Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Israel 2019, day one - Doctor Nightjar & the Tristram's Murders

After such a great early morning session at Mount Amasa (see last post), we gunned south to Eilat for early afternoon, stopping at several lookouts to take in the epic desert landscapes along the way. Painted Lady migration was equally epic, with countless waves sweeping across the baking, barren landscape, a event that would continue (and even intensify) as the trip wore on.

At one such spot we watched fascinated as several super-smart Tristram's Starlings lay in wait for cars to pull up, and then proceeded to climb onto the front grilles (and often all the way into them) in order to extract the numerous unfortunate dead or dying butterflies trapped there. Ingenuity in spades.

A quick turnaround in Eilat to check in and dump our gear before heading back in the direction we'd came, but this time in a coach - as part of the Eilat Birding Festival night tour excursion (led by Yoav and 'assisted' by us). This entailed several stops, the first of which was a pre-dusk scan of Navit Pools, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it but very productive wetland by the roadside just south of the Dead Sea, with highlights including several African Swamphens, Clamourous Reed Warblers, plenty of Ferruginous Ducks and lots of other waterbirds.

Then onto the nocturnal specialities. A stakeout for Desert Owl was partially successful, and while they refused to play nicely, they did call (all three of them) all around us. Next onto an agricultural area by the Dead Sea known to be a haunt of Nubian Nightjars, a very rare and endangered taxa and a holy grail for many visiting birders. The newly christened (PhD approved) Doctor Nightjar pulled out the stops and provided a memorable experience for a coachload of tired but very content international visitors...