Sunday, September 21, 2014

Welcome to the 21st Century

Apologies to all my followers and readers for this long absence. Finally we moved to the UK almost three weeks ago. It took me almost three weeks to get connected at home. Incredible. The first week without internet was quite fun in fact, but then it started getting complicated - almost impossible to survive without internet these days.
Anyway, the move was quite OK. Norwich is a lovely city and we enjoy life here very much. The first couple of weeks were hectic with the new house and with our sons beginning school (without speaking English). But they are advancing very fast - really impressive how quickly they adjust.
I don't have a car yet so haven't been able to do any proper birding yet, which is quite frustrating with all the RBA tweets I get every five minutes. Working on my garden list - latest additions included a hooting Tawny Owl from my neighbour's garden, and some flyover migrants. 
Spent a day on the coast with the family near Sheringham. Impossible to bird properly but between icecream and Fish & Chips glimpsed some Gannets, gulls etc. offshore. Amusing to see Turnstones feeding on bread with pigeons.

Went to Whitlingham one afternoon with my boys - nothing special there but the kids really enjoyed it:

Enjoying autumn colours in Norwich

Monday, September 1, 2014

Goodbye Israel

Today was my last full day in Israel before leaving to the UK tomorrow. Left early and went for a sentimental farewell birding session at Ashdod. Short seawatch was quite unproductive - only some Garganey migrating over the sea and some gulls, so I moved on to the ponds, that were pretty birdy. Good autumn variety in the scrub around the ponds. Lots of shrikes of four species (Red-backed, Woodchat, Masked and Lesser Grey):

Lesser Grey Shrike

Red-backed Shrikes 

My 500 mm lens is waiting for me in the UK, so I am shooting with my old 400 mm, feels so 80's. I miss my 500 baby.
Big numbers of shorebirds (mainly Ringed Plovers and Little Stints) but low diversity. Only birds worth noting were two Temminck's Stints.
Many Yellow Wags and Willow Warblers in the grass-covered ponds. A couple of Citrine Wagtails were nice, and some Marsh Warblers too.

Citrine Wagtail, 1cy female - too close - 3.6 m.

Flused by Common Snipe 

Black-headed Yellow Wagtail, 1cy female

Only two Yellow-legged Gulls present. This bird is quite unfortunate:

Goodbye my ponds

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Almost there but still here

Last days in Israel (I hope) - our passports are allegedly on their way to us, and if everything works well we are flying out on Tuesday. In the meanwhile we are meeting lots of friends and family, and having very intensive days. Yesterday morning I went to say goodbye to Yosef. He was ringing at Tsor'a so I joined him with my two sons. We had a great time, enjoyed big numbers of migrants, and warm hospitality. When I lived near Tsor'a and my sons were younger I used to take them almost every week during migration to ring with Yosef - and it was nice to revisit the site and Yosef who hadn't seen my sons for several years was amazed how much they have grown.
And now the birds - no amazing highlights but a nice variety:

Great Reed Warbler - 2cy+

 Savi's Warbler - 1cy

 Sedge Warbler - 1cy

Kingfisher - 1cy female

Lots of Rollers going through

Monday, August 25, 2014

Stuck in the Middle

Last few weeks have been very busy but also quite frustrating as well for me and my family. I spent almost a week in Norwich, furnished my house and got it prepared for my family to arrive. Enjoyed Norwich very much and had a good time with many friends there. The house is really nice and in few days I got it into quite a good shape. Garden list started - nice view from my office window.

I visited BirdFair briefly on Friday - very short and very intensive. Good to meet so many friends. Got myself two new books - check the image above. Especially pleased to get a copy from Martin Garner - congratulations mate on such an achievement.

I was thrilled to watch this great movie by Yuval Dax for the first time - captures precisely the spirit of Champions of the Flyway:

I was supposed to fly back to UK with my family yesterday. A few days ago we had tenants moving into our house in Nir Moshe, so the days before that had been hectic, trying to clear the house and clean it on time, with constant explosions and sirens as background noises...
Unfortunately, we have serious delays with our visas. The company working for Home Office are just impossible, and at the moment I have no idea when we will actually move to UK. I really hope that my kids will be there on time to start school. I hope this intermediate period will not last for very long. At the moment we are staying with family and friends, which is nice for few days but not for more than that. Add to that missiles and sirens - we really want to get out of here!
In the meanwhile, autumn migration is very powerful already. I had no time for proper birding in recent weeks, but lots of migrants apparent everywhere - Lesser Grey Shrikes, storks, Willow Warblers etc. Managed to escape for half an hour this morning to check a nearby reservoir which was nice - good numbers of Ferruginous Duck, some Marsh Sands, first Black-necked Grebe, many Garganey etc.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


Long day today. Left home very early, met up with Barak and we were at Ma'agan Michael at 05:45. We birded mainly along the beach - checked several lagoons and puddles. Quite good numbers of shorebirds and nice variety. Best was this lovely Terek Sandpiper:

Other stuff included Whimbrel, Oystercatcher, 24 Greater Sand-plovers, 5 Sanderling. 2 Gull-billed Terns and 13 Gargeney coming in off the sea.


Still good tern activity on the beach:

Then I had a series of meetings, finalizing projects and saying goodbye to colleagues before leaving.
When I headed back home, Hamas fired two rockets towards my village. They were intercepted by Iron Dome. Today was a 'slow' day with 'only' 50 rockets fired by crazy Hamas towards Israel.

The moon is beautiful tonight:

Friday, August 8, 2014

Not so sacred...

At last went birding today, after too long. Birded the Ashdod ponds - perhaps for the last time for the next few years. Almost the first bird I saw almost knocked me off the car seat - a stonking African Sacred Ibis:

This African species is held in captivity in Israel in small numbers (and it is a prominent invasive species in some parts of the world). There used to be a tiny feral population in NW Israel until some years ago but they weren't reported in recent years. There are no records of wild individuals in Israel. This individual was unringed, flew well, was rather shy and showed no signs of captivity. Of course, it probably is a feral bird. However, the chance that is a wild bird cannot be dismissed - this species performs considerable migration in sub-Saharan Africa, similar to the movements of Yellow-billed Stork. Stunning bird nevertheless, especially with these impressive breeding plumes.

Otherwise, the ponds were packed full with shorebirds, mainly Tringas. 130 Wood, 50 Green etc. - big numbers. 30 Little Stints and one Temminck's Stint:

Nine Little Ringed Plovers:

Big numbers of Ruff and few Snipes:

The only gull on site was this diminutive Armenian Gull - what a tiny bill!

Not too many migrant passerines - some Yellow Wagtails, Isabelline Wheatears, one Savi's Warbler, and this 1cy Woodchat Shrike:

The morning ended in a sad way. At 08:00 the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas collapsed and Hamas resumes firing rockets into Israel. From 08:01 onwards I was birding amidst sirens and explosions. Rushed back home to be with my family. So depressing to see how Hamas leaders are determined to destroy Gaza - both people and land.