Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Empty skies

I had a strange day yesterday. I was very fortunate to visit one of Israel's remotest corners, Ardon Valley in the central Negev, which is the southeastern section of Ramon Crater. This nature reserve is strictly closed off to the public and is visited by NPA rangers only few times a year. Yesterday I joined the local NPA ranger for a thorough scan of the mighty cliffs surrounding the pristine desert valley, in an attempt to find the last few breeding pairs of Golden Eagle in the desert. Sadly, despite our best efforts, we found nothing at all. In fact we saw no raptors whatsoever yesterday. Really depressing. It is possible that yesterday we were unlucky (again), but the state of many breeding raptors in Israel is dire and I fear that our experience yesterday reflects the overall situation.
With the absence of raptors, we had to focus on the beauty of the valley - scenery is truly stunning. We had quite many mammals - again large numbers of Dorcas Gazelle, and also Onager (Asian Wild Ass). We saw only one but by the enormous amounts of their poo it is evident they are doing well there.

Besides absent raptors, bird activity was slowish but OK. Some quality birds seen were Sinai Rosefinch, Striolated Bunting, Asian Desert and Cyprus Warblers. This 'lilith' Little Owl was the closest thing to a raptor I saw yesterday:

Burrowing Owl wannabe

eBird checklist here.

If I were a botanist or geologist, yesterday would have been a fantastic day. There were some lovely desert flower along the wadi:

Astragalus dactylocarpus

Desert Lotus (Lotus lanuginosus)

 Retama raetam

Dike - vertical magmatic intrusion

My trusted Swarovski ATX95 was jobless, but is always photogenic

Coffee time

Ardon Valley panorama

Many thanks to Yedidya and Naama from NPA for a beautiful day, despite the negative results. Hope for better luck next time.

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