Monday, November 28

It ain't over till the fat lady sings

On Wednesday afternoon (23rd) I received a report that James Smith and his group found both Little Bunting and Blyth's Pipit in Yotveta fields. Unfortunately I was already on my way north to join the Hula Bird Festival where I was invited to participate at the festival conference: A Bird’s Eye View of Migration Stopover Sites: Flyway Conservation through Science, Policy, Education and Tourism.
It was a great success and also it was great to meet up with many interesting and knowledgeable people and share ideas and thoughts. 

So I couldn't look for the neither the Pipit nor the Bunting...
Nevertheless it was great being up north and in fact I managed quite well with a great observation of an Alpine Accentor among a group of Rock Sparrows. Alpine Accentor is a great rarity in Israel and only my 2nd in Israel (I've seen more in Romania and Turkey).

During the Festival reports from the south kept on coming and Yesterday as I was driving back home I revived a note from Barak Granit who found a male Grey Hypocolius next to the IBRCE park!

When I reached home I received also photos of the Bunting and possibly of the pipit from Shay Kabessa.  
The Pipit has a very short and pointed bill for a Richard's  and also has a rather short supercilium, short tail and general appearance more like a Tawny than the large Richard's. Nevertheless, it is worth to see Barak's comment regarding the hindclaw which brings this bird, back to the status of a different looking Richard's Pipit (thanks Barak for the comment)
Today I came to the IBRCE and looked for the Grey Hypocolius. It didn't took much time until a brilliant male was found and alongside were both Olive-backed Pipit  and Rose-coloured Starling.  

And as I write this, I received a report from our Avi Meir of a group of  some 10 Thick-billed Larks  feeding happily on the ground not far from Elifaz. So as the title suggests: It ain't over till the fat lady sings...

Hope to find more great birds soon,

Sunday, November 20

Red-flanked Bluetail

I am not a big twicher, thus would not drive too far a way for a bird, but wait until I have a good opportunity and try my luck. Nevertheless, there are some species which remain itching ... 
I've been waiting for this bird since 1996 when it was first seen in Israel and at the time I was too far, working in Sde- boker. When I travelled to Russia and China it was one of the most wanted and still never found one. So around noon, when I received a call from Shay Kabessa where am I? and how come I am not here at the Eilat cemetery? I was a bit shocked and than noticed that while I was being a good host to my family who came to visit from Kenya, James Smith and his group have found the 2nd ever Rf Bluetail in my "backyard" and a message was waiting for me since 09:00 a.m. I decided that this time I have to go, it is only 15 min' from my house...

Thanks to James and his group who found the bird and to Shay who checked on me, I have great views of this little jem that I've been long waiting for and even a fair record shot. 
Avi Meir (our home photographer), was already at the site together with Limor and by the time I've left, there were already 2 other birders coming from the north. In the evening after having Yoav, Uri and Meidad stopping for a rest and a shower before they drive back north, I received this top end photo from Avi!

Sunday, November 13

Great fun - Italiano style...

It's been very quiet, strangely, since my last post. There were not so many birds around and the nice beginning of November seemed to have change atmosphere and it felt as if nothing is moving. During this time is still managed to see most of the regular stuff for the season, but there was no major attraction.

On the 10th a nice Ferruginus Duck was on a small water pond next to K19 Sewage farm

Also I managed to find almost daily a family of Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse feeding and resting happily in the desert. On Friday I planed to meet Mattia and Andr'eas from Italy and it was good to make sure that these sandgrouses are staying around in one place...
I met the guys early in the morning and we drove to check how does K 76-77 looks like. It was freezing cold, but we managed at last to find some Bar-tailed Larks, many Desert Wheatears and a group of Crowned Sandgrouses

We then drove up to Uvda Valley to check what is going on there. No less than 40 Temminck's Larks along with the same number of Bar-tailed Larks were running around and to top it up a group of 6-10 Thick-billed Larks were also flying among them. Both Mattia and Andr'eas were very pleased to see all these, but unfortunately they kept some distance most of the time so I couldn't get any good photo.

Look for the Temminck's

In Neot Smadar many Eastern Stonechats and a nice dark adult Steppe Buzzard.

Later in the Arava it was already hot and except for a Richard's Pipit in Yotveta, all the rest were "usual's" Red-throated Pipits; Hooded, Desert, Isabeline & Northern Wheatears; Bluethroats; Namaqua Doves..

We couldn't find the sandgrouses in their usual spot, but thankfully 6 birds came to drink in their usual drinking place.
On our way back to Lotan we stopped again in search of night life and found a Barn Owl hunting in Yotveta and a great list of mammals Red Fox, Golden Jackal, Scrub Hare and probably the jewel in the crown; a beautiful Striped Hyaena who was posing for 2-3 minutes looking very calm (I hope that Andr'eas took some good photos, as I kept on holding the light...)

Saturday morning I received a call from Mattia saying that they found a Yellow-browed Warbler in Lotan. When I came to Lotan later in the day, it was still at the same spot and despite being very quiet, it was very eager to see where is this YbW that is singing from my player...

Re'a who came for a visit has failed with the YbW, but reported of a Fieldfare in Lotan (Yoatm also had one earlier this week in Netafim wadi andi had another 2 in Samar).

Thank you to Mattia and Andr'eas for a great weekend and I hope to have more to report soon... 

Wednesday, November 2

A good start for the rarity month...

November is known to be a very interesting month with many migrants still passing and first winter birds arriving. On the October 31st i was joined by Eyal Shochat for a morning out in the Arava. After checking the Ye'elim 'ghost village' for interesting Phyloscupus, I met Eyal at Yotveta and we drove to see if the Bimac's are still around on the circular field and also to see if any new birds arrived.
Indeed we found the 6 Bimaculated Larks still present with the same low numbers of Short-toed Larks, Red-throated Pipits and White Wagtails, but unfortunatly they kept on flying away so the only photo i managed to get is this huge crop...

Also in the fields we found at least two different morphs of Mourning Wheatear probably representing two different subspecies

The most interesting bird on the field though was a male Linnet which is considered a good rarity for the region though a common breeder up north.
We than proceeded south and stopped at Samar Sewage where I found in the morning a very obliging Jack Snipe among the more usual waders.

After checking more sites on the way south we finished by checking North Beach and the only bird present except for White Wagtails, House Sparrows and House Crows was this beauty Western Reef Heron.
On November 1st, i had very little time to be out in the field and i decided to check the K19 Sewage works. There was nothing worth noting inside, but on the fence sat a fresh female Pied Wheatear! This used to be a very big rarity in Israel, but due to better literature, optics and field skills, singles are now annually reported around Eilat and the southern Arava.

As i was learning the Wheatear, suddenly all the Pigeons from the nearby cowshed went up to the sky and a big Falcon was flying very gracefully among them, a first year Lanner was playing with the Pigeons around... Lanner have become very unusual around Eilat and it is probably the first I've seen around Eilat for the last year and a half.

I am driving north tomorrow, for the weekend, I can't wait to be back and see what's new around...