Saturday, December 31, 2011

Devil Birds of the Plains (?)

Devil Birds of the Plains (?)Birds with ‘horns’ may look somewhat odd, and those we had today have a most demonic resemblance!

Today Ron Yael and I finally went ringing in Wadi Hayon (uvda area), after the recent postponement, things changed for the better and many birds came back to the area, so today we ventured into the unfamiliar vicinity of lark ringing!
We drove from Eilat at 04:00 (*mistake no. 1, way too early for larks) and arrived at uvda an hour later and started setting up the nets, based on our observation on Friday. When we finished erecting 90 meters of mist net, it was still absolutory dark, nevermind.
We waited, but the birds seem to sleep it out late during the cold mourning, the first birds to arrive were a flock of 15 Sand Partridges, we soon flushed them into the nets, which we set in V formation at the narrowest chokepoint of the wadi and we caught two beautiful males (new ringing species for us).
The two individuals were somewhat different; one with more plain cinnamon-Rufus back (Right – Ad?) and the other had some feathers with light brown barring mixed among the cinnamon-Rufus ones (Left – 1st year?).
 Photo by Yael
It was still pretty cold when the first Trumpeter Finches came down to feed together with some Desert Larks, but our main intention was for more serious stuff.
The Trumpeters aren’t really at their best of colors now, yet it is possible sexing some, by size and amount of pink, this male is 93mm wing and with very pink underparts.
 This female is 86 mm without any pink hue at all on underparts, ageing is more difficult though: Svensson says some 1st year in Morocco (Whoa…) may undergo partial summer moult, the 4 we had today made complete postbr moult and thereby aged 2 (f.g.)

The real action started only at 9, when the first large flock of larks flew into the narrow wadi, about 100 Temminck’s Larks, 20-30 Bar Tails, and 10 Thick Bills (with more T Finches and D Larks) and during one very happy hour all these birds (except the Thick Bills) were flying about the nets and with some encouragement we caught 11 Temminck’s Larks!!! And 2 Bar-tailed Larks!
The few Thick Bills eluded us this time, but hopefully when more will be around we will also catch these magnificent desert dwellers.

We measured the birds extensively and examined each bird, Temminck’s Larks and Bar-tailed Larks are rarely ringed in Israel and we have very limited Data about them.
Bar-tailed Lark (right) & Desert Lark (Left).

After all this action it got very calm, we scraped 3 more Desert Larks and packed up atmidday, very tired, but satisfied.
On the way back just before Mt. Ayt (after Shizafon junction) we saw an adult Eastern Imperial Eagle eating a pigeon just 30 meters off the road! Surely by the time the camera was out and ready the eagle flew on…

In the evening we went to k19 for some Coot ringing, we snatched (no better word to describe) 8 Coots all dirty and wet from the swage water, but it was great fun.

For our readers from other plants: here on earth a new year is coming, 2012, so I would like to say that personally; I had great year (well, half…) with great company and superb birds down here at Eilat, I hope the last difficulties at the IRBCE will be solved during the next year while we keep birding and ringing anything with feathers in the arava!

Happy new year to all

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Bottem of the Jar ?

The Bottem of the Jar ?

Things are very calm nowdays in the south; while in the north rarities are everywhere, prime among them: 1st Firecrest record in Israel and a 5th Whooper Swan!
Anyway ringing at IRBCE is so slow I barely open the nets, when I do I catch about 3-5 new birds in a mourning, the Heligoland traps also catch very few birds, but they are very good at catching Sparrowhaks, three more were caught since last update here a week ago brining us for a total of 5 birds in 9 days!

Waders are bit more worthy with a day and a half session producing 20 new birds, and 6 retraps, some of them from past years. Noteworthy among them were four Kentish Plovers, three of them males in beautiful summer plumage.
This one was very uncooperative, so we made a compromise: portrait …

On the evening of the 17th Hilel and I made an afternoon to evening attempt to ring some Waterfowl in K 19 swage pond. It wasn’t a smart choice to ring on Saturday as all the birds were disturbed by many motorcyclists all day long and many gave up staying in the pond flew to rest on the sand dunes in the Jordanian side. Yet we managed to catch one Coot, and one Kentish Plover. I had worse nights in the past…
The only place with decent ringing potential is the White Wagtail roost near the central bus station, after promising first try (24) I went twice more (21 last week, and 46 yesterday), the roost itself is increasing with at least 1500 yesterday as opposed to mere 800 Wagtails when I first made some scouting around back in mid November. 
Yesterday Hilel came along with some company to my messed up apartment to ring some wagtails.

