Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Birding the Holy City

Back home in the UK now, and I have one last post to share from my short visit to Israel. After the quick trip down south, I was based in Jerusalem. I was very very busy but managed to squeeze in some fine birding inside the city of Jerusalem. Growing up as a birder in Jerusalem, the context and perspective are complicated - the city has transformed completely from semi-wild to uber-urban. However, the two major birding sites within the city - Jerusalem Bird Observatory (JBO) and Gazelle Valley, have both become city hubs, both for wildlife and for people. My dear friend Amir and my brother Gidon get major credit for enterpreneuring and establishing those miracles of wildlife inside the city.
I had a morning at JBO with my brother and Amir. Ringing was on the slow side, as expected this time of year, but variety was great. It is a good year for 'northern' finches coming to winter in Israel, and we had nice numbers (in the field) of Hawfinch, Brambling and Siskin. Some were caught too. A lovely Bluethroat worked the edge of the pond just below the hide. Very enjoyable.

Hawfinch - male

Brambling - 1cy male

Bluethroat - 1cy female

Starred Agama (Stellagama stellio)

We are very proud of our online ringing portal - I reckon it's the best in the world. And the automatic ringing summary looks superb - don't you think?

Every time I visit the Gazelle Valley (in too large intervals) I am impressed by how careful management can create wildlife scenes that were unimaginable before. As a kid, I grew up in dry Jerusalem. Finding a duck or any other waterbird was almost as exciting as finding a ticking Asian bunting. Nowadays, the wetland system at the Gazelle Valley regularly hosts waterfowl in winter, Little Grebes and other resident waterbirds breed there, and the habitat looks simply brilliant. I spent a cold and rainy hour there but it was great fun. No amazing rarities, just solid birding in the center of the city.

'Caucasian' Water Pipit

Syrian Woodpecker

The gazelle herd performed well...

Before heading home spent a short while with my mate Jonathan in his village near Modi'in. Lots of Hawfinches there too. 

Looking forward to my next visit to my homeland - Champions of the Flyway in March 2018. Or as Jonathan says, bring it!

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