Long-billed dowitcher bird spotted in Eilat.
(photo credit: JONATHAN MEIRAV / SPNI)
After taking a wrong turn on his way home, a bird that rarely spends any time in Israel has landed in Eilat for a short vacation.
For the first time in 33 years, a longbilled dowitcher has been observed by birdwatchers in the salt ponds near Israel’s southern shore.
A medium-sized shorebird that typically nests in the North American tundra and in eastern Russia, the dowitcher was last seen in Israel in the Dan region in 1984, according to Jonathan Meirav, a senior ornithologist at the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.
“He probably at some point got confused along his way, and instead of migrating to the hot spots of South and Central America, took a different direction, likely connected with another species of shorebird and migrated with them for the winter to Africa,” Meirav said. “Shorebirds are strong flyers and are world-record holders in long-distance migration, and like the rest of his family, he is able to fly hundreds and thousands of kilometers without stopping and crossing deserts and seas.”
The dowitcher is currently relaxing in the salt ponds just north of Eilat, near a group of birds visiting Israel from Finland, Meirav explained. After spending a few days in the ponds, in order to regain strength and store necessary fats, the bird will head north and fly directly to Siberia, where he will begin nesting in about a month, he said.
“The observation aroused great interest in the bird-watching community in Israel, and ornithologists and nature photographers came out from all parts of the country, in the middle of the night, to be in Eilat at sunrise and observe the rare guest,” Meirav added. “The rare shorebird is boasting his full summer attire – his most beautiful plumage for the year – and is ready for the nesting season.”