It continues to be an amazing and unpredictable summer here. A male White-throated Robin turned up in Ben Gurion's Grave Park, Sde Boker (excellent find last Thursday by Harel Caduri). These stunning birds are rare here at the best of times, and particularly so in autumn and even more so outside the Arava. After an anxious weekend and a 20 minute search this morning I saw the bird hopping around in the shadows. It then disappeared completely only to reappear a few minutes later and start to feed out in the open. Irania gutturalis - what a bird!
This is a very early record for a migrant - possibly the earliest.
What a day! I'll do this in reverse chronology. Just got back from watching a local family of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters! Eyal Shochat and Yaron Charka reported these a couple of days ago from a site a bit north of the Besor reservoir. Last year, at the end of August, I found a large flock of adult and juv BCBs at Besor and thought, because of the early date (for migration), that they may well have bred in the area. It seems as though they might have, and may have this year too . . . . If this is what it seems to be then Eyal and Yaron's sighting may be the first record of BCB breeding outside the Rift Valley. Juvenile below.
Juv. with adult male (I think)
Skipping back a beat - started the morning at Besor Reservoir with Phyllis W. As always, Besor provided great views of great birds. The best of the bunch was an Osprey flying over with a fish in its talons - an extremely unusual record for this area and time of year (1st record maybe?).
Also, best ever views of the local Purple Swamphens. Gorgeous birds - this one treated us with a long (for this bird) flight over the reeds.
Masses of Cetti's Warblers around,
Clamorous Reed Warblers, as expected (everything but the bird in focus),
Glossy Ibis by the treeful,
and the juv Purple Heron is still here.
Skipping back even further, last week my son and I had a few days camping in the north. This was not a birding trip but even so, who can fail to be impressed by an Eagle Owl (albeit a sleeping one)? Assuming that no one can, I took my son to a site where I'd seen them before - (thanks Lior (http://www.tatzpit.com/) and we quickly found this magnificent bird.
Har Adir, overlooking the northern border, was amazing - not so birdy but alive with reptiles and butterflies - only a handful identified. Very nice Lebanon Lizard,
Southern White Admiral,
Butterfly photography - challenging!
Looking north from Har Hermonit towards Har Hermon, stunning. . . .
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: http://www.birds.org.il/en/article-page.aspx?articleId=250 ). 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.
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 . . .