Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Let the robin save the day(and the spring?)

After looping Jethro Tull's "Thick as a brick" during the last few days, I could only think of this name for the post- 3 birds were ringed this morning- a  Blackcap a Prinia and this beauty-

A female White throated Robin! This species is an extremely rare spring migrant at Eilat. In some springs relatively large numbers occur, with tens around Eilat and the Arava…spring 2008 was the last spring with such an influx noted.

A descent twitch was gathered! Limor got a lifer, Tzadok actually had this species on his list before me but still enjoyed and Itai, who got a reason to leave the writing work and go out to the field…

This Robin is definitely a good end for 2011 spring, but was not the only peak for today-
Yesterday , 3 Black Winged Stilt eggs, in hatching process  were brought to us from the nearby salt factory. After quick consulting with Itai, we drove to K20 salt ponds. Short search provided 3 optimal adopting nests. We placed each egg at a different nest and drove away, uncertain about the outcome…
That's how it looked with the additional egg-

This morning, just fter the Robin was released Tzadok and I got back to the ponds to try and see what happened with the Stilts. We were relieved and happy to see 1 nest with a baby, which looked well treated by the adopting parents! We don't know what happened with the two other eggs. We could only see they were not in the nests, and no remains of the shell or chick were found…
Moreover, we had some nice waders- 4 Red Necked Phalaropes, 2 Collared Pratincoles and 30-40 White Winged Black Terns.
Later this afternoon I went to check a location in Eilat area which was reported as holding Lichtenstein's Sandgrouses. After extensive search, 4 birds were found, 1 female type gave excellent views!      

Thia species is known as highly sensitive and endangered in Israel. This location, being a potential breeding area, will not be published. There's a well known drinking spot, visited often by birders, and disturbing these beautiful and rare desert birds in other places is unnecessary.
After such a day out birding I really feel lucky to be here at Eilat...     

Saturday, May 28, 2011

(almost) summertime

The spring's last pulses are still felt during the last week. Olive Tree &Barred Warblers are seen among some Blackcaps, Common &Lesser Whitethroats, Garden and Olivaceous Warblers. Other late spring migrants such as Golden Orioles, Thrush Nightingales &Lesser Grey Shrikes are seen around as well.
Ringing is becoming very slow with the temperatures making it impossible to use nets after 9am…During the face up to 42c degrees, midday time!
Thursday's morning I had a short ringing session. Half of the birds ringed were Garden Warblers, with 2 Barred and one Great Reed Warblers to spice up the menu…
The k20 salt ponds still hold some migratory waders, with a late Broad Billed Sandpiper, 5 Grey Plovers, a Turnstone and some White Winged Black Terns a few days ago. The breeding Waders seem to be doing well, with chicks of Black Winged Stilts, Kentish, and Spur Winged Plovers are running and swimming around.
After we got all the special permits, Tzadok and I drove to the ponds yesterday, for a ringing session. We manage to catch 6 Juveniles Kentish Plovers!
This one is quite well grown

These tiny animals, have surprising running and hiding skills! It wasn't an  easy task locating and catching these sweeties…
This one is probably 3-4 days old

On Monday Juan got back to Spain. We all had great time with Juan and wait for him to come back the next spring.
Here you can see Juan with his 2 big passions in life- a snake(Diadem Snake Spalerosophis Diadema in this case…) and the fearsome Kangoo of the IBRCE.

A walk in the Lark's kingdom- Hamadas somewhere in the extreme southern Negev.

One might think that birding and working at the IBRCE and Eilat area is over for the coming 2-3 months…well this one in wrong! Sea watching, Breeding Raptors and owls, Dragonflies and more are excellent throughout the summer, so stay tuned…

Friday, May 20, 2011

Breaking news

Yesterday morning I was reported about a putative Grey Hypocolius at kibutz Samar, north of Eilat, found by Eran Sadan, a local birdwatcher. The same day, Itai, Juan and I failed to relocate the bird. Later that afternoon, Idit and Shachar, came from central Israel to look after the bird and successfully found and photographed the female type bird!
A major twitch was held today, but unfortunately I didn't have the option of going…hopefully tomorrow I will try to get to Samar . meanwhile, some nice photos are found on the Tapuz birding forum-   http://www.tapuz.co.il/tapuzforum/main/forumpage.asp?id=1002
Grey Hypocolius is an extremely rare vagrant in Israel, with the present bird being probably the 9th record, if accepted. Congrats to the finder and to the tenacious twitchers who approved the identification!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Syke's Warbler@IBRCE

