Saturday, May 31, 2014

Pools & Pulls

Summer is here. In most of the days temperature rises over 38C but some brave birds are still around. Not only surviving but also raising the next generation. It's time to sit next to the nearest pool with a cold shake. Surprisingly we are birding around instead... Ringing some fledglings from time to time. 

In the past two weeks most of the puddles created by the flood dried out, the Black Winged Stilts Himantopus himantopus תמירון started breeding creating new nests and laying new eggs (for the moment, there are 9 nests at the IBRCE Park). Only one nests survived the flood and one chick is seen around. The Spur winged Plovers Vanellus spinosus סיקסק are more lucky, their nests are not on the water but a bit further away, three young families are feeding around. One chick is already carrying a ring proudly. 

Spur winged Plover Vanellus spinosus סיקסק

 At K20 Salt Ponds there are about 15
 younge Kentish Plovers Charadrius alexandrinus
חופמי אלכסנדרי 
In addition to the breeders, a flock of over 100 Slender Billed Gulls Larus genei שחף צר מקור are summering in the salt ponds, pretty high number. In the whole region there are about 500 all together.

Passerine-wise, migration has ended yet some insane birds are here with us: Last Golden Orioles Oriolus oriolus זהבן are like yellow flashes in the heat, one late Olive Tree Warbler Hippolais olivetorum שיחנית זית is SINGING every morning in front of the closed ringin station and some last Blackaps Sylvia atricapilla סבכי שחור כיפה are singing around randomly. 
It's also fledging time- flocks of juvenile House Sparrows Passer domesticus דרור בית are all over the place, Bulbuls Pycnonotus xanthopygos בולבול are chattering non stop and the Namaqua Dove Oena capensis תורית זנבנית is still laying on eggs while only the male is seen from time to time.

House Sparrow Passer domesticus דרור בית

No Namaqua Dove's fledglings yet
Laughing Dove Spilopelia senegalensis צוצלת

On the 21st of May I traveled to Hatzeva Field School Birdwatching Center to help with ringing Arabian Babblers's Turdoides squamiceps זנבן chicks (as part of an amazing research project conducted there over 3 decades). It was a great experience!

Arabian Babblers's Turdoides squamiceps זנבן
Yael Lehnardt

Head Ringer & Guide, IBRCE

Not Only Feathers

Happy Hare ארנבת מאושרת

Friday, May 16, 2014

Happily ever after

Or in other words- THE END
Spring 2014 ringing season is all over now. after three months of ringing daily, the nets are closed. 
It was very unusual spring, some species showed up in big numbers (like Balkan Warbler Phylloscopus orientalis עלוית לבנת בטן or Garden Warbler Sylvia borin סבכי אפור) while others didn't show at all- most Wheatears, Buntings etc.

The broken canal
In the past few days we were busy not only with ringing and guiding but also with fixing the floods damage. I'm glad to share with you that the IBRCE Park is now open again and looks almost as if nothing happened (yet some mud and flood markings are noticeable). We enjoyed watching the water evaporating slowly, the footprints all around..

Jackal Canis aureus תן זהוב

Little Egret Egretta garzetta לבנית קטנה

Corn Crake Crex crex מלכישלו
Male זכר
In the ringing not much was happening, with about 80-90 birds a day. The surprise of the week was this healthy Corn Crake Crex crex מלכישליו after observing (and collecting) many exhausted ones in the past two weeks. It's food to know some of them can weight over 130 grams not only in the books but also in real life.

Another wierd ringed bird is this Olivaceous Warbler Iduna pallida שיחנית קטנה covered with oil. It was not only darker and greasier than usual but also smelled like gasoline.  

At the salt ponds at K20 we enjoyed a lovely wave of migration with loads of Waders. The best, if you ask me, is this flock of 43 Red-necked Phalaropes Phalaropus lobatus שחיינית צרת מקור. There were also some Curlew Sandpipers Calidris ferruginea חופית מגלית and 7 Broad Billed Sandpipers Limicola falcinellus חרמשית. We couldn't relocate the Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos חופית כהת חזה found there a day before, May 12th, by Shachar Shalev.  

To sum this spring in the first stage, here are some totalls:
Total captured birds- 7,265
New- 5,674
Recapture- 1,589
Foreign rings- 1 (Turkey)
Species- 92

Further information and statistics will be published in the future...

Yael Lehnardt

Head Ringer & Guide, IBRCE

Not only feathers
Dorcas Gazelle Gazella acacia צבי נגב
at K22

Sunday, May 11, 2014

"Loud Yellow Starlings" f-l-o-o-d

Spoiler ספוילר
I can't believe I'm writing it again, I feel IBRCE is placed at the edge of Tropical Rainforest and not just by the northern end of Sahara desert: This week we experienced days with over 40C, heavy rains, floods, birds... lots of birds. 

