Sunday, March 27, 2011

Eilat spring migration festival 2011 - day 8

It's my last day here in Eilat. This morning, to end the festival, we went on a last-ditch-attempt mop-up tour. It proved worthwhile, starting with a female Semi-collared Flycatcher (plus Chaffinch and European Bee-eater, new for the trip list), then on to a Broad-billed Sandpiper at IRBCE; next was a pair of juvenile Striated Herons in the marina; then finally Eastern Olivaceous Warbler and a male Cretzschmar's Bunting in the IMAX park.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Eilat spring migration festival 2011 - day 7

It's my final full day at the spring migration festival here in Eilat. I've had a bit of a lazy day, catching up on a few things that needed doing and staying local in Eilat. Two White-eyed Gulls off North Beach were the highlight, and a Pied Kingfisher was briefly along the canal there.
I'll spend this evening at the round-up lecture here in the hotel; tomorrow morning will be spent on a quick "mop-up" tour of the local area before heading to the airport to catch a flight home via Tel Aviv. So, I suspect this short video is going to be my last post from on the ground at the festival - I'll post an update of the final day when I'm back in the UK and a slightly more carefully put together summary of the whole festival when I have time. I can honestly say though that the whole trip has been superb, and massive thanks has to go to all of the festival organisers and trip leaders who have done a more-than-brilliant job over the last seven days.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Eilat spring migration festival 2011 - day 6

This morning I joined the Uvda Valley tour and, under grey skies and with strong winds, headed up into the mountain valley. We soon found a large mixed flock of larks, mostly Thick-billed and Short-toed though with some Bimaculated mixed in. Trumpeter Finches were also mingling amongst the flock.
A female Citrine Wagtail, a female Namaqua Dove and a Collared Pratincole were at the sewage works; the fields nearby were very productive with several Red-throated Pipits, Woodchat Shrikes, Wrynecks, a mixed flock of yellow wagtails (mostly Black-headed with one 'superciliaris' and at least one flava/beema-type), an Ortolan Bunting and two Cretzschmar's Buntings.
At Yotvata, the fields contained several more Red-throated Pipits along with Water Pipits; a Lesser Short-toed Lark called in briefly, a Booted Eagle dropped down on some prey nearby, and an Oriental Skylark gave fantastic 'scope views as it fed in the cut grass.
The evening was spent back at Yotvata. Three species of bird were seen - Stone Curlew, Pharaoh Eagle Owl, and, oddly, Isabelline Wheatear. The owl gave stunning views. We also scored with several mammal species: many Cape Hares, three Jackals, a Red Fox, and three Desert Hedgehogs.

Eilat spring migration festival 2011 - day 5 (evening)

Last night was 'Rambo night' - a trip north to look for Nubian Nightjars and Hume's (Tawny) Owls. Our first sighting of a Nubian Nightjar came quickly, before we had even arrived at the favoured site. At the site, we managed to get good views of two or three birds as they sat on the tracks around the saltmarsh. Then we moved onto the Hume's Owl site, where we quickly located a pair of calling birds that gave fantastic scope views as they sat on the cliff face.
WARNING: This movie contains no bird footage... though it does contain a recording of a male Hume's Owl!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Eilat spring migration festival 2011 - day 5 (morning)

I'm uploading today's video early because tonight is 'rambo night' - Nubian Nightjars and Hume's Tawny Owl, hopefully!
I spent this morning at the IBRCE ringing station with Re'a, Roni, Teun, Bram and the other volunteers there. On the walk up to the station, two Pied Kingfishers were along the canal. I arrived just as yesterday's male Ménétries's Warbler was retrapped; sometime late a second bird, a female, was caught. Other highlights includes a Hoopoe, a female Woodchat Shrike, a Squacco Heron, and an Eastern Orphean Warbler.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Eilat spring migration festival 2011 - day 4

The great thing about the festival here in Eilat is that there's no obligation to take part in the festival tours. So, if like me this morning you want to take a lie-in and catch up with some sleep, you're free to do so. It also gives the chance to do a little bit of exploring yourself. I took a wander through Eilat, where I found several House Crows along with the usual Spectacled Bulbuls, Laughing Doves etc. At North Beach, a dark morph Western Reed Egret was present and several Eastern Bonelli's Warbler were migrating through.
In the afternoon, I joined Yoav and the group for a trip to the km19 pool. The pair of Little Crakes were still showing exceptionally well and, around the cattle sheds, we found a smart male Namaqua Dove. Sadly the latter decided to fly north before I can set the camera rolling. At least one Red-throated Pipit flew north over, a couple of Isabelline Wheatears were around the site, and Short-toed Larks and Spanish Sparrows were feeding in the cattle sheds.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Eilat spring migration festival 2011 - day 3

It was another early start this morning with the minibus leaving at 4am, heading to Nizzana in search of desert species. It was a long day but we managed a good haul and, in addition to the species features in the film clip below, we managed to see Bonelli's, Lesser Spotted, Short-toed & Steppe Eagle, Cretzschmar's Bunting, Rüppell's Warbler, Masked Shrike, Eastern Bonelli's Warbler, and Eastern Orphean Warbler.
Given the nature of the terrain we were birding in, a lot of the birds have been filmed from the car, so please do excuse the slightly shaky footage of some of the species!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Eilat spring migration festival 2011 - day 2

