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Winter meets Spring - Pre-migration trip to Southern Israel 7-12 Feb 2018 (1 Viewer)


Well-known member
Winter meets Spring - Pre-Spring migration trip to Southern Israel 7-12 Feb 2018

This was my 3rd trip to Israel. A fairly basic report, with no photographs I'm afraid!

In 2016 I was present during the peak Spring migration period at the end of March when raptors filled the sky and mountain-sides near Eilat, and warblers and shrikes seemed to fill every bush. Being my first visit to Israel, I came away with 24 lifers including many easy species, and others not so easy such as Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse, and breeding Black Scrub Robins at Hai-bar.

Then last September, I revisited to connect with several fairly difficult species that were easier to see at that time - Sooty Falcon, Levant Sparrowhawk, Lanner Falcon, MacQueen's Bustard, Arabian Warbler, Namaqua Dove, White-Breasted Kingfisher, Spotted Sandgrouse, Black-Bellied Sandgrouse etc...........and a freshly-dead Nubian Nightjar!

I was 'umming and arring' about this trip - when exactly to undertake it, but I decided on mid-February as I hoped to be able to connect with several highly-sought-after wintering species, a few which sometimes linger on into Spring, but which were easier right now. Also, flights were reasonably priced with EasyJet from Luton, and accommodation was slightly cheaper.

Weather was another bonus in my eyes........typical February temperatures are around 20-25C, but frustratingly the 4-days of my trip coincided with a heatwave, and it was around 30C most days, making searching for birds difficult.

The emphasis in birding terms was certainly quality over quantity, and at times I yearned to look skyward and see kettles of Steppe Buzzards and eagles that would be passing in a few weeks time. But I made my choice, and had to work hard to connect with those sought-after species at times. Some species are omni-present irrespective of time of year - Collared Doves, Feral Pigeons, Laughing Doves, Yellow-Vented Bulbuls (aka White-Spectacled Bulbuls), and like back home, House Sparrows.


I arrived at Tel Aviv Airport at around 7.30pm on 7th February, picked up my car from Hertz, and headed Southward on Route 1 then Route 6. I arrived at my accommodation at Shivta on Route 211 in the western Negev at about 10pm, and settled in, within striking distance of Nizzana and Ezuz fifteen miles away.


I awoke at 7am on the 8th Feb, keen to move on. My host provided a wonderful bag of food for me, as I said I did not have time for breakfast. I headed through Nizzana, on to the village of EZUZ, and rang Celia, who maintains a small pool at her farm-holding in the village. She sent her husband out to find me and I watched proceedings from the patio for 20 shekels fee (just a few quid). But the omens were not good in breezy conditions, as no sandgrouse (Crowned nor Spotted) came down to drink that morning, and she was so apologetic, as this only happens 4-5 days a year. Two disappointed Polish lads who had been in the photography hide since 5am (which costs a bit more to use), left just before me, at 10am. Only Spanish Sparrows and Greenfinches were seen here, and 3 Palestine Sunbirds were in bushes by the car. CELIA'S HIDE is accessible to anyone, but you should ring her on +972 (0) 544655588, or email her at [email protected]. She will confirm the exact location of her home in Ezuz. She can also arrange accommodation in the village, if I had known about that I would probably have taken up that option.

Moving quickly on, within five minutes I joined the Polish due at the obvious railway-carriage-hide that overlooks NIZZANA PLAIN at km7 of the road between Nizzana and Ezuz.
I immediately located a displaying MacQueen's Bustard away to my left, but the two Polish lads were desperate to see it, so by the time they handed my scope back over to me twenty seconds later, it had stopped. Still, that initial ten second view will live with me forever. I've benefitted from others letting me look through their scopes before, its what birding is all about! So it is possible to see displaying birds even at 10am. Perhaps my luck had changed, and perhaps the omens were not too bad after all!

And it was in this hide that I met two wonderful Israeli birders - Saki and Ramon (?). I went on to spend the day with them. I followed them in their 4 x 4 through side roads, and eventually across the Country to KM94 on Route 90 in the ARAVA VALLEY. Here, a male Red-Rumped Wheatear should have been present, and indeed the two Israeli lads headed out into the thinner areas of scrub that the bird favoured, whilst I checked out the adjacent thicker patch of wadi bushes, locating a splendid Asian Desert Warbler, one of my primary targets. It was typically skittish, but over ten minutes I managed good close views. A Spectacled Warbler was also seen, before I joined the lads in the search for the wheatear. We walked out from the road for about a mile, before heading back again, but we only located Mourning Wheatear and Southern Grey Shrike. Then, just before reaching the main road again, I noticed movement on the barren, shale landscape to the left, quickly picking up a superb, adult male Hoopoe Lark, which we all watched closely for around ten minutes. What a fantastic bird! So although we failed to find the wheatear, the Desert Warbler and Hoopoe Lark were superb species to connect with. I said farewell to my two friends, and headed southward towards Eilat, where I was staying for three nights.

