Tuesday, May 30, 2023

They're back!

Yesterday I spent the morning on Mt. Hermon, working there with INPA and Nadav to better protect the precious ecosystem of the mountain, threatened by further development by the military and the ski resort. It's incredible that one of Israel's most unique and precious ecosystems is only partially protected. Anyway, the gate leading up to the mountain opens up only at 07:30. What to do during the two hours of light before 07:30? I spent them along the Petroleum Road, in search of Yellow-throated Sparrows that had returned for another breeding season. When I arrived on site, I was happily surprised to find there Yosef Kiat, doing what he normally does... Perfect timing for me. We quickly saw a male sparrow singing high up on wires, and in no time it was in the hand, allowing close examination of its subtle but wonderful plumage.

Those long wings take the sparrows all the way to winter in India and back

Apart for this male, I saw his female, in fact a returning bird which had been ringed by Yosef last year, and another singing male. Yosef even sound recorded him or another nearby - subtle song too:

It's great to see that the Yellow-throated Sparrows returned to breed. This is an exciting discovery, that last year's appearance wasn't a fleeting, temporary and sporadic event. Rather, this is apparently a new species added to Israel's breeding avifauna. Time to update those breeding range maps!

Yellow-throated Sparrow distribution map from Birds of the World

Then it was up to Mt. Hermon. It felt very wintery up on the mountain -  cold and overcast with slight drizzle. The lower, forested reaches of the mountains were packed with cool breeding birds, including Western Rock Nutjatch, Sombre Tit, Upcher's Warbler and Syrian Serin. 

Upcher's Warbler

Family party of Sombre tits

Male Eastern Orphean Warbler

By the time we made our way to the upper level of the mountain, the weather had cleared up and it became a glorious day. 

Birds were very active, and in the short time we were up there we saw almost all distinctive breeding species - White-throated Robin at three spots, Asian Crimson-winged Finches, Pale Rockfinch, Black-necklaced Horned Larks and even a pale-morph Eleonora's Falcon. Quite a productive birding session. I was busy so little time for photography, and the light was very harsh.

Horned Lark feeding on a small patch of dirty snow

Wood Larks were hyperactive

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