Almost gave up ringing this morning- it's the independence day of Israel, and I had less than two hours sleep last night I …anyway we  opened the nets with very low expectations.
The first bird I approached during the first nets round was an Iduna Warbler  that stroke me as being small, and rounded winged. When I got to the ringing desk and started processing the bird I realized I might be handling a Syke's Warbler. Juan and me started to examine the bird deeply and after a few minutes became certain that whatever hs bird might be, it's definitely not one of the usual Eastern Olivaceous Warblers we have been catching daily for the last two months. The bird showed Brownish tones to the wings and upper parts, very short and rounded wings- 62.5 mm, P2=P7/8, and somewhat shorter bill.
I called Barak, who was just watching wolfs in the middle of nowhere. As we went through the details we agreed that the potential of this bird being a Syke's is not bad. An hour later, when barak arrived at the IBRCE, we kept on studying the bird extensively. Using the net, and some literature, we realized that measurements alone are not enough for cutting the ID of this bird , while all the measurements we took were good for Rama but still in the lower overlap zone with Palida.
The features that we noted –
-          Brownish grey bird, with pale underparts.
-          Grey sides to the breast, and buff hue on lower flanks.
-          Shortish bill, slightly attenuated with pointed tip. Bill-Skull- 15.8mm.
-          Short wings and tail. 62.5mm 48.5mm respectively.
-          Rounded wings- P2=P7/8. Usually, P2=P6/7 in Palida and never 7/8.
-          Whitish supercylium  going a bit behind the eye.
-          Dark eye stripe ending a few mm behind the eye.
-          Small head, slightly steeper forehead than Palida(compared at real time).
-          No evident whitish wing panel. The wing looked uniform brown, with brownish fringes to secondries.
-          Brown tone to upper tail coverts.
-          Prominent, well defined white fringes to inner web of T6 t, as well as to tips of T5.
-             When the bird was released, Barak and me watched it jumping in an acacia tree and got very good views, the face pattern, head shape and general colors were seen well, and added up-flicks of the tail- very different to any Palida I have ever seen.
The bird didn’t show dark tip to lower mandible, and only a very slight darker border to supercylium. The bird also lacked any emergenation to P6. After going through some records from Europe, it seems that quite a few Rama birds lack these features.
All in all, we feel very good with the identification of this bird as Syke's Warbler. We would appreciate any comment on the bird.
And now some photos:

and some more photos of the bird:

If accepted, this is Israel's 5th record of Syke's Warbler!
Other than that, we had very few birds today. A dark morph adult male of Crested Honey Buzzard passed overhead is worth mentioning.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

From Spain with love

Hi all,

Today you are fortunate enough to enjoy the writing of Juan:

Last day in Eilat for the Swedish Connection, Aron and Simon. Looking for celebrate this, two teams had been made today. The A-Team, composed by the Sgt. Tzadok and the Mad Rea opened the ringing station as usual and after ring some birds, like an adult male of  Barred Warbler, went out for buzzards in the Samar´s palms fields.
The Mobile Team, Aron, Simon and Juan, woke up at four in the morning and drove till Km 76, searching for some desert fauna in the dusk. The first lights showed so many Steppe Buzzards roosted over the bushes, as well some Lesser Kestrels and one beautiful Red-Footed Falcon. Desert Red Foxes run to hide when the two expert birdwatchers, and Juan, spread over the plain. In the beginning of the morning only a few birds were already awoke, as Desert Finches and Bar-Tailed Larks but, as morning went by, more and more species occurred. Spotted Sandgrouses called from the air mean while one Hoopoe Lark song and run, with no papers, between Israel and Jordan and the rest of larks started to fed: Crested, Temminck´s, Desert and Short-Toed ones. The green grassy wady provided by the last rains were full of migrants passerines like Ortolan and Black Headed Buntings, this was a lifer for the Spanish; Tawny and Tree Pipits, Yellow Wagtails, Blackcaps and Lesser Whitethroats; Isabelline and Northern Wheatears; Masked Shrikes. Also, two Montagu´s Harriers flew very low this area trying to get breakfast with those birds.
Satisfied for the healthy and productive walk, the two smart birdwatchers, and Juan, drove back to Eilat stopping in Yotvata for a short support and, by the way, a watch in the sewages ponds. A lot of Squacco Herons, Spur-Winged Lapwings shared the place with so many thirsty raptors, Black Kites, Steppe Buzzards and mostly Honey Buzzards were drinking at the shores of the pond. In the most stinky of them, one male Honey Buzzard was frustratingly trying to fly over the semi-liquid substance, with the whole plumage absolutely out of order. With no doubt and having no notice about the low density fluid, the two encouraged men and Juan, decided to rescue the unlucky bird. One small boat in the shore of the terrible pond was shuttled with Aron and Juan. The slow sailing in that ocean of pure shit was full-time recorded by Simon who watched the mission with mixed feelings between the admiration and the disgusting. After fifteen minutes of untireless swinging, the ship reached the bad-looking Honey Buzzard who was immediately hung up to the boat and expressed its grateful biting the shit-guards´s hands and sputting drops of indescribably smelt over both of them. Waving back in the Yotvata´s last twenty years shit, the Insensitive Mary I, as could be named the boat, landed in the coast of that inmundous ocean and the Honey Buzzard was finally washed as best as could be but, not being able to fly because the damaged feathers and weakness, was brought over to the IBRCE ringing station for its whole recuperation, where the two heroes and Juan, arrived later, even more satisfied for the unhealthy and productive sailing.