Today Itai and I went to Uvda to scout the area before a ringing attempt scheduled for tomorrow, unfortunately it seems as all birds were gone. We had about 6 Thick Billed Larks, 50Temminck’s Larks and 30 Bar tailed Larks scattered thinly over huge area, so we had to postponed the ringing plan until more birds will arrive.  
On the way back we called one little green spot near Ketura junction, it’s a tiny spot, but we were glad to see one Great spotted Cuckoo! Perhaps the first spring migrant? A look at the “Bible” (The Birds of Israel, Shirihai 1996) showed that such “early” records might be late autumn migrants, so just maybe…

Our next stop was Grofit swage, yet just after passing the gate to Grofit we saw a jumpy small Sylvia, the second glance at the energetic bird revealed beautiful Spectacled Warbler. At the swage itself were few Desert and Trumpeter Finches and one Marsh Sandpiper and on the way out we saw the female Finsch’s Wheatear which Itai and Shay had yesterday (Shay's photos), not so common in the Arava also. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Winter Ringing...

Winter Ringing...

The days are getting shorter and I am getting lazier writing about the bits and pieces that I do ring.  Anyway last Monday I had free time to try ringing at the White Wagtails roost, so after getting the needed permissions to set up nets on the rooftop Next to the palm trees where they roost I gave it a try. The roof itself was very nice, just a short walk around produced some 25 Tables, 400 Glass Plates 1 Supermarket Cart two pairs of Rubber BootsClothes racks are common flock of 5000 is my highest for the season, and many more of things alike.
In the junkyard beside were some 300 pre-roosting Wagtails and 4 Tristram Grackles, what disgust.
All in all I caught a semi satisfactory catch of 24 wagtails, but after all this is the largest roost around Eilat.
what a wondeful ringing site!
During the weekend we had some ringing Demo’s to carry out, Yael (my sister) and Ron Efrat came along to help, we had very productive days, noteworthy were 6 Dead Sea Sparrows two 1st year female Sparrowhawks and a single Little green Bee-eater.
1 2 3 and bye bye...

It is possible to Age males Dead Sea Sparrow even after their complete summer moult (both ad. And juv.) By the amount of black on the greater coverts, this is a 2009 recapture showing black on only two feathers, a typical adult pattern. 1st year would usually have 4-6 blackish greater coverts.

Also during the weekend I opened the wader traps for a 48 hours session; we had quite good results yet nothing special (new/retrap):
22/7 Little stint
18/1 Dunlins
5/3 Redshanks
Two Ruffs and two Ringed Plovers

On Sunday, Ron and I made another attempt to catch Desert Finches near the salt ponds, a flock of 120 birds showed up made a circle above the nets but flew on, leaving us with ‘only’ 9 Desert Finches in hand.

If you been wondering why I have nothing to write about from the last days of November and the first of week of December I won’t tell you the reason, I would just say that it is better not to mention the word Hypocolius in my presence.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

The beginning of the end

The beginning of the end

It feels autumn is fading into winter these days, the soft drizzle we had yesterday and bird numbers seem to confirm that, there were no real drops, but enough to spread an almost forgotten scent of rain in the desert.

Birds are decreasing with only 36 (8 of them re-taps) yesterday, yet even when numbers are low Specialties are always available in November, a Cyprus Warbler ringed on Wednesday was very enjoyable, not only because I haven’t ringed one during the last 3 years but also because it’s a great reason to use Hadoram 'Sylvia' warblers for real (see note), such a wonderful book!

Note: it's a most obvious First winter, but I kept reading for two more hours anyway. (Testing ourselves on the 'problematic plumages' page Included).

