Friday, 26 June 2015

Besor patch update

Besor  continues to delight and surprise. This morning's surprise came in the form of seven or eight Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. Never seen sandgrouse flying over reed beds before. They were out of sight very quickly but later on I managed to catch a few seconds of a distant pair as they headed off to the fields.
Not exactly the best photo but a record shot for the patch. Pin-taileds used to be relatively common here in the NW Negev but have declined in recent years (see Barak Granit's article: ). I'm very pleased to have seen them here!

Even though its mid-summer there's still a lot of movement. The Purple Herons appear to have gone but this juvenile has arrived.

Lots of Black-winged Stilts about, a single Glossy Ibis, about 20 newly arrived Green Sandpipers, Night Herons seem to be increasing with 25-30 now, Squacco Herons by the dozen (many in full breeding plumage),

Little and Cattle Egrets,

a single Grey Heron, ditto Marsh Harrier and Buzzard, several Roller, Barn and Little Owls (very well camouflaged),

Bee-eaters all over the place,

and Clamorous Reed and Cetti's Warbler (below) newly fledged birds are feeding openly.

Back on the kibbutz, this Long-eared Owl chick is constantly calling for food.

Friday, 12 June 2015

(The) Bateleur

This bird has understandably been very popular in the past couple of weeks - a mega rarity, a charismatic raptor and showing loyalty to a patch, i.e. my personal holy trinity for a successful twitch. Yariv and I tried for it last weekend but dipped. Today, Guy and I went for it and had amazing views as it hunted around the fields between Nachala and Gal'on. Around noon seems to be a good time to see it. Unlike the other eagles it moved from field to field pretty rapidly and often disappeared from view only to reappear a few minutes later. The heat haze and distance combined to make photography a bit of a challenge. Terrible photos of a fantastic bird.

The whole area is filled with raptors - above, the Bateleur with a Lesser Spotted Eagle but there were also large numbers of Short-toed Eagles (commonest raptor by far),

Marsh Harriers, Buzzards, Long-legged Buzzards etc. Eastern Imperial Eagle, Booted Eagle and Red-footed Falcon have also been seen in this area in the last couple of days - this site is phenomenal and the quantity and quality of raptor species seen this summer is unprecedented! A unique happening.

Closer to home the raptors are also noteworthy - the pair of Black-winged Kites is still around. Yesterday both were calling to each for a few minutes before flying off to hunt.

A pair of Honey Buzzards were at Besor Reservoir last weekend too. Not sure if they are the same birds from the week before or whether we have some potential summer visitors . . . 

Friday, 15 May 2015

Local updates

Business as usual.

A young Great Spotted Cuckoo begging food from a Hooded Crow on the football pitch this morning. Despite a long and very vocal appeal the crow was unmoved and refused to give up whatever it was holding in its crop. Time for this cuckoo to start fending for itself.

Besor Reservoir was quite good this morning - lots of common birds around today that weren't apparent last weekend - House Martin, Rufous Bush-robin, Grey Heron (Purple outnumber Grey c. 5:1 this year) etc. And of course, this cracking Feruginous Duck. These ducks are wary and swim off into the reeds at the slightest pretext but this drake sat preening in perfect light (albeit 100 m away).

Apropos of ducks, there have been a few Garganey around. This pair is from the beginning of the month - really well turned out birds!

One or two Honey Buzzards still coming through, This one had me going for a bit - 6 fingers or 5 plus a stub? I'm a huge fan of the Canon SX50 HS but for flight shots a DSLR is so much better (and that is what I wish I'd brought with me too).

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Global Big Day

For the Global Big Day I checked my two patches - Nir Oz and Besor Reservoir. Started off in the wee hours with Scops Owl, Barn Owl and Stone Curlew calling followed by the dawn chorus of Blackbirds, Olivaceous Warblers, Sunbirds and various members of the pigeon family. At first light Syrian Woodpeckers started drumming and a young Great Spotted Cuckoo began pestering its Hooded Crow 'parents' for food. I met up with Aviv and Neta and we drove to Besor Reservoir  picking up Black-winged Kite on the way. 

The Besor Reservoir was fairly productive but with some notable exceptions from yesterday (no swifts, Rufous Bush Robin, Feruginous Duck, Garganey, Black-winged Stilt, Redstart or Lesser Whitethroat!!!) but also a notable patch tick (Little Bittern). Cetti's, Clamarous Reed, Reed and Sedge Warblers were in abundance, as were Little and Cattle Egrets along with Squacco and Night Herons. Purple Heron numbers dropped to two. 

