Saturday 7 April 2018

COTF18: Day Six, keeping it local

In advance of race day, we spent the day checking out some local sites. Our plan was to restrict our race to within 28KM of the IBRCE at Eilat, one kilometre for every thousand dollars we had raised. Down at the IBRCE, a gang of Red-necked Phalaropes span around the inlet, while a flock of stately Black-winged Stilts looked on.

Red-necked Phalaropes, Black-winged Stilt (bottom).

A female Citrine Wagtail was showing incredibly well from the hide nearby, although was struggling a bit in the strong north wind, while five Squacco Herons and a couple of Purple Herons dropped in to the marsh.

News came through of a Broad-billed Sandpiper in the drainage channel just south of the IBRCE, so we headed down for a look. The Birding Ecotours gang were there and we spent an enjoyable half an hour watching this smart little wader in the company of Dunlin and a Marsh Sandpiper.

The Broad-bean. Silvery upperparts, with distinctive head pattern and broad, drop-tipped bill. Perhaps 10-15% smaller then nearby Dunlins. Together with Marsh Sandpiper in bottom two pics.

Later, we checked out Ofira Park in downtown Eilat. This little migrant oasis revealed a lovely male Woodchat Shrike that seemed to drop in out of the sky, plus a Northern Wheatear, c20 Lesser Whitethroats and three Tree Pipits. Two buntings feeding on the grass with the local spuggies were called by Rich as Cretzchmar's, before I pleaded that they must be Ortolans. They certainly didn't fit with my search image for Cretz! After a little while, some Scandinavian birders turned up and stated they were Cretzchmar's after all, probably first summer birds. This was mind blowing. They showed very well on a close mown lawn and gave us chance to look through the features. The white eye-ring was distinct (should be cream in Ortolan) and the breast streaking was limited to the centre of the upper breast. The head was perhaps slaty-blue-grey rather than greeny-grey and the birds certainly had a warm brick tinge. Not quite was I was imagining, but really interesting stuff!

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