Had a good couple of hours at Besor Reservoir this morning. Started off with a Rufous Bush-robin singing nicely,
followed by a single Feruginous Duck, Night Heron and Purple Heron (only the second or third I've seen here). Clouds of Swallows flying over, Blackcaps and Lesser Whitethroats everywhere. The reeds were full of Acrocephalus warblers - note worthy were Marsh (call) and both Great Reed and Clamorous. Nightingales and Bluethroats made appearances too. Colour was provided by Bee-eaters and many Rollers - at least six but it may have been more. The Pied Kingfisher is still here.
The surprise for me was seeing not only one Common (uncommon here and a new one for this site) Cuckoo
but finding two more! Three Common Cuckoos together is uncommon indeed.
One on the left, one on the right
An inevitable GSC made an appearance. So many of them this year!
Squacco Herons are very numerous and don't really need mentioning except for this one. Absolutely stunning in pristine summer plumage.
Back on the kibbutz a couple of Jays and parakeets were hassling something in a tree. I peered through the tangle of twigs and leaves and came eye to eye with a Scops Owl. Unfortunately the combination of mobbing and me flushed it. It disappeared into some even denser (and quieter) shrubbery.
My commute to work is quite long but it goes through some good habitat. Today's gems were a pair of Hobbies. Really fine looking falcons! I watched them chase each other from tree to tree for a short time before one disappeared off into the desert. Thinking the show was over I was just about to drive on when it suddenly reappeared with a clawful of passerine (Blackcap?).
Further on I stopped to take a portrait of one of the four Little Owls I see every day.
On the way home a friend called me to say he'd seen two Great Spotted Cuckoo fledglings being fed by a Hooded Crow. Although GSCs may lay more than one egg in a nest I've never seen more than one juv. at a time. Thanks for the tip, Aviv!
The crow is offering a twig. Really.
Bring real food!
I don't know what the crow brought this time but it was more favourably received than the twig.
Rollers have been noticeable by their absence around here - until today. Two on the way to work and four others near Rei'im on the way home. As usual they rarely allow a close approach.
Rollers are quite common summer visitors in this area but I never get tired of their African charm.
Pale Rock Sparrow, Hill Sparrow, Pale Rockfinch (my favourite): whatever you call it the Sde Boker hills were alive with its song this morning. Looks like another good year for this subtle and attractive bird.
They like to sing from the tops of bushes and shrubs. Their soft, buzzing song can make them difficult to pin down in the landscape but I counted at least six singers during my 20 minute walk along the hillside.
Didn't want to encroach too closely so this shot was taken handheld at 200x magnification (the photos above were taken at 50x and cropped). Really not a high quality image but pretty good if you just need to id a bird.
Flushed with Hypocolius success I decided to try for the Black-crowned Sparrow-lark at Se'ifim. It was reported to be still present on the 8th so I took my chances. I arrived just before dawn and was promptly escorted off the site by the army. Apparently access is only possible after sunrise. On my second attempt I met up with Itai Shani and another birder. Together we combed the plain for any sign of the BCSL and/or the Dunn's Larks that had also been reported. No luck at all with either species. On the positive side Bar-tailed Larks were in abundance and we had excellent close up views. . .
. . . this one looking ridiculously fluffed up in the cold morning breeze,
nice view of the rufous tertials
Wheatears (Northern, Mourning (below),
Isabelline, Hooded and Desert (below - thanks Ian)) were perching on bushes and flocks of Trumpeter Finches and Short-toed Larks kept us diverted.
All in all, a very pleasant morning's birding in a very beautiful setting; the disappointment of dipping detracting only a little from the day.
The Besor Reservoir is still fairly quiet but good number of Turtle Doves around
as well as a few Cretzschmar's Buntings.
It was good to see the Rufous Bush-robins and Bee-eatersback.
In the reeds this Bluethroat was hopping around,
as were many Cetti's Warblers
Clamorous Reed Warblers,
and Sedge Warblers,
and a very bedraggled ear-bud of a Graceful Prinia.
On the way back I stopped at a manure heap and checked out the wagtails. Two definite races present.
Blue-headed (spp. flava)
Black-headed (spp. feldegg)
Finally, back on the kibbutz we've had some impressive numbers of White Storks passing through. This lift-off was only one of several last weekend. Many Steppe Buzzards in with the thermaling storks too.
One of the kibbutz trees has become popular with cavity nesters: I noticed this Hoopoe entering its nest hole,
and less than a metre above the Hoopoe was a newly excavated woodpecker hole, complete with woodpecker. I haven't seen two separate species nest in such close proximity before.