Wednesday, November 21

November is not fulfilling but...

November is known as the month we all live for in Israel... In most years this is the month when many interesting species occur all over the place. This year we had most of the 'goodies' already during late October and instead of having many good birds jumping around, we have, yet again, problems with our neighbours... But we try to keep our spirits up and still we go out for monitoring and guiding as much as we can.

The returning?! Imperial Eagle is seen again around Yotveta and it has a full adult plumage now days.

A second bird, fresh from this year is hanging around Eilat Mts. together with an adult Greater Spotted Eagle

Down at the North beach, there is not too much movement except for the regular winter birds and today a pair of  Pallas's Gulls were reported by a group of British birders.

Up in Uvda Valley it is very green already from the 3 floods we had here (more on that later) but the Larks seems to avoid it at this time and instead there is a huge influx of White Wagtails and few Red-throated, Meadow and Water Pipits all around. Groups of Trumpeter Finches are also present.

In Yotveta, there is a pair of Hoopoe Larks  back to their last year winter territory and a single Linnet (again a local rarity). David Schoneveld photographed a family of Eurasian Cranes feeding in the tall grass. Probably a family who have diverted from the many that are passing daily in the area now very vocally....
The most outstanding phenomena though for this November seems to be the local whether. So far we had 3 huge floods and we have passed the 100% of the average annual rainfall (which is only 30 mm). Last Sunday a huge storm came out of nowhere and the amount of rain and ice developed unbelievable mud floods around the IBRCE park! most of the road to the IBRCE park was washed and there is very limited access also to K20, K19 and many of the sites in the southern Arava.

Wednesday, November 14

Dunn's Lark and other nice birds around

Today started with a great surprise.
I had a visit from the USA in late morning and that made me a whole of 1.5 hours to enjoy birding. Since this is November (the month we birders, in Israel live for), anything is possible anywhere...

I started at K33 and had the first Asian Desert Warbler singing next to Desert Wheatear.  
when i reached Elifaz fields, at last I found the first group of Skylarks feeding happily and not far from them was this wonderful Dunn's Lark which is always a great bird in Israel and a wonderful way to open the morning. A single Olive-backed Pipit was another great bird to finish this part of the morning. 
Later at the IBRCE after finishing my guiding, I had another Olive-backed Pipit flying over towards the northern date plantation of Eilot. Since Juan, Manolo and Yoatm left (last week of October) not much ringing is going on and in fact we only ring when I have the time to come there and open the nets (which is not more than once a week).

Last Monday I had a free one hour in the morning and I was joined by Noa Eden, so we went for a round in the Helgoland traps and found 4 birds of 3 species...

The next morning I opened the nets and we had 30 birds - mainly Chiffchaffs and Bluethroats (altogether 7 species) but I was very pleased to get also few Sardinian Warblers (1 old female which was ringed back in 2009) and the latest ever Marsh Warbler I ever encountered... 

Sunday, November 11

Its a raining day...

Friday morning I had a free morning and I decided to check what is going on around the Arava. I started in Samar where a nice adult female Isabeline Shrike was a good start and there were both Caspian and  Eurasian Stonechats (at least a couple of each). 

The big numbers of Water Pipits arrived at last and they are now all over the place joining the Red-throated and few Meadow Pipits

Later in Yotveta circular fields, few Desert and Northern Wheatears as well as more Pipits and White Wagtails and singles of each TawnyRichard's Pipit
Strangely none of the seed-eaters groups arrived yet and there are only 3 Corn Buntings around..Earlier this week together with Shay Kabessa, we also had a 1st winter male Pied Wheatear there, but i could not re-locate it now. A nice male Hen Harrier and 2 Barbary Falcons were a nice supplement instead...

One returning (?) male 'semirufus' Black Redstart was found in the Acacia woodland which were also teaming with Sardinian Warblers and few Chiffchaffs (nothing striped though...) Over all, there is a feeling of emptiness and I hope that soon things will change.  