With darkness starting to descend, I just had time to drop in to BE'ER ORA, where I was thrilled to locate the wintering male Basalt Wheatear on rocks just north of the kibbutz. In subdued light, I enjoyed wonderful, close views, comparing it to a much larger White-Crowned Black Wheatear nearby. Of course, Basalt Wheatear is merely a sub-species of Mourning Wheatear, a race restricted to areas of Jordan. But all Israeli birders I spoke to about the species, feel it is destined for full independent species status at some future point, as it does not resemble Mourning Wheatear in build, behaviour or plumage.

So a great end to a great day. I checked into the Vista Boutique Hotel in Eilat, booked via www.booking.com, where I enjoyed a couple of pints in the bar before retiring early to my bed. I managed to find Sky News, which was constantly reporting the tragic murder of an 11-year old girl in Wolverhampton. Here I was, thousands of miles away, reading about events in my home town!


Having had a good nights sleep, I was up at 8am on the 9th Feb, and back out onto Route 90, revisiting BE'ER ORA to obtain better views in better light, of the male Basalt Wheatear. And I quickly located it, where it showed down to five metres astride a bush. In flight, the tail pattern was conclusive. An adult Finsch’s Wheatear also popped up from nowhere, and it also afforded superb views.....as they often do. And the White-crowned Black Wheatear was still present. In fact, this species and Mourning Wheatears are the default Wheatear-species in Israel, and I was to go on to see around 40 of each during the trip.

With the rare Basalt Wheatear safely in the bag, it was time to move on.

Next destination was the OVDA VALLEY, an area often mentioned but which there is seldom any precise information about. It is accessed off Route 12, the highway that runs northward from Eilat out through the mountains (or southward from the Shizzafon junction), and from either direction alongside the border fence with Egypt. Just past Ovda Airport, at KM66, is a signposted turning eastward to 'Sharahut'. This tarmac road then runs down from Km15 to Km1, but it is the district beside the road between km15 and km8 that is of particular interest, with the famous “black hills” away to your right at km13. The tracks off the road at Ovda are either sand-traps or extremely rocky, so I would advise birders to park by the road and bird the plains on foot. The plains may look birdless at first glance but don’t be fooled - there are usually birds out there. The 3 black hills of shale are only ten minutes walk from the road, and even in the increasing heat of the day, I managed to walk around them , in the vain hope of seeing the sought-after Thick-billed Larks. None were found, but larks were common and groups of Spotted Sandgrouse flew around. Eventually, out on the plain, I found at least 20 Temmincks Larks shuffling inconspicuously through the desert scrub. A splendid Desert Wheatear was also seen. If you do walk out onto the plain around Km13-km12 do take water and a good sun hat! Returning to the car, I drove slowly alongside the roadside verge between Km13 and Km8, as plenty more good birds were around, including another male Basalt Wheatear, male Siberian Stonechat, 3 Scrub Warblers, and the usual Mourning and White-Crowned Black Wheatears. Later on, I read that a Dunn’s Lark was seen here. Oh well, you can’t see them all. There was also no sign of the wintering female Red-Rumped Wheatear at its favoured spot. At around Km8, the road carries straight on into Ovda Airport, but a dog-leg to the left winds gradually upward to Sharahut. I did check out the valley that gradually winds up hill, but only had more of the routine Wheatear species as well as Blackstarts. So really, if you are only after those sought-after desert species, concentrate on the area between Km15-km8. Before I left, I noticed my two Israeli friends with their 4 x 4 stuck in the sand here, even though he was an ex-military jeep driver. He had taken a track adjacent to the airport perimeter fence - let this be a warning about the tracks away from the main road, on the airport side at least. I walked over to offer what little help I could, but airport security had arrived and there was little more I could do in all honesty, but they thanked me and again we bid farewell to each other.

