Israel, gate to Middle East
Israel, the tiny land strategically situated right at the migration crossroads between Africa, Asia and Europe, has become one of the great birding destinations of the Western Palearctic. This is a country of diverse scenery, endless cultural contrasts, small distances and excellent facilities. Israel has enlightened conservation policies and an extremely fine network of reserves covering every major habitat. Hunting is greatly restricted and many birds and mammals that have become rare or even extinct in surrounding countries still thrive here.
Migration is the classic time to visit Israel, for this is the time when wintering specialities and interesting migrants coincide. We shall start our tour southwards from Tel Aviv cross the desert to arrive to Eilat, the northernmost point on the Red Sea. Eilat is justly famous for its impressive raptor migration that includes everything from Steppe Eagles to Pallid Harriers, but this remarkable place also attracts several migratory birds including vagrants from all points of the compass. The good variety of specialities living here includes Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse, Macqueen’s Bustard, Hooded Wheatear, Nubian Nightjar, Dead Sea Sparrow, Arabian Warbler, Blackstart and the poorly known Desert Owl.
Our tour will continue to the North and cross dramatic mountain ranges continuing to the verdant Galilee. Here we will explore the marshes and fishponds of the Hula Valley, looking for a superb array of resident and migratory species from Marbled Teal, Greater Spotted Eagle to Long-billed Pipit and Red-fronted Serin. Some extra time exploring nearby mountains will enhance us to observe Syrian Serin.
Carles Oliver has been intensively birdwatching in Israel and other areas of the the Middle East at different moments of his long career and again offers us the chance to discover amazing birding corners in a relaxed, comfortable tour with excellent facilities and local food. A great way to introduce yourselve to the always challenging Middle East.
Day 1. Assembling in Tel Aviv Ben Gurion International Airport during the afternoon. Most flights arrive into Tel Aviv about noon or early afternoon. Once assembled, transfer Southwards to Eilat. A en-route stop in a nearby fish pond could easily provide us with Pygmy Cormorant, Temminck ‘s stint, Marsh Sandpiper or Water Pipit . Arrival to our accommodation in Eilat with some time of birding around.
Days 2 – 5. Four full days to enjoy the superb birding in this tremendous hot-spot. Eilat is not only about birds of prey migration but in a good day hundreds of Steppe Buzzards, Great Spotted and Steppe Eagles may be seen looking for the perfect corner to cross to Africa. Along the shoreline of the Gulf of Aqaba we will look for White-eyed Gull, Western Reef Egret, Palla’s Gull, Greater Sand Plover, Bridled Tern and Caspian & Armenian Gulls among a long list of of migratory waders, terns and herons. Migratory birds here also includes an endless list of passerines, and in a good pair of days you can expect to see the last Olivaceous & Rüppell’s Warblers, Masked & Woodchat Shrikes of the season, along with Spanish Sparrows and, if lucky, Citrine Wagtail and other scarcities. This is always highly variable, but Eilat is always a exciting place to be in migration!
Around Eilat the rocky wadys and desert plains with scattered acacias offer a wide range of specialities. Here we will look for the diminute Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse, Nubian Nightjar and the mysterious Desert Owl. Other residents here include Arabian Warbler, Streaked Scrub Warbler, Dead Sea Sparrow, Sand Partridge, Hooded Wheatear, Namaqua Dove along with Trumpeter & Desert Finches to name a few.
Day 6. We will leave early in the morning. Our trip will lead us North, with a strategical stop in our way to Hula Valley to look for Macqueen’s Bustard. Believe or not, there are spots in Israel where this species is still common! The rest of the day we will explore the Hula Valley. Here we should contact with flocks of Great White Pelicans along with Glossy Ibis, Marbled Teal, White-tailed & Eastern Imperial Eagles, Black Francolin, Common Crane, and Clamorous Reed & Moustached Warblers among many other goodies.
Days 7 & 8. This two days we explore a lane climbing up the nearby hills. The rocky mountains, dominated by the Mount Hermon, host resident birds including Sombre Tit, Western Rock Nuthatch, Long-billed Pipit, Rock Bunting, Eurasian Crag Martin and the localised Syrian Serin. Here we will also scan for the scarce Eurasian Griffon along while searching for flocks of Chukar. Whereas with vegetation we will be in search of Palestine Sunbird, Red-fronted Serin and Eastern Black-eared Wheatear while Little & Alpine Swifts fly around us.
Day 9. Last morning birding in Hula Valley before our final transfer to Tel Aviv for a early afternoon flight. We will have at least 5 hores of birding in the area, and we will be in search of Migratory birds in the ponds, channels and paddy fields of this wonderful espot. Here we may enjoy Little Crake, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Collared Flycatcher or, if really lucky, the first Demoiselle Cranes of the season.
8 nights of accommodation at two different locations (Eilat & Hula Valley) in twin rooms, breakfast, lunches and evening meals, guiding and tour leaders, ground transport in air conditioned vehicle, entrances fees, travel insurance. Pricing includes VAT.
Transport to / from Tel Aviv, all drinks out of water, any other item not listed as “INCLUDED”.
We will meet in Ben Gurion International Airport during the early afternoon on the day 1 of the planning.
Our base in Eilat is a classy hotel close to the Red Sea. The hotel has fresh, really comfortable and well fournished rooms and a really good set menu for dinner. Our base in Hula Valley is a beautiful Kibbutz offering excellent local meals, and great rooms where to rest after a long day of birding. All rooms during the tour are en suite with air conditioning. All evening meals will be in the hotels. We will mainly enjoy packed lunches during the tour.
PASSPORT, VISA & HEALTH
Visats are not required for any UK or US citizen, neither for nationals coming from most of the UE countries. All citizens from these countries will need Passport for up to three months stay and, at much, you will be required for a Return Ticket. South African citizens will need Visa (please check your local authorities). All Passports must have 6 months validity beyond the return date. There are no special health requirements to get inside Israel. However, we recommend you to contact your local health authorities to get updated information before travel. You will be required for a International Certificate of vaccination for Yellow Fever if you have been in any infected àrea during the last five years.
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