12 Apr 2014

12 April 14 - A Cracking Scops Owl

We left Eilat after an early breakfast to head up to the Kfar Ruppin kibbutz, near to small town of Beit She'an, in central Eastern Israel & close to the Jordanian border. This kibbutz is set up to attract birders to it numerous fish ponds, good fields & bird hide. It is also has a ringing station, but no ringing was going on while we were there. The first stop was the fields at the start of the Ovda road for a final look. There were a few migrants moving South West through the valley.
White Stork: Stopping off on migration
Crowned Sandgrouse
Then it was for a final walk around the sewerage works at the nearby Ne'ot Smadar kibbutz.
The Ne'ot Smadar sewerage works: A mixture of open pools
The Ne'ot Smadar sewerage works: As well as landscaped reed beds
Rock Martin
Tree Pipit: This is the nominate trivialis subspecies
Yellow-vented Bulbul
Wheatear: Female
A quick check on the car reveals a few recent additions: Striated Heron (far left), the Grey Phalarope (middle) & Pied Kingfisher (for Simon on far right)
Bush shelter: Travelling back to the main Dead Sea to Eilat road, we saw this great bus shelter. How long before this would be vandalised in the UK
The bush shelter proved to be a good omen as we had great views of the real thing, Nubian Ibex, at the En Gedi turn off.
Nubian Ibex: This desert Goat occurs in Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordon, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yeman, Eritrea, Ethiopia & Sudan
Nubian Ibex: These ones are clearly used to tourists photographing them
Nubian Ibex: I couldn't resist another photo
Carrying on North, we left the arid Dead Sea area and passed into the West bank. The further North we got, the greener & more agricultural it was. It was a quick journey as the road bypassed all the main towns and we only made a couple of quick stops when we saw birds of interest. Passing through the border fence at each end was pretty quick with just a quick scan of the passports at the exit point.
The West Bank: The Southern end where it started to get green
White Stork: We passed a rubbish tip where at least 90 White Storks were feeding along with at least 20 Cattle Egrets
Tank & Cafe: Soon after leaving the West Bank we saw this closed up cafe with tank in the car park 
We arrived at the Kfar Ruppin kibbutz around mid afternoon & were soon being shown to our accommodation, a self catering flat, by David: who as well as running the accommodation was also a birder. This gave us a chance to catch up with directions for a few birds. The key birds here were Long-billed Pipits on the nearby hills near to Beit She'an & Dead Sea Sparrows (which we had missed near Eilat). David confirmed there were a few pairs of Dead Sea Sparrows on the kibbutz & after a quick drink, we were ready to head out birding. We started on the kibbutz, but later explored an area close to Beit She'an.
Pygmy Cormorant
Black Kite
Montagu's Harrier: Male
Moorhen: Immature of the nominate chloropus subspecies which occurs throughout the Palearctic, wintering to Arabia & South China
Bee-eater: It's great when you see them this well
Yellow-vented Bulbul
Clamorous Reed Warbler: This is the levantinus subspecies of Northern Israel with the similar stentoreus subspecies occurring in Egypt. There are a number of other Asian subspecies which occur from Arabia, to the Indian Subcontinent, SE Asia & Indonesia
Palestine Sunbird: Male
Palestine Sunbird: Male who must have seen some Hummingbird Hawk Moths given it was frequently trying to copy them
Dead Sea Sparrow: Male
We headed into Beit She'an to try & get some food. But everything was closed up as it was the Jewish Sabbath. So we ended up with plan B: a few bits from the garage & self catering. It was dark when we got back to the kibbutz & we could hear Scops Owls calling. I put the food plans on hold & grabbing the torch & camera headed out to see if I could get some photos. For me, some of the most enjoyable overseas birding I can remember is walking around at night looking for Owls. I'm always up for the challenge, especially for the smaller Owls. It's rarely quick, but if I see good views of the Owls, then it is really rewarding. I knew from previous experience in Europe that Scops Owls will call for ages from the same perch, but can be tricky to find & won't respond to a tape. But that wasn't a problem, as I didn't have a recording anyway. But there were several around & all calling to each other & so not having a tape wasn't going to be a problem. After about 15 minutes, I had seen a couple of brief flight views as birds moved perches, but that was all. Finally, after about an hour of looking, I located one calling from the top of a palm tree & got some reasonable photos. Time to cook some food at last.
Scops Owl: This is the cycladum subspecies which occurs from Southern Greece to Turkey, Israel, Jordon & South Asia Minor. Still managed to photograph all the Owls seen, although the following evening I had brief flight views of a Barn Owl, so that is currently amended to photographing all the family of Owls I've seen since getting the camera (but the family of Barn Owls will now have to wait till I can get a shot of a Barn Owl in the UK)