I drove back round to Route 90, and to YOTVATA, where there is a good service station and shop, and more importantly to the immediate east, large circular agricultural fields and adjacent melon and onion fields, that are in fact fairly extensive. I first checked out the 'Southern Circular Field', in extremely hot conditions. A Kestrel and Pale Crag Martin were seen well, and around 10 Skylarks and 5 Crested Larks. I tried to locate Small Skylark that had been around, but it was difficult to pin any lark species down here frustratingly. At 'Northern Circular Field' I watched a ringtail Hen Harrier that put up hundreds of doves.

I left the sandy tracks of Yotvata, which in truth I found difficult to bird in such heat, and arrived at AMRAM'S PILLARS just off the western side of Route 90, and just outside Eilat, at about 3.45pm. A Gazelle species and 2 flighty, male Desert Wheatears were seen as I drove along the bumpy approach track, and then as I progressed towards Amram's Pillars car park, where the track terminated, I stopped a few hundred metres after the camp site but before the final parking spot, as a man was sat with a large camera in a strategically-good-looking position, and he indeed confirmed that this was where the Rosefinches came to feed at about 4pm. Of course, I am talking about Sinai Rosefinches, and I stood nearby, and over the next twenty minutes enjoyed crippling views of a dozen Sinai Rosefinches, including 3 cherry-red males with white streaking on the crown, as well as 2 Scrub Warblers, 2 Blackstarts, 2 Desert Larks, and 2 White-Crowned Black Wheatears, which all fed on the ground just feet away, interacting with each other and posturing to assert dominance at certain points in time. This was a magical bit of birding, and again, something that will not be possible to see in a few weeks as the rosefinches disappear high into the mountains.

I then quickly checked out KM20 POOLS off Road 90, and there was not that much present, except 150 stunning Greater Flamingo's, 100 Shelduck, 20 Slender-Billed Gulls, and a smattering of waders including a few Marsh Sandpipers, Wood Sandpipers, Redshanks, Black-Winged Stilts, Little Stints, and Redshanks. I should have spent longer here really, but I wanted to check out EILAT NORTH BEACH before sunset, and there I added 50 Pallid Swifts overhead, several Yellow-Legged Gulls, 8 Ringed-Necked Parakeets going to roost, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, and 10 Black-Winged Stilts.


I arose early on the sunny day of the 10th February, and noted 2 Tristram's Starlings by the hotel. I again visited the nearby EILAT NORTH BEACH where 30 House Crows were feeding around the beach. A juvenile white-phase Western Reef Egret, with its slightly-drooping bill, was watched closely. At the nearby IBRCE Birdwatching Centre, a Graceful Warbler showed well, and 15 Cormorants, 20 Greater Flamingo's, 2 Ruff, Black-Tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover were on the pools. But it was very quiet, so I decided to visit the Seifim Plain out past the Eilat Mountains on Route 12, as these had been very productive on my first visit here. But, they were devoid of any sort of bird-life disappointingly, except a couple of Brown-Necked Ravens.

So once again, I continued along Route 12 to OVDA VALLEY. This time I found 10 Trumpeter Finches, 3 Pale Crag Martin, Siberian Stonechat, 2 Desert Larks, 3 Mourning Wheatears, 3 White-Crowned Black Wheatears, and a male Kestrel hunting Merlin-style over the plain. But again there was no sign of the female Red-Rumped Wheatear frustratingly. A Short-Toed Eagle spiralled distantly.

At 1pm I moved on, around to KM94 off Route 90 again, where I failed to find the male Red-Rumped Wheatear, but over an hour watched 20 Trumpeter Finches, 2 Desert Larks, and an unidentified harrier at distance.

As I headed back towards Eilat on Route 90, I pulled over to the side near LOTAN as a small eagle circled directly overhead. I enjoyed great views, and immediately saw its small bill and profile that dictated it was a 'Spotted Eagle', but which one? Upperparts and body were uniformly dark-brown, and there was very little white in the plumage. I concluded that this was an adult Greater Spotted Eagle. Quite a few of these had been reported in the area over the past week or two, but no Lesser Spots yet.

From there I briefly checked out Ketora Kibbutz as a Kurdish Wheatear was present, but I did not know exactly where, and I gave up after a brief search, as I had seen one in Cyprus a few years earlier anyway.

Pleased with the Greater Spotted Eagle sighting, I again checked out the fields late afternoon at a breezy YOTVATA, where hundreds of doves and a few Skylarks were being chased by 3 Hen Harriers, including 2 ghostly-grey males. Always lovely to see! A White Stork and the first Northern Wheatear were also seen here.

