Sunday, November 28, 2021

Double Turkestan

Healing journal, Day 1. This morning I ventured out into the southern Negev with Rony. I needed some desert bliss (and good birds) to comfort my aching soul. First stop was Neot Smadar. It was cold first thing, and it took the birds some time to wake up. A pallid Hen Harrier flew past, fast, low, wrong settings...

It took us a little while to relocate the Turkestan (AKA Red-tailed) Shrike, but eventually it showed really well, feeding on grasshoppers and chasing other birds. Very smart bird, gives a different impression compared to a normal Isabelline. Dark cold brown upperparts, almost Brown Shrike-like (it isn't), strong supercilium, whitish underparts with limited wash on flanks. Of course identifying 1cy birds of these taxa is challenging, but to my eyes this bird looks good for phoenicuroides.

Our next stop was the northern edge of Uvda Valley, north of Rt.12. We walked down from the road into the dry wadi - very lovely there.

Quickly we noticed that there were huge numbers of larks in the bottom of the wadi. At first we saw lots of Crested Larks, then we started seeing more and more Temminck's Larks, then large flocks starting moving all around us - they were so mobile! 

One of the very few that didn't fly off:

Then I spotted some Thick-billed Larks with them - great! But they were up and off quickly too, 12 in total.

Two Thick-bills with a Temminck's

The lark bonanza continued. I scanned through a flock of Temminck's Larks that momentarily landed. I spotted a 'lesser short-toed lark', got the scope on it - whoa! Dark, heavily-streaked breast, large bill - must be Turkestan Short-toed Lark!! I got Rony on it, we had it on the ground for another five or ten seconds, then the whole flock took flight, up and away, and joined hundreds of larks on the wing - we estimated 300 Temminck's Larks up in the air! No photos, damn. The whole mass moved west and out of sight behind the mountains. The Turkestan encounter was brief, but we enjoyed really good scope views. This is my first 'modern' Turkestan Short-toed Lark in Israel, since the split, so this is very exciting.
We continued birding the wadi which was very enjoyable, with large numbers of Bar-tailed Larks, Asian Desert Warbler, many wheatears - eBird checklist here.

A quick walk through the southern section of Uvda Valley was less productive - it was getting hot and bird activity was reduced. Still high numbers of larks and wheatears (eBird checklist here), including this lovely Desert Wheatear:

The midday heat put us off from further birding, so we made our way back home - a brilliant morning that was.


  1. I hope that the healing morning with those wonderful desert birds has been a good remedy: what a splendid few hours of birding!

  2. The harrier is probably not a pur Pallid Harrier... five black fingers who don't forming a "angle" at the base of the arm, dark grey/blalckish trailing hedge of secondaries. It look like a Hen or a hybrid Pallid X Hen, in my opinion.

    1. I know, that's why I wrote above 'pallid Hen Harrier'

    2. Oops ! Sorry, i read too quickly your post...