Thursday, August 10, 2023


I spent the past week in Eilat. My younger son, Noam, did an open water diving course,  and I was there to escort him. I joined his group for a dive today (Thursday). On other days, I dropped him and his mates off in the morning, and picked them up in the afternoon. In between I tried to work...
At this time of year, when the temperatures are so high and fall migration is just starting, all eyes are on the sea. Naturally, every morning I showed up on North Beach at first light. I enjoyed good birding action until I had to leave, too early, at 07:00. There was really nice activity around bait-balls or fish-boils that formed once or twice every morning. It was exciting to watch this. On August 7th I had six tern species going crazy over the bait-ball, picking up little fish pushed to the surface by predatory tuna: White-cheeked (the most numerous), Common, Arctic, Bridled, Lesser Crested and Caspian. In this photo, spot the Bridled Tern on the right:

I posted this video on social media, and it generated interest by our comms team. They pushed it and the 'story' featured quite well on national media. including in English here. Sadly the editor google-translated the Hebrew text, which came out quite a mess. I did my best to help her edit. the results is somewhat awkward but OK I think.

White-cheeked Tern numbers were really high - I counted over 100 together on Thursday morning. They were flying very actively back and forth across the gulf. I photographed these flying super-fast past me on their way back from a bait-ball feast, some carrying tiny fish in their bills. Note the recently-fledged juvenile - Noam Weiss says that they had a good breeding season.

I was also glad to get my first sound recording of this seldom-recorded species:

White-eyed Gulls were present in large numbers too. Several landed on the beach to rest. The adult is a really neat bird IMO.

It was interesting to see them catching flying insects, probably Chironomus midges that are abundant in the early morning.

A Brown Booby was present for a short while one morning, perched on a distant border buoy. Note the Cory's Shearwater sailing past at the very beginning of the clip:

Another welcome visitor to 'my' bit of beach - Striated Heron, made in 2023.

On August 9th I joined the monthly pelagic monitoring trip organised by INPA and Eilat Birding Center. On the boat were Chen and Ofer from INPA, and Noam and Netanel from IBRCE. Expectations were high, after last month's trip yielded European and Wilson's Storm-Petrels. Our trip was a bit hard going, to be honest. For a couple of hours we didn't see a single bird. Eventually, two Swinhoe's Storm-Petrels arrived to check the slick. They flew up and down the slick for about 30 minutes and showed very well. I managed to get my best photos of the species to date. Note how extremely worn this individual is - incredible how it can still fly so well like this.

Strange how times change. Only a decade ago, a pelagic trip with two Swinhoe's would be regarded as a huge success. Nowadays, that they have become so regular off Eilat, sometimes in quite large numbers, our result feels mediocre, almost disappointing. 

Away from the gulf, there wasn't too much to see. KM20 saltpans held decent numbers of shorebirds. best of the bunch was a Terek Sandpiper. Noam and I had an Olive-Tree Warbler during a meeting in Neot Smadar.

No comments:

Post a Comment