Wednesday, April 15, 2015

UEA Rouzel

Had a tough day at work. The sun was out, I could hear Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps singing out of my office window, and the young undergrad birders kept sending messages about migrants and stuff. After lunch I gave in and went for a short walk around the broad. At last some migrants around - several Willow Warblers, a Garden Warbler found earlier by Michael, and Sand Martins. About an hour later Michael and Drew found a Ring Ouzel on campus - not surprising with all those reported in Norfolk in recent days, but nice find anyway. I couldn't resist another dose of sunshine and headed out for a quick mini-twitch. Nice female thing, was rather skittish but showed OK for short periods. Too quick for phonescoping though.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Nice spring days

Nice days in Israel. Not much birding done, but so many birds everywhere, driving from here to there. I almost got excited by flocks of storks and kites...
This morning visited the JBO briefly. Weather was suddenly almost British - cold and grey, and even light drizzle, but birds were not British at all. Tons of Lesser Whitethroats and Blackcaps, and smaller numbers of Eastern Orphean, Eastern Olivaceous, Balkan and Great Reed Warblers, Nightingales, Tree and Red-throated Pipits. Highlights were one female Eastern Subalpine Warbler, and one late Hawfinch. Nice daytime encounter with the local Porcupine. Didn't get any photos of migrants but had more success with local birds out of the hide. 

Hooded Crow with Marsh Frog (Pelophylax ridibundus)

White-throated Kingfisher

Staying at my parents' in laws. There are a few families of Long-eared Owls in their village, in addition to Scops, Little and Barn Owls I heard or saw there in recent days.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Thank you Mrs. Hypocolius!

I am in Israel now for a short visit. Easter school holiday in the UK coincided well with Passover in Israel, so we came here for a week of family and friends basically. Lots of fun but very exhausting, physically and emotionally. Great to be here in Israel during migration - so many birds everywhere. I miss birding in Israel so much.
On Sunday morning I managed to escape for a couple of hours in the early morning to connect with the long-staying female Grey Hypocolius in Ashkelon NP, found by Oded Lewy about 10 days ago. I have seen hypocolius in Israel several times before (for instance in 2011). But because it is such a quality bird, and it's still a good rarity, and the first outside of Eilat area, and because it's been so patient and waited for me, and because I just had to get outdoors...
I met up with Amir there which was good because stupidly I left my camera at home by the door... Amir was generous enough to let me use his camera. Thanks Amir! The hypocolius itself didn't show too well during the short time I was there. It was quite shy and mobile but for a few seconds it did perch on a tree right above our heads. Unfortunately light conditions were shit but a great bird nevertheless!

I really enjoyed the nice stroll through a small section of the lovely park. So many nice migrants around. Nothing unusual apart for the hypocolius, just a quality selection typical for Israel this time of year: Eastern Black-eared Wheatear, several singing Savi's Warblers, Nightingales, Tree and Red-throated Pipits, Masked Shrike. You can check my full checklist here.
That's it for now. Hope to squeeze in a little more birding before returning to UK on Friday. Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Signing off from Portugal, off to Israel!

Last day in the field today in northern Alentejo. Worked in Torre de Bolsa, and the situation for Great Bustards was grim. In fact it is possible that we witnessed the extinction of this once-prominent sub-populations. We found no Great Bustards today in the over-intensified SPA. Very sad.
However, good numbers of Little Bustards were present in several sites - they seem to be more resilient to over-intensification, and manage to utilize smaller patches of suitable habitat.

Other birds included the usual suspects - Montagu's Harriers, Black-winged Kites etc.
After thoroughly cleaning my dirty car, I returned to Lisbon. I am at the airport now, waiting for my flight back to the UK. But I am hardly touching down in the UK - I continue almost straight away to Israel. My wife and kids already traveled to Israel a couple of days ago. I am joining them for a quicky in Israel. Expect to be occupied with family and friends most of the time, but hope to get some birding done. There's a very patient Hypocolius still waiting for me at Ashkelon. Will it still be there on Saturday? Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Northern Alentejo

Yesterday and today I worked in northern Alentejo with João Paulo. We worked in the main lekking areas - Campo Maior, Vila Fernando, Monforte and Alter. These sites still hold medium-sized sub-populations that somehow hold on despite the rapid intensification of agriculture in the region. Nice days out in the field with nice warm weather that enhances the display of males. Working in this region is complicated as often the bustards hide in olive groves or montados, and are difficult to locate and watch. Also in some irrigated sites the cereals are very tall, making the females almost invisible. Here are two males and five females, with necks like periscopes:

I was happy to see good concentrations of Little Bustards in many sites. Always difficult to photograph on the deck:

Montagu's Harriers breed in the area in good numbers. Also Black-winged Kites. Other birds included Booted Eagles, Black Stork, some Black Vultures etc.

Montagu's Harrier

Iberian Grey Shrike 

Working at Alter

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Beautiful Castro Verde

Spent most of today working in a couple of sites in Castro Verde in S Alentejo. A beautiful landscape, high-quality steppes, vast pastures, few fences, and lots of bustards. Also high numbers of Black-bellied Sandgrouse. We also had two 2cy Spanish Imperial Eagles, some Booted Eagles, Tawny pipits, Short-toed larks etc. A few mobile groups of babbler-like Azure-winged Magpies added colour to the day:

Spanish Imperial Eagle

Exceptionally yellow-throated Tawny Pipit

Male Great Bustard 

 Very good to see the general interest of the local communities in Great Bustard - figures and images everywhere, like in the small village of San Marcos:

Portugal is an interesting country. This is from Entradas: