Monday 25 April 2011

Israel trip with Birdfinders - Day 4 - Friday.

We picked up a breakfast box from the hotel reception and left shortly after 6 AM for what was going to be a very long day. Israel has many military firing ranges. Entry is prohibited during the week but permitted during the Israeli weekend. We drove 100 km to Hyyon plains firing range in light rain. It was cold on arrival and the wind was cool. Initial searches gave nothing apart from a couple of desert larks.

Desert lark

 A gorgeous male pallid harrier flew purposefully by.

Pallid harrier - male
When the sun came out a beautiful Temminck's lark appeared and showed well for 10-15 minutes.

Temminck's lark
A desert rat also made an appearance!

Desert rat
The greater hoopoe larks that we were apparently looking for did not appear. Brown-necked ravens did.

Brown-necked raven
We went back to the buses to eat our boxed breakfasts, before driving another 100km to small pool and reedbed where a Clamorous reed warbler responded quickly to a call. We had good though distant views before it retired back to the reeds. At a stop at the services for a drink 2 blackstarts entertained us nearby.

On again to the resort of Ein Gedi where Lynne and I decided to eschew birds for an hour or so to take a dip in the Dead Sea! Well, you've got to swim in the Dead Sea once haven't you? Swimming wasn't really possible. The water gives such buoyancy that the only comfortable position is on your back. If you turn onto your front the buoyancy is such that it feels like someone is holding your legs and lifting them up so as to push your face in the water. Very disconcerting! 10 minutes was enough and then we got out.

Me and Lynne in the Dead Sea
I photographed some Tristram's grackles but failed to get a shot of the attractive orange wing panels which are visible mainly when they are in flight.

Tristram's grackles (aka Tristram's starlings)
We went back to the carpark where a visible migration watch was in progress. We saw several raptors, vultures and cranes over the high cliffs. We decided to go higher and went to a car park in the mountains overlooking the Dead Sea where we observed some fairly large-scale migrations of common cranes, black storks, etc. with frequent views of Egyptian vultures and griffon vultures. Lynne talked to the local Bedouins who were having a picnic and they kindly gave her a cup of tea! We also saw a pair of sand partridges, black stork, kestrel, pallid swift, alpine swift and white-crowned wheatear.

Black stork
White-crowned wheatear
At sunset we went to our rendezvous with the Official Israeli guide who was to show us Hume's owl and Nubian nightjar. The first was in a steep sided gorge where we had brief views of a male Hume's owl. We then moved to a kibbutz near the Jordanian border where nightjars perched on the paths and could be picked out with torches without flushing them. We had views of several nightjars in flight and on the ground only 3-4 metres away.

Nubian nightjar
We had got the 'big five', and now came the long drive back to the hotel where we arrived, exhausted, just before midnight.

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