It all started on May 4th when temperatures rose and Corn Crakes Crex crex מלכישלו were found exhausted all over: at the IBRCE Park, Eilat city, agricultural grounds of southern Arava Valley.. All in frantic search for food and water, completely exposed. During the next two days it got only warmer and more were found/ brought to us for treatment thanks to some kind people. Clearly not all survived with a lack of 30-40% from their estimated normal weight. Not only Corn Crakes were found but also one Spotted Crake Porzana porzana ברודית גדולה, same same but different..

 Corn Crakes Crex crex מלכישלו
By Jesus Notario צולם ע"י חזוס נוטריו
The positive part included tens of yellow, hyperactive splendid birds- Golden Orioles Oriolus oriulus זהבן. It took a while till they gathered into flocks all around the park but the best was probably on the 7th with 6 in one morning. All together we ringed 24 so far, hell of aeging job considering the fact most of what we had is females (when you seem to find only birds from one sex it is very suspicious, most likely males simply passed earlier; in April).

Golden Oriole Oriolus oriulus זהבן
Adult male זכר בוגר
Golden Oriole Oriolus oriulus זהבן
Adult female נקבה בוגרת
Golden Oriole Oriolus oriulus זהבן
up- 2CY (5) female למעלה- נקבה צעירה
down- Ad. (6) female למטה- נקבה בוגרת
River Warbler Locustella fluviatilis חרגולן נחלים
To adjust some interest, the two last birds ringed on May 5th were River Warblers Locustella fluviatilis חרגולן נחלים. 
All were happy and took some nice pics:

Relating May's routine- species are generally different than in earlier spring:
# As "it should be", we noted regular numbers of Olivaceous Warblers Iduna pallida שיחנית קטנה (a few every day).
# 3 Olive Tree Warblers Hippolais Olivetorum שיחנית זית (good for Eilat), 

Olive Tree Warblers Hippolais Olivetorum שיחנית זית
Olive Tree Warblers Hippolais Olivetorum שיחנית זית
# some Masked Shrikes Lanius nubicus חנקן נובי, 
# last wave of Reed Warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus קנית קטנה

Mentioning also Sylvia Warblers we've got:
# strong passage of Western populations of Common Whitethroats Sylvia communis סבכי קוצים, 
# A few more Lesser Whitethroats Sylvia curruca סבכי טוחנים after a short drought, 
# A few more Barred Warblers Sylvia nisoria סבכי ניצי as described in the last post 

Barred Warblers Sylvia nisoria סבכי ניצי
Adult male זכר בוגר
Barred Warblers Sylvia nisoria סבכי ניצי
Adult male זכר בוגר
Barred Warblers Sylvia nisoria סבכי ניצי
Adult male זכר בוגר
# and the king of May: Garden Warbler Sylvia borin סבכי אפור in CRAZY numbers- more than double than the average- 224 so far (avr. 111; 100-131 in past 5 years!)

Most of the birds this week were ringed not during the pick of the heat but two days later- when the rain came at night. On the 7th of May we had an extreme rare rain event, usually there is no rain in May at Eilat under no circumstances. Many birds were ringed as soon as we opened the nets but surprisingly rain came again around 7am. Shocked, we closed the nets for 20 min, opened again, ringed many more birds and when heavy rain came at 8:30am we had to close all the nets and evacuate all team members due to the reasonable chance for flood. 

Wet team right after closing the nets: Ute, Sylvia, Roni, Jesus, Melchior.
צוות רטוב לאחר קיפול הרשתות: מלכיור, חזוס, רוני, סילביה ואוטה

To make a long amazing story short we traveled in Eilat mountains for hours, watching it flooding all around, enjoying the downpour, a hale storm, found two fledglings of Hooded Wheatear Oenanthe monacha סלעית נזירה, watched approximately 500 Honey Buzzards Pernis apivorus איית צרעים trying to migrate in this insane weather.... No words will describe these sights properly.

We went back to the IBRCE Park in the worst timing... We just finished eating, just enjoyed a quick rest, when the flood from the mountains came and blocked the canal surrounding the ringing station. No way out. It took nearly two hours till the water level allowed us to drive out, shorter than expected due to a very sad event- the canal broke and the water flowed into the Park, washed away nests of birds, major parts of the trails, signs, the main entrance etc. 

The day after, May 9th, combined lots of sadness referring the fact that the IBRCE Park is now closed, months will pass before things will be back to normal. On the other hand, hundreds of passerines landed all around and we enjoyed one of the best ringing mornings so far (when many of the nets remained closed, far in the flooded area). Most of the birds are very thin, with low fat deposits. We hope that in a couple of days the birds will recover, and in a few weeks we'll do our best to recover the public side as well.

זה לא כל כך נעים לראות גן סגור

Yael Lehnardt

Head Ringer & Guide, IBRCE

Not only feathers
One Corn Crake Crex crex מלכישלו was found dead, covered with mucous sticking its neck feathers. Apparently, a snake- Painted Carpet Viper/ Saw Scaled Viper Echis colouratus אפעה מגוון tried to swallow it! When it tried to swallow the body, the size seemed to abolish the feast and the hungry snake had to vomit the Crake. Liri found it soon after. 

