Monday, December 12

Larking out again...

For the last 2 years, we had very good numbers of Larks flocking and forming big concentrations in many different places (Meishar, Ovda...) but this was mainly due to the heavy rains that we had during winter 2010 which enabled a very high reproductive rate of all these desert birds (some with 3 breeding cycles).
On Monday, I was joined by Shay Kabessa (so all the good photos are his...) to go and check the area of Ovda Valley, where I had nice Lark flocks during November, to see if these are still present?!

As we reached to the Valley, it didn't take much until we were stumbled by a big concentration of Bar-tailed Larks. There were at least 100 individuals mixed with some 10's of Trumpeter Finches. Soon after, we located among them few 10's of Temminck's Larks and singles of Thick-billed Larks

After scanning the area we managed to locate another very big flock of mainly TF and BtL(last month I had there at least 400 of each).

We then moved on upper in the valley and found more of all these species (at least another 100 Thick-billed Larks and 40-50 Temminck's Larks) and also Desert & Crested Larks, Hooded, Mourning & White-crowned Wheatears and a few Spotted Sandgrouse which flew by. The most interesting bird though, was a single Dunn's Lark which was feeding franticly alongside Crested and Bar-tailed Larks. Unfortunately by the time I got Shay to the area, we couldn't re-locate the bird (will have to try again sometime next week...)

After enjoying the plains, we drove down to the Arava again and en-route we checked if the Pale Scops Owl which was seen earlier this month (here photographed by Rami Mizrahi), is still present?! Unfortunately we couldn't find any but instead we had a nice group of males Nubian Ibex's which have also suffered much from the long drought of 1998-2009 and have become very scarce in recent years around Eilat and the southern Arava. 

Both White-crowned & Hooded Wheatears were jumping around chasing each other from the best perch...

After I left Shay back at the Hai-bar, I checked again the Samar sewage where a flock of 20 or so Syrian Serins were still present with some Desert Finches and Spanish Sparrows.

I've added a map of most of the IBRCE ringing Controls and Recoveries (see the right most page-tab) for those who are interested. There are still many missing there, which I hope to update sometime soon.  

Wednesday, December 7

Winter birding...

After the last rarity collection, everything is much more settled now and we are getting deep into the winter birding scene.

Pallas's Gulls can be seen both on K20 and at North Beach, numbers of Black-headed Gulls  have also raised and there are more and more Heuglin's, Baltic and Armenian Gulls. 

Waders are also all appearing in their winter plumage and there are many Water Pipits and some Red-throated Pipits in many places.

At least 2 Asian Buff-bellied Pipits are seen almost daily in a Melon field not far from the IBRCE and there are at least 2 Olive-backed Pipits in Eilot and 1 in Samar.

Up in Yotveta fields, 2 White-fronted Geese  are enjoying the fresh wheat for the last week or so, it is a real treat to see this tundra bird in the middle of the desert... also there, few small groups of Skylarks with at least 2 Oriental Skylarks among them. 
Penduline Tits are calling around Elifaz and Lotan sewage ponds as well as at the IBRCE and there are Bluethroats, Black Redstart, Stonechats and Chiffchafs all around.

Seed-eaters have become very evident and there are groups of Desert Finchs, Greenfinchs, Linnets in many places. Few Chaffinches and a single Brambling  were also a nice addition yesterday in Eilot fields. 

Also a wonderful group of 20-25 Syrian Serins in Samar Sewage (originally found by Shay Kabessa) makes a nice colour addition

One of the birds which Shay photographed, is bearing a ring. This bird may come from either the Hermon mountain where the IOC organise once a year a weekend of ringing  or maybe from few individuals that were trapped around Mitspe-Ramon or Sde-boker in previous winters.
Hen, Marsh and a single Pallid Harriers are also quit common and a nice Imperial Eagle is present around the Hai-bar Yotveta for a week or so was photographed by Shay.

Few Hooded Wheatears are keeping their winter territories and this is true with some Desert and Mourning Wheatears as well...

Hope to have more interesting birds soon,

Monday, November 28

It ain't over till the fat lady sings

On Wednesday afternoon (23rd) I received a report that James Smith and his group found both Little Bunting and Blyth's Pipit in Yotveta fields. Unfortunately I was already on my way north to join the Hula Bird Festival where I was invited to participate at the festival conference: A Bird’s Eye View of Migration Stopover Sites: Flyway Conservation through Science, Policy, Education and Tourism.
It was a great success and also it was great to meet up with many interesting and knowledgeable people and share ideas and thoughts. 

So I couldn't look for the neither the Pipit nor the Bunting...
Nevertheless it was great being up north and in fact I managed quite well with a great observation of an Alpine Accentor among a group of Rock Sparrows. Alpine Accentor is a great rarity in Israel and only my 2nd in Israel (I've seen more in Romania and Turkey).

During the Festival reports from the south kept on coming and Yesterday as I was driving back home I revived a note from Barak Granit who found a male Grey Hypocolius next to the IBRCE park!

