Yesterday the IL big day team (Jonathan, Re'a and me) reunited for our bi-annual mad dash across the country. Despite doing it for several years now, our motivation is still high. This year, eBird October Big Day was merged with Global Birding Weekend, and we were happy to support both efforts.
As in previous big days, focus of the day was on hi-speed birding, and there were few opportunities for photography. We left home in the middle of the night, ticked Barn Owl en route, and arrived at the gate of Hula Nature Reserve well before dawn, to quickly hear Tawny Owls. We entered Agamon Hula when it was still dark, and were rewarded by great views (but awful photos) of a majestic Eurasian Eagle-Owl, not too common down in the valley.
Early morning birding was good in the Agamon - plenty of birds around (82 spp), nothing special but Sibe stonechats, Black Francolin, Stock Dove and soundtrack of newly-arrived cranes were all quality. The weather was lovely and cool - in fact it was the first time this season that I wore an extra layer.
Siberian Stonechat ssp. hemprichii
A quick stop at Lahavot Habashan produced Marbled Teals. Up on Mt. Hermon birding was fairly quiet - despite the dry weather relatively few birds came in to drink at the pools. Nevertheless, we cleaned up Hermon specialties quickly and efficiently - Syrian Serin, Sombre Tit, Western Rock Nuthatch etc.
Syrian Serin - sorry, messages came in to my phone
After we descended from Mt. Hermon, temperatures were already high. We needed to work quite hard to find birds in this heat but I think we did rather well (and thank god for car air conditioning). On Mt. Hermonit we found a male Finsch's Wheatear. In Susita it was so hot that we feared the Long-billed Pipit running across the road would burn his feet.
When we arrived at Kfar Ruppin, at the bottom of Bet Shean Valley, the heat was really challenging, for both birds and humans. However, with hard work and good gen we found most specialties we were after, and somehow managed to enjoy good birds obscured behind the clouds of Black Kites everywhere: Daurian (Isabeline) Shrike, 3 Oriental Skylarks, Richard's Pipit, Dead Sea Sparrow.
Heading west we quickly stopped for some gulls in Heftziba where a lovely dark morph Eurasian Marsh-Harrier flew past.
Blink! That's the most activity this Greater Painted-snipe did while Re'a @JMeyrav and I watched it. Filmed thru @SwarovskiOptik ATX85 at near darkness. Fitting end to our @Team_eBird and @global_birding #GlobalBigDay and #GlobalBirdingWeekend run@Rutlandbirds @RockjumperTours pic.twitter.com/kQHElc7ICg— Yoav Perlman (@yoavperlman) October 18, 2020