So that was the week in Israel finished although the State of Israel is still alive and kicking contrary to what the title of my previous post may have implied. The security checks leaving Israel were not as bad as Jules commented - in fact there was no checks at all. On the Jordanian side though they acted as though they had never seen a telescope before and the big boss had to come and have a look and ask whether it could be used at night and under water - exactly the same questions they asked in 2009! Leaving Israel we had to pay a $30 "departure tax" which felt very tin pot banana republic. Walking across no mans land into Jordan they made a point with very obvious signs saying "Free Visa". The taxi from the border to the airport however was a clear case of daylight robbery although we did manage to feel less violated than the taxi in the opposite direction at the beginning of the trip when they definitely saw us coming.
I wrote the above whilst waiting to check in at Aqaba airport thinking that we were now home and dry and Jordan had shown itself to be a less yellow curved fruit country than its neighbour to the east.......Leaving Jordan though proved to be quite difficult. They suddenly demanded a departure tax of $60! People produced tickets saying they had already paid the tax when they paid for their holiday (although our ticket mentioned nothing along those lines) and it all ended up with a local guy in a suit producing a wad of notes and paying the tax for us. Quite incredible but difficult to say which country is the most yellow and bendy is difficut to say. With a taxi and 2 lots of "departure tax" that was a very expensive journey to the airport and made us question the choice of flying into Aqaba rather than Tel Aviv. I remember none of these charges from 2009 when we had a package holiday to Eilat via Aqaba but it could be my age is catching up on me. Oh, and one more update from the plane: being placed in the back row on both outward and inward flights with no ability to put the seat back and a constant queue of people at your side waiting for the (noisy) toilet is not a way to endear your customers to you: are you listening Apollo? Oh, just to mention a couple of others if you are still listening Apollo: it really isn't OK to bring forward the time of the outward flight such that people who have paid for connecting flights from another airport to Oslo have to buy new connecting flights at their own cost - you may have covered yourself in the small print but it's pretty shitty behaviour - and if you say there is wifi onboard then make sure you have a system that actually works. And there ends the rant according to Simon.
Over to the birds though: birding was rather limited today but the two flycatchers with varying degrees of collar were still present in the grounds of Lotan Kibbutz. We also had a good passage of raptors over Eilat town but as we had experienced previously it was difficult to know where to watch from. New thermals of hundreds of birds would form every 15 minutes or so but in a different place each time. It was cool watchings birds gliding in, joining the bottom of the thermal and then after a few minutes of circlibg leaving the top of the thermal in a long glide towards the next one.
I saw a modest 151 species in the week but had no lifers. A couple of the "team" had a honey buzzard which would have been the only one of the trip (still very early) but on review of the photos was a very clear Oriental Honey Buzzard - a great WP tick and one I missed on my last trip in Feb 2009. We also missed the Pied Stonechat which seemed to move on the day we arrived. Otherwise the only other species that could have been a tick for me was Temminck's Horned Lark but we made no special attempt for it (didn't even go to the effort of asking where to see them which may have been a good idea...)
I now have the joy of going through a couple of thousand pictures and editing them so bare with me.