Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Presidential visits

Israeli President Shimon Peres gets his hands on a Syrian woodpecker
White tailed lapwing
It is usually mad here in Pesach, when thousands of tourists come from all over the country to visit the local sites such as Ein Avdat, Ein Akev, Nizzana, Ramon Crater and the rest of the pretty sites of the Negev. It is also peak bird migration and breeding seasons and so there is lots of action here. Last Thursday The annual "Vulture Day" organized by the Nature and {Parks Authorities attracted many visitors who had the chance to watch vultures and other raptors feeding on carcasses in the Avdat feeding restaurant. Amongst the birds observed were about 50 Griffon Vultures, Egyptian Vultures, a few Steppe Eagles, One Lesser Spotted Eagle and some Black Kites. An interesting sight was of a Griffon Vulture which was tagged in the Czech Republic!
The most exciting non-avian visitor we had was our president Mr. Shimon Peres who visited the area last weekend. We wanted to present him the new born Ramat Hanegev Birding Center and so we decided to give him a one-on-one experience with birds. Early morning while the president was sleeping Darren and I set up 7 nets in different spots we located a week earlier in the Holiday Village where he was staying and when he woke we waited for him outside his room with a cup of coffee and more than 30 birds!! Amir Balaban and Yossi Leshem entertained the president with fabulous stories the way only these two can.
After that I packed my backpack and went for a 3 day hike in one of the most remote areas of the Negev. We hiked from the Meishar to the Arava and had some nice birds such as Cinereous Bunting, which was the first I've seen this season, Ortolan Buntings and lots of the usual migrating sylvia spp (Lesser Whitethroats, Blackcaps, Orphean Warbler). We found a local Short-toed Eagle which my suspicions became true when I was notified by the local ranger that a pair breeds in the area and has one egg in the nest (I really hope that the hikers which recorded that didn't scare the bird away from the nest, that could be crucial for this species which scarcely breed in the desert).
I was also very glad to see the pink ball of fire (Sinai Rosefinch) with some chicks flying happily and feeding on the seeds of the low bushes along with a family of  Trumpeter finch.
Little late but worth mentioning is a White-tailed Lapwing recorded two weeks ago by Edith Katsnelson who spent the day in Sde Boker and Nizzana area. When I came the following morning it wasn't there but I had a nice view of 7 tired Purple Herons landing after a night of hard flapping.
More updates soon.

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