Sunday, November 29, 2009

More Ashdod gulls...

Guys, don't worry, this isn't becoming one of those terrible Scandinavian gull ID site. But, what can I do, this is pretty much all that winter-birding at Ashdod has to offer. And, yes, I have a fetish for gulls too...
Anyway, about 400 large gulls this morning, out of them 100 adults. Mainly heuglini, smaller numbers of cachinnans and fuscus, with small numbers of intermedius, armenicus and barabensis.

This must be one of those N Norway intermedius - 3cy. Note the cachinnans in the background:

This Finnish-ringed fuscus is one of our oldest and most observed birds ever at Ashdod. Hatched in 1998, it was first seen in Israel in December 1999, and was seen almost every winter since (thanks Ehud for the info):

I watched the gulls bahvior for a while. I really tried to understand these stupid birds fighting with each other constantly over feathers, pieces of paper, plastic pipes etc., but I have no idea what goes through their tiny brains. Most birds engaged in this behavior were 1cy's, but also some adults fooled around a bit. Look at this heuglini (note P9 & P10 are unmoulted):

This is a 1cy heuglini getting very excited and proud of himself with a fantastic piece of paper:

This is how part of the gull flock looks like:

This 2cy Greater Spotted Eagle flying over spooked the whole flock (Ehud hates those eagles), and they took off and headed towards the beach I guess.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ashdod ringing

Had a pleasent morning ringing at Ashdod. I had a guided group at 09:00, so I had plenty of time to enjoy the birds and the fine weather today, before the millions of screaming kids arrived.
Birdwise, it seems that winter has settled down, and most migrants have moved on. The commonest birds I ringed were Bluethroat and Chiffchaff, with a few other bits and pieces.
Sweetest birds were two Penduline Tits - part of a small group hanging around:

This Sardinian Warbler felt a bit paler and neater than our local birds - perhaps a migrant?
Other birds seen during the morning were a Bittern (my first for this site), several flyover Siskins and a Wryneck - most probably it will stay for the winter.

Monday, November 23, 2009


I had some work up in the north yesterday and today, so I managed to squeeze a few hours of birding at the Hula Lake (Agamon). This is such a great place and I miss it so much after working there for several years. It was good to meet good old friends too.
The lake itself held this flock of 16 Ruddy Shelducks among the hundreds of other ducks:

Several Coypus were feeding near the waters' edge:

Driving around the lake we bumped into this Bittern that was sure it was invisible:

Many Lapwings were in the fields and flying around:

I had several eastern Stonechats. This is a male variegatus:

And this was an obliging maurus-type:

The weather was very good and there were many eagles up in the air. Found this adult Greater Spotted Eagle perched on a low tree just before it lifted off:

This adult male Red-backed Shrike is two monthes late! It should have been in Africa already. Its' deformed bill must have disrupted its' migration plans. It was feeding quite actively though, so it might just make it.

There are over 30000 cranes at the Agamon nowadays. This is a small part of them, feeding in last seasons' peanut field.

On the way out this Snipe try to become invisible too:

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fieldfares and other bits and pieces

Drove around a bit over the last couple of days and collected some nice stuff along the way. Yesterday at Ashdod not too many gulls or shorebirds, and nothing exciting among them. Single Greater Spotted Eagle and Short-toed Eagle (late!) were nice. These two female Mountain Gazelles showed me their butts as they sped away from my car. Are they being poached in that area? They were very very shy.

Later drove to Segula to look for the Fieldfare trio found by Re'a the previous day. The first look produced nothing, but after a short lunch break found them feeding quite relaxed on the lawn. They really let me approach - I never had such good views in Israel. These guys must have come from a village or town somewhere (in Russia?) - their tame behaviour suggested that. Great to see these Israeli rarities - hopefully we will have a good winter for them (and for their black-throated cousin tooo...)

This morning I was ringing at my local site in Ashdod. It was pretty good with many chiffies, Blackcaps, Bluethroats and Robins. A couple of Spanish Sparrows were nice, and this Moustached Warbler was my first for the season. Other birds about were a Reed Bunting flying around and dodging my nets, and several Water Rails heard calling.

Moustached Warbler

Spanish Sparrow

A short afternoon visit to Tsor'a didn't produce much. This female Stonechat posed nicely against the light:

And this late Isabelline Wheatear was pretty in the warm afternoon light:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Galilee - so many birds!

Spent a full week of non-birding but walking and driving around the Galilee, from east to west. There were sooooooooooooooooo many birds around. Many winter birds showing in exceptionally large numbers. It feels like we are going to have a good winter here after a few bird-less winters. One of the most dominant species around was Hawfinch, with many sites holding tens of birds. Siskins also in large numbers. Some scarcer species such as Woodlark (many singing) and Dunnock were seen in fine numbers, especially on the higher peaks.
Saw some nice stuff during the week, including three Rose-coloured Starlings on 10/11 near Eilabun, two Rock Buntings in two sites, and several Mistle Thrushes and Redwings. It was a very intensive week and I'm happy to get back home. Tomorrow hope to get some ringing done - maybe Hawfinch?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Nitzanim birding

Today I checked Nitzanim coastal reserve (south of Ashdod) together with Jonathan Meyrav. It was hot and sunny again, and we made a late start, so probably missed many sibes by the time we got there. While waiting for Jonathan I watched this White Stork preening. This bird was ringed by Yosef Kiat in September.

When we reached Nitzanim, we drove past an open field packed with pipits, wagtails and skylarks. There was one Richard's Pipit that got us alerted as it was a rather small and delicate individual, until we heard its 'chirp!' flight call. It was very shy and didn't allow even a record shot. The main pipit was Red-throated Pipit - about 100 birds.

Red-throated Pipit (adult)
Red-throated Pipit (1cy)

We birded the coastal sand dunes and scrub. Didn't see too much. There were hundreds of Chiffchaffs - an impressive wave is passing through Israel these days, but no wingbars at all... Other than that several Northern Wheatears and two Desert Wheatears - quite a few of this scarce migrant were seen along the Med coast during the last week or two.

Desert Wheatear

In a coastal lagoon there were many plovers - 100 Ringed Plovers, 50 Kentish Plovers, 2 Greater Sand Plovers and a single Sanderling.

Kentish Plovers

Greater Sand Plover (1cy)
Ringed Plover

Monday, November 2, 2009

Gull leftovers

Some leftovers from yesterday's birding at Ashdod. These are two gulls that really puzzled me, and after some homework and consulting other experts (thanks Amir!) I have a better idea of what they are.
This first gull is a Steppe Gull (Larus barabensis) - note especially the tricoloured bill, the small eye, the prominent gonys, and black tongues up to P4 - all good features for this taxon.

This second gull is a very difficult one, but the concensus is that it is a Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus intermedius) from a population originating in N Norway. This is a 3rd-winter bird. Note the very pale eye, typical mantle colour and heavily streaked head and neck.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

PGP at Ashdod

This is going to be long - beware!

Yesterday Amir Ben Don and Ehud Dovrat found a Pacific Golden Plover at Yavne 4 ponds north of Ashdod. I had a couple of free hours in the morning, so gave it a try. The weather was OK - no rain and sunny, but very windy which made photography a bit shaky.

The ponds were shorebirdless, just a few Temminck's Stints. I had a quick look at the gull flock nearby. One of the first birds I saw was this colour-ringed Baltic Gull. I was very happy to see this bird as I had ringed and released it in September. It was rehabilitated at the NPA wildlife hospital after being found exhausted.

There were fewer Baltic Gulls compared to what Amir had yesterday. There were only 10 or so adult baltics. But nevertheless they are such beautiful birds, and I can never resist getting more images of them in good light:

Numbers of Caspian Gulls are starting to build up:

There were about 20 adult Siberian Gulls. Look at this impressive male:

Note the big mirror on P10:

After I had enough with the gulls, I drove down to the beach. I started to scan through the hundreds of roosting shorebirds on the beach, and quite quickly relocated yesterday's Pacific Golden Plover. At first I had crap distant views, but later the bird moved in quite close. I got decent images, though I didn't manage to get the wanted underwing shot. At one moment a late Hobby made all the shorebirds take off, but I missed the photo-opp. Oz Horine got a great flight shot - see here:

I really enjoyed watching this elegant plover for a long time. I have seen quite a few in Israel, but it is always a cool bird to see. It was especially interesting to compare it to Israel's first American Golden Plover I saw last November at Ma'agan Michael. Note especially the short primary projection of this bird - not even three primaries exposed beyond the tertials.

It was nice to see so many shorebirds on the pretty beach and not in a stinking fishpond or sewage pond. There were about 10 Greater Sand Plovers, all more or less in full winter plumage already.

Among the commoner species were Ringed Plovers, Little Stints and Dunlin.

I dipped on the Cyprus Wheatear Amir had yesterday; it was really too windy for passerines. There were several Northern Wheatears though: