Friday 31 October 2014

Eastern Imperial and Greater Spotted Eagles

The eagles are back. Winter is a great time to be in the NW Negev - the Urim fields are only a few km away and they hold loads of interesting birds in winter. Raptors are the key draw but there are Red-throated Pipits and Skylarks by the flock with other interesting stuff intermingling.

I didn't have to spend long looking for eagles - this juvenile Eastern Imperial Eagle was sitting not too distant from the road.
 Hooded Crow for scale.

Only a distant Peregrine on the pylons but November is when things start to pick up, raptor-wise, and I'm looking forward to spending some quality time here.

Red-throated Pipits by the dozen and many lark flocks.

I was a bit short of time so had to press on but I intend to study the passerine flocks in much greater detail - hopefully turning up Calandra Lark and an interesting pipit or two.

Driving across the ford near Tze'elim I saw this Great Egret calmly standing in the reeds about 10 m away.

Slammed on the brakes to sit and watch this immature Greater Spotted Eagle, once again really close, only 50 m from the car. You won't get a better view of this bird unless it's in the hand.

Hooded Crow for scale - they seem to enjoy sitting around with eagles.

(different colours on the two photos above - different setting on the camera)

The recent rains have raised the water level at the Besor Reservoir with a consequent increase in duck numbers (mostly Mallard). Two Purple Swamphens added a splash of colour to the Coots and Moorhens. Still many European and White-breasted Kingfishers around.

The rain started in earnest so I headed back to the car, seeing this latish Yellow Wagtail on the way.

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Siberian Willow Warbler

Darren Burns had a great bird in the nets this morning. Siberian Willow Warbler - Phylloscopus trochilus yakutensis! They are very difficult to separate from P.t. acredula but the biometrics (wing 74 mm - right on the upper range for this subspecies) together with the grey plumage make this individual a yakutensis with a very high degree of certainty.

Another nice bird in the nets a few days ago - 2cy Sparrowhawk. 

And local stuff around Nir Oz - Cranes have arrived (along with the first wintering Robins, Starlings and Chaffinches - boring for the UK but harbingers of winter here and great to see),

and a late Hobby.

The reservoir at HaBesor is still full of Kingfishers - White-breasted, Common (below)

and Pied. Pied is a new one for me on this patch. Once more this area surprises me. Only a matter of time before something really special turns up.

Thursday 16 October 2014

Baillon's Crake video

Awesome morning at Besor Reservoir (again . . . ). Started off with a Booted Eagle then went to check out the Little Crake which was still in the same place, running up and down the water's edge. Then on to the Baillon's place which immediately turned up Water Rail and . . . the Baillon's Crake. Captured a couple of videos of this delightful bird. This is the shorter of the two, compressed to enable this upload. It's a bit shaky at first - apologies. I've uploaded better quality versions on YouTube and

Round the reservoir - lots of Common and White-throated Kingfishers, Snipe, Bluethroats and Red-backed Shrikes in abundance, a single Ferruginous Duck, Great White Egret, Squacco Herons etc. The Purple Swamphen made a brief appearance before flying off (never seen one fly before) into the thickest of the reed-beds.

Noticed a couple more Water Rails so settled down to watch them and noticed another crake - Spotted Crake! All three crakes plus WR in one morning!

Great White Egret - distant but looked stunning in the early morning light against the sky.

Finally, a couple of Clamorous Reed Warbler pics. These birds are easy enough to see when they are singing from the tops of reed heads but outside breeding season they only give fleeting views. This one was interesting in that it appeared not to like the presence of a nearby Spotted Flycatcher. Several times it flew out of cover and smacked into a dry reed, below the SF, making a cracking sound. The SF didn't seem to mind though.

Canon plug: the more I use the Canon SX50 HS the more impressed I am. This camera is really quiet so no disturbing the birds with shutter sounds. I love the video capability too - not possible on my DSLR.

Monday 13 October 2014

Namaqua Dove

Netta and I had a quick visit to Besor Reservoir again this morning. No Baillon's but yesterday's Namaqua Dove turned up sitting on the fence surrounding the reservoir. Terrible shots, against the light but a useful record. As mentioned previously, this is the furthest northwest I've seen them (although apparently the first record of this species in Israel was in 1961 in the northwest Negev).

Other good birds this morning were Jack Snipe, Tawny Pipit (new for me at this site), large numbers of Bluethroats and Common Kingfishers, Little Crake and Water Rail, excellent views of Clamorous Reed Warbler. Also, the winter's first Lapwings and Red-throated Pipits have turned up Nir Oz fields.

Sunday 12 October 2014

Baillon's Crake

Patience has finally paid off - in the guise of a Baillon's Crake this morning at Besor Reservoir. I'm a big fan of any crake but even so, Baillon's is my personal favourite. Even its scientific name, Porzana pusilla, has a magical, Arthurian ring to it.

As usual with crakes, the best way to see them is to find a likely spot and then wait quietly. After ten minutes or so  I saw this little jewel in the reeds. It approached to within two metres of me!

Definitely the money shot!

 Even being so close, it stayed partially hidden most of the time.

Shame about the head being in shadow.

Cryptic . . . .

Before this I had been at the other good crake place where a Little Crake was doing the usual foray along the stones.

A Water Rail joined it,

along with a Kingfisher.

Plenty of Snipe around - this one trying to blend in with the stones (not doing a good job).

Finally, the cherry on the cake - on the way back round the reservoir a single Namaqua Dove flew past giving brief but diagnostic views. I searched for it to try for a record shot but with no success. This is the furthest northwest I've ever seen this species but their spread doesn't surprise me as I've seen them at Revivim - a mere 30 km to the South with uninterrupted suitable habitat between.

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...