In the Afternoon a massive rain cloud hit Eilat and within 45 minutes 14-16 mm or rain were falling over Eilat. mind you that this is 70% of the annual rainfall. the damage was very big and even at the IBRCE it will take some time before we will be able to restore.

Wishing us a great winter and hope that soon more birds will appear. Meanwhile we have these wonderful desert residents to put some colours in our eyes...

Thursday, November 8

Thank you Juan and Manolo!

Saturday 27th started the last ringing week in the Station. The first mist nest round wasn´t promising, with small numbers of Bluethroats and Chiffchaffs but the second one, if not better in numbers, let us a very nice Water Pipit subspecies coutellii, the Middle East one and also some Sardinian Warblers, Blackcaps, Reed and Willow Warblers. That was good enough but a Barn Owl in the Helgoland traps improved the amount of species as you can see in the happy face of Ken, a bander (ringer) from California who was helping us in the last days.

The captures and species increased a little bit the Sunday 28th. The half of those birds were, of course, Bluethroats and Chiffchaffs and the rest a miscellaneous of 13 species, mainly migrants like Redstarts, Blackcaps, Lesser Whitethroats, Red-backed Shrikes or Reed, Willow, Savi´s and Sardinian Warblers and local birds as Indian Silverbill or the Arabian Babbler, always fun for extranger ringers like Ken and I. The morning, everyday a little longer because the lower temperatures, was done.

Monday 29th. Just opening nets we could see something had changed. Bluethroats and Chiffchaffs couldn´t wait till the nets to be wide open so they started to fell into just during the opening. That was promising. Six hours later, checking the numbers, we proved that was true. We ringed 50 Bluethroats and 70 Chiffchaffs with no retraps as well 3 Dead Sea Sparrows, the last Masked Shrike and one Song Thrush, 155 captures and almost 20 species. After the shy Chiffchaffs arrival, the big wave was already here and, hopefully, still continues some days…

Tuesday 30th. First of all, I have to say that I was wrong, something that scarcely happens (to admit it, I mean), the Chiffchaffs wave wasn´t yesterday… it was absolutely today: 154 ringed this morning plus another 40 Bluethroats and few tens of birds more that involve Blackcaps, Reed and Great Reed Warblers, another Dead Sea Sparrow and one Cetti´s Warbler. 213 captures from more than 20 species in the best morning of the whole Autumn just a day before close the season.
Wendsday 31st of October. The last day of ringing in the Station. After the Chiffchaffs invasion of yesterday, we woke up with a phylloscopus hung-over but ready for more, if that was possible. But only 32 Chiffchaffs were caught and 25 Bluethroats, nice numbers anyway. Three European Stonechats, Redstart, Reed and Willow Warblers were present also my last day in Eilat but my very last ringed bird had to be one of my most beloved one. Just closing the Station that morning and after realize that my last one was a House Sparrow, my good friend Tzadok arrived with a very fulfilled bag, coming from the town where somebody phone him for rescuing a bird almost drown in a pond. It was a European Nightjar, a species that saw me making ridiculous on myself evening after evening. We let the bird in a cage till the end of the afternoon; time enough for getting dry, gave him a little to drink and, once ringed, released it with the last light of my last day. The Nightjar flew well enough for reaching the Nile this very night and this way the day and the season was done. See you all! 

Once again this is a great opportunity to say a big thank you to Juan, Manolo, Yotam, Sylvia and all the volunteers who worked during this season and made it happen!!!
Together we had: 439 Bluethroats; 398 Chiffi's; 257 Red-backed Shrikes!!!; 1 Citrine Wagtail; 1 Isabeline Shrike; 7 Scops Owls and many many more... bringing us to a total of 4581 birds!

over the last few days things were much slower, but still many Chiffchaffs are jumping around the park. Since I can't open the nets early there is no proper daily ringing, but still I managed to have 2-3 short sessions and add some more Chiffi's, Bluethroats and the second Red-breasted Flycatcher for the season. I hope to have more time birding and ringing soon before the most interesting month of birding in Israel will come to an end...