Cyprus Warbler post juv. moult may include up to four primareis as in this individual.

Many old birds are now retuning to winter in the park, maybe the most interesting of them was a Water Pipit ringed back in November 2007. Only few of them are ringed every year so this catch is quite special (I caught the first two for the season this week). I also had few BluethoartsSardinian Warblers, and Chiffchaffs ringed back in 2008 and 2009, when extensive autumn & winter ringing was held. Some rings are so dirty the need to be cleaned from salt (we're in the middle of salt marsh…) and mud to make it possible reading them.

In the park I've seen this week three Linnets a dozen Song Thrushes and a Blackbird, and managed to ring one of the song thrushes and the blackbird. Those "north" birds are uncommon (but regular) here in winter, even though they are common up north.

I must confess we (Elon and myself) also made an attempt to ring the Olive-backed Pipits(there are four of them now) on Thursday at Eliot palms, and although we came close to catching them (one even walked underneath the net!) we failed, But they are here for the entire winter and so am I…

The end of autumn marks the beginning of time to wander to other places for ringing as the birds wintering in the park are not endless and already many are ringed. It's also time to begin serious preparations for upcoming spring!

Happy winter!

Monday, November 21, 2011

More pink!

More pink!

Today we decided to break the routine of ringing at the station and went out to set up some nets around an old dead tree by the canal. The reason we choose this location is the melon fields nearby, many seed eaters are feeding there now, 150+ Desert Finches (which were our main target), few hundred Spanish Sparrows, some GreenfinchesIndian Silverbills and more.
Yishay and Shaby who came yesterday to twich the Rf Bluetail came along and joined me this morning, and helped a lot with setting up the higher then usual nets we had to use for catching Desert Finches. Thank you guys!

Everything went as planned and we had a good catch of Desert Finchs, and also some other treats like this Siberian Stonechat.
Update: sorry for the embarrassing mistake here, it is a perfecet male saxicola maurus variegatus
Totals for today: 57 birds with no retraps.
Desert Finch – 33
Spanish Sparrow – 8
House Sparrow – 3
White Wagtail – 2
Chiffchaff – 5
Sardinian Warbler – 2
And singles: BluethroatBlack RedstartEastern Stonechat and a Collared Dove.
Ageing Desert Finches is not easy, and literature is not very much available about them.
Many individuals we believe to juveniles performed arrested moult, with a large degree of variation, some moulting just one or two of the remiges, and others leaving just one or two unmoulted remiges. very limited moult (female):
More extensive moult (two different males):

the color of the bill is also variable with juv. male just starting to get black(compare to the adult male above):
and just to show off: the first Dead sea Sparrow for this winter, ringed yesterday at the station.
After we packed up we had some spare time so we went to Eilot palm plantations to have a look at the Olive-backed Pipits there, we had great Views on two of them (Barak Granit reported 3, last week). They usually arrive in November and would probably/hopefully stay there until February, it’s very interesting if these are the same birds wintering here every year or not (or maybe there are more then 3?), but I guess I can try answering this question,
stay tuned…  


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Back To Business

Back To Business

I just finished the long course, I didn’t ring at all for over a month!, so with itchy fingers and great anticipation i finally got back to the ringing station this week, doing what I like to do best! Ring!

So as November is here in full swing many ‘late’ migrants are around, Bluethroats,Chiffchaffs, Stonechats, Sardinian Warblers, Spanish Sparrows and the last of theBlackcaps and Reed Warblers.
Last days were pretty good with around 60 birds a day, today we were slowing down a bit, probably because of the storm raging in the north (no rain here, don’t worry).
Since I got back to the station 4 days ago at least 2 Fieldfares were hanging around just between the nets and the Heligoland traps, and the mist nets even ignoring the MP3 player, but yesterday I caught up with one (Tick!). what a fantastic northen bird!

Earlier that morning I had the second beautiful Rose-colored Starling for this autumn, a juvenile just finishing a complete moult, looks much better then the first one I caught in September.

 Svensson states some might retain some juv. feathers even after complete moult, and to me it seems  this one will do just that, leaving behind some odd coverts and alula. but still to early to determine, i will have to catch another one...

