Sunday, February 27

It's aint dead ye oldies!

Back at Eilat after a short visit at home. Didn't have a lot of time to watch birds but still got to hear and see some breeding birds around my home: Woodchat Shrike, Corn Bunting& Sardinian Warblers
The Dutch team went on a Negev trip on Friday and scored well! Almost all target species were seen- Coursers, Bustard, Temminck's Lark and more at Nizzana, Syrian Serins at Mizzp'e Ramon, TB Larks at Ha'meyshar plain and a lot more…for the whole report and some photos visit  their Blog(in Dutch…)-
Numbers of birds ringed are rising daily with today's "Seasonal record" of 71birds!
The first Ruppell's Warbler for the season was caught- an adult female. Weirdly, this bid didn't show any trace of dark throat.

A spectacular male Bluethroat was caught today; this bird shows a pure white throat spot-a Cyanecula ssp. feature. Cyanecula is a scarce passage migrant in Israel. 

The day ended with some 24 swallows ringed at roost. Among them were 3 Red Rumped Swallows- the first to be ringed this season. Last spring we had one carrying a Greek ring, I wonder what surprises they will bring this year…

Thursday, February 24

New blood

On the 22nd 3 new volunteers joined us- Roni Vaisanen who came back for the second spring in a row, and Fabian&Tammo Meijer from Holland.
The reed nets keep on producing the goods with 24 swallows caught on the 22nd evening, and of course many  Sedge&Savi's Warblers…hopefully the crakes will follow ;-)
Guys, you look better with every photo!

The Dutch team had a nice afternoon yesterday with lifers count still going strong.
2  males Ruppell's  Warbler at the Holland park, Pallas's Gull flying around and the whole north beach pack.
Raptors passage is still slow. A very unusual record from yesterday was a Honey Buzzard- the earliest ever spring record in Israel! 
This afternoon, while opening nets for swallows, Roni picked up a wader's call which he identified as an Oystercatcher! We couldn't locate the bird as it flew south. Some scaning of the nearby salt pans provided nice views of some 200 Black Headed gulls, some tens of Ruffs , Black Winged Stilts & some Tringa species. Oystercatcher is a scarce passage migrant at Eilat during spring, probably some more of these beauties will show up later the season.
Maintenance works are going strong with the large working force at the park. Looks like all the traps will be fixed and ready for a great spring in a week or two.
I'm up north for the weekend- hope nothing too rare shows up while I'm gone…anyway, Itai will inform you with any interesting news.

Monday, February 21

West bank? East bank!

Hi all,
During the last year a thick reedbed  has developed on lake Anita's east bank. This area was virtually unused for ringing since last May.
During the last three days Bram, Teun, Itai, Tzadok and me were working hard on putting a mist-nets complex at the heart of this highly putative habitat.

This morning, the first tryout took place and the results weren't late to come- 30 out of 40 birds caught today(the best day so far this spring) were trapped in these nets. A nice variety of species was  noted-
6 sedge warblers… such a cute couple!

2 Savi's Warbler, firsts for the season!

A Reed Warbler, also first for the season, hope to get a shorter&rounder winged bird soon…

A nice Cetti's Warbler, it will be interesting to find out whether this is a resident or not.

I have heard some little crakes and water rails calling around. Just for now, Re'ut is pleased with this young Moorhen :
And to top it all, our first "successful" Swallow ringing for the spring with 1 Barn Swallow in the net!!! You can surely see the excitement on the guys faces:
While trapping in the mixed desert vegetation and Acacia groves is still rather slow the reedbed is definitely alive!
Hope these nets will keep us well occupied during the coming months, and maybe even get us some good quality species.
Tomorrow we go into the water!

Friday, February 18

getting hot

I had an amazing day around Eilat, hot spring sun, clear sky good birds and a terrific finish.
Two days ago Itai told me about a special guest we are having in the park for a short while. Shai Kabessa showed up this morning with the surprise held inside a box…

This sweet Pale Scops Owl was found near Eilat the last autumn. Two weeks later it was found injured near the road and was probably hit by a car. The NPA(Nature & Park Authority) crew of Eilat district arranged a flight to central Israel for the little poor owl, from where he was taken to for Veterinarian treatment. The bird was diagnosed to suffer head injury and exhaustion. It was treated by the professional veterinarian teams of the Wild animals Hospital of the NPA and the Ramat gan Safari. The bird spent two weeks in a rehabilitation cage at Ramat Hanadiv, and was ringed, photographed and successfully released today at the IBRCE. Thanks to all who took part of the saving and rehabilitating of this wonderful creature!

