Scorching Scrubland

Nachal Rabah | 📍MAP | October 6, 2021

Having exhausted the potato fields at Givat HaShlosha, Adam and I decided to bird a different – yet also nearby – section of the country. We chose the arid Mediterranean scrubland of Nachal Rabah, the seam between the coastal plains and the mountains of Samaria. As would be expected, our first find was a small herd of Mountain Gazelles, one of the more prominent mammals in this habitat.

Nachal Rabah’s scrubland

We walked along the dirt road that branches off from the main stream, flanked by the gentle slopes of yellowed grass and rough rocks. A Honey Buzzard passed by overhead, while a Rock Hyrax watched us guardedly from its scouting location. Great Grey Shrikes, White-Spectacled Bulbuls, Crested Larks and Sunbirds were all plentiful, going about their business around us. The heat made photography extra hard, and as a result most of the bird photos were from both a great distance and suffering heat distortion.

Rock Hyrax keeping watch

Mountain Gazelles were especially abundant that morning, keeping a safe distance from us. Off in the distance we spotted a large raptor trying to evade mobbing, but the one photograph I succeeded in getting didn’t shed any light as to the true identity. Then, overhead, we spotted a falcon of sorts but we were unable to clinch any decisive ID – the shape and flight seemed very Eleonora’s Falcon-like, and one was reported a few kilometres away shortly thereafter.

Honey Buzzard overhead

Next, we spotted a Blue Rock Thrush characteristically perched atop a pile of boulders on the nearby ridge. As we walked eastward, entering an area with more trees, we began to then see an abundance of Black-Eared Wheatears as well as a single Northern Wheatear.

Male Mountain Gazelle watching us from the ridge

The sun was beginning to be a bit much, so we found shelter under a lone carob tree and let the birds come to us. A flock of Bee-Eaters flew overhead, a lone Alpine Swift mixed in, and then I noticed a Great Grey Shrike nearby. I snapped a quick photo of it and realised that it had just caught a small rodent (either a Field Mouse, or perhaps a Wagner’s Gerbil).

Great Grey Shrike with a freshly caught rodent

Then, the migrating raptors began, starting with lone Lesser-Spotted Eagle, followed closely by a Marsh Harrier and then a Black-Shouldered Kite off in the distance. Two Levant Sparrowhawks circled overhead for a short while before disappearing from view, ushering in a small stream of unidentifiable raptors that flew too close to the sun for us to see properly.

Leaving the shade of the carob

Meanwhile, a Lesser Whitethroat flitted around a nearby thorny bush, and then a pale morph Booted Eagle soared close overhead. Not having high hopes for additional raptor migration, we began the journey back from whence we had come.

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