Israel Trip Report

August 1996

Before a scientific meeting this past August 1996 in Jerusalem I rented a car for a week and birded Israel from Eilat to Mt Hermon. These are "occasional notes" from that trip.

Nizzana is known for several specialties not easily found elsewhere, certainly not in Israel, but also elsewhere period. John Gooders' bird finding book gives directions for finding the region, but one gets the feeling from his bird finding information he may never have been there or had one unsuccessful visit. I spent three mornings at Nizzana.

By species:

Four species occur at Nizzana. Anywhere in the basin through which the wadi passes is a good place to hear birds in flight or see flocks at a distance. The best place to IDENTIFY the birds is the sewage effluent pond of the prison. Follow the main road to Nizzana. A couple of miles short of the Egyptian border you will cross a bridge. On the left is a military camp on a hill. Past the camp turn left (south). Proceed past the camp and past the Crusader fort. Turn left (east) again and follow the beat-up road toward the prison. You will cross the wadi again on the old bridge. Proceed to the service road that runs on the west fence line of the prison. Follow this service road (north) past the end of the prison, about 1/4 mile past. The road deteriorates but is driveable (slowly). Watch for a dirt path on the left that leads to the sewage ponds. The dikes of the ponds should be visible and help mark your turn. Drive up to the ponds. At this time, the pond with water in it is the one furthest to the right (east). I drove up the bank and parked with the sun at my back. Sandgrouse began arriving at ~8:30 a.m. and were still coming at 10:00 a.m. when I left. All four species were easily found.

Houbara Bustard:
A bonus each morning were the bustards that strolled immediately south of the sewage ponds. These birds, 8 in all, were easily seen from the car as I waited for the sandgrouse.

Cream-colored Coursor:
Between sunrise and arrival at the sewage pond at 8:00 a.m. I birded the south end of the airfield. To get to this spot ignore the left turn just south of the castle and follow the southerly road that parallels the Egyptian border. You will soon find yourself driving along a fence that is the eastern border of the airfield. After several miles you reach the end of the fence. The fields here are a good spot for the Coursor and Bustard. Scoping the fields every 100 m, using a window mount, yielded the one Coursor I saw. This was one Coursor for about four hours of scoping on three mornings.

Other species can be found by taking the fourth branch from the intersection at the castle. Up (west and toward Eqypt) this road I found Desert Wheatear and a few other things I've forgotten.

Just south of the castle is an orchard/vineyard/garden, irrigated. This held about 20 species of birds at any one time, including a large owl I flushed but did not identify and several migrant warblers.

From Nizzana, the birding day can continue north or south, for the thick-knee (I forget the name) or vultures.

David O. Matson, M.D.,Ph.D.

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