I returned to Eilat as my car was starting to struggle with the constant stop-starting, in fact it would not restart at times! Which left me feeling quite concerned! Hertz in Eilat swapped the car over for me, but stated that it was merely cutting out to save emissions, as so many modern cars now do. But I think it was more than that, as I had not switched any settings, and I suspect it was overriding the system. I have to say, at this point, that Israeli cars are just not suited to bird-watching. Bare in mind that to start the engine, you have to insert the unique 4-digit code each time, insert the key fob, then press 'Start', and you can imagine the rigmarole each time you stop and start. Anyway, it was a relief to have a new car that I could run into the ground along sandy, bumpy tracks :)-.

I again had a couple of pints at the bar in the hotel, and retired to bed.


After breakfast, I checked out and left Eilat behind me. I drove north on Route 12, noting 3 genuinely-wild Camels by the perimeter fence but on the Egyptian-side, with no civilisation for many miles around.

I arrived at OVDA VALLEY at 8.30am, but yet again I failed to find the wintering female Red-Rumped Wheatear, with 4 Desert Larks and 4 Skylarks being the only birds seen during my brief visit.

So once again, I cut across the Country, and arrived at a breezy KM94 on Route 90 by 10am. I once again trudged out onto the plain, noting the same 20 Trumpeter Finches, Spectacled Warbler, 6 Desert Larks, and at last, the wintering, male Red-Rumped Wheatear! I studied it for ten minutes, noting its plumage features. The rump only contained a few rufous flecks and was otherwise white. The bird, as I already knew, was rung. The wing-coverts were whitish, and primaries on a folded-wing were brown. It was pleasing to have at last connected with this wintering vagrant, a true Israeli rarity! A showy, male Desert Wheatear was an added bonus here.

I happily left KM94 behind, and by KM130 of Route 90, I stopped to watch an enormous Steppe Eagle overhead. I arrived at HAZEVA by 11am, and took the signposted turn for WADI GIDRON that leads through greenhouses here. I took the right-turn for RAS-HASHITA, and at the end of the track through the trees, I checked the orchards for Namaqua Doves, as I had enjoyed great views of 6 birds there last year. 3 Desert Larks, 2 Sand Partridge's, Chukar, and Chiffchaff were seen here, and just as I was about to move on, I noticed 5 small passerines flying from tree to tree. It took about five minutes of stealthy, patient approach, but I eventually pinned them down, and was astonished to see that they were smart Syrian Serins, a bird species that I thought was only possible around Mtze Ramon in the western Negev. 2 of the birds were smart males with bright yellow faces.

Cheered by the views of the Serins, I moved on to nearby IDDAN to find the Water Treatment Pools on the outskirts of the village. As you approach the gate for the Kibbutz, do not take the road to the right situated just outside the gates (signposted 'Peace Route'). Instead, drive on into the Kibbutz, and after about one-hundred metres take the first turn to the right, that initially runs beside a fence. But after passing the first warehouse on the left, the road splits, and you should follow it to the left rather than heading straight on. The road then goes more or less straight for a km, then goes through some gates, and a few hundred metres later, take the left turn where "Badlands" is signposted (but note that there are several Badlands signs in the general area). A few hundred metres along the track, 3 fenced in pools can be viewed. When I was present, the first one was dry, the second one was low, and the third one was quite full. A good selection of birds were present on the third pool, including several Spur-Winged Plovers, drake Pintail, several Shoveler, 2 Teal, 10 Mallard, Little Grebe, whilst on the fence a few Little Green Bee-eaters showed superbly as usual. It was then that I noticed a passerine on the fence nearby, I initially thought it was a Rock Bunting, but the three head-stripes matched male Striolated Bunting perfectly, and of course this was what it was. Another unexpected lifer!

So having checked out IDDAN WATER TREATMENT POOLS for the following mornings sandgrouse visit, I headed back to Route 90, noting a superb, pale-headed Long-Legged Buzzard perched in a tree, and a Hoopoe nearby.

I headed northward on Route 90 past the famous Dead Sea Works that make Ellesmere Port look small-time, and arrived at EIN GEDI fully-expecting to easily connect with another lifer - Fan-Tailed Raven. But there was no sign of them at the Spa or in the village, though a dozen 'wolf-whistling' Tristram Starlings were present at the Spa, along with 2 Common Myna's. To be truthful, I was not too disappointed, I was keen to locate Clamorous Reed Warbler at the sign-posted LOT RESERVOIR, which was my next port of call. So from the raised track here, I quickly heard a Clamorous Reed Warbler singing in the reedbed, but over an hour there was not the slightest sign of movement, and I had to content myself with excellent views of 7 Little Green Bee-eaters, Graceful Warbler, Little Egret, Stonechat, Yellow-Vented or White-Eyed Bulbuls, and a fly-through Booted Eagle.