It's the second day of the spring migration festival here in Eilat, and the first full day of tours. I opted to head up to the Dead Sea in search of some of the specialities that area has to offer. Led by Itai Shanni, our group of six left the hotel at 5am to head north. The array of species on offer was amazing, though frustratingly several proved to be just that bit too flightly, flittly or scuttly for me to keep up with. The result: good views of Sand Partridge, Cyprus Pied Wheatear, Fan-tailed Raven, Scrub Warbler, Long-legged Buzzard, and Graceful Prinia but no usable footage of any! Here's a summary of the day with some birds I did manage to film:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Eilat spring migration festival 2011 - day 1

After an overnight flight from London to Tel Aviv followed this morning by a short internal flight, I arrived at Eilat seriously in need of some sleep but excited all the same. Late morning was spent around the hotel grounds, early afternoon spent catching 40-winks, and late afternoon into the evening spent around the km20 pool complex. Personal highlights for me today have been a variegata Stonechat:

And a male 'superciliaris' wagtail, here with two male feldegg:

Sad, I know. But 'proper species' like Litchenstein's Sandgrouse, Little Crakes, a Great White Pelican, Palestine Sunbirds, Spectacled Bulbuls, and Spur-winged Plovers have also provided plenty of interest.
Here's a video summary of the first day:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Next stop, Tel Aviv

An hour and a half and we're off! I'm currently sat in T1 waiting to board the flight to Tel Aviv. From there, it's a short hop down to Eilat. And from there on in it's a week of what should prove to be fantastic birding at the spring migration festival.

I'll be blogging as often as I can from the festival so check back for the latest!

Blogged from my iPhone

Sunday, March 13, 2011


It's a glorious spring day here in Liverpool, so my mum and I took a stroll through some of the local parks. Nice to be out locally, and nice to see some of the commoner species that I haven't seen for a while now; things like Nuthatch and Song Thrush.

Most surprising sighting was of three Buzzards soaring in the air together and indulging in a spot of 'rollercoasting'.

Also in the sky this afternoon:

And back at home, plenty of frogs croaking away in the pond. Possibly the most skittish frogs in the world, he's a dodgy photo of two of them taken from about 4 m away; any closer and they all disappear below the surface.

Eilat spring migrations festival 2011

By this time next week I'll hopefully be watching my first Palastine Sunbirds and Spectacled Bulbuls. I'll be in Eilat, visiting the spring migration festival.

All being well, I'll be making daily or near-daily blog posts while I'm out there, so stay tuned from the 19th onwards. In the meantime, here are a few blogs that I've been wetting my appetite for Israeli birding with, all of which are well worth a read:

Yoav Perlman Yoav's fantastic blog details his birding right across Israel; he will also be taking part in festival events next week.

Eilat Birding News from the International Birding and Research Center in Eilat.

Faab's Sightings Fabian Meijer has just returned from a week in Israel and visited many of the places the festival tours will be heading to in a week's time.

And for anyone who speaks Dutch, Teun van Kessel and Bram Ubels are volunteering at the IBRCE and blogging about their exploits.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Reed Warbler retraps

I received two sets of informations this week, both regarding ringed Reed Warblers that I'd retrapped at Aiguamolls, Catalonia, during the spring migration ringing campaign. They highlight the two different - but equally valuable - type of data to come out of ringing campaigns like this.

The first bird, caught of 26th April, had a Slovenian ring. Here it is:

It had been ringed as a 1cy in September 2008 in Koper.

That's an official movement of about 920 km; in reality, this bird has already undergo two autumn migrations to Africa and was in the middle of its 2nd migration back north again.

The second bird was caught on 8th May and was carrying a Spanish ring. Here's the bird in question:

It had been ringed as a 1cy at exactly the same site, and was presumably in the area as a retuning breeding rather than as a migrant passing through. On paper, that means this bird has moved a rather unimpressive 0 km; in reality, it had already made three trips to Africa and back.
Interesting too to note the rather dull eye of this bird, which was in its 4 cy when the photo was taken.

Thanks to Oriol Clarabuch/ICO for the information.

Monday, March 07, 2011

The best thing about the Crossley ID Guide?

It smells of plasticine.

For a slightly more balanced review, see >here.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Moult envy

or A window into my sad little world

Those who know me will testify that my emotional state is pretty much a flat line. On the plus side, that means I'm unlikely to need any anger management; but it's extremely rare to see me get even the slightest bit animated about anything.

There's one thing in life that makes my heart beat a little bit faster, though. I first became aware of it in Spain last spring, though have yet to actually clap eyes on it first-hand. When I do, I think I might explode.

I am of course talking about... eccentric primary moult limit in 2cy Iberian Chiffchaffs. Obviously!

The one and only Iberian Chiffchaff I've ringed was an adult. Theoretically considerably harder to identify than a 2cy but displaying a standard and rather boring full set of same-age flight feathers. Here is it:

The reason for blogging about this this evening, though, is this recent post on P

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Bedtime reading

This arrived this morning:

What looks to be another excellent - if not slightly, umm, 'specialised' - publication from the lovely people at AVVAR.