Monday, December 30, 2019

Decade summary #9 - Best of 2018

Final post for my decade summary, before the special summary of 2019 - tomorrow!

2018 saw me again travel the globe quite extensively - South Africa, Israel, Sweden, Brazil; I finished my PhD, and in August we moved back to Israel, which meant daily birding intensified. but let's start from the beginning. In February I traveled with my family to South Africa. We saw incredible wildlife, including a dream mammal for me -Wild Dog, in an unforgettable encounter:

Birding was great too, including the stunning Cape Sugarbird:

In March, in perfect timing with the visit of our Filey friends Mark and Amity, one of my most wanted birds showed up not far from home, on the north Norfolk coast - Snowy Owl. It was distant so photos aren't great but the encounter was incredible:

Later on in March I visited Israel for Champions of the Flyway. Best bird was a Persian Wheatear, and I really enjoyed this stunning self-found Turkestan Shrike:

In July, during a family visit to northern Sweden I managed Hawk Owl:

My final year in the UK added several more good birds to my list, including American Bittern, Green Heron, and Buff-breasted, Semi-p and Spotted Sands.

In November I traveled to Brazil for my first visit to Latin America. The team included again Gidon, Amir and Eli. My main goal, to do a Jaguar selfie, was fulfilled successfully. 

Birding in Brazil, in the Pantanal and in the Atlantic Forest, was nothing short of spectacular.

White-headed Marsh Tyrant

Back in Israel, I managed four ticks, including Yellow-billed Kite ('only' ssp.), Pink-backed Pelican, and two firsts for Israel - Buff-bellied Sandpiper and Barnacle Goose!

(This photo was taken in January 2019)

Full summary of 2018 here.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Decade summary #8 - Best of 2017

Almost there! Just one more annual summary after this before my 2019 summary.
2017 was another exciting year - fieldwork season in Iberia, trip to India, summer visit to Shetland, two visits to Israel at either end of the year, and in between lots of good birds in the UK.

Early in the year I cleaned up some good divers and seaducks, including this obliging White-billed Diver in Lincolnshire:

The trip to India, with Gidon, Amir and Eli, was primarily targeted at seeing a Tiger in Ranthambhore, which we did...

A trip to Kaziranga offered excellent birding, including this stonking male Pied Harrier, surely one of the best raptors of the world:

I spent most of April and May in Portugal and Spain, doing fieldwork for my PhD with my outstanding field assistants Re'a and Daniel. We had a very successful season and a great time together, and didn't stop birding for a moment. 


My second visit to Shetland, this time with my family, was wonderful, how can it not be? Barely an hour after stepping off the ferry we were treated to a fantastic show by a pod of Orcas hunting seals outside Roger and Agnes's,

The UK provided me with quite many rarities; nothing as intense as in 2016, but I guess Elegant Tern, PGtips, Stilt Sandpiper, Parrot Crossbill, Black Scoter, Pacific Diver and Coues's Arctic Redpoll aren't a bad annual tally.
During a quick November trip to Israel I was treated by a friendly Red-rumped Wheatear to a private show:

Full summary of 2017 here.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Decade summary #7 - Best of 2016

2016 was a year, or more specifically and autumn, that many UK birders will never forget. In fact, the entire year was jam-packed with brilliant rarities, making me wonder how I made any progress in my PhD with all the twitching. The year started well with my first Euro-twitch, the obliging Siberian Rubythroat in NL:

In May I visited British Columbia, where my brother Gidon lived back then. Together with Amir we had some awesome wildlife experiences, including paddle-away views of Black Bears:

A stonking summer-plumage Great Knot in North Norfolk was just one of many rarities that showed up locally-ish in summer...

September came, and the rarity gates opened up into a flood, mainly from the east. It was a monster autumn, with winds constantly delivering goodies from deep in Siberia. The most exciting phenomenon was the irruption of Siberian Accentors in Europe. I twitched the first mainland one in Kilnsea:

I wasn't alone...

And the top-rares kept coming. Eastern Crowned Warbler @Bempton:

Dusky Thrush in Derbyshire:

And a nice bonus from the west - American Cliff Swallow in Suffolk:

I was pleased to experience my first proper Waxwing winter - fascinating birds.

