Wednesday, October 31, 2012

For Israelis only!

Europeans - skip this post...
This morning went ringing at my alfalfa field near Bet Kama. Was hoping for a good catch but in fact it was a slow morning. Don't know why, plenty of birds in the field, they just behaved terribly and avoided the nets. Some Red-throated Pipits, Bluethroats and this stonking Starling - a bird that we hardly ring in Israel. I haven't handled one for several years now. Not a fun bird to ring or to age.

Most of the time it did this:

We had the / an Oriental Skylark buzzing over our heads once. Long-legged Buzzard, Marsh & Hen Harriers, Sparrowhawk all flying low over our nets but dodging them.
Many thanks to Meidad, Elon and Anton for their fruitless efforts.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Oriental Skylark - full frame!

This morning I went birding in the Nizzana region. In fact it rather quiet with few birds and not much worth noting. Started off at Mashabe Sade that had nothing special. Later on I met up with Eran Banker near Ezuz. We saw a fine male MacQueen's Bustard. At Be'erotayim grove many Chiffchaffs and among them one too brief tristis. Then we parted and I went to have a look at the Kmehin sewage ponds. At the first dry pond I found this very very confiding Oriental Skylark, feeding in the low vegetation along the edge of a stinking pond, with some pipits and wagtails. They really like sewage ponds - I have seen them in almost every proper sewage pond in southern Israel. 
After the sandgrouse finished drinking and it was safe to get out of the car without disturbing them, I put a tent up (like a bloody sauna inside) and the bird got really close to me, down to about 3 m, closer than my lens's close focus point. It was feeding constantly and hardly did anything else, most of the time inside the vegetation, and light conditions were very tough, but neverthelessI am rather pleased with the results. Last time I had such an obliging gulgula was back in 2003 I think, when I was still digiscoping. Note the very short primary projection, small bill, less contrasting head pattern, overall sandy-brown appearence (especially breast, lanks and ermiges edges), and sandy outer tail feathers.

Oriental Skylark (Alauda gulgula)


Not much else in the ponds. Two Wigeon, one Hen Harrier and about 300 Spotted Sandgrouse came in to drink.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Oriental Skylark

Checked my alfalfa field this morning. Lots of pipits - five species in total (red-throat, water, meadow, tawny and 1 richard's). One Oriental Skylark flew over head buzzing and landed somewhere nearby. Then it flew up again but it was very mobile so no images at all, only distant flight views. Hope to get it on the deck soon.

Dark clouded Yellow

Northern Wheatear

Friday, October 26, 2012

Freaky willow

Yesterday i went ringing at Ashdod. The weather was good and lots of birds around. My ringing site has improved - I have now permanent water supply in my swamp, so I expect more birds there in the future when vegetation developes more.
We had a very good morning, though it began with me droning in my flooded swamp waist-deep. Not huge numbers of birds (total of about 85 - hadn't done the totals yet) but a steady and very varied catch, just the way I like it. Several species with equal numbers - Bluethroats, Chiffchaffs (outnumbering willows already), Spanish Sparrows, Reed Warblers and Blackcaps.
Halfway through the morning something happened to me that hasn't happened for a long time - I held a bird that I had no idea what it was. It was a small phyllo (wing 62), extremely pallid and grey, like a bonelli's, with these greenish fringes to secondaries. It also had a weird, deep-based bill and rather steep forehead. Wing structure was like willow though. After lots of thinking I had to agree it's a Willow Warbler, but that's one freaky Willow Warbler. I have never seen anything like it before.

Another fine bird was this 1cy male Caucasian Stonechat:

Penduline Tits have returned to my swamp - I caught three:

Many thanks to Arad and Miriam for their help this morning.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Post-birthday post

I practice a long-lasting tradition of seeing nothing good on my birthday. Yesterday was no exception. I had no time for proper birding, but in a few minutes at Ashdod I had my first Song Thrush and Penduline Tits of the season.
Hoped to compensate today by checking some of the best rarity-magnets in the high Negev Mts. After last weeks' rarity run in the area I was hoping for something good. I met up early with Jon from Norway and Meidad; we started off at Mitzpe Ramon sewage which was very quiet but had one Red-breasted Flycatcher:

The habitat at Nafha sewage and vineyards looks perfect but birds were rather few. Semi-exciting was an ugly 1cy Citrine Wagtail. Other nice birds included Booted Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk, good migration of Steppe Buzzards, and this lingering Roller:

We tried for the Pied Wheatear at Sde Boker but it didn't show. 10 Desert Wheatears, one Siberian Stonechat and one Spectacled Warbler were OK. 
On the way back home went for another look at the Pied Bushchat at Yeroham. Again in bad light. The bird looks good - feeding nicely and it feeld at home. Will it overwinter? 
It was hot and there was no sign of the Dusky and Yellow-browed Warblers seen there yesterday.

Pied Bushchat

Thursday, October 18, 2012

From rare to mega

This morning I went ringing in a field near Mashabe Sade in the northern Negev. Large numbers of migrants had been reported there recently, but today the field was OK, not more. The fairly good catch included mainly Willow Warbler, some Chiffchaffs, four Red-backed Shrikes etc. After setting the nets up in the dark, the first bird I heard early in the morning was a Red-breasted Flycatcher. Later on in the morning it made its way into my net. Nice 1cy - I really like them. Thanks to Netanel for the help in this part of the morning.

Red-breasted Flycatcher - 1cy

While driving back home I learned about a f***ing Pied Bushchat at Yeroham - it was found and later ringed by Eyal Shochat exactly at the same spot where the Dusky Warbler was just a few days ago - what a golden patch! Well done to Eyal. This is the 7th record for Israel. I saw the previous one in winter 2001/2 - it overwintered in the IBRCE carpark. But because it's such a good bird I decided to go and have a look. The bird was showing very well. It has so much charisma on it - larger and much more impressive than a stonechat, with very broad wings and these huge white wing patches and rump. It's a 1cy male.

