Friday, 10 February 2017

Re'im Reservoir - eagles and geese

Went back to Re'im to get a pic or two of the Greater White-fronted Geese.

The single young Eastern Imperial Eagle that has been around for most of the winter flew off the reservoir bank

followed by two others. Fantastic to see three eagles together. The two below seemed to form a couple while the third kept its distance from them.

Too close to frame as it flew overhead.

Cranes arrived for a drink.

Some of the Shelduck mentioned in the previous post.

Spring is on its way, judging by the plumages of this Spanish Sparrow and Stonechat - exceptionally well turned out.

Another common but gorgeous bird - the Chukar.

On the way back I looked in at the Urim Reservoir. Masses of Mallard, Shoveller, Teal, two Wigeon, several Pintail and a couple of Pochard, Gadwall and Shelduck made a nice selection of wildfowl.

Penduline Tits

Checked out the reeds near the Jackdaw colony on the Besor stream this morning. Amazed to see a pair of Penduline Tits - I've found these to be really elusive, forever keeping just out of sight, keeping behind reeds and generally giving only the most fleeting of views.

I thought this view was going to be it.

But no, this one put on a splendid performance.

Ironically it was the normally visible Clamorous Reed Warblers that skulked and hid.

Otherwise it was a quiet morning - very little at Besor Reservoir apart from a couple of Ferruginous Duck and the two Greater White-fronted Geese at Re'im Reservoir along with a dozen or so Shelduck.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Little Swifts

The Ovda valley is alive with larks at the moment - Temminck's, Bar-tailed, Lesser Short-toed, Thick-billed as well Basalt Wheatear, Cream Coloured Coursers etc so why did Itay Herling and I forego this spectacle and head north to the Golan?

To try and find Red-fronted Serin is the answer. The day started well enough with Wrens and Chiffchaffs in a frosted wood near Ein Ziwan and then brief views of a Radde's Accentor at the Volcanic Park (Mt Avital). Things started to go downhill from there and we failed to find any Rf Serins despite an uncanny feeling that they were somewhere near. Plenty of Serins, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Linnets, Lapwings and even wild boar.

The area was birdy enough but lacking the prize. On to Alonei Habashan to look for Yellowhammers and possibly Pine Bunting but it was a write-off. Great Tits, Blackbirds and Jays and that was it. We'd spent a fair bit of time seeing not much so we headed off for Mt Susita for Long-billed Pipit. The hillsides were completely pipit free but consolation prizes were a female Finsch's Wheatear, a small flock of Little Swift (very challenging to photograph),

this stunning Blue Rock Thrush,

and a surprise Whitethroat.
The breeding population of Whitethroat arrive in January/February while the migratory ones arrive much later.

Plenty of Crag Martins around. I wanted to capture the diagnostic dark underwing coverts and windows in the tail feathers.
Almost bingo - shame about the focus.

The Golan is a great place to bird in any/every season. This time we rolled snake eyes but next time . . . .

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Sociable Plovers and a young Eastern Imperial Eagle

Back to Urim to check on the Sociable Plovers. All 22 present and correct.

And an amazing young Eastern Imperial Eagle just overhead at Re'im reservoir.


A pity I fluffed this shot - the look of curiosity in the bird's eye. . . 

Radde's Accentor - Gamla

Here's a bird I've been wanting to see for a very long time.

Radde's Accentor. Two were reported at Gamla plus another one close by. The Beit Shean valley held the temptation of Little Bustard although the other megas - Lesser White-fronted Goose and Slavonian Grebe - seem to have moved on. Armed with a list of the current birdiest spots (thank you Avner Rinot) Itay Herling and I set off on the long drive to the north arriving at Gamla just passed eight. We found both the Accentors on literally our first scan, about 100 m from the car park.

A bit of careful maneuvering produced much better views.

It then flew over my head to a nearby tree.

Such a smart bird!

An obliging Sardinian Warbler popped out and preened for a few minutes.

A Wryneck made a brief appearance. This is the first January Wryneck I have ever seen - a highly unusual winterer.

As it warmed up we started looking out for vultures. Well rewarded with three Cinereous (two adults, one juvenile) and eight to ten Griffons. A distant Little Swift made an appearance too.

After a few minutes they circled over over heads. Incredible birds. Two Cinereous images followed by two Griffon. 

Other birds at Gamla included Crag Martin, Serin,

Stonechats galore (this, too me, looks like a Siberian but I've been wrong before - comments welcome),

a chilly looking Southern Grey Shrike.

In the fields to the south, near Afik Junction, we saw Long-legged Buzzards, Marsh Harriers, Lapwings and Golden Plover.

On to the Beit Shean valley and the fishponds/fields at Ma'oz Haim fishponds - Black Storks, Great and Little Egrets, Squacco Heron, Osprey, Marsh Harriers, Black Kites, Greater Spotted Eagle, Osprey, Common and Long-legged Buzzards, all three Kingfishers, vast numbers of Coot and a small flock of Dead Sea Sparrows.

Black Kites

Black Storks

Coots in a flap.

Dead Sea Sparrow

Greater Spotted Eagle

A gloriously lit Kingfisher

Squacco Heron

We searched in vain for the LW Goose and Little Bustards before heading to Kfat Rupin where Frank Moffat had found three Little Bustards several hours previously. The fields were being worked (by farmers as well as a cracking male Pallid Harrier and a ring tail Hen Harrier) and we had no luck with the bustards. On the way back to the road though we were surprised by this very pretty female Black Francolin. Difficult light conditions but great views nevertheless.

Our final stop was at the Kfar Rppin fishponds to search for Bittern (Frank Moffat had one walking in front of his car!). No luck with that either but there were huge numbers of other birds around. More Dead Sea Sparrows, Great Crested Grebes, Spoonbills, Glossy Ibises, Peregrine (below), many Marsh Harriers, a very tame Clamorous Reed Warbler, Ruffs, Little Stints, Ringed Plovers etc.

Light was fading fast so time to head south - last birds being these two Purple Herons together with a Great White Egret.

It was a fantastic day's birding - a lifer (the accentor), a highly unusual Wryneck, and huge numbers of the commoner species. In terms of sheer numbers and variety the Beit Shean valley is deservedly the best birding area in Israel. Must visit more often. . . .