It was a great opportunity for me to look at the delicate features of this owl. One feature seen very well in hand is the feathers reaching the middle toe:

Teun, Bram and Omer, Omri, Ofek&Alon( from the Ga'ash youth birding club) enjoyed  a lifer, and I got a ringing tic!

Other than that, good numbers of passerines around with the first Red rumped Swallow for the spring flying around the ringing station. An adult Eastern Imperial Eagle and very beautiful 2nd cy Greater spotted Eagle among  some 30 Steppe Eagles. Idit Katzanelson reported the Hume's Warbler  is still present at Ktura. The Danish guys had a wonderfull day around the southern Arava with Menetres's  & Desert Warblers, Oriental skylarks, Hoppoe Larks and more…

Afternoon I went with Bram and Teun to Holland park. The guys located and took photos of a snake un-aware to what they have just witness. As they showed me the picture a shive ent up my spine – an Elegant Racer (Coluber elegantissimus) looked at me through Teun's camera screen!

I tried to explain what they had just found as we raced to the location of the snake. After some searching I found it hiding in a bush. Took it out with vibrating hands and a dumb smile smeared all over my face.
This is one of Israel's rarest snakes , and as expressed in the names of at least three languages,  one of the most beautiful ones !

That's it for today...good night.

Thursday, February 17

Sooty gull and more

Shalom, after few days with no posts we are back in business!
We'll start with the "oldest" news:
A strong southern storm entered the southern Arava on the 15th. Very strong winds, and waves of up to 2.5 m' were an amazing backgroung for seawatching.  

A real laundry machine!

 I spent the whole afternoon at the North beach together with Itai, Thomas, and the Danish guys(Kristian, Troels, Andreas.K.&Andreas.E.).

Itai is not afraid off the wind!

looking at the wrong direction?

Around 15:00 (just 5 minutes after Itai left), I spotted 2 gulls flying from East to west not more than 200 m' off shore. As I scoped them at the same "frame"   one of them showed very good characteristics of a Sooty gull. The whole watching period was less than 10 seconds. 
it was very clear one of them is an adult White eyed. The second bird stroke me being  somewhat larger  and dumpier. The head was bigger and held a more massive bill. The mantle, scapulars& Upper wing coverts showed a brown slightly grayish color-very different than the cold gray of the white eyed… another feature(?) was the absence of a thin white or pale attacking edge- a feature I saw in all the white eyed gulls I have examined  this year-  I couldn't find a trace of that on the spoken gull. But due to the short time watching the bird I cant be sure I didn't miss it. Unfortunately I was too late trying for the bill pattern and missed it as the birds already flew west of me showing only the upper parts till they disappeared behind the segregated men and woman beach's wall.
Although extensive searching the gull wasn't relocated the next day…thus leaving me with a slight frustration, and big expectation for the coming spring!
Other good birds seen around(sorry for the "grocery list") :
White cheeked tern- 1, adult winter plumage.
Caspian tern- 1-2, after a long winter absence.

Common gull- 1, 1st winter. The Danish bunch reported another bird probably 2nd winter!
Western reef heron- 3. One very cooperative long staying bird.

Wigeon- 20-25.
Buff bellied pipit- 1, at the southern date palm grove of kibuts Eilot, by the Danish group.
Ruddy shellduck – 1 seen daily at the IBRCE's salt pond.
Ruppell's  Warbler- 1, male, Holland park, Danish group.
Whumbrel- 1, over the IBRCE.
Itai and Thomas reported first Isabelline Wheatears and yellow wagtail.

Today we welcomed Bram&Teun of Holland, our first volunteers for the spring. Hope ringing gets more intense and productive! Who said Ethiopian swallow?

Stay posted- I promise you a s(SSo)urprise for tomorrow!    

