Friday, March 29, 2013

Eilat to Tel-Aviv

The final day of Birdfinders spell in Israel began with another sojourn into the Eilat Mountains.  A strong northern blew down the Arava Valley which seemed like promising conditions for a good migration of raptors. Surprisingly, our arrival in the mountains was greeted by fairly light and variable winds, and it appeared that wind strength and direction in the valley below must have been highly localized. Even so, we experienced a fine passage of raptors with birds passing northwards across a broad front. Eventually we settled at Netaphim Crossing where we had many close passing Steppe Buzzards and Black Kites, with some Black Storks and Steppe Eagles, and a smattering of Long-legged Buzzards and Egyptian Vultures. It's never too late to pick up new species for the tour, and on this morning we bagged our first Osprey and and Lesser Spotted Eagle of the trip. A small flurry of swifts was composed of all four possible species in Israel (Common, Pallid and Alpine) including our fourth Little Swift of the trip in what had been a stellar tour for that species.

Birdfinders at Netaphim Crossing, Eilat. March 25th, 2013.

Ein Netaphim - looking East towards Jordan. March 25th, 2013.

Steppe Buzzard - gray-brown morph, Ein Netaphim, Eilat. March 25th, 2013.

We bade farewell to Eilat and set sail for Tel-Aviv and the flight home. The drive across the desert was enlivened by a constant search for roadside Eastern Mourning Wheatears and we eventually connected with several deep inside the Ramon Crator. After that, every gas station or coffee stop was peppered with new birds for the trip - Eurasian Griffon Vulture at See Boker, and Stone Curlew, Eurasain Jackdaw, Eurasian Jay and Common Myna near Hulda Junction (along with a Syrian Woodpecker!).

As always, spring in Southern Israel had produced a fascinating two weeks. Each week was tempered by some incredible highs and a few lows, and both weeks had been remarkably different in content, especially considering that each was composed of the same basic tour.

I'm already looking forward to going back in November!

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