Eilat Spring Migration Festival
AT A GLANCE
Bird Migration Festival: birds and photography.
Eilat (Southern Israel) and exploring sites in the surrounding areas.
a multitude of birds will be passing through the area on their way north to their breeding grounds, raptors, waders and passerines galore.
warm to hot (can be cool at night).
Comfortable resort hotel, all rooms with private facilities. Includes all local birding excursions led by world-class local guides.
Eilat and the surrounding areas are known worldwide as one of the best Western Palearctic destination for birders. The dramatic outline of the Rift Valley serves as a corridor for millions of migrants every season. The variety of habitats promises an incredible range of species of many families. Besides the migrant birds that dot the bushes and fill the skies, Southern Israel is also home to many exciting near eastern species that can be hard to come by anywhere else in the region.
Eilat and Southern Israel – birding overview
Nestled in the southern tip of Israel, Eilat is placed between the magical blue waters of the Red Sea and the Eilat mountains, an extension of the massive granite ridges of Sinai.
The relaxed city of Eilat itself, provides habitats for many migrant and local species and birds can be seen from your hotel balcony or during a stroll through the city’s gardens and parks. At your doorstep you will find Laughing Dove, Yellow vented Bulbul and the beautiful Palestine Sunbird to name a few.
Eilat North Beach is at the northern end of the Red Sea and therefore an important sea watching location. Migrant herons, ducks, gulls and terns mingle with near tropical species like White-eyed Gull, Western Reef and Striated Herons and Pied Kingfisher. The North Beach regularly produces astonishing rarities and has hosted many new species for the region.
Bordering the city from the west are the Eilat Mountains, home to species like Little Green Bee-Eater, White-crowned and Hooded Wheatears, Sand Partridge, Desert Lark and Barbary Falcon. Every spring up to 2 million soaring birds pass over the Eilat Mountains and on a good day thousands of raptors and storks can be seen. The pools and reservoirs north of the city are an important stopover site for hundreds of thousands of shorebirds that migrate to and from their Eurasian breeding grounds. Any visit to the famous K19 and K20 pools can produce a mouth-watering list of waders and other species. Moving north up the rift valley, the developing Southern Arava region is dotted with fields, plantations, pools and reed beds that host highly localized residents like Namaqua Dove and Indian Silverbill. During the spring the agricultural areas are full of migrating pipits, wagtails, wheatears, hirundines, buntings and larks. The open desert areas of the Southern Rift Valley and the Southern Negev Plateau hold exciting residents like Trumpeter Finch, Desert Wheatear, Spotted and Crowned Sandgrouse and more. These areas are also important sites for rare and nomadic Desert Larks which peak during March. Temminck's and Hoopoe Larks require searching for and previous springs have produced sightings of the rare and unpredictable Thick-billed, Dunn's and Black crowned Finch Larks.
The 12th International Spring Migration Festival is organized by the Israel Ornithological Center and the IBRCE (International Birding and Research Centre Eilat), aims to bring together birders from all around the world again. Illustrated reports of many of the previous festivals plus species lists can be found on the festival website, expect over 200 species during the week. Star birds of the 2016 event included Caspian Plover and Black Bush Robin. Many regional specialties also occur such as Thick-billed and Hoopoe Larks plus Red Sea (Arabian) Warbler. Some of the included birding excursions venture further afield and scored birds like Macqueen’s Bustard, Cream-coloured Courser, fantastic raptor passage and four species of sandgrouse. Night-birding excursions are also a special feature with such avian gems as Desert Tawny Owl and Nubian Nightjar on offer. This is some of the best birding in the Western Palearctic and migration does not get any more exciting than this!
To cash in on the wealth of birds around, many bird related activities will take place. These will include a choice of free, fully guided tours to the best sites in the region led by field experts, ringing demonstrations, identification workshops, lectures and optional extra tours targeting specific species and regions.
The Festival centre will be Royal Beach Hotel in Eilat for the first six nights, a very comfortable ‘resort’ hotel, and the evening activities, including the welcome dinner and lectures will be held there. The hotel is conveniently located by North Beach, the town centre and main tourist area. All rooms have private facilities and the hotel has gardens, pools, a bar and restaurant. The last night will be spent at the Ganim Hotel up by the Dead Sea. This is the perfect base for the night bird excursion.
