Tuesday, March 29

Isabelline Warbler !?!?

Hi there,
The last few days were quite slow with not many birds at the ringing station and nothing out of the ordinary around.
This morning, yet another slow ringing session with about 40 birds. At around 7:00 I was sitting at the ringing station and was surprised to take a strange looking Iduna warbler out of the bag. First impression was a bird with a very big and wide based bill. I showed the bird to Francis Argyle who was sitting next to me and he had the same immediate impression. More looks at the bird and some measurements made us think we might be holding an Isabelline Warbler Iduna opaca.

As I mentioned, the first impression was created mostly by the unusual bill. Both Francis and I are experienced with the Eastern Olivaceous Warbler Iduna pallida, and actually we ringed two birds of this species just before we handled this bird. The width of the bill at the lower mandible feather line was 4.5 mm, according to Svenson's book, this measurement is well beyond the overlap zone between the two species, of course in the opaca zone. The shape of the bill was also better for opaca with the sides giving a slight convex look.

The face pattern, with a pale lore and short Eyebrow is also good for opaca.

Unfortunately, during the 1.5 hours we kept the bird, no other Iduna was caught so we haven’t a head to head colors comparison, but I had a feeling that this bird is slightly browner grey then the "normal" birds I know from Israel. The wing looks rather uniform with no prominent pale wing panel.

 The other measurements obtained:
Wing length- 65mm
Tail length- 51mm
Body mass- 9.0 gr.
Bill to skull- 16.9mm(in the overlap zone).
Bill width- 4.5mm
Bill depth- 2.8mm
WP- p4

We released the bird after Bram, Teun, Johannes (our volunteers) and 4 of Johannes's friends looked at the bird. All together we were unsure about the bird's identity. None of us have any experience with Isabelline Warbler and I would appreciate any comment and thoughts about this bird.    If we are not big stringers, this might be Israel's 1st record!

 on Sunday, Roni made his way back to his icy homeland. Roni was a great help for us during the last month and we are all looking for the next spring ;-)
Roni with his "dream bird"

Thursday, March 24

the warblers of Menetries

Édouard Ménétries was a French Entomologist. He was born in  October 2, 1802  and died on  April 10, 1861. (thank you Wikipedia!).

This 2 cy male visited us yesterday. A decent amount of birders gathered for the twitch and enjoyed it.

Sub specific ID of this individual is still unclear to me. It Definitely  lacks the reddish pink throat and breast that the Nominate race shows but for me it is still a bit to pinkish and the dark hood is not as extensive as I expect in mystacea.  The bird shows a clear moult limit in the tertials- the middle one was replaced by an adult type which is very different then the worn brownish juv. feathers.

Surprisingly this morning a female was also netted!

This type is rather similar to juv. Subalpine Warbler females, but is separated easily by the black tail.

Catching 3 Menetries's warblers in one week is definitely a rare and interesting case.
 Ringing in the last few days is going strong with 258 birds yesterday and a bit less today. Among the many Lesser Whitethroats some Ruppell's Warblers are caught. This male's forehead is colored yellow by probably Ochradanus bacatus Pollen.

Some good birds were seen recently in the area- an Oriental Turtle dove at k19 cowshed, Semi Collared Flycatcher north of the IBRCE, a male White throated Robin near the southern date palms groves, and today Itai had a Purple Gallinule at Aqaba's Birdwatching park!
  The north beach is still slow, even though, today a first flock of 13 Common Terns flew in and 2 Pomarine Skuas were seen . I actually took this photo yesterday, when there were more birdwatchers on the shore than bird out at sea…

Raptors are also passing in good numbers and as we approach April some more species are expected soon, so stay posted!

Tuesday, March 22

The dark prince!

The day started with a good amount of birds in our traps. The two Festival groups which visited the park enjoyed a nice variety of migrants and were well satisfied.
Shortly after the they left Ute, our long returning German volunteer came from a net round and handed me a bag with an "not common" bird in it. As I looked in I was amazed to see a long black tail with white tips! after teasing the team a short while I took out this stunning Black Bush Robin!

Obviously the excitement was huge.  After ringing the bird , we sent an RBA and prepared for the twitch.

A few tens came quickly to witness the dark prince.

This is most probably a 2nd calendar year male. Note the striking moult limit in the secondaries .

This species used to be an extremely rare vagrant in Israel. During the last decade there have been some changes in it's appearance patterns, maybe due to range expending. We don't know yet whether our birds originate in Arabia or in Eastern Africa, hopefully more ringing might bring us some answers. 
 The BBR was finally released after an hour from trapping time  and hopefully will stick around for a while.

Other then the  BBR, some other quality birds showed up. A nice Scops Owl was a nice treat for the groups.

What a sweet owl!

The guys finally put their hands on the elusive Squacco Heron

And in one of their favorite poses:

All in all, this was an excellent day at the IBRCE with over 200 birds ringed, and many smiley faces around J
What will bring us tomorrow? 

