Saturday 9 December 2017

Red-rumped, Basalt and Kurdish Wheatears

What an amazing 24 hours! A holy trinity of wheatears and other gems beside. These birds are long stayers but this was my first chance to catch up with them.

Left work early and drove down to the Uvda area to twitch the Red-rumped Wheatear. Within five minutes at the site I found the gorgeous female hopping around.  A stunner!

The Basalt Wheatear was just 500 m down the road and equally camera-happy in the evening light

(but see below for better pics).

Light fading fast so I headed down to Eilat and the warm hospitality of Shachar Shalev and his family. The next morning Shachar and I started at Holland Park which was very quiet except for a cracking Cyprus Warbler. Then came the IBRCE centre to check for the Olive-backed Pipit. No luck with that but Noam and Rei showed us this Nightjar.

We then drove up to K94 where, after searching, we had distant views of the Red-rumped Wheatear pair. Also present was a single Asian Desert Warbler, a distant Crowned Sandgrouse (calling) and a Hoopoe Lark. A superb collection of desert birds!

On the way back down to Eilat we stopped off at K76 where three Serin surprised us. They shouldn't be this far south and it is a good record for the area. A pair  of Desert Wheatears put on a show. Ketura was our last stop where we quickly found the Kurdish Wheatear. Another lifer and well worth the wait - what a great bird. I would have happy with these record shots but, using the car as a hide, we managed to get a much better view.

Time was pressing so I dropped off Shachar and headed north. I wanted to see the Basalt Wheatear in better light so I stopped off briefly at Uvda. Not disappointed!

The final gem was this Temminck's Lark.

Shachar texted me that the Olive-backed Pipit had been relocated in the date palms but I was out of time and had to resist the temptation. Not disappointed though - two lifers and some of my favourite birds besides. The OBP will have to wait.

Winter in Eilat provides incredible birds, perfect light and cool temperatures. A nigh-on perfect combination!

With thanks to Shachar Shalev and Itay Herling.

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