Showing posts with label White-cheeked Tern. Show all posts
Showing posts with label White-cheeked Tern. Show all posts

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Never wait too long for a twitch

About three weeks ago, just before I went to UK, an interesting shearwater was found at Eilat by Shachar Alterman. It was first identified as a Yelkouan-type according to distant views and poor images, which is a good record - only two prior Red Sea records. However, a few days later when the bird became more settled and good images were taken, it showed in fact some good signs of Manx Shearwater, which would make a first for Israel! There was quite a lively and educational discussion among Israeli birds, mainly because both Manx and Yelkouan Sheawaters show great variation in almost every ID feature, but in the end the consensus is that it is a manx indeed. 
Since I got back from the UK almost two weeks ago I was over-busy, and just didn't have time to drive down there. Yesterday morning it was still seen briefly, so I decided to hit it yesterday evening. I met up with Re'a and together we drove down. It was very hot in the Arava:


And by the time we got to Eilat the thermometer climbed up to 45. At the beach we were joined by Shachar the finder. We spent the next three hours searching for the bloody shearwater but it didn't show. It's a pity because even without the shearwater it was a good afternoon - 3 White-cheeked and 1 Bridled Terns, 1 Sooty Shearwater, 3 Arctic Skuas etc.,  but still we left back home disappointed. II am really depressed not only by not seeing the bird but by the idea that I might need to drive all the way down to Eilat in the coming days to try for it again - if it gets refound. 
Arctic Skua




Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Eilat birding (and family?) holiday - pelagic - White-cheeked Terns etc.

On Sunday 18/8/13 I went out on a mini-pelagic into the gulf on Itzik Cohens' boat (Itzik is a great guy and an excellent photographer as well), with Avi Meir (chum-master) and Itai Shanni. We left early but the first couple of hours were actually very quiet. We saw some terns and gulls (including possible views of last week's Arctic Tern), and one Cory's Shearwater, but nothing came in to feed on our tasty chum.
Only after we decided to call it a morning and return to shore, when the sun was already high up in the sky, we noticed many terns and gulls fishing around a small fishing boat - the fishermen were throwing out bait for the fish, and the terns were feeding on that. We had a very good time around their boat until it was too late and we had to head back.

We had about 15 White-cheeked Terns - this is an amazing year for this scarce subtropic tern. Perhaps this is a result of some serious winter floods that washed huge amounts of organic matter into the gulf, which resulted in huge production of little fish - indeed we saw enormous schools of small fish in the gulf. 

White-cheeked Terns - adults (4cy+)




This should be a 3cy with heavily worn primaries and paler underparts:


And these are 2cy:





Especially important ID features are long, slender and slightly downcurved bill, very dark upperwing with prominent dark brown bar on leading edge, and prominent darker grey secondaries.

Also fishing around the boat was this Sandwich Tern:


And several White-eyed Gulls. I know little about their moult - they breed late (fledging in September), and don't migrate long distances, so I am not sure whether their moult cycles fit typical northern hemispehere moult cycles.

This should be a 2nd cycle (rather than 2cy) - nice and brown:


And this bird should be 3rd cycle (note dark tail):



This is more like a full adult:


We also had a few of these awkward marine mammals:


Many thanks to Itzik, Avi and Itai for this great morning. And to my wife for allowing me to escape every morning during our 'family' holiday...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Eilat family (and birding?) holiday part 2 - Lesser Crested Terns

On Saturday 17/8/13 the only birding I did was an early morning session at north beach. I met up early with Shachar Alterman, and together we had quite a good time. Again I had to leave at 07:00 which meant that most of the time I was birding was before sunrise. 
We had two Lesser Crested Terns (probably the same two birds hanging around the gulf in the last couple of weeks). One is a bit more advanced in its moult. At one point they were fishing very very close to us - if the sun was up I'd be a very happy man but even though the lack of light and high ISO I am quite happy with these results. Really like the backdrop of Eilat Mts. in the background.

Lesser Crested Terns






I know this image has too many problems but I like the more artistic look of it:


After the sun was up we had some close visits of White-cheeked Terns - this is one result, but much more on White-cheeked Terns in my next post tomorrow - stay tuned!

White-cheeked Tern - adult

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Global Tern Conference

This morning I went with my good friend Gert Ottens to do some seawatching at Eilat. I owed him one after the royal treatment I recieved in NL in February, so despite an extreme shortage of sleep this week we took off at 02:30 to arrive at North Beach right on time, at 05:30. We started seeing lots of terns instantly - they roosted on the border buoys. There was a big flock of about 30 White-cheeked Terns that left the roost (tick #1 for Gert) plus quite many more terns. This year there are exceptional numbers of White-cheeked terns at Eilat - it was by far the commonest bird at sea this morning. The mornings' total must have been about 35-40 birds! Lots of moulting adults, nice and dark, and lots of 2cy too. We had them flying around the gulf in small groups the whole morning.

White-cheeked Tern - adult

White-cheeked Terns - adult and 2cy

Star bird of the morning (for me) was a 2cy Arctic Tern. I first noticed it fishing W of us on the Israeli side of the gulf, with other terns. Then it flew back into sea and reappeared again fishing with other terns on the Jordanian side of the border. It was always too far for photography but we had good scope views and saw all the important ID features, including small size and compact structure, small bill, very white above with transparent primaries and only thin dark band on upperwing coverts. Arctic Tern is more or less annual at Eilat.

Another very good tern was Lesser Crested Tern (tick #2 for Gert). At first we had one bird sat on the border buoys; then it took off and was briefly joined by a second individual. One individual was seen throughout the morning. Crazy distance record shot: 

Lesser Crested Tern

We had only two Bridled Terns - larger numbers were seen in recent weeks:


Other terns we had at sea were common and caspian. Nice to see all of these species together, originating from different parts of the world. Other seabirds we had were an adult Long-tailed Skua, one Cory's Shearwater and several White-eyed Gull. All of these birds made the long drive worthwhile. Excellent morning!

When the wind and temperatures picked up we continued to the IBRCE saltpans that were good with lots of shorebirds and gulls. Some White-winged Terns there as well:


KM20 saltpans were quieter and held smaller numbers of shorebirds. Nothing really interesting there. The long-staying melanistic Greater Flamingo was still there - what a distinctive bird!


Among the flamingo flock two Turkish-ringed birds, present for a few days now:


A pair of Namaqua Doves sat on the fence nicely:


On the way back home we had a male and juv. Hooded Wheatear at Neot Smadar sewage, and in total four Egyptian Vultures. Thanks to Gert for the company today.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Family holiday birding

Went down to Eilat with the family for a long weekend. It's holiday season in Israel, so lots of people on the road and everywhere practically, but we managed to have a very good time. During the three mornings I spent there I managed to squeeze in two hours of birding, before the family woke up and I got the terminating phone call from my wife: "good morning, we're up!". That means I was under a real pressure of time each morning to get something done before I had to go back, and most of the birding was done before sunrise. As a result, in this post the photographic quality is lower than I usually present here.
Friday morning started off at the IBRCE, said hello to the guys and enjoyed this sweet Scops Owl they had just caught:


Drove off with Re'a to KM20 saltpans that were packed full with shorebirds, mainly Little Stints and Ringed Plovers with many hundreds each. We scanned the large flocks very fast but the best we came up with was one Broad-billed Sandpiper. In this image the focus escaped to the Little Stint on the right, sorry, didn't have the time to check the images on the camera: 


Both at MK20 saltpans and later on at KM19 sewage farm lots of marsh terns present - mainly Whiskered Terns but fewer white-winged and one black.

Whiskered Tern

Saturday morning I went to check Yotvata. As I drove in I was happy to see a large flock of about 40 Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters thrashing a beehive near the cafe. Most were juveniles. 



The southern circular field was swarming with birds and I had a really good time there. While I was birding got a call from Re'a that they had just caught a Common Rosefinch but I decided to give it a miss and continued birding. In the field there were about 1000 Greater Short-toed Larks, among which I heard one Lesser Short-toed; many tens of Tree and Red-throated Pipits, with fewer Tawny and one Richard's Pipit; many wheatears (isabelline, nothern, desert and black-eared), many whinchats and Red-backed Shrikes, tons of hirundines; one Black-headed Bunting; Barbary Falcon and several harriers (marsh, pallid and montagu's) cruising over the field - great fun.

Black-headed Bunting

The sewage ponds were very birdy too but nothing special. This juv. Collared Pratincole appeared for a brief visit (still before sunrise): 


In the late afternoon I got another call from Re'a that they were watching both a Purple Swamp-hen and White-tailed Lapwing at KM19, but I was busy with the family so could not go for these good birds. Took a chance and hoped they'd wait for me till the next morning. 
So Sunday early morning I first had a quick look at north beach that had very little apart for the resident Brown Booby and 3-4 distant White-cheeked Terns. Then I headed off to KM19 sewage tanks. The tanks are full of fish and had loads of gulls and herons, but no sign of the chicken or the lapwing...

Armenian Gull - this must be 1cy but how on earth do they get so bleached and worn in such a short time?


A small flock of five Spoonbills was fresh in:
  

Only bird of note was one Citrine Wagtail.
So to conclude, not a bad family birding holiday. Eilat is always fun. This is not a classic period for birding in Eilat - still very hot and not too many common migrants hopping all over the place like in spring, but still some sites were good and some quality too.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Jaffa seawatching

Went out this morning for my first (and last?) seawatch of this windless winter. After dispatching both kids at their respective kindergartens, arrived at Jaffa Port pretty late to find all the guys already present shouting at each other in great excitement. A few minutes before I had arrived a skua that may or may not have been a Bonxie flew past, too distant, too brief, too rare to have enough guts to claim it... Anyway, that bird was gone and with it most of the (few) birds seen earlier that morning. The wind wasn't too good, with a strong southerly element to it, and as a result pelagic birds were far and few. We didn't have a single tubenose. One 2cy White-cheeked Tern was a good bird though; there are very few records from our Med coast. Other than that 1 Gannet, 1 Little Gull, several Pallas's Gulls and that's it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Festival update - day 7

Last full day of the festival!
In the early morning I went with Phil to KM19 sewage ponds, after there was no sign of the sandplover. The only birds of note at KM20 were two Citrine Wagtails. We had a good time at the sewage. We found this female Cyprus Wheatear:

We had a flock of about 15 Pale rock Sparrows stop by for a minute before taking off and flying north. One Little Bittern and two Namaqua Doves were nice too.
Later that morning again strong migration low over the city, another Eastern Imperial Eagle among many other eagles.
Before lunch we got the news that the sandplover had been relocated. I drove there with Dick Forsman. On the way in we made a brief stop for this pretty Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse right next to the Arava highway:

At the KM20 the sandplover was showing well to a large crowd, but it took off just as we arrived. So I did not manage to improve my photographic achievements considerabely:

There is much debate over this bird. I must admit that I am less sure it's a lesser - let's wait for the experts to give their opinions.
North Beach was very good in the afternoon with many terns, gulls and ducks. Best bird was a distant White-cheeked Tern. Other good birds were Curlew and Pallas's Gulls.
In the evening a couple of Lich's Sandgrouse flew in to drink at KM19, giving superb views.