This morning I visited Loess Park NR in the northern Negev, in hope of catching up with the Dotterel flock that winters there, just before they leave us to who knows where.
Eurasian Dotterel distribution map from BirdLife Datazone
This winter has been very dry in Israel. However, that section of the desert received some local downpours and looks nice and green, relatively. Good annual germination will produce arthropod abundance and likely attract more migrants this spring.
It was cold early in the morning, and the plains seemed lifeless at first. After a few minutes I spotted the dotterel flock at a distance, tucked away in one of the corners, all puffed up. As I approached them the sun rose and they looked very pretty in the golden light.
I counted 62 birds in that flock. I knew that they are quite shy and that there's no point chasing them with the car, they will fly off quickly. I noticed that they started foraging quite directionally, so I positioned myself where I predicted they would pass, and waited quietly in the car. Indeed, after a few minutes, the first birds started approaching me.
Most birds kept a safe distance away from the car. A few individuals were a bit bolder and foraged close to me. I held my breath.
The boldest individual was one the few that started to develop some breeding plumage, just few chestnut feathers on the underparts. Very gorgeous nevertheless. I felt very fortunate to get so close to these shy birds.
I think this is a 2nd-cal bird, based on the retained scapulars
After the flock walked past me and away, I backed up and looped around them. I tried the same strategy again. This time I lay on the ground behind the car, to improve the angle for photography. I noticed they were quite tense because of that. I retreated back to the car and left them in peace.
Eurasian Dotterel is a localised and rare winter visitor to Israel. Loess Park NR is the only site in Israel where they winter regularly.
Apart for the dotterels, there were some other nice birds. Migrants included Greater Short-toed Larks and Northern Wheatears. Breeding species included many Isabelline Wheatears and a few Mediterranean Short-toed Larks. Pallid Harrier and Merlin flew by. Spotted and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse flew over. eBird checklist here.
Good to see you are still finding Dotterel in reasonable numbers. It still surprises me that Birdlife and all other agencies still put a big wintering range in Morocco. Records here are scarce and most of the indicated range is now unsuitable habitat (intensive agriculture and towns). The lack of wintering habitat must be as much of conservation concern as the impact of climate change in the breeding areas.ReplyDelete