Sunday, February 13

A good end

Earlier this mourning Itai called me for some directions to the Warbler at Ktura . After some 30 minutes he called me back and said the bird is singing the diagnostic Hume's tune with which he is well familiar from Asia! Some more searching ended with only brief looks at the bird.
I guess my first impression of the bird's call, which I have heard on Friday, was correct, and comparing it by memory to internet records after a few hours was un-effective…

Also around the kibutz's gardens- many Chiffchaffs with 1 Siberian Chiffchaf among them.

Thanks to Itai for solving this short mystery, And allowing me this long expected lifer!

Saturday, February 12


On Thursday I went visiting my girlfriend in Kibutz Ktura, 35 minutes north of Eilat. After I woke upthe next morning (no ringing that Friday so I slept till 8:30am), I took a walk between the Kibutz's houses and lawns. After 50 meters I  heard a distinctive call from a tree just near me. The call was heard once again and then what ever made it went silent. The first thing crossed my mind was "what happened to this white wagtail?"… a few fractions of  a second later I realized It must be a "wing-barred" warbler. I waited for a minute and the bird showed itself between the branches.

As I raced back to the room to grab my camera I was sure it is a Hume's warbler, the same feeling I had till I started examining the photos I took. This felling was based mostly on the call which reminded me some records I have heard, and the rather pale look and whitish brows and wing bars. Unfortunately I had no time to spend with the bird and in total my observation lasted 2-3 minutes in which the bird called only twice.

I phoned Yoav Perlman, and asked him to send an RBA massage.
As I got back home I compared the calls from memory with some calls on the net. My field impression was of a highly disyllabic call, with a very faint rusty ingredient. As I heard the calls of both Hume's and Yellow browed, I'm afraid I cant be sure to which species the calls I heard fit better, with a slight tendency towards Yellow browed. I must admit I have no field experience with Hume's, and limited experience of only 1 (silent individual)Yellow browed in fresh plumage in November a few years ago.

From the photos some features can be seen:
-A rather grayish, green tinged mantle and cap- better for Hume's, although at this time of the year some extensively worn Yellow brows can be similar.
- Extensive pale orange lower mandible, with a dark tip- looks good for YBW.
- Pale looking legs. Again good for YBW.
-no yellow on brows or wing bar- better for hume's but the wearing of the feathers is again a factor that should be considered.

Anyhow, I withdraw my first ID of the bird as a Hume's, and will refer to as a YBW/Hume's until better hearing and watching opportunity is achieved(probably next week).

I would appreciate any comment and ideas about this bird.

Hope to get back there as soon as possible, and you can be sure i will inform you with any news.

Friday, February 11

Yet another Control for Eilat

Dear All,

we just received a mail from the Israeli Bird Ringing Centre (IBRC) of another bird, this time a Common Buzzard which was trapped and ringed by the IBRCE staff on 14/4/1998 and was found after 12 years 1 month and 6 days (20/5/2010) at Nizhniy Novgorod O., Lukoyanovskiy district., Russia, a distance of 2920 km away.

over the last 10 years, the IBRCE had 153 'Eilat' birds who were controlled abroad, of which 29 were Common/Steppe Buzzards (11 in Russia). Being such a central place along the Eastern Flyway, has also produced many controls of foreign rings and over the last 10 years, the IBRCE staff had trapped 84 foreign rings, unfortunately non is a Common/Steppe Buzzard...

on his way north, Re'a stopped at Kibbutz Ketura where he had a nice Hume's Warbler (another big rarity in Israel)! stay tuned as photos and descriptions will follow soon...

Thursday, February 10

(un) Common Gull at the beach & Dragonflies attack!

A rather warm morning at the IBRCE, ringing with Itai, Tzadok and Thomas Hansen, (a German volunteer). Trapping still is a bit slow, but many birds are being seen around!
Our first Sedge Warblers and Squacco Heron for this spring appeared around Anita’s lake. Later 2 Eurasian Spoonbills were also seen there. Yet another Siberian Chiffchaff was jumping in an Acacia tree at the public part of the park. Some 300 House Martins were also swarming above (a good "kick in" after two weeks with only few tens around…), some Rock Martins and Barn Swallows were also flying among them. I hope that in the few coming days we’ll start working on catching them at their roost sites…  Tens of Swifts (both Common and Pallid) were passing through and Thomas reported of few Alpine Swifts yesterday.

