Monday, May 24, 2021


Since my recent post I have been out and about quite a bit. I have not seen anything too special, but a few photos and stories accumulated, qualifying for a new cross-country post.

Last week I visited the wonderful Gazelle Valley in Jerusalem with Piki. It really is a special wildlife haven in the middle of the city. The opportunities to photograph Ferruginous Duck are unparalleled. Their babies make the cutest bath ducks.

Little Grebe and Moorhen are trash common, but it's fun to get up close and intimate with them.

Note the dragonfly nymph skin on the left

There were some photo-opps for scarcer species too. This male Little Bittern paused in front of the hide for a few seconds:

Jerusalem is probably Olive-Tree Warbler capital of the world, and Gazelle Valley is an excellent place to see them. 

Gazelle Valley eBird checklist here.

Fast forward a few days, I visited Mt. Hermon for the first time this year. This year we're doing an elaborate breeding bird survey there, repeating an effort from 2013/14. When I worked there on Friday, again with Piki, it was very hot already early in the morning. The view looking down towards the Hula Valley is always breathtaking.

Birding was a bit hard going - bird activity was somewhat low, perhaps because of the heat. Yet, there were many family parties of Western Rock Nuthatch and Sombre Tit, Syrian Serins were active too, and we had a Finsch's Wheatear - the only site in Israel where they breed. In fact, Finsch's Wheatear may be the breeding bird in Israel with the smallest population size - 1-2 pairs... It was a tough day for photography too, and I don't have any good bird photos at all from that morning. Just this OK sound recording of an angry bird:

And a Wall Brown that posed momentarily:

eBird checklist here.

On Saturday, near home, I found an exceptional concentration of Black-winged Kites in a vole-infested field. I have never seen so many together before. At one point I counted 42 around me. Amazing!

16 in this photo - can you see them all?

Most were recently-fledged juveniles:

Some Lesser Kestrels were carrying food back to a nearby breeding colony:

Yesterday I had the rare opportunity to visit a remote oasis in the eastern Negev, made of two springs, Ein Aqrabim and Ein Tzin. This is a beautiful oasis, sadly contaminated by industry upstream.

 Yet, there is water running there, and wildlife responds to that. While bird activity wasn't amazing (eBird checklists here and here), there was evidence (mainly footprints) of intensive mammal activity, including Hyena, Wolf, Fox, Wildcat, Wild Ass, Dorcas Gazelle, Nubian Ibex and Porcupine. I am not sure why there were few birds there. By the swarms of mosquitoes that destroyed us it can be assumed that there's no food shortage. There were last few migrants present, including this exhausted Garden Warbler:

Spotted Flycatcher

Desert Bluetail (Ischnura evansi) - female and male in the background, thanks Re'a

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