Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Wheatears valley

The Uvda valley is just a great place to be.
It is cooler then Eilat and has a soft landscape of the round hills with sandy small streams, covered with the softest sands that flow into a very wide plain, with dense desert vegetation.

This is how the desert becomes alive. In the one event of flood, that comes once in a few years, the small streams fill up with water that directs them to the wide valley.
Because the wide valley rarely fills up, the water is collected there until they find the way out of the valley downstream. In the meanwhile, the water, carrying seeds collected from all over the area and percolate in the thirsty ground.  When the sun comes back, it is just a matter of time before it blooms, sometimes in beautiful colors. And then the birds come.

Local, migratory or the desert wanderers, they flood the valley, months after some water had passed here.
So following May rains 6 months ago and another short rain last month that woke up the seeds on the ground, I took the enthusiastic volunteers of the IBRCE, Euan (Scotland) and Juan (Spain) to check it up. Already on the way we could feel it will be a great day. Nubian Ibexes and a Red Fox were easy to notice by the road. Juan saw an almost adult Imperial Eagle so when I went out of the car to photograph it, it was diving into the hill next to us, crashing a pigeon to the ground and easily collected it and flew away. I managed to take one good photo in spite of the still weak light. Entering the Valley, the dominance of Wheatears was overwhelming. I don't think I ever saw so many Wheatears in one spot.

Along the valley we counted 25 White Crowned, 5 Hooded, 10 Desert and another 12 Morning Wheatears. What was also notable was that all of the 25 White crowned Wheatears were young. These Wheatears live in the most remote and dry desert areas. They had learned to use shadow that collects some moisture during the nights and creates small niche eco systems that creates their food.

This way they always prefer canyons or areas with big rocks. But the desert is harsh and the food is scarce, so the young birds, who don't have to keep a territory, find their way to the valley. The story of the morning Wheatears is different. They migrate from the Negev highlands, each time to a different location where water was flowing. The Desert and Hooded wheatears gathered here also to enjoy the ease to find food.

The valley also attracted the nomad birds. These are birds that breed in a different place every year. They wander around the deserts of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi and Israel looking for a valley like ours. Of these birds we located 25 beautiful Temminck's Horned larks, about 30 Bar-tailed Larks, 60 Desert Larks and 12 Spotted Sandgrouses. Many more local desert birds such as tens of Trumpeter Finches, A Cream Colored Coursor, Sand partridges and Brown Necked Ravens filled the valley with their calls.

In addition to that some migratory birds found the opportunity and stopped to feed. Among them were tens of Red-throated and Water pipits, some Skylarks, Blue Throats, Corn Buntings and Spanish Sparrows. A single male Hen Harrier was trying to hunt who ever came here, whatever his reason was.
The Uvda valley will stay lively all the winter.

Birds will come and move on until the seeds and insects are all eaten. If we will be lucky, and another rain, even slight, will hit our valley, some will stay to nest, hoping for the migratory painted lady butterflies that will arrive in early next spring, to lay here eggs and produce the caterpillars needed for feeding their chick's.

If you come to Eilat this year or next spring, don't miss the valley. It is outstanding, and so interesting.

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