Wednesday, August 31, 2011

One of those gulls

Yesterday I had some time for birding. Started off at Ashdod. Shorebirds were rather few. First gulls have arrived. I had this very interesting grey-backed gull. Relevant possibilities are Siberian Gull and intermedius Lesser Black-backed. It was a small and delicate gull, similar in size to a female Baltic Gull it sat next to. Very different from typical bull-sized siberians. Moult stage is possible for both - P1 and P2 moulted, rest of moult suspended. Very deep grey tongues on P7 and P6 are better for siberian. To my eyes head shape and bill structure are better for intermedius.

Siberian Gull is a common migrant and winter visitor at Ashdod. There are only two positive Israeli records of intermedius, both were identified by their read-rings. I am sure it is possible to get them in Israel, or at least mixed fuscus-intermedius individuals (we get some birds from mixed colonies in N Norway).
When KMO visited Israel in March 2010 we had a good day of gulling at Ashdod. When we saw similar birds to this he identified them as 'extremely small heuglini'. I find it hard to believe that pure heuglini could be so tiny (blasphemy!). I still don't know of a positive way to separte heuglini and intermedius. Any opinions on this bird are most welcome.
Later I visited some reservoirs in the Judean Plains. Good selection of shorebirds, including 16 Collared Pratincoles and many marsh terns.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Back to black

Finished my move to the new house. Nice to see some migrants in the garden - Eastern Orpheans, Masked Shrike, Spotted Fly, Yellow Wags etc.
Yesterday went ringing at Ashdod after a long time. This meant lots of vegetation cutting for the net rides. While setting the nets up in the dark we heard some Red-rumped Swallows calling from the reeds, and we caught a few as they left the roost. It was a fine morning with good migration. Most impressive were 20 (!) Common Kingfishers, my best ever catch at this site. A good represntation of warblers included Marsh, Savi's, Great Reed, Sedge among the commoner species. Four species of shrike were present (Masked, Lesser Grey, red-backed and Woodchat) but none got caught.

Savi's Warbler

Red-rumped Swallow - 1cy
Common Kingfisher - suspended primary moult of adult

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wading in the mud

This morning I spent a few hours lying in the mud at Ashdod with Danny Laredo. There is no intimacy as powerful as that of two men lying together on their bellies under a camo net.
Danny was a few minutes late so I had a quick look around the ponds at first light and couldn't resist these semi-artistic photo opps:

Black-winged Stilt

And in normal light:
We positioned ourselves quite poorly so almost nothing got close enough in decent light. There were quite a few Little Stints but they are little indeed:

Little Stint - adult
This Temminck's Stint approached from the wrong side and I was lying too low, so I didn't manage to get a complete shot of it:

Temminck's Stint - adult
Most action came from the tringids. Most were quite along way off though.


Wood Sandpiper

The only one that was close enough:

Green Sandpiper

Monday, August 15, 2011

Busy times

I am moving into a new house these days, in fact I'm moving to a new region - the northern fringes of the Negev. No birders live there so interesting to see what happens there. Plus the kids are on holiday plus lots of office work means that I have little if any time for birding. Hope to get back into business in the next couple of weeks, when migration picks up here.
A brief visit to Ashdod yesterday was rather quiet, but the long-staying Audouin's Gull is still present on the buoys off the beach.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Good bird at last

This morning I checked some reservoirs in the Judean Lowlands near my house. There were very good shorebird numbers in the first resrvoir, with 137 Ruff and lots of other stuff. The second reservoir was pretty good too with some Collared Pratincoles (possibly bred there), Spotted Redshanks, White-winged Terns and quite a few Black-headed Wagtails. Then I spotted a very distant phalarope. Already from this great distance I could see that it's very pale, so I moved nearer as much as I could. I was very happy to discover it's a Red Phalarope. How could anyone call this specific bird 'red' I don't know.
Anyway, it's a very good bird in Israel. Since the 2000's it's not as rare as it used to be, with about 2-3 annually, but this record is very unusual. First, it's the earliest autumn record ever, plus it's one of the very few inland records.
This reservoir is half empty, so the bird was very distant, and into the sun, hence the poor record shots.

I have a few more similar images but I don't think they will contribute anything to the scientific community, so I will keep them to myself.

Some more birds from this morning:

Green Sandpiper

Quite a few White Storks hanging around:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Do bustards count?

This morning I joined the annual MacQueen's Bustard count organized by the NPA. Six teams of us surveyed the last remaining steppes of the northern Negev, mainly inside Hazerim Airbase, west of Be'er Sheva. As in many other parts of the world, this large military facility is closed off and holds impressive habitats, protected from the uncontrolled overgrazing outside. Most of Israel and Sinai's bustards migrate after the breeding season into the base (walking all the way there, as discovered in a research carried out by my colleague Asaf Mayrose).
My team had 19 bustards, while the grand total was over 100. I wasn't able to get any images of them - they were all distant, and the light was bad. This image is from last year:

This is a general impression of the steppe habitat inside the base:

Other birds I had in the quality habitats were several families of Cream-coloured Coursers, and a few Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. The only migant of note was one Eurasian Cuckoo. On the way out I had a flock of 30 Red-rumped Swallows perched on wires - they are clearly on the move:

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Another day, another visit to Ashdod ponds. Numbers increasing but still nothing better than 2 Temminck's Stints. Four Cretzschmar's Buntings represented first signs of passerine migration on site.

Temminck's Stint - adult

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Eilat Bird Festival in Birdwatch

Mike Alibone was our guest in the fifth Eilat Bird Festival. Apart for having a very good time, he wrote a fine article for Birdwatch. Well done Mike! See you at the next Festival?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I don't care about spots on my sandpiper, leave me the semi-p's - please

This is so frustrating. Europe is just exploding with semipalmations, white rumps and red necks, but here in Israel things are very very quiet. Haven't had a proper RBA for ages. And this morning was not different. Went to check my ponds at Ashdod. In fact there were relatively good numbers of shorebirds (100 Little Stints, many tringids), but nothing even semi-interesting. I had this ringed Little Stint, but was unable to get anything from the ring. Probably a bird I ringed last year.

This is an early Osprey that flew over the ponds and spooked everything:
Glossy Ibis is a weird bird. They often have these bizzare interactions or movements. This morning I saw several birds opening one wing at a time after bathing and preening, possibly to get rid of parasites?
Hope to get some action coming in our direction soon. It's good timing because Oz the twitcher is in Brazil.