Saturday, March 23, 2024

From scarce to mega

Wow what a day. My morning started nicely with a visit to a flock of Cinereous Buntings on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Cinereous Bunting is a scarce migrant through Israel, mainly in spring, favouring open rocky slopes. Despite seeing quite many over the years, I have never managed a good photo. This morning I did. Kfar Adumim, where I visited, is a traditional site for them. The flock of five I had were quite mobile and a bit shy, but with some patience I managed a couple of decent photos. Not perfect, but certainly much better than those I had before. I find the subtle males very neat and attractive, not as flashy as their Cretzschmar's relatives but still very beautiful. The birds I saw belong to the more westerly subspecies cineracea, with their grey bellies.

In the afternoon I was caught up in a family event when news came out of an Asian Desert Warbler on a beach near Haifa, found by Sagi Shual. Given the first (and non-twitchable) African Desert Warbler was also in Haifa in spring, alarm bells went off in my head. I asked for the reporter to send me photos, which confirmed my suspicion - it looked spot-on for deserti! I upgraded the news, but sadly I was stuck in the family event and couldn't go immediately. With the advancing afternoon I was totally deflated and gave up on the idea I'd see the bird. When we were done, I checked Waze just out of curiosity. I figured out that I could just make it to the site 10 minutes before sunset - doable, somehow. Thankfully there was no traffic heading that direction. When I got to Haifa my GPS went crazy (because of the war GPS signal is being distorted in different parts of the country) which cost me a wrong turn and an extra ten minutes. From the carpark there was another 15 minutes walk (or 7 minute run in my case) to the bird with the light fading quickly. The sun had already disappeared when I made it breathless to the bird, expertly staked out for me by Ido - thanks! I quickly saw the bird, it was showing well, foraging on the sand dunes and low in the bushes. I really appreciated the supreme optical quality of my 8X NL Pure, performing so well in the dim light, allowing me to pick out the plumage details. I was surprised how striking the bird was, very pale below, so bright gingery above, open face pattern, very yellow legs, and those plain tertials were very distinctive too. Such a sweet little bird, spending lots of time running on the ground. This was a global lifer for me, having not birded (yet) in NW Africa. My first lifer in 2024. My photos are shit - others (that arrived when there was light) have much better photos.

Check those unstreaked tertials!

The warbler utilized the coastal sand dune habitat with scattered bushes

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