Monday, March 19, 2012

Birthday birds

Birthday birds

Yesterday Fabian had his birthday, strange experience while ringing non stop for almost a week. Last week is simply amazing regarding both numbers and diversity: over 2000 new birds were ringed since the 13th of March bringing march totals to over 3 k!
Back to the late birthday bird, it didn’t come yesterday but today on 3rd round a cracking malePied Wheatear showed up next to the ringing hut just pleading for a ring.
It was not easy but after a while it was captured and ringed, the first good rarity to be ringed this spring.

 Small Sylvias are doing really well with another Subalpine Warbler yesterday (No.5), more cool birds last days include two more Scops Owls and a Little Bittern at the pond. So many birds I hardly have time to write properly.

 Cyprus Warbler, the 7th for this season (so far?).

 More is on the way when hopefully I will have more time to write posts…(no whining)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Don’t stop at the top

Don’t stop at the top

More perfect days the ringing station, while a storm is raging at the north birds are stuck here at increasing numbers, yesterday a great wave of Lesser Whitethroats, and many other Sylviaspecies together with a good swallow catch in the evening brought us just short of the tempting 400 barrier with 394 new birds. Chiffchaffs are starting to slow down (after nearly 1000 so far) with about 20 a day which made me wonder if it is still worthwhile to play Chiffchaffs at the ‘pond’ nets.
Today I decided to play some swallows at pond nets, and surely huge flock of some 1500hirundinidae showed up, mostly House Martins back in numbers (nearly absent the last week), and Red rumped Swallows and many were caught, with another good wave of Lesser Whitethroats and many other Sylvia that got us today past the 400 with 410 new birds!

Even more interesting were 2 controls of Lesser Whitethroats One from France and another one just minutes later one from Denmark! The first time ever I catch two passerine controls! Even though the excitement was short as numbers of birds kept pouring in from the nets it made my day!
Luckily for me my good friend Yosef (also my supervising A license) is the coordinator of the Israeli ringing center, so by telling him the ring numbers by phone and receiving an ultra fast (30 minutes) reaction we got answers from the Danish ringing Center even before we finished the morning session, both birds were ringed in 2009 in autumn migration, this is part of a very familiar pattern of western European Lesser Whitethroats coming in spring through Israel, but nonetheless this is the first French ringed Lesser Whitethroat to be controlled in Israel!

Of course when you ring many birds more surprises turn up from the bags time and time again, the female Menetris Warbler was recaptured, 3 Subalpine Warblers in the last three days, the seventh Cyprus Warbler, a male Little Crake (in the same excellent crake traps) and an amazing Crag Martin (all team tick), for me, the real bird of today.
 Rock Martin tail
 Crag Martin tail

I was guiding almost every morning this week so had little time to take photos or write some posts down even there is more to be told, you can find some on Fabian’s blog together with daily totals:
For more photos you can also look at the last post:

Can things get any better?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012



Subalpine Warbler

1st summer Female Menetrie's Warbler

Egyptian Nightjar

Tawny Pipit


Saturday, March 10, 2012

1000 Up!

1000 Up!

Ringing is going well for the last days, the last two days we caught more then our “100 average” and made it past the 1000 in March so far.
The bulk of the birds are still Chiffchaffs that really rule the ringing notebook since the 20th of February (to be replaced soon by Lesser Whitethroats), Swallows are also on the increase, with 25 ringed this evening in the reeds, 3 of them Red-Rumped Swallows(definitely my favorite).
We also had a close encounter with a Long-eared Owl, which was soon dazzled into a hand net! The first ever time I witnessed a birds being dazzled to such extent, it was just amazing!

And our Dutch model…

The large crew that came for the weekend enabled us to open some nets in the far away salvadora, one of the best bushes in the park this specific plant is blooming earlier than most others and attracts many Sylvia. And today these nets produced 3 more Ruppell's warblers, bringing our season tally so far to 24.
 Now that is the Sylvia I like! Brown grey with no ID marks!

Vis mig is back in force after long winter break Short-toad LarksYellow and few CitrineWagtailsTree Water and Red throated Pipits all pass in small numbers, yesterday also two Pale Rock Sparrows.

Gulls are on migration with big numbers of Black headed and Slender Bills passing over, with some “big gulls” mostly Baltic Fuscus like but also others and sometimes Pallas’s Gulls. In the salt ponds, between few dozes to several hundreds mostly SB and BH remain every evening to roost at the salt pond by the park, today about 700 gulls are roosting there.

Today at noon when the Dutch kids and the Finnish birder went birding while we had a nap,  they didn’t had to stray far, and found a Pied/Cyprus Wheatear just by the park gate, it was seen by us briefly and flew into the palms. Wow!

