Yesterday I had one of my most amazing migration days in Israel ever. I had a couple of meeting at Eilat around midday, so I made an early start and spent the morning birding in the greater Eilat area. I started off at Neot Smadar. The place had outrageous numbers of birds - several species were just exploding. I will give you some numbers I estimated during my 1.5 hours there, all from the car, to demonstrate what I mean by 'exploding': Blackcap 1000's, Lesser Whitethroat 1000, Olivaceous Warbler 200, Spotted Flycatcher 150, Ortolan 300, Tree Pipit 250, Willow Warbler 50, Whinchat 50, Red-backed Shrike 70, Masked Shrike 100, 1000's of hirundines of six species and lots more - all of this in some small fields! Just unbelievable. I have never seen so many passerines in such a small area before. I had the feeling that because there were so many birds I was actually seeing nothing and missing lots of good stuff. I was just skimming the surface and I felt I had no chance to find anything interesting. Still I had among the warblers some barred, olive-tree and upcher's. Let alone photography - I had no time for real photography; all the images below are very casual shots taken while driving around.
Red-backed Shrike - many beautiful males among the huge numbers
One of many Masked Shrikes
About 15 Great Reed Warblers
Spotted Flycatcher on every sprinkler
About 50 Rufous Bush Robins
One of seven (!) Rock Thrushes
Very late Stonechat among the many Whinchats
One of many Tree Pipits
Good numbers of Tawny Pipits too
And of course hundreds of Yellow Wagtails
There were some large flocks of tired Bee-eaters on the ground, feeding on bee-hives.
Several juv. Montagu's Harriers were knocking about, plus Eleonora's and Barbary Falcon
After a pretty short mind-blowing time at Neot Smadar I felt I had to go to a place with less birds, where I have a chance to find something good. I drove down to Keture but the place was exploding with birds too. Damn. Hundreds of Ortolans, wagtails (incl. 1 citrine), pipits etc.
Still many Isabelline Wheatears around
At about 08:00 an enormous passage of raptors began overhead - many thousands of Honey Buzzards and among them lots of eagles, hundreds of Levant Sparrowhawks, Black Stroks etc. It was getting hot so many Honey Buzzards were coming down to drink behind the sewage ponds providing good photo opps:
Then I continued to yotvata. Just as I arrived I got a call from Itai who had just found an Arabian Dunn's Lark - excellent bird! We soon relocated it and it behaved quite well. As far as I know none bred in Israel this year; wonder where this nomad is heading to.
Arabian Dunn's Lark
The Yotvata fields also were exploding with birds - about 1000 Ortolans, and lots of other stuff.
Eastern Black-eared Wheatear
Collared Pratincole - one of two
At the smelly sewage ponds 300(!) Yellow Wagtails, and tons of pipits, shrikes, wheatears etc.
Temminck's Stint - adult moulting into summer plumage
Before my meetings I had time for a quick look at KM20 saltpans. Thousands of shorebirds there, among them at least 16 Broad-billed Sandpipers, 38 Red-necked Phalaropes, 1 Greater Sandplover, 1 Curlew Sand etc.
3 Broad-billed Sandpipers
Some White-winged Terns were typically collecting insects from the water surface. Light conditions were awful but they're such nice birds, aren't they?
After the meeting I went with Itai to north beach. Many hundreds of Common and other terns, but despite the southern wind nothing special showed up. Still I added some nice birds to my day list - the two Brown Boobies still present, 1 Sooty Shearwater, some White-eyed Gulls etc.
What a day! Just for fun I counted my day list - 126 species! And that's without trying too hard and with half a day of meetings. Wow.