maanantai 27. toukokuuta 2013

20.5. Tel-Aviv, Ha Yarkon Park

On Monday we had few hours before our flight back to Finland. The time was shortened still by a flat tyre discovered first thing in the morning. Anyway, we got in Ha Yarkon park in Tel-Aviv before long. Last time we visited the place in November 2012 we couldn't find our target species but this time it was easy as pie. Three nice Vinous-breasted Starlings were feeding on the ground with Monk Parakeets. Splendid!

V-b Starling has special style to move when on the ground. It's kind of hopping and walking at the same time and it moves it's feet in turn which allows to distinguish it from the much more numerous Common Myna even from great distance as Myna moves both feet together.

Monk Parakeet is very common in the Park. Two pairs were fighting or playing for a long time when they met on the ground. It looked like females and males were "playing" separately. Monk Parakeet as well as V-b Starling are introduced Category-C species but are countable as a tick since the populations are self-sustainable in Israel.

Three different plumages of Cattle Egret. On top an adult in full breeding plumage with red bare parts coloration. Non-breeding birds in the middle and a juvenile with still black bill in the bottom. The juvenile got me fooled for a while because I haven't ever seen one with a black bill before but there it was in my Collin's Guide :)

Photogenic Hoopoe, the national bird of Israel and a good way to end the trip. Thanks to Jände, Tom and Esko for company, driving, correcting my ID's etc and to Markus Lampinen, Itai Shanni and Yoav Perlman for providing information of Sooty Falcon and other species!

sunnuntai 26. toukokuuta 2013

19.5. Ma'agan Micha'el

We spent our last full day mainly in Ma'agan Micha'els fish ponds. We went through the whole area which is several kilometers long and about half to one km wide.

From the southern parts of the area we found a tower which was ok for birdwatching. I guess it could be usefull for seawatch but our timing (afternoon) was bad for that.

In the Saturday evening the beach was full of local tourists but Sunday was more peaceful. On the islet in the background was a small Yellow-legged Gull colony. Only seabirds were 40 Cory's Shearwater in Saturday evening and a Gannet which I missed.

When birdwatching in Ma'agan Micha'el it's goof idea to use car as a hide. When getting out of the car, one should be extra careful not to flush birds.

Little Egret, one of about 500 individuals in Ma'agan Micha'el.

Numbers of Night Herons were amazing. We (under)estimated 600 mostly adult birds.

One of 15 Squacco Herons.
The sole Spoonbill.
One of about ten Purple Herons.

2cy male Little Bittern. This species was very easy to see in Ma'agan Micha'el. We saw 14 males on Sunday, they only gave flight views though.

The only Spotted Redshank of the trip. Other waders in the fish ponds were Ruffs, Little Stints, Dunlins, Wood Sandpiper, B-w Stilts, single Avocet, Ringed and S-w Plovers.

Two Black Terns was a nice surprise and an Israeli-tick for everyone.

Little Tern bringing fish gift to it's partner.

Prinias and Clamorous Reed Warblers were numorous in reed beds. We counted c.50 of both.

Common Myna

Turtle Doves - quite a difference in orbital skin size.
Ma'agan Micha'el is known of it's gulls and there was enough for us at this time of year too. We had some 500 Slender-billed, 50 Yellow-legged, 10 Caspian, 5 Lesser Black-backed (heuglini-type), 2 Black-headed and one adult Pallas's Gull. One or two possileb Baraba Gulls were also present.
Yellow-legged Gulls were breeding in islets offshore the beach and had already few youngsters in flight.
Other birds worth of mention were 4 Chukars, a Great Spotted Cuckoo and the first three Cetti's and two Sardinian Warblers for the trip.
In late afternoon, before dipping Painted Snipes third time we visited Pardes Khanna briefly. We didn't get lucky with Nanday Parakeet and I'm not sure if they're even alive anymore. Last observation AFAIK is from March 2012. Anyway, we saw two nice Syrian Woodpeckers and got Great Tit for trip species :)

lauantai 25. toukokuuta 2013

18.5. Sooty Falcon!

Esko, I and Tomppa after tick.
On 18th we checked out from Kibbutz Lotan and headed to Dead Sea. Yoav Perlman had kindly provided us information about Sooty Falcon territory a bit north from Dead Sea. Scenery was spectacular and it was a pleasure to be birding in such a place. At first we found only some Common Buzzards, Black Kites and Brown-necked Ravens. After changing place couple of times I looked a pair of Raven species perched relatively close on a cliff. It was the first time in my birding career that I had to think about identifying Ravens :) However, this pair ticked all the boxes of "common" Raven - Israeli-tick.
And it didn't take too long before we located our main target. A pair of beautiful Sooty Falcons were displaying far away, probably in Jordania. We watched them for some 15 minutes and luckily they were getting closer all the time and showed their dark grayish blue plumage, still darker wingtips and underwing coverts. Then they suddenly plunged and disappeared...
Next moments were full of joy, hand shaking and yelling!

