Saturday 21 January 2017

Sociable Plovers and a young Eastern Imperial Eagle

Back to Urim to check on the Sociable Plovers. All 22 present and correct.

And an amazing young Eastern Imperial Eagle just overhead at Re'im reservoir.


A pity I fluffed this shot - the look of curiosity in the bird's eye. . . 

Radde's Accentor - Gamla

Here's a bird I've been wanting to see for a very long time.

Radde's Accentor. Two were reported at Gamla plus another one close by. The Beit Shean valley held the temptation of Little Bustard although the other megas - Lesser White-fronted Goose and Slavonian Grebe - seem to have moved on. Armed with a list of the current birdiest spots (thank you Avner Rinot) Itay Herling and I set off on the long drive to the north arriving at Gamla just passed eight. We found both the Accentors on literally our first scan, about 100 m from the car park.

A bit of careful maneuvering produced much better views.

It then flew over my head to a nearby tree.

Such a smart bird!

An obliging Sardinian Warbler popped out and preened for a few minutes.

A Wryneck made a brief appearance. This is the first January Wryneck I have ever seen - a highly unusual winterer.

As it warmed up we started looking out for vultures. Well rewarded with three Cinereous (two adults, one juvenile) and eight to ten Griffons. A distant Little Swift made an appearance too.

After a few minutes they circled over over heads. Incredible birds. Two Cinereous images followed by two Griffon. 

Other birds at Gamla included Crag Martin, Serin,

Stonechats galore (this, too me, looks like a Siberian but I've been wrong before - comments welcome),

a chilly looking Southern Grey Shrike.

In the fields to the south, near Afik Junction, we saw Long-legged Buzzards, Marsh Harriers, Lapwings and Golden Plover.

On to the Beit Shean valley and the fishponds/fields at Ma'oz Haim fishponds - Black Storks, Great and Little Egrets, Squacco Heron, Osprey, Marsh Harriers, Black Kites, Greater Spotted Eagle, Osprey, Common and Long-legged Buzzards, all three Kingfishers, vast numbers of Coot and a small flock of Dead Sea Sparrows.

Black Kites

Black Storks

Coots in a flap.

Dead Sea Sparrow

Greater Spotted Eagle

A gloriously lit Kingfisher

Squacco Heron

We searched in vain for the LW Goose and Little Bustards before heading to Kfat Rupin where Frank Moffat had found three Little Bustards several hours previously. The fields were being worked (by farmers as well as a cracking male Pallid Harrier and a ring tail Hen Harrier) and we had no luck with the bustards. On the way back to the road though we were surprised by this very pretty female Black Francolin. Difficult light conditions but great views nevertheless.

Our final stop was at the Kfar Rppin fishponds to search for Bittern (Frank Moffat had one walking in front of his car!). No luck with that either but there were huge numbers of other birds around. More Dead Sea Sparrows, Great Crested Grebes, Spoonbills, Glossy Ibises, Peregrine (below), many Marsh Harriers, a very tame Clamorous Reed Warbler, Ruffs, Little Stints, Ringed Plovers etc.

Light was fading fast so time to head south - last birds being these two Purple Herons together with a Great White Egret.

It was a fantastic day's birding - a lifer (the accentor), a highly unusual Wryneck, and huge numbers of the commoner species. In terms of sheer numbers and variety the Beit Shean valley is deservedly the best birding area in Israel. Must visit more often. . . . 

Friday 13 January 2017

Urim fields - Sociable Plovers and Saker

I looked for the Urim fields Sociable Plovers last week without success and I've been itching to have another crack at them all week. Frank Moffat saw the 22 strong flock yesterday and passed on very precise location details. Found them this morning with no problems (thanks Frank). Superb birds. Just my luck that it was overcast and rainy.

I was busy with other matters until midday and the rain/drizzle had stopped by the time I returned to the fields. Another great attraction of these fields are the falcons, especially Saker. The light was still awful and the images below are highly post-processed in order to bring out the details.

A very light Long-legged Buzzard did a fly-by,

and this gorgeous Pallid Harrier spent some time hunting along the farm track.

(update - returned to the fields (14.01) to try and get better photos of the Sociables. No luck but here is a Peregrine

and another Long-legged Buzzard

and a very distant shot of the Saker (I think) chasing the Peregrine.

The nearly empty Re'im reservoir held a few Cranes,

a young Eastern Imperial Eagle,

four Shelduck among the Teal, 

and a small flock of Serin along the bank.

Plenty of Linnets

Chaffinches, Greenfinches and Goldfinches.

Some Lapwings in the fields (common but really lovely),

On the way home I checked the sewage pond at Urim - a single Black-necked Grebe among the Little Grebes, Coots and Teal.

Another red eyed bird - Black-shouldered Kite.

Last week Itay Herling and I spent a morning around the Re'im area. About 25 Desert Finches were a surprise,

but definitely the best birds were these geese - Greylag

and a couple of Greater White-fronteds.

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