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!

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