Friday, August 14, 2020

Milestone celebrations

Yesterday I reached a significant milestone in eBird's checklist-a-day challenge. I completed 365 days of daily birding, i.e. 'proper birding' - not just submitting a checklist but actual daily significant birding activity.

I started this checklist streak when I was in the UK a year ago. Then, on August 14th, 2019, a one-day stutter shattered my previous streak of 234. Basically, since December 23rd 2018 I have been out birding every day except once. Some may say this destroys my life. True, I am in a constant semi-zombie state, fighting tiredness and fatigue. Others might argue that this daily birding activity keeps me sane. In the bottom line, this is my new life style, and I have no intentions to stop. 

To celebrate the 365-streak, on Wednesday I headed down to Eilat. I spent the evening at North Beach with Shachar and Shmuel. Terns included Bridled, Lesser Crested and many White-cheeked, but no too much else; eBird checklist here.
Yesterday morning I started early at KM20 flamingo pools with Itai. Shorebird numbers are building up there, and there was some interest too, in the form of a Sooty Falcon perched on the border fence, and a flock of six White-cheeked Terns circling over the saltpans - first time I see these strictly-marine terns inland. eBird checklist here.

My true reason for heading down to Eilat was to join the monthly monitoring pelagic trip in collaboration with INPA. I met up at IBRCE with the team. A very quick wander around the park produced a Lesser Gray Shrike and a checkered Western Reef-Heron.

We set out to sea, and reached our position near the border triangle, as deep as possible without a passport. We started chumming, and fairly quickly I picked up a Swinhoe's Storm-petrel that made a typically fast and directional fly-past. Better views than last year - shorter distance and slightly longer duration, but still no photos of this rarity. The rest of the trip was fairly quiet (eBird checklist here). Two lovely Cory's Shearwaters kept us focused (when will they be split from Scopoli's?). They certainly performed well. No wilson's, again...
Thanks to skipper Chen, Eran from INPA, and Noam and Gal from IBRCE for this great opportunity.

On the way back home I made a quick diversion for the Blue Pansies at Neot Smadar. They were extremely active at their spot, quite many of them. They kept chasing after each other, and refused to open their wings for me. What a contrast between the wonderful upperwings (see e.g. here) and the rather dull underwings. Incredible how they are found in Israel at one small roundabout in Neot Smadar ONLY.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Third time unlucky

 On July 18 mega news broke:

I needed that bird! The first for Israel came when I was in the UK. I was unable to go straight away, and in any case the bird was not twitchable that day. I went there the next day, dip #1, my air conditioner broke down at 45⁰ C. Joy.

Fast forward to August 1st:

Then they became two! Again, I couldn't go the same day; next day I was there again, dip #2. Aarghh! So frustrating. We just cannot figure out their local movement patterns.

On Wednesday Avner Rinot again found one, in a slightly different spot. This morning I went AGAIN, hoping for a third-time-lucky. In Hebrew we say third-time-ice-cream. No luck nor ice cream, dip #3. What's going on?

This tale of serial dipping raises existential thoughts about the whole concept of listing and twitching. From my personal point of view, my listing career in Israel changed dramatically when I moved to the UK. Since my return two years ago I got back in the game, but somehow my energy is slightly lesser. My stamina is OK, but will I go fourth time? Most probably...

The only positive aspect of these visits to Kfar Ruppin is that birding there is excellent, luckily. Tons of birds, quality, nice build-up of autumn migrants. I have never paid so much attention to variation in Eurasian Thick-knees...

Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters are present in large numbers, many juveniles around:

Western Yellow Wagtail - adult female feldegg

It was a good breeding season for Collared Pratincoles:
And for Purple Herons:
Frustration sometimes led to attention diverted to butterflies, like this Little Tiger Blue:

Thanks to my partners in dip, Jonathan, Piki, Amir.