Monday, September 27, 2010

Crex crex crex

Yesterday I released three Corncrakes that were found exhausted or injured, and treated at the NPA Wildlife Hospital. I met up with Yosef and his team at Tsor'a and we ringed the birds. All flew or crept off well. Corncrakes are an evolutionary miracle. I do not understand how they managed to survive millions of years like this. I have seen in my life by far more dead, dying, injured, exhausted or simply stupid corncrakes than healthy ones. To me it is of no surprise that they are endangered.

I have problems uploading videos at the moment, hope to have some release vidoes here soon.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Back again

Soory for disappearing again, a mixture of good and not-so-good events kept ma away from the field and from computers as well, but life is back to normal now. I moved to a new house and started working on my garden list. Best birds till now were overhead Green Sandpiper and Red-footed Falcon.
Anyway, yesterday I had a ringing session at my site in Ashdod. It was bloody hot and humid like bloody Bangkok but ringing was OK. Surprisingly Willow Warblers were almost absent but were compensated by Lesser whitehtroats that were caught in good numbers while coming to feed on the flowering Apple-ring Acacia Faidherbia albida - an indigenous and endangered tree of which I have a nice stand in my site. Some good birds included two Sprossers, Tree Pipit and several Kingfishers which are always crowd-pleasers. Quite good visible passerine migration in the early morning, a trickle of juv. Honey Buzzards overhead and a juv Little Crake along the creek.

Thrush Nightingale (Sprosser)


Apple-ring Acacia (Faidherbia albida)

Thursday, September 16, 2010


This morning I did one of these night-and-day adventures again, that began with frustration but ended as a pretty good day. I went ringing in my ponds at Ashdod with Shlomo; we arrived at 02:30 and started setting the nets up across a muddy and birdy pond. We caught no shorebirds at all during the night. There was quite serious cloud cover that reflected much ambient light, and the birds must have been able to see the nets. It was bizzare though to catch at 03:30 a Marsh Warbler and a Red-backed Shrike!
At first light I spotted a Bar-tailed Godwit very close to our nets. The bird was not there the previous afternoon and must have arrived during the night. It was a patch tick for me, so I was very happy with it. I waited for the sun to rise, and went to get some images of it before trying to catch it. The bird was completely fearless, and I could approach it to the close-focus distance of my lens.
It was feeding like crazy and hardly lifted its head up out of the water. Most of the time it looked like this:

After I was satisfied with my results, I flushed the bird into my nets quite easily. Bar-tailed Godwit is quite a rarity in Israel, with about 5 seen annualy. This autumn seems to be pretty good for this species, with about 5-6 seen already. I think it has never been ringed in Israel before, so this is potentially the first ever ringed in Israel. The bird was extremely light-weight, only 160 gr. I hope it feeds well and fast as it must be in a very bad physiological state at the moment, explaining its lack of fear (in 2008 I published a paper with Ido Tsurim showing that hungry Steppe Buzzards during stopover are fearless compared to healthy buzzards). But nevertheless it was a great bird to ring, very beautiful and special. It was a juvenile in immaculate fresh plumage.

After the lack of birds at night, the early morning catch was actually quite good, with many birds feeding in the tall grassy sections of our pond. We caught another 70 birds or so (didn't punch the data in yet), mainly Willow Warblers and Yellow Wagtails. We had a nice selection of wagtail forms. This adult male gave a 'western'-type call, and with this dark head and small supercilium I guess it's a thunbergi-type from Scandinavia.

Another nice addition to our catch was seven Bee-eaters. There were large numbers foraging on dragonflies over the ponds, and these seven were stupid enough to get caught.

Other birds of note seen during the morning were two Borad-billed Sandpipers and a flyover Water Pipit - my first for the season.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Smelly Griffons

Today I joined a large team organized by the NPA. We went to ring Eurasian Griffons that got trapped in one of their traps in the Judean Desert. It was a well-organized event, which was important as handling 60 (!) griffons means much work.

We arrived on site in the morning, and had a couple of minutes to enjoy the scenery and breath the caracass stench in.

This is how 60 griffons inside a trap looks like. They behave, sound and smell like chickens.

It was good to meet many friends. We even had a TV crew that joined us.

We started processing the griffons quickly. My role was to ring the new birds and replace old rings. Out of the 60, only seven were new; all the rest had been trapped previously. Most are local desert birds, but some of the birds travel between the desert and northern Israel, and some have even visited distant countries in Europe or Africa.

After release there were some nice photographic opportunities.

Here with a Brown-necked Raven:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Patch working sucks

And why does it suck? Because instead of twitching sexy birds or working sexy sites I keep spending too much time in my stinking ponds producing nothing, and because you guys get to see the same images of the same, common birds.
Anyway, today I had some time in the morning so had a quick look at 'my' Ashdod ponds. I thought that as it was 9/11 today, it would have been appropriate for me to find an American lost soul or a bombshell from Afghanistan. But again the best I could find were two Broad-billed Sandpipers. None had a ring on, which is a pity as they look so much better with a ring on, ain't they? One of them was quite well-behaved. In addition I had one citrine Wagtail flying around but didn't manage to see it on the deck.

Broad-billed Sandpiper

I had a nice group of four Little Ringed Plovers in the early morning light. They are such delicate and sweet plovers. Pity I had this ugly piece of concrete in the frame.
Little Ringed Plover

As usual I had a few Temminck's Stints:

You can see this adult temmicnk is exactly halfway through its primary moult (PMS = 25).

There is a large increase in snipe numbers. I am working hard on them too... but all of them have such a long tail...
Common Snipe
You can see this bird is a 1cy by the blackish tips to its lesser coverts:

On the way back home I had a quick look at Hulda reservoir, which produced 20 Ferruginous Ducks, an early Black-necked Grebe, 1 Monty's Harrier and 3 White-winged Terns. In the nearby fields there were large numbers of Ortolans and Cretzschchshzhthmar's Buntings in mixed groups.
Cretzschmar's Bunting
Very large numbers of Turtle Doves are going through now:

Apart for that, the fields held the typical selection of Whinchats, Greater Short-toed Larks, Issy Wheatears and Tree Pipits.