At last I made it down to Eilat for the Festival. On the way down saw lots and lots of birds. First brief stop at Yotvata around midday, packed with birds. 40 Bimacs, 1 Cyprus Wheatear. Then drove down to KM20 to see the vittata found yesterday by Arjan van-Egmond and Marc Guyt - great bird! The first record of this morph in Israel. I was amazed to see how many Pied and Cyprus Wheatears are present. In the same small plantation I had about 5 more pied and 3 cyprus, and driving around I saw several more that I didn't even bother to slow down for. Also two Semi-collared Flys.
Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka 'vittata')
Had a quick look at the ditch south of KM19. I found there a superb male Menetries's Warbler - a very pallid individual with just a bit of pinkish flush on the breast. I missed it perched exposed on a fence 3 metres away, and then it flew into a huge saltbush and gave awful views. Ah well.
In the afternoon I led the first Festival tour. We had a first look at KM20 saltpans, and then a quick look for the vittata. There were sooooooooooooo many birds and it was very difficult for some of the guests to keep up with the pace: in about two hours we had 2 Black-winged Pratincoles, 1 Greater Sandplover, 1 Short-eared Owl, vittata and some Pied Wheatears, Wryneck, lots of Ehrenberg's Redstarts, and many common species - gulls, shorebirds, flamingos, raptors, wagtails, pipits, shrikes etc. A great start. It was great to meet Martin and Neill - they were of much help during the tour and I think they had a great time too.