Monday, December 30, 2013

Special post: the Best of 2013 - July to December

So the first half of 2013 ended with my first Israeli tick of the year (Yellow-billed Stork). I was pretty busy during July with more fieldwork in the Negev:

Sinai Rosefinches

Crowned Sandgrouse

And on Mt. Hermon, where this Red-fronted Serin stole the show during our annual ringing session:

From late July autumn migration picked up, especially at Ma'agan Michael, that proved to become a Purple Patch during October. First there were good numbers of common shorebirds and terns:

White-winged and Common Terns 

Then in early August Irad Solnik provided me with my second Israeli tick for 2013 - this stunning Lesser Sand-plover. Irad had it briefly 20 km south of Ma'agan Michael, but later on it was relocated at MM and showed extremely well to its admirers. Quite a stunning bird, that caused Israeli birders a headache (for an unknown reason).

Lesser Sand-plover

In early August Ezra Hadad found a Tawny Eagle in Lakhish steppes (only my second in Israel). I saw the bird briefly but no images unfortunately. Still I enjoyed my time in that special part of the country.

Long-legged Buzzard

Towards the end of summer holidays I went for a few nights with my family to Eilat. I was behaving like a bastard, spending most mornings birding instead of quality time with family... But there were too many good birds to be seen around for me to resist...

Caspian Plover - 1cy

Lesser Crested Terns

White-cheeked Tern - 1cy

 White-cheeked Tern - adult

 During September shorebird migration picked up, and I managed to squeeze in some ringing at Ashdod:

Broad-billed Sandpiper

In September the Bet Shean Valley became fantastic with huge numbers and great variety of birds. I was lucky I had time for several visits during work.

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater

This was a good season for Citrine Wagtails - seen almost everywhere:

Ringing at Ein Rimon in the N Negev was very good in late September with this Icterine Warbler:

While overhead massive migration of Lesser Spotted Eagles and Levant Sparrowhawks was taking place:

 On September 29th my wife gave birth to our sweet girl Libby - welcome to our family!

After Libby was born I limited my fieldwork, and only slowly and gradually retruned to the field. First close to home:

Spectacled Bulbul

And then slightly further away, like this classic Red-breasted Flycatcher silhoutte I got in the C Negev in early October:

In mid October Ma'agan Michael hit the headlines again, hosting this Pintail Snipe found by Eyal Shochat:

And this Black-throated Diver providing a proper supporting cast:

I really like eastern stonechats - they are an exciting group. As usual good numbers pass through in October and November, and I was able to further study them, both in the field:

Caspian Stonechat - male 

And in the hand:

Caspian Stonechat - female

A nice wave of Yellow-browed Warblers passed through Israel in late October and November. I saw a few, but was even happier to find this rather bright Hume's Warbler near my house in late October:

Yellow-browed Warbler

In early November my good friend Martin Garner joined me for some birding in the Negev which was very educational and great fun of course!

Then we went up to the Hula Festival. This year because of family commitments I participated only in a small part of the festival. I led a successful Mt. Hermon tour, in which we had some more Red-fronted Serins:

Nir Hasson found this lovely Little Bunting at Meitar in early November:

And Eyal Shochat found this pretty Steppe Grey Shrike near Yeruham in early December:

Raptor censuses in December in the N Negev were as productive as always:


Eastern Imperial Eagle

The ochrurus-type Black Redstart I had ringed last year at Mitzpe Ramon returned for another winter: 

But the true highlight of the birding year came right towards its end, with this fantastic find by Tuvia Kahn and David kotter at Acre - Israel's first Snow Bunting! Israeli tick #3 for 2013.

Also this eclipse Red-breasted Meganser showed very well near the bunting: 

Ahhh, what a year. As always, I must thank all those who joined my journey - withour your ongoing support I could not continue to do what I'm doing. First of all my family - Adva, Uri, Noam, Libby and Bamba, my boss Dan and colleagues, my friends - many thanks and much love to all of you. I want to thank all of my readers and supporters in Israel and worldwide -  you are the reason for this blog. 
All the best wishes for 2014!

Noam, Libby and Uri


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Special post: The Best of 2013 - January to June

So where to begin? In the beginning I guess. As usual, winter birding in Israel is somewhat quiet, but with some efforts, specialties can be found around the country. We had an exceptional winter for Asian Desert Warbler. Yosef Kiat is studying their moult, so we went down to Hameishar Plains in the southern Negev in early January to catch a couple, and ended up with 25 birds!

Seawatching during January and February was productive, especially for Kittiwakes that are good rarities in Israel: 

I was doing raptor counts during the January. Most impressive was this massive Cinereous Vulture near Revadim in the Judean Lowlands:

In the last days of January and early February I went on a professional trip to UK and NL, to visit colleagues at BTO and SOVON. Besides the meetings and presentations, I had great birding. This Black-bellied Dipper took up residence right by the BTO headquarters at Thetford:

A weekend visit to N Norfolk coast with Martin Garner, Tristan Reid, Nick Moran, Chris Hind and Tormod Amundsen was just awesome. Great birding (especially at Titchwell, i.e. 10,000 Common Scoters) with top birders who are also dear friends - how can one ask for more? Other highlights for me were plenty of geese, including this striking hybrid Black X Dark-bellied Brent:

Birding in NL was, emmmm, better... American Wigeon, lots of ducks and geese, great birding on Zeeland with Gert Ottens, Pim Wolf and Reinoud Vermoolen - we had a great time. Especially enjoyed photographing this Purple Sandpiper: 

In February I found this Hume's Warbler wintering near my house. Eventually it got a ring...

In March Israel experienced one of the most massive locust invasions ever recorded. This was a truly awesome natural wonder, but potentially very destructive, so I spent much time in the field trying to minimize the undiscriminate use of pesticides in sensitive habitats.

The Eilat Bird Festival in March was successful as always. Migrant numbers were lower than in 2012, but still we had a very good time, during both night and day tours: 

Nubian Nightjar

Black Bush Robins put on a proper show for our clients this year: 

During March to May I was doing breeding atlas boxes in the N Negev - lots of good birds breeding there:

Spectacled Warbler

Upcher's Warbler

There was a good, short but unproductive breeding invasion of Hill Sparrows in the Negev in March; none succeeded to breed unfortunately:

A couple of visits to Eilat and Lotan in April and May were very productive:

Semi-collared Flycatcher

Red-necked Phalaropes

In May and June I coordinated a breeding atlas project of Mt. hermon, that was extremely successful. Hightlights were first breeding of Chiffchaffs in Israel, first breeding Finsch's Wheatears in Israel since the 1980's, and good numbers of some Hermon Specialties:

White-throated Robin

Western Rock Nuthatch 

Black-headed Bunting

Sombre Tit

My first Israeli tick for 2013 came in late May - this Yellow-billed Stork was found by Irad Solnik in the Harod Valley: 

In late June I went to E Turkey for a long weekend's birding trip with my brother Gidon and Amir Balaban. Birding was very exciting with some good and colourful birds: 

White-winged Snowfinch

Red-fronted Serins

Grey-necked Bunting

Paddyfield Warbler

The second half of the year was just as exciting - stay tuned for part two!