzzards. I also had a chat with Noam Weiss, one of Israel's leading birders, who told me they could crop up anywhere and had no real pattern. Most often they were at Eilat North date Plantation according to Noam, but also a mile to the west, or a mile to the east in Jordan, or back towards North Beach in the trees there, or even in the trees of the IBRCE itself. Incidentally, the IBRCE itself is currently poor with the old hides removed, apparently awaiting new ones. By 9am I had seen only flying Cormorants, a Caspian Tern, a few Palestine Sunbirds, Rose-Ringed Parakeets, flippin noisy yellow-Vented Bulbuls, gorgeous Little Green Bee-eaters, a pair of lovely Pied Kingfishers, and some hirundines including some nice Red-rumped Swallows. So I moved up a mile to the Northern date Plantation, where I noticed a car park that served as an overspill to the Israel-Jordan checkpoint. A track continues along the Jordan-side of the plantation for about a km, and whilst going along this I noticed my first Oriental or Crested Honey Buzzard flying low from tree to tree, for about ten seconds. The view was conclusive but poor, with the tail pattern striking, but I could not relocate it. I wanted better views than that!

After an hour I drove north to KM19 and KM20 Pools, where there were the usual Flamingo's, waders, and wildfowl, but there was nothing out of the ordinary. Best birds were a close pair of Temminck's Stints and 5 Marsh Sandpipers.

Samar failed to turn up the Black Bush Robins, though I have seen 3 of these previously so was not overly-concerned. A real hippy-type commune is this.

I moved northward to Yotvata, which I knew well from previous years. I went straight to the Northern Circular Field, and in that vicinity noted the usual Crested Larks, Skylarks, White Wagtails, Hoopoe, and Chiffchaffs lingering around, as well as both Common and Pallid Swifts, House Martins, and Swallows. But overall it was quiet, so I followed a tip about Namaqua Doves across the other side of Route 90 on the north-western tip of Yotvata, adjacent to cattle sheds. Hundreds of Feral Pigeons and Collared Doves gather here, and as the tip suggested, right in the far corner, on the fence were a few Namaqua Doves. 3 in total including a stunning male. Never easy birds I find, but it was a shame I could not get closer.

I got some food from the service station and spent late afternoon back at Yotvata Northern Circular Field, where raptor activity really picked up towards dusk. Best of all a stunning Black-winged Kite showed superbly, and a handsome male Hen Harrier aggressively had a go at one of three Marsh Harriers also present. A ringtail Hen harrier also came in, and 2 Sparrowhawks hunted low over the field. As darkness encroached, I got out my £25 Amazon-acquired spotlight, and was joined by four Hungarian birders, but together we could not locate Egyptian Nightjars that were apparently occasionally reported, and the Pharoah Eagle Owl failed to make a show as usual. So I headed back to the hotel, for food and beer, before trying to bathe my blistered feet which were painful in my boots.

24 February 2020

Another early start so that I could be at the Eilat IBRCE mound by 7am, but by 9am no raptors at all except a hunting Marsh Harrier had shown. Not a sign of any migrating Steppe Buzzards or Steppe Eagles either, surprisingly. So I again moved down to the car park by the Northern Date Plantation close to the Jordan border checkpoint. Driving up and down the track, I suddenly noticed a large, deep-fingered raptor heading towards the plantation from the Jordanian side, at 9.15am exactly. It floated directly overhead before landing in one of the treetops, out of view. But yes, this was one of the Oriental Honey Buzzards, very distinctive in profile, not especially dark brown but not pale either, so an intermediate-colour-phase bird. In hazy conditions, I was so annoyed that I failed to pick up much plumage detail considering the quality of view, but it was nevertheless very distinctive. And thereafter, I left Eilat, to head northwards. I stopped at Yotvata to get more food, and spent half an hour at North Circular field again, where I struggled with a pipit with a dark-neck patch and thought it might be a vagrant Buff-bellied Pipit, but that seems highly unlikely. Who knows! Probably just a Water Pipit.

