Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Hermon take 2 day 1 - sensation!

Our breeding atlas project on Mt. Hermon resumed today. This project is supported by the Hoopoe Foundation. Military restrictions altered our plans a bit, so we're doing three days this week and another two next week.
Today I worked with Meidad and Roei on a box rather low down, above the Druze village of Majdal Shams, between 1350 and 1550 m asl. We worked on a very steep and rocky slope, which was rather difficult and challenging to work on, but we had a superb morning. Big numbers, lots of breeding activity, and some quality species too. Weather was wonderfully cool after a few days of blazing heat.
Most prominent in our box were Western Rock Nuthatches - we had 13(!) families. Exceptional density for this scarce species.

Western Rock Nuthatch

Also present in very high density were Eastern Black-eared Wheatears - 11 families!

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear - 2cy male

Biggest suprise of the morning was a breeding pair of Finsch's Wheatear - we saw the male and female carrying food into a cavity. In Shirihai's Birds of Israel (1996) it is mentioned to be a rare and irregular breeder in the highest elevations of Mt. Hermon, but to my knowledge none were found breeding in recent decades. I was very pleased to find these, and pretty surprised to find them so low down.

Finsch's Wheatear

Other quality species included a singing male Irania, three breeding pairs of Upcher's Warbler, two breeding pairs of Blue Rock Thrush, some Rock Sparrows, Black-headed Bunting etc. It was good to see that Syrian Serins are back. I was a bit worried after we saw almost none on our previous session a month ago, and I was amazed to witness how fast they breed - we had many families today with full-sized fledglings.

Upcher's Warbler

 Syrian Serin

Sombre Tits - several families of these too

Dark Rockbrown (Chazara persephone)

Views to SW - Majdal Shams, Golan Heights, Hula Valley and Gallilee in the distance 

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