When I reached home I received also photos of the Bunting and possibly of the pipit from Shay Kabessa.  
The Pipit has a very short and pointed bill for a Richard's  and also has a rather short supercilium, short tail and general appearance more like a Tawny than the large Richard's. Nevertheless, it is worth to see Barak's comment regarding the hindclaw which brings this bird, back to the status of a different looking Richard's Pipit (thanks Barak for the comment)
Today I came to the IBRCE and looked for the Grey Hypocolius. It didn't took much time until a brilliant male was found and alongside were both Olive-backed Pipit  and Rose-coloured Starling.  

And as I write this, I received a report from our Avi Meir of a group of  some 10 Thick-billed Larks  feeding happily on the ground not far from Elifaz. So as the title suggests: It ain't over till the fat lady sings...

Hope to find more great birds soon,

Sunday, November 20

Red-flanked Bluetail

I am not a big twicher, thus would not drive too far a way for a bird, but wait until I have a good opportunity and try my luck. Nevertheless, there are some species which remain itching ... 
I've been waiting for this bird since 1996 when it was first seen in Israel and at the time I was too far, working in Sde- boker. When I travelled to Russia and China it was one of the most wanted and still never found one. So around noon, when I received a call from Shay Kabessa where am I? and how come I am not here at the Eilat cemetery? I was a bit shocked and than noticed that while I was being a good host to my family who came to visit from Kenya, James Smith and his group have found the 2nd ever Rf Bluetail in my "backyard" and a message was waiting for me since 09:00 a.m. I decided that this time I have to go, it is only 15 min' from my house...

Thanks to James and his group who found the bird and to Shay who checked on me, I have great views of this little jem that I've been long waiting for and even a fair record shot. 
Avi Meir (our home photographer), was already at the site together with Limor and by the time I've left, there were already 2 other birders coming from the north. In the evening after having Yoav, Uri and Meidad stopping for a rest and a shower before they drive back north, I received this top end photo from Avi!

Sunday, November 13

Great fun - Italiano style...

It's been very quiet, strangely, since my last post. There were not so many birds around and the nice beginning of November seemed to have change atmosphere and it felt as if nothing is moving. During this time is still managed to see most of the regular stuff for the season, but there was no major attraction.

On the 10th a nice Ferruginus Duck was on a small water pond next to K19 Sewage farm

Also I managed to find almost daily a family of Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse feeding and resting happily in the desert. On Friday I planed to meet Mattia and Andr'eas from Italy and it was good to make sure that these sandgrouses are staying around in one place...
I met the guys early in the morning and we drove to check how does K 76-77 looks like. It was freezing cold, but we managed at last to find some Bar-tailed Larks, many Desert Wheatears and a group of Crowned Sandgrouses

We then drove up to Uvda Valley to check what is going on there. No less than 40 Temminck's Larks along with the same number of Bar-tailed Larks were running around and to top it up a group of 6-10 Thick-billed Larks were also flying among them. Both Mattia and Andr'eas were very pleased to see all these, but unfortunately they kept some distance most of the time so I couldn't get any good photo.

Look for the Temminck's

In Neot Smadar many Eastern Stonechats and a nice dark adult Steppe Buzzard.

Later in the Arava it was already hot and except for a Richard's Pipit in Yotveta, all the rest were "usual's" Red-throated Pipits; Hooded, Desert, Isabeline & Northern Wheatears; Bluethroats; Namaqua Doves..

We couldn't find the sandgrouses in their usual spot, but thankfully 6 birds came to drink in their usual drinking place.
On our way back to Lotan we stopped again in search of night life and found a Barn Owl hunting in Yotveta and a great list of mammals Red Fox, Golden Jackal, Scrub Hare and probably the jewel in the crown; a beautiful Striped Hyaena who was posing for 2-3 minutes looking very calm (I hope that Andr'eas took some good photos, as I kept on holding the light...)

Saturday morning I received a call from Mattia saying that they found a Yellow-browed Warbler in Lotan. When I came to Lotan later in the day, it was still at the same spot and despite being very quiet, it was very eager to see where is this YbW that is singing from my player...

Re'a who came for a visit has failed with the YbW, but reported of a Fieldfare in Lotan (Yoatm also had one earlier this week in Netafim wadi andi had another 2 in Samar).

Thank you to Mattia and Andr'eas for a great weekend and I hope to have more to report soon... 

Wednesday, November 2

A good start for the rarity month...

November is known to be a very interesting month with many migrants still passing and first winter birds arriving. On the October 31st i was joined by Eyal Shochat for a morning out in the Arava. After checking the Ye'elim 'ghost village' for interesting Phyloscupus, I met Eyal at Yotveta and we drove to see if the Bimac's are still around on the circular field and also to see if any new birds arrived.
Indeed we found the 6 Bimaculated Larks still present with the same low numbers of Short-toed Larks, Red-throated Pipits and White Wagtails, but unfortunatly they kept on flying away so the only photo i managed to get is this huge crop...