With dusk approaching fast, I drove back south alongside the Dead Sea to NE'OT HAKKIKAR and EIN TAMAR, neighbouring villages situated by the Dead Sea saltmarsh. En route, I enjoyed fabulous views of at least a thousand Swifts, a mixture of Pallid and Common Swifts. But more importantly, I had to check into my property called 'Coloured Sands' at Ein Tamar, but upon arrival all the signs were simply in Hebrew, so I had to ring the hostess, who showed me to my room for the night - a very nice self-contained property. And she lived next door to my guide who was due to pick me up at 7pm, Oded Keynan, the well-known Nubian Nightjar researcher. So communication sorted out, he arrived at my accommodation just after 7pm. And we then headed out to bird the saltmarsh and melon fields nearby. A large owl was flushed, but in the dark it was impossible to identify. Oded would drive using one hand, with a large spotlight in the other! Last year, the only Nubian Nightjar I connected with was a freshly-dead one on the road, and for 45 minutes it seemed things were heading the same way, as there was no sign of any birds in usual spots, and most of the melon fields were still closed (covered), but eventually an open melon field was found, and in his spotlight I suddenly saw two shining eyes and the outline of a flying Nightjar! Oded manoeuvred so that we could get closer, and over the next couple of minutes, I enjoyed quite superb spot-lit views of a 'live' Nubian Nightjar on the ground, and occasionally in flight. I high-fived Oded as I was bloody thrilled! Certainly worth the 70 euros he charged (normal charge is 100 euros but he could not start at 5pm as usual).

Oded, who was great company as well as a great guide, dropped me back off where I enjoyed three cans of Eagle lager. A great way to end the day!


After a good nights sleep, I awoke again around 7am, and I quickly drove north to LOT RESERVOIR again on my final day, but although the Clamorous Reed Warbler was again singing, it just would not show. So I had to leave to get to IDDAN WATER TREATMENT WORKS by 8am. The same birds were still present as yesterday, except the Striolated Bunting, and at 8.25am around 15 Spotted Sandgrouse flew in to drink, but left after less than a minute. Their distinctive "wattoo" calls filled the air. At 8.55am, around 30 Crowned Sandgrouse arrived and also landed on the bank of the central pool, but they also only stayed for around a minute before flying off. Reasonable views were obtained, compensating for missing out on them at Ezuz on my first morning! An adult female Pallid Harrier flew through, providing good views head-on.

I moved onto HAZEVA again, and went out into the nearby desert at SHEZAF NR. In a brief visit here, I could not find any Arabian Warblers this time (see my previous report last Sept for precise directions to get here), but around 20 Palestine Sunbirds, 2 Southern Grey Shrikes, and 3 Blackstarts were seen.

The reason I was in a rush was that Oded had arranged for me to access HAZEVA FIELD SCHOOL at 10am, to try to find the wintering Pallid Scops Owl in its favoured trees. Upon arrival I was told it had not been seen for several days, and indeed a search was futile.

After refilling the car with petrol, I moved across the Country via ROAD 227, which twists and turns before reaching Yerochum. A Steppe Grey Shrike and a Chukar were seen in this area. A brief visit to YEROCHUM RESERVOIR only produced a single Trumpeter Finch amongst House Sparrows, 50 Cormorants, 2 Great White Egrets, and several Grey Herons.

I moved on quickly, as I wanted to check out the raptor-filled fields of URIM, off Road 224. This massive expanse of arable fields has rows of pylons that had recently contained 3 Eastern Imperial Eagles and 2 Saker Falcons. But the only raptors I could find were a Black Kite and a Kestrel. And I was wary of going off good tracks onto sandy ones. There were also some Sociable Plovers out there somewhere! Several hundred Skylarks were over the fields, and a solitary Corn Bunting. But it was time to move on, slightly disappointed at the lack or absence of raptors on the pylons or over the fields.

It was time to head towards Tel Aviv for my flight home. Passing BE'ER SHEVA, 250 Black Kites were spiralling overhead, and at TEL AVIV AIRPORT a Cattle Egret and 10 Common Myna's were showy.

I handed my car in to Hertz, and the dreaded security checks were none too intrusive, and my EasyJet flight home was on time.


Overall, I think it had been a marvellous trip - with eleven 'lifers' exceeding my expectations - Nubian Nightjar, Basalt Wheatear (I appreciate not strictly full species), Red-Rumped Wheatear, Hoopoe Lark, Temminck's Lark, Asian Desert Warbler, Sinai Rosefinch, Striolated Bunting, Syrian Serin, Crowned Sandgrouse, and Greater Spotted Eagle. Additionally, great views of MacQueen's Bustard, Spotted Sandgrouse, Scrub Warbler, Desert Wheatear, and Little Green Bee-eaters.

I dipped on Clamorous Reed Warbler, Fan-Tailed Raven, Sociable Plover, and Desert Finch - in fact I don't believe the latter truly exist :)-.
Egyptian Nightjar and Pharoah Eagle Owl were never really likely, Pallid Scop's Owl had gone, and I just couldn't get any information regards Desert Tawny Owl.

Better birders, and better-informed birders, or guided birders would do better than me, but I really enjoy simply doing my own thing, but also enjoy the company of others I bump into along the way. Over 90 species were encountered.

It was a trip I really enjoyed. And that is what really matters at the end of the day.
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Well-known member
Sounds like a great trip. Excellent report, and glad to got to see a live Nubian Nightjar!

Many thanks DMW, yes it was rewarding going in February instead of March when many of those lifers would have left their wintering grounds.

This is my full BIRDLIST: - TOTAL 95 SPECIES (lifers in bold). I could have got more at Eilat but spent little time as have got rarer gulls/Brown Booby on previous trip.

Shelduck - around 50 at KM20 Pools
Mallard - around a dozen at Iddan Water Treatment Pools
Pintail - drake at Iddan Water Treatment Pools
Shoveler - several at Iddan Water Treatment Pools
Teal - pair at Iddan Water Treatment Pools
Chukar - just a couple seen surprisingly
Sand Partridge - a pair at Ras Hashita, Hazeva
Little Grebe - at least 2 at Iddan Water Treatment Pools
Cormorant - around 60 birds around Eilat
Cattle Egret - single bird in flight at Tel Aviv Airport
Little Egret - 2-3 at Eilat and 1 at Lot Reservoir
Western Reef Egret - an immature, white-phase bird in the canal near IBRCE
Great White Egret - single bird near Eilat North Beach, and a pair elsewhere
Grey Heron - around a dozen seen
White Stork - just a single bird at Yotvata
Greater Flamingo - 150 adults at KM20 Pools, and 20 immatures at IBRCE
Greater Spotted Eagle - adult low overhead at Lotan
Steppe Eagle - 1 large bird over Route 90, another at Ovda Valley
Short-Toed Eagle - 1 distantly at Ovda Valley
Booted Eagle - 1 dark-morph over Lot Reservoir, Dead Sea
Black Kite - 250 near Be'er Sheva, and 1 at Urim
Hen Harrier - 2 males and 2 females at Yotvata
Pallid Harrier - I adult female at Iddan Water Treatment Pools
Long-Legged Buzzard - 1 near Iddan
Kestrel - around 10 seen
Moorhen - 1 at Yerochum Lake
MacQueen's Bustard - 1 displaying bird at Nizzana Plain
Black-winged Stilt - around 30 seen
Stone Curlew - 1 bird at entrance to Amram's Pillars
Ringed Plover - 1 at IBRCE, Eilat
Spur-Winged Plover - around 50 seen
Little Stint - at least 2 at KM20 Pools
Wood Sandpiper - at least 2 at KM20Pools
Green Sandpiper - 1 near Eilat North Beach
Redshank - around 10 seen
Greenshank - 1 at Eilat IBRCE
Marsh Sandpiper - at least 2 at KM20 Pools
Black-Tailed Godwit - 1 at KM20 Pools
Ruff - 2 at KM20 Pools
Black-Headed Gull - around 50 at Eilat North Beach and KM20 Pools
Slender-Billed Gull - around 20 at KM20 Pools and a few at Eilat
Yellow-Legged Gull - around 20 by Eilat North Beach
Spotted Sandgrouse - around 60 seen at Ovda Valley and at Iddan
Crowned Sandgrouse - 30 at Iddan Water Treatment Works
Feral Pigeon - 1000-plus
Collared Dove - several thousand
Laughing Dove - around 300
Nubian Nightjar - a superb bird at Ne'ot Hakkikar
Swift - several hundred by Dead Sea
Pallid Swift - over a 1000 by Dead Sea
Hoopoe - 1 at Iddan and 1 near Be'er Sheva
Little Green Bee-eater - around 40 seen
Skylark - several hundred seen at Urim and Yotvata
Crested Lark - around 100 seen
Short-toed Lark - 2 at Ovda Valley
Desert Lark - around 40 seen
Temminck's Lark - at least 20 at Ovda Valley
Hoopoe Lark - a superb adult male at KM94 of Route 90
Pale Crag Martin/Rock Martin - around 25 seen
Swallow - around 10 seen
Tawny Pipit - 2 at Ovda Valley, and 2 at Iddan Water Treatment Pools
White Wagtail - around 50 seen
Northern Wheatear - 2 at Yotvata
Finsch's Wheatear - a fine adult at Be'er Ora
Mourning Wheatear - around 40 seen
Basalt Wheatear - 2 adults seen, 1 at Be'er Ora, 1 at Ovda Valley
White-Crowned Black Wheatear - around 40 seen
Blackstart - around 20 seen
Desert Wheatear - 5 seen, 1 at KM94, 2 at Ovda Valley, 2 at Amram's Pillars
Red-Rumped Wheatear - 1 adult male at KM94
Stonechat - around 10 seen
Siberian Stonechat - 1 adult male at Ovda Valley
Scrub Warbler - 5 seen, 3 at Ovda Valley, 2 at Amram's Pillars
Graceful Warbler - 2 seen, 1 at IBRCE, 1 at Lot Reservoir
Whitethroat - 1 at IBRCE
Sardinian Warbler - 3 seen, 1 at KM20 Pools, 1 at IBRCE, 1 at Shezaf NR
Spectacled Warbler - 2 at KM94
Asian Desert Warbler - 1 at KM94
Chiffchaff - 1 at IBRCE
Southern Grey Shrike - up to 10 seen
Steppe Grey Shrike - 1 at Road 227 near Yerochum
White-Spectacled Bulbul - around 100 seen
Palestine Sunbird - around 40 seen
Hooded Crow - 10 seen near Dead Sea
Brown-Necked Raven - around 50 seen
House Crow - 50 around Eilat
Tristram's Starling - 14 seen - 2 at Eilat and 12 at Ein Gedi Spa
House Sparrow - a few hundred seen
Spanish Sparrow - 40 seen - 8 at Ezuz, at least 30 at Yotvata
Greenfinch - 3 at Ezuz
Syrian Serin - 5 at Ras Hashita, Hazeva
Sinai Rosefinch - 12 at Amram's Pillars, including 3 males
Trumpeter Finch - around 60 seen, at KM94, Be'er Ora, and Ovda Valley
Corn Bunting - 1 at Urim
Striolated Bunting - 1 male at Iddan Water Treatment Works


