Champions of the Flyway!

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Israel, spring '23 - days thirteen and fourteen

White Storks and raptors in the Hula Valley
European Bee-eater, Susita

Day thirteen (2nd April) - our last (full) day in Israel - was another warm and sunny day, ideal for our trip into the hills and mountains of the far north. Nadav, with his unrivalled local knowledge and connections throughout local communities, gave us a series of dropped pins and recommendations for the day, all of which worked out perfectly.
... and photographing Bee-eaters there
Sardinian Warbler, Susita
The drive around and then up overlooking the Sea of Galilee and the landscapes to the west was a beautiful start (supplemented by a breakfast stop at an open air cafe in a small village above its glittering waters); onwards up the hairpin bends into the most vibrant, lush, wildflower-strewn slopes you could imagine, and a long session at the (mostly) Roman, earthquake-destroyed, recently excavated city of Susita (aka Hippos).
Views of Susita, and great habitat for many species, including Blue Rock Thrush and Bee-eater
A fascinating, active archeological site up in the Golan Heights on a ridge and plateau up in the hills, we spent a happy couple of hours among the Roman ruins, columns strewn as the earthquake left them, exquisite mosaics underfoot, and birds everywhere.
Israeli/Levant Fan-footed Gecko - an area endemic
We meandered north further into the beautiful Golan Heights, making stops whenever and wherever (including killer falafel at an out-of-the-way joint in a druze border town - thanks Nadav!), and just soaking up the vibrant beauty of the area, before making it most of the way up Mount Hermon for mid-afternoon.
The upper slopes of Mount Hermon

Then, it was back down into the valley, for an amazing evening session - and an even more amazing morning session on our last day (fourteen, 3rd April) - around the hotspots of the Hula, with Nadav. We toured all the best birding spots and were treated to multitudes of birds (and species) - 

One or two Cranes and a Greater Spotted Eagle in the Hula valley
- from thousands of Cranes, Storks and Kites, masses of waterbirds (including many Pygmy Cormorants, Glossy Ibises & Marbled Ducks), multitudes of herons (including Squaccos, Purples, Night-herons), kingfishers, Black Francolins.....
... and one or two White Storks
... Lesser Kestrels, lots of warblers, Yellow Wagtails, Red-throated and Tree Pipits, Nightingales, various hirundines, Pallid Harrier, lots of waders... in fact, too much to mention; birds just everywhere, and usually up close in perfect light. What a place. 
Quick plug - all these areas in the Hula will feature heavily within our Birding the Valleys of Dreams tour in December, when it's even more bird-filled!.... check it out here if you fancy a mind-blowing winter break: YCN Northern Israel Dec 2023 

More European Bee-eaters - but never too many

A fitting climax to a truly wonderful trip. Thanks to everyone who made it so special - I'll post about the Homo sapiens highlights in due course ;-)
One of two Demoiselle Cranes at the front of a flock at Agamon
More Storks and raptors in the Hula
Marbled Duck (above) and Glossy Ibis (below)
White-throated Kingfisher (above), Marbled Ducks (below)
Squacco Heron (above), Pygmy Cormorant (below)

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Sparrowhawk, Filey - 11th May '23

From a (very) quiet, perfectly calm vismig session from Muston Sands here in Filey first thnig this morning - a male Sparrowhawk collecting/delivering breakfast.

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Fin Whale, Bridlington, East Yorks - May '23

A few images of a young and sadly deceased Fin Whale beached on Bridlington South Beach. Obviously a little macabre, but educational, quite awe-inspiring and humbling.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Israel, spring '23 - days eleven and twelve

Woodchat Shrike

After arriving late evening back at the Perlmans in Mazkeret Batya (about two-thirds of the way up the country, not far inland from Tel Aviv), day eleven (31st March) began with a birding session with Yoav in local mixed woodland and farmland, and continued with Amity and I heading for the hills a little west of town - specifically Tzor'a Ridge, a rocky, lush, wildflower-strewn area of higher ground overlooking farmland, towns and villages.
'Combover' Jay - everywhere in the north
A beautiful view and lots to enjoy, from numerous Short-toed Eagles (below) to many butterflies, Lesser Kestrels, Alpine Swifts, warblers and more.
Day twelve - 1st April - began (naturally) with another early birding session, this time further afield, with Yoav and I joined by the legendary Piki (finally we meet!) for a session on the coast; our destination was Ashkelon National Park, which we birded for a few enjoyable hours from shortly after dawn.
The most productive area was the scrubby, scruffy 'wasteland' immediately outside the NP gate, which was full of migrants including purring Turtle Doves (below), Semi-collared Flycatcher (above), warblers, Bluethroat, Wrynecks and more.
Within the NP, migrants were more thinly scattered and a little underwhelming (by local standards), but there was still plenty to go at - this was coastal Israel in spring, after all - and among the highlights, a minimum of 15 Common Nightingales, calling and singing from almost every thicket, were a real treat.
A lovely afternoon spent feasting at Adva's parents concluded our time in the area, followed by a drive to the 'true' North - beyond Nazareth, the Sea of Gallilee and up into the Hula Valley, where our last two days and nights of the trip would be spent.
Hoopoe (above), Black Francolin (below)
We arrived at our good friend and all round conservation legend Nadav's place up near the Hula late on - but not too late for a hasty razz around the Hula Agamon at dusk, just as huge numbers of birds descended all around us and into their myriad roosting sites..... countless swarms of Cranes, White Storks, Black Kites (below), Swifts, hirundines and more swirled around us, and it was a joy just to soak it up.
One of dozens of Night-herons coming into roost at the Hula Agamon

A slow drive around the reserve's tracks before heading home in the hope of seeing Jungle Cat was wonderfully successful - we'd an animal trotting nonchalantly ahead of us several times, with perfect, long views before it meandered into the deeper cover.... a quality end to another great day!