Monday 28 November 2011

Quiet days

The last few days have been fairly quiet in terms of new birds at Nir Oz. Having said that, the Steppe Grey Shrike, Sociable Plovers, Eastern Imperial Eagles, Hen and Pallid Harriers are all still here and have been joined by the Booted Eagle. Below are a few shots of some of the commoner birds around at the moment.

One of the numerous Kestrels, something edible in one of its claws.

One of the Buzzards being mobbed by Hoodies.

A classic Isabelline Wheatear - upright stance, pale forehead and black alula.

Some of the Corn Bunting flock that like the fields near the pomegranate orchard.

Spanish Sparrows are plentiful around the cowsheds - this individual looks like a composite of other Sparrow parts.

There were some 85 Stone Curlews together earlier in the Winter. They've dispersed now and most can be found near Magen.

Spur-winged Lapwing - very common, very handsome and very noisy (pik! pik! pik! pik! pik!)

Friday 25 November 2011


Today was all about flocks . . .

. . . of 300+ Lapwings,

49 Golden Plover,

and many hundreds of Skylarks.
The GP flock has been increasing steadily from 7 to 17 yesterday to 50 today.

Both Eastern Imperial Eagles were in view today. The juv appears to have suffered some shotgun damage - there's a special place in hell for people who do this.

This Booted Eagle is a new one for me at Nir Oz. Despite the blurriness of the photo the 'landing lights' can clearly be seen.
Interesting size comparison with this Black Kite.

It was also good to the see the Sociable Plovers, Hen Harriers and a pair of Isabelline Wheatear.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Long-legged Buzzard, Hen Harrier and Eastern Imperial Eagles

Another superb day for raptors in the Nir Oz fields. After turning up a Marsh Harrier to the west of Nir Oz I returned to home ground. This stunning Long-legged Buzzard circled up in perfect light. A different individual from the one I saw a few days ago.

Continuing on my rounds, I found the Sociable Plovers again, hunkered down between two crop lines and easily overlooked. The Merlin was also there, as were the obligatory Black Kites, Buzzards, Kestrels and Sparrowhawks. The northern fields were awash with larks again. This time I noticed three much larger larks in with a flock of skylarks. As they flew into land I saw the broad white trailing edge of the wings - Calandra larks! Sadly, no photos. The lark flocks were very skittish, presumably because two Hen Harriers were quartering the fields.  

My attention was caught by an adult Eastern Imperial Eagle sitting on top of a distant tree. Very distinctive! It didn't allow for close inspection though and flew off at my approach.

A very different bird from the juvenile, below. 

Saturday 19 November 2011

Various at Nir Oz, Mt Amasa and Arad

No sign of the Sociable Plovers this morning but there's a lot of good territory for them here. Quite a few Hen Harriers around but few other raptors except for the usuals - this Buzzard has been around for a while.

Black redstarts have been for a few weeks - these are gorgeous birds and this one was no exception.

We left Nir Oz for a weekend in Arad. Every visit to this area has to include Mt Amasa. I got up extra early and arrived at the mountain (hill) in rain and wind. It felt quite like Scotland as I set off up the 'glen' with hands red with cold and binoculars soaked. Plenty of Finsch's Wheatears about but no interesting pipits despite a rather wet 2 hr search. I got off the hill just in time for the sun to come out along with an uber cute Scrub Warbler.
The break in the rain allowed for some distant shots of Finsch's Wheatear.

Several Black-necked Raven pairs were in sight on the way back to Arad. After breakfast I visited my favourite wadi and was rewarded with six(!) Griffon Vultures. At least two were wing-tagged. Ohad Hatzofe (Avian Ecologist, Division of Science and Conservation, Israel Nature & Parks Authority) says that one of the birds (E79) was born in 2006 and has been recently seen in Sde Boker (Nov 1st). This is part of the NPA monitoring of the Israeli Griffon Vulture's population study.

A very post-processed image to show the tag.

Thursday 17 November 2011

Sociable Plover

My belief that the Nir Oz fields would host Sociable Plover proved correct this morning. Israel is a key wintering site for this highly threatened species that breeds in Kazakhstan and Southern Russia. Urim, 15 km south of here, is the traditional place to see them but I was delighted to find two individuals here.

Another exciting find - just after the plovers. The two images below are of Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta). This is the race I'm used to seeing in Northern Europe. It is much less common here although probably overlooked. (With thanks to Yoav Perlman ( for his comments)

 Water pipit (Anthus spinoletta coutellii). This is the Middle Eastern race.

A single and rather late Yellow Wagtail made an appearance by the field edge. One wing appears damaged so it may stay for a while.

Grey Wagtails, Red-throated Pipits, Greenfinches, Chaffinches and Goldfinches completed the passerine list for this spot.

As with Goldfinches, sometimes the common birds are the best looking. This fine Northern Wheatear is such an example, concentrating more on the nearby Hen Harrier than me.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Ten raptors this morning at Nir Oz

A superb morning in the fields. After last night's rains the light was superb and there was a strong and cold wing buffeting me - reminded me of Scottish birding. . . . The fun started with this obliging Merlin that sat quietly for a while before flying off in pursuit of a flock of passerines.

Driving on I saw a distant but obviously large and pale bird sitting in the middle of a field. A first I thought it must be a harrier but through the scope it turned out to be a Long-legged Buzzard.

A few minutes later a Spotted Eagle (top two) circled up from the fields with a Buzzard and disappeared South.

The best was to come in the Northern fields. First, I spotted some distant Dorcas Gazelle grazing but then my attention was distracted by a Hen Harrier sweeping by giving fantastic views. As it disappeared from view I  turned to get into the car and saw a Pallid harrier flying fast towards me. Both harriers were flying in the same direction, just against the wind, and the difference in wing shape was staggering. The Pallied Harrier was wing-tagged but I couldn't make out the identification code. After this Peregrine, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel (not shown) made their appearances (everything against a backdrop of Black Kites, of course).

Six raptors in as many minutes! However, 10 minutes after the Hen Harrier a large falcon rocketed across the road, had a scrap with a Hoodie and flew fast South. Another Peregrine. Awesome.

All this activity put up the lapwing flock and I noticed some smaller waders among them. 11 Golden Plover!

Beautiful birds, Lapwings.

Red-throated and water pipits made an interesting diversion from the raptor-fest.

This morning was too good to last - the wind brought a huge dust storm which closed play for the day.

NW India - 9th to 22nd February 2020 (Kosi River, Corbett NP, Haripur Dam, Pangot, Sattal, Chopta, Walterre)

If you look through the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent (Grimmett, Inskipp and Inskipp, 2011) you cannot help noticing the huge range of s...