Mid-September 2013 update

The last few days I have had the opportunity to look around here on Lotan and in our area for what the migration is doing. There definitely more and varied birds around, with an influx of Red-backed Shrikes and now, Woodchat Shrikes. As reported earlier we also had Masked Shrikes around.

On Lotan, we have several Red-backed Shrikes, all female, that are passing through. In addition, we also have variety of Wheatears around. I am showing you two pictures here of the same bird that I photographed two days ago. From the front it looks like a Black-eared Wheatear, but the mantle and greater coverts suggest that it may be something else. I am including both pictures here for you to have a look at… The absence of continuous black from the head to  the coverts will exclude Pied, Cyprus or desert Wheatear, so there isn’t much left except the Black-eared Wheatear, probably a juvenile.

Black-eared Wheatear, or maybe something else?

Black-eared Wheatear

Black-eared Wheatear, same bird as above...

Black-eared Wheatear, same bird as above…

Red-backed Shrike, Lotan

Red-backed Shrike, Lotan

Further afield, the Yellow Wagtail migration is increasing steadily, as well as Northern Wheatear and Isabelline Wheatear, which were present at the Yotvata sewage and the northern circular field.

Going further south, I visited the Km 20 salt ponds. There were similar birds, as reported earlier, but it seems that there has been an influx of juvenile Greater Flamingos. There are definitely more around, compared to two weeks ago. The three White Pelicans that have been there since the end of August are still around, alternating between this spot and the Eilat sewage works, where there are lots of carp in the water.

Three White Pelicans at Km 20

On the way back to Lotan, I drove along the eastern side of the Hai-Bar Nature Reserve, and saw one Hooded Wheatear and one Woodchat Shrike on the perimeter fence.

Woodchat Shrike on the fence of Hai-Bar

Woodchat Shrike on the fence of Hai-Bar

Hooded Wheatear

Hooded Wheatear

Good birding! David

 

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Jewish New Year Update

This evening we will be celebrating the Jewish New Year, and it is fitting to see what migration is doing right around that time.

I went down to Yotvata to see what was going on in the fields and the sewage works there, and was glad to see that migration is picking up. The Yellow Wagtails are out in force, with several hundreds seen just by the casual observer. I did see one Red-backed Shrike, and one Namaqua Dove (male) in the northern circular field.

 

Namaqua Dove - male at Yotvata

Namaqua Dove – male at Yotvata

Proceeding to the Yotvata sewage, I saw the White Stork that has been here all summer, but was accompanied by another one. The Cattle Egrets were about, as usual, as well as the Spur-winged Lapwings, Black-winged Stilts and Redshanks. I did see one Ruff, which means that their migration is underway. The Glossy Ibises that have been around were also here. One lone Masked Shrike was perching on the fence, and a bit further afield, I saw one Spotted Flycatcher. Here too, the Yellow Wagtails were out in force, with over a hundred in one small pond.

 

Spotted Flycatcher

Spotted Flycatcher

Masked Shrike

Masked Shrike

Ketura sewage: Little Stints, Dunlin, Ruff and Black-winged Stilt

So, nothing rare or earth-shaking, but still a quite a variety of birds that make up this fall migration. A happy new Jewish year to all who are celebrating…

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More migration going on, and some summering birds around

Yesterday we had a kibbutz-wide power outage as the main  electrical circuit board was being replaced, so it was the ideal time to go out for birding. The temperature stayed just below the 40 degree mark, so it was relatively comfortable.

I went out to the Lotan fields to see what was going on, and saw two Short-toed Larks, but could not get a picture worth showing. I did also have one Mourning Wheatear, one Isabelline Wheatear and two Northern Wheatears in the same field. The day before I had seen what looked like an Eleonora’s Falcon. The underwings were much darker than Lanner or Saker Falcon, but I only had a brief view of it before it disappeared among the trees. Despite longer searches I could not locate it again. I tried again yesterday, but only saw a Kestrel, so I cannot say for certain what it was. Maybe someone can weigh in and give more clarity about it.

Going on to Yotvata, there were five Glossy Ibises and one White Stork. This stork has been at the same location for over a month, and was quite unimpressed when I drove up. The Yellow Wagtails are starting to come in, and I had a few there. The usual Namaqua Doves were there too, but no Egrets and Herons. They will be coming back later.

