Friday, 14 November 2014

Long-eared Owls

Not exactly a garden tick as I hear/see them most days but this is the first time that the owls, the light and I have coincided with a camera. Three of them in total,

this is the one at the lower right-centre of the above photo,

and this one is in the top left,

and this is in the top right (really, not easy to see but thanks Aviv!).

Back to the most photogenic of the three, having a preen.

Still many Hawfinches around - this morning there was a flock of ten in the kibbutz with at least four others outside. 

Lots of potential here for the influx of northern finches and thrushes that we're currently enjoying. Keeping my eyes and ears open . . . . 

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Eastern Imperial Eagle

The neighbour EI Eagle finally posed for a photo-op this morning.

 What a great bird!

An unusual pairing: Desert Finch and Linnet - north and south meet at Sde Boker.

On the way home this evening I stopped for this Southern Grey Shrike singing.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Caspian Stonechat (update)

Adding some photos of one Darren and I ringed at Sde Boker a couple of days ago. Good clear id features.

Caspian Stonechat (Saxicola maura variegata). Found this bird on one of the Urim fields this morning. To me it looks good for 1st winter male Caspian Stonechat. Happy to hear other views.

Other good stuff at Urim: three Calandra larks (fly-by) two Eastern Imperial Eagles, one Peregrine, one Marsh and three Hen Harriers. Loads of Skylarks, Red-throated Pipits, Corn Buntings, Bluethroats etc.

A small passage of Booted Eagles along Nahal Besor. Nice!

Even nicer (for me) was a local mega - a Dunnock ringed by Darren Burns in Sde Boker. These are an uncommonish winter visitor to Israel but only in the north. To find one in the middle of the desert in southern Israel is quite extraordinary. Rarity is contextual!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014


Heavy rains last night and this morning brought down a lot of birds. The Sde Boqer nets (Darren Burns) were full of Chiffchaffs (45 out of 88 birds today) but star of the show was this stunning female Hawfinch. Lots around this year (at least five on the kibbutz) especially in the north. I really like these birds.

I was warned to be careful of the beak - Hawfinches make light work of cherry stones - this one gave me an exploratory bite on the thumb but shrikes are worse, a lot worse.

I haven't had the chance to really see the plumage details on Hawfinches - at best I've had good views while they are at the top of a tree and I'm at the bottom. One in the hand is something special!
Amazing, iridescent flight feathers,
and such an odd shape. Display feathers or some aerodynamic accoutrement?

The Eastern Imperial Eagle is back by the road running from the kibbutz to Ma'on junction. I look forward to trying to grab a few pics - it's nearly adult and looking very fine.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Yellow-browed Warbler

November is looking good already - a stunning little Yellow-browed Warbler in the Sde Boqer nets this morning. This is the fourth this year that Darren Burns has ringed and it appears that they are becoming a much commoner migrant in Israel.

First Black Redstarts of the year too - they were absent in October, when they normally arrive, so it's good to see them. Cracking male!

Yesterday evening I was sitting outside enjoying a glass of wine when I saw two Hawfinches fly into one of the neighbour's trees. Distant shot in poor light and very over processed but a nice garden tick.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Eastern Imperial and Greater Spotted Eagles

The eagles are back. Winter is a great time to be in the NW Negev - the Urim fields are only a few km away and they hold loads of interesting birds in winter. Raptors are the key draw but there are Red-throated Pipits and Skylarks by the flock with other interesting stuff intermingling.

I didn't have to spend long looking for eagles - this juvenile Eastern Imperial Eagle was sitting not too distant from the road.
 Hooded Crow for scale.

Only a distant Peregrine on the pylons but November is when things start to pick up, raptor-wise, and I'm looking forward to spending some quality time here.

Red-throated Pipits by the dozen and many lark flocks.

I was a bit short of time so had to press on but I intend to study the passerine flocks in much greater detail - hopefully turning up Calandra Lark and an interesting pipit or two.

Driving across the ford near Tze'elim I saw this Great Egret calmly standing in the reeds about 10 m away.

Slammed on the brakes to sit and watch this immature Greater Spotted Eagle, once again really close, only 50 m from the car. You won't get a better view of this bird unless it's in the hand.

Hooded Crow for scale - they seem to enjoy sitting around with eagles.

(different colours on the two photos above - different setting on the camera)

The recent rains have raised the water level at the Besor Reservoir with a consequent increase in duck numbers (mostly Mallard). Two Purple Swamphens added a splash of colour to the Coots and Moorhens. Still many European and White-breasted Kingfishers around.

The rain started in earnest so I headed back to the car, seeing this latish Yellow Wagtail on the way.