Saturday, 27 April 2013

Rock Thrush

Probably wasn't worth trying to take photos of a distant bird in appalling light and drizzle while catching hypothermia. Apparently it's not yet safe to wear flip flops and shorts north of the Humber - in stark contrast to sunny London which reached 22°C yesterday! Decent bird though, despite being pretty wet and not a male. If you're interested in numbers, it's the 450th species of bird I've seen in Britain & Ireland. Thanks to Dan for driving and Rob for the fish and chips!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Green-winged Teal etc

Finally got out and did some London birding on an initially frosty morning that soon turned in to a glorious spring day (not warm, just mild). First up in the paddocks for Rich and I were a group of at least 15 Wheatears - 21 had been seen the evening previous:

On route back to the riverside footpath, a couple of Yellow Wags flew over and a female Redstart showed reasonably well for a minute or two before vanishing. On the Thames itself, Rich's Green-winged Teal eventually showed really well - perhaps 40m or so, wish I had a bigger lens sometimes. If you got the light right on this bird, I reckon really good shots could be possible with a bit of luck and patience.

Finished off late morning on Rich's patch at Rotherhithe, taking in Russia Dock Woodland. There were several Willow Warblers (some in flutey subsong) but no hoped-for Redstart/Pied Fly/Wood Warbler. Nice bit of scrub though - must get some good passers from time to time. Thanks to Rich for the lift as always.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Purple Sandpiper, Cley

A few images of this delightfully confiding bird from the Easter weekend.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Isabelline Wheatear

We spent a couple of hours around the expansive plains near Urim on our penultimate afternoon in Israel, although predictably we were a tad late in the season for huge flocks of sandgrouse and assorted raptors. That said, we did see a couple of Merlins and a pair of particularly showy Isabelline Wheatears which, in the evening light, provided an irresistable opportunity for photography. Utilizing some pretty good team tactics, we all managed some pleasing images. I must admit I've never really understood the difficulty in seperating these things from Northern Wheatears - particularly with good views. There's just something about their bulk and demeanour that is instantly recognizable. Anyway... great birds.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Various birds of prey

In a similar manner to passerines, bird of prey migration never really got going while we were in Israel. That said, Steppe Buzzards and Black Kites were still very much in evidence and, on one day, we did encounter a pretty strong movement of birds in the Dead Sea. Scattered among the buzzards and kites were Steppe, Lesser Spotted, Short-toed and Booted Eagles, Ospreys, Marsh Harriers and the the odd Egyptian Vulture.

Pale phase Booted Eagle

Short-toed Eagles

On our final day, we visited a reservoir to the south of Tel Aviv to look for White-headed Ducks. Adjacent to the reservoir was a quite hideous-smelling dump that was crawling with Black Kites and White Storks. Friends had seen a White-tailed Eagle here a couple of days previously and so, when Dan picked up a large raptor approaching, we assumed this would be it. But no - it was a Black Vulture!

The bird soon drifted off to the north, passing these White Storks and providing a reminder of its mighty size as it did so...

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Israeli migrants

We didn't exactly experience vintage spring migration in southern Israel during our trip - in fact it was generally quite poor. By the sound (and looks) of things, it's been a 'wet' winter in the Negev this year and as a result green areas are more widespread than normal, which obviously doesn't help to concentrate migrating birds. That said, one or two sites proved consistently productive throughout the week, with one these being the wadi at k76-77. Here I had four new birds (Asian Desert Warbler, Hill Sparrow, Bimaculated Lark and Cretzschmar's Bunting) among the good numbers of migrants, including as Tawny Pipits, Short-toed Larks, Lesser Whitethroats and wheatears of varying flavour - all grounded by the persistent (and often brisk) northerly winds during our trip. Despite plenty of birds, obtaining photos was actually pretty hard as most were pretty wary and would fly whenever you got within reasonable distance.

Hill Sparrow

Cretzschmar's Bunting

Bimaculated Lark

K19-20 were also pretty productive throughout our stay, although the species range was obviously quite different given the saltpans and other waterbodies here. It was the only place we saw Water Pipits regularly, while there were plenty of migrant waders including Marsh Sandpipers and the ditch at k19 held Baillon's, Little and Spotted Crakes with a Water Rail thrown in for good measure!

 Red-throated Pipit

 Water Pipit

Little Crake

Purple Heron

Cyprus Wheatear

This Cyprus Wheatear was probably the pick of grounded migrants observed at k76 during the week. These photos were taken in the heat of the day hence they're a little hazy and the light is harsh; the bird also proved incredibly difficult to get close to - even in the car! Nice bird though and the first I've seen since my dad showed me them on family holiday to Cyprus in 1996, so more or less like a lifer. Note the tail and rump pattern in the fourth shot down.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Lapwings at k20 saltpans

This White-tailed Plover was one of the highlights of the week for all of us. Only the second individual I've seen after the Caerlaverock bird several years ago, it goes without showing that this one showed a little better!

Spur-winged Plovers are trash birds in Israel, but they're bloody smart. For some reason, this is the only decent shot of one I took all week despite their abundance!

Monday, 1 April 2013

Israeli residents

A selection of photos of resident Israeli species, both common and scarce.

Arabian Warbler

Arabian Babbler

Desert Lark


Namaqua Dove

Yellow-vented Bulbul

[Eastern] Mourning Wheatear at nest site