26th March 1985 - 9th April 1985.
Flight from Heathrow to Israel with Dave Tombs for a sound recording trip, my first for the BBC Natural History Sound Library, with Dave as the recordist and me as the naturalist/animal finder. After getting through the airport and picking up a hire car, we then had a long drive to our hotel at Ein Bokek on the Dead Sea. On the way seeing 20+ Black Kites, gulls and pigeons.
Our first day sound recording, we started by exploring the area between Ein Bokek and Ein Gedi, where we found 10 Blackstarts, lots of Tristram's Grackles, 6+ White Wagtails, 10+ Rock Martins, 5 Lesser Whitethroats, masses of House Sparrows, lots of White-spectacled Bulbuls, 3 White-crowned Black Wheatears, lots of Buzzards, several Black Kites, a Redstart, 3 Desert Larks, a Griffon Vulture, a Raven,
10 Arabian Babblers, 7 Sand Partridges, a Long-legged Buzzard, several Laughing Doves, 5 Graceful Warblers, a male Palastine Sunbird, 2 Swallows, a Hoopoe, a Chiffchaff, about 10 House Martins, 4 Ethiopian Rock Hyraxes and a White-breasted Kingfisher.
While travelling alongside the Dead Sea we stopped to see the salt formations which were mainly at the southern end.
Photos: White-spectacled Bulbul.
Today we drove south to an area near Masada, where we found 2 Graceful Warblers, several White-spectacled Bulbuls, 4 Blackcaps, 3 Lesser Whitethroats, 2 Sand Partridges, 4 Blackstarts, several Laughing Doves, 2 White-crowned Black Wheatears, about 60 Spanish Sparrows, Black Kites, a Buzzard, several Tristram's Grackles and a Redstart.
Then we moved back north and visited the Ze'elim Plain, where there were lots of Tristram's Grackles, a Great Grey Shrike, 7 Wheatears,
8 Desert Larks, a Griffon Vulture, 6 Sand Partridges, 45+ Lesser Whitethroats, Laughing Doves, a Quail, 2 White-spectacled Bulbuls,
6 Arabian Babblers and an Eastern Black-eared Wheatear.
Driving north we went to Metsoke Dragot, visiting the canyon and surrounding area, seeing 5 Destert Larks, 3 Blackstarts, a Great Grey Shrike, 3 Cretzschmar's Buntings, 2 Fan-tailed Ravens, 2 Little Swifts, 8 Pallid Swifts, a Kestrel, 2 Long-legged Buzzards, 2 Rock Martins,
4 Bonelli's Eagles, 4 Sinia Rock Doves, Swifts, a Brown-necked Raven, 3 Short-toed Eagles, a Chukar, 7 Sand Partridges, a Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Sardinian Warblers, a Lesser Grey Shrike and a Black Kite.
Photos: Blackstart, Sand Partridge, Tristram's Grackles, Ze'elim Canyon and plain with the Dead Sea in the distance.
Today we stayed local to our hotel, visiting the Ein Bokek Canyon, where we found lots of Graceful Warblers, Blackcaps, Lesser Whitethroats, a Trumpeter Finch, White-spectacled Bulbuls, Tristram's Grackles, 4 Fan-tailed Ravens, a pair of Palestine Sunbirds, 4 Blackstarts, a Redstart, 2 Chiffchaffs, 8 Sand Partridges, a Long-legged Buzzard, 3 Ethiopian Rock Hyraxes, Rock Martins, a Whitethroat and a Green or Little Green now called Arabian Green Bee-eater, a new bird for me.
Photos: Dave Tombs, Palestine Sunbird, Arabian Green Bee-eater.
A visit to Aruggot Canyon, which we found was a much quiter place to record, with less visitors.
Here we saw around 20 Sand Partridges, 2 Brown-necked Ravens, White-spectacled Bulbuls, 6+ Arabian Babblers, a parrot which we were told was an escaped Cape Parrot, Tristram's Grackles, Laughing Doves, Rock Doves, 6 Lesser Whitethroats, 6 Blackstarts, 14 Ethiopian Rock Hyraxes, 2 Ravens, 3 White-breasted Kingfishers, a Chiffchaff, a Masked Shrike, 5 male and 2 female Palestine Sunbirds,
4 Fan-tailed Ravens, a Long-legged Buzzard, 2 Egyptian Vultures and a Mountain Bunting (formally a subspecies of House Bunting), a new bird for me.
From the canyon we went to the nearby feeding station and rubbish tip, where there was a Cretzschmar's Bunting, 8 Spanish Sparrows, a Desert Lark, 2 Ravens, about 20 Brown -necked Ravens and 6 Fan-tailed Ravens.
Photos: Below: Mountain Bunting, Ethiopian Rock Hyrax.
