Monday 30 April 2012

Golden Oriole and Red-backed Shrike

Over the weekend I saw at least two Golden Orioles on the kibbutz. At Sde Boker though, there had apparently been up to 12 in one Mulberry tree. Meidad Goren and I drove over this morning to see if they were still there. The tree in question was literally hopping with Blackcaps but no GOs. After a minute or so we saw a couple flying around. This male showed beautifully in a nearby tree-top. Cracking!

Back at work I saw my first Red-backed Shrike of the season. Another cracking male.

Lots of Nightingales around,
 and Thrush Nightingales.

Back to Nir Oz - plenty of Bee-eaters, various hirundines and swifts moving through as well as a single Roller.

Friday 27 April 2012

Ha Besor reed beds

A large movement of hirundines this morning around Nir Oz - Red-rumped Swallow,
 Swallow, House Martin and Sand Martins.

Yesterday I checked the Ha Besor Reservoir area - a great morning's birding with a lot of common birds around. Blackcaps once again dominated the scene - they are everywhere at the moment,
White-breasted Kingfisher,
and a lot of waders - Black-tailed godwit (below), Little Ringed Plover, Little Stint, Ruff, Wood, Green and Common Sandpipers, Black-winged Stilt.

I found a quiet spot away from the road where a stream enters the reed beds, forming a pool. The warblers were out in force. Reed warbler,

Great Reed Warbler keeping low to the waterline,

Sedge and Reed Warblers, this Sedge had a very white supercilium,

 more Reed Warblers,

 this one included because it's the first time I've seen a reflection of water on a wing,

 Bee-eaters - plenty of these around now.

The light was very glaring by now, making photography difficult - didn't put the birds off though. The first Rufous Bush Robins I've seen this year,

 and a Thrush Nightingale.

Lots of Squacco Herons around and a single female Collared Flycatcher completed the morning.

An Ichneumon or Egyptian Mongoose wandered along the reservoir shore. As a non-birdy aside and for a really good laugh read Whittier's 1832 elegy for an ichneumon - truly awful! Bear in mind that this is written by someone who thought that a poem about a brick was 'fine and fitting'. He never actually saw the beast as it died and was buried before he arrived to view it. Here's the first stanza as a taster . . . 
     Stranger! they have made thy grave 
     By the darkly flowing river; 
     But the washing of its wave 
     Shall disturb thee never! 
     Nor its autumn tides which run 
     Turbid to the rising sun, 
     Nor the harsh and hollow thunder, 
     When its fetters burst asunder, 
     And its winter ice is sweeping, 
     Downward to the ocean's keeping.

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Collared Pratincole

Continuing on 'collared' theme, I've started checking the sewage pools at Revivim. As I approached the gates today I immediately noticed a pratincole fly up. In the short time it took to get out of the car the bird was away and flying fast. I did manage a couple of record shots - this one shows the reddish brown underwing nicely. Collared Pratincole - one of my favourites!

The pools are quite birdy - Dunlin,

Squacco Herons (adult and juv.)

Greenshank, Wood, Green and Common Sandpipers, Ruff, Little Stints. Yellow Wagtails, Bee-eaters etc. A good movement of House Martins and Swallows going through and a Peregrine keeping everything on its toes. This is definitely a place to keep an eye on.

In Sde Boker there are still many Ortolan moving through, Collared Flycatchers, Thrush Nightingale and Nightingale, Garden Warblers and hundreds of Blackcaps. Garden Warblers are really dull but still good to see so close up.

Friday 20 April 2012

Collared Flycatcher (male)

I was working in the kibbutz this morning and noticed this superb male Collared Flycatcher flitting from tree to tree. I collected my camera after work finished and took a few pics. This one was rather wary and kept its distance but no matter - makes a great addition to the female from Wednesday. Huge white collar, white primary patch,
 very pale grey rump
and large white forehead patch.

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Collared Flycatcher

Things have been a bit quiet lately rarity-wise at Sde Boker but lots of the commoner migrants moving through. It is, however, Ficedula season so I was more than happy to find this lovely female Collared Flycatcher while I was having a coffee break this morning.

Separating female Collared and Semi-collared Flycatchers can be impossible in the field - luckily this is a typic female making id much easier. Primary spot reaching to edge of wing, pale grey rump and hindneck, blackish tail with white outers, no white second wing bar etc etc.

Amazing how the light completely changes the bird's appearance - pale grey in direct light, greyish-brown in the shade.

This wryneck was too exhausted to move. Eventually it recovered enough to fly off into the trees to feed.

Desert Finches are breeders at Sde Boker - stunning birds!

 A new crop of Linnets is coming through.

Wood Warbler - very pale fronted. Ringed and released by Darren Burns.

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler against the light.

Nightingale - also ringed.

On the way home I stopped off at Besor Resrvoir - the reeds in the stream/river are really high now, obscuring the channel and making crake watching impossible. The reeds hold the usual warblers and Squacco Herons have appeared. Spotted Redshank was good to see in one of the pools.

Sunday 8 April 2012

Long Billed Pipit redux

Saturday morning found me on Mt Amasa looking for better views of Long Billed Pipit. A sit-and-wait strategy paid off - after a minutes I picked up their calls and a few seconds later was rewarded with cracking views as they brought a variety of insect life for their nestlings.
 What a supercilium!

Finally, a view of the bill sans bugs.

A Blue Rockthrush made its customarily distant appearance.

I left soon after this and drove up to Yatir Forest. It was getting towards the hot part of the day and things were quietening down. However, I immediately found a very active pair of Eastern Bonelli's Warblers,
A Woodchat Shrike,
Long Legged Buzzard and a passage of Lesser Spotted Eagles and Steppe Buzzards going over.

A Spur-thighed Tortoise (Testudo graeca) was great to see.

This next bird probably deserves a blog entry of it's own. Last week at Sde Boker I saw this flitting around in a tree . . .

I thought this could be an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler although I have to admit my first thoughts were along much rarer lines - Sykes' Warbler (Iduna rama). I had a search through all my books but couldn't pin it down. Separating Sykes' and the elaeica race of Eastern Olivaceous Warbler can be problematic so I decided that it was time for expert opinion. A flurry of emails later and the consensus opinion emerged that this was a Caspian Reed Warbler! To be honest, I didn't even consider this option at the time, maybe if it had been in lush vegetation nearby I may have. I guess the lesson is to always keep an open mind and remember that this is migration in Israel - anything may turn up anywhere. With thanks to B. Granit, Y. Perlman, J. Smith and R. Standing for their extremely helpful comments.

Less problematic birds of the day were this very smart Northern Wheatear,
 a fine, upstanding Isabelline Wheatear,

 and a very bedraggled Masked Shrike.

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...