Saturday, October 27


Sunday 21st was just another morning with 30 Bluethroats, a third of the whole captures... Chiffchaffs and Reed Warblers run after them and other remarkable species were Tree Pipit, Wryneck, Marsh Warblers and another momus Sardinian Warbler. So, the morning went by as usual while some clouds were covering the sky. During that afternoon the wind cursed from South and I thought it might be a nice chance for seabirds in North Beach. Just in the beach the wind grew stronger and White-eyed Gulls moved crazy around the buoys. No signals from the Brown Bobby and not even a single Sand Martin flying southwards over the Red Sea, clues enough for noticing a storm is coming but it´s plain that birds were smarter than I was because I kept standing on the beach with my binoculars, waiting for Noodies… till wind strength was able to take my teeth away just in the time it takes to say humus. I barely reached the Kangoo when the first drop of rain felt down and I arrived at the ringing station in the middle of a tropic rain, thunderbolts and dust, just in time for switch off the computers before the unavoidable electricity breakdown. So, I founded myself in the dark, nude with my drowned clothes off and surrounded in the floor by three Golden Spiny Mice, clever guests of the ringing station as wet and shaking as myself, may be looking for safety getting close to me in the misunderstood believing that I must know what exactly to do in a climate Armageddon like that. I´m no usually ending my days like this.

Monday 22nd started with the unlikely smell of wet land. No idea about the influence of the storm on the migrating birds so we expected whatever. And what we founded was a sort of “step back” in the composition of captures. Now that we were used to ring mostly Bluethroats and Chiffchaffs and once said goodbye to most of the warblers, this day Bluethroats and Chiffchaffs were by far led by Reed, Sedge and Marsh Warblers; Blackcaps and Lesser Whitethroats; Savi´s and Willows Warblers and even some Barn Swallows felt into the mist nets like they use to do in September. In the afternoon, we were twice lucky for going to dinner to Itai´s home that very evening and, before doing our best in the table (here Manolo would make a difference) the same Pharaoh Eagle Owl just reported in the last update, was perched over the chimney of Itai´s neighbour. Only after eaten an amazing amount of food, we could say the day was over and we could enjoy also the great photos David Schoneveld sent us from Uvda Valley…

Just one day after the storm, Tuesday 23rd, rules were back again. From 93 birds, almost 40 were Bluthroats, followed by Chiffchaffs and then the rest of birds expected like the latest wave of Reed Warblers, Spanish Sparrows, Redstarts, Sardinian Warblers and so. Very nice morning with some clouds as well. At K20 a strange dark Greater Flamingo, which didn't seem to be a young bird but rather an hyper pigmented individual…