By mid-day I was at Neve Zohar and checked into my room for the next two nights. En route, close to the Dead Sea, I checked out Ashalim Reservoir, just off the main Route 90. I found a lovely shaded spot under two obvious palm trees and watched the waterfowl beneath me for over an hour. It is quite an expansive marsh. I met two very nice Israeli lads filming the site, who thrust a microphone in front of me and asked me to tell them what birds were present. In fact there was a good range of waterfowl species, with several Ferruginous Ducks being one highlight for me. Eventually I located an African Green-backed Swamphen in the reed margin, another lifer for me. The pools are extensive and the reedbeds hold Graceful Warblers and Clamorous Reed Warblers, but I still could not locate any of the latter despite hearing their distinctive chatter. So a short journey north along Route 90 to Lot Reservoir at Neve Zohar was made, and there at last I located a singing Clamorous Reed Warbler that uncharacteristically sung from the top rather than the base of a reed stem. Although this was a pleasing lifer, as with the Swamphen, it did not get the juices going quite as much as some others.

At Neve Zohar, I decided to check out the gorge and wadi at the immediately adjacent Zohar Fortress, in fact the track is driveable from the main road all the way to the fortress, about a mile. It can also be looked down upon from a high viewing point on Route 31 around KM70 marker. But I would recommend driving along the wadi itself to the fortress. The access track is directly opposite the entrance turn off Route 90 for Neve Zohar village. The scenery in the wadi is spectacular, and I saw a few White-crowned Black Wheatears, Pale Crag Martins, Blackstarts, and several Fan-Tailed Ravens, the latter being another rather unthrilling lifer. I actually knew I could get these, having surprisingly dipped here last time I was here. As I drove back along the track to exit after dusk, and stopped once or twice, I actually heard a distant Desert Owl call on one or two occasions, which was an enigmatic and special moment even if I had little chance of locating one. You are not actually supposed to be in the wadi's of the nature reserve after dark, and can receive fines of £225 approximately, so I knew I should not linger nor use my spotlight, though the selfish part of me would have loved to have done just that. I am resigned to never seeing Desert Owls sadly. But today had been a very good day, and I enjoyed beers and a sandwich in the evening, sat outside my apartment in Neve Zohar.

25 February 2020

Today was a new venture for me as I had plans to venture north, past the security check point near Ein Gedi, into the sensitive West Bank section of the Dead Sea - Palestine. Still Israeli-controlled of course. No political inference intended!

I stopped for a short while at Ein Gedi, and paid to go in. This lovely shaded area produced 3 Sardinian Warblers, several Blackstarts and Yellow-vented Bulbuls, and House Sparrows of course. And a singing Blackbird.

Moving on northward, immediately past the security checkpoint on Route 90 into Palestine, is a left turn signposted Metsoke Dragot, and a newly-tarmacked, winding road that leads high, all the way up to the small kibbutz of the same name, high in the mountains. I spent an hour checking this area out, looking down into the impressively-deep wadi below. Blackstarts, 2 Desert Larks, Trumpeter Finch, up to 20 Fan-tailed Ravens, Kestrel, and at least 3 Long-Legged Buzzards were seen, but no hoped-for Bonelli's Eagles which had sometimes been seen here. The views are really impressive, but the drops off the cliffs perilous to the unwary.

With storm clouds encroaching, I headed another twenty miles north to Kalia. This was the area I really wanted to explore, for both Pallid Scop's Owl and Egyptian Nightjar. But I knew I had to recce the area sensitively. Google maps had been extremely resourceful, and I knew from Israeli bird-sites that plantations around here had been discovered to hold numerous pairs of Pallid Scops Owl in 2015. Researchers had found 23 territorial males in one plantation 2km long, along with a few Eurasian Scops Owls, in mature trees over 10 metres in height, in just one evening.
Since returning, I have found a webpage that would have helped me immensely and confirmed that this plantation was indeed Kalia, but at the time of my visit I did not know this. If you search through the attached document below, it even has a plan of the exact location of the owls within Kalia Plantation. I went there without any of this knowledge.


