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.