Thursday, October 15, 2020

The best show in town

 Sorry for neglecting my blog recently. Busy weeks, lockdown, lots of stuff going on. I have been out daily to marvel at the spectacle of migration, up in the sky and on the ground. It has really been great. However, to my eyes, one of the best shows Israel has to offer is the congregation of fresh-looking desert birds, post post-breeding moult, at desert springs. A while ago I went with Amir to Ein Salvadora, a famous little spring north of Ein Gedi. It holds water year-round, in stunning location, with soaring cliffs and the Dead Sea in the backdrop. It's a tiny spring, just a few drops of water trickling out from a crack in a wall, concealed behind a large Salvadora persica bush. That's enough to attract birds and mammals from far afield. It's not an easy site for photography - one needs to keep a fair distance away from the spring in order not to disturb the animals, and the drinking spot is in deep shade, red light reflecting from the surrounding sandstone rocks.

We climbed up the mountain trail before dawn, to position ourselves at an appropriate spot as soon as birds started to arrive. And they did, in big numbers. All quality. All so pretty and fresh. Those arriving in biggest numbers were Trumpeter Finch - fantastic breeding season for them all over the Israeli desert, so many youngsters around. Hundreds came in to drink, arriving in flocks, normally first perched on the rocks above the spring before descending to the water.

Another dominant species was Striolated Bunting - hundreds came in to drink too. Most were young birds, demonstrating the excellent breeding season they had. 

Sinai Rosefinch is another highly-prized specialty of this site. It is scarcer, and shier, than the other species. They spent more time perched up on the walls above the spring, and chose secluded spots for drinking. Again, most were young birds, adults, especially males in lower proportions. Still, out of the 75 birds in total, quite a few were pink jems.

Trumpeter and rosefinch

Desert Lark came in to drink in hundreds too:

Overhead, a Barbary Falcon cruised above the cliffs, a pair of Common Ravens kronked around, and a lone Long-legged Buzzard circled.


A large herd of Nubian Ibex came down to drink and hung around the spring. The herd included a dominant bull, showing off his swagger, dominating younger males and chasing after females:

Soon it became too hot for animals and humans, we headed back down to our car and back to civilisation. It certainly felt better up by the spring.

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