8 Apr 2014

8 April 14 - The Green Green Grass Of Israel

One of the birds we were all keen to look for in Israel was Long-billed Pipit, which was a Western P tick for me. Yoav suggested we tried Beit Yatir, which is an area of upland grassland next to a conifer forest & close to the border with the West Bank. So after a late night out looking for Nightbirds, we were up for dawn to head off to Beit Yatir (about 45 minutes drive). This took us back into the central hills & once we passed the town of Arad, it suddenly became very green & lush again. The first stop was around an ancient ruin, which we quickly explored, but didn't stay long as this wasn't Yoav's site.
It was very lush after the Dead Sea area once we passed Arad
Rock Dove: Of the palaestinae subspecies which occurs in Israel, Sinai & the Arabian Peninsula
Blue Rock Thrush: Female of the nominate solitarius subspecies which occurs throughout Europe, North Africa & the Middle East, with some wintering down in Central Africa
Black-eared Wheatear: This is the black-throated form of the melanoleuca subspecies, which is also called Eastern Black-eared Wheatear
It was only another mile or two before we reached what we think was Yoav's site. We were looking for a lush valley of fallow fields surrounded by stoney hillsides. In the end, we think we went up a different & smaller valley, but later came down Yoav's valley. Unfortunately, we failed to find any Long-billed Pipits, but there were plenty of other birds to make it a great morning's birding.
The smaller grassy valley
The start of the larger grassy valley (heading in to the right behind the hill) & the view looking towards the Dead Sea
In between the two valleys, was this stoney hill: This was where we saw most of the birds 
White Stork: This is the nominate ciconia subspecies of the Western Palearctic & Western Asia, which winters to tropical & South Africa
White Stork: We saw good numbers feeding in the greener parts of Israel, presumably stopping off to feeding before continuing to move North
Lesser Kestrel: Male. Nice views of a circling bird showing the blue-grey unmarked face, clean underwings & elongated central tail feathers
Chukar: This is the sinaica subspecies which occurs from the North Syrian desert South to the Sinai
Wryneck: Always a great species to see
Sardinian Warbler: Female. I assume this is the momus subspecies as this appeared to be a bird on territory. The nominate melanocephala subspecies is a scarce migrant in Israel
Collared Flycatcher: Male
Black-eared Wheatear: Male. Some of the males have pale throats, although the black-throated birds are more common in the melanoleuca birds
Black-eared Wheatear: Female
Pale Rock Sparrow: I was really glad to see these as the last ones I saw were in Turkey in 1986
Jackal: There were at least 2 Jackals here, both quite wary of us
Skipper sp.
By late morning, it was time to head back to the accommodation, check out & head off to Eilat: which was to be our base for the next 4 nights. But first we started a ritual to celebrate the ticks as the car was so dusty.
Celebrating the ticks: Hume's Tawny Owl, Nubian Nightjar & Black Bush Robin