Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Lesser Short-toed Larks

This morning I went surveying/working/birding with Jonathan and Piki southwest of Be'er Sheva, in an area of Loess plains and low hills, called Neot Hovav. It's a unique bit of open semi-desert, in the backyard of the horrible petrochemical industrial estate, Ramat Hovav. This is one of the few places in Israel where Lesser Short-toed Lark breeds regularly, and now is the time for male song and display. We arrived there shortly after dawn. Stepping out of the car, the scenery first strikes as rather unimpressive:

After a quick coffee and couple of minutes of listening, we heard and then saw our first lessers, circling high up in the sky:

Then, with some patience, we found them on the ground, feeding, displaying and running around; rather difficult to photograph well.

Often flying up, giving their scratchy call:

The males were busy displaying an courting. When they chased one after another, they often briefly landed on bushes to sing, again not cooperating for photography:

And off again...

Perhaps not the most spectacular lark of Israel, I find them very attractive. Small, pallid, delicate, elegant and unique. In Israel it's regarded as Vulnerable, due to it's shrinking population as a result of habitat loss, especially in the Loess plains of the northern Negev.

Lesser Short-toed Lark was certainly the dominant species at this habitat. We counted 22 birds. Other than that not too many other birds (eBird checklist here), Spectacled Warblers, and this lilith Little Owl:

On the way back home we stopped briefly to greet the Lesser Kestrels back on their roadside cliff along the Be'er Sheva Bypass:

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