Thursday, September 22, 2011

Midnight Ramblers

Midnight Ramblers

Many birds are moving thru right now, waders and songbirds and the first of the raptors, three days ago we had a flock of 40 or so Black Kites mixed with few Honey Buzzards and over the last two days a single Steppe Buzzard, few Marsh Harriers and a Montagu’s Harrierand few more kite here and there.
On the evening of the 18th I went down to the ringing station for another swallow session, but as I came through the salt ponds a flock of 300 shorebirds was flying right across my usual netting area, my weak ringer’s personality quickly gave in. So I went back to bring up the nets, poles and pegs and started working. Over 800 waders were flying all over the ponds before darkness and by the time the wind became too strong (around 01:00) 35 birds were netted, combined with a successful walk-in trap round at first light for a total of 45 birds!
One of them being this shy Slender billed Gull (tick for me).
He was shy for a good reason: his feathers were completely worn out. And he seems to be in pretty bad shape overall: wing (or what was left of it) moult:
I had 2 of these cute Little ringed Plovers.

I came back the next day trying to replicate the success only to find that an amazing change occurred over night and most birds were gone. Luckily there was no wind at all so 21 birds were netted. At around  I was pretty surprised to find no less them a kingfisher in the nets!
After a short sleep I woke up right into a true migration wave, the trees and especially the reed bed were buzzing with birds, As Itai and Re’a were away it was obvious something special was just behind the corner. And after some 60 warblers and swallows it came in the shape of this juvenile Rose-coloured Starling.
He was just starting a complete moult so it seems he will hang around for a while.

Other good birds from this week were a Golden Oriole from Saturday, later Tsadok and I went for a short time to k 20 salt ponds but they were rather empty of birds, only 200-300 waders well spread all over the area, but we were happy to see another Oriole on the way out. They are notorious for being very bad models and I am notoriously bad photographer so most pictures look something like this…

Portrait is the common sense way to come over both of these.

We were very busy yesterday with guiding no less then 10 groups at the ringing station, showing the people the birds and lecturing about bird’s migration, conservation of the old salt marsh that existed here 70 years ago and other stuff.  The second Whinchat for the season was a nice treat before the groups arrived.
Re’a had a close encounter with a fat saw-scaled viper(highly venomous, be careful!)Right next to the ringing hut, later we released the fellow away from our hut.
Today we had to close early (09:00) before 3 groups arrived to the park, but before that we ringed this cracking male ‘Supercilliaris’ like Yellow Wagtail. Those Yellow Wagtails will look even better when they will come back in spring. 

sorry for the long posts lately, they will be shorter and more often when i will have a decent internet connection.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tick Tick Tick!

Tick Tick Tick!

Autumn is progressing down here, waders and songbirds are doing well. Ringing is quite good with 30-70 birds daily. 
I tried out mist netting for waders at almost full moon, well, not surprisingly I had only a small catch. Hopefully later this week moon will rise later and ill resume mist netting for waders at night. Of 8 birds this juv. Curlew Sandpiper was very cooperative.
Despite the moon the low water level at the northern most salt pond gave us a great opportunity to use our long serving wader traps. Waders for this week include another Broad Billed Sandpiper (Tick no.1 for Re’a), third Marsh Sandpiper, and first Wood Sandpiper apart from the normal catch of Calidris speciesRuffs and Plovers.
The soft morning light is just irresistible…
The traps also catch others then waders; mainly Yellow Wagtails but yesterday we got lucky and caught this Citrine Wagtail (Tick no. 2 for re’a).
Note the head pattern: a long supercilium that goes down behind the ear coverts.

We were long hoping to catch one of the few lesser grey shrikes hanging around, so for Re’a 3rd tick for the day, this one was very kind and caught himself.
Despite its dreadful bill Re’a held it bravely for photos and got out without any serious bite.
Sexing is according the amount of black at the forehead, this one (14 mm if I remember correctly) is a male.
Some good autumn birds were observed lately around the station: At least 3 Citrine Wagtailsand a quite odd Hoope Lark at the salt ponds, and this male Rupple’s Warbler (far less common then in spring) which hanged all morning between our nets.
Apart from ringing ticks and rarities which don’t come every day, many cool species are moving through, like this migrating Cetti’s Warbler and many Spotted Flycatchers.

 At the reed bad on our ‘Lake’ Anita only a dozen Swallows and perhaps 50 Sand Martinsroost every night, it would be a week or two until they come in force.