Around 9am raptors started passing. Thomas was counting and till midday some 40 Steppe & 2 Beautiful Greater Spotted Eagles flew north east to Jordan. Yesterday Thomas counted around 60 Steppies!

We ended the day at the well known north beach. The entire usual bunch showed well: White eyed Gull, Western Reef Heron, Pied Kingfisher, a few adult Steppe Gull (as far as I could identify).  

Few minutes after we started scanning the sea, I picked up a medium gull perched on the buoys not far off shore. Pale legs, gray back, rounded head, "childish" face with dark eye and short dark tipped bill - all shouted together- Common Gull!  And there he goes another boggy bird out of my black list!! This is a rather scarce winter visitor in Israel, and this first winter bird is the only one seen around Eilat this winter.
Sorry for the poor record shots…you know, all the usual excuses…

The last relatively hot two days generated a massive wave of migrating?? Dragonflies. Thousands of Vagrant Emperor (Hemianax ephipiger) flooded the IBRCE and the Eilat area. This one is a male - note the blue saddle on the upper Abdomen.

These amazing predator insects used to be a mystery to me and really weren’t much besides bird's food… Last fall Itai showed me that they are actually incredible animals and that their Identifying is as enjoyable as Id'ing a hard bird!

As the spring is getting stronger more and more species are expected down here. I hope more of these flying gemstones will soon appear and we will be able to add new species to the ever growing Israeli list!  

I'm up north for the weekend, but stay tuned as Itai will inform you if anything special occurs around Eilat.  

Tuesday, February 8

Spring is on!

Shalom to everyone and welcome to our new blog! I'm happy to send this first post while the first "good" passage of Steppe Eagles (Aquila nipalensis) for this spring (around 40 birds today so far) is overhead…
From now on, we will post birding & ringing news from the International Birding & Research Center of Eilat (IBRCE), rare and interesting sightings from the greater Eilat and Southern Arava region, ringing activities to come, Israeli birding trip reports and more…
The 1st of Feb' brought us the first migrant to be ringed this season - a Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis)! Since then we had some more migrants with the last one added today- a Common Quail (Coturnix coturnix): 

The most common migratory passerines around at the moment are Chiffchaffs (Phyloscopus colybita) and on Sunday February 6th Liri Koplevitch and I caught a Siberian Chiffchaff (Phyloscopus (c.) tristis):

Even before the bird flew into the trap I have noticed the overall pale grayish colors and heard the familiar monotonic high pitched call. While in hand, the bird showed all the features of a tristis - pale gray upper parts with faint greenish tinge restricted to upper tail coverts, lower back and secondary's and rectrecie fringes. Pale buffish long supercilium, dark narrow eye stripe, pale brown grey ear coverts, silky white under parts with pale grey wash restricted to breast, Pale yellowish green axillaris & lesser under wing coverts. Wing formula similar to ssp. Colybita (P2=P7).
A large dark abietinus was a good comparison:

Siberian Chiffchaff is a rare passage migrant and winter visitor in Israel. During the last few days I saw 3 individuals around Eilat – this is probably the best time and area to watch these Asian birds in Israel. 
Owls are also on the move with a Barn Owl (Tyto alba) caught on Sunday:
And a Scops Owl (Otus scops) found sleeping in a tree outside Eilat:

Apart from birds, some of the birding park's local reptiles are becoming more active when the day is getting hot. The Saw-scaled Viper (Echis coloratus ) is one of Israel's most dangerous venomous snakes, and definitely one of the most impressive and beautiful ones. This angry adult male was found behind the ringing station's toilet room!

The Eyed Cylindrical Skink (Chalcides ocellatus) is one of Israel's commonest skinks and is an abundant species at the IBRCE:

Migration is gaining speed quickly down here in the south. More interesting sightings and photos will be soon to follow, so keep posted and see you all at Eilat!
Re'a, on behalf of the IBRCE team.