30. huhtikuuta 2012

Last day in Israel (so far) 25.4.2012

We started our last morning very early because we had permission to join ringing session in Agamon Hula.
We arrived to the gate about 5 a clock and soon Jani Vastamäki and Hula Ringing station leader Dotan came.
Only one car was allowed to drive in so we all jumped in Dotans Car. 10minute drive and we were at ringing place. Jani and Dotan opened nets and we wait first lights for the day. In darkness we heard many species of birds but nothing new for our trip-list, mostly Reed Warblers and Great-Reed Warblers were singing.
First round at the nets gave us few Reed Warblers and that was almost everything. Quickly guys put rings to the birds and then Dotan served very good local Coffee. When sun rise´d birds were more active and second round gave us few Blackcaps, Reed Warblers, Great-Reed Warblers,Yellow-vented Bulbul and Cetti´s Warbler.

Yellow-vented Bulbul weighing.

Cetti´s Warbler was hand-tick for me. 

Mostly birds what we catch were Reed warblers and no rarities this time. Common White-Throat was last rounds new bird. Savi´s Warbler were singing behing the bushes but we didn´t get it to the net.
We had 4 hours nice time with guys and then Dotan gave us a ride to place where Black-Winged Kite should spend days. We jumped out of car quickly and somebody found amazing Kite sitting on a tree!! This was our last new specie for our trip-list and specie number 241! Also Kite was new Israeli tick for me of course.

Black-Winged Kite.

Soon Dotan took us back to the car and then out of the area. This was very nice morning, thank you Dotan and Jani for this opportunity to join you.
After we get back to the car, we drove straight back to the hotel and breakfast. 12. a clock we gave our hotel keys and left from the hotel.
Then we almost straightly drove to Tel-Aviv. We had to gave back our car and then start 6hour waiting in airport.
We had maybe the best Israel trip ever. 241 species wasn´t maximum and we miss few easy species like Dead-sea Sparrow, Spectacled Warbler, Rock Sparrow, Red-backed Shrike and so on..
I think 250-260 species is possible to see in two weeks if you have luck and many fresh eyes.
Best birds of this trip were, Crested Honey Buzzard, White-throated Robin, White-cheeked Tern, Cinereus Bunting, Sooty Shearwater, Pomarine Skua, Black-Winged Kite and Crimson-winged Finch.

Thank you Jände and Esko for amazing company, Thank you Roni, Yotam, Teun, Christian, Bram, Jonathan, Barak, all people in Eilat Ringing Station and all people who some how influenced our trip. We asked earlier From Yoav Perlman about some species so thank you for that.
Hope to get back soon.
My Israeli tick are now 312 so there is still room for few species.
I got 9 lifers and Long-billed Pipit was number 500 on my Western Palearctic list. Number is no 506.

Over and out.


Nizzana magic, 24.4.2012

We started little bit before 6 and our first target was Macqueen´s Bustard. Our only notes for the Bustard was Hadoram Shirihais book with quite old info. We had 2 Bustards in same area 2008 but now we didn´t know is this a right place.
We drove some road and some times we stopped to watch desert with telescopes. The road ended soon and we had to turn back... In Hadoram Shirihais book, there is one good Bustard place, so we dropped Jände there and continued something like 1,5km with Esko. I put my telescope on and start to look. After hmmm.. maybe 1min i noticed huge Bustard walking in the desert!! Bird was male and these were my best views ever of this specie! We had 3 birds in Kuwait last December, but very far away. Esko found bird also and together we admired the bird. We called Jände and told him that we found Bustard and then we went to get him back to the car. Soon we noticed that we are almost late in the fish-ponds.
We drove straightly to the ponds and there was next amazing show! About 300 White Pelicans were sitting in one pool! We took few photos first and then went little bit closer. Pelicans started to be nervous and when we jumped out of the car, flock jumped in the air. You can imagine when 300 15kg heavy birds take a leave same time!

Pelicans saw us! 

"Quickly, up in the air!" 

It took about 5min when all the birds were in flight. One of greatest nature events what i have ever seen.
Place was also weird, middle of the desert where is only few water places and there sits so huge flock.
Also few species of Sand Grouses were present. First flock was Black-bellied Sand Grouses and soon after that, one Pin-Tailed Sand Grouse flew with Black-Bellies.
We were of course hoping to see Crowned Sad Grouses, but only flock of 4 Spotted Sand Grouse showed to us.
Still can´t be sad, 3 species of these superb birds were more than i believed.

