Enigmatic birding



It has been a while since I last wrote anything, but there is so much work and so much to to see out in the field that I feel a waste to sit next to the computer.

Nevertheless here is a short summary of birds in the Eilat region:

This is probably the best Spring we had around Eilat in 15 years with both numbers and variety of species, bringing Eilat back to its best.

The bushes are filled with migrants: Sylvia’s are all over (including many Ruppell’s few Subalpine, still some Cyprus and many Lesser Whitethroats and Blackcaps). In the City parks there is very good representation of many other passerines groups like Buntings and Redstarts as well as few Shrikes. Also, a very good wave of both Cyprus and Pied Wheatears is going through the region as can be seen in the last few posts… and few Rock Thrushes are also present.

Ruppell’s Warbler

Rock Thrush

After 3 days of dust storm the sky were clear today and raptor migration was really kicking with many Steppe Buzzards and still good numbers of Steppe Eagles. Also today 2 Osprey and a Greater Spotted Eagle flying north and more Egyptian Vultures and Black Storks.

Yesterday I received a report that a probable “Basalt Wheatear” an endemic subspecies of Mourning Wheatear which is only known to breed in the Basalt desert of East Jordan and Southern Syria was seen up at the Ovda Valley by Itai Berger and Daniel Berkowic.

Basalt Wheatear

This bird has a very strange behaviour of crouching forward, which I never noticed with Mourning Wheatear and I usually associate it with Finch’s Wheatear. Surprisingly when Hadoram Shirihai arrived and explained about the results of his current work on the morph, he mentioned the same behaviour as a very diagnostic feature.

This is the 6th record to Israel (when accepted) and is probably on the way to be announced as a full species based on work carried by Hadoram Shirihai et al during these days.

Basalt Wheatear Twitchers – I managed to relocate it today after a long search by many others and in few hours many of the visiting birders have managed to come and twitch the bird.

Up at Ovda Valley, there are still some 40 Thick-billed Larks and 10-20 Bimaculated Larks have joined the many Short-toed Larks And in Yotveta a beautiful adult Caspian Plover.

Back at the IBRCE, we were joined by Hadoram and together went through the re-description of the ‘eilatea’ subspecies of Sand Martins which is a tiny little bird and is probably also going to be split one day as a full species?!

Itai Shanni

Itai Shanni

Itai Shanni is the coordinator of the Eilat Birding Blog, which is jointly written by the Israeli Ornithological Centre (IOC) and the International Birding and Research Centre Eilat (IBRCE). Itai is working to promote bird and wildlife conservation throughout this area. As an Israeli A licensed ringer, he also gives support for the IBRCE staff when needed. Itai has also developed a real passion for Odonata watching and spends many hot hours chasing also Dragonflies and Damselflies.

Itai Shanni

Itai Shanni

Itai Shanni is the coordinator of the Eilat Birding Blog, which is jointly written by the Israeli Ornithological Centre (IOC) and the International Birding and Research Centre Eilat (IBRCE). Itai is working to promote bird and wildlife conservation throughout this area. As an Israeli A licensed ringer, he also gives support for the IBRCE staff when needed. Itai has also developed a real passion for Odonata watching and spends many hot hours chasing also Dragonflies and Damselflies.

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Eyal

Thanks for this summary, and Ken – thank you for the Basalt link, I hope to find it in the coming days – looks like it’s not an easy task

Ken Billington

Itai, your shot of the Basalt Wheatear clearly shows the white marking, which is restricted to the tail area. I found an article on the breeding of this rare species in Turkey – it makes a good read:
http://www.spatiawildlife.com/en/News/birding-Turkey-Basalt-new-subspecies.html