3 Camels on Egyptian side of perimeter fence on Route 12
A single Gazelle species at Amram's Pillars
Thousands of large black beetles on the road at Ovda Valley
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Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
A mouth-watering report! I've been to Jordan a couple of times and birded with only limited gen. Israel sounds very different with lots of birds pinned down to known sites. One day . . .



Well-known member
Many thanks Mike, it was hard work, but it might be easier on guided tours to see these species. The whole trip independently done, cost me about £1000.

£30 car parking Luton Airport
£210 Easyjet flights
£400 hotels (5 nights) (Accommodation is Israel is expensive but you can certainly do it cheaper than this)
£200 Car hire Hertz (includes CDW)
£120 petrol
£50 food and drinks
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Richard Prior

Halfway up an Alp
Great report Nick, brings back happy memories of my two visits to Israel. I'm also (ahem) pleased to see that even ex-Army Jeep drivers can get stuck in the sand out there!


Well-known member
Certainly a great read Nick!, it re-awakened memories from the distant past, my one and only visit to Eilat, April 1-7th 1986, you could only "bird" up to 8.30 am....after which time the heat was insufferable! Loadza ticks on that trip too, for me the most memorable was "singing and displaying (like Nightingale, in pitch and quality)....Hoopoe Lark!
It seems like you visited at a "cool" time.....but then I can be a bit thick skinned at times.....;)


Well-known member
Nice one Nick. I take it the sunken bath and trickle of water is no longer above Eilat? Always a guarantee of Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse at dusk at this location.


Well-known member
Certainly a great read Nick!, it re-awakened memories from the distant past, my one and only visit to Eilat, April 1-7th 1986, you could only "bird" up to 8.30 am....after which time the heat was insufferable! Loadza ticks on that trip too, for me the most memorable was "singing and displaying (like Nightingale, in pitch and quality)....Hoopoe Lark!
It seems like you visited at a "cool" time.....but then I can be a bit thick skinned at times.....;)

Thanks Ken, I am not one for the heat at all. Air conditioned car birding is very important to me :)-
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Well-known member
Nice one Nick. I take it the sunken bath and trickle of water is no longer above Eilat? Always a guarantee of Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse at dusk at this location.

