7th – 14th April: Lotan and southern Arvava, Israel   Leave a comment

As I explained at the start of the Israel account, this trip was in two parts, eleven days sightseeing and birding with Margaret and a week bird ringing at Kibbutz Lotan with eleven other British ringers. Ringing abroad can only be done by qualified ringers at the request and with the permission of the local ringing authority. As many foreign ringing schemes are undermanned this allows for further research to be carried out, whilst giving visiting ringers valuable experience they couldn’t obtain at home.

On the  early morning of the 7th we dropped the hire car off at Ben Gurion airport and Margaret took the shuttle to the international terminal for the flight home and I went to the domestic terminal for the flight to Eilat. I had wondered about keeping hold of the hire car and driving down there but decided it would be best to do the same as the others and get on the same flight. I sat in the departure lounge for ages but there was no sign of the four from our ringing group or the seven other ringers who they were joining. In time I boarded the plane, but still no sign, I was feeling resigned to the fact that they had missed the flight when they arrived a couple of minutes before departure, apparently security had taken a dislike to Terry and Mike and had subjected them to repeated searches.

Once at Eilat we picked up hire cars (four between the 12 of us) and drove the 45 km north to Kibbutz Lotan. Having settled in we spent the afternoon setting up the nets for the following day. During the following week we settled into a pattern. The nets would be opened at 0530, we would ring until about 1130 (sometimes a bit early if it got too hot for the birds), have lunch and then go out birding in the afternoon. Usually all 12 of us (sometimes accompanied by Dave Taylor, a Dorset birder who was also staying at the kibbutz) would go to the same destination but occasionally we would split up. Most of the sites we visited were small wetlands (usually sewage works) or areas of open desert and included areas like Yotvata, Km 20 and Eilat Birdwatching Centre that have already been illustrated on the blog.

This post shows some of the birds we saw during the week. Unfortunately on the second day I accidentally changed the settings on my camera so that very low resolution pics were taken, this meant that cropping was impractical. As I result, I have posted some taken by Terry Elborne as well as my own.


Kibbutz Lotan - Arava Valley

Seen from the western Rift Valley escarpment Kibbutz Lotan stands out as a green oasis in the desert. The settlement close to the furthest mountains is in Jordan. Photo by Terry Elborne.



The accommodation at Kibbutz Lotan



At nearby Yotvata we saw this pair of Caspian Plovers on route from the savannas of East Africa to the breeding grounds in Central Asia. This is a male.


The rather dowdier female.


Black Bush Robin, a bird that I have seen before in Africa but not in the Western Palearctic. On my previous visits it was a very uncommon visitor to Israel, but now they are annual in small numbers in spring and may even have bred.


Margaret and I searched for a very elusive individual at Km 19 without success so I was very pleased to get such good views of these birds and voted it my ‘bird of the trip’.


Afternoon at Yotvata sewage works. Early in the week, southerly winds produced dust storms that obscured the sun and depressed migration. A switch to northerlies and clearer skies mid-week was most welcome.


The general feeling was that there were much fewer migrant passerines around this spring than normal. Rain in Sudan, providing an alternative refueling stop and unregulated bird trapping for food in Sinai were suggested as reasons. Even so if we came across such ‘low’ numbers of Blackcaps back home as we experienced that week, we would declare it a major fall!


It wasn’t too hard to find ‘ringtail’ harriers migrating against the dramatic back drop of Jordan’s Rift Escarpment, it was identifying them as Pallid or Montague’s that was the problem.

Tanwy Pipit

This Tawny Pipit was found in an open desert area at Km 76. The surrounding vegetation is the result of the heavy winter rains, most years this would be completely barren. Photo by Terry Elborne

Semi-Collared Fly

One of the first birds we saw at Lotan was this superb male Semi-collared Flycatcher. Photo by Terry Elborne.


Collared Fly

Here for comparison is the superb Collared Flycatcher, one of Europe’s most attractive breeding birds. Not all as easy to identify as this adult male! Identification of the ‘black-and-white’ flycatchers in female or first year plumage is complex and resulted in lengthy discussions.Photo by Terry Elborne.

Palenstine Sunbird 1

A few Palestinian Sunbirds were seen around the kibbutz gardens. Photo by Terry Elborne

Pale Grag Martin

A pair of Pale Crag Martins were often seen over our nets but avoided all attempts to trap them. Photo by Terry Elborne

Ortolan Bunting

Flocks of migrant Ortolan Buntings were seen in desert areas. Photo by Terry Elborne

Kentish Chick

At the Km 20 salt pans loads of cute Kentish Plover chicks were running about. See earlier posts for pics of the adults. Photo by Terry Elborne


Broad-billed Sand

This Broad-billed Sandpiper was an excellent find at Km 20. Oman and the Gulf is the nearest wintering area for this species and they seldom pass through Israel on their way north. Photo by Terry Elborne


This Red-necked Phalarope would have spent the winter at sea in the Indian Ocean before heading overland to its breeding grounds on the Russian tundra. Photographed (along with a Slender-billed Gull) by Terry Elborne at Km 20.

Marsh Sand

Marsh Sandpiper, one of the most attractive of the ‘tringa’ Sandpipers. Photo by Terry Elborne.


One afternoon Terry, Mike and Bob stayed behind whilst Shaun and I went birding elsewhere. They had superb views of this Corncrake at the Kibbutz and managed to release the news in a most amusing manner that evening. Photo by Terry Elborne.
White Storks

From mid-week onwards, migrants flocks of raptors and storks would appear over the kibbutz from 1000 – 1200. These are White Storks but we also had good numbers of Black Storks, Buzzards and Black Kites with a few Ospreys, Short-toed, Booted, Lesser Spotted and Steppe Eagles.

Little green Beeater

Green Bee-eaters were a common site around the Kibbutz. Photo by Terry Elborne


Squacco Herons were seen on most bodies of water however small. Photo by Terry Elborne.


Birding at Km 33. L- R: Rachael Eele, Paul Eele, Bob Gifford, me, Roger Walsh, Mike Gould, Shaun Robson, Dave Taylor. Photo by Terry Elborne.

Posted May 15, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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