Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Israel 2019, day one - Mount Amasa

Pale Rock Sparrow - ridiculous views
Well, if I've any chance of rattling out a full series of posts covering our seventeen days in Israel, then it's gonna have to be lean on the flowery prose and straight to the source... so here goes. We arrived in Tel Aviv on 21st, reunited and overnighted with the wondrous Perlman clan (more of them to follow), and then headed south towards Eilat on 22nd for ten days of happy mania immersed in Champions of the Flyway and the International Bird Observatories Conference (much more of them to follow).

Batha habitat = birder's Nirvana
On the way down, we detoured via Mount Amasa, a stunningly flora-rich and fauna-filled area of lush, rolling hillsides, known as Batha in Israel (similar to the Garrigue in southern France). It was a genuinely wonderful morning, just full of great birds in beautiful surroundings - too many to list, but highlights included...

White Storks thermalling above the hills before moving on
.... Pale Rock Sparrows (or Rock Finches, or Hill Sparrows, or whatever you prefer) singing and displaying, Finsch's Wheatears (as well as Black-eared, Isabelline and Northern), breeding (regular) Rock Sparrows, a single Cinereous Bunting among numerous gorgeous breeding Cretzschmar's Buntings, Blue Rock Thrushes, rising columns of hundreds of White Storks, healthy scatterings of Corn Buntings, Desert and Crested Larks ....

Persian Wheatear - more ridiculous views
...singing Cuckoos and Long-billed Pipits, nesting Scrub and Spectacled Warblers, Common and Brown-necked Ravens, and plenty more - and as luck would have it, the Persian Wheatear had not only returned to overwinter but also stuck around long enough for us to enjoy it, performing perfectly in the warm post-dawn sunshine.

Huge thanks to brother Yoav for the first of many great sessions during the trip - a baptism of fire, and all the better for it.

Finsch's Wheatear

Spectacled Warbler

Cretzschmar's Bunting

Male Blue Rock Thrush

Cinereous Bunting

Rock Sparrow

Cool wife