Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Trumpets and petronias

This morning I went ringing in a water cistern near Mitzpe Ramon, deep in the high Negev mountains. I went there with a dream team - Yosef, Eyal, Elon and Darren. Our aim was to begin a long-term monitoring scheme at this important drinking spot discovered by Noam Weiss during our Nizzana atlas project.
We arrived very early, set the nets up and waited for the birds to start coming in. We enjoyed some mammal life at first light - two Wild Ass and a Golden Jackal.
Very quickly we understood this was going to be a busy morning, and our nets began to fill up fast. The most dominant species was Trumpeter Finch - 92 birds caught, most juveniles but quite a few bright males like this one:

Second in totals was Hill Sparrow - 31 birds, again mostly juveniles. This was our main target species for today. Noam had many hundreds coming in to drink last week, but it seems that there has been already a large departure, and many of our birds had good fat scores. Nevertheless this is an excellent catch, probably the largest one-day catch ever in Israel.
Hill Sparrow - juvenile
It was interesting to note that almost all adult had an arrested moult - 1-2 primaries, 0-3 secondaries and all PC. In this bird P1 and P2 are unmoulted, as well as S1 to S3 and all PC.
Hill Sparrow - adult
Another species caught in large numbers was Corn Bunting - 16 birds. This is a juvenile, showing a bobolink-like head pattern.

The site itself and the whole area is just fantastic. It has this special atmosphere of high altitude regions, pleasent weather, fascinating geology and plants, and it has an almost Mt. Hermon-like feel to it.

Apart for the main species, we had a good selection of seldom-ringed desert species. We had several Rock Martins:

We also ringed quite a few Desert Larks:

Anyway, I hope to return to this excellent spot soon. It doesn't hold so much water every year, but it must be a good site every year at least in spring.

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