 Pied Bushchat - 1cy male

The light was very bad (too contrasting) so I didn't spend much time photographing the bird. It was feeding very actively and looks very happy. Nearby I saw also this female Siberian Stonechat - bringing my saxicola day list to four (including Common Stonechat and Whinchat). On a normal day it would have received more attention but not today.

Siberain Stonechat - 1cy female

What an amazing autumn this is evolving to be. Luckily up till now most goodies were rather close to my house. Hope this trend continues.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pacific Gold

Early this morning I returned to Timorim to improve my results with the Pacific Golden Plover, which seems to like this place - almost a week now on site. The bird showed well but I am not very happy with my results - it was a bit too distant, the light was bad (early morning sun obscured by clouds), lots of vegetation so I couldn't lie on my belly, etc. See how changing light conditions really change the appearence of the bird.

Pacific Golden Plover - adult

Today there were fewer shorebirds compared to Sunday but still some nice stuff: Black-winged and Collared Pratincoles, Temminck's Stint, lots of Marsh Sands, White-winged Tern and more. A Starling was new for me for the season.
 Here are some images of the plover with friends:

Black-winged Pratincole

 Marsh Sandpiper
Spur-wined Lapwing

Wood Sandpiper

Sunday, October 14, 2012

PGP take 2

After on Friday I never made it to see the Pacific Golden Plover at Timorim (found by Eran Banker), this morning on my way to work I dropped in to the reservoir to have a quick look. 
The bird was still in place. It's a big reservoir so I had distant views only. It's a fine adult, almost completed its body moult with just a few dark feathers remaining on the flanks. Primary moult is about halfway through - P1 to P5 moulted, P6 still growing and P7 to P10 unmoulted.

Nice head profile - steep forehead, rather long bill:

Short primary projection: 

 Slight toe projection:

Grey axillaries and coverts:

Many more shorebirds sharing the same pond but had no time to check them. Impressive numbers of Marsh Sands, one Collared Pratincole etc.

Millions of alba WhiteWagtails everywhere. This is a 1cy (female?) - note the obvious moult limit in GC (two inner GC moulted) and tertials (two upper tertials moulted).

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Good October ringing

Went ringing this morning at my CES in Ashdod. The morning began with a blow, when I discovered that recently someone had done some infrastructure work with heavy machinery in my swamp, and destroyed some of my net rides. Nevertheless I decided to go ahead and set the nets up. First round was very big and I thought I was going to work very hard but eventually it ended up as a good, solid catch. About 100 birds with a good, typical October mix. Lots of Willow Warblers, only one Chiffchaff, about 20 Bluethroats which was surprising - large number for this time of year. Other quality stuff included Red-backed Shrikes, Wryneck, Marsh Warbler among the commoner species.


Willow Warbler - yakutensis type

My grove of Apple-ring Acacia Faidherbia albida is flowering now, attracting lots of warblers

Many thanks to the team that helped me this morning - Re'a, Shlomo, Liad, Miriam, Shahar & Arbel.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Dusky Warbler!!!

This morning after taking my kids to the kindergarten I headed off to Timorim, not too far away from my house, to look for a Pacific Golden Plover found by Eran Banker yesterday. In perfect timing I received an RBA message alerting of a Dusky Warbler trapped at Yeroham in the C Negev by Yoram Zvik & Rony Livne. PGP is a very good bird but I did not hesitate for a second and changed my destination to see the warbler. I have seen one in Israel before - a bird I found and ringed with Eyal Shochat on18 October 1996 near Beer Sheva, but that was long ago and I have no images of that bird. Dusky Warbler is still mega rare in Israel - this is only the 6th record; all but one were ringed, which made them non-twitchable and therefore it was a serious blocker of mine for quite many years. But in the modern era, when info passes so fast and cars are so fast as well, it became possible to twitch a bird in the bag.
Quite a good crowd assembled, both of local birders and some of Israel's leading listers. The bird was processed, photographed and released in good health. It was seen flitting in the bushes after release until it disappeared. 
It is quite an easy Phylloscopus to identify, with the combination of dark-brown upperparts, golden brown underparts, long and prominent supercilium, especially in front of eye, and delicate and pointed bill. It is tiny, with a wing of 55 mm. The wing was typically very rounded including heavily emarginated primaries. When released it gave one typical call - a dry 'tack'. The bird was identified as 1cy.

Congratulations and many thanks to Yoram and Rony - excellent bird!

Dusky Warbler

Rony Livne & his sweetheart 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Ringing birding ringing birding

The last week has been very busy for me. Every day I did some fieldwork - either ringing or counting raptors or other stuff. I am now very tired but this is such a great period to be out - so many birds everywhere.

Tuesday morning I joined a large ringing session at Ein rimon again. Another good catch of Black-eared Wheatears, with lots of sylvias, Spotted Flys and Whinchat as supporting cast.

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear - adult male

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear - 1cy male

Whinchat - 1cy (see the moult limit in GC)

This morning I went ringing with Meidad at the alfalfa field near my house. it was my first time ringing in the newly-planted field, and I still need to learn the bird movements in the field to improve the catch next time, but still we had a good catch of Red-throated Pipits (95% adults). In addition we had a mix of good birds - Whinchats, Corn buntings, Tree Pipits etc.

Red-throated Pipit - 1cy

Red-throated Pipit - 2cy+ (male I guess)

Greater Short-toed Lark

Corn Bunting

Some arrivals seen included White Wagtails, Water Pipits, Lapwings etc.
Thanks to Meidad for the hard work.