Later they went on to find another one at k20 palms. Shachar Alterman had one more Wheatear at Neot Smadar, probably more are in the arava.
Even when spring is all around few last winter birds are still here, yesterday we retrapped the same Dead-sea Sparrows which made Roni very happy catching up with them after 3 springs at Eilat.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

No speling mistake in this post

No speling mistake in this post

Spring is very much here, so much it’s hard to blog all things going around. The British team left on Monday after an awesome 10 of ringing and birding in Eilat, over 850 birds were ringed of an impressive diversity including some really good ones. many thanks to Dave Okill, Will Miles, David Parnaby and Jason Moss of Fair Isle BO for their professional and enjoyable work here!
Next year at Eilat?

This week will be remembered also for the great numbers of exhausted Martins, and especially for Rock Martins.

The day before the British team left we had a “normal” Scops Owl. Also around for last days are both Long-eared and Barn Owls. Even nights are not boring! (last post etc.)

Many new species for the season were ringed last days, like Woodchat ShrikeBalkan Warbler and Two Eastern Black-eared Wheatears.

Migration over the park is very apparent even when we are busy ringing, many Steppe Eaglesare still moving through with more Steppe Buzzards among them. Today we also had the wintering GS Eagle and Two Short-toad Eagle and also one Imperial Eagle.
Not only raptors but also Gulls Ducks and some passerines can be seen over the station, of interest: 5 Pallas's Gulls, 4 Bar-tailed Larks 2 Gull Billed Terns Yesterday and a cracking male Citrine Wagtail today.

The ringing itself is going very well, with about 100 new birds every day and reasonable diversity of 20 species or so,With complex and diverse moult patterns of all the tricky Sylvias.
And also some mental issues…

More in detail today we had our first Siberian Chiffchaff, I started thinking this week we might have missed one or two but after I took this bird out of the bag, difference was instantly visible unlike all Chiffs we had so far (few hundreds).

At Ofira park the Cinereous Bunting is still there together with some 15+ Cretzschmar's Bunting.
Thanks Fabian for the photos!
Apart from our volunteers, an Israeli ringing team is assembling for the weekend, so hot stuff is soon to come!

Saturday, March 03, 2012

After the storm

After the storm

During the last days we had really bad weather, strong winds from the south and west, with one serious sand-storm and quite cold temperatures, regardless birds keep pushing north, to the very edge of their physical ability and right into the storm raging in north Israel.
Yesterday a short break in the winds freed few hundreds Steppe Eagles that were probably grounded for the last 2-3 days (there was no passage at all) joined by few Black Storks, even more courageous were flocks of Cranes Heading north, c.200 on the 1st of march at night, and yesterday two more flocks passed during the morning (250+70).

The birds that really seem to suffer the most are House Martins and Sedge Warblers, these birds typically arrive here skinny at best of weather, so with the current situation many are struggling: flocks of martins sit on the ground so tired they can be picked by hand, some weighing less then 12.0 grams! Such scenes are not exceptionally rare in bad weather during the spring, but I never get use to see birds in such extreme condition. And today to add one more danger the first Woodchat shrike was seen picking martins of the trail as easy as it can get, during few hours it got at least 4! Eating only the head and throwing the rest on the ground.
Sylvia warblers are doing better and are on the increase, during the last days the rich variety of birds pass through:
Lesser Whitethroat & Common Whitethroats are probably the most common around with good numbers also of Sardinian Warblers, many migratory birds of Momus Ssp. Without rings (most wintering birds already carry rings). Eastern Orpheans are also on the move presenting interesting moult patterns and their great variation in eye and head color, yesterday we had nice “wave” of Rupells’ Warblers 6-7 birds of all age/sex combinations were ringed. One more Cyprus Warbler was ringed on March 1st this time a Female, definitely Sylvia times!
Many more firsts were last days including Eastern Olibvious Warblers and Cretzschmar's Buntings and smart males Redstarts of Samamisicus Ssp. After the Spotted Crake (last post) we decided to give the old crake traps a chance to prove their worth, and surely we had 3Little Crakes in two morning of trapping.

Many waders left the salt ponds when the sand-storm and the strong winds began, yet with good ringing team additional trapping aids were logical and so even with only few birds around I set the traps, results were nonetheless of a good variety (meaning: we caught few birds) but of the small catch Marsh Sandpiper and a Common Sandpiper were especially nice.

Yesterday when I cycled down to the station at very first light I passed as usual through the salt ponds checking the wader traps on the way, when suddenly one bird in the flock of birds taking off got my attention, from that close there was no need in binoculars a beautiful White tailed Lapwing (Lifer! And somewhat of a buggy) was just 15 meters away, it was seen flying briefly three days ago by Hielel over the station, great bird Hielel!  It gave excellent views yesterday to all birders up until 11:00. Just a great bird.

More pics will be added tomorrow with additional report of what we had tonight in Yotvata (and it’s hot!)