Dave at Aruggot Canyon putting out one of his home-made microphones, and as you can see, recording on a reel-to-reel tape recorder.
Later we went to Ze'elim Canyon, where there were Desert Larks, Sand Partridges, a Blackcap, 4 Lesser Whitethroats, 3 Spanish Sparrows, lots of Tristram's Grackles, a Ruppell's Warbler, 2 Mountain Buntings, 3 Short-toed Eagles, 2 Rock Martins, 3 Blackstarts, 2 White-spectacled Bulbuls, 6 Fan-tailed Ravens, 2 Lesser Spotted Eagles, 2 Streaked Scrub Warblers, a Black Stork, 2 Egyptian Vultures, about 30 Buzzards, a Black Kite and a kestrel.
Photo: Tristram's Grackles.
A return to Aruggot Canyon where there were lots of White-spectacled Bulbuls and Laughing Doves. We watched a bachelor herd of 13 male Nubian Ibex walking down the cliffs to the canyon car park, where they fed for a while before moving back up the cliffs, a single female was seen high up in the rocks.
Also seen were 17 Ethiopian Rock Hyraxes, Blackstarts, lots of Tristram's Grackles, 3 Arabian Babblers, Lesser Whitethroats, lots of Sand Partridges, 3 White-breasted Kingfishers, 4 male and 2 female Palestine Sunbirds, 2 Ravens, 4 Fan-tailed Ravens, Rock Martins, Rock Doves, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Graceful Warblers and 2 Long-legged Buzzards.
Migrants were on the move with 160+ Buzzards seen flying over, also 3 Black Storks, 7 Egyptian Vultures, 12 Black Kites, 6 Short-toed Eagles, 2 Lesser Spotted Eagles and 3 Steppe Eagles.
Photos: Nubian Ibex.
Later we headed back north visiting the Metsoke Dragot Canyon, seeing the nesting pair of Bonelli's Eagles again, also a Raven, 6 Swifts, a Little Swift, 2 White-crowned Black Wheatears, Desert Larks and a Trumpeter Finch.
At some nearby corn fields we saw 12 Swallows, 6 Ortolan Buntings, a Crested Lark and a Lesser Black-backed Gull.
On the way back to the hotel, near Ein Bokek we saw an Arabian Hare, a new mammal for me.
Photo: Metsoke Dragot Canyon.
Today we drove northwest along the road to Arad, stopping at good places to record, seeing 10 Mourning Wheatears, 2 Chukars and 2 Swallows.
Returning to Ein Bokek we saw 2 Meadow Pipits, 9 Night Herons and about 30 Swallows.
From here we visited Ze'elim Canyon, seeing a new bird for me, a Barbary Falcon, we also saw Blackstarts, a Kestrel, Sand Partridges, Blackcaps, Lesser Whitethroats, a Black Kite, a Griffon Vulture and a Mountain Bunting.
Photo: Ze'elim Canyon.
Our last day in this area and we spent it in Ze'elim Canyon, where we saw a Black Kite, a White-crowned Black Wheatear, Sand Partridges, White-spectacled Bulbuls, 4 Ravens, 3 Mountain Buntings, lots of Blackcaps and Lesser Whitethroats, a Streaked Scrub Warbler, 6 Fan-tailed Ravens, a Buzzard, lots of Tristram's Grackles, 2 Chukars, Rock Martins, 2 Egyptian Vultures, a Short-toed Eagle, a Tree Pipit, Desert Larks, a Trumpeter Finch, 2 Collared Doves, an Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Blackstarts, 2 Desert Wheatears - a new bird for me, a Wheatear, 5 Bee-eaters and a Lesser Grey Shrike.
Photos: Tristram's Grackles. Rock Martin.
Leaving Ein Bokek we drove to Arad, along the way seeing 11 Mourning Wheatears, a Blackstart, 2 Desert Larks, a Cretzschmar's Bunting and a Sinai Agama.
From Arad we drove south through the desert towards the southern end of the Dead Sea, along the way only seeing 2 more Mourning Wheatears and a Black Kite.
We were heading for Hazeva, by the Jordan border, in this area we saw Swallows, Red-rumped Swallows and House Martins all going north, also a Long-legged Buzzard, a Cuckoo, a Kestrel and about 15 Spanish Sparrows.
Photos: Right: Sinai Agama.
Below: desert south of Arad.
Below: right: Long-legged Buzzard.
We were at Hazeva to record Arabian Babblers, before it got light we met up with one of the reserchers from the Hazeva Field Station, who was studying a habituated group of babblers, he took us into an area of acasia scrub which the birds favoured. The babblers live in loose family groups and come together to roost overnight, apparently a guard bird will give a 'wake up' call at first light, so we were in position with our microphones to capture the moment.
