Saturday, 27 August 2016

Lesser Grey Shrikes etc and Besor Reservoir RIP

Shrike season. I was thinking that it was about time the Lesser Grey Shrikes arrived - Red-backs have been moving through for a couple of weeks and I had an adult Woodchat Shrike near the kibbutz back in June. On the morning walk today I saw one cracking pink flushed male Lesser Grey which flew off to join two others across the field. Further on I found a couple more and a final one down at the sewage  pool. Half a dozen without trying! Beautiful birds.

Other news - Squacco Herons raised a family at Besor Reservoir - extremely unusual for the area and I don't know of any other breeding sites this far south.

Re Besor Reservoir - it was getting very overgrown with reeds and trees were encroaching heavily in areas. However it still held breeding Purple Swamphens, Clamourous Reed Warblers and many other species. I visited it yesterday and was horrified to find that 99% of the reed bed and 100% of the trees had been cleared. A small pool of stagnant water remains with some migratory Kingfishers, a few Little Egrets and a couple of Squacco Herons. The rest is a large dust bowl. A couple of Cetti's Warblers still argued over territory (each end of a pile of ploughed up reeds and bulldozed trees) but that was it. Not quite - an Isabelline Wheatear was enjoying the new patch of desert. I assume the Swamphens and other residents found refuge along the Besor stream (still plenty of reeds and some water there). I hope that the clearance is simply Part 1 of a regeneration scheme but we'll have to wait and see. I sincerely hope my optimism is not naive. Besor Reservoir was an incredble birding spot and over the years I spent many happy hours there seeing  160+ species.

Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters arrived and went. I didn't do a full count this year but it was  great to see these gorgeous birds back again.

The Tawny Eagle stayed around for quite a while. I wernt back to see it several times and was always rewarded with incredible views. 

Brown-necked Raven included because here you can actually see the brown neck (often difficult to discern).

And a Hoopoe that ran out of a hole in a sand bank, saw me and instead of flying off scuttled through the scrub and disappeared down another hole.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Tawny Eagle

Quick update – I’ve been off-line for a while (computer issues). It’s been a quiet summer for me so far until news broke that Olga Chagina had found Israel's 6th Tawny Eagle (3 CY) near Tze’elim. This one proved twitchable and deservedly popular although I managed to dip on my first attempt at it.  Watched it for about an hour on Sunday while Amir Balaban made a video ( Amazing views. The following day I returned and joined the cars parked around the eagle tree. For a while it sat there not doing much at all, just staring southwards then suddenly . . . .

What a stunning bird!

A few more pics.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Demoiselle Crane

My wife and I went north for the weekend. It wasn't a bird trip but the spectacle of the 25,000+ cranes at Agamon Hula is worth seeing. A Demoiselle Crane made an additional temptation for me and it had been seen for the past couple of days deep within the reserve. When we arrived I was told that two were now in the area - a juvenile and an adult! But, how to find a different crane in all the cranes . . . ?

The answer, for me, was taking the sunrise 'Safari Tour' (Scops Owl calling in the pre-dawn wait) and the sharp eyes of Noa and Anat who quickly spotted the juvenile.

A little while later I just managed to single out the adult in the throng....

A truly gorgeous bird.

The cranes didn't seem particularly bothered by this Jungle Cat
or this Golden Jackal.

The cranes are much more interested in their morning feed.

Otherwise, the lake held two small flocks of Ruddy Shelduck,
 White Storks,
 loads of Avocet
 and Glossy Ibis
as well as Spoonbills, Pelicans and a small group of Flamingos.

Apparently Black-winged Kites are the commonest raptor here now!

(young bird)
A couple of Greater Spotted Eagles and an Eastern Imperial Eagle added to the enjoyment.

At the Hula Lake reserve I heard several Black Francolin and Great Spotted Cuckoos singing but couldn't see them. The White Tailed Eagles were in their favourite trees

and a quick tour of the reserve turned up a few Black Storks, a cracking Marsh Sandpiper,

some great views of Glossy Ibis (very common but, like Starlings, endlessly variable depending on the light),

and dozens of Marsh Harriers around. 

For an ostensibly non-birding trip this was a truly memorable few hours in a beautiful part of the country.