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Spots and speckles

Spots and speckles

With migration almost in full swing and increasing ringingpower the last days were truly enjoyable days, first on Friday we merely had our first 3 digits morning ringing, the day’s tally (together with a small afternoon session) was 99 new birds and 26 recaptures with ‘firsts’ asIsabelline Wheatear and eastern Orphean Warbler.
The core of the catch was made by 42/4 Chiffchaffs and 14 House Martins.
Apart from birds our first volunteers arrived on Friday tired after making all the way to Eilat fromFair Isle! But after a decent sleep they were all ready to go.

 We also recaptured the Pale scops Owl so there’s another opportunity to show him off
 On Saturday we decided to make last attempt in uvda area, weather was bad very windy with even a short drizzle while we were setting up the nets, unsurprisingly we started badly not catching anything before 08:30, but we had a final total of 16 birds! Including 9 Trumpeter Finches, 3 Temminck’s Larks and a White-crowned Wheatear which made us very happy experiencing desert birds not usually found in the hula valley not to mention Fair Isle

 Birding around was also great with over 200 Temminck’s Larks 40-50 Bar tailed Larksdozens of Trumpeter Finches and 4 Mourning Wheatears but we couldn’t find any Thick bills.

And today we opened the day with a long tailed surprise: a Great spotted Cuckoo, cool bird we don’t catch that often even they are pretty common. Soon birds kept us quite occupied with a nice flock of 18 House Martins together with more Chiffchaffs and Lesser and Common Whitethroats weather was just great, sunny with almost no wind. The sequence of passerine was cut by yet another nice catch: a Spotted Crake! What was surprising about this one was it was trapped in a Heligoland trap! With no water and only trees… birds get dizzy in the desert.
 The cuckoo was a 2nd year birds showing this nice moult in the wing:

Any comments about age/sex are welcomed; we have little experience with this bird in spring time.

I came back for another afternoon swallows attempt, their numbers grow by the day and they are finally starting to roost in the reeds by the nets, today when I arrived to take out the 4 House Martins and 16 Barn Swallows from the nets a Short eared owl swooped over the reeds and went down to the net hovering just a meter away from it! To make sure he won’t be extracting birds instead of me I tried to flush him into the net but without success, first time I have a close encounter with this owl.
 Totals for today mourning and evening combined (new/retrap): 119/28 (147)
Chiffchaff 38/3
Lesser Whitethroat 6/0
Spanish Sparrow 6/1
House Martin 23/2
Orphean Warbler 2/0
House Sparrow 4/0
Barn Swallow 17/0
Blackcap 0/1
Dead sea sparrow 1/6
Whitethroat 10/1
Sardinian Warbler 3/3
Yellow vented Bulbul 1/4
Bluethroat 1/1
Savi’s Warbler 2/1
Collared Dove 1/0
Reed Warbler 1/1
Graceful Prinia 0/1
Spotted Crake 1/0
Sedge Warbler 1/2

Great spotted cuckoo 1/0

 Raptors passage today was slow and also very high, there is some crazy weather ahead (southern winds tomorrow and a storm in the north of Israel on Wednesday) so something should change around


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Never mind the bollocks, here’s the spring!

Never mind the bollocks, here’s the spring!

It’s been two tense weeks; there are great pressures in the leading-up into the season, getting all gear into shape and many other small preparations. But putting anything aside I made an effort to do some ringing this week. So yesterday I tried to catch some House Martins in a roost (just like we do with barn swallows), about 80 birds gathered, but they all disappeared just minutes before dusk, it was frustrating but to compensate when I went to close the nets an angry little Pale Scops Owl was waiting in the net! Cool bird indeed.

The dizzy Scops Owl’s look:
More highlight from yesterday (mourning) were two Rock Martins, Complex birds we rarely ring, I had no time to take good photos because I was already late to another ringing demo so out of 4 pictures this is the best.

This mouring ringing started just great with many Chiffchaffs and some Lesser and Common Whitethroats, some new Bluethroats and Sardinian Warblers, the heligolands provided the real treat of today: a 2nd year Cyprus Warbler! With nice moult and the first real “rarity” to me this spring (expected in this time of year but we don’t catch them often).

After that we had a sight slowdown with only more chiffchaffs trickling in when some passage of Steppe Eagles began slow and low at start because it was pretty cold but nice circling flocks of some dozes kept passing for few hours totaling few hundreds !(I was busy ringing and guiding so had no time to count).
Just as we were furling up the nets a handsome adult male Rüppell's Warbler was caught! 2ndfor this spring so far. Total for today was 62 birds most (c.50%) being chiffchaffs, the first great migration day.

In the park during the last days 400-600 House Martin pass daily, many Quails are jumping from underneath my feet scaring me time after time. In the salt ponds many Black-headed andSlender-billed Gulls feed and roost every evening together with increasing numbers ofRedshanks and Ruffs. Yesterday 15 Palla’s Gulls also passed over the park.

Our first volunteers for the spring are arriving in the weekend (alone no more!!!), combined with northern Israeli ringers (Yael, Ron, Ela and Aviad) coming down to ring you better stay tuned!