2.25 birding days in Israel (mostly 4/15 and 4/16/2011)

Northern Israel, April 9 and 15-16, 2011 (a few pix are at https://picasaweb.google.com/greenfant/Israel11Keepers)

This was a business trip to Intel Haifa which gave me 2.5 hours on the afternoon of 4/9, a few occasional before-work-minutes and 2 full days on 4/15-16. It was a short-notice trip, so I was not able to do proper research for it. I ended up using “A guide to the birding hot-spots of Northern Israel” by Hadoram Shirihai, James Smith, Guy Kirwan and Dan Alon. This thin book was released in 1990 and is not very useful or current, really. On the night of 4/15-16, I stayed at the Astoria Galilee Hotel in Tiberias. This was no-frills, but ok, and the location was central.

On 4/9, I drove to Ma’agan Mikhael (MM) straight from the airport. I had about 3 hours of daylight. While access was to the site was easy, I didn’t know how to access the fish ponds. I ended up just walking in, but was at no time sure that I wasn’t going to be arrested any minute. At the fish ponds, Pied and White-throated Kingfishers were numerous; I only found one Common. Lots of herons/egrets were about, some of them caught in the netting.

In the mornings along the Louis Promenade just outside the Dan Carmel in downtown Carmel, I had good looks at the common residents like Syrian Woodpecker, Palestine Sunbird, Sardinian Warbler, Graceful Prinia and White-spectacled Bulbul. Hooded Crows and Laughing Doves are everywhere. I also lucked up on an Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler that I was able to get photos of.

On 4/15, I decided to visit the Bet Shean area. I started at Mt. Gilboa early in the morning, but failed to find Long-billed Pipit. So, I briefly stopped by Nir David and did get a Clamorous Reed Warbler in an area of reeds right by the entrance to the fish ponds. There were lots of shorebirds with at least one Marsh Sandpiper. Kfar Ruppin was one big disappointment: None of the species advertised in Shirihai were present. The kibbutz was very active though, but it was getting late in the day. The fish ponds were dead, so were the fields except for scores of Ortolan Buntings and masses of Black Kites sitting in fields.

On 4/16, I started early at Wadi Ammud and got Little Swift, Great Spotted Cuckoo and Long-billed Pipit there. This is a beautiful spot and there were lots of birds. Wish I could have stayed longer …  Next stop was Mt. Hermon where I missed every single one of my targets: No Syrian Serin near Neve Atif and no Crimson-winged Finch up the top of the ski lift. There was however a displaying Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush and several Black Redstarts. Cretschmar’s Bunting, Upcher’s Warbler and Pale Rock Sparrow had probably not arrived yet.

I finished the day at the Hula Lake Reserve. I should have come there earlier … Probably the best site I visited. A Great Spotted Cuckoo was in the row of eucalyptus trees en route to the parking lot. I rented a golf cart for about 2.5 hours (don’t ask …), but it was a lot of fun to do the 8.5Km circuit. A ranger pointed out a flock of Collared Pratincoles. 2 Spotted Crakes were coming out into the open it was late afternoon now. A single White Pelican and a few Common Cranes are probably young and sickly, otherwise they should have left a while ago. There were 2 Eurasian Spoonbill as well and lots of Wood Sandpiper and Ruff. A Black Francolin briefly came out for me. Lots of Bee-eaters …

I briefly tried for Eagle Owl at Wadi Ammud at dusk, but came up empty.

List of species (total 116):

Little Grebe (Kfar Ruppin reservoir)
Great Cormorant
Pygmy Cormorant (1 at Kfar Ruppin Reservoir)
White Pelican (1 left at Hula)
Little Bittern (1 at MM)
Night Heron (100s at MM)
Squacco Heron (2 at MM, 1 at Hula)
Cattle Egret
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Purple Heron (1 at MM)
Black Stork (many at Nir David)
White Stork
Glossy Ibis
Spoonbill (2 at Hula)
Common Teal
Pochard (1 at Kfar Ruppin fish ponds)
Black Kite (many in Bet Shean and Hula Valleys)
Griffon Vulture (1 on Mt. Hermon)
Short-toed Eagle (1 on Mt. Hermon, 1 on Mt. Galboa)
Long-legged Buzzard (1 near Neve Atif)
Steppe Buzzard (buteo buteo vulpinus; more than one near Kfar Ruppin)
Osprey (2 near Kfar Ruppin)
Lesser Kestrel (1 near Wadi Ammud)
Black Francolin (1 at Hula)
Quail (1 at Mt. Galboa)
Spotted Crake (2 at Hula)
Crane (a few left at Hula)
Black-winged Stilt
Stone Curlew (Kfar Ruppin fish ponds)
Collared Pratincole (~20 at Hula)
Ringed Plover
Spur-winged Plover (abundant)
Little Stint (Nir David, Hula)
Temminck’s Stint (Nir David)
Ruff (Nir David, many at Hula)
Black-tailed Godwit (3 at Hula)
Bar-tailed Godwit (1 at Nir David)
Spotted Redshank (4 at Nir David)
Marsh Sandpiper (1 at Nir David)
Greenshank (Nir David, Hula)
Green Sandpiper (1 at Nir David)
Wood Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper
Black-headed Gull
Lesser Black-headed Gull
Armenian Gull (3 at MM, many at Bet Alfa fish ponds)
Little Tern (1 at Kfar Ruppin)
tern sp (beach in Haifa)
Rock Dove
Collared Dove
Turtle Dove
Laughing Dove (abundant)
Great Spotted Cuckoo (2 near Wadi Ammud, 1 near Hula)
Common Cuckoo (Mt. Hermon)
Rose-ringed Parakeet
Little Owl (1 at Kfar Ruppin reservoir)
Alpine Swift (Wadi Ammud, Haifa)
Little Swift (Wadi Ammud)
White-breasted Kingfisher
Kingfisher (1 at MM)
Pied Kingfisher
Syrian Woodpecker
Crested Lark
Barn Swallow
Red-rumped Swallow (Newe Atif)
House Martin
Long-billed Pipit (Wadi Ammud)
White Wagtail
Spectacled Bulbul
Nightingale (1 at Kfar Ruppin)
Black Redstart (several up Mt. Hermon)
Eastern Stonechat
Black-eared Wheatear (Mt. Hermon)
Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush (1 displaying at Mt. Hermon)
Blue Rock-Thrush
Cetti’s Warbler
Graceful Prinia (abundant)
Reed Warbler
Clamorous Reed Warbler (Nir David)
Olivacious Warbler
phylloscopus sp (likely Chiffchaff or Plain Leaf Warbler)
Sardinian Warbler
Eastern Orphean Warbler (Mt. Hermon)
Lesser Whitethroat
Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler (1 at Louis Promenade, Haifa)
Collared Flycatcher (1 at Newe Atif)
Sombre Tit (Mt. Hermon)
Great Tit
Palestine Sunbird (abundant)
Lesser Gray Shrike (many at Mt Galboa)
Woodchat Shrike (many at Mt. Hermon)
Masked Shrike (1 near Kfar Ruppin reservoir)
Jay (atricapillus spp)
Hooded Crow
Common Myna
House Sparrow
Linnet (Mt Hermon)
Ortolan Bunting (abundant)



  1. Your post reminds me of my trip to Israel in 1999. Migration there was fabulous. If you get a chance to get to Elat I recommend it, though didn’t sound like you had time. We were there about the same time of year (late March). We were snowed on at Mt Hermon and our van was broken into at the waddi we stopped at for Long-billed Pipit. We learned the hard way that theft was rampant in Israel. But once recovered we had a great time.


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