Also in the fields we found at least two different morphs of Mourning Wheatear probably representing two different subspecies

The most interesting bird on the field though was a male Linnet which is considered a good rarity for the region though a common breeder up north.
We than proceeded south and stopped at Samar Sewage where I found in the morning a very obliging Jack Snipe among the more usual waders.

After checking more sites on the way south we finished by checking North Beach and the only bird present except for White Wagtails, House Sparrows and House Crows was this beauty Western Reef Heron.
On November 1st, i had very little time to be out in the field and i decided to check the K19 Sewage works. There was nothing worth noting inside, but on the fence sat a fresh female Pied Wheatear! This used to be a very big rarity in Israel, but due to better literature, optics and field skills, singles are now annually reported around Eilat and the southern Arava.

As i was learning the Wheatear, suddenly all the Pigeons from the nearby cowshed went up to the sky and a big Falcon was flying very gracefully among them, a first year Lanner was playing with the Pigeons around... Lanner have become very unusual around Eilat and it is probably the first I've seen around Eilat for the last year and a half.

I am driving north tomorrow, for the weekend, I can't wait to be back and see what's new around... 

Sunday, October 30

November is nearly there...

On Saturday, I went out with Orr Shpigel for few hours in the morning to see if we can find any of the area interesting species and also to try and find more migrants that are still moving through.

We've managed to re-locate the Hoopoe Larks which I've found 2 weeks ago, this time with a group of 6-7 Bar-tailed Larks, and many White Wagtails.
Later we drove to Samar turf fields and had the usual Red-throated Pipits and the usual mix of Desert, Northern, Isabeline, Mourning and Hooded Wheatears. In Elifaz sewage we had big concentrations of Bluethroats a single Savi's Warbler within a wave of Reed Warblers and Chiffchafs, a trio of Squacco Herons and a nice Goshawk flying south.

Later, I joined my family for a day of snorkelling in Eilat. On our way back, late afternoon, I had a strange Tern-like bird flying over Eilat Port coming from south. When I stopped the car, I could easily show the kids and Tal (my wife) an adult Black-winged Kite which was flying gracefully over our heads (what a shame I didn't carry any camera with me...) 

This morning I was joined by Shai Kabessa (manager of the Hai-bar Yotveta) to check if there are any new arrivals at the Yotveta fields.
There are not too many birds, but a group of 6 Bimaculated Larks among the Red-throated Pipits, White Wagtails and Short-toad Larks were a nice treat.
Later we found another pair of Hoopoe Larks around Yotveta fields that gave us a wonderful show including a great flight dance.
At Yotveta sewage there are hundreds of White Wagtails and Bluethroats and a single White-throated Kingfisher, which is not a common bird down here, as well as Spotted Redshank, Little Stints and Ruffs
In Samar Sewage, among the common migrant waders a late Little Ringed Plover (most have passed through by mid Oct') and the first Desert Finch for the season.

November is nearly there...

Friday, October 28

Last week of October

Autumn is progressing and groups of Eurasian Cranes are seen daily, with a single Demoiselle Crane yesterday flying very fast in the strong northern wind within a group of 10 Eurasian Cranes above K20. Unfortunately, by the time I took out my camera, it was already too far for anything...

Also around K20, numbers of waders is quit steady but there seem to be rising numbers of Pied Avocets, Northern Shovelers and Northern Pintails.

A single Grey Plover has also joined the ponds. Last year we had 4-5 wintering birds, I wonder if this is one of them?!
Northern Lapwings are very common up north, but around the southern Arava, we see them less often. Though they are not a big rarity, it is always nice to see them in this habitat... 
During last weekend i got a report from Mori Chen of a strange Plover at the cowshed of Kibbutz Neve Harif, after seeing his photo, it was clear that this is a nice White-tailed Plover I hope it will stay for the winter...
On the Passerine front, there is a steady growth of Desert, Isabeline and Northern Wheatears and few Black-eared and Mourning Wheatears are also around. Chiffchafs are present already and I caught 2 of them at the IBRCE.
Growing numbers of White Wagtails, Red-throated Pipits and the first Water Pipits are seen on most places and as I write these lines, I can see through my window the first Black Redstarts male and female for the season. Bar-tailed Larks are also very visible in many traditional sites and today I had my first Temminck's Lark  for this Autumn, feeding next to K20 ponds.
The Pharaoh Eagle Owl  in Yotveta, is very cooperative and there were at least 2 Eurasian Nightjars also flying in Yotveta and another one in Eilat during this week.
Yoatm reported yesterday of a Golden Eagle flying in the Mts. this has become a very rare sight around Eilat and southern Arava in recent years, i wonder where did it come from?!
Greater Spotted and Booted Eagles as well as Black Kites, Marsh Harriers, Barbary Falcons are also seen almost daily now.

Stay tuned and I will keep updating as soon as I can,