Saturday, July 25, 2020

Dark morph fishponds

Yesterday I birded Gan Shmuel fishponds. These fishponds are going through the same process as most other fish farms in Israel. Fish farming has become uneconomic in recent decades, and most kibbutzim are abandoning them. Some fishfarms are drying up or are already dried up, creating excellent habitat for marsh birds, for the time being. However, in the longer run we are likely to lose almost all our fishponds, that support wonderful biodiversity, because kibbutzim are looking for alternative uses to their land and water resources, including terrestrial cultivation, solar fields etc. Together with my colleagues, much of our work is dedicated these days to find solutions to this challenge.

Dried-up fishponds - Aquatic Warbler habitat?

Drying-up fishponds - waterbirds galore, Hadera in the background

In the meanwhile, there's habitat there to check, and we have to enjoy whatever birding comes our way. The first productive pond I checked (pictured above) hosted tons of egrets and many shorebirds too, including this dark-morph Little Egret - surely it isn't a Western Reef:

Video taken through Swarovski ATX85, handheld, stabilised

Between the several productive ponds there were quite many shorebirds - Ruff, Tringas and Little Stints, Also Broad-billed Sand, Temminck's Stint and a Collared Pratincole.
Adjacent to the fishponds is Zeita NR, that holds a large heronry - Little and Cattle Egrets, Squacco and Nights Herons, Pygmy Cormorant and Glossy Ibis. Quite impressive audio and olfactory experience.

eBird checklist here.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Crab Plover on my mind

I wake up these days with Crab Plover on my mind. I narrowly missed several of these mega rarities in Israel (see e.g. here); July along the Med coast seems like a reasonable bet to chance upon one. No luck this morning either. It was a fine morning, relatively cool, cloud cover softening the harsh sunlight, but the humidity... Birding was OK, though on the slow side. It is a confusing time of year, when autumn migration smells promising, but on the ground (or rather on the mud) there's very little migration bar returning shorebirds. Ma'ayan Zvi had five Grey/Black-bellied Plovers, some gulls, many terns in a nice pond, but nothing out of the ordinary (see eBird checklist here).

I had a very funny-sounding Cetti's Warbler (I think) at Ma'ayan Zvi. Never heard this song type before. Very different from normal song I hear in Israel or elsewhere (they have local dialects). Another sound recording is in the checklist.

Schreiber's Fringe-fingered Lizard

Nahsholim had one fun pond with godwits, shanks etc. (eBird checklist here). There was good butterfly activity on the coastal sand dunes. Since I moved from Canon to Olympus, I started photographing butterflies much more. This has two reasons: First, the close focus distance of the Olympus 300mm f4 lens is 1.4 m, which makes it almost equal to a macro lens, and works really well for butterflies. Second, admittedly I struggle more to photograph birds with the Olympus OM-D EM10iii, especially in flight, so I often divert my photographic attention to easier objects. With my growing interest in butterflies, I appreciate more and more their beauty and uniqueness. This morning I had only very common species, but really enjoyed them.

Plain Tiger - nothing plain about it. Nectaring on a Procumbent Centaury-thist

African Babul Blue (female)

African Babul Blue on a White Garden Snail (I think)

Lesser Fiery Copper (male)