"A family holiday" to Eilat with some birdwatching and some general relaxing. One day trip to Nizzana and Urim.
Participants: Tom Backlund, Minna Backlund, Terese Palm, Martin Helin
Weather: Warm (25-30 C at daytime, about 18-20 at night), sunny with some clouds. Many days were windy, especially in the evenings. It may be totally normal but we were surprised (and horrified, guess why...) to see Nizzana covered in a thick fog when we arrived there. It cleared in a few hours.
Other birdwatchers: Several groups (among them the Finns Jyrki Normaja; Harri Muukkonen, Gustaf Nordenswan and Matti Rekila) had visited Eilat and S Israel earlier in the month so we had fairly good information on recent observations. In the end of November there weren't that many birdwatchers around anymore. We met the resident John Morgan briefly and one Danish and one British group and a Finnish group (Hannu Kettunen & Martti Siponen) which we had contacted already in Finland.
24.11. We (TB & MHe) arrived at Ovda at 2 pm and got rather quick through the formalities and managed take a short peek at North Beach between 3-4.30 pm.
25.11. Km 33 and surroundings (6-8.45 am), 3.15-4.30 pm Salt pools, the Canal, North Beach
26.11. Km 20 (6.20-10.45 am) (MHe only); pm: Salt ponds, Pumping station & surroundings, the Striated Scops Owl site
27.11. Km 20 (6.20-9.10 am), the Striated Scops Owl site + Pumping station in the evening
28.11. Nizzana & Urim. Start at 4.15 am from Eilat, in Nizzana at 7 o'clock. Back from Urim at about 3.30 pm, back in Eilat at about 7.15 pm. We drove to Nizzana turning from road number 90 to Be'er Menuha, road number 13 (instead of driving through Shizzafon, road number 12) as we heard that the latter route had been quite slow earlier in the year (road construction?; the situation may have changed by now). The roads were generally in good condition (although somewhat winding) and there were only short distances of road construction going on. Returned from Urim through Be'er-sheva (you just drive through the city along the same main street; we didn't have any city maps of Be'er-sheva). There was only a couple petrol/gas stations along this street as far as I could tell.
29.11. The road to Amram's Pillars (start at km 20) 7-9 am, 3.45-4.30 pm North Beach.
30.11. We had planned to head to Yotvata at 7.30 am after the breakfast but it was impossible to drive away from the hotel area because the roads were closed due to the 10th Eilat triathlon competition!!! There wasn't any warning about this in the hotel (Ceasar) which we sourly announced to the somewhat indifferent hotel staff. Apparently the only way we could have avoided getting stranded was if we'd understood the announcements in the local newspapers in Hebrew. We couldn't think of a way to get out of the area with a car (and besides the main road to the Dead Sea was apparently also closed all the way to Be'er Ora with only bus convoys getting through) so we had to postpone our trip to Y. and we drove there in the afternoon. Yotvata (km 50 and the area around the gas station), km 33 and km 20 12.40-4.30 pm.
31.11. We left to the airport at 9.30 am and did not watch birds that morning.
Km 20: It seemed to be okay to drive on all the dykes except the ones closest (parallel) to the border.
Km 33: As reported in e.g. Birding World the area has been partly turned into fields but the are east of the pumping station seemed to be intact. However, there weren't that many birds (=larks) around.
Km 40: We heard from a British group that in addition to the small sewage pond on the east side of the main road there is a good stream from this pond to the east which had produced e.g. a Black Stork (Ciconia nigra) and a Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides) (possibly the same I saw at km 20) but no Sandgrouse.
Nizzana: The military presence wasn't as disturbing as we had thought and we had no interference from the military at all (well, maybe they didn't even notice us at first because of the fog...).
We observed about 135 species during our stay.
Not all observations for each species are included in the notes, rather peak numbers or estimates for some sites are given. Also we did not try to see some species which were present as we have seen them before.
