Wednesday 27 March 2013

Lesser Kestrels etc

I visited Mt Amasa yesterday morning. The Spring flowers are starting to wither and the grasses are turning to yellow but it was still lovely to be up there first thing - not too hot and with a cool breeze blowing. A thin stream of Swifts and Pallid Swifts started the day. Very few migrants around but a flock of 5-6 Lesser Kestrels were hunting the slopes - really elegant little falcons.

This male air-braking before hovering.

Mid hover - using every flight feather including alulae.


The following two photos show one of the females hunting.


The lower slopes of the mountain have attracted a good number of Hill (Pale Rock) Sparrows (an excellent year for them). Their buzzing song is very distinctive and I heard and saw several individuals singing from rocks or shrubs.

A few Rock Sparrows flitted about the grass patches. Only one stayed still long enough for a photo.

Many Spectacled Warblers around too.

Other breeders here at Black-eared Wheatears.

A migrant, finally! Whitethroat. 

Other migrant passerines included Orphean Warbler and Northern Wheatear. Raptors included Pallid Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Steppe Buzzards and a single Spotted Eagle but, like the passerine migration, it was slow.

Last but not least - a pair of  Little Owls.

Sunday 17 March 2013

Striolated Bunting etc

My brother Rod has just visited from the UK. We had two days in the Negev before heading for the North for four days With a final day around the Dead Sea we notched up 166 species. It was a fantastic week with extraordinary landscpae contrasts - hyper arid desert to the lush green slopes of the Golan. A complete bird trip report is being prepared but here are a few photographic highlights . . . .

One of two Striolated Buntings we saw in Wadi Mishmar. This one didn't live up to its reputation as a shy and difficult-to-see species. It was feeding on grass seed about 10 m from us.

And its cousin - the Rock Bunting. Seen in a tree, in early evening light, at Neve Ativ in the North.

Lior Kislev ( guided us for a day in the Golan - a truly memorable day with Lior's awesome expertise and good humour. Stunning landscape as a backdrop to one of the best day's birding I've had.

 Black Francolin - beautiful bird.

One of a pair of Little Owls outside their nest by the roadside.

Calandra lark was on our target list and Lior knows a great spot for them. We had superb views of them singing and displaying.

Siberian Stonechat on Mt. Susita.

And, of course, Long-billed Pipit. Again, at Mt. Susita, this one flew up from the roadside and settled on a rock nearby.

Common migrants but always great to see. Red-rumped Swallow,

and the ever-photogenic Bluethroat.

One of the best birds of the Negev part of the trip was Hill Sparrow. Meidad Goren and Yoav Perlman ( suggested Nahal Lavan near Nizzana as a likely place to see this nomad. We had reasonable views of one individual before almost walking over this one. I literally had to take a step backwards to be able to focus on this one.

Quite a few Rupell's Warblers around too.

No trip to Nizzana and Ezuz is complete with seeing MacQueen's Bustard - we had three flying around.

Raptors - we did well with 22 species. Short-toed Eagles were almost the commonest raptor. They seemed to be wheeling around and/or displaying whenever we looked up.

Not so the Booted Eagle - only one of these (Hula).

Raptor of the trip was Black-winged Kite at Agamon Hula. We had a pair here. Gorgeous birds.

Detailed trip report coming . . . !

Monday 4 March 2013


A lovely Spring morning today - just finished taking the dog for a walk when I heard an unfamiliar call overhead. Six or so Hawfinches were flying from tree to tree. Unusually for Hawfinch, a couple stayed more-or-less put giving me enough time to get my camera and take a couple of shots.

Trick of the eye - looks like I was almost level with them, not 20 m below.

Also had a look around HaBesor Reservoir this morning. Very, very quiet indeed but very beautiful with the flowers in full bloom. Once again, I heard a call that made me stop. This time it was a gorgeous Little Green Bee-eater. This is a notable sighting for me as this is the furthest North I have ever seen one.

I had a glimpse of a distant Great Spotted Cuckoo but it eluded me. It sang quite close by but I didn't manage to see it again. There was one keeping an eye on the crows (and vice-versa) last year and I was hoping it would return. A couple of hours later though, I was picking up my daughter from school and there, sitting in a tree just by the bus stop was a cracking GSC! It called, raised its tail, raised its crest and then flew into another tree only to be chased out by a pair of crows. Great performance!

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...