10 Apr 2014

10 April 14 - Finding A Rare Wader

It was another early start as you can never have enough early starts when you're on holiday. First stop was back to Eilat's North Beach to see if we could get better views of the White-cheeked Terns. In one word - No: didn't even see them.
The lads on the beach
Squacco Heron: At least this bird was around to photograph
Squacco Heron
Indian House Crow: There was one or two around
It was fairly quiet, so we quickly headed onto the km 20 saline ponds. Scanning the Waders on the Southern pool showed there was a interesting pale Phalarope feeding with the main group of Waders. Was waiting to get a chance to have a look through one of the scopes (didn't take a tripod for my small scope which was in the car anyway), when Simon called it as a Grey Phalarope. We all had a look at it & didn't think too much of the record, other than it was a new bird since we were there the previous day. At that point, Itai arrived & we mentioned it and I was a little surprised when he said he was about to send out a rare bird alert on it: as it's a vagrant & description bird for Israel. Not really sure if we found it or not, as there had been some other birders there when we arrived, but they had moved on, by the time we got to the Grey Phalarope area.
Grey Phalraope: I'm not sure how many records there have been, but sounds like it's no more than about 30 records. The Israelis call this Red Phalarope (following the American name), but the British name is clearly more appropriate for this bird
Red-necked Phalarope: This is the common Phalarope with several present on each visit
It was a quick dash back to the hotel for breakfast, before they stopped serving it. Feeling refreshed, the next stop was the car park next to Dolphin Reef for another look for the Little Green Heron. After a while, both birds appeared, but too far away for a photo. While we were waiting, we watched some White-eyed Gulls on the Dolphin Reef pontoon.
White-eyed Gull: Adult. This Gull has a restricted range of the Red Sea & the Gulf of Aqaba to Yeman
We headed off on the Eilat Mountains road to look for the Hooded Wheatear that was around an army checkpoint on the road. It doesn't take long for the scenery to get very arid. The soldiers on the checkpoint were fairly relaxed about us birding there, but warned us not to take photos of the Egyptian border fence. We spent about a couple of hours looking around the wider area, but no sign of the Hooded Wheatear.
The mountains are very arid
Looking back to Eilat
Bird hide: Israeli Army style (small). They didn't tell us we couldn't photograph the gun emplacements (but the photo was taken through the car window to avoid any hassle with the army)
White-crowned Black Wheatear: Fortunately, this bird was sitting on a road sign near the border fence, but sufficiently far enough away to get away with a photo. When the army checked the camera, they were impressed with the photo & didn't ask to look at the other photos so I got away with the bird hide photo
Selfies are all the rage these days: Proving I'm not too old to take one (badly)
Late afternoon saw us heading off to the Amran Pillars. A scenic site a few kms further north of the km 20 water tanks & on the West side of the road, but didn't see a lot of birds there. After that we headed down to the fresh water tanks at km 19 to look for Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse, but there were a lot of other people there along with a local nature tour group. The Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse did appear, but right on last light.
Amran Pillars: The pillars are tucked away at the top of this dried wadi
Amran Pillars: The geology is fairly complex here
Amran Pillars: Finally the Pillars
Sand Partridge
Black-eared Wheatear: Not the first bird seen in Israel keeping a careful eye on the skies. Not surprising with the numbers of Raptors moving North