Wednesday, February 27

New arrivals...

Like every year this time is very thrilling. Each day brings its surprises and there are plenty of new birds throughout and also a growing number of birders are travelling around and bring more updates from the field.
Last weekend, the IBRCE ringing station has started its season operation and we have 2 new volunteers - Markus Lampinen from Finland and Eran Makover from Israel who have started the season with help from Yael, Ron, Noa, Tzadok and myself. we wish then a great season and many interesting and common species!

Over the last week we were busy with opening all the nets and showing Markus and Eran how do we work at the IBRCE. So far the numbers are moderate for the season, but we're sure that it is only a matter of time till the skies and the begs will get filled...
A great discovery was made by Mori Chen of a breeding Cream-coloured Courser up in the area of Ovda Valley, surely there is never stop for the surprises...

Here is Markus first report:
"The last few days of ringing have all produced around 40 to 60 birds including mainly basic stuff like Chiffchaffs, Lesser Whitethroats and Reed Warblers but also some nicer ones like Tristram's Grackle, Penduline Tit

quite an early Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, and the first Eastern Bonelli's (aka Balkan) Warbler,
two Indian Silverbills and two Quails

Hopefully the numbers will increase in following days and the first Rueppell's Warbler will find their way into the nets and not just hoping in the bushes.

Steppe Eagles of older age classes are still migrating and on Feb 22nd about 150 birds passed the ringing station in half an hour.

On Feb 24th while we were ringing in the station and Itai was on his way for a net round, we heard hime shouting "out, out, White-tailed Plover flyover" unfortunately, by the time we were out, only Eran got a short glimpse of it while it flew next to the station due north. A female Citrine Wagtail was seen at the saltpans on the next day and today, Feb 26th, two gorgeous Dead Sea Sparrows were hanging around the station area in the morning. Unfortunately they weren't in the mood of getting caught this time. On Feb 23rd we walked around Holland Park seeing couple of Sand Partridges, two Little Green Bee-eaters, a Rueppell's Warbler, pair of Trumpeter Finches and other nice stuff."

Tuesday, February 19

even the Seychelles can't compete with the migration around Eilat...

While temperatures are rising and the desert is getting nicer with huge amount of flowers in full bloom (mainly different shades of Blue), after this massive rain we had over this winter (60 mm in an area where the average annual rainfall is only around the 20, this is what I call massive), I find myself in a "Zugunruhe" at most times and despite the many tasks before the season and the coming Spring Migration Festival, my head is in a constant search for movements and shades in the bushes.... 

Roy Talbi reported last week of another Pallid Scops Owl from Hai-bar Yotveta and there are also reports from Wadi Shlomo

Last Friday I gave a lecture on  bird migration for guides to be in Sde Boker. As I was driving there already on the Thursday, I stopped en route to check if the Egyptian Nightjars are still present and sure did I find at least 3 different individuals flying in the fields! 
After the lecture I drove back home and stopped at the Meishar where I flushed out of nowhere a male Maqcueens Bustard. These birds should be on breeding territories now thus I didn't stay long and am looking forward to come again and see if it is the case?

Today I was join by Morten Christensen from Denmark and we had a great morning with amazing looking Sinai Rosefinches 
Later in Ovda Valley  we looked in vein for larks and all we could find are groups of Crowned & Spotted Sandgrouses, Isabeline, White-crowned, Desert & Finch's Wheatears a first Tawny Pipit for the season and a pair of Thick-billed Larks which looked very much into breeding already. In Yotveta we couldn't find any interesting bird except two firsts for the season - 'feldegg' Yellow Wagtail and Common Whitethroat.

After leaving Morten back in his hotel I decided that it is about time to spot the first  Ruppell's Warbler and right on the spot a nice 2nd calendar male was waiting for me!

So despite being dumped in the last minute by our main bird ringer for this season, I'm sure that it will prove once again, that even the Seychelles can't compete with the migration around  Eilat...

Saturday, February 9

Pallid Scops Owl and more

This morning, I went to do some ringing at the IBRCE in order to check where do we stand with migration?! I was joined by Noa, Tzadok and many kids and visitors who came to enjoy a great weather and wonderful array of birds.

Altogether we've ended the morning with some 30 birds of 11 species including some early migrants like Savi's and Sedge Warblers, few wintering species like Bluethroats, Chiffchafs and Sardinian Warblers and also few residents like Palm Doves, Spanish Sparrows and Graceful Prinia.
Savi's Warbler
Sedge Warbler
Galya, (Liat's daughter) releasing a Chiffchaf
The most welcoming catch though, was a beautiful Pallid Scops Owl which was found during the first trap round. The bird had all the classic features and it created a great happiness with all the helpers and visitors... 

No white spots on the forhead
Feathers extending to toes 

Throughout the day there was also a very slow passage of  Steppe Eagles and also huge numbers of Vagrant Emperor and Painted Lady flying throughout...
Painted Lady  

Wednesday, February 6

Migration kickstart

When we use the phrase "Spring Migration" around here we usually think about the period between mid Feb- mid May. During this period we use to see the big numbers of migrants of all sorts and species going through this wonderful area.
Last week we had very wet (in Eilat standards) weekend which was followed by nice and dry 2-3 days and today again, floods throughout the Southern Arava and the IBRCE park, yet again has lost its main road for the 3rd time this winter...

Since last Thursday we had 2 visiting birders from Denmark, Silas Olofson and Turkey, Emin Yoğurtcuoğlu who were eager to see all the area specialities and rare migrants. Unnaturally for them, the Storm of last weekend have made many changes and it was hard to relocate both the long staying Dunn's Lark and trio Buff-bellied Pipits, but their lenses have caught a great variety of species which our area is blessed with and also few early migrants which are already on the move like Pallid Swifts, Steppe Eagles. Undoubtedly the stars were a very big surprise to all - 5 very early Egyptian Nightjars which are usually seen around only from late February. Below is a small collection from Silas and Emin 5 days in the region.