Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dead-Sea Sparrows

This morning I went ringing with Ron at Neot Hakikar. We did a ringing demonstration, which was part of a large public event, aimed at increasing public awareness towards the serious conservation conflicts in this region.
Anyway, ringing was OK. It was nice to catch quite many Dead-Sea Sparrows. They are such excellent sparrows.
Thanks to Ron, Rafi, Hillel, Shachar and Aviv for their help.

Dead-Sea Sparrow - 1cy male

Dead-Sea Sparrow - adult female

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Special: my birding review of 2011

2011 was a very busy year for me. Personally, I moved to a new house, and many ideas developed and evolved in my job. Birdingwise, it was a fantastic year. Did much fieldwork, especially during spring, that allowed me to see some great birds. In addition, I maintained my flexibility at work, which allowed me to twitch heavily, and I didn't miss anything major this year.
The year began well with one of the three Israeli ticks I had this year. This Black-throated Thrush stayed for a week or two in January in the Upper Galilee:

The most interetsing phenomenon in February was the huge concentration of Thick-billed Larks is several sites in the Arava and S Negev. I organized a large ringing session at Ha'Meishar, and we ringed Thick-billed Larks for the first time in Israel:

March was a very busy month, with lots of fieldwork and lots of good migrants. Though not a full species (yet), this very striking male Masked Wagtail at Ma'agan Michael was the 2nd for Israel:

The main event during March was the Eilat festival. While guiding and between guiding I saw lots of great birds. Some of the personal festival highlights were this Menetries's Warbler at the IBRCE:

And this Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit I found at Lotan:

Photography-wise, this male Pallid Harrier at Yotvata made my week:

April and May were dedicated to atlas fieldwork in the Arava and Nizzana. Some of the better species I found breeding were Hoopoe Lark and Temminck's Lark:

June is normally a quiet month for birding in Israel, but this year June was a busy month for me. It began well with a late Green Warbler I ringed at Ashdod, only the 6th for Israel:

I also visited some good breeding habitats. Mountain Bunting is one of the better breeding birds in our deserts:
In late June I joined Avi Meir for a short 'pelagic' in the Gulf of Aqaba, which was fantastic. Cory's Shearwaters were the main attraction. Only in recent years we started documenting Cory's Shearwaters in Israel. Till then it wa thought that we receive only Scopoli's Shearwaters.

My main activity in July was the annual ringing session on Mt. Hermon, which produced the best birds of the mountain in the hand, like this Sombre Tit:

In August I moved to my new house so had little time for birding, but I did manage to find this very early Grey Phalarope at Revadim, a very good inland record:

In September migration picked up considerabely, and I had many enjoyable days out in the field. A pair of Black-winged Kites started breeding at Agamon Hula, and during the Hula festival in November we enjoyed watching their four youngsters:

This male Greater Painted-snipe at HaMa'apil fishponds in late September was a good starter for a rarity-packed autumn:
Early in October I found a Blyth's Pipit in a field not far from my house, but wasn't able to photograph it. Israeli tick number two.
During October I managed to get one of the best images of Nubian Nightjar I have ever achieved:
I went to have a look at this possible Taiga Flycatcher ringed at Sde Boker - no final conclusions on this bird yet:
In early November I ringed this Yellow-browed Warbler at Ashdod. It was a good autumn for these little beauties:

My main event during November was the Hula Festival - I guided there for a full week and saw tons of birds, such as Eurasian Cranes, and lots of good stuff in the Hula Valley and other parts of northen Israel
From mid November things really started to boil up. First, this Hume's Warbler I found with Re'a Shaish at Mitzpe Ramon:

Then, against my will, I had to drive down to Eilat for Israel's 2nd Red-flanked Bluetail:

A few days later I returned to Eilat to watch this fantastic male Grey Hypocolius at the IBRCE:

And a few days later, in early December, I had to travel all the way up north to the opposite corner of the country, for these Whooper Swans - the 5th record for Israel:

The next mega rarity was just slightly closer - the 2nd Bean Goose for Israel at Kfar Barukh:

Not at great rarity - but a super bird, and globally endangered - Sociable Lapwing in the NW Negev:
The last twitch of the year was another long-distance one, and produced my 2nd Israeli tick of the Year, Israel's 1st Firecerst in the N Golan Heights:

I wish you all a great 2012, and I wish myself another great birding year (hopefully I will not have to pay for my petrol...). My wish list for 2012 includes Pink-backed Pelican, Yellow-billed Stork and Blyth's Reed. Good luck!

Monday, December 26, 2011

National Ornithological Conference

Today was our annual celebration - as every year, during Hannuka we conduct the National Ornithological Conference, held in the Tel Aviv University. Every year the number of guests increases, and this year we had about 1000 guests! The program is very varied, with some hardcore birding lectures, popular topics, and more scientific or conservation-oriented lectures.

For the fifth year I have been producing the Amit Geffen photo contest. This year the level was very high and I was impressed by some stunning images. The exhibition today presented the best images that were submitted to the professional category. You can view the complete gallery here.

In addition, I gave a talk about the atlas project in the south and its outcomes. It was a busy but very enjoyable day. A great chance to meet ALL the guys and do some mingling. Thanks to all the organizers and other participants.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Spent the first half of the day in front of the computer. I finished my daily assignments earlier than planned, and I saw out of my window that the wind was blowing hard. So I decided to give Ashkelon a try, and headed out there for a couple of hours of seawatching. The conditions were pretty rough with very strong wind and heavy downpours occasionally.
Apart for many gulls there wasn't that much to be seen, but still some OK stuff - Sooty Shearwater, Arctic Skua, two Gannets. Nine gull species were nice: 1 Little, 2 Pallas's, Siberian, Caspian, Armenian, Baltic, Slender-billed, Black-headed and this very beautiful 2cy Mediterranean Gull. I really love this plumage.

Mediterranean Gull - 2cy

Friday, December 23, 2011

Some images from this morning

Went down to Kikar Sdom early this morning. I showed the site to Amir Balaban - he's filming a program on the saltmarsh and its conservation problems. I had to be quiet while he was filming so clicked only few times, but still some nice birds:

Hooded Wheatear - 1cy male

At this time of year they typically descend from the mountains into the valley. This bird chose an ugly rubbish dump as its territory.

A few Namaqua Doves around. Here's an adult male with a 1cy male during its post-juvenile moult.
Only when I looked at the images when I got back home I noticed a Desert Finch had flown through the frame without myself noticing it.

Nice Little Green Bee-eater action - as always I can never resist photographing them:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ringo Star

Went ringing this morning at my local alfalfa field, near Bet Kama. Weather was good and there were lots of birds in the recently-cut field. A flock of about 400-500 pipits was impressive.
Star bird of the morning was this ringtail - adult female Hen Harrier. What a bird! It made me and Meidad sprint like maniacs when it flew into the net, not sure how come it didn't bounce out. It was a ringing tick for me - haven't had one in Israel for quite a while.

Hen Harrier - adult female

I managed to screw the release image up - the focus escaped to the background...

We had some real birds too. We had a good catch of Meadow Pipits. Some, like this bird, were really grey (not age-related). From what i read it is monotipic, but are eastern birds greyer than western ones?
Among the meadows were some Red-throated and Water Pipits:

Red-throated Pipit - 1cy

I just love using my 500 mm lens for in-hand photography. Check this completely flat background:

Zitting Cisticola
Lots of raptors flying around and over the field - Eastern Imp Eagle, Peregrine, Merlin, Long-legged Buzzards etc.

Many thanks to Darren, Rony and especially Meidad for their help this morning.