Indian PittaLarge Grey BabblerPainted StorkGreat Thick-kneeRiver TernWhite-throated KingfisherRufous-tailed ShrikeOrange-headed Thrush
BUBO home   photos   species   trips   misc

Israel 1998

Trip Report: Israel 23rd August - 6th September 1998

by Ian Broadbent and Gillian Strachan

We were in Israel for a mycology conference in Jerusalem from 23rd-27th August 1998; following the conference we hired a car through Noga Watter at the Society for the Protection of Nature-Israel (SPNI) and had a day's travelling in the north towards Bet Shean and Tiberias, followed by a week at the SPNI Field School in Eilat. We drove back to Tel Aviv on 5th September via Ein Avdat and the Urim area.

Systematic List

Pygmy Cormorant Phalacrocorax pygmeus

6-10 at Kefar Ruppin ponds 28/8

Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax

3-4 Kefar Ruppin; 1 Nir David 28/8

Striated/Green-backed Heron Butorides striatus

1 on offshore fishing platforms, Eilat North Beach 30/8

Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides

2 at Nir David 28/8; 1 Eilat Northern Reservoirs 1/9

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis

Common in agricultural areas and near water.

Western Reef Heron Egretta gularis

1 white-phase on offshore fishing platforms, Eilat North Beach 4/9

Little Egret Egretta garzetta

Common in north; 2 at Eilat Northern Reservoirs 1-2/9

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea

Several at Northern fishponds 28/8; 1 Eilat Salt pans 2/9

Purple Heron Ardea purpurea

1 Nir David fishponds 28/8

Black Stork Ciconia nigra

1juvenile, Eilat Salt pans 1-2/9

White Stork Ciconia ciconia

Several in North near Bet Shean/Kefar Ruppin 28/8; flocks of tens over Eilat most mornings, flock of 120 over Jordanian border 2/9

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus

1 Bet Alfa 28/8; 2 over Eilat 30/8; 1 Northern Reservoirs 1/9

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos

3 Kefar Ruppin 28/8

Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus

3 Eilat salt pans plus 2 Coral Beach 4/9

Black Kite Milvus migrans

1 north of Dead Sea 29/8; 2 Eilat 30/8; 1 Eilat 2/9; at least 2 over Tel Aviv dump 6/9

Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus

1 Massada, 1 Wadi Arugot, Ein Gedi 29/9

Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus

1 W. of Jerusalem, 2 Bet HaShitta 28/8; 1 Ein Avdat 5/9

Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus

1 Eilat Salt pans 4/9

Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus

1 nr Mitzpe Ramon, 1 Ein Avdat 5/9

Steppe Buzzard Buteo buteo vulpinus

c.30 E. of Jerusalem 29/8

Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus

1 Massada 29/8; 1 nr Urim 5/9

Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca

1 subadult nr Urim 5/9

Bonelli's Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus

Pair on cliffs at Ein Avdat 5/9

Osprey Pandion haliaetus

1 Kefar Ruppin 28/9; at least 2 seen most days in Eilat at Coral Beach and North Beach

Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus

Numerous in the north; 1 Eilat 2/9

Hobby Falco subbuteo

2 nr. Hadera 28/8

Sooty Falcon Falco concolor

1 adult Amram's Pillars 3/9

Sand Partridge Ammoperdix heyi

3 Wadi Arugot 29/8; 3 En Netafim 1/9; 1 Mt Eyet nr Shizzafon 2/9

Black Francolin Francolinus francolinus

2 females Kefar Ruppin 28/8

Moorhen Gallinula chloropus

Present at the Northern fishponds 29/8; Eilat Northern Reservoirs and Km40 sewage ponds

Coot Fulica atra

Present at the Northern fishponds 29/8

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus

1 North Beach Swimming lagoon 30/8; 2 on 3/9

Cream-coloured Courser Cursorius cursor

2 adults near Km40 sewage ponds 3/9

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius

1 Eiilat Salt pans 4/9

Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula

Common at the Northern fishponds and Eilat Salt pans

Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus

24 Eilat North Beach 4/9

Spur-winged Plover Vanellus spinosus

Common near water/ponds

Little Stint Calidris minuta

5 Nir David 28/8; 2 Km40 Sewage ponds 31/8; c.20 Eilat salt pans 4/9

Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea

1 moulting adult Eilat Bird park 4/9

Dunlin Calidris alpina

Small numbers at Kefar Ruppin, Eilat Salt pans and Northern Reservoirs

Ruff Philomachus pugnax

c.7 Northern Reservoirs 1/9; several Eilat Salt pans/Bird park 4/9

Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago

1 Km40 Sewage ponds 3/9

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus

1 flew North along the shore near the Tel Aviv Hilton 6/9

Common Redshank Tringa totanus

80+ Bird Park 4/9 was the highest count; others seen at Nir David and Eilat Salt pans

Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis

1 Eilat Salt pans 2/9 Greenshank Tringa nebularia 1 Nir David 28/8; 1-2 Eilat Salt pans 4/9

Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus

Several Northern reservoirs 1-2/9

Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola

1 Km40 31/8 and 3/9

Common Sandpiper Tringa hypoleucos

Several Kefar Ruppin, Nir David, Eilat Salt pans and sewage drainage channel

White-eyed Gull Larus leucophthalmus

Up to 20 usually present at Eilat North Beach

Slender-billed Gull Larus genei

4 North Beach Swimming Lagoon 30/8; 2 on 31/8

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus

1-2 most days at Eilat North Beach

Yellow-legged Gull Larus cachinnans

Several Eilat North beach/Salt pans

Armenian Gull Larus armenicus

3 1st-winters Bet Alfa fishponds 28/8; usually present in small numbers Eilat North Beach

Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica

1 adult, 1 1st-winter Eilat salt pans 2/9

Caspian Tern Sterna caspia

Up to 9 Eilat Salt pans; usually 1-2 fishing off North Beach

Lesser Crested Tern Sterna bengalensis

4 1st-summers off North beach early morning 30/8

White-cheeked Tern Sterna repressa

1 1st summer off North Beach early morning 30/8

Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus

2 flew North over North Beach 31/8

White-winged Black Tern Chlidonias leucopterus

3 Northern Reservoirs 1/9

Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse Pterocles lichtensteinii

c.18 7.20-7.35pm Km40 Sewage ponds 3/9. None at the traditional Eilat Pumping station trough 30-31/8

Crowned Sandgrouse Pterocles coronatus

6 (3 males, 3 females) 8.25-8.40am Shizzafon Sewage ponds 2/9

Rock Dove Columba livia

Common; large flocks (1000's) nr. Urim 5/9

Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto


Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur

Large numbers (100's) near Bet Shean and at Kefar Ruppin 28/8; large numbers nr. Urim 5/9

Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis

Common; first seen in Jerusalem and every day subsequently, usually near human habitation

Namaqua Dove Oena capensis

1 male, 1 female/immature nr. Roded Farm greenhouses early morning 31/8; male (same?) late afternoon 1/9

Common Swift Apus apus

1 over Jerusalem Old City 23/8; 6-7 over Park Plaza Hotel early morning 29/8

Alpine Swift Apus melba

1 over Park Plaza with Common Swifts 29/8

Smyrna Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis

1 roadside near Petah Tikwa, and several at Nir David and Kefar Ruppin fishponds 28/8

Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis

1 confiding individual at Kefar Ruppin 28/8; 1-2 Eilat North Beach 30/8 and 4/9; 1 near Dolphin Reef 31/8

Lesser Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis

Several at Bet Alfa, Nir David, Kefar Ruppin fishponds, and 1 near Tiberias fishing in the Sea of Galilee all 28/8; 1 Eilat North Beach 1/9

Little Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis

1 Wadi Arugot, 1 Yotvata 29/8; then seen in small numbers (up to 6) every day subsequently at a variety of locations e.g. Km40, nr. old Eilat Ringing Station and Bird Park; Timna Lake; Shizzafon sewage farm

European Bee-eater Merops apiaster

2 on the perimeter fence of the SPNI Field Centre on the evening of 3/9

European Roller Coracias garrulus

1 roadside near Petah Tikwa 28/8; 1 near Eilat North Beach 30/8, and possibly the same bird in bushes by the sewage drainage channel 2/9

Hoopoe Upupa epops

1 Yotvata 29/8; 1 flew over the Arava highway nr Elot 5/9; 2 nr Urim 5/9

Wryneck Jynx torquilla

1 in bushes by Timna Lake 31/8

Syrian Woodpecker Dendrocopos syriacus

1 Mt. of Olives 23/8; 1 nr Crowne Plaza Hotel 25/8; 1 over the road near Hadera 28/8; 1 nr Urim 5/9

Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti

1 Massada 29/8; 2 at Eilat pumping station 30/8; 2 Timna Lake 31/8; 2 En Netafim 1/9; 1 Km33 2/9; several Ein Avdat 5/9; occasional roadside birds elsewhere in the south.

