A BIRDING BLOG -
hong kong AND
hong kong AND
Jordanian interlude (2)
The weather cleared. After a day spent in Amman, we drove towards the Dead Sea, stopping at Madaba and Mount Nebo en route. There were a couple of Eurasian Jays in the trees in front of St George’s Church in Madaba and a Woodchat Shrike and two Eastern Black-eared Wheatears near Mount Nebo. I had booked a room for us at the Sehatty Hotel which was on a hillside overlooking the Dead Sea. This hotel was cheap; I could not afford the luxury spa hotels that front the Dead Sea itself. After lunch, my wife and daughter went down to one of these spas for an expensive float in the water, leaving me to my own devices.
I walked up the stony hillside behind the hotel, following a water pipe along a line of acacia trees up to a thicker clump of vegetation. I found a small pool of water here. There were several migrant Lesser Whitethroats and Eurasian Blackcaps in the vegetation, as well as a single Common Chiffchaff and a Wood Warbler. Resident Palestine Sunbirds were also present, as well as a few Green Bee-eaters.
Above the spring, the desert opened out and there was a high escarpment towering above a tarmac road. 40+ Pale Crag Martins were flying around the hills as were several Red-rumped Swallows plus a number of swifts, including a Little Swift. I also saw two Long-legged Buzzards. Following the road back down to the hotel, I encountered a few typical resident desert species: Desert Lark, Tristram’s Starling, Blackstart, Sand Partridge and Striolated Bunting.
It seems the hotel is built over a hot spring. I followed the road below the hotel and here there was running water and tomato and marrow fields. The road was lined with high hedges. Here, there were a few more Palestine Sunbirds, Eurasian Blackcaps and Lesser Whitethroats, as well as a Masked Shrike and a Southern Grey Shrike.
At daybreak, I did the same walk as described above. There seemed to have been an arrival of migrants overnight; I counted at least 25 Lesser Whitethroats and 50 Eurasian Blackcaps. New birds were three skulking Thrush Nightingales, six Collared Flycatchers and an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler.
After breakfast, we drove south to the end of the Dead Sea and then headed southwest to Dana in the central highlands. Dana village dates back to the 15th century and is perched on a hillside overlooking a deep-sided wadi. Most of the inhabitants moved out to the plateau above, where living conditions are far more convenient, in the 1960s and now the stone houses are deserted although a few have been converted into guest houses for the visitors who take in the Dana Biosphere Reserve as part of the Jordan experience. There are a number of strenuous hikes in the reserve, but we just walked down the hairpin dirt track to the floor of the wadi in the heat of the afternoon.
The most obvious birds because of their aerial manoeuvres and constant calls were Tristram’s Starlings. Pale Crag Martins were also much in evidence. Apart from these it was generally quiet, but I did see a Short-toed Eagle quartering the hillsides, Common Kestrel, one or two Alpine Swifts and a Blue Rock Thrush. The Rock Doves looked like the genuine article. A distant Common Cuckoo called. There were a few more birds on the long slog back up the track in the late afternoon. Highlights were four Cretzschmar’s Buntings and three Syrian Serins (a speciality of the area), plus a Scrub Warbler, seven European Bee-eaters and four Eastern Black-eared Wheatears.
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