Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Nubian Nightjar recording

From 2 June 2012, Neot Hakikar. Male singing while sat on the ground a few meters away from me. I had a memorable night out back then. Recorded using my Samsung Galaxy SII phone. Uploaded to Xeno-canto.

Monday, November 26, 2012


This morning I went to Elkana, a small town east of Tel Aviv. Netanel Kave found three Olive-backed Pipits there almost two weeks ago, in a small park in the middle of town. The birds were showing nicely this morning. They are such neat birds. Their behaviour is really unique, very tame and very shy at the same time, in a very typical OBP manner - walking very low in the grass, flying up to trees. Photography was not easy - bad light (I really need a proper flash) and obscuring grass. But I cannot complain. OBP's are still pretty rare in Israel. I guess that these birds will overwinter there.

Olive-backed Pipits


Urban birding - Israeli style

Their calls are very sweet and typical - these soft contact calls and semi-harsh alarm calls. I managed to get this recording using my phone, here hosted by Xeno-canto:

Thanks Amir for the directions.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Hula Festival update day 6 - Golan & Gamla, vulture action

Last Friday was my last day at the festival. Due to the mini-war we had here I had to leave early. Anyway, here everything is back to normal now. 
On Friday (16/11/12) weather was rough with strong easterlies, making birding more difficult. We started off at Mt. Susita, on the slopes of the Golan overlooking lake Kinneret. We had to work pretty hard - birds were keeping very low and quiet due to the wind, but eventually we had good views of the main target species there - Long-billed Pipit. Also had several Finsch's Wheatears, Blackstart (northermost pair in the world?), two flyover Woodpigeons and an Imperial Eagle.
At Gamla the wind slowed down a bit and we had pretty good vulture action. Despite the grim state of the breeding population there, vultures kept flying back and forth below us in the scenic gorge continuously. Most vultures had wingtags and rings on, but a few birds were 'clean'.

Eurasian Griffons

Eastern Imperial Eagle - better eagle images here

Supporting cast included Little Swifts, Crag Martins, several Blue Rock Thrushes etc.

Is this a Grandala sat behind the Rock Hyrax?

No, it's a Blue Rock Thrush

The festival went on for another two days without me; the total bird list was over 200 species if I'm not mistaken (and some good mammals too) - good job!
Time to say huge thanks and give a few credits to my friends who organized the Hula Festival. Dan, Nadav and Jonathan - you did a great job and as a result I had a fantastic week with my group. Martin, Tristan and Thomas -  had a great time with you guys, and looking forward to meet you again, here or elsewhere.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hula Festival update day 5 - strong Asian influence

Great birding today in the Bet She'an Valley. Started off at Neve Eitan fishponds that were absolutely packed with birds - thousands of kites, pelicans, storks, herons, gulls etc etc. Birded there for several hours and we all had a good time. Jonathan found this 1cy Daurian Shrike - we all had great scope views but the bird would not let us photograph it properly.

Lots of other good birds - Dead Sea Sparrows, Whiskered Terns, several Greater Spotted Eagles, a few Purple Herons, Little Bittern and lots more. Read a Finnish ring on a fuscus gull - good record.

Purple Heron

Later on checked some alfalfa fields near Kfar Ruppin. We found two Oriental Skylarks among the many skylarks and pipits. Good flight views. Mick was pleased. In a nearby pond we had a few tens of smart Desert Finches coming in to drink, enjoyed by everyone.
At Hamadiya we had a Pallid Harrier, a couple of Little Green Bee-eaters (more or less as far north as they reach) and this female stonechat. I can see no reason why it's not a caspian. No white visible on the rectrices, but I am sure that under those uppertail coverts hides some white, seen only in the hand.

Casberian Stonechat

 Added Mountain Gazelle to our ever-growing mammal list.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hula Festival update day 4 - Ma'agan Michael and Med. coast

Today the birding-all-over-Israel theme continued with a tour I led to the Med. coast - Ma'agan Michael and some other sites. Ma'agan Michael beach was very good with 7 Greater Sand-plovers among the many shorebirds, and a good selection of gulls - 3 meds, several baltics, yellow-legged and caspians, 1 heuglin's and one steppe! All among one large flock of armenians. 

Greater Sand-plovers plus other stuff

Interesting stonechat - a bit too little white on the rectrices for a variegatus?

We had a Golden Jackal run on the beach and flushed all the gulls.