Crested Lark Galerida cristata

Common in north e.g. Kefar Ruppin, Urim; perhaps less common further south but present at Km40 and Eilat north fields.

Skylark Alauda arvensis

Present nr Urim 5/9

Sand Martin Riparia riparia

2 Km40 3/9

Pale Crag (Rock) Martin Ptyonoprogne fuligula

Seen first at Wadi Arugot 29/8; locally common elsewhere e.g. SPNI Field Centre, Ein Netafim, Northern Reservoirs, Timna Lake

Swallow Hirundo rustica

Common near fishponds in North 28/8; c.30 Eilat Northern Reservoirs 2/9

Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica

Several at Nir David fishponds 28/8

House Martin Delichon urbica

1 Nir David fishponds 28/8

Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava

Race feldegg common at Eilat Northern Reservoirs and North fields; at least 1 of race beema Km40 31/8

Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus xanthopygos

Ubiquitous, seen every day in a variety of habitats.

Rufous Bushchat Cercotrichas galactotes

c.4 along tracks at Kefar Ruppin 29/8; 1 Wadi Arugot 29/8; 1-2 Km40 31/8 and 3/9

Blackstart Cercomela melanura

Common in desert environments from Dead Sea south; seen every day at the SPNI Field Centre.

Whinchat Saxicola rubetra

1 Kefar Ruppin 28/8

Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina

1 Shizzafon 2/9; 1 confiding bird at Km33 2/9

Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe

2 nr Urim 5/9

Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica

1 black-throated male at the SPNI Field School 30/8; 1 nr Dolphin Reef 31/8

Mourning Wheatear Oenanthe lugens

1 Shizzafon Sewage farm 2/9; 1 Ein Avdat 5/9

Hooded Wheatear Oenanthe monacha

1 male En Netafim 1/9; 2 females Northern Reservoirs 2/9 plus 1 male on 3/9; 2 males 1 female Shizzafon sewage farm 2/9; 1 along track to Amram's Pillars 3/9.

White-crowned Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucopyga

Fairly common in desert environments from Dead Sea south.

Blackbird Turdus merula

Singles in Jerusalem on 23/8 and 26/8

Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti

1 Kefar Ruppin 28/8

Graceful Warbler Prinia gracilis

Common in semi-desert habitat.

Scrub Warbler Scotocerca inquieta

1 En Netafim 1/9; 1 Shizzafon sewage farm 2/9; 1 Ein Avdat 5/9

Olivaceous Warbler Hippolais pallida

1 in acacias at Yotvata 29/8

Arabian Warbler Sylvia leucomelaena

1 in acacias at Yotvata 29/8

Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca

Singles at En Netafim 1/9 and Revivim plantation 5/9

Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla

1 Wadi Arugot 29/8

Eastern Bonelli's Warbler Phylloscopus orientalis

1 Wadi Arugot 29/8

Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus

1 Wadi Arugot 29/8; 4 Eilat Bird park 4/9; 1 Wadi Schlomo 4/9; 1 Ein Avdat 5/9

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata

1 SPNI Field Centre 2/9; 2 there on 4/9; several Eilat Bird Park 4/9

Arabian Babbler Turdoides squamiceps

c.5 Wadi Arugot 29/8; 2 Yotvata 29/8; also seen around Eilat Date palms, Timna Lake, and 10 at Shizzafon Sewage farm 2/9

Great Tit Parus major

2 Jerusalem Old City, 1 Mt. of Olives 23/8

Palestine Sunbird Nectarinia osea

1 male Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem 23/8; locally common at Wadi Arugot, Yotvata and in gardens at Eilat SPNI field centre.

Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio

Common in the Eilat area; 1 at the SPNI Field Centre on 29/9 and 2 on 4/9. At least 5 along the Eilat sewage drainage channel 3/9

Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor

1 near Amram's Pillars 3/9

Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis aucheri

Up to 4 along the Eilat sewage drainage channel; 2 nr Sede Boquer 5/9

Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator

Singles at Bet Alfa and various roadside locations in the north 28/9; further singles at Km33 2/9 and Eilat Bird park 4/9

Masked Shrike Lanius nubicus

1 male En Netafim 1/9; female near Amram's Pillars 3/9; male Wadi Schlomo 4/9; male at Ben Gurion's Desert Home nr Sede Boquer 5/9

European Jay Garrulus glandarius

Several roadside flyovers between Jerusalem and Hadera 28/9

Jackdaw Corvus monedula

Several at Kefar Ruppin 28/8

Indian House Crow Corvus splendens

Up to 10 Eilat North Beach early mornings; 1 over Eilat town 2/9

Hooded Crow Corvus corone

Common in Jerusalem and between Urim and Tel Aviv

Brown-necked Raven Corvus ruficollis

Several at north end of Dead Sea, Wadi Arugot, Ein Gedi Beach on 29/8; also at En Netafim 30/8; 4 Timna 31/8; c. 20 Shizzafon sewage farm, 2 Yotvata 2/9; c.100 Revivim Ostrich farm 5/9.

Fan-tailed Raven Corvus rhipidurus

c.10 Massada, 4 Ein Gedi Beach 29/8

Tristram's Grackle Onychognathus tristramii

Fairly common around Dead Sea at Wadi Arugot, Ein Gedi and Massada 29/8; 1 heard at Eilat Coral Beach 29/8; 1 over Eilat-Ovda road 1/9

House Sparrow Passer domesticus

Common; 100's at Kefar Ruppin and small flocks regular along Eilat sewage channel.

Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis

At least 2 associating with Desert Finches at Kefar Ruppin 28/9

Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis

2 Jerusalem Old City 23/8

Desert Finch Rhodopechys obsoleta

Several in mixed finch/sparrow flock at Kefar Ruppin nr turf fields 28/8

Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus

2 came in to drink at En Netafim spring 1/9

House Bunting Emberiza striolata

1 confiding female on fence of Eilat Pumping Station 30/8

[Ostrich Struthio camelus

Several hundred at Revivim Ostrich Farm 5/9]

Other Species Recorded

Several Nubian Ibex in various desert locations e.g. Timna, Wadi Arugot, Ein Avdat; 4/5 Mongoose spp. at Kefar Ruppin 28/8; bats were noted flying around the date palms at Km40; an unidentified snake crossed the path in front of us at Ein Avdat on 5/9. Up to 10 Bottle-nosed Dolphins were at Dolphin Reef 1/9.

Additional Notes

The sites referred to in this report are detailed in Dave Gosney's revised edition (early 1996) of Finding Birds in Israel. New/extra info compared to this indispensable volume are as follows:

Eilat area

  1. Just north of the Sun Bay camping site at North Beach is a new swimming lagoon that usually had Slender-billed Gulls, Caspian Terns and a few waders in the early morning.
  2. Travelling north along the Birdwatchers Trail, the ringing station burned down in June 1998; there is another ringing station north of the old site, north of the date palms.
  3. The northernmost salt pan area has been set aside as a Bird Park and conservation area (you can even plant a tree yourself!), with shelters and an area of bushes that looked good for migrants. To reach it, turn left off the road running north past the date palms and greenhouses on a track signed "Plant a Tree".
  4. The immediate area around the drinking trough at the water pumping station has been closed off with large boulders; however the drinking trough had become badly overgrown with vegetation when we were there and the concrete slab viewpoint mentioned in the Gosney guide had disappeared. No sandgrouse came in to drink on the 30/8 or 31/8 (see notes on Km40). However a female House Bunting was on the fence of the pumping station on one visit during the daytime.
  5. Wadi Schlomo runs across the Eilat-Ovda road through the outskirts of Eilat down to "Texas Ranch" at Coral beach. The bushes here were good for shrikes and warblers.
  6. The International Birdwatching Centre has moved from the shopping mall in Eilat; their new office is the small blue Tourist information building in the petrol station at Elot junction just north of town; their address is:

    International Birdwatching Centre - Eilat,
    PO Box 774
    88106 Eilat
    Tel. +972 7 6335339
    Fax +972 7 6376922

    They will be happy to tell you what's about and to co-ordinate Hadoram Shirihai's Negev and Hume's Tawny Owl trips for you, and you can buy books and some rather nice T-shirts of birds you've seen on your trip so you can grip off all your friends when you get home.

En Netafim

The track (on the right just after the Mt. Yoash turn-off on the Eilat-Ovda road) is now completely impassable except by 4-wheel drive. However, the "car-park" above the En Netafim spring is a 15-20 minute walk from the top of the track where you can leave your car. I had a male Hooded Wheatear, Masked Shrike and Scrub Warbler all around the "car park" area at the top of the cliffs, Pale Crag Martins along the cliffs and Trumpter Finches, Desert Larks and Sand Partridge drinking from the spring below. Take plenty of drinking water though!