Up on the mountains, Itai reports that the 4th Sooty Falcon territory was found today and a 3rd year Egyptian Vulture which is still hanging around. At K20 there is a good collection of Waders and Yellow Wagtails. The first Hugline's Gulls are also present and both Montagu'sand Marsh Harriers were seen flying around.  


Friday, September 09, 2011

Ringing routine

Ringing routine

At the station the Red-backed Shrikes 'invasion' seemed to somewhat curtail the ringing on Tuesday morning (22 birds) and all the small warblers were deep inside the thicket. Yet many left that night so I had quite a nice catch on Wednesday (50-60) and on Thursday (65 or so) with two nice local birds: a juvi Spur-winged Plover still hanging around with his parent who evaded the trap:

A juvenile Blackstart performing partial post juvenile molt which included his entire lesser, median, and greater coverts. It's been few years since I ringed one!

Also many migrants were present, and some BlackcapsLesser WhitethroatsWillow andReed Warblers were caught, and the first Isabelline Wheatear:

At the salt ponds about 350 Yellow Wagtails were seen in last light on the 6th, noteworthy among waders were 15 Greenshanks and 5 Marsh Sands. Another waders session (6-7/9) semi-successful catch of 14 birds, a second Marsh Sandpiper, first little ringed PloverRuff,Redshank and more little Stints.

Both Marsh Sands yet ringed were adult with identical suspended moult but a different level of wear. The second was far more worn, Maybe 2nd year birds? (age 5) I really should get more familiar with this species (and waders in general) to determine…
Itai started the Sooty Falcon nesting survey up at the mountains, and so far located 2 territories, and also reports a single Short-toed Snake-Eagle migrating above.

Monday, September 05, 2011

a good one...

Daim, what a fresh morning we had!
As we opened the newly erected mist-nets (put them up yesterday), the great number of Red backed  and Masked Shrikes around. Probably all arrived the previous night…till the end of the day we caught 8 Red's and seen over 30(!) Most being adults.
Here's one for you-

As I got to the "East bank" nets , a yellowish belly caught my eyes vibrating in the net . "what the hell is wrong with this Blackcap?!" crossed my mind. Two steps forward- "it's yellow! It's not smeared with Acacia pollen! Hey, that’s an Icterine Warbler!!"

A rare but regular migrant and a new hand species for me!(not very cooperative model though…)

Over 60 birds, 17 species, finally a descent ringing morning!
Other good birds- a beautiful adult Common Whithroat

A juv Orphean Warbler, quite a few of those are caught and seen these days.

Fun as always-

A late Olive tree Warbler was hopping around, a Lesser Grey Shrike, some Spotted  Flycatchers
Yesterday's evening, the relentless Yotam opened the Swallows ringing season, with a modest but encouraging 16 birds catch.

You can be sure- many more Swallows, carrying foreign rings will get down here soon…

Waders?....wagtails?! …stay tuned !

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Moonless nights

Ringing on
Moonless nights are known for being good for wader catching. So I spent three nights out at the salt ponds (30/31.8 1/2.9 and 3/4.9) setting-up 90 meters of low (two shelves) mist nets. Wind is the real problem here in Eilat, Strong winds which normally will keep me home in other places blow for the greater part of the night. Yet catching was reasonably good, with birds of a rather normal verity: Little stints, Ruffs, Ringed and Kentish plovers, two Curlew sands and a Redshank.

On the night of the 3/4.9 two more special waders were add to the list: Marsh sandpiper (a ringing tick for me) and Broad billed sand; all in all 48 waders of 8 species in 3 nights, a good beginning.

At the station a great change is underway, during the last days a drop of 5-6 Celsius degrees makes it possible to resume ringing with mist nets, and today we opened 7 of them although no many passerines are around they will soon arrive, and we'll be waiting with open nets. In the 'firsts' section: Collared Flycatcher, Sedge Warbler, Little Crake, Spanish (punish) Sparrow , Willow Warblers  and many (up to 7) Lesser grey Shrikes in the area.
First of many: a Willow Warbler

Juv. Collared Flycatcher (note the worn tail)

Of last week catch, the first Yellow Wag.

Out in the fields we continue to catch Bee eaters as a damage reduction project for farmers. The Bee eaters surprisingly eat the bees the farmers use to fertilize their watermelons crops. The bees react by falling back into the hive and brave the colorful storm by waiting safe inside. This is great for the survival of the bees but damages the farmer's corps as there are almost no natural fertilizers around. We release our catch as far away from the hives as we can: Tabba border passage (14 km).
During a bee eaters catch on the afternoon of the 31st I saw a single Black winged Kite, probably an Asian bird of the ssp. vociferus. A nice bird after a month at Eilat!