Wednesday 24th the morning was little bit cool (I mean just 25º C) and the ringing seemed quite disappointing. With only nine Bluethroaths, Chiffchaffs became the most captured species for first time (and not the last, for sure) and also the diversity of species were lower than usual. Just thinking on closing nets and going to Tzadok´s house for another outrageous dinner (please notice about the South Arava hospitality) I proceeded to take out of the net another excruciating Red-backed Shrike, species that shows a regularity and an abundance all through this Autumn that sometimes I think they must be a sort of mystic punishment on account of my sins; I proceeded, as I told to handle it when, at the first bite, I find out the lower pain level. May be my fingers have become harder, as Michael Angelo´s David? I left apart ridiculous comparisons and focused on the bird. Medium size Shrike, sandy brown upperparts with dark ears, no bars in the crown and rufous rump and tail… We've got it, a first winter Isabeline Shrike making up our boring day - the very first this year 2012 for the IBRCE Ringing Station, just in time for saving the morning.
Sitting in the terrace of the station we saw the morning going by while in the sky, flying from East to West, tens of Steppe Eagles continues its migration with Long-legged Buzzards and Lesser-spotted Eagles.
Thursday 25th Autumn migration stands still providing us up to 60 birds from almost 20 species. Was a very interesting morning with all the species that belong to the end of the season, I mean the Bluethroats, Chiffchaffs, Redstarts, Sardinian Warblers, Spanish Sparrows and, my day´s favourite, the Caspian and the European Stonechats, adult males both of them. But also some other species already out of timing visited our nets like Willow, Garden and Great Reed Warblers, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows, Sand Martins and House Martins all of them agreed for joining us in the same morning.
Friday 26th woke up just like the day before, with the same promising feeling but, you know, feelings don´t rule too much in the field work specially in the ringing. The half number of birds ringed and few than this of species as the day before and, by first sight, nothing had changed from yesterday. Just a flock of eleven Dead Sea Sparrows, males and females, gave a touch of triumph instead the bitter taste produced for the European Nightjar that laughed in my face during the nets opening or the Isabeline Shrike that escaped from trap number 2 across a microscopic hole. Thank you, Dead Sea Sparrows… 

Monday, October 22

Winter Birding, mud, rain and nice surprise down the road

The days are running fast, not only because they are getting shorter, but because birds numbers are in their best average as well. Bluethroats and Chiffchaffs have once and for all flooded the place and our first mint-nets round are providing us with up to forty birds every day. Starting by Wednesday the 17th, we had 22 Bluethroats, which mean more than the half of the morning´s captures in addition to the probably last Thrush Nightingale of the season; Tree PipitsRedstartsSedge Warbler (may be the last, as well…), Kingfisher and the usual staff. And these were the ringed species but, over and through the station but always having fun around our nets and traps, other migrant species were detected like the Spotted Crake that was the whole morning feeding beside the ponds nets (a Little Crake is also present at Yotveta sewage) or the2 Little Gulls that flew barely centimeters up the same nets. Little bit farther, in the salty ponds one, at least, Broad-billed Sandpiper were together the usual flock of waders. 

Thursday 18th was slightly better, with 23 Bluethroats that involved some subspecies like volgae, svecica and cyanecula, identifiable only in adult males.
Willow Warblers still contended against Chiffchaffs in number and around the Ringing Station some Cormorants just arrived. In K19, at the end of the afternoon, Manolo, Yael and I enjoyed the fun that two Bonelli´s Eagles, a young bird and an immature, flashing once and again the regular flocks of White StorksGrey Herons and Great Egrets plus a single Black Stork, seven Flamingos and more than a hundred ducks, Mallards, Pintails, Shovelers, Teals and Wigeons. Also the Purple Swamphen was feeding between the reeds and the Lichtenstein´s Sandgrouses exhibited its punctuality arriving at the half past five tea hour. The day, short as I said, was gone.
Friday 19th was better again than the day before with 28 Bluethroats, little more Chiffchaffs than Willow Warblers and other candies like a young male Namaqua Dove or the first Stonechat ringed this Autumn (Caspian Stonechats are also present in Yotveta and throughout).
Caspian Stonechat
Almost out of time after lunch (Yael´s vegetarian one, omnivorous mine and Manolo´s neverending) we checked North Beach where, of course, the Brown Bobby rested unconcerned about the sea border between Israel and Jordan. Also some White-checked Terns were sitting on the buoys, mixed with Sandwich and Caspian Terns and White-eyed Gulls. It seemed that we were just after opening nets when the sun felt down and another day was gone.
A day like Saturday 20th must be obligatory in any ringing station that works the Autumn. One hundred and thirty one captures in the morning, 61 of them Bluethroats; 30 Chiffchaffs vs. only one Willow Warbler, one Northern Wheatear and two females Dead Sea Sparrows were the highlights of the seventeen species, still with a lot of Reed Warblers, one Savi´s WarblerBlackcapsLesser WhitethroatGarden and Sardinian WarblerWryneckRedstarts and the very first day that we happily don´t catch any Shrike despite their presence. Perhaps the best day of the season (somebody remember the Paddyfield Warbler´s day, September 10th?), only misted up because Manolo´s go back to Spain with his superb Swarowsky telescop… we´ll miss you Manolo. Both of you…
On the 21st in the afternoon the sky were opened and at last we had some rain, flush floods and much mud throughout. Not too many birds were present due to this rain early in the morning of the 22nd at the IBRCE, but a beautiful Pharaoh Eagle Owl was seen and photographed on full daylight coming to drink from the fresh puddles in Beer-Ora (where I live).