Saturday, March 19

Quality birding day

Back at the field, I started my day at the IBRCE with a highly comfortable lifer- a Greylag Goose! This species is a very rare winter visitor and passage migrant in Israel. The bird was first seen yesterday by Barak and Shachar at the North beach, and later on at the IBRCE By the team. March 2007 provided a similar case, with the observer James Smith and the goose- Israel's first Bean Goose
Right after seeing the goose I joined Yossi Eshbol, an Israeli nature and birds photographer for a day in the southern Arava. Before we left the IBRCE I clearly asked the volunteers not to catch anything too interesting while I'm away. They obviously didn't listen to me and caught a male Menetries's Warbler of the rubescens ssp.! I was out of reach deep in the mountains and the guys let the bird fly before I got back…thus I haven't any photos of the bird.
Roni was kind enough to give us two of his ecxellent photos:

I spent the afternoon around Lotan and Yotvata. This was my first time at Lotan's new sewage works. This site held many Wagtails of 4 species , some Pipits, 4  LR Plovers and other nice migrants. I'm sure this place will produce some excellent stuff during the season.
We ended the day at Yotvata's northern circular field. This place holds many birds and birdwatchers these days. We got great views of some 70 Bimaculated larks among few hundred ST Larks , 3 beautiful and rather cooperative Caspian Plovers , 2 Pallid Harriers , 1 Merlin, 3 Lesser kestrels and many more common migrants.

I can't remember two days  with so many RBAs- Pide&Cyprus Wheatears, Dun's lark, Goose, Warbler, a Swan sp., and of course the  Masked wagtail from Ma'agan Michael…looks like bird are showing up for the 5th spring migration festival beginning tomorrow.
 I will try to keep the blog updated for the coming week, so stay tuned as there are many birders around and the good bird will surely come.
Good night    

Thursday, March 17

Wild night out

esterday afternoon we pulled on our rubber boots and headed off to the canal east of the IBRCE. We noted some waders concentrations there during the last week or so.

This site was once a highly productive ringing site with some excellent firsts for Israel caught.
While we spread our nets across the  canal  the birds seemed eager to have a shiny new ring and before all nets were erected we had 2 Temminck's Stints in bags.
Somehow they always look so gloomy in hand…

To our joy more canal specialities were to follow- a Spotted Redshank! This species is seldom ringed in Israel and was a new hand species for all of us.

3 of its cousins were caught, all in a beautiful summer plumage:

2 Little Ringed Plover also respected us with their presence. Again a species which is considered quite "hard to get" in hand, in Israel.

Bram and Roni working on the birds…

To sum up the session-a long legged guest!

The bunch...

The last few days of day ringing also provided us with some nice birds- some Eastern Orphean Warbler:

A flock of 4 Arabian Babblers was caught today. This is the male with it's diagnostic pale eye-

And for comparison 1 out  of 3 females ( I guess he is heaving a lot of fun…. )

Cretzschmar's Bunting is allways a nice bird.

 This Great Reed warbler is probably of the nominate race…still waiting for the XXX to show up!

Long Eared Owl from the morning traps round.

A male Palestine Sunbird was a great celebration for the euro guys

AKA Orange tufted –

Rosemary & Ian from Britain joined us for 11 days, Welcome aboard! Together with Teun they found today a Cyprus Wheatear at k76!
I will not be at the IBRCE for 2-3 days and Itai will send update if anything good shows up.    

Saturday, March 12

Ahoy mates! welcome aboard...

Hi all,
Sorry for the long time with no post. On Thursday I joined Avi Meir and Itai for a morning pelagic tour off Eilat's north beach and got to view and process all the 550 frames only now…
Anyway, watching gulls up close in the soft early light was a real pleasure, especially compared to seeing the same birds far away and through heat waves as I'm used... thank you Avi for the invitation and amazing opportunity!
Black Headed Gulls were in abundant!

Our beloved White Eyed Gulls also played it!

This huge Heuglin's Gull got his respect as the biggest boy around.

And with Eilat in the background.

Slender Bills are on the move…

And looking better than ever!

Had some doubts with this one, any help?

A Sandwich Tern joined the party.

The sea is really coming in to life. During the last week the first Skuas were seen, hundreds of Slender bills, and Baltic gulls passing, 4 Pallas's Gulls yesterday, and some more Sandwich and Common Terns around. Ducks flocks are seen daily with most being Garganys, Shovelers and Pintails. Tapio & Arne of Finland had a flock of 10 Oystercatchers yesterday's afternoon. One of the largest flocks ever recorded at Eilat!
Sylvia Warblers are everywhere with  Ruppell's caught daily among the Lesser Whitethroats.  Subalpine Warblers were seen at Holland Park, IBRCE, Evrona during the last week.
Some Beautifull birds caught at the IBRCE- a Woodchat Shrike

And a male Ehrenberg's Redstart.

Among the non feathered creatures, the reptiles are warmed up and went into action! Some Saw-scaled Vipers(Echis coloratus) seen active.
This amazing little Sand Geko(Tropicolotes nattereri) was found by Teun and Bram while fixing traps. It's hard to believe, but this is an adult!

More news will hopefully be posted soon!