It was well after dawn before there was any calling and later still before the group started moving around, perhaps they were having a lie-in this morning.
Altogether we saw 30 Arabian Babblers which split into groups of 10, 6, 10 and 4, and we followed them around for several hours.
We also saw 4 Streaked Scrub Warblers, an Egyptian Vulture, a Marsh Harrier, 3 Lesser Grey Shrikes, 2 Arabian Warblers which were new birds for me, Sand Partridges, White-spectacled Bulbuls, Blackstarts, Swallows, lots of Lesser Whitethroats, a Reed Warbler, 5 Bee-eaters, a Nightingale, Rock Martins, lots of Collared Doves, a Night Heron, Blackcaps, a Moorhen, 3 Short-toed Larks, a Long-legged Buzzard, 2 Green Bee-eaters and a Hoopoe.
Photos: Above: Arabian Babblers.
Still at Hazeva and again an early start to record the Arabian Babblers again, today only finding 14 birds. Other birds seen were 4 Blackstarts, White-spectacled Bulbuls, Lesser Whitethroats and a liquid sparrow-like call drew my attention to an Eastern Bonelli's Warbler, a new bird for me. Also, we saw 5 Green Bee-eaters, a Pallid Harrier, 2 Sand Partridges, a Streaked Scrub Warbler, a Woodchat Shrike, an Egyptian Vulture, Collared Doves, 2 Brown-necked Ravens, a Long-legged Buzzard, a Black-eared Wheatear and another new bird a Desert Finch. In the distance on the skyline of a small hill we saw 2 Dorcas
Later we drove south to Eilat, After checking into the hotel we had a look at the harbour and along a nearby canal, seeing 4 Sandwich Terns, 24 Common Terns, a Caspian Tern, Yellow-legged Gulls, a Graceful Warbler, 2 Moustached Warblers, a Grey Heron, a Redshank, Dunlin, Ruff, a White Wagtail, another Eastern Bonelli's Warbler, 4 Common Sandpipers, a Wheatear, a Barbary Falcon, a Montagu's Harrier, 2 Black-winged Stilts, 2 Little Stints, 2 Blackstarts and a White-crowned Black Wheatear.
In the evening we went to a spot on the edge of the town, where a puddle from a dripping tap attracted 2 Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse, a third new bird for me today.
An early start to explore the desert north of Eilat, stopping in an area about 20Kms north near Be'er Ora, where we saw a Turtle Dove, 4 Arabian Babblers, White-spectacled Bulbuls, a Swallow, around 20 House Martins, a Redstart, Lesser Whitethroats, a Sand Partridge, Blackstarts, about 20 Meadow Pipits, 3 Blackcaps, a Reed Warbler, a Wood Warbler, a Rock Martin, 2 Brown-necked Ravens, a Booted Eagle, a Garden Warbler, around 40 Ortolan Buntings, 3 Mountain Buntings, 2 White Wagtails and 5 Bee-eaters. We also saw lots of small lizards in this area, which were probably one of the Fringe-toed Lizard species.
We continued north and found a great bit of desert by the Km 32 stone, here we saw 2 Wheatears, a Desert Lark, 3 Lesser Short-toed Larks, a Bar-tailed Desert Lark and a Hoopoe Lark, both new birds for me.
Hoopoe Lark was one of out target species to record and we spent a long time watching the bird make its remarkable song flight from several small mounds, we then chose which of the mounds to place microphones by and run cables back to our car, after a while the lark returned and we were able to get some great recordings.
Later, we returned to Eilat where I revisited the canal area again, seeing Yellow-legged Gulls, 12 Black-winged Stilts, 2 Greenshank, 3 Marsh Sandpipers, 5 Ruff, 9 Kentish Plovers, 3 Redshank, lots of Swallows, a Wheatear, 2 Temminck's Stints, a Wood Sandpiper, 17 Garganey, 9 Black Kites, 3 Little Egrets, a Grey Heron, a Little Stint, 2 Sand Martins, a Tawny Pipit, 3 Red-throated Pipits, a male Pallid Harrier, a Shelduck, a Sanderling, 2 Black-headed and 6 Blue-headed Wagtails, 2 Slender-billed Gulls, a Reed Warbler, a male Baillon's Crake which was a new bird for me, 3 White Wagtails, about 40 Black-headed Gulls, around 20 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 2 Pintail, about 80 White Storks, a Green Sandpiper, a Night Heron and 30 Glossy Ibises.
Photos: Booted Eagle.
Fringe-toed Lizard species.