Full summary here.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Decade summary #6 - Best of 2015

2015 was my first full year in the UK. I tried to get as much birding done in between family and work commitments, though admittedly much of my birding time was spent on twitching. I didn't develop into a top-class twitcher, though in 2015 I twitched an island for the first time - Great Blue Heron on Scilly:

Another exciting bird was the Acadian Flycatcher in Dungeness - the first for the Western Palearctic.

In March I did a short fieldwork session in Portugal and Spain where I got to spend quality time with my research subject - Great Bustard. 

In 2015 two dear friendships developed and intensified. James Lowen became my partner in crime in many twitches. Scotch eggs, laughs and lots of good birds together. Bessos, James.

I had the honour and privilege to spend a week on Shetland with Martin Garner. Through Martin I met many other lovely people who became my friends too. With winds blowing in the wrong direction for the entire week, birding was hard work, but we did connect with a Shetland specialty, Pechora Pipit, and I found a Blyth's Reed within the first hour of birding on the island.

Highlight of the week was of course the people - thank you Martin for making this happen.

Peter Colston, the late Martin Garner, moi, Paul Harvey and Roger Riddington

Full annual summary here.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Decade summary #5 - Best of 2014

In 2014 I relocated with my family to the UK, but before leaving in September I had a busy time indeed. In March the first Champions of the Flyway bird race took place in Eilat, and around it there was some great birding down south:

Eastern Subalpine Warbler

Monitoring projects took me to some of the remotest corners of the country, where I saw fantastic birds, such as this stunning White-throated Robin on Mt. Hermon:

2014 offered some serious rarities, including Hudsonian Whimbrel (1st national record of this taxon), and Pied Bushchat (9th).

In May I traveled to USA for my first spring visit, where I participated in the World Series of Birding with my team mates Tom, Jonathan and Dan (and returned with the Cape May Island trophy). Also, my/our long-term collaboration with Cornell Lab of Ornithology and eBird started then. Spring warblers were quite something. B&W, Canada, Chestnut-sided and Maggy Warblers were just few of the many species I saw:

Over to the UK, I hit the ground running and started birding en force, disregarding all of my family and PhD duties, trying to make the most of my time in the UK. I joined a fine community of Norwich birders, who took me birding, twitching, dipping and drinking. Some good birds I had before the year ended were Radde's Warbler and Blyth's Pipit.

Full summary of 2014 here.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Decade summary #4 - Best of 2013

2013 was such a busy year for me that I had to break up the annual summary into two parts (Jan-Jun and Jul-Dec). Early in the year I visited UK and NL, where I experienced proper wild goose chasing for the first time, including this smart Black Brant on the island of Zeeland:

I spent much of the spring doing breeding atlas work on Mt. Hermon that produced fascinating stuff, like this perfect Western Rock Nuthatch:

In June I returned to eastern Turkey with Amir and Gidon. Birding was great, with highlight being the beautiful Grey-necked Bunting:

Rarities came in thick and fast, including Yellow-billed Stork, Lesser Sand-plover (4th record), Pintail Snipe, and a first for Israel, Snow Bunting, that proved to be most obliging until it ended up in the talons of a Kestrel...

On the human front, in 2013 I was lucky to spend inspirational time with the late Martin Garner, in the UK and in Israel.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Decade summary #3 - Best of 2012

The countdown until the special annual summary continues. In this chapter, I will pay homage to the amazing year of 2012. The spring of 2012 will be remembered for years. In this spring, it suddenly felt like we're back in the 1980's again. Numbers of all migrants exploded, and I experienced extreme migration spectacles. On one special day, May 1st, I saw more migrants that I had ever seen before, and likely will never again experience such intensity of migration. I also photographed this flock of exhausted European Bee-eaters that became my most popular photo online.

In 2012 I visited Turkey for the first time, and enjoyed some fantastic birding, including this stonking Western Fish Owl:

2012 wasn't an exceptional year for rarities, yet it produced quality in the form of Basalt Wheatear (6th record), Dusky Warbler (5th) and Pied Bushchat (9th):

However, my personal highlight of the year was a rare resident that gave me a once-in-a-lifetime performance:

Arabian Warbler