Friday evening we had an evening ringing session at a Spanish Sparrow roost. We ringed about 70 birds, 44 of them being Spanish Sparrows. Other birds were 16 Yellow Wagtails. One of them was a very good looking one, a superciliaris Yellow Wagtail.
The team, ready for some Spanish action:)
Mistnetting at the roost, Eilat on the background.
And the pretty Yellow Wagtail superciliaris.
Saturday morning ringing was slow with 100 birds but half of them were recaptures. In the first round Roni and Christian brought a beautiful adult male Cuckoo back from the traps. That was the only highlight from the morning. In the morning we had our first Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters flying and calling overhead. Finally!
Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus), adult male
After the ringing we quickly packed all our stuff and got ready for our planned Dead Sea Tour. We left the station – fully equipped – to the North. Near Qtura we checked the cowsheds for Namaqua Doves but didn’t find any. And just when we were about to turn left onto the highway Christian suddenly discovered a Hooded Wheatear, a male. The first male I ever see, what a great bird!
Hooded Wheatear (Oenanthe monacha), male
The Hooded Wheatear even decided to land on the car, and also sit next to it :)
We arrived at the Dead Sea around 13.00. Near the Dead Sea Works we saw quite a few Pallid Swifts.
Then the adventure started: as we tried to drive away with Kangoo the clutch of the car refused Roni’s orders. Roni still managed to drive away with Kangoo but near Ein Gedi it was clear that our car was not working properly. We drove into the parking lot in 4th gear, without crashing! We stayed at the parking lot for two hours, figuring out what to do. We observed all the people that came here during Passover, which was fun to do. We photographed Tristram’s Grackle and Fan-tailed Ravens but that was about it.
Tristram's Grackle (Onychognathus tristramii), male
What are we gonna do? :D
Busy busy in the Dead Sea.
After some consulation about what to do, we made a plan. At 16.00 we decided to try and bring Kangoo back to life. We pushed the car forward and drove away in 2nd gear. We drove – with a broken clutch and in 4th gear – to Ne’ot Hakkikar where we would meet Yoav and some other birders for a night tour. Around 17.30 we arrived at the junction of Ne’ot Hakkikar, without any problems! We dumped the car and joined Yoav and three Spanish birders. We drove into the Salt Marsh where the only Nubian Nightjars of Israel are remaining. We heard several Clamerous Reed Warblers, saw a few Little Bitterns and had a fly-by of a male Namaqua Dove and the Spanish birders saw a Purple Gallinule, a rare sighting here! And next to that, we had a flock of 10 Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters that gave an amazing show in front of us.
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (Merops persicus), in flight
Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters (Merops persicus), perched in a tree
Waiting for the Nubians!
Sunset at Ne'ot Hakkikar
Then, a little later, just after sunset, the other show began. A male Nubian Nightjar started singing from closeby and not much later it landed in front of us on a dirt track, giving cracking views from close range. A second bird joined in later. Then we proceeded to the hunting fields of the Nubians. Here we saw and heard another 5-6 Nubian Nightjars. We managed to catch and ring one of them. I was the lucky one to ring it. An unforgettable experience!
Nubian Nightjar (Caprimulgus nubicus tamaricis) in sit.
Nubian Nightjar (Caprimulgus nubicus tamaricis), in hand!
The up following plan was to try for Hume’s Owl at the Dead Sea. After a quick stop for a drink and bite we went to look for Hume’s Owl. It took us a while but after a wonderful walk in the dark through a wadi we found one. A male was singing loudly above us, giving very good views. The second of one the ‘must species’ in Israel this night!
Hume's Owl (Strix butleri), wonderful!
Yoav brought us back to the Ne’ot Hakkikar junction. In a very optimistic state we tried to drive back with Kangoo but then the inevitable thing happened: the gearbox broke! The gearbox was set in neutral and there was nothing we could change about it. And there we were, stuck in the Judean Desert! Yotam and I tried to take the midnight bus to Eilat, but every bus was full. Everybody goes to Eilat with Passover, so that was the reason for it.. We also tried hitchhiking but that didn’t work either. We decided to join Roni and Christian – that stayed with the car - in the Kangoo for a sleep. We woke up, in the desolated desert, ready to get the next bus. Roni and Christian stayed with the car, to wait for the tow-truck to take it away. After a short hitchhike to the Arava junction and a 30 minutes wait we got on the 444 bus – aka overcrowded bus – to Eilat, back home! We arrived at Eilat around 9.45. Then it was time to eat something quick and sleep a lot! I slept whole afternoon and woke up around 16.30.
Stranded at Ne'ot Hakkikar!
In the evening a whole group of kids and ringers from Jerusalem came that will stay for a couple of days.
Special thanks to Yoav for the great night tour!