Friday 30 March 2012

Citrine Wagtail

Male Citrine Wagtails are truly stuning birds. This individual at Sansana Resrvior this morning was almost luminous in the early morning sun.

Other interesting passage birds around the water were a single Black-headed Wagtail among the Pieds,  Little Stints,
Black-winged Stilt, Ruff. A few Pallid Swifts swooped in to skim the water.

Stopped in at Wadi Olim on the way home. Olivaceous (below), Cetti's, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were abundant in the reeds.

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Pied Wheatear

There's a small, nondescript wadi that runs at the back of Sde Boker cemetery. It has been very worthwhile walking along it as it seems to attract a lot of birds - many warblers including Rupell's and Orphean, Ehrenberg's Redstart to name but a few. And of course, lots of wheatears (Black-eared, Northern, Isabelline). This one in particular stood out from the crowd. There's been a bit of discussion about the current Pied/Cyprus wave that's coming through at the moment and there's no doubt that care needs to be taken in identifying them. I'm confident that the photos below show a Pied Wheatear but all comments are welcome.
For me, the tail pattern - wider at the outer tail and almost broken at t3, t4 - nails it. One from the top,
 and one from underneath.

Lunchtime birding at Sde Boker often turns up a surprise. Another exciting wheatear - Cyprus! Such a shame that wire is in the way.

 Note the terminal tail band is solid.

Also through was my first Ortolan of the season. Lovely bird.
Still many Cretzschmar's around.
A distant European Cuckoo flew past as a final treat before going back to the lab.

Sunday 25 March 2012

Two birds in the hand . . .

are, in this case, better than one in the bush. Darren and Chris were ringing at Sde Boker and had caught two (!) male Semi-collared Flycatchers. Superb.

Otherwise, the morning was notable for the increased numbers of warblers. Siberian Stonechat, Bluethroat, Masked Shrike, Desert Finches, many wheatears also made an appearance.

Saturday 24 March 2012

Mt Amasa

A great day on Mt Amasa, near Arad. I arrived around noon and wasn't really expecting to see much - in terms of species numbers I achieved that - but I also managed to finally see Long Billed Pipit. It's been high up on my 'most wanted' list for a long time. On the way up the flower-covered hill slope I saw a male Rockthrush in all it's finery.

And right at the very top was a Blue Rockthrush. This one did not allow close approach.

Desert Larks were plentiful but very well camouflaged against the rocks.

A flock of Rock Sparrows was moving around the slopes.

Yoav Perlman ( recommended a place to see Long Billed Pipit and I arrived at the site to find two UK birders there who told me that I'd just missed one by a matter of seconds (!). While chatting we saw a couple of Finsch's Wheatears and then decided to split the hill slope between us to see if we could get any more views of the LBP. After only a few minutes we heard its distinctive call and an LBP flew across the valley and landed on the road crash barrier. Good views but terrible shots. Next time. . . .
Note however, the short legged stature, long bill, warm brown wash on underparts.

Compare with a Tawny Pipit . . .

Ok, but the differences are very distinct in the field.

Also heard a distant Cuckoo: Scrub Warbler, Rupells' Warbler and many Lesser Whitethroats also occupied the slopes. Disappointing not to see Lesser Kestrel here but given the rest I'm not complaining.

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Cyprus Wheatear

Sde Boker was really quiet today. I walked around the Pistachia grove and had almost given up hope of seeing anything other than sparrows, bulbuls and babblers when I caught sight of a very dark wheatear on the fence. My first impression was Cyprus Wheatear but as I'm not familiar with this species I wanted longer, better views. However, it was very flighty and elusive and I managed to only get the poorest of poor record shots. First impressions count and this is a female Cyprus Wheatear - a fairly rare spring migrant through Israel, although this spring in Eilat has been particularly good for them.

Wow, these photos are getting close to edge of what's actually discernible. With many thanks to Yoav Perlman and Meidad Goren for their comments and expertise.

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Great Spotted Cuckoo

Saw this Great Spotted Cuckoo checking out the Hooded Crows on the way to work this morning. I've heard more than I've seen this year so I was very pleased to get these shots.

Rather windy today - kept passerines low in the bushes so not much see.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

Cretzschmar's Bunting and Black Headed Wagtail

A cracking morning at Sde Boker. I was right about the buntings - several Cretzschmar's Buntings were feeding in the grass. I met up with Darren Burns who was ringing. He'd caught three but seen several others. As we talked I saw my first Masked Shrike of the season, hiding at the back of a bush.

As I passed the alfalfa patch this beautifully plumaged Black Headed Wagtail showed itself. I've narrowed the subspecies to Motacilla feldegg ssp. superciliaris but yellow wagtails have an enormous number of forms and intergrades and this makes identifying them a real challenge.

This shot shows the sharp border between the black neck and paler mantle.

I went to work but was called by Darren who had a Subalpine Warbler in the nets. Luckily I was able to take a couple of minutes and have a look - lovely bird but a real pity I didn't have my camera with me! He'd also caught an Eastern Bonelli's Warbler and Orphean Warbler as well. Black Eared Wheatear was a nice addition to the Sde Boker list.

One of the many Black Redstarts.

Monday 12 March 2012

Sde Boker Stonechat

Siberian or Caspian Stonechat? This cracking individual was close to the Sde Boker experimental plots. It's definitely a Siberian (Saxicola maurus) due to orange breast patch with contrasting white underparts, bright wing patch, neck band extending far back (orange hind neck in Spring), white rump. However, the tail pattern  indicates that it is a subspecies - Caspian Stonechat (S. m. variegatus). With thanks to Gidon Perlman for his comments.

Other 'no surprise' migrants passing through the Sde Boker experimental patches were Sedge Warbler,

Ruppell's Warbler (with an iridescent snack), 

and a rather wary but stunning samamiscus Redstart.

Even tiny patches of grass can hold a Quail and one unexpectedly flew up from under my feet. I'm expecting a few buntings any day now and will be watching the experimental plots closely.

Friday 9 March 2012

Clamourous Reed Warbler

A quick morning trip to Besor Resrvoir this morning was productive. Many migrants around although the views were fleeting - due to the paraglider buzzing overhead presumably.

Two Spotted Crakes and a single Little Crake kept very low profiles along the water's edge. Cetti's Warblers were noisy but invisible. A singing Great Spotted Cuckoo refused to show itself. This very loud and very shy Clamorous Reed Warbler took a great deal of patience to spot.

Many White Storks (35+) and Black Kites (40+) riding the morning thermals. While waiting for the CRW to show itself this fine looking Steppe Buzzard wheeled slowly overhead.

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Rupell's warblers

Spring migration is picking up. Quite a few sylvias about including a couple of stunning male Rupell's Warblers. I found these during my pre-work birding at Sde Boker.

This was a very cooperative individual. The other bird was much more elusive.

A Wryneck and Woodchat Shrike, also at Sde Boker, were new for me this Spring. 
Wrynecks - very uncooperative.

It makes a real change to be in the central Negev region. Arabian Babblers and Blackstarts are common fare.

Back at Nir Oz I saw this swarm of bees in the middle of the football pitch. Not sure why they swarm or why they chose this particular place.

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...