Sunday, November 24, 2019


Those who have been following my blog for some years might remember that I used to spend a considerable amount of birding time in Ashdod. Ashdod is Israel's fifth largest city. Despite its rapid growth and development, it still hosts several excellent wildlife sites. For a few years I ran a city project to enhance conservation within the city boundaries, focusing mainly on Lakhish Park and Yavne 4 ponds. I had some good birding years there, but times and fortunes shifted in the city, the project ended and I relocated to the UK. Since my return to Israel and never really had the chance to revisit those sites properly. During the brief visits I had, I was depressed by the amount of recent development, causing loss and degradation of so much habitat.
This morning I had a meeting in Lakhish Park, so decided to invest  bit more time in my old stomping grounds. I started off at Yavne 4 ponds, and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of birding there. Gulls, shorebirds, waterfowl, raptors, passerines - the place was whopping with birds (eBird checklist here). Highlight was a Siberian Buff-belied Pipit that showed well through the scope. Gulls were present in decent numbers, though I am concerned by the low numbers of Baltic Gull, probably reflecting the dire state of this taxon on its breeding grounds. Siberian Gulls were present in nice numbers, and there was also a lovely Pallas's Gull. I couldn't find any rings at all.

Three Siberian Gulls and a Baltic Gull

Pallas's Gull and three young Armenian Gulls (and teal and stilt)

My meeting in Lakhish Park was outdoors, so I casually birded the park, and quite enjoyed it (eBird checklist here). The native White Acacia trees were in flower, attracting Chiffchaffs, Sylvias and many sunbirds:

A dramatic change that happened during my years of absence is the colonisation of Striated Heron along the Mediterranean coast. They are now breeding at several sites along the coast, including Lakhish Park. I had three individuals:

And a late Squacco:

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Million dollar question

I have not posted here for a while, so today's birding has to qualify for a blogpost. In the morning I participated in a meeting regarding management and monitoring of Common and Little Terns breeding in Atlit Saltpans. Luckily, the meeting was just late enough to allow for some good birding beforehand. It was rather productive, with some fine waterfowl, shorebirds, Avocets, Spoonbills, Flamingoes. I thoroughly enjoyed birding there - light was good, birds were tame, quite alright (eBird checklist here).

Could have been a decent shot had I not clipped the wingtip of the slender-bill

Canthaxantin overload

After the meeting, en route to the next meeting (one million dollar question: is birding the time between meetings, or is work the time between birding?), I swung by Hama'apil Fishponds. Haven't visited that site for some years, and was pleased to discover how good was the habitat there, with muddy and well-vegetated ponds. Indeed, birds were plentiful - Ruddy Shelduck, Sibe Stonechat (presumably armenicus), Citrine Wagtails, lots of raptors and many more (eBird checklist here). I strongly recommend birding this site - easy access, central location that offers quality birding. 

Ruddy Shelduck and friends

Distant Sibe Stonechat

What. A. Bird.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019


Today was one of those days in which I consider myself lucky. Ahead of a late morning meeting in Kfar Ruppin, I had time to go birding with my boss Dan. We left very early and arrived to the lower reservoirs at dawn. In a similar experience to our Global Big Day, the sensation of huge numbers of big birds going in all directions was fantastic. Pelicans, Black Storks, herons and egrets, Black Kites, eagles, Spoonbills, gulls and terns, shorebirds, ducks - hundreds of birds up in the air at any moment.

Black Storks and Great White Pelicans

Black Storks

Great White Pelican

Greater Spotted Eagle - 1cy

We stayed there for just under two hours, that were super productive. We managed to see 99 species (eBird checklist here) - not bad I reckon. To have so many species just at that one site is outstanding. There were some highlights to be had too. A young Daurian Shrike showed very well, though it didn't pose perfectly. We birded on foot, which means that photo opps were lesser.

Common Wood-Pigeon is rather scarce on migration, so it was nice to have one perched early on:

Many Dead Sea Sparrows foraged in the bushes, but were typically skittish:

I still remember the days when Citrine Wagtail was a proper rarity. This morning we had 12 just in one small pond.

Other goodies included two early Pallas's Gulls, Moustached Warbler, Caspian Stonechat and Jack Snipe.

Back in the kibbutz, a late Levant Sparrowhawk flew over, and three Hawfinch too.