Black-Bellied Sand Grouses. Mostly males.

After ponds we gave a try for Cream-coloured Coursers. Jände had some notes from Spanish trip-report and we found the right road. After we were drove about 7km i saw Courser very near to the road! We stopped and same time 3 Coursers were running away from us! Such a great birds. We got few photos of birds with Esko and everybody were super happy.

Cream-coloured Coursers! 

After Coursers we drove back to the hotel and after quick breakfast we left.
Rest of the day was mostly driving to the north. We make little sea-watch in Ashdod but nothing interesting there. After Ashdod we make huge fatal mistake... We some how drove to Tel-Aviv suburb and then the heavy traffic started.. It took about 1,5h to get out there. Everybody was little bit frustrated..
About 8 a clock in evening we arrived to Zafed and we took first hotel we found. It was amazing 5*****+ hotel! Price was huge but room was perfect. Maybe coolest and best hotel where im ever been!
Great day with lots of great desert birds.


29. huhtikuuta 2012

Last eilat and Nizzana, 23.4.2012

We had quick sea-watch before the ringing station. It wasn´t waste of time because we had 1summer White-Cheeked Tern sitting on a buoy! I took some photos trough my telescope but not any goof of course. My phone scoping skills must be rusty.
About 7 a clock we arrived to the station and there was nobody. Tzadok was there and he told us that everybody went to the nets. So we wait and soon the Dutch came with the first birds.
Jände and Esko walked around and i was sitting with the ringers. Most of the birds were of course Blackcaps but there was also few Garden Warblers.  Lesser Whitethroats, Sand Martin and Barn Swallows were numerous.
First Turtle Dove was also captured on first round and that was new ringing tick for the Dutch guys.

Yotam show´s how Wryneck gets food. 

Happy Dutch guys with Turtle Dove.

Later i went to the Heligoland traps witch Teun and Bram. We had two Levant Sparrowhawk, Little Crake, Masked Shrike and some other common birds. Same time somebody had Squakko Heron from some trap. Nice!
I must thank Roni, Yotam, Teun, Bram Christian and others. With you guys our trip was better.

Levant is somehow better than NonLevant. 

Funny looking Squakko Heron. 

We left about 10.30 because we had breakfast at our hotel. Then we packed our bags and quickly checked km19 and km20 pools. Best birds were Bar-tailed Godvit and Collared Pratincole.
Rest of the day were driving to Nizzana, not many birds were seen but best was adult Peregrine Falcon witch we saw at Nizzana fishponds.
We got room at the Nizzana fieldschool.

Magnificent Peregrine.

Best bird for the day was clearly White-cheeked Tern. It was lifer for all of us.

Bird of the day! 



Last full day in Eilat 22.4

We started at the beach. When i raised out from the car i heard familiar voice. Jonathan Meyrav was there with huge group of local birders. It was nice to meet him after long time. Sea was quite dead so after Jonathan and group left, we decided to check public side of ringing station.
When we arrived there, raptors had nice moving and hard wind make them fly very low. Also flock of 3 Golden Orioles flew over us.

Nice looking Honey Buzzard.

Golden Oriole.

After this we went to km19 pools and there was lots of birds. Few White-winged Terns, Whiskered Terns, Squakko Herons, Night Herons and about 300 Ruffs.
We drove road witch was backside of the pool and there we found badly injured female Marsh Harrier.
Bird had only one wing! I don´t know what has happened but it was in very bad shape.
Esko caught it and we thought that best option is that we give it to the ringing station.
Quickly we drove back tot the station and people was surprised when i showed Harried for them.
They took the bird and same time we were super lucky. Ringers had female Cyprus Warbler in bag and it was a lifer for me!! Super situation. We took some photos of Levant Sparrowhawk also.
Same time i agreed with the ringers that we will come the next morning to visit the station.

Whiskered Tern at the km19 pool.

Cyprus Warbler female.

Handsome Levant Sparrowhawk Male.
One was in flight also.

Soon we found our selves again at the km20 pools. Jonathan was there with he´s group but this time nothing super special there. Best birds were Collared Pratincole and Broad-billed Sandpipers.
At this part of our trip, we decided to take first afternoon when we don´t watch birds. I had at least 2h nap and next time when i woke up, we drove to the km19 pool where is famous Lichtestein´s Sandgrouse drinking spot.
We wait about an hour but birds never shoved up...
After this we had dinner and then back to bed.


