Friday, October 30, 2009

Pre-rain Tsora

This morning woke up early and went with Uri to Tsora fields. We were expecting our first serious weather system of the coming winter, and I was happy to be outside before a few days of rain. It seems that most winter birds are already here, and we're recieving the late migrants now.
However it was pretty windy and not too many birds were about. The alfalfa fields held a large mixed flock of pipits and skylarks, with one Richard's among the many red-throats, meadow and water. Near the reservoir one male Caucasian Stonechat (veriegata) showed well. Almost got bogged with the car while trying to cross the wild Sorek stream but managed to get through.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Back in the field

After a pretty long break, spent some time in the field at last today. Conducted a daytime tour to Neot Hakikar (the nightjar site) for different stake-holdres, in order to promote our conservation project there. I was busy guiding so no images today, but had fab views of a couple of Bonelli's Eagles going for teals in the Tzin reservoir, and also there one pretty male Hooded Wheatear and a flock of about 20 Dead-Sea Sparrows.
These Tooded Wheatears are amazing. I see them so easily when I'm not guiding birders, but somehow when I'm guiding they just disappear...

Monday, October 19, 2009

A new one for me!

Just wanted to update that I have a new baby - he was born on Thursday 15/10/09, doesn't have a name yet and looks like his big brother Uri. He is a very sweet baby.

So I will probably be rather slow on the birding side during the next week or two.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Green Warbler!

This morning I was working at home. 09:15 - phone rings, Ron Haran is on the other end: "I think I have a Green Warbler at Netiv Halamed-He, can you come over to have a look?". Grabbed my gear, ran to the car and sped off. Luckily Netiv Halamed-He, Ron's constant-effort ringing site, is only 20 minutes away from my house.

The bird was quite easily located, as it was waiting for me in the bag... Id was pretty starightforward. While driving I talked to Amir Ben-Dov about the probable bird, he cancelled an important meeting, took the chance and started driving. He made it on time before the bird was released. It flew into the reeds immediately, and was not seen again. I think some other guys might give it a try this afternoon, hope they get lucky. Finding a phyllo in such a huge site seems pretty challenging...

Anyway, well done Ron for the find and for the ID!
This is the fourth record for Israel of this Himalayan gem. The first was ringed by Hadoram in October 1997. The 2nd was found by Zev Labinger and seen by many observers, including myself, at Ramat Sirin, E Galilee, August 2004. The 3rd was ringed by Ulf Bauchinger et al at Sde Boker in May 2008. This type of twitching is not very challenging, but it was a super bird nevertheless!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Southern Arava minus birds...

Yesterday (10/10/09) I went scuba diving at Eilat. Before my dive buddy woke up, I had a couple of hours of birding in the traditional birding sites of the southern Arava - Yotvata, Samar and Elifaz.

Contra to the situation in spring, when the whole region is teeming with birds, this period of autumn is actually very boring. It seems that most migrants stop for refueling in central Israel before crossing the vast deserts of N Africa.

So I started birding, with very sentimental memories from March. Both the sewage farm and fields of Yotvata were very empty. Also nothing to photograph, only this 1cy Masked Shrike posed in the early morning sun though too distant:
However, I seem to be having some luck with Red-breasted Flycatchers this season: I had four different birds this morning - one at Yotvata sewage, two in the Samar date plantations, and one obliging individual at Elifaz sewage:

Actually, Elifaz sewage was the only site which had good numbers of birds - it looks quite promising for November, when I'm sure it will host a good sibe. But till then, I had to settle with many acros (all those I saw well were reeds), several Savi's Warblers, Indian Silverbills etc.

So it wasn't too frustrating for me to end the morning's birding and go to Eilat for some diving...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sde Boker

This morning (6/10/09) I had a few meetings at Sde Boker, so I decided to make an early start and spent the early morning birding at the Ben Gurion campus, Sde Boker.
Driving south from my house, I hit some serious weather - quite exceptional at this time of the year. This weather must have knocked down loads of birds in the center of the country, but the south was rather quiet.

The first bird I saw as I walked into the park was a Red-breasted Flycatcher, chased by a Redstart. I lost touch with the bird for a while, but eventually refound it in a distant part of the park. Even though it is not a true rarity in Israel, this is still one of my favorite birds. I was surprised though to find only one - I was hoping for more. Yesterday Barak Granit had seven at Yeroham :-( Checked this bird very hard but no, it wasn't a Taiga...