An early morning look at the harbour and along the canal in Eilat, which produced 2 Cory's Shearwaters, 2 Sandwich Terns, 2 Barbary Falcons, 4 Indian House Crows which were new birds for me, 4 Little Egrets, 2 Wheatears, masses of Swallows, around 50 Little Stints, 3 Ruff, Graceful Warblers, 3 Common Sandpipers, a Zitting Cisicola, 2 Chiffchaffs, 2 Sand Martins, 9 Redshank, 4 Turtle Doves, 5 Black-winged Stilts, 9 Wood Sandpipers, 3 Slender-billed Gulls, 10 Garganey, a Marsh Sandpiper, a Night Heron, 2 Red-throated Pipits, 2 Kentish Plovers and several Ortolan Buntings.
Later, we left Eilat and drove north to Mizpe-Ramon and then to our accommodation at the field school at Midreshet Ben-Gurion.
During our journey we saw an Egyptian Vulture, 7 White Storks, 4 Bee-eaters, 2 Lesser Short-toed Larks, Tristram's Grackles, 5 Brown-necked Ravens, a White-crowned Black Wheatear, a Wheatear, 3 Arabian Babblers, Lesser Whitethroats, a Blackcap and as we neared the crater at Mizpe-Ramon a Hooded Wheatear, a new bird for me, also 2 Mourning Wheatears, 4 Rock Martins and a Kestrel.
Between the canyon and the field school at Midreshet Ben-Gurion we saw a Woodchat Shrike, a White Stork, a Kestrel, a Graceful Warbler, Greenfinches, a Sand Partridge, White-spectacled Bulbuls, 3 Crested Larks, 8 Buzzards and a Stone Curlew.
Photos: Mizpe-Ramon Crater. Mourning Wheatear.
Today we travelled west from the field school to Ashalim Pool, where we saw 2 White Storks, one with a damaged wing, 5 Desert Finches,
2 Hoopoe Larks, Crested Larks, a Pied Flycatcher, 2 Stone Curlew, Lesser Whitethroats, Blackcaps, a Brown-necked Raven, a Lanner, a male Pallid Harrier, a Red-throated Pipit, a Turtle Dove, Chukars, Graceful Warblers, 7 Tawny Pipits, a pair of Marsh Harriers, a Short-toed Lark and eventually the birds we had come to record, sandgrouse.
An amazing spectacle of so many birds coming in to drink and thankfully not taking any notice of our microphones, there were 5 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, around 500 Spotted Sandgrouse and about 20 Crowned Sandgrouse, the Sotted and Crowned were new birds for me.
Also there we saw a White-spectacled Bulbul, a Kestrel, 6 Wheatears, lots of Swallows, 3 Black Storks, a Long-legged Buzzard, a Bonelli's Eagle, a Booted Eagle, 4 Griffon Vultures, 3 Isabelline Wheatears and a Hoopoe.
Later, we visited the Ha Makhtesh Ha Gadol Crater, but we only saw 2 Rock Martins, a Desert Lark, a Sand Partridge and a Brown-necked Raven.
We returned to the field school and explored the nearby Zin Canyon, where there were 4 Blackstarts, 2 Arabian Babblers, 3 Blackcaps, 4 Chukars, a Nubian Ibex, 2 Rock Martins, 3 Brown-necked Ravens, a Buzzard, a Griffon Vulture, Rock Doves, 2 White-spectacled Bulbuls and a Mourning Wheatear.
Photos: White Stork.
Ha Makhtesh Ha Gadol Crater.
Our last day in Israel, we left the field school and headed north, on the way seeing around 50 Chukars, a Mourning Wheatear, a White Stork, a Brown-necked Raven and about 50 Spotted Sandgrouse.
We stopped at Nizzana Pool where there was a Green Sandpiper, a Marsh Sandpiper, 2 Black-headed Wagtails, 2 Spur-winged Plovers, 10 Ruff, 4 Turtle Doves, Rock Doves, 200+ Spotted Sandgrouse, a male Pallid Harrier and 5 Black-bellied Sandgrouse.
North of Be'er Shiva on the way to Tel Aviv we saw 3 Hoopoes, Hooded Crows, Goldfinches, Crested Larks, 14 Starred Agamas, lots of Turtle Doves, 2 Stone Curlews, Graceful Warblers, 3 Corn Buntings, a Roller, a Greenfinch, a Quail, Swallows, White-spectacled Bulbuls, 3 Blackbirds and a White-breasted Kingfisher.
We stopped at Segula Pool seeing 4 Little Ringed Plovers, 3 Common Sandpipers, a Wood Sandpiper, a Greenshank, 10 Spur-winged Plovers, 6 Garganey, a Cattle Egret, a Kestrel and an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler.
Nearing Tel Aviv we stopped to look at a group of bushes which were alive with finches, they were all Syrian Serins, a new bird for me.
Photo: Mourning Wheatear.