Thursday, 16 October 2014

Baillon's Crake video

Awesome morning at Besor Reservoir (again . . . ). Started off with a Booted Eagle then went to check out the Little Crake which was still in the same place, running up and down the water's edge. Then on to the Baillon's place which immediately turned up Water Rail and . . . the Baillon's Crake. Captured a couple of videos of this delightful bird. This is the shorter of the two, compressed to enable this upload. It's a bit shaky at first - apologies. I've uploaded better quality versions on YouTube and


Round the reservoir - lots of Common and White-throated Kingfishers, Snipe, Bluethroats and Red-backed Shrikes in abundance, a single Ferruginous Duck, Great White Egret, Squacco Herons etc. The Purple Swamphen made a brief appearance before flying off (never seen one fly before) into the thickest of the reed-beds.

Noticed a couple more Water Rails so settled down to watch them and noticed another crake - Spotted Crake! All three crakes plus WR in one morning!

Great White Egret - distant but looked stunning in the early morning light against the sky.

Finally, a couple of Clamorous Reed Warbler pics. These birds are easy enough to see when they are singing from the tops of reed heads but outside breeding season they only give fleeting views. This one was interesting in that it appeared not to like the presence of a nearby Spotted Flycatcher. Several times it flew out of cover and smacked into a dry reed, below the SF, making a cracking sound. The SF didn't seem to mind though.

Canon plug: the more I use the Canon SX50 HS the more impressed I am. This camera is really quiet so no disturbing the birds with shutter sounds. I love the video capability too - not possible on my DSLR.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Namaqua Dove

Netta and I had a quick visit to Besor Reservoir again this morning. No Baillon's but yesterday's Namaqua Dove turned up sitting on the fence surrounding the reservoir. Terrible shots, against the light but a useful record. As mentioned previously, this is the furthest northwest I've seen them (although apparently the first record of this species in Israel was in 1961 in the northwest Negev).

Other good birds this morning were Jack Snipe, Tawny Pipit (new for me at this site), large numbers of Bluethroats and Common Kingfishers, Little Crake and Water Rail, excellent views of Clamorous Reed Warbler. Also, the winter's first Lapwings and Red-throated Pipits have turned up Nir Oz fields.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Baillon's Crake

Patience has finally paid off - in the guise of a Baillon's Crake this morning at Besor Reservoir. I'm a big fan of any crake but even so, Baillon's is my personal favourite. Even its scientific name, Porzana pusilla, has a magical, Arthurian ring to it.

As usual with crakes, the best way to see them is to find a likely spot and then wait quietly. After ten minutes or so  I saw this little jewel in the reeds. It approached to within two metres of me!

Definitely the money shot!

 Even being so close, it stayed partially hidden most of the time.

Shame about the head being in shadow.

Cryptic . . . .

Before this I had been at the other good crake place where a Little Crake was doing the usual foray along the stones.

A Water Rail joined it,

along with a Kingfisher.

Plenty of Snipe around - this one trying to blend in with the stones (not doing a good job).

Finally, the cherry on the cake - on the way back round the reservoir a single Namaqua Dove flew past giving brief but diagnostic views. I searched for it to try for a record shot but with no success. This is the furthest northwest I've ever seen this species but their spread doesn't surprise me as I've seen them at Revivim - a mere 30 km to the South with uninterrupted suitable habitat between.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Sooty Falcons and the Dead Sea.

A great morning's birding today. Any visit to Arad is an opportunity for some good birding and instead of heading off to Har Amasa as usual I decided to head towards the Dead Sea and check in with the Sooty Falcons in Wadi Tamar. I arrived early (Long-legged Buzzards on the way down to the wadi), just as these juveniles were hopping around and stretching their wings. Beautiful.

On the way to Neve Zohar I passed some pools packed with birds. Spoonbills (pictured), Great and Little Egrets, Black Storks, Grey Herons, Water Rail and Lesser Black-backed Gulls (exciting for me as I don't get to see many gulls) and an unidentified marsh tern. It would be good to spend more time there but the site is not accessible for closer viewing.

On to the pools/reeds at Neve Zohar. Loads of common waders - Snipe,

 Little Stints,

Temminck's Stint. 

Red-backed Shrikes still around in good numbers,

Little Green Bee-eaters (of course)

and Dead Sea Sparrows. These lovely little birds are really difficult to get good pics of. Small, wary and elusive, they like to sit in the vegetation and while they call regularly it's not easy to see them. The one below was taken at 50x and this image is as cropped as possible to still be ok-ish.

 A nice flock of Ferruginous Duck on the big pool with a Tufted Duck and Mallard.

Back in Arad, this flock of Cranes used the thermals to circle up.

So, nothing really special today but great views of some great birds, special mention to Dead Sea Sparrows!

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Spotted Crakes

More crakes this morning. The water by the little dam/weir held an adult and two juvenile Water Rails and two fine Spotted Crakes. This one approached to c. two metres! They seem to be very sensitive to sound (a distant ATV scared them out of view) but if you are quiet and still they'll treat you as part of the scenery.

Great to see Bluethroats again - there were several hopping around the reeds with the Cetti's and Reed Warblers. Still impressive numbers of Red-backed Shrikes too.

Pallid and Marsh Harriers, Osprey and Lesser Spotted Eagles were the more interesting of the raptors. So nice to get a perched view of an LSE, especially when it shows off its nape patch so well.

(lucky moment - 100x, no cropping)

Addendum: I'm pretty sure the eagle I posted on the 24th was a Lesser Spotted, not a Steppe and I've corrected the text accordingly.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Crakes, Rails and Lesser Spotted Eagles

Returned to HaBesor Reservoir this morning to look for autumn crakes. Two minutes at my favourite spot (crakes too) produced a lovely Little Crake.

'Crake Alley' (the little dam) was crake free but had a couple of Water Rails, of which only one showed itself for a photo-op.

Returning back around the edge of the reservoir there were large numbers of Plain Tiger or African Monarch (Danaus chrysippus) butterflies. I'm amazed at bird migration but doubly so when insects do it!

We're at the tail-end of the Lesser-grey Shrike season now - this straggler showing off a truly fearsome bill.

I saw several very distant eagles during the morning  - way too far to identify with certainty until this one popped out of the trees on my way back to the car. Lesser Spotted Eagle!

I'm still using a Canon SX50 for day to day birding/recording and it is supposed to be not so good for birds in flight. I would agree but the eagle shots above are good enough for me. Overall, I feel the limitations of my photos lie with me not the equipment I use. With holidays coming up there's plenty of time to practice!