Hi Bubbs, I think much has changed, as it always does. Think the only reliable place for Lichtenstein's is at Km19 Pools.

But I am not the best informed :)-


Used Registrar
Last September? It seems like only yesterday I was reading your last trip report Nick!
Another wonderful account of what sounds like an amazing trip! Well done Mate!



Well-known member
It doesn't seem long I admit Chris............that's it til next year now.

May try Hula Valley next time, unless there is a very wet winter in the south. Its been a dry winter this year, not so good for rare birds like Thick-billed Larks, though I see via Israeli bird reports, that a few are now being found. Grrrr!! Its so changeable from day to day there.

Many thanks Chris for your kind words.

Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Nice one, and indeed we almost bumped into each other - good to see you got the Red-rumped Wheatear. Your gazelle at Amram's Pillars would have been Dorcas Gazelle.


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Well-known member
Nice one, and indeed we almost bumped into each other - good to see you got the Red-rumped Wheatear. Your gazelle at Amram's Pillars would have been Dorcas Gazelle.

Thanks Jos, yes they were exactly like that with those 3 markings on the ear (mind you that is probably not a defining feature).


Well-known member
Just to add, if I had undertaken my trip now, during the peak migration period and when the bird Race was on, instead of a month earlier, I would only have connected with half of my 11 lifers, as the rest have gone or are much harder. Nubian Nightjar and Crowned Sandgrouse should still have been possible, and Temminck's Lark possible still but thinly reported this year, but Sinai Rosefinch will probably have gone high up into the mountains, as will Striolated Bunting but both still gettable with more difficulty at km251 Mirador de Salvadori. Syrian Serin is probably still possible around Mtze Ramon, but Hoopoe Lark seems to be far less reported. Greater Spotted Eagle is rarely now seen in the South.

Basalt Wheatear, Red-rumped Wheatear, and Asian Desert Warbler have definitely gone. 3 Basalt's were over-wintering in Israel this year (and I saw 2 of them), and also 3 Red-rumped Wheatears (I saw the male only).

So it shows, it is definitely worth visiting in February, just before Spring migration kicks in.

However, there are other species now being reported that balance things out - Lesser Flamingo, White-Tailed Lapwing, Bimaculated Lark, Isabelline Shrike, rare plovers etc.

One thing I find a little frustrating is Yotvata where many of the rare birds are found. There are obvious Northern and Southern Circular Fields but in fact it seems many of the rarest birds are found in fields north of both. You need to be careful not getting bogged down in sandy tracks there.

Finally, my two Israeli companions were Shuki and Sassi I believe, rather than how I named them. Shuki is in the team 'Desert Wheatears' in the Eilat Bird Race (COTF- Champions of the Flyway). Two great lads.
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Steve Arlow

Well-known member
United Kingdom
During the week prior to the birdrace Hoopoe Larks were seen at Km94, Ovda, Elifaz, Si’fim and near Km20 with Desert Warblers at Km94 and couple of other places but non reported by months end. Following the birdrace on the WhatsApp group I feel Hoopoe Larks are staging a comeback given numbers and sites reported from, especially as back in 2012 and 2013 they were really difficult to find, I know of at least 10 sites for then in the Arava now, which is encouraging.

Great Spotted Eagle is always scarce in the south with migration route more to the north at Nizanna but fewer seen this spring than usual, the north as usual had the numbers.

Syrian Serins remained at Mitzpe Ramon till about middle of the 3rd week of March whilst Sinai Rosefinchs were at Wadi Nekoret near Ramon up till race day at least. The Persian Wheatear is still preset at Amasa as well.

There is certainly good reason for a winter trip as whilst the species mentioned are still present to at least mid March in a limited capacity they are commoner in January and February. I hope to get a winter trip in next year or so following a last minute abandoned trip last year.

March this year in the Arava has been hit and miss for passage migration, some days lots of birds and others seems a clear out but good birds still being dug out. Seems there’s a heat wave this March with persistent high winds and some heavy rainfall at times which has affected migration.


Well-known member
I must get this WhatsApp link Steve, it seems to be way better for up to date info than the website. That is what I was basing sightings on.

Israel is a great Country to visit undoubtedly, Spring 2017 was probably the best in recent years due to the heavy winter rain.

I hope Eilat's new airport finally opens by next Spring, that will make travelling there so much easier
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