Kalia Plantation is better for birders than any of the smaller three you pass just before it (between markers KM260 - 270), as it has direct access via public roads off Route 90 into it. Those 3 smaller ones seem to be fenced off, unlike Kalia. The best access is about 50 metres after KM283 marker (and possibly at KM281 too), but the former is better. The tarmac road runs right through the heart of it from east to west and from north to south, and also out of it at its north-western tip where there are open onion fields (some closed off by plastic sheeting) that attract Egyptian Nightjars. The main tarmac road through Kalia Fields exits on Route 90 immediately by KM285 marker.

I have produced the attached map (at bottom of report) to scale showing the plantation and fields, which I hope you can make sense of and are able to expand. Nearest town is Almog if you want to compare to Google Maps. The dark blue line is the main Route 90 that runs from Eilat to Jerusalem, the red route is the tarmac road through Kalia Plantation and Fields. Red circles are where the territorial Pallid Scops owls were found in the study (already exhibited) in 2015 (I doubt it has changed that much), and the red asterix's are where I had my Egyptian Nightjars. Overall I had just a single Pallid Scops Owl that called and flew off, seen in the car headlights - debateable whether it is tickable but I have fairly low standards :)-. I didn't spend too long in the plantation as it was actually quite scary, maybe I will change when I grow up and grow a pair, but just 5 miles away Striped Hyenas previously killed a sole German walker. I did hear a strange variety of noises in the plantation and was half expecting a gruffalo to appear. 2 Jackals appeared right by me at one point, so I didn't actually go far from my car.

But Kalia Fields was superb (subsequent E-Bird reports from 28/2/20 show that there is plenty to see during the day too). For me, I was just driving along between 6-7pm and suddenly, adjacent to 'open' onion fields, Egyptian Nightjars appeared from everywhere - I had 9 minimum at one point, I must have jammed in on a post-roost communal gathering, they looked so pale in the car headlights. Furthermore, 4 individuals remained on the road until I was literally on top of them. Just a fantastic birding moment that will live with me for ever. It is known that this species breeds in this general area, such as at nearby Beit HaArava, so further exploration may reveal other locations.

Regards the sensitivity of birding on the West Bank, I cannot accurately assess this based on one single visit. There was an active police station by the parking and service area that I used, on the corner of Route 90. I was present most of the afternoon, often sat in my car at the adjacent service station. Perhaps this was not wise, with the benefit of hindsight, as most people pass through quite quickly. I was asked once what I was doing, at the entrance to Kalia Historic Hotel, but as soon as I said "English", he simply waved me on.

Perhaps aim to get to Kalia late afternoon but in good daylight, to recce the area, then bird again after dusk. That way you are in the area for just a few hours. If asked or approached by any security or police, my view is that it would be honest just to tell them that you are birdwatching, and the same is true if asked back at the checkpoint. The other option is to visit 'Kalia Historic Hotel', which is signposted off Route 90 at virtually the same spot as the turn off into the plantation (KM283). But of course the hotel is on the Dead Sea side, not the inland side. I went to take a look at these series of buildings, that are all derelict but covered in fantastic graffiti. Take a few photos (see one of mine at the end). It provides you with a genuine reason for crossing the checkpoint if asked upon returning into Israel from the West Bank. Or of course you can just say you went to Jerusalem, but I always think if you start fibbing, you can run into trouble. Anyway, as I found out, westerners with car rentals tend to receive very little hassle or questioning from authorities here. They are not intent on stopping you from enjoying yourself.

