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