Yesterday I met up with Rune Palmqvist and we had an enjoyable day of birding together. Just after we met, north of Beer Sheva, we had two Eastern Imperial Eagles sat right next to the road. Though it was not raining anymore the weather was still pretty bad - cold, windy and dark. Like a nice Danish summer day.
We headed south to Nizzana. We arrived at the sandgrouse ponds too late for the sandgrouse, but had a nice Barbary Falcon and this cracking male Pallid Harrier (every time when I post photos of Pallid Harriers I call them 'cracking', but that's just what they are, aren't they?):
Cracking Pallid Harrier
Further south we had pretty good numbers of MacQueen's Bustards - seves birds within a few minutes of searching. All were males - it seems that the males have returned from their non-breeding grounds. No dancing seen yet.
Apart for the bustards we had a nice couple of Cream-coloured Coursers and not too much else. Weather was not best for passerines.
In the afternoon we checked Lahav reserve, and had one Long-billed Pipit, three Finsch's Wheatears and a Spectacled Warbler.
Warning: if you're not into enjoying images of sexy species in the hand then skip this post.
This morning I joined Yotam and Itai from the IBRCE for an adventurous ringing session in the Uvda Valley, Eilat Mts. A good team that included Yosef, Ron, Meidad and poor Rafi & Avishai that don't have their own websites, assembled very early (I left home at 01:00 to arrive on site at 04:00). Check their respective websites for their stories and images.
We set the nets up in the freezing dark and finished right on time. At first it was very quiet but later on large numbers of seed-eaters started to arrive in the wadi. The main attraction was of course Temminck's Larks - about 80-100 birds in groups of 20-40. We caught 9 birds, each one more beautiful than the other. They are such fantastic birds in the hand - so elegant and pretty. Unfortunately, like all larks they don't behave well in the hand and look very sad. The males have these amazing horns - this guy had horns of 25 mm!
Temminck's Lark - male
Light conditions were bad this morning, with heavy clouds most of the time. In fact while folding the nets it was raining pretty hard on us.
Temminck's Lark - female
The wadi we worked in has tons of seeds on the ground. Amazingly, these seeds are still leftovers of the massive germination following the heavy rainfall of 18 January 2010! It was fun to watch these large mixed flocks of larks, Spanish Sparrows and Trumpeter Finches.
Regards from Hants
We also ringed five Bar-tailed Larks - another ringing tick for me, and very sweet little birds:
We caught this young Mourning Wheatear of the nominate form. Note the rufous undertail coverts, limited black bib and extensive white on the primaries, excluding persica.
Mourning Wheatear Oenanthe l. lugens - 2cy
This was the brightest of all Trumpeter Finches we caught this morning:
Trumpeter Finch - 3cy+ male
That's the wadi we were working in:
Other stuff in the area included some Spotted Sandgrouse flying around, and one Wild Ass.
Many thanks especially to Yotam and to all the rest of the team.
This morning I joined Mimi Ron who was doing a plant survey at Neot Hakikar. Mimi is the botanic equivalent of Hadoram in Israel - the lady just knows her plants! Anyway, while driving around I bumped into this cracking adult male Barbary Falcon. These guys breed in the mountains above the valley, and come down to hunt over the valley. This male must be very old - it is one of the least-streaked individuals I have ever seen, it has this lovely pinkish wash on the underparts. Interestingly, it has a completely dark crown, with some rufous only on the rear ear coverts. Note the dark wingtips, and distinct barring on the tail, getting bolder towards the tip.
In recent months I have been involved in founding the Israeli Nature Photographers Association. My good friend Amir Ayalon is the main enterpreneur, and we joined forces with some of Israel's best wildlife photographers and wildlife experts. The main aims of the INPA are to better protect Israel's wildlife through better photography - more professional, ethical and sensitive to nature and conservation.
We have a brand new website with lots of interesting articles, info and forums. Of course the main focus will be on bird photography, but we have active forums for underwater, landscape, macro and plant photography as well.
I hope that we will achieve our goals by reaching as many members as possible, and maintaining a high level of activities for our members.
Many thanks to Amir for his endless efforts, and to my partners on the INPA's board: Gal Shon, Rony Livne, Yoram Shpirer, Moshe Cohen, Eyal Ogash and Danny Laredo. Personal thanks to Thomas Krumenacker and Klaus Bjerre who supplied useful information about sister organizations in Europe.
Today I participated in the National Waterbird Census, conducted more or less globally simultaneously. Weather was very bad today - very cold and windy (rain tsarted only later) so birding was not too much fun. I checked several reservoirs in the southern Coastal Plains.
Waterfowl appeared in relatively low numbers, with nothing out of the ordinary. Slight interest came from 5 Great Crested Grebe at Zohar reservoir - a regular wintering site for them. It was encouraging though to see two Eastern Imperial Eagles nearby, after three birds got electrocuted in this area during the past two weeks.
What it is about seawtching, that makes us spend so much time seeing nothing? In any other kind of birding I'd give up and go home much earlier. I guess it's the selective memory, of remembering only the good birds and adrenalin-filled moments over the years, and erasing all the long hours of seeing bloody nothing. Combine that with a certain degree of masochism - that's seawatching.
Arrived too late this morning at Jaffa. Shachar and Barak actually had a good couple of hours before I arrived, but as soon as I got out of the car the birds stopped. For the next few hours Schachar and I saw very little. Two distant 'Cory's' Shearwaters (could be scopoli's of course), one Gannet and that was it. Both Shachar and myself had to leave, but we played a stupid game of 'chicken' - I think we were both one hour late because we didn't want to leave the other one alone to see the petrel (that never came of course). Eventually we both left together.
Left home very early to arrive at Hameyshar at 06:15, first light, freezing temperatures, not one f***ing bird to be seen or heard. One lonely-looking Asian Wild Ass crossed the road and almost got knocked over by a lorry. Just as it started to warm up a bit and I started to see some birds I was courteously kicked out by the military there. Assholes. I called the relevant people yesterday evening to arrange my work there today. They said everything is OK...
I managed to see 5 Bar-tailed Larks before I left, and had a group of 140 Spotted Sandgrouse feeding by the road on the way out.
Near Nafha a Golden Eagle was perched on its regular pylon.
Back home, I had a fine Jungle Cat cross the road in the afternoon - a first for me for this region. Good one!
After the previous nights' storm, Yesterday I went to Jaffa for a couple of hours with my half-Israeli friend Gert Ottens for some seawatching. We were hoping for some good activity, but when we arrived the wind slowed down seriously and even swinged to the east, so it was very quiet. Just as I was about to say again how boring it is and how seawatching in the Mediterranean sucks and how wonderful it was in the past I glimpsed a strom-petrel sp.! I found it too late, just as it was getting out of sight in the south, rather close, and I lost it immediately after that initial view. I managed to see it had a white rump but that's all, couldn't say anything about size, shape, flight action etc. Damn. After that our expectations rose and we wasted another hour or so but it was really dead, and then the rain returned hard and we escaped into the car. Other birds during the morning were one Gannet, one Arctic Skua and this 2cy Med Gull that showed really well the whole morning.