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Black-shouldered Kite, Bet Shean Valley (18/11/ 2003)

We've just received received this from Vincent De Boer in Kefar Ruppin "After a slow morning of birding at Ma'oz Hayim fishponds, I decided to cross the fields and date palms between Ma'oz Hayim and Kefar Ruppin on foot to reach the alfalfa fields of the latter. This turned out to be a very good choice.

 

Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus)
Click to enlarge (+)

While walking from the first date palm plantation into the open, a strange 'hovering' bird came into view. Quickly getting the bird in my bins, I was really stunned when I realized that it was a Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus)!! This is an extreme rarity in Israel, and in my opinion one of the most beautiful raptors of the world.

Despite first being seen in bad light, the short-tailed appearance and plumage characters left no doubt about the identification, especially since I've seen the species before in Holland, where it's also a vagrant.

Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus)
Click to enlarge (+)

 

A hectic few seconds were followed by scrambling into my back-pack to get my telescope and digital camera set up while attempting to the keep the bird in view. After taking some really poor quality record shots working against opposite light conditions, the next question was how to cross the two water-filled ditches between me and the bird! I decided to just wade through the water, what else could I do to get good views and better images of such an excellent bird? After half an hour of taking some reasonable record shots in hazy conditions, I decided to return to Kefar Ruppin and put out the news.

Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus)
Click to enlarge (+)

Unfortunately Roelf Hovinga was out birding (naturally!), and then I posted the observation to the Israbirdnet.

In the afternoon I went back to the place to try to relocate the bird, so that some folks could 'twitch' it. After not finding it in the first half an hour, other people arrived. Roelf soon refound it perched in a dead tree close to us. This time giving excellent views from about 50 meters distance! 

Take care, Vince".

Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus)
Click to enlarge (+)
 

Thanks very much to Vincent De Boer for this excellent find. We'll be posting his images, and more details just as soon as they come through. Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus) is extremely rare in Israel, as Vince points out, and was last recorded in May 2000 at Revadim Reservoir in the Southern Judean Plain by Adi Gancz.  If found to be acceptable, the Bet Shean Valley bird will be just the 7th record for Israel, and only the 2nd outside of the Eilot region. Most have been one-day wonders! Let's hope this beauty sticks around.

Another impressive northern record came from the Hula Valley on 15th November, when Itai Shani discovered an adult Demoiselle Crane amongst Common Cranes near the Hula reflooded area.

Good birding,

James P. Smith and the Birdingisrael Team


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