Sunday 10 April 2011

Israel trip with Birdfinders - Day 1. Here it is!!

Lynne and I went on this trip, the first of its kind that we had ever been on. I did a lot of twitching last year, but I came to the conclusion that it was far better to spend petrol money going abroad where I would see loads of birds instead of chasing after one here that I mightn't even see!

After the 5 hour flight from Luton to Tel Aviv we met up with our guides James Smith and Martyn Kenefick. We set off in 2 minibuses to the Guvelot Kibbutz. This was basic accommodation for the overnight stop.

Day 1 proper. Tuesday 22 March 2011.

We set off early the next morning with a packed breakfast, but not before I had found a Syrian woodpecker in a tree near our chalet. When we got on the road, almost immediately a great spotted cuckoo flew in front of the bus followed by common myna birds nearby.

The main target birds this morning were McQueen's bustard and cream-coloured courser, 2 of the big 5 birds that we would be looking for on this trip. We stopped in the middle of the desert and piled out to scan the horizon. Very soon we had located both birds in the far distance (too far for photographs but visible with the scope), along with woodchat shrike, desert lark, and various distant raptors.

We then moved on to a set of sewage ponds to look for sandgrouse. After sitting still for a while we managed to see black bellied, spotted and pin-tailed sandgrouse, as well as a black shouldered kite, pallid harrier, hen harrier, bluethroat, oriental skylark, short toed lark, crested lark, zitting cisticola, black winged stilt, lesser whitethroat, white wagtail, yellow wagtail, spur-winged plover, and several more common waders.

Zitting cisticola
 We also witnessed mass migration of several hundred white storks, common cranes, red-rumped swallows, common and pallid swifts, and various raptors including Steppe buzzard, long-legged buzzard, lesser spotted eagle, short-toed eagle, black kite, and Western marsh harrier. We were lucky in having James Smith as our guide. James has been to Israel every year for the last 21 years and has done 6 annual raptor migration surveys, so he was able to pick out the various species with consummate ease.

Migrating white storks
Short-toed eagle
Long-legged buzzard
Pallid harrier - male
Pallid harrier - female

We moved on to another reservoir area where we saw a number of relatively common waterbirds, ducks as well as 3 southern grey shrikes.

Southern grey shrike

At the next stop we saw masked shrike, Northern, Isabelline, desert, Cyprus, pied and mourning wheatears, blue rock thrush and the rare Syrian Serin (otherwise called Tristram's Serin). This was turning out to be a brilliant first day. I was ticking so fast my pen tip was on fire!

Eastern mourning wheatear
Nubian ibex
Palestine sunbird - male. The female is just too drab to put up!
Desert lark
Eastern black-eared wheatear
After lunch we set off again and stopped much further south in the Negev desert looking for larks and especially broad-billed larks. We did see short-toed, calandra, bimaculated, crested and broad-billed larks before the day was out, as well as trumpeter finch, Isabelline wheatear, etc. At dusk, another pallid harrier came into the distance but we were piling in to the buses to head for Eilat.

The Dan Panorama Hotel was really nice. A luxury hotel with lovely rooms, fabulous buffet food and friendly service. The food was too good really and we certainly put on weight after the trip! Lynne was in her element with the huge range of vegetarian food. After dinner, we had the bird report and, after one drink, we sloped off to bed, exhausted!!

Day 2 - soon!


  1. Wow - how wonderful to share you trip with you and see, through your eyes and pictures, such exotic birds and animals.

    Sounds as though the accommodation and food turned up trumps as well :D

    Looking forward to day 2 !

  2. Thanks, Tricia. It was a lovely trip.


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