Thursday, January 31, 2013

NL day 2 - worst record shots ever

Good birding this morning but my photography didn't excel very high I'm afraid. I went with Gert to check Gooimeer near Huizen. A male Long-tailed Duck has been wintering at this site for the last 12 winters. Despite the cold wind we found the bird quite fast, swimming in the distance with some goldeneyes. Lifer for me, and a very good-looking bird (scope views), but the images - well, not the best... But you can identify it can't you?

Lots of other good waterfowl including several dozen Bewick's with some Whooper Swans, some redhead Smews and one Eider - also this male has been wintering here for the last 10 years; a pretty good inland bird.



After freezing our arses off there we had a quick look at Eempolders where we had again very large flocks of Barnacle and White-fronted Geese, but no red-breasted or anything else of interest.
Then rest of the day spent with the Sovon guys, very interesting to meet and to learn. Looking forward to some more learning tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

NL day 1 - American Wigeon!

Left UK this morning - after surviving heavy traffic on the A1 and M25. Just as I landed at Schiphol I got a message from Gert Ottens, who was on his way to pick me up from the train: "Do you want to see an American Wigeon?"... Hell yes! So from the airport we drove more or less direct to the Nederrijn river near Wijk bij Duurstede, where this bird was found on Saturday. We got on to the bird immediately as it was swimming in the middle of the river with some wigeons and goldeneyes. Cool bird, lifer, WP tick and completely surprising - I really wasn't expecting it! Here are some more crappy record shots - distant, no light, rain, wind etc.

American Wigeon - male 

Later on Gert and I went birding in that valley. There were tons of geese about - something like 5000 barnacles and maybe 1000 whitefronts. Very very nice.

Among them we had some Bar-headed Geese - this valley is one of their strongholds in Holland. Category C, I know, but good-looking birds nevertheless.

Bar-headed Geese

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Uk day 6 - ringing ticks

Early(ish) morning joined Nick for a short ringing session before work on the edge of the Nunnery reserve. Lucky I brought my wellies with me from Israel - very wet it was. Must have transported some soil diseases with polluted mud from the Holy Land into Britain.
Anyway, ring was quite good with some ringing ticks for me. Nothing too exciting but I really haven't done much ringing in Europe.


Lesre - adult female 

Lesre - adult male

Bramb - as pretty as they can get

Thanks Nick for a great morning! After that meetings meetings meetings. My brain has no free space left anymore. Tomorrow off to NL for more meetings...

Monday, January 28, 2013

UK day 5 - Dipper take 2

On the way to the BTO offices this morning had a quick look at the dipper, hoping it would choose a lit section of the stream. But unfortunately not, it was still in the darkest section.

Black-bellied Dipper 


Then a meeting marathon at BTO until late afternoon. The day ended nicely with dinner at the Morans' - thanks guys.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

UK day 4 - wild goose chase

Another great day of birding today along the N Norfolk coast with Martin, Tristan, Tormod and Chris. Weather was sunny most of the day but very cold with crisp wind. We birded several sites - Cley, Holkham, Blakeney and Wells. We spent most of the day trying to dig the Black Brant out of the large brent flocks, so in the end that's almost all we did - scan through brent flocks. Brents are nice but I think I had enough of them.

Dark-bellied Brents 

Eventually we found at Lady Ann's drive two known hybrid Black Brant X Dark-bellied Brent. James McCallum knows them well. One of them was a large bull with his family; he was defending the juvenile quite agressively.
This bird sported a great, full collar. The mantle wasn't dark enough for a Black Brant. Note how far does the dark stretch back behind the legs, onto the undertail coverts almost. 

Hybrid Black Brant X Dark-bellied Brent

 Stay away from my baby!

The second bird was more petite. Its mantle was darker and looked better, but the collar wasn't quite good on its left side of the neck: 

Though on the right hand side the collar looks better:

Other highlights today included Waxwing at last (WP tick for me). When driving through Blakeney village, the guys in the front seats had a flyover flock of about 15. I saw nothing sitting in the back, so we started searching the village until I eventually had two brief flight views. Not satisfying - hope to see more in the next week. We also had distant views of a Rough-legged Buzzard, and about 50 Russian White-fronted Geese:

Also another Barn Owl in broad daylight, carrying a ring with 338 on it. I am really not used to see Barn Owls like this; in Israel they are strictly nocturnal.

Many thanks to Mr. G for organizing this great weekend and to all the others for such a great time. We ended the weekend with about 120 species - super total don't you think?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

UK day 3 - Plastic fantastic

Great day today, birding along the N Norfolk coast. Drove up to King's Lynn early in the morning, driving on snow and ice - quite liked that. Met up with the A-Team: Martin Garner, Tormod Amundsen, Tristan Reid, Chris Hind and Nick Moran. Martin & Tormod are in the midst of their 'Pushing the Boundaries' tour. It was still very cold today, and in the morning the roads were icy, but the sun came out which was good. We started off checking a section of Great Ouse river near Saddle Bow. We had some Slavonian Grebes, Goosander and some other stuff. Then drove off to Wolferton where we had this fantastic plastic bird - Golden X Lady Amherst's Pheasent hybrid. Dodgy bird but what a stunner!

After that we drove slowly through the countryside near Docking. Nothing too special but good countryside birds including some more chickens, Corn Bunting, Merlin, some flocks of Pink-footed Goose etc.

Grey Partridge

Red-legged Partridge

Later in the morning we arrived at Titchwel where we spent the rest of the day. It was very good and we had lots of species and lots of good stuff. I really enjoyed seaducks - lots of Goldeneye but most impressive was a passage of 9,700 (!) Common Scoters in the afternoon. Lapland Bunting was feeding below the seawall with skylarks. The gull flock on the icy lagoon included an argentatus herring, heini-type common and a med gull. Very educational stuff for me. 

Lapland Bunting - crappy record shot

Titch twitch

 Tormod getting excited about a stupid Black-headed Gull:

One Barn Owl was hunting in the late afternoon:

We really challenged ourselves today and ended with an amazing total of 110 species - I was very impressed. Never magined we could get this high. But it was a great day indeed - thanks to all the guys for the hard work and good fun.

Friday, January 25, 2013

UK day 2 - Black-bellied Dipper

Wow, today was cold. But a very good day at Thetford. Left my room early, it was -8°C. Walked down the river and enjoyed common winter birds - tits nuthatches etc. Eventually reached the small stream that the Black-bellied Dipper has been using recently. It was really obliging and showed very well. Such a special and entertaining bird. A rather large crowd assembled there - I was surprised how much attention this bird was still drawing after such a long stay. It was feeding very well on larvae of some water fly, and it was singing a bit, so it must be a male. I know nothing about moult and ageing of dippers, but I think I can see a moult contrast in the tertials, and the alula looks very worn, so perhaps this is a 2cy? Light conditions were awful and I had to shoot in ISO levels too high for my noisy 7D.

Black-bellied Dipper


I know this is childish but I really enjoy common European birds such as Long-tailed Tit:

Before my BTO meeting marathon began, I had a quick look at the Nunnery Reserve which had lots of finches, buntings and thrushes. Some intermedius and graelsii on the lake. Then at BTO I had a very productive afternoon. Gave a presentation to BTO staff and then had some meetings. Thanks so much to the BTO guys - Andy, Andy, Nick, Mike, Viola, Dawn and all the rest- you're great!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

UK day 1

Long travel day. Arrived in the UK just after noon, but some idiot took off with my suitcase - and I had to wait for her for several hours until she returned the suitcase to Heathrow. First time this has happened to me after so many years of travelling overseas. Becuase of the delay missed the opportunity to look for the Buff-bellied Pipits nearby. Long and slow drive to Thetford, but very warm welcome by BTO staff. The day ended well with a good curry. Looking forward to tomorrow.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Beauty and the Beast

A young Black (AKA Cinereous) Vulture was found by Ezra Hadad in the Judean Plains about a week ago. It's been hanging around the area since, and this morning I went with Amir Balaban to have a look at this impressive bird. First thing in the morning it was already present in the regular reservoir, feeding on a jackal caracass. When it heated up a bit it moved around the fields, accompanied by an Imperial Eagle.
Black Vulture used to breed in Israel until the 19th centruy. In recent decades it's a regular but rare winter visitor to areas with griffons - mainly Golan Heights and Negev Mt. It is very rare in C Israel.
Yoram Shpirer got some impressive results of it a few days ago. Mine are not as good but I hope you can feel the power and beauty of this bird.

With a miniature Black Kite

 With and Eastern Imperial Eagle

 I wish I was sat in Yoram's hide early this morning...

Supporting cast included also the young White-tailed Eagle, several more imperials, and a few ten White-headed Duck.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Playing in the mud

Participated in the national waterfowl count coordianted by the NPA. Did several reservoirs in the southern Coastal Plains. Rather few waterfowl with nothing interesting. Only four Great-crested Grebes at Zohar res. were were getting the scope out for. Lots of raptors and lots of mud.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Repeated the raptor census transect in the NW Negev today. Good weather and much less mud. Didn't get bogged today! Had a good day with lots of good raptors, especially falcons. I had three young Sakers, which brings the total for this winter to four at the NW Negev- an adult has been seen recently. Also had four Peregrines and two Merlins.

Saker - 2cy 

Also had four Eastern Imperial Eagles - three adults and one 4cy:

Fewer buzzards today compared to December. So difficult to photography anything not perched on a pylon.

Long-legged Buzzard

Didn't really count kites - I estimated something like 15000 today, and I wasn't even close to their core of activity (Dudaim dump). Other raptors I had were two Booted Eagles, and some harriers.

One or two Black Kites

Not too much other than raptors. A flock of fourty Dotterels was nice. Couldn't find the sociables anywhere near my transect. About 50 Swifts on the move north (spring already!). 40 Stock Doves at the same place like last time.

Stock Dove - Israeli rarity