Thursday, June 16, 2011

Por la noche leones, por la manyana cajones

I had a fantastic day yesterday- good birds and other wildlife, Lunar eclipse and excellent company!
I started the morning with some slow ringing at the IBRCE, missing Itai's Arctic tern.
This cool fledgling Little Green Bee Eater really made me smile! It's such a sweet Bird!

I was surprised to see that the streamers were not only not longer than the rest of the rectrices but even shorter!

At noon I started the long drive up to southern dead see area. I arrived and met up with Yoav, Ron, Shahar and Eli. Quickly we got to the ringing location- an agricultural rubbish tip:

Temperatures were quite comfortable at around 35c( the hour was 6 PM…) and not so many flies were bugging us. You may be thinking we are lunatics, opening mist nets in one of israel's hottest places, in a location infested with House Sparrows and Palm Doves…well, you are not so far away from the truth! But obviously our target was not the sparrows.
This area is Israel's last stronghold of the extremely endangered Nubian Nightjars. Some 20 pairs are breeding in the Tamarix saltmarsh found in the area. This habitat is on the brink of extinction, mostly due to agricultural cultivation of the Arava Valley. Being a representing species of this habitat, the Nubian Nightjar was a common Breeder along the Eastern valleys of Israel  until the last decades of the 20th century, and since his population in decreasing dramatically. Nowdays, when the last remains of the salt marshes are found on minefields, thus left untouched so far, these amazing night birds are facing extinction in Israel!
Yoav did hid Msc work about the nightjars and now, keeping an eye opened for them, trying to monitor the population by ringing. The trapping was successful, and 2 birds were ringed. Apart from Nightjars we had 3 bat species caught in our nets.
Shahar and Eli watching the eclipse-

I really enjoyed spending the night out with the team. Thanks Yoav for the ride, beer and good time!
For nice photos and more details check out Yoav Perlman's Blog(on the link list).

Tomorrow morning I'm out on the boat with Avi. Hope to get some hot stuff, and maybe solve the weird shearwater mystery…

Monday, June 13, 2011

Working 5 to 9

More like 6 to 10 in most of the days…well summer is definitely full on, with temperatures settled around 40c degrees daily, with minimal humidity! Man I missed these conditions while spending last week up north visiting family and friends. I was sweating a lot and did very little birding(most of the time climbing or hanging out somewhere with non birders humanoids…). I did spend 2 morning out, in my old beloved home patch, which I did not visit for over a year- An old Quarry that inhabits tens of breeding Bee Eaters , along with Rollers, Little Owls and more. I was surprised to see some "nature photographers" parking their cars meters from the nesting walls just in front of the nests. I tried to talk them away from the walls, and explaining the gravity of their actions. The ones that didn't apply and left the place were reported to the local INPA ranger. I hope they will be treated properly. These birds are too precious to be destroyed by un-aware nature lovers.
 Most of the late migrants are gone, with just a handful still around- Blackcaps, Garden, Reed and Barred Warblers in small numbers. Some Bee Eaters and Sand Martins flying and hunting over the park. Common Terns in small flocks are seen in day time overland migration, and tens of Pallid Swifts now already on their way south to their central African wintering grounds (or should I say skies? )
But as I wrote earlier the summer around Eilat provides some excellent breeders!
Yesterday I had a couple of Little Green Bee eaters, both wearing rings from last year. Not so surprisingly, they were caught together also the first time.

I assume that they are the proud parents of the fledgling Yael and Guy caught during the weekend.   
Another beauty that was almost absent from the area since last summer – a Namaqua Dove.

These amazing gemstones used to breed in tens around Eilat during the last decade. A dramatic decline in numbers is noted around the southern Arava since last year, meanwhile it seems like this species is doing quite well all over Israel, with breeding records from western Israel, as well as expansion of range northwards.
The females are not any less elegant or uniquely patterned that the males-

Obviously not all the birds here are so photogenic- actually the commonest birds in the ringing station now are juv. Spectacled Bulbul. They are noisy, biting, scratching shiting a lot and all the time. How can I say…not the best bird to ring. This is Guy holding two brothers.

Amazingly, I found myself in full activity, out in the field with my bins on yesterday at around 12:00! After discussing the potential appearance of Desert Darter Sympetrum sinaiticum (not a bird but a Dragonfly) in Eilat Itai and I decided to check the canal near the IBRCE.
A new species for Israel we didn't see…but we did have some good discoveries!  
A male Black Percher Diplacodes lefebvrii  was the first for us around Eilat. There are old (Earlier than 80's) evidence about this species around the southern arava and Eilat, but no records since(possibly due to lack of observations). Anyway this was a lifer for me!
Just a few minutes after the Percher we had the first record of a living individual of Slender Skimmer Orthetrum Sabina  for Eilat region!  The first record was of a dead individual found in one of our "Helgoland" traps last November. Being a somewhat neglected field among Israeli wildlife enthusiasts, Dragonflies watching is very exciting for me! Almost nothing is known about these amazing animals in Eilat, and watching them gives me something to do in these "dead hours"(apart of sitting on the beach for hours J)…
Other species seen around these days-
Lesser Empror Anax parthenope- 2-3 males.
Broad Scarlet Crocothemis erythraea- quite a few males seen, with one couple at the canal yesterday.
This is a male caught last Saturday-