The Arava Valley

  1. As an alternative site for Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse we tried the Km40 sewage ponds on 3/9 and were rewarded with up to 18 birds that came into drink at 7.20pm just as it was getting dark. Park at the north-west corner of the sewage ponds; the birds landed on the embankment between the pools and drank at the north-west pool. It is important not to disturb the birds while they are drinking - don't move or use headlights until after the birds have finished drinking and the last bird has left (usually about 15-30 minutes). 2 Cream-coloured Coursers ran around the car while we were waiting, which was a fantastic surprise. Little Green Bee-eaters were common here, and the pools also attract waders. Spotted and Crowned Sandgrouse have also been reported from here in the mornings.
  2. Amram's Pillars: Turn west off the Arava Highway on an unmarked track opposite Km20; follow the track for about 8km and turn right where the track divides. Follow the track to the end (bushes along here were good for shrikes). We had an adult Sooty Falcon patrolling the cliffs above Amram's Pilllars on 3/9.
  3. Km33: This has now been designated as the Alaemon reserve; however Hoopoe and Bar-tailed Desert Larks can be very difficult to find outside the breeding season, as we found out!
  4. The acacia bushes at Yotvata south of Ye'elim Holiday Village had an Arabian Warbler as marked in the Gosney guide; other birds here included Olivaceous Warbler, Arabian Babbler, Little Green Bee-eater and Hoopoe.
  5. Shizzafon Sewage Farm: Found 8 km (not 6 km as in Gosney guide) along Be'er Sheva road; the Crowned Sandgrouse flew in and landed on the plain between the sewage farm and the road, then walked to drink from a drainage channel running south from the sewage ponds. Best located by flight call, which sounds uncannily llike Red Grouse. This area was also excellent for wheatears (Hooded, Mourning, Isabelline, White-crowned Black), Arabian Babblers, Brown-necked Ravens and Little Green Bee-Eaters. I also had a Scrub Warbler here (quite difficult to find elsewhere apart from En Netafim).

Revivim Plantation

Couldn't locate any Long-eared Owls here; maybe this is a winter roost only?

Ein Avdat

This spectacular gorge can be reached by driving through the campus of Ben Gurion University south of Sede Boquer; turn right at the first mini roundabout, and follow the winding track down to the tollbooth and carpark. Another viewpoint that looks over the end of the goreg can be reached by carrying on past the Ben Gurion University on the road towards Mitzpe Ramon. We had a superb pair of Bonelli's Eagles on the cliffs here, plus Mourning Wheatear and Pale Crag Martin at the far end of the gorge below the viewpoint. Blackstarts and Desert Larks can be found quite easily around the car park. This is also a site for Eagle Owl - 150yds up the gorge from the North car park is a large overhanging cavern on the right hand side of the gorge, apparently the owl sits in the smaller holes to the right of this cavern, after the tourists have gone (a group including my father and Chris Hall had the bird at about 18.00 hrs one evening in spring 1994).

Ein Gedi

Directions in Gosney guide are fine; found Arabian Babblers and Little Green Bee-Eaters at Wadi Arugot car park as in guide, although the only Sand Partridge we had here were on the approach road 200 yds east of the car park. I gather that the Lammergeiers have died out in this area though; according to Mark Lawlor and Mike Prince they are now extinct in Israel. Brown-necked and Fan-tailed Ravens were easily found just north of the beach car park; Fan-tailed Ravens were also easy at Massada at the top cable car station. They also seem to favour an amphitheatre visible distantly from the western side of Massada across the valley - they gathered here with Brown-necked Ravens to sit on what looked like a sports stand.


This area was a little disappointing, but we were obviously too early for the main raptor passage. However, we did find an Imperial Eagle (an early date) on the deck just to the west of Km7 on Route 234. Directions in the Gosney guide are excellent.

Kefar Ruppin

No alterations to the Gosney guide for the directions; Desert Finches, all 3 kingfishers and Pygmy Cormorants were found exactly as in stated in the guide; Black Francolins and Rufous Bushchats were found along the track that runs along the east of the fishponds south of Kefar Ruppin Kibbutz.

Dr. Ian D. Broadbent
WTB/MSI Complex Dept. of Biochemistry
University of Dundee

Tel.+44 1382 344876
Fax +44 1382 322558