Saturday, 29 August 2015

Nir Oz update

Lesser Grey Shrikes are very much in evidence now - several seen around Besor and this corker on our morning walk here at Nir Oz.

A nice Eastern Bonelli's Warbler too - the first of the season for me.

BCB numbers at Besor reached 61 a couple of days ago. They were very flighty and didn't settle for long - I suspect that they'll head off in the next few days.

Common enough in season but I love Red-backed Shrikes - such pretty birds.

I was able to sneak up on these Purple Swamphens - adult on the right and a young bird on the left, still with a black bill and shield.

 Yup, another Lesser Grey Shrike. . . .

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

47 BCBs - a Besor record

More of the same but better! BCB numbers reached 47 yesterday. Apart from being stunning birds this is an extraordinary number for this area. Here's a pic of 27 of them

and you'll need some imagination to count 44 here but trust me (still some left in the tree) . . .

Otherwise its shrike time - all five common species today: saw the usual Desert Grey (or Southern Grey) on the commute, a distant juv Masked near the Besor car park, then this pretty Red-backed (juv)

and a cryptic but lovely juv Woodchat

and finally another Lesser Grey in the same dead tree as the one I blogged a week or so ago!

Friday, 21 August 2015

Besor update

BCB numbers climbed to 33 as of last Thursday.

A very fine male Red-backed Shrike made an appearance but didn't stay for a photo-op. On the subject of shrikes, I was trying to type this very pale individual of what I naively assumed was a Southern Grey Shrike,

and found that this young bird is a Desert Grey Shrike, not a Southern Grey Shrike. The Southern Grey complex commonly found here can be subdivided into elegans and aucheri - genetically distinct, separate clades. Long story short, look at the cladogram below

CSNA schema
Olssen et al.,  2010. The Lanius excubitor (Aves, Passeriformes) condumdrum: taxonomic dilemma when molecular and non-molecular data tell different stories. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 55:2 347-357.

and also see for a discussion of the data. So, what used to be the Southern Grey found in the north (mostly aucheri) is an Asian Grey and the southern elegans is Desert Grey. How did I miss this?

An adult elegans.

Otherwise, the rapidly shrinking reservoir held a dozen Whiskered and White-winged Terns, the purple Swamphens

and increasing numbers of Kingfishers.

On the way home this Short-toed Eagle (common around here) allowed a reasonably close approach.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Pink-backed Pelican

Finally had a chance to go north. My first stop was, of course, the fish ponds in the Jezreel Valley to try for the long-staying pelican. It was not an easy bird and I eventually found it on the furthest pond in the Beit Alfa complex - after having started at the eastern most Harod pond.

Amazing bird - the size difference is immediately obvious, as is the shorter bill and greyish wings. Definitely worth the hours of pond scouring. I'd looked at this pond before and noted the Pelicans. I left for a brew-up in some shade and returned for another scan. Still only three Pelicans. I then worked my way back east for a few ponds before returning a final time. Suddenly there were four pelicans! From where it came I do not know, but I'm glad it did.

48C is no temperature to be birding and certainly no temperature to get even halfway decent shots. Such a shame as the bird was not too distant.

The ponds were full of the common waders, storks, egrets and herons but there are other diversions in this area so after a chat with Tuvia Khan I headed off to Tirat Zvi to look for pratincoles and bee-eaters. I lasted about 20 minutes before throwing in the towel. I'm not sure how accurate my car thermometer is but it was way too hot to be out and about.

However, the ponds did look good with lots of the commoner species, including thousands of White Storks 

and loads of Pygmy Cormorants. No bee-eaters or pratincoles though.

Decided to stop off at Kfar Ruppin to have a quick look for Dead Sea Sparrows and instead found a family of Collared Pratincoles.

I spent the following morning in the relative cool of the Golan. Paid my respects to the Eagle Owl. . . 

. . . and headed up to the Hermon. Lots of Rock Buntings, Syrian Serins, Linnets, 

Goldfinches, semirufus Black Redstarts around the pools but not my target species - Rock Nuthatch. Next time, next time . . . .

Friday, 14 August 2015

Lesser-grey Shrike and 30 Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters

On my way back from checking the BCBs this morning I crossed paths with my first Lesser-grey Shrike of the season. We should be about half way through the first wave of these migrants so I've been expecting them for a few days now.

BCB numbers rose to 30 yesterday evening. Here's a short video of four of them.


While I was watching the Purple Swamphens I heard a strange high pitched trilling - searched for the source and was very surprised to see this bat hawking for insects. I don't know what species it is. Any suggestions are welcome.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Déjà vu, Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters

August 27th last year - I posted BCBs at Besor Reservoir. Today I stopped by for a quick look-see and was greeted by four BCBs flying over the water. I spotted several more perching on the pumping station fence and as I approached I flushed (accidentally) many more. Long story short, the original four plus 11 others. When I returned to the car I saw several sitting in the same tree as last year. Also, the first Kingfisher of the autumn, the Marsh Harrier is still here and the Purple Swamphen was swimming with two chicks.


Joined by a Rufous Bush-robin.
 (and pose . . . .)

And a final one from the car park.