Raptor watch and Ovda, 21.4.2012

This morning we started at the Eilat mountains raptor watch. Migration was slow as hell and after an hour we decided to go Ovda area. First place was old famous Lark place where was hundreds of birds past years. I put my telescope on and start to check area. First bird was Thick-billed Lark! Nice male was eating something and soon there was two birds. Behind the larks i noticed two Trumpeter Finches. Nice species but place was otherwise dead... We walked quite large area and actually only other land bird was Scrub warbler..
We walked back to the car and then we heard some Sandgrouse voice. Little bit after that we saw flock of Spotted Sandgrouses flying around. It´s all ways nice to see these birds. When we were checking these birds, Esko walked little bit farther and saw 4 Bar-tailed Larks! Nice bonus for our trip list.
After this we drove about 1,5km back to crossroads where is tiny "forest" near the road. There was many Sand Partridges, Blackstarts and different Warblers..


Sand Partridge, Female.

After this place we visited Sizzafon eco-coffeehouse. I took famous chocolate cake and coffee was also super good. Blue throat was in coffeehouses garden so one more tick for this day.
Quick brake and then we continued to Sizzafon sewage. There was also many Ortolan Buntings and some shorebirds. Black-winged Stilts were noisy and Wood Sandpipers was very common. This was the place where we found Black-Bush Robin two years a go with Jände. This time nothing special around..

Nice Ortolan Bunting. 

Then we continued again and next stop was kibbutz Lotan. We went to check little pools and when we were walking we saw flock of 7 Blue-cheeked Bee-Eaters! Superb birds. This time i got some pics.
Other birds were Water Pipit, tens of Yellow Wagtaills, Green Sandpipers and other boring species..

Blue-cheeked Bee-Eater flying. 

After Lotan, we drove to North Beach. Many Terns were sitting on buoys and Levant Sparrowhawks had some movement. Highlight for this evening was adult pale morph Pomarine Skua! Long time i had to wait this lifer and finally a had to travel here to see it.. I must be first Finnish birder who had Pomarine Skua lifer in Israel.
After sea-watch we ate again in Gulf.
Nice day with many different species.


Ortolan buntings and else, 20.4.2012

We started this morning in Yotvata. When we arrived about 6.00 we noticed that there must be something like 300 Ortolan Buntings!! Huge flock were eating in a field. When we checked Ortolan flock, we saw some other birds too. Tens of Yellow wagtaills and i found 2 Bimaculated Larks sitting with the buntings. There was something like 15 Short-toed Larks too.
Bird of pray side this time was Montagus Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard, Honey Buzzards and Kestrels. We had also one difficult Harrier but ID is not totally clear.

One of many Yellow Wagtaills.

About after an hour or something we decided to continue and check the are with car. First good birds were two Rufous-Tailed Rock-Thrushes! Nice looking males. Then we drove other side of the fields and we noticed odd looking Honey Buzzard sitting on pile of wood. Size was huge and color was some how weird. We took photos when it was sitting and then we drove little bit closer. Bird jumped in the air and we saw 6 fingers, typical throat pattern, reddish color, enough stripes on under wing and Eagle like size. Bird was clearly Crested Honey Buzzard!

Rufous-Tailed Rock Thrush, male. 

Crested Honey Buzzard!!

After this magnificent bird, we decided to leave and when we were driving towards to exit, this normal Honey Buzzard were sitting nicely in a tree.

This normal Honey Guy was notably smaller that Crested.

After Yotvata we drove to Palm forest near Eilat. New specie to our trip list were Indian Silver Bill. After Palm forest we went to km19 pool. Nothing special there but when we were leaving, somebody saw 2 Pratincoles flying north. We left to follow birds and when we reach km20pools we saw flock of Pratincoles sitting on a bank. There were 7 birds and when we looked them with telescopes we saw that every bird has longer tail than wing. It´s one of the major things what you have to see. Other is reddish under wing and i saw one bird raising the wings and there was rufous/reddish pattern... Sadly these birds were Collared Pratincoles.
Other good birds where Gull-billed Terns, huge flock of Spender-billed gulls and many Phalaropes.

One of the seven Collare Pratincoles.

Gull-billed Terns.

After km20 pools we noticed that it´s time to go sea-watching to North Beach. Same time when we try to get to the beach, in Eilat was some triathlon competition and every f****ng road was closed... Some how we get our selves to the beach.
We checked terns and Brown Boobies first and then Jände saw two Shearwaters. One was flying and one swimming. We confirmed those as a Sooty Shearwaters. Ten something magical happened. One shearwater came closer to the beach all the time and soon we were photographing it when it flew about 5m away from us! After about 100 photos we came back to our telescopes but bird wasn´t ready yet! It came over the coastline and it was clearly on the beach side! Weird bird... We had also 4 Red-footed Falcons!