Glossy ibis

Glossy ibis

Later, when I went back to the Lotan fields I had a cracking specimen of a Lesser Grey Shrike. Here are two photos:

Lesser Grey  Shrike at Lotan fields

Lesser Grey Shrike at Lotan fields

 

Lesser Grey Shrike

Lesser Grey Shrike

And one picture of our cute Little Green Bee-eaters, of which there are many more on Lotan this summer, it seems that there must be several dozen…

Little Green Bee-eaters Yotvata 150813

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Birding update 20 August 2013

We have been having a summer with temperatures a little below normal, or close to normal. This means that we have barely had days where the temperature exceeded 41 degrees. Even in  this heat, migration is starting to pick up. Today, I went out to see what was going on in the area.

The Uvda Valley was unusually quiet, even the river beds which adjoin it. The usual suspects, Crested Lark, White-crowned Wheatear, Spanish Sparrow and Blackstart were about, but very little else.

I proceeded to Yotvata, to their sewage, and saw one lone Yellow Wagtail, around ten Black-winged Stilts, two Namaqua Doves (of which there seem to be a lot more this year…), one Glossy Ibis, but not much more.

Driving to the circular fields, I saw two Stone Curlews hiding in plain sight, as they would.  A new crop of alfalfa has been sowed there, and the area is looking a lot greener than it did in  the past two months. This will be good when migration gets underway in earnest. Little else to report from that area: Namaqua Dove, and female Red-backed Shrike.

Stone Curlew

Stone Curlew

On the way back I decided to stop at Ketura sewage, and saw that there was some activity there. Little Stints, Black-winged Stilts, one Broad-billed Sandpiper, and one Ringed Plover. I am of course ignoring the abundant species, such as the Spur-winged Lapwing, Laughing Dove, Collared Dove, and House Sparrow.

Broad-billed Sandpiper on the left, Little Stints,

Broad-billed Sandpiper on the left, Little Stints, and Black-winged Stilt

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The action is on the water…

I was on North Beach today in Eilat in the framework of doing errands in the town, and decided to have a look around at what was going on there. Most of the action is concentrated on  the water in July, before the fall migration gets underway. There are a series of “buoys” made out of empty plastic canisters that hold some kind of underwater cages or nets and they attract quite a bit of action.

Itai Shanni had spotted a Sooty Tern a few days ago among the Bridled Terns, and if his record is accepted, it will be the fifth time the Sooty Tern will have been seen in Israel. The two are quite hard to distinguish from each other, you really have to look carefully at the wing patterns and the amount of white on  the head. I managed to take a picture with two White-eyed Gulls and two Bridled Terns. The picture is not very clear, but I will present it here in any case.

White-cheeked Terns have become increasingly popular here in Eilat too this summer.

Two White-eyed Gulls, one Bridled Tern and one Lesser Crested Tern?

Two White-eyed Gulls and two Bridled Tern

Here is another picture…

Common and White-cheeked Terns and White-eyed Gull

Common and White-cheeked Terns and White-eyed Gull

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Small signs of fall migration in July

I went out today to the area of Yotvata to see what was going on in the fields and the sewage works over there. The fields were particularly quiet because they are in between growing seasons. According to Israeli law, it is forbidden to grow any commercial vegetables in the Arava during the month of July. This will allow the ground to be cleaned naturally of any pests by the daytime heat. The circular fields did not show anything worth reporting, except if you count the ubiquitous Collared Doves’ feral pigeons and House Sparrows.

I proceeded to the Yotvata sewage and immediately a lone White Stork caught my eye. It took off with something in its mouth the moment it saw my car, and landed a few dozen meters further up, feasting on whatever it had caught.

White Stork near Yotvata Sewage

White Stork near Yotvata Sewage

Aside from that, there were a number of Squacco Herons about, two Cattle Egrets, one Little Ringed Plover, and of course the Spur-winged Lapwings. I did a quick round of the natural pond that forms every year behind the sewage works, and it yielded two Stone Curlews, and the singing of several Graceful Prinias. On the way back to the sewage pond itself there was a beautiful female Namaqua Dove sitting on the fence, posing very beautifully for the camera.

Namaqua Dove on the fence at Yotvata Sewage

Namaqua Dove on the fence at Yotvata Sewage

I went back to Lotan via the back roads, and came across one Blue-cheeked Bee-eater. It was too fast to train my camera on it, but right nearby were five Little Green Bee-eaters, adults and juveniles.

Little Green Bee-eater

Little Green Bee-eater

I am already looking forward to the intensification of the migration in the coming months…

David

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Slow start to autumn migration

It is the middle of July, the temperatures around here are hovering around the 40 degree mark, and we are embarking on the very first signs of fall migration. Temperatures have been relatively comfortable. My subjective impression is that this summer is less beastly hot than last year.

