CONTINUING tension in the Middle East has prompted a birding holiday company to scrap Israel from its itinerary - at least for 2015.
This was confirmed by Dave Read of Nottinghamshire-based Lanius Bird Tours in response to a query at Monday's meeting of Grimsby's RSPB Group.
"In the wake of the troubles, we have decided not to lead a trip there next year,"he said.
That is a shame. As Dave's illustrated presentation to a 60-strong audience at Corpus Christ church hall revealed, the country has a wealth of superb bird life, even in a popular tourist town such as Eilat.
Further south, areas of desert and other habitat provide a migration stop-off point and breeding territory for a range of species - en route to or from Europe, African and Asia.
Dave, who has been to the country on five occasions, said he would expect to record up to 180 species on a typical week-long trip.
These would include numerous raptor, wheatear, pipit, lark, shrike and bee-eater species, plus pratincoles, cream coloured coursers, Syrian serins and pied kingfishers.
But it would take a real stroke of luck to discover a nubian nightjar since, with only 20 pairs, it is considered to be one of the rarest breeding birds in the Western Palearctic.
Dave revealed that he has missed out three times on glimpsing a black bush robin - once because he arrived a week too late, once because he was a week too early and once because the bird was on a site to which access was restricted.
He reckoned the best time to visit Israel was in the second half of March when migration was at its peak.Early-morning birding is preferable because, later in the day, heat haze impairs visibility and identification.
Unlike the situation in others parts of the Middle East, there is very little, if any, shooting of birds in Israel, and, as in the UK, birding is popular in the country.
Dave, who lives with his wife and children in Retford, has been a birder since being inspired as a boy on a family holiday to the Scottish Highlands.
His extensive travels have taken him to Kenya, Canada and the U.S. as well as many of the best birding sites in Europe.
His co-leader at Lanius Bird Tours is Andy Shooter who is also based in north Nottinghamshire.
Although Israel is not on the firm's 2015 itinerary, trips are planned to Greece, Spain, China, Bulgaria and the Canary Islands.
More details are available at: www.laniusbirdtours.co.uk