Sunday, February 27, 2011

Feb's dead baby, feb's dead...

At last this boring month is almost over and March is marching in with sexy sylvias and dancing bustards. This was my slowest month post-wise since I've started writing this blog, partially because I was too busy with office duties, and did not have enough time in the field. On Tuesday I am beginning my Nizzana survey season, and I am sure you will have more than enough of my posts with CCC's and sandgrouse.

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, May 2010

Yesterday I had an interesting tour to the Arava. I took a group of Worldbank people to discuss the possible ecological impacts the Red Sea - Dead Sea project might have on the Arava natural ecosystems. Worldbank is doing a study on the feasibility of this project, and I hope that yesterday's tour will add to their understanding of the fragility and importance of the Arava. We were there during the wrong time of day and witnessed quite a heavy sandstrom, but yet during the day I saw several Thick-billed Larks (enough of these! boring birds!), Bar-tailed Larks, Pallid Harrier, Cyprus Warbler, Egyptian Vultures and others.

The new Israel Rarities Online webpage is picking up, with daily updates on rarities. Thousands of visitors have already visited this page, and I hope that during the spring it will become a solid info source for visiting birders. Things are certainly heating up down in the Arava (Dunn's Larks today for instance), so stay posted!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Israel rarities online!

I have created a new webpage, hosted in the new website of the Israeli Ornithological Center. This webpage shows latest rarities recorded in Israel on a google map, and gives details on every record. In the near future more data will be added to this page.

I will try to keep record of lesser rarities too, especially those that are attractive to visiting birders. So stay posted!

Spot-breasted Openbills!

On Monday 14/2/11 I organized a large team of ringers, and we headed down to Hameyshar Plains. Our main mission was to study the Thick-billed Larks there. We arrived early, set the nets up with frozen fingers, and pretty soon we had an amazing catch of 17 birds! This is the first time TBL's have been ringed in Israel, and probably very few (if any) have been ringed elsewhere in the world. As literature on them is so limited, we measured and photographed each individual extensively. We obtained some interesting data on ageing and sexing. I wrote with Yosef Kiat a short article, that can be downloaded for free here.

Look at this amazing bill! I wonder what do they need such huge bills for; desert seeds are usually small and thin-coated.

What a bird!

They bite! This is Yotam's finger:

I had to leave rather early to a meeting at Eilat, and after I left the guys caught this Asian Desert Warbler. Thanks Yosef for the image!

Yosef documenting a lark:

Meidad needs a shave and a haircut, but is happy anyway:

Rony getting dirty before the larks got caught in the early morning:

He was photographing this:

Hameyshar Plains

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Nizzana during a sand storm

Means no birds...
I had a few hours to spend this morning in Nizzana together with Meidad. Weather was awful with a full-power sand storm and muddy showers. No bird was stupid enough to get it's beak outside of shelter, and we saw hardly nothing. But eventually after walking quite a bit and scanning some sheltered wadis we had some nice birds: Asian Desert Warbler, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Steppe Eagle, a stunning male Pallid Harrier and a poor Hen Harrier fighting the wind.
Looking forward to another visit in better weather. My atlas project resumes in early March so expect many Nizzana posts!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

More Spot-breasted Parrotbills

I spent yesterday in the Arava, with a few meetings and some limited time for birding in between. Started off early at Hazeva field school, in search of the Striated Scops Owl roosting there for the last few weeks. I met up with Oded and together we found the bird quickly, thanks Oded! We wathced it for a couple of minutes from a distance, but for some reason it flushed and disappeared into an off-limit section of the compound (there's a Vipassana-camp there...), before I had the chance to get my camera. But it's a good and sweet bird even without images...

My next very brief birding break was in a small wadi in the central Arava, that produced three rather shy Thick-billed Larks. What an amazing year for them!

It was nice to see a trickle of first spring migrants - Steppe Eagles, Isabelline Wheatears, Swallows and House Martins. Here we go!

I am happy to annuonce the birth of a new birding blog in Israel - - the IBRCE's blog, written by Re'a Shaish and Itai Shanni, congratulations! I am sure it will produce great stuff this coming spring. Stay posted!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Gull quiz

This morning I visited the Ashdod gull sites after a long absence. The gulls are not used to my vehicle anymore, and I was not able to get very close to the 1000+ gulls present today.

What species can you identify in this image? Full, detailed answer in a couple of days.

The only ring I had was of this 3cy Baltic Gull that I ringed last year - good to see it came back.