Welcome to Birdquest

ISRAEL

Saturday 14th April — Tuesday 24th April 2018
(11 days)


Leader: Mike Watson

Group Size Limit: 8

Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and comfortable accommodations throughout

Israel, that tiny, controversial land strategically situated right at the migration crossroads between Africa, Asia and Europe, is one of the top birding spots of the ‘Western Palearctic’, an avifaunal subregion that covers Europe, North Africa and parts of Southwest Asia. While late March is the ‘classic’ time for visiting Israel, turning up the greatest variety of species (most of which are widespread and easily seen elsewhere), that is not the best time to visit for maximising one’s chances of seeing the country’s prime specialities. For that you need to be later in spring.

We were pioneers of Israel as a birding tour destination, and this special itinerary and its timing is designed to concentrate on those key species that are currently (in particular with Egypt, Yemen and several other Arab countries effectively ‘off-line’ for birders) only realistically and safely to be found in Israel. These include Levant Sparrowhawk (easy to observe on migration through Israel in the last half of April), White-eyed Gull, Nubian Nightjar (of the form tamaricus, a potential split), Hooded Wheatear, Syrian (or Tristram’s) Serin and Sinai Rosefinch. In addition, White-cheeked Tern and Sooty Falcon are both possibilities at Eilat by late April. Some marvellous additional major specialities include Sand Partridge, Macqueen’s Bustard, Armenian Gull, Spotted, Crowned, Pin-tailed and Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse, Desert Owl (now split from Hume’s/Omani Owl), White-spectacled Bulbul, Mourning Wheatear, Arabian Warbler, Arabian Babbler, Tristram’s Starling, Palestine Sunbird, Dead Sea Sparrow, Asian Crimson-winged Finch and Cretzschmar’s Bunting.

Not only is the birding in Israel superb, but the scenery is diverse, the cultural contrasts are fascinating, distances are small (leaving plenty of time for watching birds) and the facilities for travellers are excellent. In total contrast to the state of affairs in surrounding countries, where environmental destruction proceeds apace, 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 areas still thrive here. Sandgrouse, birds of prey, ibexes and gazelles are still a commonplace sight and even the endangered Macqueen’s Bustard maintains a healthy population.

We start our journey in the northwest of Israel, where we will visit the wetlands around Ma’agan Mikhael on the Mediterranean coast with their Pallas’s (or Great Black-headed) and Armenian Gulls, before continuing to the verdant Galilee.

Here we will explore the marshes and fishponds of the Hula Valley, the Golan Heights and snow-capped Mount Hermon, looking for a superb array of resident and migrant species that features Syrian Serin in particular, as well as Marbled Duck, Sombre Tit, Western Rock Nuthatch, Asian Crimson-winged Finch and Cretzschmar’s Bunting.

After our stay in the north we head southwards to the cliff-girt Dead Sea, which lies well below sea-level. Here we will find scurrying Sand Partridges, tame Blackstarts, the curious Tristram’s Starling, Fan-tailed Raven, Palestine Sunbird, Dead Sea Sparrow and in particular the rare Nubian Nightjar and the recently-described Desert Owl.

From the Dead Sea we cross desert plains flanked by dramatic mountain ranges until we come to Eilat at the northernmost point on the Red Sea. Eilat is justly famous for its impressive bird migration that has, over the years, encompassed a huge range of species, including an astonishing selection of vagrants has turned up from all points of the compass (including a number of new birds for the ‘Western Palearctic’ subregion).

Migrants and non-breeding visitors that we will be concentrating on in particular include Levant Sparrowhawk (this is the peak migration period and we could see large flocks) and White-eyed Gull, while both Sooty Falcon and White-cheeked Tern are possibilities in late April. Not only does Eilat offer the visitor the opportunity to see a wide variety of migrants and non-breeding visitors, but also some superb resident specialities including Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse, Hooded Wheatear and Arabian Warbler.

After our visit to this ‘migration hotspot’ we shall return northwards by way of the Negev with its exciting desert avifauna including the rare and endangered Macqueen’s Bustard, Spotted, Crowned and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Mourning Wheatear and the restricted-range Sinai Rosefinch (which in spring is breeding in a number of places in the Negev mountains, having deserted wintering areas like Eilat much earlier in the year).

Birdquest has operated tours to Israel since 1982.

Important: The Birdquest group size limit is much lower than for many Israel birding tours, making for a superior birding experience.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/guesthouses are of a good standard throughout. Road transport is by minibus and roads are mostly very good.

Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, occasionally moderate.

Climate: Rather variable. Most days are warm or hot, dry and sunny, but it can be cool (or even fairly cold on Mount Hermon) and overcast in the north. Rain is unlikely but possible

Bird Photography: Opportunities are good.

Tour Price: £2490, €2940, $3260 Tel Aviv/Tel Aviv. Single Room Supplement: £480, €567, $629. Deposit: £300, €360, $390.

Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals, water, entrance fees and tips/gratuities.

Base prices for this tour are in US Dollars. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.110.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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