Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Tawny Eagle

Quick update – I’ve been off-line for a while (computer issues). It’s been a quiet summer for me so far until news broke that Olga Chagina had found Israel's 6th Tawny Eagle (3 CY) near Tze’elim. This one proved twitchable and deservedly popular although I managed to dip on my first attempt at it.  Watched it for about an hour on Sunday while Amir Balaban made a video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFoudYpOW3c). Amazing views. The following day I returned and joined the cars parked around the eagle tree. For a while it sat there not doing much at all, just staring southwards then suddenly . . . .



What a stunning bird!

A few more pics.





Saturday, 20 February 2016

Demoiselle Crane

My wife and I went north for the weekend. It wasn't a bird trip but the spectacle of the 25,000+ cranes at Agamon Hula is worth seeing. A Demoiselle Crane made an additional temptation for me and it had been seen for the past couple of days deep within the reserve. When we arrived I was told that two were now in the area - a juvenile and an adult! But, how to find a different crane in all the cranes . . . ?


The answer, for me, was taking the sunrise 'Safari Tour' (Scops Owl calling in the pre-dawn wait) and the sharp eyes of Noa and Anat who quickly spotted the juvenile.

A little while later I just managed to single out the adult in the throng....

A truly gorgeous bird.





The cranes didn't seem particularly bothered by this Jungle Cat
or this Golden Jackal.

The cranes are much more interested in their morning feed.


Otherwise, the lake held two small flocks of Ruddy Shelduck,
 White Storks,
 loads of Avocet
 and Glossy Ibis
as well as Spoonbills, Pelicans and a small group of Flamingos.

Apparently Black-winged Kites are the commonest raptor here now!

(young bird)
A couple of Greater Spotted Eagles and an Eastern Imperial Eagle added to the enjoyment.

At the Hula Lake reserve I heard several Black Francolin and Great Spotted Cuckoos singing but couldn't see them. The White Tailed Eagles were in their favourite trees


and a quick tour of the reserve turned up a few Black Storks, a cracking Marsh Sandpiper,

some great views of Glossy Ibis (very common but, like Starlings, endlessly variable depending on the light),

and dozens of Marsh Harriers around. 

For an ostensibly non-birding trip this was a truly memorable few hours in a beautiful part of the country.


Friday, 5 February 2016

Rough-legged Buzzard and Bateleur

Went for an out-and-out twitch today - Israel's third ever Rough-legged Buzzard. It was more successful than I had hoped. The buzzard was visible straight away and provided fantastic views as it hunted over the hillside, People had seen the Bateleur (very long staying now) earlier in the morning and it reappeared over some distant woods - instantly identifiable silhouette and flight pattern - and hunted ever nearer to us, eventually passing very close by. A Great Spotted Eagle made a slow pass over us making three quality birds in about twenty minutes. A real pity that this quality is not reflected in the photos I took. Below, the best of a very shabby set.

The buzzard,

the Bateleur,

and the other eagle.

The Rough-legged Buzzard attracted a lot of birders from all over the country and it was great to meet up with friends from north and south.

On the way home, near Re'im, a Black-shouldered Kite flew across the road - they are almost common now!

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Basalt Wheatear, Pallid Scops Owl and the rest . . .

What an incredible weekend! In chronological order - Pallid Scops Owl, Hume's Leaf Warbler, Basalt Wheatear, Black Bush Robin, Steppe Grey Shrike, plus all the extras. So what's the story?

A family weekend in Eilat coincided with some superb birds, All were long stayers but I was still on tenterhooks as the weekend approached. First stop was at the charming ashram at Shittim where I was greeted with smiles and directions to the Pallid Scops Owl. This bird has been an attraction here for some time and seems oblivious to the comings and goings of various humans.
 Blending in rather well.
 Such a subtle bird.

Also at the ashram was this Hume's Leaf Warbler. Quite hard to find but its very quick movements are a give-away and I got microsecond but good-enough views of it. I include this awful photo as it typifies the views I had.

Onto the big one - a Basalt Wheatear found a few days previously and the eighth Israel record. This one was bitter-sweet. This is a long staying bird, very confiding and many people have had superb views and taken some wonderful photos. However, when I arrived a couple were there trying to photograph the bird from close enough to tweeze an eyelash, The result was that the bird eventually flew off. So, here are a couple of record shots of a very special bird that was needlessly disturbed by some very selfish behaviour.


Luckily this Mourning Wheatear wasn't rare enough to merit their attention,
 ditto this Desert Wheatear

A Cuckoo (European) flew along the wadi - welcome harbinger of Spring.

The next morning I met up with Shachar Shalev and we started the day with an Eastern Imperial Eagle on the way to Km 19. The pool there held the usual wildfowl, four Black-necked Grebes and a Purple Heron. A Greater Spotted Eagle held our attention until a Barbary Falcon came streaking in. It spent a few minutes hunting over the pool before a second one arrived and started to attack it. An amazing display of acrobatics and I've never seen two Barbary Falcons scrapping before!

Pallas's Gull flying by, not concerned by the falcons.

Indian Silverbills on the way to Km 20.

Not much around the ponds except for this Avocet

and, of course Flamingos.


On to Hai Bar for the Black Bush Robins, Cracking birds and I really hope they are now established here.




On the way out we saw this Hooded Wheatear. Frustratingly against the sun but the profile is so distinctive.

Up to Km 94 but the same situation as yesterday where disturbance seemed to have shifted the BW off. Saw A couple of Desert Warblers though. Back to 76 where Shachar had found a Steppe Grey Shrike the week before. It was still there and happily hunting.

The evening saw the usual White-eyed Gulls at North Beach,

but only one of the two Brown Boobys

and some Slender-billed Gulls (single digit numbers here recently)

as well as the white morph Western Reef Egret, here with a Great White Egret

and here in the evening sun.

The next morning we headed to Amram's Pillars to look for Sinai Rosefinches. The females were at the feeding spot along with a couple of White-crowned Black Wheatears.

We had a surprise visit from this stunning male.



 What a gorgeous bird.

Later that morning a Kurdish Wheatear was reported from Km 69. Tried but dipped. Oh well, this still counts as one of the very best birding experiences I've had here. With thanks to Shachar!