Sunday, 1 April 2018

COTF18 Day Two: Hot dogs

News of a roosting Pallas's (Great Black-headed) Gull at KM20 got the Terriers out of their kennels early, and we were soon heading up the R90 full of anticipation. The Jordanian mountains looked dramatic in the clear, dawn light, but sadly the gull had departed, leaving a gang of Caspian and Baltic Gulls. Two Black Storks flapped over lazily and a Hoopoe was noted. Cutting our losses, we decided to continue north to Yotvata.

Much the same set of birds was present as was apparent the previous evening, although Woodchat Shrike and Black-eared Wheatear were both new. Plenty of Northern Wheatears were in the fields along with several Isabelline Wheatears, including this confiding individual:

Issy Wheatear

Five Water Pipits were hanging out in the irrigated onion fields, with c100 'yellow' wagtails, and several Red-throated Pipits. A Desert Lark flew over calling as did a Corn Bunting. 20 Lesser Kestrels hunted insects from a line of wires - incredibly beautiful little falcons. Many northbound Swallows, Sand and House Martins cruised past; we wished them well on their long, perilous journeys. A Whitethroat skulked on the edge of a field, with a single Eastern Orphean Warbler sticking to some nearby trees with a couple of Lesser Whitethroats. Another Hoopoe showed, before news came through of a Turkestan Shrike on the Uvda Plains. Steppe Buzzards and Black Kites were beginning to move north as the air warmed, so we headed west.

Neot Samadar Sewage

On our way to Uvda, we called in at Mark's favourite site, some secret sewage pools at Neot Samadar. Despite the signs, we weren't tempted to drink the water! Several common waders were around the edges of the pools, and a smart male Redstart of the eastern race Samamisicus flicked past. A Bluethroat and a Cetti's Warbler were in a small marshy area, and a gang of 30 Trumpeter Finches lined the perimeter wires along with several confiding Spanish Sparrows. Two Euro Bee-eaters bombed north, calling joyously.

We checked the fields alongside the kibbutz, which were quiet apart from another Samamisicus Redstart, this time a slightly drabber first summer male.

First-summer male Eastern Redstart

Uvda Shrike twitch

It was pretty warm, no, pretty mentally baking by the time we reached the gravelly expanses of the Uvda Plains. Not the best time for us Terriers to be out in the sun, but we had a shrike to twitch. Some sandgrouse flushed as we exited the car - nice, Spotted Sandgrouse. They melted away. Some others piqued our interest, but despite a walk on the plains, we couldn't find them. Nearby, our first White-crowned Black Wheatear showed well. On to the shrike site, a military compound, we strolled across the empty expanses, frying rapidly. Wading through prickly scrub and piles of rusting razor wire suddenly made me realise that shorts were not the ideal twitching garment. Action trousers would be better, or failing that, skinny jeans.

Some birders pointed the way, and we soon got on to the smart male Turkestan Shrike, hanging out in shrike-tastic razor wire. Views were tricky, but with a bit of patience, we managed some good views. We were melting, so I cadged a lift off the other birders who had driven down to the compound rather than walked the half a mile across the desert. They ran me back to the car, but decided it was too rough to get our car back to rescue my fellow terriers. I waited in the car with one of the birders, Yael, while her husband went back to collect Mark and Rich. Great stuff - we owe you Mr and Mrs Shiff!

Turkestan Shrike.

Saved by Air Conditioning, we headed for the Shizzafon Kibbutz for some lunch. Out back was a lovely shady area which felt like a little migrant trap. Sure enough, a few common warblers were mooching about in the trees, and then Terrier Captain announced 'Flycatcher' and we all spun round to see a stonking male Semi-collared Flycatcher perched on the fence! Get in! Our soup arrived - delicious - and we enjoyed this whilst the flycatcher flicked about.

Next up, we felt we should put in an appearance at the Eilat Birdwatching Centre, the IBRCE. Lying just north of the city, the area is a small marsh and scrub area, adjacent to a large lagoon, capping some large saltpans.

This is one of the first areas of cover birds spot as they make landfall at Eilat and hence it is a magnet for birds. Mid-afternoon was not the best time for birding, and the strong north wind didn't help either. Nevertheless, we got stonking views of this Bluethroat:

Bluethroat, with no tail.

We said hello to a few of the local guys, before heading south to finish yet another awesome day at North Beach. First on the menu were the freaky White-eyed Gulls hanging out in no-man's land on the Jordanian border buoys. They were pretty weird looking!

Other birds around included Sandwich, Common and three carrot-faced Caspian Terns and a large flock of c200 Garganey! Boom! Closer inspection revealed a single Teal, a couple of Shoveler and five Wigeon within the flock. Cool. The sun went down, and we headed home, shattered but stoked.


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