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Israel, Egypt, Cyprus and Turkey Cruise - 31st March - 7th April 2010

Published by Mark Graham (helen.graham7 AT btinternet.com)

Participants: Mark Graham

This was our 5th cruise and one of the best we have done in terms of birdwatching. My plan was to spend a relaxing holiday and see as many birds along the way without having to travel far. I saw a great variety of birds without too much effort especially in Israel where we spent 2 wonderful days. We went on the Thompson Spirit, a good value for money ship.

Limmasol, Cyprus

The ship began and ended the cruise here so there was ample opportunity to see some birds just outside the port area. There is an extensively long and thin reed bed area just by the entrance. Here I saw a Purple Heron, 3 Reed Warblers and heard 2 Cetti’s Warblers. There were 8 Red-throated Pipits on the manicured large roundabout at the port entrance. Saw a lot of House Martins, Barn Swallows, Swifts and 1 Red-rumped Swallow. The usual Hooded Crows, and House Sparrows abounded.

Haifa, Israel

The next day we had a very long interesting day In Haifa. It has lots of green areas especially towards the western area. The Sculpture Park was interesting and there were several Blackcaps,2 Palestine Sunbirds, a few Gracelful Prinias, Spectacled Bulbuls, Collared Doves and 2 Great Tits. Moving on to the Carmelite Monastry we found a small quiet chidren’s park just opposite. Saw a Syrian Woodpecker, Collared Flycatcher, Masked Shrike, Sardinian Warbler[Momus], Graceful Prinia, Blackcap, Hooded Crow, Collared Dove, Blackbird, Great Tit and a House Sparrow. A remarkably lively place for such a small park.

In the afternoon I took a walk up to the top of the cable car station along the steepish road out of the town. There was a Jay [attricapillus] in the extensive wood below. At first I was puzzled by its appearance until I checked Collins to verify the exact species. In addition I found Sardinian Warblers, Blackcaps and many of the other common birds already seen. On the way back there were Hoopoes in the wasteland behind the German Quarter as well as a male and female Palestine Sunbird and Graceful Prinias.

Ashdod, Israel

This was even better than Haifa. This is a modern town with nothing going for it except if you are a birdwatcher. From the docks to the Marina there is a long promenade with a perfectly pleasant beach. Behind this there is a long area of flat wasteland and in between the modern flats extensive areas of shrubs and trees. There were some Northern and Isabelline Wheatears along the wasteland area as well as a Spur-winged Plover and a White Wagtail. I looked in the green areas between the flats and found Spectacled Bulbuls, Common Mynah, Graceful Prinias, Laughing Doves, Hooded Crows, a Blackbird, several Blackcaps and a Whitethroat. Even better I walked on to near the marina area and found a large area of likely looking bird habitat. Apart from many of the above there was a White-throated Woodpecker perched in a tree. Also I saw a Syrian Woodpecker, Masked Shrike, Kestrel, Greenfinch ,Great Tit and several Sardinian Warblers.

Port Said, Eygpt

After 3 great days I was not expecting too much in Port Said or Alexandria our next port in terms of birds. I was not to be proved wrong but there were some birds to be seen. They have built a very long hassle free promenade beyond the fishing port. Along the beach we saw several Northern Wheatears and an Isabelline Wheatear. A noisy flock of 10 Slender-billed Gulls appeared at a feeding frenzy with some Common Terns close to the shore. There were lots of Hoopoes, Hooded Crows, Laughing Doves and House Sparrows as well as 3 Spur-winged plovers and a Woodchat Shrike. At the Suez entrance and around the Fishing Harbour there were plenty of Common Terns, Yellow-legged Gulls and some Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Alexandria, Eygpt

This was hard work birdingwise but an interesting city to look around. Again very little hassle. There were some Yellow-legged Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Common Terns in the harbour as well as Hoopoes in the manicured terminal building lawns. Found 2 Rollers in the Armenian Cemetery as well as Hoopoes, Laughing Doves and the usual Hooded Crows.
There was a Collared Flycatcher in the park on the way back to the ship.

Alanya, Turkey

In the harbour there were several Yellow-legged Gulls and 3 Sandwich Terns. Walked up to the Kale [Castle]. Well worth the effort. Apart from the usual Hooded Crows, House Sparrows, and Collared Doves I heard several Orphean Warblers on the way. Just before the castle entrance I walked along the ledge of the guarding walls and looked down the steep drop to the sea below. Saw 3 Blue Rock Thrushes,a Red-footed Falcon, Lesser Kestrel, a Black-eared Wheatear[Melanoleus], and 2 Hoopoes.

After a day at sea we returned to Limmasol were I saw the above mentioned birds.

A very enjoyable cruise with lots of birds along the way.