31st March – 2nd April – Avarva Valley, Israel   Leave a comment

North of Eilat running north up to the Dead Sea lies the Ararva Valley. This is part of the great Syrian-African Rift Valley, a deformation in the Earth’s crust where two or more plates are pulling apart. Starting as far south as Mozambique, the Rift runs through Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti before following the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba, to the Avarva Valley and the Dead Sea of Israel and Jordan, then north through Lebanon and Syria before finally terminating in southern Turkey.


Clearly visible from space, the Rift Valley runs up the Gulf of Aqaba north to the Dead Sea and beyond. Photo from the Internet.

North of Eilat and within the Ararva valley lie a number of excellent birding sites. In this desert environment any source of water will attract birds, and in practice this means either saltpans or sewage lagoons. Unusually heavy winter rains have left pools in unexpected places and the resultant greening of the desert has meant that migrants aren’t as concentrated as usual. In addition rain in Sudan has provided an alternative stop over site on the long haul from southern and eastern Africa and the proliferation of bird netting for food along the migration route (involving hundreds of kilometers of illegal nets) is having its toll on numbers.

During our time there we birded at the nearby Km 19/20 (named after the nearby kilometer posts on Route 90), at a scenic spot called Amram’s Pillars and at Yotvata Kibbutz.


Kentish Plovers (L) breed at the saltpans at Km 20 but the Little Stints (R) are on passage to the arctic.


Ruff were a common migrant. They breed in both arctic tundra and wet meadows in more temperate climes.


A lovely flock of 35 Collared Pratincoles. These specialised waders have a more southerly breeding distribution mainly around the Mediterranean and Black Seas.


A drainage canal south of the saltpans held some great birds like this male Bluethroat


The normally elusive Spotted Crake showed well, if briefly


This Yellow Wagtail appears to be of the nominate race ‘flava’ but a bit of white under the eye could indicate that it is the very similar race ‘beema’


No doubting this one, a male Yellow Wag of the Balkans to Caucasus race ‘feldegg’


This was by far the best find at Km 19, a beautiful White-tailed Lapwing, seen here with a Wood Sandpiper. We thought we had discovered this rare migrant but later heard it had been around for at least one day.


OK its out of focus, but this shot does show the White-tailed Lapwing’s amazing flight pattern.


A side track took us through some wonderful scenery …


.. and deserted wadis


.. although we didn’t have this wilderness to ourselves..


Amram’s Pillars


A true desert inhabitant – a male Sand Partridge


A White-crowned Wheatear perches against a dramatic backdrop


Also known as White-crowned Black Wheatear or White-tailed Wheatear, amazingly there is one record of the desert specialist from the UK.


Three birds from nearby Yotvata Kibbutz: Widespread in dry area of Africa, the tiny Namaqua Dove can only be seen in the Avarva Valley within the Western Paleartic. This bird is perched on a section of the border fence that divides Israel from Jordan and I got into trouble with a military patrol for stepping off the track onto the ‘tracking lane’ that they examine for footprints of potential cross-border insurgents.


Once a common summer visitor habitat change and shooting on migration have reduced the UK’s Turtle Doves by 90% over the last 20 years.


Breeding on Arctic tundra, the lovely Red-throated Pipit is less affected by changes to the breeding habitat than other migrants and remains quite common.

Posted April 30, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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