ISRAEL – SPRING 2004
Birdfinders eighth tour to Israel, led by James P. Smith and Susannah B. Lerman, was highly successful, especially in terms of the diversity of species recorded. A total of 200 species were seen during the week, though three of these were 'leader only' sightings, slightly reducing our official group total to 197 species. However, the fifteen guests on this year's tour all greatly contributed to a much higher trip total than the previous Birdfinders' tour record of 185 species.
Although it was generally a slower week for migration than might have been hoped, we had good views of almost all the regional specialties including memorable evenings with Hume's Owl and Nubian Nightjar, both of which gave fabulous views. Many of the speciality species that people visit Israel for were found, including Striated Heron, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Steppe Eagle, Barbary Falcon, MacQueen's Bustard, Greater Sandplover, White-eyed Gull, Lichtenstein's and Spotted Sandgrouse, Namaqua Dove, Hoopoe Lark, Rock Martin, Scrub Warbler, Clamorous Reed Warbler, Asian Desert Warbler, Arabian Warbler, Eastern Bonelli's Warbler, Arabian Babbler, Palestine Sunbird, Fan-tailed Raven, Tristram's Grackle, Dead Sea Sparrow, Desert Finch, Trumpeter Finch, House Bunting and Indian Silverbill.
We were thrilled to see a huge flock (5000+) of White Storks on visible migration over Nahal Habasor in the Western Negev, and over 1000 Steppe Buzzards and 220 Black Storks passing through the Eilat mountains on the very next day.
A visit to Kibbutz Gevulot proved invaluable for a number of less-expected southern Israel species including Barn and Long-eared Owls, Syrian Woodpecker, Great Spotted Cuckoo and the first Great Tit ever recorded on a Birdfinders tour of Israel!
Of the scarcer migrants, Little Swift, Cyprus Wheatear and several Eastern Stonechats deserve mention while a highly-probable African Collared Dove was discovered by our group at Samar on the 26th.
Special thanks must go to all the keen birders that we had on this year's tour who discovered many excellent migrants such as Citrine Wagtail, Subalpine Warbler, and Semi-collared Flycatcher on their pre-breakfast birding sessions near our hotel in Eilat and helped us record such a marvelous trip total.