Festival visitors can explore the area in a number of ways during the week:
First, several top birding sites are reachable on foot from the hotel, North Beach, Shulamit and other Parks and the southern salt pans. Every day several fully guided minibus tours will leave the hotel, these tours are led by Israel's top birding guides and some of the previous festival’s best birds are found on these tours. Participants are welcome to choose from several different morning and afternoon tours which are all included in the price of the festival package.
In addition to the above, several Specialty tours will be on offer during the week. These tours are longer excursions targeting specific regions or species and are now included in the price. Examples include full day trips to the Western Negev & Nizzana and a full day to the Dead Sea region. Specialty species trips will include night tours to see Desert Tawny Owl and Nubian Nightjars and specific excursions to find Red Sea (Arabian) Warbler, Macqueen’s Bustard, sandgrouse and various difficult-to-see larks. A selection of optional excursions and activities for non-birders will also be available like snorkeling and diving tours and a trip to world famous Petra.
The Festival headquarters will provide up to date information, sighting boards, rarity alerts and give any additional help that might be needed exploring the region. Every evening you will be invited to enjoy lectures, talks and slideshows from professional local birders and a detailed summary of the day's sightings.
Day 1: Arrive Eilat. Late afternoon birding. Dinner and welcome.
Days 2-7: Six full days guided birding in southern Israel incl the Dead Sea area.
Day 8: Early morning birding. Depart Eilat.
Arrival day – morning - if taking our special bus from Tel Aviv, birding stop around Dead Sea en route. Afternoon (first Festival excursion) – 16.00 - K20 Salt Pans and North Beach excursion.
Morning tour – 06.00 IBRCE Park, Eilat mountains and fields.
Afternoon tour – 14.30 Spring migrants at local Wadis and Holland Park.
Full day tour to Nizzana and the High Negev Desert.04.00
Morning tour – 06.00 Uvda Valley and Neot Smadar.
Afternoon tour – 15.00 K19 pools and fields plus sandgrouse drinking pool.
Morning tour – 06.00 Yotvata area.
Afternoon/evening tour – 14.30 K20 Salt Pans and IBRCE gull roost.
Morning tour – 06.00 IBRCE Park and raptor migration, Eilat Mountains.
Afternoon tour – 14.30 Migrant hotspots, North Beach seawatch.
Morning tour – 08.00 City parks and south beach, Eilat..
Afternoon – 13.00 Transfer to the Dead Sea for the last night. Stars of the Night tour.
Birding Northern Arava Valley, Shezaf and other migrant hotspots. Transfers to Ovda and Tel Aviv Airports.
Departure time from hotel shown. Subject to change.
Please note: All itineraries are subject to weather, local conditions and final approval by the relevant authorities.
Dates: 15th – 22nd March 2018
Leaders: Jonathan Meyrav and team.
£1665 per person sharing a twin room.
£395 Single supplement
£300 Deposit plus flight costs if applicable.
Non-UK Residents: We are more than happy to sign you up for this event, payment can only be made by credit card and a 2% surcharge will apply.
Price includes: Accommodation in standard twin-bedded rooms with private facilities on a half board basis at the Royal Beach Hotel (6 nights) and Ganim Hotel (1 night), bird checklist and the services of local English speaking expert leaders & guides, six days guided-birding tours, optional attendance at evening lectures and presentations.
Price excludes: Flights to Eilat Ovda direct from London Luton from £220pp return (visit monarch.co.uk) or flights to Tel Aviv (currently available from London Heathrow from £399 return depart 14th March at 2230 and arrive Tel Aviv early morning on the 15th, return on the 22nd from Tel Aviv early evening and arrive back at Heathrow at 2045 - the Tel Aviv to Eilat sector, and v.v, will be by chartered bus*), extra nights in Eilat if required, optional non-birding excursions, travel insurance, lunches, drinks and items of a personal nature.
* The special bus from Tel Aviv to Eilat and return is open to all festival participants, £20 each way. The bus will depart Tel Aviv at approx 0700 on the 15th, and depart Eilat at around 1200 on the 22nd.
Birding only packages
£395pp for 3 days
£799pp for 6 days
Price includes: English speaking expert leaders & guides, three or six days guided-birding shuttle bus pass and specialty tours, attendance at evening lectures and presentations.
Price excludes: accommodation, meals, flights to Israel, optional non-birding excursions, travel insurance and items of a personal nature.
For more detailed information, including a potential species list, the 2016 and previous Festival reports, planned festival timetable and full accommodation details, please visit the special website:
15th – 22nd March 2018