Thursday, October 18

Mid October - less birds more species...

Welcome to mid October: These days have seen the unavoidable change of the leader in the autumn migration in Eilat. Last saturday 13th most ringed species were still Reed Warbler, the undisputed main character of the season and only four Bluethroats were ringed that day as well. But the next morning we rose up surrounded by the calls of Bluethroats and at the end of the morning, fourteen individuals carried the TEL AVIV UNIV rings… it was the most captured species of the day with not a single retrap. The date doesn´t fail and most of the Reed and Sedge Warblers must be somewhere through the Sahara by now. Bluethroats, plainly looking for a suitable winter ground in our latitudes. Just paying attention around us we could sense the lack of the noise of the Bee-eaters and the replacement of the calls, from Yellow to White Wagtails and from Tree to  Red-throated Pipits. Only Willow Warblers still wait for its substitution… where the Bloody Hell the Chiffchaffs are?

Monday morning stated tasty by every side. Between the flocks of Caspian Terns, Squacco and Grey Herons that fly every early morning northwards, we saw a Little Gull and a Purple Heron. Of course the Scops Owl occurred punctual in the first trap round but my special own delight was taken out from the Northeast nets by my very friend Tzadok. After a month and a half playing calls beside the nets and inside the traps; running after them between the acacia trees and seriously thinking on some kind of begging ritual dancing around the Mexican Bird-Snake Godness totem, after all those ridiculous exposing of myself, I mean, when Tzadok appeared from NE nets with my first-in-hand European Nightjar, a beautiful and hysterical young bird which hissed me as first reaction to my double-mortal jump. The morning was, apart from that, again led by Bluethroats but, suddenly, an emarginated 6th primary feather stroke all of us… it was the irrefutable diagnostic of the eagerly awaited very first Common Chiffcahff of the Autumn. And not just only one but two of them where ringed that morning after the accurate re-checking of the whole staff. Everybody agreed. We are on our way towards winter (forget the 35ºC…) and the morning was happily done.

Itai´s reports from Sat’ of Uvda plains and the common opinion about nothing too much to do for improving the day at the ringing station moved us during the afternoon up North. Manolo wished to find the Asian Wild Ass, perhaps because a misconceived of that suggestive name and neither Omer and I knew the place so we spent the last hours of the day walking after flocks of Spotted Sandgrouses, Trumpeter Finches and some Dorcas Gazelles but not wild donkeys just only its very generous droppings and prints in the sand. No way to forget the almost adult Imperial Eagle perched in the electric tower near to Samar, in the way to Uvda.
Tuesday 16th was the first day we knew for sure that Chiffchaffs, finally arrived, will not failure us. Actually, when the morning was over, six collybita were ringed and only four trochilus that means a seriously presence. The same we could say about the Bluethroats (sixteen today!) though some Reed and Sedge Warblers, even the (probably) last Marsh Warbler still occurred. Almost seventy birds of twenty species in less than four hours, including a Kingfisher, two Wrynecks, Lesser Whitethroats, Spanish Sparrows, Palestine Sunbird and, no one of us had ever seen this, an albino/leucistic young Masked Shrike… What else???