ENGLISH NAME SCIENTIFIC NAME NOTES Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 1 at km 20 Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus Up to three at North Beach Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis 3-4 at km 20 Brown Booby Sula leucogaster 1 juvenile at the North Beach on 24-25.11. There were actually two juveniles present for the whole period but we only saw the other bird. Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo In Eilat Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides 1 adult at km 20 on 26.11. (MH only) (Cattle Heron) (Bubulcus ibis) 2 probable birds on 28.11. close to Urim Western Reef Heron Egretta gularis E.g. 13 birds on 29.11. at North Beach Little Egret E. garzetta Great White Egret E. alba 1 at the salt pools and 1 at km 20 Grey Heron Ardea cinerea Purple Heron A. purpurea 1 juvenile at km 20 on 27.11. Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber 4 at the salt pools and e.g. 66 at km 20 on 26.11. Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 1 at km 20 on 26-27.11. Shelduck T. tadorna E.g. 22 at km 20 on 26.11. Wigeon Anas penelope Gadwall A. strepera 5 at km 20 on 26.11. and 2 on 30.11. Mallard A. platyrhynchos 5-10 at km 20 and in Nizzana Pintail A. acuta E.g. about 40 at km 20 on 27.11. Teal A. crecca Small numbers at km 20 Garganey A. querquedula One female plumaged at km 20 on 26.11. Shoveler A. clypeata At km 20 and n Nizzana Marbled Duck Marmonetta angustirostris One at km 20 on 30.11. Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula Up to three at km 20 Ferruginous Duck A. nyroca One male and two female plumaged birds at km 20 Black Kite Milvus migrans Dozens in Urim (we didn't go to the rubbish tip where there should be hundreds of them) Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus Hen Harrier C. cyaneus Pallid Harrier C. macrourus Two adult males and one female (+1 year) in Urim Pallid/Montagu's Harrier C. macrourus/pygargus Two female plumaged in Urim Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus (Buzzard) (Buteo buteo) 1 probable in Nizzana Long-legged Buzzard B. rufinus 1 in Nizzana, 2 in Urim Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca About 8 in Urim (juvenile and subadult birds) Steppe Eagle A. nipalensis Just one juvenile migrating in Eilat on 24.11. Booted Eagle Hieraetus pennatus 1 adult (light phase) near Urim Kestrel Falco tinnunculus Lanner Falcon F. biarmicus 1 adult in Urim Saker Falcon F. cherrug 2 in Urim Peregrine F. peregrinus 1 adult in Urim Barbary Falcon F. pelegrinoides 1 in Eilat and 1 probable in Nizzana Chukar Alectoris chukar Common in Nizzana and Urim Sand Partridge Ammoperdix heyii Water Rail Rallus aquaticus 1 + calls at km 20 Moorhen Gallinula chloropus Lots of calls and a few seen at km 20 Coot Fulica atra At km 20 Crane G. grus 25 birds in Urim Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata 1 male in Nizzana Black-winged Stilt H. himantopus A few dozen Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta 2 at km 20 on 27.11. Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula Greater Sand Plover C. leschenaultii 2 at km 20 on 27.11. Kentish Plover C. alexandrinus Grey Plover P. squatarola 1 at km 20 on 26-27.11. Spur-winged Plover Hoplopterus spinosus E.g. about 40 in Urim Sociable Plover Chettusia gregaria 1 in Urim Lapwing V. vanellus About 150 in Urim Little Stint C. minuta Temminck's Stint C. temminckii Dunlin C. alpina Ruff Philomachus pugnax 3 at the Salt pools Common Snipe G. gallinago 2 at km 20 Redshank Tringa totanus Greenshank T. nebularia White-eyed Gull Larus leucopthalmus Dozens at North Beach on all visits, the highest count was 34 birds on 29.11. Black-headed Gull L. ridibundus A few dozen at North Beach Slender-billed Gull L. genei A few dozen at North Beach Common Gull L. canus One +1st cal. year at North Beach on 25.11. Yellow-legged/Lesser Black-backed type gulls Larus sp A few juveniles at North Beach none of which were seen well enough to identify Caspian Tern S. caspia 2 at North Beach - the Lagoon Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse Pterocles lichtensteinii 18 at the Pumping station (in Eilat) on 26.11. and 13 on 27.11. Crowned S. P. coronatus 2 in Nizzana Spotted S. P. senegallus About 150 in Nizzana Black-bellied S. P. orientalis About 80 in Nizzana. In addition, we saw about 100 unidentified sandgrouse (in several flocks) in Nizzana too far away to be identified. Rock Dove Columba livia Common Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto Locally common Palm Dove S. senegalensis Common and widespread Namaqua Dove Oena capensis 5-7 birds at km 20 on 30.11. (Rose-ringed) Parakeet Psittacula sp. (krameri) Two were seen flying west at km 20 on 30.11., probably coming from Jordan Striated Scops Owl Otus brucei Three birds resting in acacias on 26.11. in a wadi just outside Eilat (the same place as before). The next day just two were found. Kingfisher Alcedo atthis One at North Beach on 24-25.11. Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis Two birds at North Beach - the Lagoon throughout the period perhaps staying overnight on the other side of the bay (to the SW, i.e. in the direction of the Port) Little Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis A few birds here and there Bee-eater M. apiaster One lingering at km 20 on 26.11. Hoopoe Upupa epops Two in Urim on 28.11. Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti A few Hoopoe Lark Alaemon alaudipes One or two at km 33 on 25.11. Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra Two birds in a flock of Skylarks in Urim on 28.11. (TB only) Crested Lark Galerida cristata Common Skylark Alauda arvensis Thousands in Urim, single birds around Eilat Rock Martin Ptyonoprogne obsoleta A few Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis Only one in Eilat on 24.11. and one in Urim on 28.11. Red-throated Pipit A. cervinus A few in Eilat and in Urim Water Pipit A. spinoletta A couple of dozens in Eilat and surroundings Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava Just one at km 20 on 26.11. Pied Wagtail M. alba Dozens Yellow-vented Bulbul P. xanthopygos Common Robin Erithacus rubecula One near the cemetary on 26.11. Bluethroat Luscinia svecica Common Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros Stonechat Saxicola torquata Blackstart Cercomela melanura Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina One in Urim on 28.11. Wheatear O. oenanthe One close to km 20 on 27.11. Desert Wheatear O. deserti Two males and a female at km 33 on 25.11., a male at km 20 on 27.11. and a male and a female in Nizzana (airfield road) Finsch's Wheatear O. finschii Two female-plumaged birds in Nizzana on 28.11. Hooded Wheataer O. monacha One male at km 33 on 25.11. and one male on 29.11. on the way to Amram's Pillars Mourning Wheatear O. lugens One on the way to Amram's Pillars on 29.11. White-crowned Black W. O. leucopyga One at the cemetary on 27.11., two near Amram's Pillars on 29.11. and one at km 50 on 30.11. Graceful Warbler Prinia gracilis Common Scrub Warbler Scotocerca inqueta 8 birds on the way to Amram's Pillars Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus Singing at km 20 Clamorous Reed Warbler A. stentoreus One singing at km 20 on 26.11. and probably calling on 27.11. Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata 3+ in Nizzana Sardinian Warbler S. melanocephala Desert Warbler S. nana Two birds at km 33 on 25.11. Blackcap S. atricapilla One male close to the Pumping station on 27.11. Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita Dozens Brown Babbler Turdoides squamiceps One at the salt ponds and 5 at km 50-Yotvata Penduline Tit Remiz pendulinus About 7 birds at km 20 on 27.11. Palestine Sunbird Nectarinia osea Common Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor About 20 in Nizzana and Urim House Crow Corvus splendens At least 100 in Eilat Carrion Crow Corvus c. cornix About 50 in Nizzana and Urim Brown-necked Raven C. ruficollis E.g. about 10 at km 20 on 26.11. and about 100 in Nizzana & Urim Tristram's Grackle Onycognathus tristramii Common in Eilat Starling Sturnus vulgaris Thousands in Urim House Sparrow Passer domesticus Common Spanish Sparrow P. hispaniolensis Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs Two at km 20 on 26.11., a call in Nizzana Serin S. serinus One at km 20 on 27.11. Greenfinch Carduelis chloris 5 at km 20 on 26.11., 25 on 27.11. Linnet C. cannabina 2 at km 20 on 26.11., about 30 in Nizzana/Urim on 28.11. Goldfinch C. carduelis 6 in Nizzana/Urim on 28.11. Desert Finch Rhodopechys obsoleta 4 at km 33 on 25.11., about 30 in Nizzana on 28.11. and 6 at km 33 on 30.11. Sinai Rosefinch Carpodacus synoicus A flock of 14 birds (with at least three males) near Amram's Pillars on 29.11. House Bunting Emberiza striolata One close to the Pumping station (in Eilat) on 27.11. Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra On all visits to km 20 1-3 birds, 3 in Nizzana, 3 in Urim on 28.11.
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