Saturday, November 23, 2013

I'm sorry

I'm sorry for neglecting the blog lately. I'm going through one of the busiest periods in my life ever - several huge projects climaxing simultaneously, plus family commitments, and just no time left for birding or photography. Going away tomorrow till Wednesday, hope to get some birding done after that.

This is not new - it's from Kenya, December 2010. Wahlberg's Eagle, just after it ate this poor Northern White-headed Shrikes' mate. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

End of an era

No more rubbish sound-recording using my phone. My new toy arrived today. Hope to produce some interesting stuff soon, as soon as I get away from my computer...

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Little Bunting!

Yesterday afternoon Nir Hasson had a great afternoon in a small park near his house in Meitar, a small town not far from Beer Sheva. He had there a Little Bunting and a Common Rosefinch - in fact the bunting was seen to chase the rosefinch off... Little Bunting is a national rarity, while Common Rosefinch is a good local rarity.
Even though I was very tired and very busy today, couldn't resist the tempataion - I just love Little Buntings, such elegant birds. Arrived there in the morning and relocated the bird quickly. It was very mobile and pretty shy. It kep chasing off every other finch and sparrow that got close to its territory - a small, overgrown section of the park. I had a hard time to get any decent images of it - this is the only semi-presentable record shot:

This is the garden where it was: 

In the garden I also saw several Serins, Bluethroats, both Common and Black Redstarts, Spanish Sparrows, Corn Buntings etc. Didn't see the rosefinch again.
Later on Eyal, Erez and Nir arrived and ringed the bunting - Erez gave me a call when I was still pretty close so made a U-turn and returned to see the bird in the hand. It was identified as 1cy. This slightly upcurved upper mandible is so lovely!

Thumbs up to Nir for this great find!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hula Festival - Mt. Hermon

Today I led the Mt. Hermon tour with Nadav for the Hula Bird Festival. After breakfast we left the hotel and arrived directly at the drinking pools pretty early. Immediately we noticed large numbers of finches feeding and drinking around the pond. Showed our clients their first Syrian Serins and soon saw quite many more. We positioned ourselves to watch the drinking, and enjoyed a very active hour or so with lots of birds coming in to drink. Of course Chaffinch, Linnet and Goldfinch in big numbers, but lots of good stuff mixed in. Best were Red-fronted Serins. We had three, later on other groups had another 20! This is an outstadning concentration in modern Israeli standards. Other goodies we had were some Yellowhammers and Bramblings, two Dunnocks, many Rock Buntings and Syrian Serins and a Redwing overhead.

Red-fronted Serin

Then we left the drinking spot and climbed up with the cablecar to the upper platform. It was cold in the lower platform to start with, so on the upper platform it was freezing and the wind was strong. Bird activity was poor and we really didn't see much, only quite many Woodlarks and one Fieldfare. Just before leaving we spotted this Black Vulture which was a good consolation prize:

Returned to the lower platform for other target species. Hard work again but eventually we had good views of Sombre Tits, and part of the group saw Western Rock Nuthatch.

Sombre Tit 

After an excellent lunch at the Druze village of Majdal Shams, I decided to skip the original plan of searching again for finches and buntings on the windswept Golan Heights, and headed back down to the Hula Valley instead to see some large, noisy birds. We had a enjoyable last hour of light watching a good pre-roost gathering at Lehavot Habashan fishpons with thousands of Black kites, Pelicans, Black Stork, herons and egrets, one nice Peregrine, some Citrine Wags and Temminck's Stint -very nice end to a good day. Many thanks to my co-leader Nadav and to Martin and Sander who helped me a lot during the tougher parts of the day.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Negev, the Final Frontier

This is the captains' log. Day 854 to the journey.
Sorry for the late posting - my computer crashed and it took me some days to recover it.

It's that time of year again. Smell of sibes in the air. Hula Festival. Martin Garner arrives in Israel.
I was pleased to spend a weekend with Martin. Both the time in the field and the time with my family was great fun. Friday we went to Nafkha farm in the high Negev Mts. It was pretty cold and rainy in the early morning. We joined Darren and Meidad for ringing there. Ringing was pretty laid back but some quality species - this scruffy-looking Yellow-browed Warbler:

And this 1cy Red-breasted Fly:

As the ringing was pretty slow we birded around. Nothing more exciting than another Red-breasted Fly, Brambling, Barbary Falcon etc. On the way out we saw this female 'Eastern' Stonechat. As usual, in the field, no white to be seen in the tail: 

But I really wanted to show Martin what I had already learned, so we trapped the bird. Guess what we found concealed below the uppertail coverts, at the bases to TF?

Yes, you were right - white. So this is anothe female Caspian Stonechat. Interestingly, it had some streaks (dark shaft stripes) to some uppertail coverts. I am sure Martin will write about that when he gets back home.

Mr. Swarovski

Next day we checked the Nizzana sewage ponds, chasing the ghost of a Sibe Buff-bellied Pipit seen there the previous day by Dan B and Rich B. We arrived early and started birding. Good birding with lots of birds. Two more Yellow-browed Warbler, Citrine Wag, some Moustached Warblers and Penduline Tits, two Jack Snipes, Merlin and lots others.
Jack Snipe

This Swallow smells eastern, with the very pallid, frosty look. Reminded me of the swallows I caught at Ngulia (E Kenya) in 2010, that were thought to originate in C Asia.

 Good numbers of Black-bellied, Spotted and some Crowned Sandgrouse came in to drink later on.

Black-bellied Sandgrouse

Late in the morning we found this interesting Water Pipit, that stood out among the many coutellis around. Striking with bold breast streaking, extending back to rear flanks, strong triangular Malar patch, neat wingbars and thin white eyering broken by dark lores. Here is one recod shot - more on this bird to follow:

Today I drove up north to join the Hula Festival. This year, due to my new family commitments, I will spend here only one night. Gave a talk this evening which I enjoyed to, and it was good to meet all the guys. looking forward to tomorrow. Good night.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Same same

Very busy this week with almost zero time for birding. Managed to squeeze in a quickie at my local patch this morning (Bet Kama alfalfa). Nothing out of the ordinary. Two Caspian Stonechats. Less Red-throated Pipits but more skylarks, lapwings and Meadow Pipits.

Caspian Stonechat 1cy male