I am in constant contact with birders around here and their reports indicate that we are having some migration coming in already. Itai Shanni reports that Bridled Terns, Sooty Shearwaters and White-cheeked Terns can been seen on North Beach. At Km 20 juvenile Thick-billed Larks can be seen, as well as juvenile Black-winged Stilts. The parents dive-bomb anyone trying to get close to them with great gusto and a lot of noise.

Here on Lotan, we can see the Rufous Bush-Robin around quite abundantly, I saw three Namaqua Doves at our dairy barn, and what looked like an Orphean Warbler. I of course did not carry my binoculars at that particular moment, so I cannot be sure. It is reassuring that Itai has been seeing them at the ringing station in Eilat.

So far this time, next time with pictures…

David

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Addendum to end-of-season update

I was a little too hasty in putting the post online, so I am including some other things that I saw.

First of all, we saw two female Caspian Plovers land briefly just over the border in Jordan when we were looking for the Hoopoe Lark at Yotvata. I was surprised that they came like that. They landed just like all the Caspian Plovers land, braking mid-air before setting down. There were no obvious features that would make them male Caspian Plovers, and had all the shading features of the female. I could train my scope on them, but was not able to get a picture for the simple reason that my camera was safely at home!!! I therefore could not photograph the Honey Buzzard migration either.

Today I made a short excursion to Yotvata to see whether the Caspian Plovers would be  in the field we always see them, but no luck. I did go to the Yotvata sewage ponds to see what was going on there. There were at least 25 Cattle Egrets there, 5 Little Egrets, at least five Squacco Herons, a juvenile Night Heron, well over 30 Yellow Wagtails and one Purple Heron. Above the pond, on top of the Acacia tree west of the ponds was a stunning Long-legged Buzzard. Here is the picture…

Long-legged Buzzard at Yotvata sewage

Long-legged Buzzard at Yotvata sewage

David

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End-of-season update

We are now in the second week of May, and the temperatures are staying above 30 degrees during the day, with quite a few days reaching almost 40 degrees. Summer is definitely coming, and migration is slowly winding down.

I went out with three French birders for the day. One of them wanted to see the Hoopoe Lark that is around. We did hear it calling, but could not locate it. We were there too late in the day to have a good view of them. We had to have been there at sunrise to have a chance.  As we were there, perched on top of a sand dune, the Honey Buzzards rose up from their night rest somewhere in the Yotvata fields, and flew right by us. We counted well over a hundred of them. Mixed in with them were a few Steppe Buzzards.

Proceeding down to Eilat, we saw the Common Kingfisher and the Pied Kingfisher in the usual place along the canal at North Beach. Very little else was around, and that was partly due to the fact that the area had been cleared some weeks earlier. No real activity on the buoys out to sea.

At Kilometer 20 salt ponds we spotted about 10 Collared Pratincoles, a similar number of White-winged Terns, hundreds of Slender-billed Gulls and Black-headed Gulls.

Collared Pratincole at Km 20 salt ponds

Collared Pratincole at Km 20 salt ponds

White-winged Tern

White-winged Tern

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater at Km 76

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater at Km 76

At the end of the day we went up to km 76. The Spanish Sparrows were not around this time, but we did have three Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, and Rufous Bush Robins singing. We saw a family of Desert Larks with a fledgling by the side of the road, too.

On Lotan, we are experiencing an influx of Flycatchers (no Red-breasted seen, though), together with Masked Shrikes and Red-backed Shrikes. The Golden Orioles have continued further after being here for about two weeks.

David

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Mid-April 2013 update

The past few days we have been overrun by Blackcaps, and there has been the usual influx of European Bee-eaters, but less than in previous years. We have also been getting the annual migration of Levant Sparrowhawks, with thousands arriving. The number of Lesser Whitethroats and Chiffchaffs is declining, with their movement north.

Yesterday, I saw sixteen Steppe Buzzards in the southern circular field at Yotvata at rest. They were pretty much unperturbed when I showed up with my car. Only when I had the audacity to get too close did they fly away and join the migration that was going on overhead.

Steppe Buzzard at Yotvata

Steppe Buzzard at Yotvata

On Lotan, I saw two Wrynecks in the pool area, along with a Masked Shrike.

Wryneck at Lotan pool area

Wryneck at Lotan pool area

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