Red-breasted Flycatcher

In the park, birds were rather few. However there were some nice birds around. This Wryneck was very obliging, feeding on ants intensively. I crawled on the wet lawn on my belly and got quite good shots:

There were quite many Redstarts and Spotted Flys between the trees. Also Willow Warblers and Blackcaps were rather common in the canopies. Some Tree Pipits were flying around.

This exhausted Sedge Warbler jumped around in an olive tree.

Many Nubian Ibex were feeding in the park, mainly juveniles and females. These funny animals are so tame, and it was nice to watch the interaction between the animals, including males having some sexual adventures with each other... However they were quite worried each time I got my 'big-daddy' camera out of the bag and fled for two meters.

Later I drove through the irrigated fields. There were some Red-throated Pipits and Short-toed Larks feeding. I saw one distant buzzing Oriental Skylark but didn't get any decent views of it.
Northern Wheatear

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ashdod ringing & gulls

This morning (3/10/09) I went ringing at Ashdod. This is my main ringing site, in a small wetland surrounded by trees and bushes, about 30 km south of Tel Aviv close to the Med. coast.

We had a fine morning - good weather, nice catch, great variety and pleasent company. The most numerous species ringed were Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and Reed Warblers.
Among other species ringed were Great Reed, Savi's and Marsh Warblers, Tree Pipits, and my first Bluethroat of the season.

Tree Pipit

Great Reed Warbler

It was nice to observe active passerine migration first thing in the morning, mainly of Tree and Red-throated Pipits and Yellow Wagtails. Other nice birds seen in the area were several Red-backed Shrikes and a Wryneck.
Thanks to Shlomo and Re'a for their help with the ringing.

After closing the nets down, we went to 'Yavne 4' ponds near Ashdod. This is the prime gull site in Israel. There were only 100 gulls though, most Baltic but also some 1cy Armenians and Caspians. Among the Baltics there was one adult carrying a Finnish colour ring CV21. This is a very familiar bird. It had been visiting Ashdod for at least five previous years, and has been already observed several times earlier this autumn.

Baltic Gull

Shorebirds showed in very small numbers. Of note were three Marsh Sands and four Temminck's Stints. A Lesser Grey Shrike gave good views.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ma'agan Michael

I spent today (1/10/09) with Mike Alibone (UK). Following yesterday's RBA flood, we made an early start and headed towards Ma'agan Michael. The shorebirds were rather mobile, but eventually we managed to catch up with all good birds around. the best for me was of course the Pectoral Sandpiper, found yesterday by Chen Rozen. I saw one at Yotvata last May, but it was good to see this one too.

Mike was actually very keen on seeing this Terek Sandpiper. It took us some time, but eventually we got great views of it.

Other good birds in the fishponds were a 1cy Red Knot, four Broad-billed Sandpipers, over 20 Temminck's Stints, a 1cy Black Tern, and several Citrine Wagtails.

'Big' birds were seen in huge numbers. First thing in the morning about 3000 White pelicans were sat in the sea; some moved on during the morning, while others tried their luck in the fish farm. There were more than 1000 Slender-billed Gulls present - an impressive figure.

During the morning we joined Jonathan Meyrav near Nahalal, and managed to get some decent raptor migration, with about 150 Lesser Spotted Eagles, 15 Levant Sparrowhawks and other bits and pieces. But soon the migration dried out and it ended up to be a very quiet migration day.

A windy visit to Tishlovet reservoir was productive with a single White-headed Duck and over 20 Ferruginous Ducks among the huge numbers of Shoveler and other ducks. Six Black-necked Grebes were nice too.

Bet She'an Valley in the afternoon was relatively quiet, but it was nice to see three bright Black-eared Wheatears.

My first post - birding Tsor'a

Yesterday (30/9/09), I visited one of my favorite birding sites, Tsor'a. It is only 10 minutes away from my house, and is one of the most productive landbird sites in C Israel.

As I drove in I noticed two Red-footed Falcons, an adult male and a 1cy, sitting in a dry field and warming up in the early morning sun.

adult male

adult male and 1cy

There were about eight Rollers in the alfalfa field, mostly 1cy. This bird had a severely damaged bill, but it seemed to feed very well in spite of its injury.

The most dominant species in the field were Yellow Wagtails (mostly flava-types) and Willow Warblers. Pipits showed in good numbers too, with tens of Red-throats already, and smaller numbers of Tree and Tawny. Two Richard's Pipits were good birds, but unfortunately they did not cooperate for photography.

Yellow Wagtail

Willow Warbler

There were several Isabelline Wheatears in the field. This one caught a juicy caterpillar very close to me.

On my way out, a 1cy Lesser Grey Shrike posed nicely, but on an ugly 'branch', and against a boring background.