Regards birding the plantation and fields, I had no issues, workers in the fields saw me pre-dusk when I checked it out, which is advisable simply to get your bearings and handle on the place. Once it was dark, I saw no one else at all on these back-roads through the plantation and fields, and I found my car headlights superbly adequate to see the Nightjars, and only once in the plantation did I use my weak spotlight, as little as possible though. I saw no police on these roads, and I think they tend to concentrate on Route 90 and the Dead Sea side, though that is just a presumption based on my one visit. But basically, just be sensible and don't overdo anything in terms of spotlighting, and try to be discreet. Something some birders simply find impossible.

Bare in mind that when birding Kalia Fields, you can just make out the Police station in the distance across an open stretch of field, so try not to use a spotlight in that direction, I would advise. But again, you don't need to use a spotlight to see these Nightjars, headlights on full beam were superb. I checked the fields several times over a few hours, and always connected, though sometimes as few as 3 Nightjars were seen such as at about 10pm. So peak activity seems to be, in February at least, just after it has gone dark and when the birds first become active. It started going dark at about 5pm, and was fully dark by 6.30pm, and at that point onward it was excellent.

I left Kalia at 7pm, but when I got to the border checkpoint by Metsoke Dragot at 7.30pm, there was little movement of traffic. Sometimes there is a queue to get back into 'Israel proper', but nothing was moving over ten minutes. Eventually I got out and asked the 3 teenage Israeli Army girls with AK47s at the checkpoint why there was no movement. One spoke broken English and told me that Route 90 between the checkpoint and my hotel twenty miles away at Neve Zohar was closed due to flash floods (I had mentioned storm clouds earlier), and that it may be closed for a few hours until it is cleared and assumed safe. To cut a long story short, it reopened at 6.57am!! So I slept in the car, and also spent a few hours back at Kalia, and also up on the hillside at Metsoke Dragot - as I mentioned earlier the turn off up hill is immediately by the checkpoint. I parked safely off-road at the point that looked down into Wadi Dragot, but heard no owls in the strong breeze which often apparently occurs by the Dead Sea. A detour around the other side of the Dead Sea would have apparently taken five hours via Jerusalem and Be'er Sheva! The poor tired girls at the Army checkpoint didn't even ask me any questions when they received the message to reopen the road.

26 February 2020

So after a quick breakfast back at the hotel, I packed things and set off along Route 31 through the mountains, and then Route 6 to Tel Aviv Airport for my afternoon flight home. En route I picked up Short-toed Eagle and a male Pallid Harrier overhead. Not bad really, but I missed out on Har Amasa as I feared more roads closures higher up, so did not try for Long-Billed Pipit.

So overall, a pretty decent trip with 111 species seen and 7 lifers in Oriental or Crested Honey Buzzard, Egyptian Nightjar, Pallid Scops Owl, Desert Finch, Clamorous Reed Warbler, African Green-backed Swamphen, and Fan-tailed Raven. If I had seen the Desert Owl, it would have been superb. Especially pleased with the self-found Nightjars, but also with the views of Black-winged Kite and the Temmincks Horned Larks. The Wolves weren't too bad either - presuming I didn't make a monumental misjudgement - which is distinctly possible.

Special thanks go to Paul, Steve, Jos, Jan - all well known on here of course and top birders to boot, and also Ed Stubbs who only infrequently appears here, but my gratitude goes to each in equal measure for helping me with getting to see such special birds - it's what this forum is great at. Their reports are just superb and always have been.

Bird list now follows, but before that a few scenery photos, as you probably know I don't have any photographic equipment to take quality images of birds.