Sooty Shearwater flying.

Just amazing ending for this day. This photo is not best but i must save betters for some other purposes.
After we bring our stuff to hotel, we ate in Gulf restaurant.

Super day!


26. huhtikuuta 2012

Ringing Station and Eilat, 19.4

We arrived to the Ringing Station at 6:30. Firs bird what we saw in hand was super nice Little Bittern, so morning started very nicely. I went to the nets with Roni and watched when he released birds from nets.
When we came back others was already working with birds.
It was nice time with ringers and Roni showed me a so called "one hour snake". Actually i think it´s some kind of Viper? We saw also flock of 70 White-winged Terns from stations yard.

Little Bittern. 

Fear of all ringers in Eilat.

I must thank Roni and Yotam to let us visit there, morning was great fun. Here is some photos of birds.

Masked Shrike is nice looking bird.

Woodchat Shrike looks like more vicious.

Great Reed Warbler.

After station we visited to northern palm forest. It was super place to Flycatchers and we saw 3 species of those. Collared was new Israeli tick for me and Jände, Semicollared was commonest and we saw at least one Pied male.
After palm trees we were driving to km19 pool when somebody saw Blue-cheeked Bee-eater sitting on cable. Super bird! We saw only common birds in km19 pool, maybe best was Pintail witch was new specie for our trip list.
We checked km20 pools again and there was no surprises...
Earlier Roni told us that some guys had Cinereous Bunting in IMAX park, witch is in city center.
We drove there and start to look at it. There was huge numbers of Ortolan Buntings, Red-Throated Pipits and Yellow Wagtails. After an hour we leave and Jände told that he had seen two Wood Warblers when we were checking the Bunting! Nice catch.

Red-Throated Pipit

After IMAX park, we decided to check Ofira Park very near of our hotel. Just after 5min i found Cinereous Bunting eating with Ortolans! I called Jände and Esko but bird wasn´t there anymore... Luckily i got few pick and we all saw real Cinereous Bunting on my camera display. We went to our hotel room, checked again and it was still Cinereous when we watched on my laptop. Jände wanted to see that bird and we all went back to the park. Luck was still on our side and we found the Bunting after 20min!!
Great bird and nice Lifer for me!

Middle one is Cinereous! Bad photo..

 After Esko got some good photos of this bird, we identified it as an Semenowi race bird. Mybe the same bird witch was there a month ago.
We took a little sea-watch after this but nothing great there. After eating we went to sleep.


Dead sea and some Eilat. 18.4.2012

Sleeping was hard this time because some teenage rebels had huge party at the Youth Hostel.
We started about 6am and first place where we stopped was Ein Gedi kibbutz.
Mostly there was Black Caps and we counted something like 200 birds! Tristham Starlings were also one of the commonest birds in the area and we saw Nightingale and Rock Martins as well. New specie for our trip-list was Tree Pipit.
About hour later we started our drive to Eilat, but because Jände forgot he´s credit-card at the to the hotel,
i had with Esko a little raptor watch and few Steppe Eagles were best in hour.
After raptor watch was the longest part of driving.. Dead Sea to Eilat is about 234km and in this country it´s long drive.

Ibex in our hotels yard. 

We drove straightly to Eilat and one of the few birds what we saw from the car was Desert Wheatear.
It was already afternoon when we arrived to Eilat and temperature had risen dramatically. +35 was hottest so far on our trip.
From main road we turned to little side road maybe 30km before Eilat and we try to saw some other Wheatears. Desert Larks were flying around and only Wheatear what we saw was good one, Hooded Wheatear.

Hooded Wheatear sitting. 

We checked quickly km20 pools and there was another Israeli Tick for me, White-winged Tern!
Common Waders was also there, including Black-Tailed Godwits, Red-necked Phalaropes and Kentish Plovers.
I had agreed a meeting with Roni in North Beach at 6pm and when we arrived, he was there with Dutch guy  Christian.
We talked about birds and other stuff and we saw some White-Eyed Gulls. Later Roni called me and told that we could come to ringing station next morning if we wanted. And we really wanted that!

White-winged from km20 pools.

I cant remember all problems with our car so that ended now. It´s already stupid to write these afterwards...