This Desert Lark seemed to be kind of depressed.

After a celebration coffee and cake we went to see Fan-tailed Ravens in some village in the west coast of Dead Sea. At least four F-t Ravens gave great views and little raptor migration were going on above us (Buzzards, Short-toed Eagles, Black Storks). I got my first proper pics of Tristram's Starlings and a handsome Egyptian Vulture was soaring above the village. I'm not sure what happened but only in the late evening when we were already in hotel in Netanya, Mediterranean coast, Jände noticed we had forgotten to try for House Bunting! Well it happens, i guess :)

male Tristram's Starling

younger adult Egyptian Vulture

On the road back from the F-t Raven village there was a Ibex-fight going on in the road side.

Adult Glossy Ibis
Juvenile Glossy Ibis
From the Dead Sea we drove straight to Netanya, a city located some 50km's north of Tel-Aviv. We had booked a hotel from there and checked in at afternoon. After a lunch break we went birding to Ma'agan Micha'els fish ponds. The ponds were full of herons and Glossy Ibises and our time went mostly by photographing them.

Young Spur-winged Plover

Little Grebes just after Sunset at Ya'ar pond, Hadera.
Before sunset we tried to look for a Painted Snipe trio that was observed at least twice in a pond and small flooded field in the village of Hadera. We didn't have success with Snipes but it was still nice to listen displaying Stone Curlew. There was also few Little Bitterns, tens of Cattle Egrets, Glossy Ibises, Little Grebes and Moorhens in the pond. We gave the snipes further two attempts at Sunday morning and evening but had no luck. Probably they have moved forward?

perjantai 24. toukokuuta 2013

17.5. Large-headed Stint

We spent the early morning in Yotvata area. A flock of five Gull-billed Terns was migrating low over the fields and was a Israeli-tick for me! Jei! The same Hoopoe Lark was still in singing mood, single Red-backed and Woodchat Shrikes were noted as well as a dozen Masked Shrikes and tens of Eastern Olivaceous Warblers.
We had a brief coffee break at Yotvata and headed to Amrams Pillars to check if Sooty Falcons had arrived. The track to Sooties breeding cliff was barely or wasn't at all driveable. Our rental car was far from a jeep so we didn't take our changes but instead Jände, Tomppa and Esko walked to the breeding place while I scanned the skies. It was unbelievable silent and atmosphere was magical. Only birds were absent :) Well not really, after an hour and half I had seen migrating female Red-footed Falcon, adult Barbary Falcon, 10 Desert Larks, three calling Sand Partridges, Brown-necked Raven, female Hooded and juvenile White-crowned Wheater - not bad! Walking team got pretty much the same species and it came clear that Sooty Falcons had not arrived.
In km20 we found a funny looking Little Stint pictured above. There's something badly wrong with it's head but it seemd to be in good condition and was feeding actively.

"Normal" Little Stint to compare.

Black-winged Stilt

Female Kentish Plover

Curlew Sandpipers were very co-operative at IBRCE pools. Even too co-operative as my camera battery ran out of power :( I had forgotten to charge it last night. Luckily everybody else had much better camera gear than mine...
Nearby the NB we noticed a flock of ten Honey Buzzards coming low over the ditch. But that wasn't all as some 1000 more was above us! Nice wave of Honey B's glided over us in half an hour or so. We moved to NB as the stream seemed to follow the coast line. Jände was more into seawatching and found three  adult White-cheeked Terns so different individuals than the trio on Tuesday.
In the afternoon we checked some parks in hope of Olive-tree Warbler but without success. Single Honey B's and couple of Booted Eagles circled to northeast over Eilat city. We ended our day a bit earlier than usually as we had a longish drive in the next day.