White-cheeked Tern - (2nd from right) with Common Terns, Eilat North Beach, March 24th, 2013. Presumed continuing first-summer bird from March 22nd. Exceedingly rare before mid-April, the earliest spring record documented in the 'Birds of Israel' being April 10th, 1989. This bird was a totally unexpected find for our Birdfinders group on a March trip to Israel.
Despite a good team effort, we found no certain Menetries's Warblers at Km20 though we did have brief views of a good candidate. However, far from being a wasted effort, we did come across several new species for the tour including two Siberian Stonechats and a really fine Great Reed Warbler. A Savi's Warbler was also heard singing but refused to give itself up and remained hidden in the same dense thicket as the Great Reed Warbler pictured below.
Great Reed Warbler - Km20, Eilat. March 24th, 2013.
Who would think of going to the desert to get views like this of reed-bed skulkers?
Siberian Stonechat - male, Km20, Eilat.
Siberian Stonechat - female, Km20, Eilat.
Common Nightingale - skulking but viewable. Km76, Yahel, Eilot region. March 24th, 2013.
Cretzschmar's Bunting - Km76, Yahel, Eilot region. March 24th, 2013.
A tricky looking bird, presumed to be a first-spring female, with whitish throat and pale buff malar.
We later drove north and spent the remainder of the day at Km76 just north of Yahel. This proved to be a good move as the area was alive with migrants including numerous Eastern Orphean Warblers, Ehrenberg's Redstart, Wryneck and our first Common Nightingales and Bimaculated Larks of the tours. Towards dusk two harriers began hunting the many tens of Short-toed Larks present. One of them was a clear male Pallid but the second, an immature bird, looked better for an early Montagu's to me. Sadly, distance and brevity meant that this bird remained unidentified and never made it onto our final tally.