Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pistachio feast

Tuesday I went ringing with my two kids - we joined Eyal at Ein Rimon, which is a small pistachio plantation north of Be'er Sheva. This site is a very special stopover site for many migrants, enjoying the fat-rich fruit for refuelling during migration, but the biggest attraction there is Black-eared Wheatears. They normally feed in open areas, and rarely concentrate, so we never catch many elsewhere. But at Ein Rimon they feed on the pistachio fruit and concentrate in large numbers. Normally wheatears avoid nets - they have very good eyesight. But in the plantation they keep chasing each other between the trees and get caught in the nets very well. We ringed 21 of these lovely birds:

Eastern Black-eared Wheatears:


tasty pistachio fruit

I anticipated impressive raptor takeoff from the nearby Lahav forest, after the previous day's massive migration, but they must have landed elsewhere to sleep and we had only few eagles and levants taking off, including this dark morph Booted Eagle:

Monday, September 24, 2012

Raptor days (or how to get the timing right)

Yesterday I joined the raprot count in the north. I gave Eli a day off and coordinated the count instead of him. It was a very slow day. Personally I saw only a few hundred Levant Sparrowhawks and Lesser Spotted Eagles, but for most of the time migration was not heavier than a trickle.

This morning I joined Meidad for Sooty falcon monitoring. We scanned some fantastic wadis and had good falcon activity. More on this to follow soon.

When I returned to phone service area I learned from Eli that today was a big day. Eli and his team counted 20000 LSE's and 7000 levants today. On the way back home I managed to intercept the stream not far away from my house. It was very high up but I really enjoyed just watching them pass through without counting. In about 15 minutes I must have had 1000 eagles - not bad. Looking forward to some nice take-off tomorrow morning.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Playing in the mud

Last night I joined the annual shorebird ringing session at Ma'agan Michael. I arrived there yesterday morning with Yosef and we did some scouting around. We found no proper fishponds with the ideal conditions, but still we saw some decent concentrations of shorebirds on the coastal lagoons and in one dug-up pond, in which I waded most of the night. We weren't very optimistic but ended up with quite a good catch - almost 100 shorebirds and a few other bits and bobs. Not as good as last year but still more than I expected based on our scouting results. 
Most birds caught were Little Stint and Dunlin, but apart from them quite a good variety. Hightlight was a 1cy Red Knot caught just before dawn - one of the very few ever ringed in Israel. Good bird.

Red Knot - 1cy

Broad-billed Sands are always nice birds to handle -we ringed three:

Broad-billed Sandpiper - 1cy

Marsh Sandpiper

Kentish Plover

Temmick's Stint

Yosef started a project that involves colour-ringing Ringed Plovers and Ruff. So keep your eyes open for them:

Ringed Plover 


One of the non-shorebirds trapped late in the evening and early in the morning - mainly Willow Warblers and Common Kingfishers:


Many thanks to the co-organizers and leaders - Yosef, Francis, Gidon, Avishai and to the large team that helped us make it such a successfull session.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The resurrection of the alfalfa

A few months ago the alfalfa field near my house, that has produced so many good birds since I moved to this region a year ago, was turned over and destroyed. The few alfalfa fields  in my region are important habitats for migrants- they host lots of meadow / grassland species such as wagtails, larks and pipits. However, a new field was planted adjacent to the old field, and it started growing nicely. Previous visits were quiet, but this morning the field was just packed full with birds - that's the way it should be. At the moment the alfalfa is mixed with some wild cereals and weeds, and as a result a huge flock of about 800 Corn Buntings was feeding on the field. This concentration is very unusual for this time of year. Apart for the buntings lots of other birds - several hundreds of Yellow Wagtails and Greater Short-toed Larks each, feeding on the millions of caterpillars. On the sprinklers about 10 Whinchats and many Red-backe Shrikes and wheatears. Few Ortolans and Tree Pipits. Montagu's and Marsh Harrier and Levant Sparrowhawk cruising over the field flushing everything up in the air every several minutes. Quite a bonanza of birds on such a small field. Best birds were two Richard's Pipits - very flighty and difficult to photograph.

Red-backed Shrike

Greater Short-toed Lark

Richard's Pipit 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Good birds for the New Year

Yesterday I was out for the first time after too long. I went ringing at my site in Ashdod with Re'a and Arad. It was a typical and good autumn morning. While setting the nets up we had Nightjar and Long-eared Owl flying around us. Early in the morning the air was filled with migration sounds: Tree Pipits ending a night of flight; Wrynecks giving their kestrel-like calls; shrikes croaking from the reed-tops. We had a good catch with lots of Willow Warblers and a mix of other acros. Later on we started catching a surprising number of sylvias, and ended up with six species - Lesser and Common Whitethroats,  Blackcap, Sardinian, Garden and (bird of the day) - Rueppel's. It was a rather advanced 1cy male. In spring they're rather common, but in autumn they're much scarcer. This is exactly the correct time for them. I catch one at Ashdod almost every year.

Rueppel's Warbler - 1cy male

Common Whitethroat - 2cy

It was still very hot se we closed early and went for a quick look at the Ashdod ponds. We were surprised by the extraordinary number of shorebirds and gulls, perhaps the largest numbers I have ever seen at this small site. We had about 800 shorebirds - mainly Little Stints and ringed Plovers. We started scanning and Re'a and myself got onto a Red Knot exactly together and shouted it out simultaneously. Common on both sides of the Atlantic, Red Knot is a good rarity in Israel and this is the first record for Ashdod. But apart for the knot we found nothing out of the ordinary. Good numbers of Marsh Sands and Temminck's Stints were nice. One Citrine Wagtail among the many yellows. Nice adult Lesser Grey Shrike. Good birding.

Red Knot - 1cy

I started working through the 200 gulls to look for rings but had only one bird with aluminium ring only. About 150 gulls were baltics (lots of juvs among them) with few armenian, yellow-legged and about 10 siberians. Note the small and extremely worn 2cy Armenian Gull in the front left of this image:

Baltic, Siberian and Armenian Gulls

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Recent stuff

Sorry, no images in this post. Been very busy lately but still saw some birds. Last Friday I met up (late, sorry again Harry) with Harry Hussey who joined our Northern Valleys survey team. We made a quick morning stop at Maagan Michael which was relatively quiet. All fishponds were empty and lots of human traffic at the beach lagoons so no proper shorebird habitat. Still had 1 Arctic Skua harassing terns offshore, 1 Citrine Wag and 15 Greater Sand-plovers. Before the Jewish New Year next weekend the demand for fresh fish rises, so some fishponds will be drained by then.
Yesterday was a big migration day. Returning from a meeting I intercepted the stream near Latrun in the Judean lowlands and enjoyed massive migration - about 3000 Honey Buzzards in 10 minutes...
I am disappearing tomorrow for a couple of weeks so i hope nothing good shows up during my absence...