Thursday, October 25, 2018

You buff beauty

Sometimes the stars do align properly in the sky. This morning I had a meeting up north. I decided well in advance to avoid traffic, leave home early and bird somewhere along the coast north of Tel Aviv metropolin. Yesterday evening, mega news broke of the first Buff-breasted Sandpiper for Israel, found by Gal Sherbelis, exactly where I had originally planned to go birding. So my alibi was set, now the bird had the obligation to play ball. I arrived there way too early this morning, and with the gathering crowds waited for sufficient light to allow a good scan of the large turf fields of Ga'ash.

There were a few moments of tension until the bird was spotted to everyone's elief - sigh... and then - boom! The Adrenalin kick of a super mega bird. What a super bird. After first looks and some ropy record shots, me and my colleagues tried to help everyone get on the bird. With the farmer working in the field it was a bit mobile to start with, but then it settled down in a specific corner of the fields. This was easily the largest twitch I have ever witnessed in Israel; at one point there must have been close to 100 birders on site. Nobody wore hi-vis vests, and there were no ropes and donation boxes, but in Israeli standards it was a well-organised twitch and generally (when I was there) everyone behaved well. Later on however...
Now to the bird - what a beaut! Compared to the adult I saw in Norfolk a few months ago, this gingery first-winter plumage is so much more attractive. We all kept our distance, so my photos don't really do it justice, but I am in love.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper - fist for Israel

Photobombed by a Barn Swallow

Obviously all eyes were on the star bird (check national coverage here, including stunning photos by the finder Gal Sherbelis), but there were a few other good birds in the field. An Oriental Skylark flew over buzzing, Calandra Lark was surprising for the time and location, a Richard's Pipit or two, Namaqua Dove - pretty decent. My full eBird checklist is here

Monk Parakeets

While we were all admiring the sandpiper, Itamar, a young lad, snuck off and birded nearby Arsuf scrub. He found a pipit that was probably a Blyth's Pipit! Suddenly the possibility of a two-tick-day seemed achievable... I sped off there and spent a few frantic minutes trying to relocate the bird without success, until I had to take off not to be late for my meeting. Pity - it was very birdy with good potential for other stuff too. 
After my meeting I considered returning for a second photographic helping, but it started blowing a hoolie and I gave the idea up. If it sticks around for a few more days I might give it another shot.

Thanks to the finder Gal for this brilliant addition to everyone's Israeli list. Good to see so many well-behaved friends. 

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