Tuesday, June 28

Merry time down the gulf

This time of the year (late June - August) is known to be a great time to look for pelagic species as well as some less common Terns which are moving north along the Red sea on their post breeding dispersal. Over the last weekend together with Re'a, Yotam Lenhardt, Avi Meir and Uri Kolker , we spent at least 3 mornings at sea both on the beach and thanks to Avi also from the boat.

These were probably the most interesting observations so far for the season.
On Friday morning from the north beach, Yoatm spotted in the distance a Skua which soon become a wonderful adult Long-tailed Skua which got a nice record shot on the next morning by Uri.

Also on Fri', we spotted 6 Cory's/ Scopolis Shearwaters flying inside but fairly distant. According to the new "Birds of the Middle East" 2nd edition the presence of Cory's is questionable. On the next morning we went inside with the boat and got some very good close ups confirming that most (if not all) of these were in fact Cory's Shearwater with their complete black under primaries and thicker trailing edge. I believe that with these photos, there is not much room for doubt ...

Here is what Hadoram Shirihai has to say on these birds - "...Well, to my opinion all these birds are borealis (the Atlantic form). The differences that you see between the individuals are of mostly sex related..."

It is interesting to note that during these days we only had a single Sooty Shearwater. I presume that they all flew down south again after refuelling and resting for some 3-4 weeks at the gulf.

Out on the boat we also had 3 Arctic Skuas (1 pale 2nd summer, 1 pale ad' and 1 dark ad').

Among the many groups of Common Terns and Little Terns, a single White-cheeked Tern and 3 ad Bridled Terns were seen well.

And altogether we had 4 different Mangrove Heron including one 1st year which was fighting for food I wonder where did it breed?! 

and a 2nd summer White-eyed Gull

Stay tuned as i am sure that more will follow soon, as the season progress and more species will start their post breeding dispersal. 

Thursday, June 23

Migration or just post breeding dispersal?

I had some free time this morning, so i went to check what is new on the N. beach and at K20.

at the beach there was not much going on, but still an adult Sandwich Tern and a 1st summer White-cheeked Tern are always nice to see.
there was a note worthy movement of Pallid Swifts over the southern date plantations and one bird which was a shade darker and was flying very slow made me think of the unlikely possibility for a Forbes-Watson's Swift Apus berliozi  (dream on....)

at the IBRCE pond there is a beautiful Red-necked Phalarope

later at K20, it was filled with chicks of both Black-winged Stilt and Kentish Plovers. it is interesting to note that there seems to be a second round of very small chicks for Kentish Plovers which are also running around now on the edges. possible migrants are also present with 3 Grey Herons Little Stints and a single Common Redshank. what are they doing here? which way are they heading? are just some of the interesting questions that are still open.

but the most bizarre observation was of a juv Cream-coloured Courser that was running on the muddy edges just like any other wader.

Tuesday, June 21

The little 500

This time of the year is always very quiet on the birding side. 
we do check the N. Beach every second day or when there are good wind conditions, but otherwise it is very saddle and quiet with few Common, Little and Caspian Terns, few White-eyed Gulls with newly fledged already flying around and also the odd Sooty and Scopoli's Shearwaters. Avi Meir reported last week of a "dark backed Tern" flying around, but he didn't have any optics with him to confirm the ID. presumably this was a Bridled Tern...

at K20 there are about 100-150 Slender-billed Gulls with a single deformed Black-headed Gull and tens of stupid looking chicks of  Black-winged Stilts running and swimming along the edges.

But, it is never boring around Eilat and when the heat rises to the 40 and more, it is great opportunity to enrich our knowledge on the "little 500". This term usually includes birds, but since we don't have the Big 5 here (or at least not most of them...), here we use the term only for the real small things like Butterflies, Dragonflies and Damselflies.

Over the last few days (encouraged by our latest find of the Black Percher and Slender Skimmer) we did some more search for these great little flyers. it was very windy so we didn't expect much and still we managed to get 3 lifers for Re'a of which 1 is new to Eilat according to my check-list and the "Atlas of the Odonata of the Mediterranean and North Africa".

First were the Northern Banded Groundlings Brachythemis leucosticta this is a very common African Dragonfly which is present throughout Israel, but the only earlier records of it around Eilat were from last year during late summer.

not far after, we found the beautiful Oasis Bluetail Ischnura fountaineae  which was never recorded in Eilat but is also known from further north along the Rift Valley.