1) Map of Kalia Plantation and Fields
2) Tarmac roads within Kalia Plantation
3) Zohar Fortress, Neve Zohar
4) Habesor NR
5) Kalia Historic Hotel - one of the smaller outbuildings


Arabian Wolf x 2
Jackal x 3


Chukar x 3
Shoveler x 10
Gadwall x 20
Mallard x 30
Pintail x 20
Teal x 50
Pochard x 20
Ferruginous Duck x 6
Egyptian Nightjar x 9
Common Swift x 20
Pallid Swift x 10
Spotted Sandgrouse x 6
Crowned Sandgrouse x 50
Rock Dove / Feral Pigeon x 1000
Collared Dove x 800
Laughing Dove x 200
Namaqua Dove x 3
African (Green-backed) Swamphen x 1
Moorhen x 10
Coot x 100
Common Crane x 15
Little Grebe x 5
Greater Flamingo x 80
Black-winged Stilt x 50
Avocet x 2
Spur-winged Plover x 40
Ringed Plover x 1
Ruff x 10
Temmincks Stint x 2
Dunlin x 30
Little Stint x 10
Redshank x 70
Greenshank x 4
Marsh Sandpiper x 5
Slender-billed Gull x 200
Black-headed Gull x 5
Lesser Black-backed Gull x 20 (not sure which race)
Caspian Tern x 1
Black Stork x 8
Cormorant x 50
Little Bittern x 1
Grey Heron x 50
Cattle Egret x 15
Little Egret x 20
Great White Egret x 30
Western Reef Egret x 1
Black-winged Kite x 3
Egyptian Vulture x 2
Griffon Vulture x 1
Eastern Imperial Eagle x 1 (very probable)
Crested Honey Buzzard x 2
Short-toed Eagle x 1
Sparrowhawk x 2
Marsh Harrier x 8
Hen Harrier x 2
Pallid Harrier x 1
Black Kite x 100
Long-Legged Buzzard x 4
Common Buzzard x 1 (probably race Steppe Buzzard)
Pallid Scops Owl x 1
Hoopoe x 1
White-throated Kingfisher x 1
Pied Kingfisher x 2
Little Green Bee-eater x 30
Kestrel x 30
Monk Parakeet x 1
Rose-ringed Parakeet x 15
Great Grey Shrike x 2 (probably Southern Grey Shrike)
Jackdaw x 6
House Crow x 15
Hooded Crow x 20
Brown-necked Raven x 20
Common Raven x 2
Fan-tailed Raven x 40
Great Tit x 1
Desert Lark x 2
Skylark x 5
Crested Lark x 130
Calandra Lark x 1
Temmincks Horned Lark x 2
White Spectacled Bulbul x 300
Swallow x 100
Red-rumped Swallow x 20
Pale Crag Martin x 20
House Martin x 30
Chiffchaff x 40
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler x 1
Clamorous Reed Warbler x 1
Graceful Warbler x 6
Sardinian Warbler x 3
Spectacled Warbler x 2
Common Myna x 40
Tristram's Starling x 25
Blackbird x 2
Whinchat x 2
European Stonechat x 8
Isabelline Wheatear x 10
Hooded Wheatear x 1
Blackstart x 40
White-crowned Black Wheatear x 10
Mourning Wheatear x 2
Palestine Sunbird x 20
House Sparrow x 500
Spanish Sparrow x 100
White Wagtail x 100
Tree Pipit x 1
Water Pipit x 1 (that I tried to turn into a putative Buff-bellied Pipit)
Trumpeter Finch x 1
Desert Finch x 1
Linnet x 2
Corn Bunting x 25


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Fantastic read. (Bitterly regretting not having followed my original instincts to include Kalia for our trip.)

Your Swamphens would have been African (Green-backed) Swamphen rather than Grey-headed I believe. Grey-headed is in Turkey & Kuwait. African however is in Egypt amongst other places. Pics attached are African Swamphen from Ashalim Reservoir (18.02.19) & Grey-headed Swamphen from Jahra Pools, Kuwait (10.04.17).

All the best



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A riveting read as always Nick! Congratulations on the Lifers, I really must visit Israel, so many birds I'd love to see! Looking forward to the next installment avidly Mate!