The Little Owl was on its favourite bank

and the Rollers were doing their usual best to keep out of (decent) view - always flying or against the light.

A single Spotted Flycatcher,

a couple of Masked Shrikes, Blackcaps and Willow Warblers increased the passerine list. Swallows and Sand Martins were the only hirundines. Bird of the day came in the form of aLittle Bittern that flew a short distance over the reeds before dropping out of sight. Very pleased to have seen that here. A couple of Honey Buzzards, a Long-legged Buzzard, Buzzards, 

Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel completed a rather disappointing raptor list. A Purple Swamp-hen made a typically brief appearance before disappearing back into the reeds. As we headed back to the car a flock of a couple of hundred Pelicans took off from the not-worth-checking upper reservoir. 

A final stop at Reim Reservior yielded Little Stint and Common Sandpiper and the Pelican flock from Besor bringing the total to 60 species seen by ~09.30. As mentioned above, there are some glaring and strange omissions in the species list (how is possible not to see Lesser Whitethroat?) but Little Bittern and Black-winged Kite made up for it.

Little Grebe
Purple  Heron
Squacco Heron
Night Heron
Little Bittern
Little Egret
Cattle Egret
Egyptian Goose
Marsh Harrier
Black-winged Kite
Long-legged Buzzard
Honey Buzzard
Purple Swamp-hen
White Stork
Little Stint
Common Sandpiper
Spur-winged Plover
Rock Dove
Collared Dove
Turtle Dove
Laughing Dove
Great Spotted Cuckoo
Barn Owl,
Little Owl
Scops Owl
White-throated Kingfisher
Rose-ringed Parakeet
Syrian Woodpecker
Crested Lark
Sand Martin
Barn Swallow
Sardinian Warbler
Sedge Warbler
Cetti's Warbler
Reed Warbler
Clamorous Reed Warbler
Olivaceous Warbler
Willow Warbler
Spotted Flycatcher
Great Tit
Masked Shrike
Palestine Sunbird
Hooded Crow
Brown-necked Raven
House Sparrow

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Black-winged Kite

Awesome patch find by Netta Atsili yesterday - a Black-winged Kite just outside the kibbutz! It was still there this morning for a record shot.

And on the way back from work, with much better light.
Love those red eyes.

What a bird!

From the worst blurred/out of focus shot ever this bird looks like the vociferus spp. - the Eastern spp that breeds in the Hula. The dark secondaries are a good indicator for this spp. but I'd like to get better flight views to confirm this.

Such a great raptor and an amazing find. Well done Netta!

Friday, 24 April 2015

Besor patch update

Nothing unusual in the past few days, just a very pleasant few hours watching the Besor Reservoir patch. It's great to see the migrants moving through and the summer breeders arrive. Each day is different but very birdy. Early in the morning large numbers of Swifts, Swallows and House Martins hawk over the main pool. Today Pallid Swifts arrived in force. The Purple Swamphens make brief and distant appearances - I know exactly which areas they frequent but there's never a guarantee of seeing them. Little Grebes, Moorhens, Coots and Acrocephalus warblers are calling/singing continuously. Yesterday I heard what I thought was a Locustella - a River Warbler type song from the Tamarisk trees by the stream side. However, I couldn't confirm it either it by repeated song or sighting so it  remains a mystery. No Bluethroats recently but many Thrush Nightingales are calling from the thickets. Huge numbers of Blackcaps around and a single Wryneck this morning around the reservoir trees. A few Whiskered and Common Terns have been moving through and Purple Heron numbers have increased to seven.
Tricky birds to get good photos of.

I don't know whether this is one of the Cuckoos from a couple of days ago or a new one moving through.

A couple of Marsh Harriers (this one diving into the reeds)

and Hen Harriers around and yesterday this Osprey was fishing.

Rollers seem to have tripled their numbers since year.

Bee-eaters are always good to see. I like the colours in this shot.

Squacco Herons by the dozen and each one in a slightly different plumage.

Glossy Ibis, Little Egret and Squacco Herons. A single Night Heron didn't make it into the frame.

Patch watching - I thoroughly recommend it!