Later on we checked Atlit and Nakhsholim, good birding (lots of flamingos, godwits) and a few Citrine Wagtails.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hula Festival day 2 - Hermon & Golan

Great birding today. No huge flocks of large noisy birds but lots of top-quality species showing well enough for a documntation photo. Went up to Mt. Hermon and started off on the higher elevations. Weather was cold and sunny. We managed to get good views of Syrian Serins - about 10 birds. They are present in summer in big numbers but are usually very difficult this time of year here, so we were all very pleased.

We also had about 30 Shore / Horned Larks, some of them showing well.

Shored Lark ssp. bicornis

We had only flight views of Crimson-winged Finch, about 8 birds altogether, but none on the deck. Lower down by the cablecar station and ponds we did well with good views of Western Rock Nuthatch (group of 3-4), Sombre Tit (4) and several Rock Buntings.

Western Rock Nuthatch a mile away

Sombre Tit, into the sun, carrying a ring - my fault

Snow in Syria

After we were done on Mt. Hermon had a fantastic lunch at majday Shams. Then checked some sites in the N Golan. Best bird was a flyover Red-fronted Serin - just close enough to identify. Also had several Finsch's Wheatears, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Sparrow and tons of mixed seedeaters.
Got back to the hotel tired but very satisfied.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Hula Festival update day 2 - Agamon

Fantastic day today, combination of inspiring, almost spiritual birding, and high-quality birds. Started off early and did the sunrise mobile-hide tour. As always it was an exceptional experience. Light and weather conditions were just right with dramatic clouds and very thin fog. The experience of 35,000 cranes in your face is always awesome. Tried all kinds of photographic artistic stuff, most of it failed, but still some nice results.

Black-winged Stilts

We had a very close encounter with a huge, fat Jungle Cat. I had the wrong camera settings for this scenario, but becuase it's such a great animal decided to share this image anyway.

Note the Caspian Stonechat in the left foreground. Saw several today.

Better soaring conditions today so we had lots of raptors today, including 2 White-tailed, 7-8 Greater Spotted, 2 Eastern Imperial and 3-4 Booted Eagles.

Landing lights

Other highlights in the morning included the Black-winged Kites, hundreds of pelicans, 9 Marbled Ducks before breakfast in a nearby reservoir, and many more.
In the afternnon checked the Hula Reserve and stayed for the roost. Saw 3-4 Citrine Wags, and the roost included nice numbers of harriers (only 1 pallid) and 3-4 Merlins.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Hula Festival update day 1 - Rainbow Festival

Just a short one - arrived at noon at the Hula Festival with MG & TR. had a nice drive up north through some serious rain but when we arrived at Hula the sky cleared up nicely. After meeting the group went on a short introductory tour to the Agamon. Very atmospheric afternoon with special light conditions - bright, low sunlight against dark clouds, double rainbow - tens of thousands of cranes going through this beautiful sky. Lots of pelicans raptos, Pygmy Cormorants etc up in the air. In the lake Moustached Warbler, Greater Flamingo etc. One massive bull Wild Boar waded across the lake before dusk. Won't say anything about an Oriental Turtle Dove...

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pre-Festival weekend

Spent yesterday and today with two of our VIP guests at the Hula Festival - Martin garner and Trsitan Reid. We had a great time together (at least I did). Yesterday we checked some potential vagrant sites in the Negev Mts. - Mitzpe Ramon, Nafha, Nizzana ponds, but the potential never materialized. Migrants were very thin on the ground, and we found almost nothing unusual. The only good bird was this ochrorus Black Redstart, (probably) back to its wintering site for the third consecutive year, at the carpark near the Mitzpe Ramon roundabout. This bird has quite a bit of white on the wing. Good looking bird.

So to keep ourselves entertained we searched for some desert birds and Tris had lots of fun with these species.

Inked Naturalist and Frontier Birder getting excited

all about common species like this Mourning Wheatear:

Today we did some gulling at Ashdod early in the morning. It was very good and educting. Light was shit so didn't take any images. Saw the usual suspects - fuscus, heuglini, armenicus, cachinnans, michahelis and barabensis. I had to take off early for some family stuff, so left The Guys in the good hands of Amir Ben Dov. Thanks Amir.

Tomorrow we're off to the Hula Festival. I am really looking forward to this week. I have a full program, that will take me to the best birding sites of northern Israel. Hope to see a crane or two. Stay tuned for daily updates here.
Some images from Festival 2011:

Moustached Warbler

Dark-morph Marsh Harrier

A crane or two