The big events of the Spring Migration Festival and the Champions of the Flyway are finished. We've had some good birds and great birders and I was reunited with lot of old friends, so I've just been too busy to update the Eilat Blog. Sorry about that.
The winners of the Champions of the Flyway competition were none other than The American Dippers led by Doug, who is on the IBRCE field monitoring team. I was going to write that "for us it was a game but for them it was war" as the reason why they won, but I guess that's just because I lost…They were sharp, organized, calculated and very wise, which is what made them an exceptional team. I should have seen it from the first minute of the race. Very well done and very well deserved.
Now that the rush of important birders is gone I'm left here with the migration, and it is doing fantastically. There is now time to look carefully at every bird and ponder the birding questions we always carry in our minds.
Hadoram Shirihai, the founder of IBRCE, visited us for two weeks and lit the fire in our minds with the Oriental Skylark mystery. These larks are supposed to be a non-migratory bird with the closest known population in Pakistan. Nevertheless we get them here annually every winter, sometimes in good numbers.
Very few larks were caught and ringed about 25 years ago and the measurements were not completely within the range of the Pakistani subspecies, so Hadoram asked us to try and catch one. We spent 2 days trying a bird in Eilot's fields, but we missed it again and again by centimeters from the top of the nets. We will try in autumn again with hopefully more success.
Besides that migration is brilliant. We had some cooler days and the ringing station filled up with many birds, with 300 to 500 being ringed daily. Blackcaps, Lesser Whitethroats and all kinds of Swallows are in huge numbers. No less than millions are around the Arava now.
The air is sometimes so thick with them that it is scary to walk around the bird sanctuary as you feel one might fly into your eye. The diversity of species is also great. It is now that we get the "changing of shifts" of migrants. Chiffchaffs and Bluethroats are out and Thrush Nightingales, Collared Flycatchers, Blue-cheeked Bee eaters, Barred Warblers and many others replace them. The desert is blooming and the birds responded with a male Black-crowned Finch Lark, 3 Dunn's larks, 2 Thick-billed Larks and some Temminck's, Hoopoe and Bar-tailed Larks, all in one location at Meishar Haseifim, a small valley in the Eilat mountains. Amazing.
The North beach is still fairly quiet with just one Sooty Shearwater and some Common, Little, Sandwich, Gull-billed and White-cheeked Terns.
Rarities include already 2 Crested Honey Buzzards, Caspian Plovers and Black Bush-robins here and there, and whilst writing these lines my phone vibrates and a picture of a possible male Taiga Flycatcher, photographed by someone who had no clue what it is, appears on my screen. Damn, this is good.