Next we found a group of 6 Red-veined Dropwings Trithemis arteriosa both males, females and juv's. This is one of the most beautiful African Dragonflies and its unique black markings on the tip of the abdomen makes it a very easy Dragonfly to identify in the field.


and Female

stay tuned as July is just around the corner with its great pelagic list of Tropicbird, Brideled, White-cheeked, Lesser Crested and Crested Terns and maybe this summer we will find also something new...

Thursday, June 16

Por la noche leones, por la manyana cajones

I had a fantastic day yesterday- good birds and other wildlife, Lunar eclipse and excellent company!
I started the morning with some slow ringing at the IBRCE, missing Itai's Arctic tern.
This cool fledgling Little Green Bee Eater really made me smile! It's such a sweet Bird!

I was surprised to see that the streamers were not only not longer than the rest of the rectrices but even shorter!

At noon I started the long drive up to southern dead see area. I arrived and met up with Yoav, Ron, Shahar and Eli. Quickly we got to the ringing location- an agricultural rubbish tip:

Temperatures were quite comfortable at around 35c( the hour was 6 PM…) and not so many flies were bugging us. You may be thinking we are lunatics, opening mist nets in one of israel's hottest places, in a location infested with House Sparrows and Palm Doves…well, you are not so far away from the truth! But obviously our target was not the sparrows.
This area is Israel's last stronghold of the extremely endangered Nubian Nightjars. Some 20 pairs are breeding in the Tamarix saltmarsh found in the area. This habitat is on the brink of extinction, mostly due to agricultural cultivation of the Arava Valley. Being a representing species of this habitat, the Nubian Nightjar was a common Breeder along the Eastern valleys of Israel  until the last decades of the 20th century, and since his population in decreasing dramatically. Nowdays, when the last remains of the salt marshes are found on minefields, thus left untouched so far, these amazing night birds are facing extinction in Israel!
Yoav did hid Msc work about the nightjars and now, keeping an eye opened for them, trying to monitor the population by ringing. The trapping was successful, and 2 birds were ringed. Apart from Nightjars we had 3 bat species caught in our nets.
Shahar and Eli watching the eclipse-

I really enjoyed spending the night out with the team. Thanks Yoav for the ride, beer and good time!
For nice photos and more details check out Yoav Perlman's Blog(on the link list).

Tomorrow morning I'm out on the boat with Avi. Hope to get some hot stuff, and maybe solve the weird shearwater mystery…

ועכשיו גם בעיברית!

ברוכים הבאים לבלוג של מרכז הצפרות הבינלומי באילת.

כאן תוכלו לקבל עידכונים שוטפים על הנעשה בפארק, בתחנת הטיבוע וכן עידכונים שוטפים מתצפיות שנעשות באזור אילת ודרום הערבה.

Wednesday, June 15

Arctic Tern and more

Hi to all,

this morning around 08:30 i went down to scan the north beach. there was a strong northern wind which made the Red Sea look very rough.

as i arrived i saw in the distance a lone Scopoli's Shearwater and not long after a Sooty Shearwater was also observed. around 09:00 a group of 3 "Common Tern" came in from the sea, flying very slow and low. when i placed my bins i could immediately identify one of these "Common" as a 1st summer Arctic Tern with its slender, thinner appearance, white trailing edge on the upper secondaries and thin black trailing edge of the primaries as well as a shortish black bill. having the two species flying together made it very easy to check all the markings and compare. the birds were flying low and against the wind for 2-3 minutes and than head off north along the canal. there are chances that it is still present in one of the salt ponds.   

i than kept on scanning and found 3 more Sooty Shearwaters sitting on the water some 400-500 meters away from the beach. together with them was again this strange Shearwater with its white face (presumably that this is the same individual i saw two weeks ago). i am still not convinced what is this bird?! as it was very windy the birds kept on moving up and down and all i could see was the very pale chest, pale face with a contrasting head and cap (though not dark by all means). the body was brownish grey and not uniform and the bill seemed to be pale but i could not say if Yellow or Grey. at one point the bird did open its wings and flew 1-2 meter hanging on the wind, but i could not see the underwing good enough except for seeing it was pale underwing.
i kept on looking on this group of birds for another 15-20 minutes (trying in vein the get the best image through the scope) when in the background 1 Scopoli's and 1 Sooty are still flying deep inside and loose groups of Terns also very deep inside the gulf. just before i left 2 adult Baltic Gulls landed next to this Shearwater and they were clearly larger.

i hope that tomorrow i will have some more time and together with Re'a we will try to relocate this enigmatic Shearwater...


