Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Magic Puddle

Yesterday I had meetings in Eilat, talking about monitoring there with Noam and the IBRCE team.  Left home super early to do some birding, with rarity finding on my mind. As always, this mental approach didn't really work... Started off at Neot Smadar. At first it was cold and pretty birdless. Only this inquisitive Red Fox scrutinized me from some distance.

When the sun came up, bird activity increased a little, nothing huge. I walked the alfalfa fields hoping to lush a rare pipit. First found only common ones.

Caucasian Water Pipit

Tree Pipit

Then my morning was partially salvaged by a familiar call from a pipit flying towards me - Olive-backed Pipit! It flew over me calling a few times and disappeared in the off-limits kibbutz. Too quick for a photo or sound recording. I was hoping for a bigger pipit, but I had to settle with this one. Better than nothing I guess. Encouraged a bit, I kept on walking both in the fields and at the sewage farm, but came up with little else. eBird checklists are here (fields) and here (sewage).

Next stop was Yotvata. Itai Shanni was there earlier and reported larger numbers of birds on the recently-ploughed northern circular field. It was birdy indeed but most birds were distant in the large field, and most were doves... I noticed better activity at a small puddle, attracting many birds. I parked my car appropriately in relation to distance and angle, and started waiting. Soon the birds came in, and I enjoyed lovely 45 minutes, with many and different birds coming in to drink. Shooting birds on the ground out of the car window is not ideal, but I can't complain...

There was a flock of about 40 Desert Finches on the field. At first they were distant - quite pleased with my new camera (canon 7D km2) focusing on them at a distance:

Then they started trickling towards the water:

Nice numbers of Red-throated Pipits in various plumages came in for a splash too:

2cy+, probably male


1cy, slightly more advanced

1cy Western Yellow Wagtail

One of many Spanish Sparrows, this is an adult male

Corn Bunting

Northern Wheatear

There were a few skylarks around. At first some Eurasian Skylark came in for a drink:

Up to 10 Oriental Skylarks have been seen there in recent days. Where I was sat I had two or three. They kept their distance when I was there - one did come in to drink briefly but buzzed off as soon as I pointed my camera on it. These photos are all large crops in unattractive setting, yet they illustrate some important ID features, including longer, thinner bill, lighter breast streaking, buffy belly and short primary projection.

Oriental Skylark 

eBird checklist here.

At IBRCE between meetings there were a few nice birds, including Steppe Eagles on migration and a Bittern on the lake. eBird checklist here.

Eurasian Cranes

On my way back home after the meetings I visited Ovda Valley. I failed to relocate the two returning rare wheatears, but enjoyed some beautiful desert serenity.

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