Saturday 23 January 2016

Basalt Wheatear, Pallid Scops Owl and the rest . . .

What an incredible weekend! In chronological order - Pallid Scops Owl, Hume's Leaf Warbler, Basalt Wheatear, Black Bush Robin, Steppe Grey Shrike, plus all the extras. So what's the story?

A family weekend in Eilat coincided with some superb birds, All were long stayers but I was still on tenterhooks as the weekend approached. First stop was at the charming ashram at Shittim where I was greeted with smiles and directions to the Pallid Scops Owl. This bird has been an attraction here for some time and seems oblivious to the comings and goings of various humans.
 Blending in rather well.
 Such a subtle bird.

Also at the ashram was this Hume's Leaf Warbler. Quite hard to find but its very quick movements are a give-away and I got microsecond but good-enough views of it. I include this awful photo as it typifies the views I had.

Onto the big one - a Basalt Wheatear found a few days previously and the eighth Israel record. This one was bitter-sweet. This is a long staying bird, very confiding and many people have had superb views and taken some wonderful photos. However, when I arrived a couple were there trying to photograph the bird from close enough to tweeze an eyelash, The result was that the bird eventually flew off. So, here are a couple of record shots of a very special bird that was needlessly disturbed by some very selfish behaviour.

Luckily this Mourning Wheatear wasn't rare enough to merit their attention,
 ditto this Desert Wheatear

A Cuckoo (European) flew along the wadi - welcome harbinger of Spring.

The next morning I met up with Shachar Shalev and we started the day with an Eastern Imperial Eagle on the way to Km 19. The pool there held the usual wildfowl, four Black-necked Grebes and a Purple Heron. A Greater Spotted Eagle held our attention until a Barbary Falcon came streaking in. It spent a few minutes hunting over the pool before a second one arrived and started to attack it. An amazing display of acrobatics and I've never seen two Barbary Falcons scrapping before!

Pallas's Gull flying by, not concerned by the falcons.

Indian Silverbills on the way to Km 20.

Not much around the ponds except for this Avocet

and, of course Flamingos.

On to Hai Bar for the Black Bush Robins, Cracking birds and I really hope they are now established here.

On the way out we saw this Hooded Wheatear. Frustratingly against the sun but the profile is so distinctive.

Up to Km 94 but the same situation as yesterday where disturbance seemed to have shifted the BW off. Saw A couple of Desert Warblers though. Back to 76 where Shachar had found a Steppe Grey Shrike the week before. It was still there and happily hunting.

The evening saw the usual White-eyed Gulls at North Beach,

but only one of the two Brown Boobys

and some Slender-billed Gulls (single digit numbers here recently)

as well as the white morph Western Reef Egret, here with a Great White Egret

and here in the evening sun.

The next morning we headed to Amram's Pillars to look for Sinai Rosefinches. The females were at the feeding spot along with a couple of White-crowned Black Wheatears.

We had a surprise visit from this stunning male.

 What a gorgeous bird.

Later that morning a Kurdish Wheatear was reported from Km 69. Tried but dipped. Oh well, this still counts as one of the very best birding experiences I've had here. With thanks to Shachar!

Saturday 9 January 2016

Ruddy Shelduck

Found a pair of Ruddy Shelduck in the cow pens today. Rare winter visitors here and really pretty birds.

A Nir Oz tick for me.

Otherwise, it has been fairly quiet here. Not a huge amount of birding done due to other commitments but I did manage to see a Black-winged Kite near Ein Habesor so it looks as though this once-rare species has really expanded its range. I tried for the 110-strong flock of Dotterel a couple of weeks ago, without success. A consolation prize was this Pallid Harrier in a tree (haven't seen a harrier in a tree before).

The Jojoba reservoir is packed with Pochard with a smattering of Pintail, Teal, Ferruginous Duck and Black-necked Grebes amongst them. The Besor reservoir is full of water now but after the recent storms is rather empty of birds. This wild boar surprised me though (and I, it).

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...