19. huhtikuuta 2012


We are living now in Hotel Dalia in Eilat. There is no good internet connection so i cant update hier...
Now im sitting in a shitty hall where is just one old computer. Let's hope that i can update again when we are moving elsewhere .
Today i found Cinereus Bunting at Ofira Park. Maybe the same bird what people saw at the time of Eilat Spring Festival.
Total specie count is almost 200 so next time when you see some pics it's over 200.

I put something here as soon as possible.



18. huhtikuuta 2012

Dead Sea, 17.4.2012

After quite short sleep, we checked Kfar Ruppins kibbuz. Few Eastern Olivaceous Warblers and few Syrian Woodpeckers... Next we check few fish pond near by, 30 Ortolan Buntings! I haven´t saw such a big flock in my life.
Soon we bored and decided to drive to Dead Sea area.

Chukar trough windshield.

Syrian Woodpecker

Peafowl also in Kfar Ruppin.
We were almost in Ein Gedi when Esko saw first Fan-tailed Raven. I didn´t see it but later we had about 20 birds. Little bit later we arrived some observation point high at the mountains and first buzzards migrate quite close. We started watch migration and later we saw one Egyptian Vulture, 6 Steppe Eagles, one Sparrow Hawk, and over a hundred Common Buzzards.
After 45min we continued and Jände booked room for us at Ein Gedi Youth Hostel. We take little siesta and then we met Barak Granit ant Neot Hakikar. We had agreed that he show´s Nubian Nightjahrs for us.

Desert Lark at observation point.

Young Steppe Eagle.

We meet Barak at Neot Hakikar junction and he drove in front and we followed.
Drive was quite long and after 20min we arrived to little pond. Purple Swamphen was sen there some time before we came to Israel so we give it a try. No Swamphen this time but we saw Purple Heron, Great White Egret, Ruffs, Little Stints. Little Bittern and Glamorous Reed Warbler was singing.
When sun was setting, we drove to a little field and started to wait Nightjarhs.
First we heard just voices but when real dark came, birds started to be very active. Soon we saw first and at the end there was at least 3males. We tryed to take some photos of birds but it was hard because birds were super shy.
We had about 2 hours with nightjars and then Barak guided us out of the place.
I must say, this was super evening. Thank you Barak.

Cute Nubian Nightjahr sitting on the road.

Nice day with 2 lifers. Fan-tailed Raven and Nubian Nightjahr.

Days Car problem.
Only way to open drunk is pushing button inside of the car. Ques how many times i had run back to the car...


17. huhtikuuta 2012

After Hula. 16.4.2012

Because we didn´t have internet connection in our hotel last night, i write this now..
At the morning we had made an appointment with Jani Vastamäki. Jani is ringing in Hula and they had some ringing session, we decided to join them.
It didn´t go as good as we think that. Yes, we had Scops Owl there but,  we were waiting at the wrong gate and when i finally call to Jani, they were already there... There was something like 3 electronic gates so we couldn´t follow them..
So we started to check some places and we ended up to some long road and that was actually very good place.
About 30 White-throated Kingfishers, 80 Bee-eaters and some other common stuff.
After this we decided to leave the are and we drove back to our super nice hotel and packed our bags.
This hotel where we lived was really nice, employees were nice and the location was super. I recommend this hotel for everyone who is birding in northern part of Israel. Here some photos from the morning.

Common Buzzard.


White-Throated Kingfisher.

After we pay our room, we started to drive trough south. Out target was Mnt. Gilboa in BeatShean valley.
After long drive we arrived to the mountain and we started to check rocky slopes. We were there like 2h and still no sight of our target specie Long-billed Pipit.
We decided to go eat something and make some plans also. I don´t know is it the food but after it we came back to same spot where we were last time, i spotted two Pipits from the slope!
ID was still little bit uncertain but we drove little bit higher and after few minutes we found those birds again! This Long-billed Pipit was my Western Palearctic tick number 500! Nice species to get full hundreds.
At the end there were at least 3 Pipits. After this we checked few fishponds near by and there was many Black Kites, White Storks, Little Egrets and Pied Kingfishers.
We got bored circulate the pools so we drove to Kfar Ruppin kibbutz and took room for us. In the evening we heard about 4 Scops Owls and 3 barn Owls. Barn Owls are nesting in old water tower middle of the kibbutz. We actually saw all three birds :)

Pied Kingfisher.

Not so good friends?

Daily car problem.

3. Extremely weak engine, haves only 2 cylinders, when normally you have 4.

Total species count is now 134.