I have the huge privilege this year to be participating in the Champions of the Flywaycompetition. For those who don’t know, this is a Big Day in southern Israel in the middle of migration. The goal is to raise money to help prevent bird poaching in the Mediterranean Basin, and the money raised this year is going to BirdLife Croatia and BirdLife Serbia (this is extra special for me since I currently live in the Balkans). I will be competing on the newly formed team the ABA-Leica Subadult Wheatears which is, as the name suggests, sponsored by the ABA and Leica Sports Optics. It is also the first ever Champions team composed of young birders from the ABA Area. The race is a couple weeks away but we’re still fundraising hard. If you’d like to donate, click here.
In part two of this series of posts, I reach the Middle East and bird Tel Aviv in search of an exotic starling.
After dealing for hours with ridiculously over the top Israeli airport security (and, as per usual, I was “randomly” selected for even more security processing), I landed at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. The next day I would cross into Jordan, but for the time being, I had some birding targets in Tel Aviv. Specifically, I wanted to locate the Category C (exotic) population of vinous-breasted starling which calls the city home.
I headed by bus from my hostel to Park YaHarkon, a dash of green in the middle of the metropolis that is Tel Aviv, and also supposedly the best spot for starlings. Walking into the park I started to quickly tick lifers with graceful prinias singing and rose-ringed parakeets flying around and calling loudly and raucously.
Turns out Tel Aviv is somewhat like a Middle Eastern Miami– in that it’s loaded with exotics (among other reasons). In addition to the rose-ringeds, I also came across Egyptian geese, monk parakeets, and tons of common mynas.
The lake in the middle of the park featured an assorted mix of gulls, including my first lesser black-backed gulls of the year. There were also a fair number of spur-winged lapwings providing stellar views.
It was while watching the lapwings that I noticed something different mixed in with a group of common myna. Sure enough, they were the sought after starlings– an easy enough tick.
The rest of the afternoon I spent meandering around the park which provided shockingly good birding for a city park with marginal habitat. A flock of glossy ibis and numerous cattle egrets were my lifers for the Western Palearctic, and a whole suite of Middle Eastern specialties such as white-spectacled bulbul, pied kingfisher, and white-throated kingfisher were nice additions. It was a good introduction to the commoner bird life of the Levant.
In addition to these resident species, a couple migrants were present including good numbers of Eurasian hoopoes (easily one of the best looking Western Palearctic birds).
Having pulled as many birds as I thought I could out of the park, I headed back to my hostel to eat and sleep before beginning my trip to Jordan the next day…
….To Be Continued