As for other cool birds around many Penduline Tits are around, yesterday I caught one, a recapture from last year, and today I made my best to catch more, but caught only two.
On the 'less common and pretty cool' list this time, a Moustached Warbler.
No doubt the coolest Acro in Israel!
Yesterday at K 19 many common ducks and hundreds of Cormorants were in the water. In the skies above Booted Eagles and Marsh Harriers are keeping the doves and pigeons on the run. Noteworthy was a single male Ruddy Shelduck. thinking about that, i never ringed a cormornt...

Down town Eilat the White wagtails Roost near the central bus station looks very tempting with Hundreds of them pre-roosting of the roofs around. Maybe worth try out some urban ringing there next week.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

October Mix-up

Saturday, October 15

October Mix-up

First half of October I was very busy doing much ringing and birdwatching activities around, but because of featherless issues I didn’t had Opportunity to write about them, so here is a short summery:

In general passerines ringing slowed down considerably in the beginning of October, not completely because of lack of birds, many day ('vis') migrants, especially Tree PipitsRed-throated Pipits, and Short-toed Larks were passing every day. Last week on Wednesday in particular, few thousands of those passed over head and Itai also reported from Yotvata (see his last post), but they were passing fast without hanging around two much. On the 9.10  when we arranged at last to ring in Yotvata field supported by Eilon Gur who came from Sde boker to enjoy some ringing and birdwatching in Eilat area it was already too late:

We arrived very early to Yotvata only to take a wrong turn and got bogged in the sand, not a good beginning, by the time Itai and Noa arrived they helped us to finish setting up 3 triangles (12m*12m*12m) of mist nets by first light, with MP3 playing loud in their centres. But soon discovered the field was rather empty, only 100's or so RtP & StL's were around. Altogether we had 11 birds, which was nice but not the showdown I expected when all of them were passing over my head 4 days before and after Itai's report from last week.

Nevertheless many thanks to Eilon Noa and Itai and for the kibbutz for letting us ring there!
Pipits are hard enough to catch in an open windy field, so photos…

Two juvenile Namaqua Doves were very nice, long time no ring.
Have a look at the pattern of the new moulted PC's.

After this attempt Eilon and i birded down the way to Eilat starting with the much promising Yotvata sewage pools, as many as 50 White Wagtails were resting there together with someTealsGarganeys  and 20 Snipes, which after some carefull checking were all common... 
It looks like this site has the Potential to bring something good in November-December.
At Samar small eastern field (a rather hidden place) we had few Black-eared Weathears and one Hooded.

We then drove on and At Samar sewage had 3 more Hooded Weathears and a nice flock of 70 waders (it's a tiny spot). Our next stop was at k 20 where we had great views of Sooty Falcons throughout the last two weeks, two days later Itai and I relocated the Sanderling Itai found on Friday. This is by no mean a common bird down here around Eilat!

More on the 'less common and pretty cool' list this time is this handsome male Red-breasted Flycatcher, an October species, but what a bird!

We also had this beautiful Wood Warbler, very green indeed but not an 'ish'.

In Eilot fields Tsadok found this Long-eared Owl tangled with some sticky grass by the side of the road, he disentangled him but to get him completely clear we had to gently (as we could) tear few of his body feathers,and ringed him, he was tangled probably for a short time and in good health so we decided to release him on the spot. No further explanations on plant introduction into the desert Habitats is needed in this case I guess.

This is my desktop image for the time being...

At the station the mid autumn change is well underway: the 'early autumn' migrants are replaced by mid and late autumn species like BluethroatsSardinian Warblers'Phoenicurus'Redstars soon to be followed by Chiffchaffs and many more.
 Those Sardinian Warblers are a good reminder winter is coming, even if it's still get to over 35 degrees at times.

Itai also reports that the Sooty Falcons have fledged their chicks and now can be seen in most days hunting around K20. 

And Avi Meir reports from the Gulf about new arrivals of both Siberian Gulls and of a loneLesser Crested Tern which was hanging around North Beach last Tuesday.

Unfortunately I have to go on a month long guiding course so ill be back ringing only by mid November, hard times for my fingers…