Thursday, 30 June 2016

Israel 2016 (Hybrids, Crested & Hi-lights)

As this trip progressed so did the migration and one morning whilst at Semadar sewage plant, European Honey Buzzards began to come in low over the site as if they were looking to come in to land and probably drink from the ponds. Then the bird above appeared distantly but came in nice, slow and on first, distant impressions it looked like it was a Crested but as it got closer it became clear that this paticular individual was infact a hybrid between European & Crested Honey Buzzard. Throughout the course of the European Honey Buzzard migration that we observed we had at least 2 hybrid birds and 1 Crested.  

On route we stopped at Ein Avidat and this brought back memories from the last time I was here some 16 years ago. I really like here at this site, mainly for it's scenery and the nice quiet atmosphere of the site location. Few Vultures were present here this day but an Alpine Swift was the only one of the trip for myself. I went in to the information centre here was pleased to hear that Caracal's are present within the surrounding area of the entire Negev. Other Mammas seen included Ibex and Dorcas Gazelles

Always nice to see Hobby's on a pylon, especialy a pair part dispalying closeby as well, felt like south east Essex! 

Other hi-lights this trip included:

Sooty Falcon 1, Eleonora's Falcon 1, Lesser Kestrel-several at Yotvatta, Hen, Montagus and Pallid Harriers but again the star of this trip was just seeing European Honey Buzzards on such mass. 

Upon returning home from Israel it was a delayed performance for the local European Honey Buzzards but it did finally take place and luckily just before and when Stevie B came down for a few days in the Forest. 

We managed to rack up over 100 species within the New Forest National Park. This included all the local specialities such as Dartford Warblers, Wood Larks, Tree Pipits Wood Warblers (drastic decline in numbers) Nightjars (top performers in good dusk light) Firecrests, Redstarts, Great & Lesser Spots, Hawfinch, Common Buzzrd, Hobby & Gos with the added bonus of a smart Stilt Sandpiper, and another assortment of Waders, Ducks & Terns all added to a great couple of days out on site with Steve but as we both agreed as the trip came to an end that  the star attraction was seeing European Honey Buzzards do what they do best, Wing Clapping over a home-wood.  

Friday, 24 June 2016

Israel 2016 (Honey Buzzards part 2 -pale morphs)

After settling in and enjoying the Honey Buzzard miration we noticed on one morning that during one kettle that a high percentage were of white morph birds. It was quite strange when a single kettle of c3000 birds was nearly all made of up these pale birds. 

Nearly all Honey Buzzards I see in the New Forest are of "white morphs" and so this was nice to observe numbers on such a large scale. As much as it great to witness this European Honey Buzzard migration it did make me think upon seeing these birds back in the UK and observing them wing clapping over a wood in the New Forest.  

The variation between birds is high and we had every pluamge variation that you could find on a Kodak colour card. The individual below shows a more chequered like plumage but white morphs do sit high on the personal preference list. 

Above and below shows the surrounding area of the Sinai where the Honey Buzzards are seen migrating through, on one day when we walked up to the top of mountain ridge looking down in to one of the  valleys we had several Honey Buzzards on the deck, waiting to lift for the day. 

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Israel 2016 (Honey Buzzards Part 1)

So this is what this particular trip was all about, European Honey Buzzard migration and on a colossal scale.  I guess I had left this trip for far too long and so this was to be the year,  finally I landed in Eilat where i was met by Stevie A of who I had been arranging this trip for quite some time and there I was under a blue sky and a burning sun but feeling ok and up-beat after a day at work, a night flight with BA, then an Internal flight Tel Aviv - Eilat. 

We had to wait until the winds were favourable and in the right direction, of which I was always concerned for wondering if the winds would fail,would this be the year where the EHB's didn't live up to expectation but on the second morning we headed down to the Eilat and up in to the mountains. 

Just after dawn, with the early morning fresh, cool air, buffeting north westerly wind and as dawn chased away the darkness of night, Honey Buzzards were starting to stir, 1's and 2's slowly lifting and flying over the road, we parked up and watched what particular line of route the birds were taking in order for us to move in to position to be able to get the optimum views. 

Numbers begun to build and birds began to kettle above the nearby mountain ridge line, the sun climbed higher and the warmth started to evaporate any remaining chill to the air, EHB's began to provide an insight to the route that they were taking this morning and so we moved closer and slightly lower down through the mountains.  

Being a below average photographer I knew I had to try to photograph this spectacle before me and it is a spectacle, seeing tens, hundreds & thousands of EHB's flying in squadron formation heading north on their spring migration is truly something else. 

To be honest I was somewhat overwhelmed at first not knowing where to look, or what to concentrate on as kettlles of birds were forming in front of me, to my right, behind me, to me my left with birds flying low below me and over the road in front fof me, then there was the job in hand of photographing them and looking for a Crested Honey Buzzard. 

I had to take stock and just concentrate on everything, lol, I was just in awe of the spectacle opening up and engulfing me in, to what was happening all around me. I was scoping distant kettles, binning nearby kettles, photographing close birds and every now and then I would just stand back and take it all in with the naked eye. 

All this happening with just Stevie A next to me or close by, two volunteer counters on the mountain behind us and that was it. No crowds, no noise just the odd Israeli cyclist gagging for air as they cycled up the steep mountain road on which we were stood next to. 

The birds lifted distantly to start with but gradually they bagan to come closer, and lower and closer and then lower.......

lower, and closer........

The counters present from the IBCE were nearby and on the biggest day they had, which was when we present, they counted c58,000 EHB's and we were there on site that day when there was a huge push of birds, this was on the 30th April. 

More EHB's to come in the next post.....

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Israel 2016 ((Part 1))

This was my first visit back to Israel since 1998 and it was as good to be back enjoying the climate and migration. My first trip was back in mid April 98 was timed to witness the mass migration of the Levant Sparrowhawks, this trip, timed for mass migration of Honey Buzzards. Eilat has "gone up" in terms of development, especially along the shoreline and the construction of a new international airport  shows that things are on the change, as with every where else, however this was a great and enjoyable trip. Here is a small selection of some of the photos I took during this trip. 

Collared Pratincoles performed well and allowed some real nice close views at times with a mx count of 27 together.

A single Black-winged Pratincole was present briefly on the K20 Salt pans.

3 Broad-billed Sandpipers showed well on the Salt Pans at K20 and so I was pleased with the views that these allowed.

1 of 3 Curlew Sandpipers present and again looking rather smart, 

Little Stints were looking smart and were present each day. 

Wood Sandpipers are always good to see and were present in good numbers