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Israel (& Jordan) Trip March/April 1999

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....under construction....

From 28 March to 4 April 1999, I (and 5 birders from Alphen a/d Rijn) made a short birding trip to Eilat (Israel), with a one day visit to Wadi Rum (Jordan). The main purpose was birding. To give some impressions, I prepared this web page.

Eilat is probably the best place to be if you wish to study Western Palearctic (WP) migrants. The site offers good opportunities for watching raptor migration, for getting close views of all kinds of species of (esp. Sylvia) warblers, for watching large numbers of shorebirds, etc., etc. We have been birding almost every single minute and listed 201 species during our 7½ day stay. A full species list is available. I even managed to see three species new to me, even though I had visited Eilat twice before. The best bird probably was the male Grey Hypocolius Hypocolius ampelinus, discovered near the melon fields at k20 a few days earlier.

  Eilat mountains

  Eilat, a long time ago

  Oriental Sky Lark
  Alauda gulgula
  Eilat, Israel, oct. 1986.

A day trip to Wadi Rum was necessary for the other two of my 'lifers'. It is a trip I can definitely recommend to anyone, also to non-birders. The site is just splendid, with huge rock faces interspersed with vast areas of red sand desert. Sinai Rosefinches Carpodacus sinoicus galore! But the species to see in Wadi Rum is surely Verreaux's Eagle Aquila verreauxi. Though fairly common in continental Africa, it is extremely rare in the WP. Wadi Rum is without doubt the easiest place to see it in the WP.
We set out from Eilat early in the morning, just to be in time at the Aqaba border station just outside town. There we found out we could have crossed the border even earlier, since the summer clock had become active exactly during the night before. The border station opens at 06:30 h. Going through all the necessary formalities takes time, much time.... And it costs quite dearly, too: NIS 63 for leaving Israel, JD 11 (for dutch people, that is; for e.g., belgian people it is JD 21) for an entrance visa for Jordan, a few JD more for some kind of tax and upon your return JD 4 for leaving Jordan again.... But when you are finally through, you will find yourself on an empty road with nothing more than a few taxis that will bring you to Aqaba town. Cost about JD 4 (JD 1 = approx. GBP 0.90). In Aqaba, we couldn't get ourselves a rental car, so we persuaded a taxi driver to bring us to the site (and wait for us to bring us back again) for JD 25. This was quite a good deal, I guess, though our driver did some attempts to charge us more, which we of course neglected.

Entry fee to Wadi Rum is only JD 1

Arriving at the site, I was just speechless. Where the little village (with a guesthouse) ends, the desert starts. 1000-ft. high cliffs on either side when you walk into the area, towards another large isolated rock mass some 6 km away. But no eagles in sight. It took us about 6 hours (we were already on our way back) before I finally noticed a large raptor soaring in from over the outcrops. A Verreaux's Eagle! Watching it through my bins I saw another one and this apparent pair started a true display flight! Even a third bird (an immature) was briefly seen, but this swiftly vanished behind the rocks again. The pair landed on the western rock face and gave splendid views through our telescopes.
Now we were really satisfied and also a little glad that we could brag towards our 3 mates that had decided not to go on the Jordan outing on having been so successful....