Saturday, March 16, 2013

Eilat Festival day 4 - the day of the black beauties

I had so much fun today. At last the weather changed last night, and today a dramatic change in birds on the ground was evident. We started off early at KM76. The place was just packed with migrants - dominant species were 400 Short-toed larks, 50 each of Northern and Isabelline Wheatears, 30 Tawny Pipits, and 30 Cretzschmar's Buntings. Goodies included two Asian Desert Warblers, 6-7 Bimaculated Larks, Desert Wheatear, 5 Spotted Sandgrouse, Rueppell's Warbler and more. There were huge numbers of Painted Ladies on every bush, and all the birds were having a feast on the butterflies. Here's a murderer Asian Desert Warbler brutally destroying a butterfly:

Asian Desert Warbler

Painted Ladies - so many in one frame!

Desert Wheatear

Cretzschmar's Bunting

Rueppell's Warbler (out of focus, sorry)
 Blue-headed Yellow Wagtail

Very satisfied we left KM76 and headed over to Yotvata. While having breakfast at the cafe, we received a call from our Finnish friends Mika and Erkki that they had just found a Black bush Robin at Neot Smadar sewage. Without thinking twice we quickly packed up, deserted our plans for birding in Yotvata and headed there. By the time we got there the Finns had already found a second bird, 100 m away from the first one! We got on to both birds very quickly, and the whole group had great views of these charismatic birds. I am really pleased we saw them during the festival. They are really one of the festival's iconic birds, and of course it was a lifer for most of our clients. I wasn't able to take any proper photos with 50 birders walking behind me. Maybe I'll improve tomorrow.

Black Bush Robin - bird # 1

Sorry, out of focus again, but this image shows nicely the Tristram's Starling-like wing pattern:

 Black Bush Robin - bird #2, a brighter individual

After we all had enough of these black beauties, we headed back to Yotvata. While driving south i got a phone call from some Dutch birders (sorry guys - didn't get your names) who informed me of a third bird in that beautiful canal south of KM20 saltpans. Amazing!
We spent some time looking for Arabian Warbler near Yotvata without success. Just as I called the group back to the minibus, I heard a male singing. I looked back and a few clients who were near me had great views of a male singing from a treetop! Unfortunately not all the group managed to get good views. We will try again tomorrow.

After short siesta, we headed out again in the afternoon. First checked the saltpans where we had two Siberain Gulls, four Gull-billed Terns and the White-tailed Lapwing was showing nicely in the southern end of the ponds. Yet another quality bird today.

White-tailed Lapwing  

Before dark spent some time at north beach, nothing special or new. Good night.

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