Monday, June 13

Working 5 to 9

More like 6 to 10 in most of the days…well summer is definitely full on, with temperatures settled around 40c degrees daily, with minimal humidity! Man I missed these conditions while spending last week up north visiting family and friends. I was sweating a lot and did very little birding(most of the time climbing or hanging out somewhere with non birders humanoids…). I did spend 2 morning out, in my old beloved home patch, which I did not visit for over a year- An old Quarry that inhabits tens of breeding Bee Eaters , along with Rollers, Little Owls and more. I was surprised to see some "nature photographers" parking their cars meters from the nesting walls just in front of the nests. I tried to talk them away from the walls, and explaining the gravity of their actions. The ones that didn't apply and left the place were reported to the local INPA ranger. I hope they will be treated properly. These birds are too precious to be destroyed by un-aware nature lovers.
 Most of the late migrants are gone, with just a handful still around- Blackcaps, Garden, Reed and Barred Warblers in small numbers. Some Bee Eaters and Sand Martins flying and hunting over the park. Common Terns in small flocks are seen in day time overland migration, and tens of Pallid Swifts now already on their way south to their central African wintering grounds (or should I say skies? )
But as I wrote earlier the summer around Eilat provides some excellent breeders!
Yesterday I had a couple of Little Green Bee eaters, both wearing rings from last year. Not so surprisingly, they were caught together also the first time.

I assume that they are the proud parents of the fledgling Yael and Guy caught during the weekend.   
Another beauty that was almost absent from the area since last summer – a Namaqua Dove.

These amazing gemstones used to breed in tens around Eilat during the last decade. A dramatic decline in numbers is noted around the southern Arava since last year, meanwhile it seems like this species is doing quite well all over Israel, with breeding records from western Israel, as well as expansion of range northwards.
The females are not any less elegant or uniquely patterned that the males-

Obviously not all the birds here are so photogenic- actually the commonest birds in the ringing station now are juv. Spectacled Bulbul. They are noisy, biting, scratching shiting a lot and all the time. How can I say…not the best bird to ring. This is Guy holding two brothers.

Amazingly, I found myself in full activity, out in the field with my bins on yesterday at around 12:00! After discussing the potential appearance of Desert Darter Sympetrum sinaiticum (not a bird but a Dragonfly) in Eilat Itai and I decided to check the canal near the IBRCE.
A new species for Israel we didn't see…but we did have some good discoveries!  
A male Black Percher Diplacodes lefebvrii  was the first for us around Eilat. There are old (Earlier than 80's) evidence about this species around the southern arava and Eilat, but no records since(possibly due to lack of observations). Anyway this was a lifer for me!
Just a few minutes after the Percher we had the first record of a living individual of Slender Skimmer Orthetrum Sabina  for Eilat region!  The first record was of a dead individual found in one of our "Helgoland" traps last November. Being a somewhat neglected field among Israeli wildlife enthusiasts, Dragonflies watching is very exciting for me! Almost nothing is known about these amazing animals in Eilat, and watching them gives me something to do in these "dead hours"(apart of sitting on the beach for hours J)…
Other species seen around these days-
Lesser Empror Anax parthenope- 2-3 males.
Broad Scarlet Crocothemis erythraea- quite a few males seen, with one couple at the canal yesterday.
This is a male caught last Saturday-

Lesser Whitethroat ringed at IBRCE and breeds in West England

Hi to all,

yesterday we got a report about a ringed bird from Israel which was caught at Heysham Bird Observatory NW of Liverpool on the 12th June 2011 (Thanks Yoav)  http://heyshamobservatory.blogspot.com/2011/06/israeli-ringed-lesser-whitethroat.html

this bird was trapped and ringed at the IBRCE on 10.3.2009

most of the controls for Israeli marked birds are coming from Eastern Europe and Western Asia. but it is always nice to see other reports that also represent this very unique and strange circular migration pattern; birds which are coming from W Europe and migrate on the Central Flyway (via Italy) to West Africa during Autumn are then subject to the rainy pattern across Africa, move east across Africa only to return back to their breeding grounds along the Eastern Flyway (via Israel).