Friday 24 April 2015

Besor patch update

Nothing unusual in the past few days, just a very pleasant few hours watching the Besor Reservoir patch. It's great to see the migrants moving through and the summer breeders arrive. Each day is different but very birdy. Early in the morning large numbers of Swifts, Swallows and House Martins hawk over the main pool. Today Pallid Swifts arrived in force. The Purple Swamphens make brief and distant appearances - I know exactly which areas they frequent but there's never a guarantee of seeing them. Little Grebes, Moorhens, Coots and Acrocephalus warblers are calling/singing continuously. Yesterday I heard what I thought was a Locustella - a River Warbler type song from the Tamarisk trees by the stream side. However, I couldn't confirm it either it by repeated song or sighting so it  remains a mystery. No Bluethroats recently but many Thrush Nightingales are calling from the thickets. Huge numbers of Blackcaps around and a single Wryneck this morning around the reservoir trees. A few Whiskered and Common Terns have been moving through and Purple Heron numbers have increased to seven.
Tricky birds to get good photos of.

I don't know whether this is one of the Cuckoos from a couple of days ago or a new one moving through.

A couple of Marsh Harriers (this one diving into the reeds)

and Hen Harriers around and yesterday this Osprey was fishing.

Rollers seem to have tripled their numbers since year.

Bee-eaters are always good to see. I like the colours in this shot.

Squacco Herons by the dozen and each one in a slightly different plumage.

Glossy Ibis, Little Egret and Squacco Herons. A single Night Heron didn't make it into the frame.

Patch watching - I thoroughly recommend it!

Saturday 18 April 2015

Collared Flycatcher update

Found a male Collared Flycatcher this morning in Sde Boker - makes an appropriate addition to the female from a couple of days ago.

A very pretty female Collared Flycatcher near my garden this morning.
Pale grey hind neck and rump, large white patch on wing extending to wing edge. All the classic features.

As I said, very pretty.

Finally discovered where our loquats have been going.

Friday 17 April 2015

Common Cuckoos

Had a good couple of hours at Besor Reservoir this morning. Started off with a Rufous Bush-robin singing nicely,

followed by a single Feruginous Duck, Night Heron and Purple Heron (only the second or third I've seen here). Clouds of Swallows flying over, Blackcaps and Lesser Whitethroats everywhere. The reeds were full of Acrocephalus warblers - note worthy were Marsh (call) and both Great Reed and Clamorous. Nightingales and Bluethroats made appearances too. Colour was provided by Bee-eaters and many Rollers - at least six but it may have been more. The Pied Kingfisher is still here.

The surprise for me was seeing not only one Common (uncommon here and a new one for this site) Cuckoo

but finding two more! Three Common Cuckoos together is uncommon indeed.

One on the left, one on the right

An inevitable GSC made an appearance. So many of them this year!

Squacco Herons are very numerous and don't really need mentioning except for this one. Absolutely stunning in pristine summer plumage.

Back on the kibbutz a couple of Jays and parakeets were hassling something in a tree. I peered through the tangle of twigs and leaves and came eye to eye with a Scops Owl. Unfortunately the combination of mobbing and me flushed it. It disappeared into some even denser (and quieter) shrubbery.

Thursday 16 April 2015

Hobbies, GSCs and Rollers

My commute to work is quite long but it goes through some good habitat. Today's gems were a pair of Hobbies. Really fine looking falcons! I watched them chase each other from tree to tree for a short time before one disappeared off into the desert. Thinking the show was over I was just about to drive on when it suddenly reappeared with a clawful of passerine (Blackcap?).

Further on I stopped to take a portrait of one of the four Little Owls I see every day.

On the way home a friend called me to say he'd seen two Great Spotted Cuckoo fledglings being fed by a Hooded Crow. Although GSCs may lay more than one egg in a nest I've never seen more than one juv. at a time. Thanks for the tip, Aviv!

The crow is offering a twig. Really.

(drops twig)

Not impressed.

Bring real food!

I don't know what the crow brought this time but it was more favourably received than the twig.

Rollers have been noticeable by their absence around here - until today. Two on the way to work and four others near Rei'im on the way home. As usual they rarely allow a close approach.

Rollers are quite common summer visitors in this area but I never get tired of their African charm.

Tuesday 14 April 2015

Pale Rock Sparrow

Pale Rock Sparrow, Hill Sparrow, Pale Rockfinch (my favourite): whatever you call it the Sde Boker hills were alive with its song this morning. Looks like another good year for this subtle and attractive bird.

They like to sing from the tops of bushes and shrubs. Their soft, buzzing song can make them difficult to pin down in the landscape but I counted at least six singers during my 20 minute walk along the hillside.

Didn't want to encroach too closely so this shot was taken handheld at 200x magnification (the photos above were taken at 50x and cropped). Really not a high quality image but pretty good if you just need to id a bird.

Friday 10 April 2015

Se'ifim Plain etc

Flushed with Hypocolius success I decided to try for the Black-crowned Sparrow-lark at Se'ifim. It was reported to be still present on the 8th so I took my chances. I arrived just before dawn and was promptly escorted off the site by the army. Apparently access is only possible after sunrise. On my second attempt I met up with Itai Shani and another birder. Together we combed the plain for any sign of the BCSL and/or the Dunn's Larks that had also been reported. No luck at all with either species. On the positive side Bar-tailed Larks were in abundance and we had excellent close up views. . .

. . . this one looking ridiculously fluffed up in the cold morning breeze,

nice view of the rufous tertials

Wheatears (Northern, Mourning (below),

Isabelline, Hooded and Desert (below - thanks Ian)) were perching on bushes and flocks of Trumpeter Finches and Short-toed Larks kept us diverted.

All in all, a very pleasant morning's birding in a very beautiful setting; the disappointment of dipping detracting only a little from the day.

The Besor Reservoir is still fairly quiet but good number of Turtle Doves around 

as well as a few Cretzschmar's Buntings.

It was good to see the Rufous Bush-robins and Bee-eaters back.

In the reeds this Bluethroat  was hopping around,

as were many Cetti's Warblers

Clamorous Reed Warblers,

and Sedge Warblers,

and a very bedraggled ear-bud of a Graceful Prinia.

On the way back I stopped at a manure heap and checked out the wagtails. Two definite races present.

Blue-headed (spp. flava)

Black-headed (spp. feldegg)

Finally, back on the kibbutz we've had some impressive numbers of White Storks passing through. This lift-off was only one of several last weekend. Many Steppe Buzzards in with the thermaling storks too.

One of the kibbutz trees has become popular with cavity nesters: I noticed this Hoopoe entering its nest hole,

(tight squeeze),

and less than a metre above the Hoopoe was a newly excavated woodpecker hole, complete with woodpecker. I haven't seen two separate species nest in such close proximity before.

Other competition checking out the site.

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