ISRAEL – AUTUMN 2012
Courtesy of Albert Shamash and James P. Smith
The day before the first of two tours was due to run, tensions between Palestinians and Israelis once again escalated into an exchange of missiles. We rarely, if ever, have our Israel tour disrupted by such events but this year was different and we had little choice but to work around this unfortunate set of circumstances. We adapted quickly and successfully. Because of the tensions in western Israel the second tour would not get to see the Western Negev portion of the trip. However, the plus to this meant two extra nights in Eilat, an opportunity seized by our group, which produced some of the best birds of the entire two weeks. As always in Israel, the successes of one week couldn’t be matched by the next and vice versa. For example, the first tour did well on owls including our best ever autumn observation of Hume’s Owl. The second tour fared better for rarer species with Greater Sand-plover, Dunn’s Lark and Rustic Bunting all adding spice to a week disrupted by events beyond our control. Indeed, the Rustic Bunting was only the fifth to be recorded in Israel since 1995 – a true rarity in a very well birded country.
Differences aside, both tours were rather successful in finding many of the key birds for the region. Noteworthy WP species found on both tours included Brown Booby (2–3 birds together in Eilat), Western Reef-heron (dark morph in Eilat), Greater Flamingo, Ruddy Shelduck, Spotted, Steppe and Eastern Imperial Eagles, Bonelli’s Eagle, Sand Partridge, White-eyed and Pallas’s Gulls, Spotted Sandgrouse, Namaqua Dove, Pallid Scops-owl, White-throated and Pied Kingfishers, Green bee-eater, Oriental Skylark, American (Buff-bellied) Pipit, Mourning, White-tailed and Hooded Wheatears, Scrub Warbler, Red Sea Warbler, Arabian Babbler, Palestine Sunbird, Fan-tailed Raven, Tristram’s Starling, Dead Sea Sparrow, Desert Finch, and Pale (Sinai) Rosefinch. Syrian Serin was also seen, though only poorly on the first tour with much more satisfactory views on the second.
November is an exciting time to be in southern Israel and Birdfinders have now visited in three consecutive years with fantastic results. November 2014 promises to be just as exciting as the previous three years and bookings are being taken already!
James P. Smith, Gill, MA, USA