A little more of the local atmosphere

Roni Vaisanen, our dear Finnish ringer, finished his two months of voluntary ringing at the IBRCEץ He is now heading back to Finland for his Red Flanked Blue tail Tarsiger cyanurus כחול זנב ringing project and research. We wish him lots of luck and not too many mosquitoes!

Monday, May 05, 2014

Instinct seem to win- May's migration is in


After few slow days around the end of April, a RBA (Rare Bird Alert) Message
aroused us from our sleepy heated condition: Dark Chanting Goshawk Melierax metabates נץ קולני אפור seen next to Yotvata. It was when still ringing and we had to be patient, hope the bird will be relocated later.

Dark Chanting Goshawk Melierax metabates נץ קולני אפור
By Melchior viallet צולם ע"י מלכיור וילט
After few more endless hours we were free to go, mid day, sunny.. We knew it was seen shortly before we did but there was no one looking for it at 12:30. After a short scan, on top of an electric pole, we noticed a "Sparrowhawk with the legs of a Stork" as Noam Wiess told us to look for. Excited and shaking we set our scopes, watched it and answered lots of phone calls (clearly all the twitchers wanted to know all about our observation). My heart fell twice when the bird flew off the electric pole since I promised to guard it properly. A few minutes before few birders came, it decided to leave. It flew high up, in a perfect thermal (clearly easy, was very hot) and disappeared high up with some Honey Buzzards Pernis apivorus איית צרעים. 

Dark Chanting Goshawk Melierax metabates נץ קולני אפור
With some more of the view around- didn't touch the trees in fact

We kept on searching for it during the next 4 hours but came up with nothing really good for our disappointed friends.... It was definitely an exciting afternoon! Second observation for Israel (last was in 1979), for few hours was thought to be first Eastern/Pale Chanting Goshawk for WP but now we know it's not. It refueled us for a while after few days with no Levant Sparrowhawk Accipiter brevipes נץ קצר אצבעות. 


Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur תור מצוי
A bird that used to be much more common in Eilat only ten and twenty years ago was ringed on the morning of April 30th- A Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur תור מצוי. Some tens are seen every spring around Eilat but it's really not comparable to what we know from previous observations, from only few years ago. I wish somebody will put an end to the terrifying kill of such birds along Lebanon (or Spain on the other hand). 

A very nice birthday tradition I follow is keeping a list of birthday birds. Every year I try to see as many species as possible during my B-day and I keep a list of all throughout the years. This year I didn't feel like trying hard but I had to visit K-20 Salt ponds to try and see few species seen only there (when not going far from Eilat).
It was a decent observation with many nice species but the best was a Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus פלמינגו with a beautiful gift on its leg- a PVC ring. A Turkish Flamingo is always nice and now we already know it was ringed in 2009.
During summer most of the migrating and wintering population is heading back to breeding quarters but about 190 are still around now, hopefully for the rest of the summer (always good to have some big pink birds nearby).  

Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus פלמינגו


Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga עיט צפרדעים
By Jesus Notario צולם ע"י חזוס נוטריו
It wasn't the best day for raptors migration but this Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga עיט צפרדעים was the best among all the beautiful Honey Buzzards Pernis apivorus איות צרעים. 

The next picture was taken on May 3rd, I promise:

Rueppell's Warbler Sylvia rueppelli סבכי שחור גרון
By Melchior viallet צולם ע"י מלכיור וילט
A Rueppell's Warbler Sylvia rueppelli סבכי שחור גרון is hard to find in Eilat in mid April, not to mention early May. It was a real shock to ring one of those by early May! Soon we realized why it is here- the right leg had just recovered from a bad break (and did not recover so well). Still, the bird had some fat and could fly well, cross countries, continents... Aren't instincts amazing? 

If we may continue with this point of view, we had another "broken" bird: Indian Silverbill Lonchura malabarica כסוף מקור הודי without its secondaries. Both wing were lacking a significant part and yet was able to fly. Hopefully we'll relocate this bird in the future.

Indian Silverbill Lonchura malabarica כסוף מקור הודי
Indian Silverbill Lonchura malabarica כסוף מקור הודי
All along the week we had Barred Warblers Sylvia nisoria סבכי ניצי every day, on the 3rd of May we felt greedy after ringing 6 different ones. It always brings weird joy to discuss ageing methods in such an interesting (from the moult aspect) species. 

what age would you say?
And if I showed you the bird?

?Try Harder- age and sex of this bird is

Yael Lehnardt

Head Ringer & Guide, IBRCE

Barred Warblers Sylvia nisoria סבכי ניצי quiz:
1. 2nd Calendar year, code 5
2. 2nd Calendar year, code 5. Female
3. 2nd Calendar year, code 5. male