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Return of the Red-Footed Falcons

Givat HaShlosha | 📍MAP | September 19, 2021

In efforts to make the most of this season’s raptor migration, I made a follow-up trip to the ploughed fields of Givat HaShlosha – this time accompanied with Adam Ota, fellow birder and adventure enthusiast. In order to catch the proper streams of migrating raptors we arrived in mid-morning and headed straight for the fields’ edge, managing to spot a juvenile Pallid Harrier just upon arrival.

Male Red-Footed Falcon gracing the field

Like the previous visit, Willow Warblers were plentiful in the tree area between the road and the fields, but observing them delayed us only a few minutes. We reached the fields and Adam scanned our surroundings with his more powerful 12×40 Soviet military binoculars, finding not just the expected Rollers and Common Kestrels, but also a male Red-Footed Falcon.

Dark morph Honey Buzzard flying overhead

Up next was a lone Isabelline Wheatear, a tiny cream-coloured dot on the far side of the field. Two Short-Toed Eagles were then seen far off in the distance, perhaps a local pair or perhaps migrants.

The ringed Common Kestrel

A series of raptors then passed directly overhead, most at quite reasonable heights, including a dark morph Honey Buzzard, a Hobby, a juvenile Montagu’s Harrier and a Booted Eagle. A juvenile Red-Backed Shrike briefly kept us company, while the same ringed female Common Kestrel hunted ever closer to us.

Golden Jackal way off to the side of the field

An unexpected Golden Jackal strode confidently across the field to our left and disappeared into the overgrown banks of Nachal Shiloh. If that wasn’t enough, I spotted a Cone-Head Mantis nymph underfoot – also known as Devil’s Mare Mantis in Hebrew, this particular species was likely Empusa fasciata, although there were some debates amongst the experts.

Cone-Head Mantis nymph

Returning to the birding, the migration started picking up with a Black Kite, a Marsh Harrier and then a few Black Storks. We could hear, and faintly see, a small flock of Bee-Eaters perched on power lines far to the east. The scattered, yet thick clouds made it a bit difficult to spot and photograph the migrating raptors as they disappeared and reappeared through the low cover.

Raptors everywhere – with a nice amount of species represented

Honey Buzzards and Lesser-Spotted Eagles started streaming into view, kettling conveniently above us, before continuing on southbound. Black Kites, Short-Toed Eagles and what seem to be Steppe Buzzards joined in, swirling in and out of the cloud cover.

Adam trying desperately to spot all the raptors directly overhead

A few pale morph Booted Eagles passed over as well, mixed with a juvenile Pallid/Montagu’s Harrier which was too high up to positively identify, as well as a large flock of Great White Pelicans. A single Levant Sparrowhawk joined in, flying alongside a the other, larger birds of prey.

Booted Eagle and Lesser-Spotted Eagle flying together

Hundreds upon hundreds of raptors passed overhead, heading southward to a warmer Africa, before we called the end of our birding adventure and headed out.


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