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ISRAEL – SPRING 2005

Such is the popularity of this tour, Birdfinders successfully ran two spring tours to Israel this year. Unlike last year's scorching week the weather cooperated this year, producing cooler than average temperatures and a good selection of migrants throughhout both tours.

Highlights common to both tours included excellent observations of Western Reef Egret, Striated Heron, Macqueen's Bustard, Baillon's Crake, Spotted and Lichenstein's Sandgrouse, White-tailed Lapwing, White-eyed and Siberian Gulls, Namaqua Dove, Greater Hoopoe-lark, Clamorous Reed-warbler, Fan-tailed Raven, Dead Sea Sparrow, Desert Finch and Indian Silverbill. The stunning performance of the Nubian Nightjars at the Southern Dead Sea was the high point for many.

The second tour fared better when connecting with some of the region's specialities and late winterers, and also produced an outstanding evening with Hume's Tawny Owl in a remote tributary of Wadi Paran. Although there were fewer warblers passing through in this second week, the range of species discovered on this tour more than made up for it. We had great looks at Lanner Falcon, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Cream-coloured Courser, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Bar-tailed Lark, Bimaculated Lark (a massive flock), Asian Desert Warbler, Arabian Warbler, Sinai Rosefinch, Trumpeter Finch and House Bunting.

There was also sprinkling of rarities in the second week and Birdfinders had the uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time! Perhaps pride of place must go to a full-summer-plumaged Rustic Bunting discovered by one of the guides from Lotan on 25th March. This bird was seen in fading light in late afternoon, and although skittish, eventually provided good views. It was the first record of Rustic Bunting in Israel in since 1997, and only the second ever to be recorded in spring!

Good rarity finds by Birdfinders included a fine adult Steppe Grey Shrike in the Hiyyon Plains, an early, adult Rose-coloured Starling in Eilat and a 'Persian' Mourning Wheatear at Mizpe Ramon, which was first discovered last winter and had presumably returned for another winter.

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.

Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse

Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse