Tuesday, March 9, 2021

March rambling and scrambling

March is my favourite month for birding in Israel. Everything is so green, flowering, singing and wonderful. I wish I could spend every day out in the field, but work and family commitments reduce my fieldwork time to 2-3 mornings a week... guess I can't complain. I have seen some nice stuff in recent days, nothing worthy of a solo blogpost IMO. therefore, here's an accumulation of habitats, birds, mammals and butterflies from recently.

A visit to Lahav Reserve in the northern Negev with Meidad was slightly quiet on the bird front (eBird checklist here) - maybe too early still? Too cold? But the reserve, with its batha habitat, is so beautiful now, which made up for the relative lack of birds. Still, many Spectacled Warbler busy breeding, Finsch's Wheatears, Long-billed Pipits - not too bad.

Finsch's Wheatear

A few mornings ago I visited the hills west of Hatzerim, where Dotterel normally winter. Only 20 kilometers southwest, but so different and dry. 

I was hoping to catch up with the Dotterel flock they before they depart, the one single flock in Israel. Are they already wearing their spectacular summer dress? 
Another cold desert morning, scanning the plains for tiny dots. I picked up the flock quite early, and kept a safe distance from them, not to flush them. They were rather sleepy - I was expecting them to be more restless before migration. Only few birds started developing some colour - most were still in winter plumage.

A bit closer through my Swarovski scope:

Other birds seen were two Pallid Harriers, a few Cream-coloured Coursers, some singing 'Mediterranean' Lesser Short-toed Larks, Finsch's and many Isabelline Wheatears. eBird checklist here.

On Sunday I worked in the western Ramon crater, searching for breeding raptors with the local INPA ranger. There was very little activity on the cliffs. A brisk northerly didn't help. What we did have was stunning desert scenery and some mammals - Onager and Dorcas Gazelle. 

Compared to last year (see here for example), this part of the desert is very dry this breeding season - I am expecting to find much fewer breeding birds. Down in a sheltered wadi I found a tiny butterfly that's on the most-wanted list for many butterfly enthusiasts in Israel - False Baton Blue. Because of where and how I work (I walk in remote parts of the desert), I have seen them a number of times. Forgive me for the awful photo.

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