It's Re'a again- hi

Some photos from the last two days at the ringing station-

A beautiful Turtle Dove-

A fledgling Indian Silverbill

We know very little about these bird's moult. You can see that this juv. Is completely fresh, with some dark tips to upper tail coverts, and still has some bare skin in the gape.

A male Red Backed Shrike- first for the season!

An adult male Barred Warbler. Note the heavy barring, dark grey head and the strong yellow eye.

A bunch of Blue Cheeked Bee-Eaters  that stopped by.

Tzadok and me went ringing rehabilitated raptors at the Hai-Bar reserve at yotvata.  Most of the birds were Honey Buzzards that were found contaminated with mud or oil in the southern arava. It's not so often, that I ring 10 HB in one morning! Very interesting and beautiful birds. Thanks to Shay Kabessa, the manager of the Hai Bar, for this opportunity!
Here is Tzadok and the Hai bar Volunteers with some of the birds.

Today was Aron and Simon's last day ay Eilat this spring. Thanks a lot for tha help guys! I'm sure we will meet again in Israel and also in Sweden!
A typical end of the day, at the best ice-cream shop of Eilat-Pinilick!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Waders, raptors and bugs

The last few days around Eilat combined nice raptors migration, excellent arrival of Waders, some nice passerines and more.
The Levant Sparrowhawks are still passing in good numbers, most of them being 2nd cy birds like this male caught today. Note the mixture of adult and juv. patterns on the breast.

Honey Buzzards also seen in good numbers, but yesterday we were slightly disappointed to have only a few thousands up at the mountains…we expected a peak day, which will probably arrive this week.

That’s how they look with heavy clouds in background…

Still we had a nice variety of Raptors, with some good stuff- Eastern Imperial, Greater&Lesser Spotted, Steppe, Booted and Short toed  Eagles. Some Egyptian Vultures, a Red Footed Falcon, a Gosehwk(By Itai), and 6 Crested Honey Buzzards(by Itai also…).
While scanning some city parks for invasive species nests we had all 3 species of black and white Flycatchers   with most of them Collared… I'm happy for this rather late wave of these beautiful and sweet birds, which also gave us some good ID practices… 2 Upcher's Warblers were present at Canada gardens on Wednesday, unfortunately neither the volunteers nor Itai could re-locate the birds(…and now they think I'm a big stringer!)
Today we had a descent ringing session, with over 100 birds trapped- relatively good for this season but less than the yearly avarege. Again a beautiful Wood Warbler, the 12th bird for this spring. Seems that these superb Phyloscopus are doing well.

a rather late Little Swift passed overhead, bringing our seasonal total to 39 birds!
Yesterday a strong passage of waders was noted. Barak and Shachar had very good numbers of Wood Sandpiper(470), Curlew Sandpipers(125), Broad Billed Sandpipers(19). Also around- a Bar-tailed Godwit at k20 salt ponds. a good bird for us Israeli birders. 3 Oystercatchers at the north beach, a single(!!!) Red necked Phalarope(usually a few tens around at this time of the year), 3 Whimbrels at the north beach, and a few Collared Praticoles passing during the day.
The sea is getting better and better. Yesterday's morning, Shachar and Barak had a Scopoli's Shearwater, first for the season.
After a long time(more or less since January…) with almost only 1 species of Dragonfly around- Vagrant Emperor Hemianax ephipiger, I noticed a good waking up during the last two weeks. Lesser Emperor Anax parthenope- a less common species around Eilat was seen  a few times this week. This is a male

This one has a respectable bite!

Today I had the first Violet Dropwing Trithemis annulata, what a gemstone!