Fantastic read. (Bitterly regretting not having followed my original instincts to include Kalia for our trip.)

Your Swamphens would have been African (Green-backed) Swamphen rather than Grey-headed I believe. Grey-headed is in Turkey & Kuwait. African however is in Egypt amongst other places. Pics attached are African Swamphen from Ashalim Reservoir (18.02.19) & Grey-headed Swamphen from Jahra Pools, Kuwait (10.04.17).

All the best


Thanks Paul, stupid error on my behalf. :t:

Amended now.
A riveting read as always Nick! Congratulations on the Lifers, I really must visit Israel, so many birds I'd love to see! Looking forward to the next installment avidly Mate!


Its great Chris, so many wonderful birds to see.
Thanks as always mate.
Great read Nick, it’s a few years since I went to Israel ( with Birdboybowley and co, he still has dreams about the AK47 - wielding soldiers you referred to I believe;);)) so things may have changed, but Red Kite would be very rare I think (takes cover to await flak from those with more recent birding experience down there).
Great read Nick, it’s a few years since I went to Israel ( with Birdboybowley and co, he still has dreams about the AK47 - wielding soldiers you referred to I believe;);)) so things may have changed, but Red Kite would be very rare I think (takes cover to await flak from those with more recent birding experience down there).


Certainly The Birds of Israel (Shirihai 1996) gives it as an 'occasional or extremely rare migrant and winter visitor' and lists individual records suggesting low single figures per year.

I had forgotten how big & heavy that book is until I got it out to read up the owls & nightjars recently.

All the best
Ah, ok thanks both, views were certainly quite brief, must have been another Black Kite. The tail at that moment looked so deeply split. But I didn't see it well enough to claim categorically, and hadn't realised how rare they were in Israel.

I will go back and amend.
Ah, ok thanks both, views were certainly quite brief, must have been another Black Kite. The tail at that moment looked so deeply split. But I didn't see it well enough to claim categorically, and hadn't realised how rare they were in Israel.

I will go back and amend.

Those Black Kites can be a problem. I called a Booted Eagle on our trip originally which I downgraded to a Black Kite after we'd pulled over.

All the best
Excellent Read, I'll have to add Kalia to the list of places not yet visited that deserve a visit. I'm back in a couple of weeks with a start in the north so perhaps I'll stop here on my drive south to Eilat instad of my planed stop of Mt. Amasa, save that for another day.
You almost make it seem easy to hear a Desert Owl in Israel! Was that your first try ever? We have sunk something like 12 hours into it before we made contact :) Did you have any gen on that site, or were you just purely lucky? I actualy had some info that the owls can be somewhere in that area, but it was a singular piece of info and much more reports are from the more northerly sites so I never bothered to check there.

You didn't really have to fret about the checkpoint, as it is on the main Jerusalem-Dead Sea road, nobody ever bothers tourists there. We crossed it many times at night (note: if someone is stalking me for secret info, this can be quite helpful!) and at maximum we had a friendly chat about what were doing (which we never denied).

Big jealousy on the Nightjars, we tried for them in Yotvata (and, pointlessly, in Morocco, due to ambiguous phrasing in Collins), but this is a big hole in our list! Also on the OHBs, I am still angry with myself that I did not prepare more before we tried to look for them last year ...

And also jealousy on such a great trip in general, I am too afraid of getting caught in a quarantine to do anything now!
Thanks Steve, Jan.

Hope you both feed back any future trips you make, be really interested how anyone finds Kalia especially.

Regards the Desert Owls, I thought the wadi's at Neve Zohar and Metsoke Dragot held great promise. But they are an unpredictable species.
The Egyptian Nightjars though, were so easy it was ridiculous. Obviously I can't say it is always like that, but I wouldn't be surprised at all.

The OHB's were not as easy as I had hoped, they can be very tricky, but I think the best way to connect is as Paul said, scan all directions from the mound just outside IBRCE. And hope!
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