Monday, 30 August 2010

A week full of rings…

Last week was a busy week: I ringed almost every day at the Jerusalem Bird Observatory or at Tzor'a Valley Ringing Station. In my spare time I prepared our annual national ringing conference, which will take place on September 24th. My main mission is to prepare the 2009 national ringing report.

On Monday, Wednesday and Thursday I ringed in Jerusalem, and caught 115, 40 and 80 birds respectively. Now is the peak of autumn passerine migration in Jerusalem. Many warblers, Common Redstarts and other migrants feed on the abundant pistachio fruit. Until this week the most common migrants were Lesser Whitethroat and Eastern Orphean Warbler, but now their peak has passed and most common is Blackcap. Other good migrants this week included a few Thrush Nightinales, our first Common Nightingale for the season, Ehrenberg's Redstarts ('samamisicus' form of Common Redstart) - including spectacular males, Marsh Warbler, two juvenile Barred Warblers, a few Spotted Flycatcher and more.

Ehrenberg's Redstart - adult male

Ehrenberg's Redstart - juvenile male

Barred Warbler

Spotted Flycatcher

Pistachio fruit

In Tzor'a Valley Ringing Station, I ringed on Tuesday and Friday, and caught 80 and 60 birds respectively. Mainly Acrocephalus warblers and other common migrants included my first Willow Warblers and Sedge Warblers of the season. Common Kingfishers migration is peaking now and we ringed more than 15 birds. Most of our Common Kingfishers are juveniles while most adults stay further north for the winter. Last autumn I ringed only one adult but this week I was lucky with two adults: one was a nice retrap, ringed on October 2009 as juvenile. Adult kingfishers are identified by their arrested primary moult, different from the fresh, uniform and dull plumage of juveniles. Another nice retrap this week was a Great Reed Warbler from previous autumn.

Common Kingfisher - adult
Adult Kingfisher - arrested primary moult

Turtle Dove

Clamorous Reed-Warbler

Sedge Warbler

During this week I heard from Ohad Hatzofe (NPA) that one of his Eurasian Griffons that had been ringed in Gamla Nature Reserve, Golan Heights as a second year last spring was seen this week in the Julian Alps, Italy, 2432 km from the ringing place. Most of our Eurasian Griffon recoveries are from the Balkans and southern Europe; this is definitely an interesting recovery. Thanks to Ohad for the report.

View 0145 in a larger map

Sunday, 22 August 2010

The yellow wags are here!

Last weekend I ringed at Tzor'a Valley Ringing Station. On Thursday (19/8) Yotam and myself ringed for the first time this autumn in the Alfalfa fields. This time of year Yellow Wagtail migration pick up fast, and they clearly prefer the Alfalfa fields for refueling. This important crop replaces ancient marshes and meadows that do not exist anymore, as it damp and full of maggots and caterpillars - perfect for wagtails, pipits and other field birds. This time we ringed only 9 wagtails. It was a little too early in the season, with only 150 wagtails present in the field. For a good ringing session we need about 2000 wagtails in the field, which will for sure happen in the coming days. 'feldegg' is the first form to pass through. Later on in September we will get many more forms mixed together.

Yellow Wagtail

On Friday (20/8) I ringed around the Tzor'a reservoir and caught 70 birds. Most were migrants: Little Bittern, Common Kingfishers (8), Reed (33), Great Reed (6) and Clamorous Reed (1) Warblers, Savi's Warblers (4) and more. This was my first real autumn ringing session of the season in Tzor'a. The coming days will bring for sure larger numbers and more exciting species.

Great Reed Warbler

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Marsh terns and Marsh Warblers

Again, I spent the beginning of the week with terns… Now we (Ohad Hatzofe and myself) ringed Common Tern chicks in the Hula Nature Reserve colony. Many birds around included Pygmy Cormorants, Purple and Squacco Herons, Glossy Ibises, Garganey, Marsh Harrier, Yellow Wagtails and more. The closed section of the Hula Nature Reserve is such a beautiful place and I was lucky to visit there.

Later that night we returned to Atlit salt pans to our regular mist-netting session, that produced Little, Common and White-winged Terns. One of the Little Terns was an ancient control ringed in summer 1999. In the morning we continued to ring Common Tern chicks in the Ma'ayan Tzvi colony. This 'evening-night-morning' session produced more than 70 ringed terns.

White-winged Tern
Common Tern - chick
Hula Nature Reserve
Last Tuesday (17/08) I ringed at the Jerusalem Bird Observatory (JBO). It was a hot morning though I ringed 60 birds. Most were migrants: Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Eastern Orphean Warblers, Lesser Whitethroats, Blackcaps and 2 Marsh Warblers. Marsh Warblers are uncommon migrants in Israel, with about 50 ringed every year, most in the Hula Valley, but it is regular on passage in August-September in Jerusalem.

Marsh Warbler is considered by most ringers as an identification challenge; it is very similar to Reed Warbler, but I took the first bird out of the bag and called 'Marsh Warbler!' This bird was clearly olive, not the warm brown of Reed Warbler, and its rough croaking call in the hand left no doubt. Other identifications pointers were wing length of 70 mm, short and pale hind claw, thicker bill and short notch on P9.

Marsh Warbler
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler
Eastern Orphean Warbler

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Striolated Buntings in the Judean Desert

Last Friday (13/08) I ringed in Ein Salvadora, a small spring in the Judean Desert, deep in a canyon above the Dead Sea. The place is named after a big Persian Salvadora tree located right above the spring. This small but highly important oasis attracts many animals and birds from a large area. This water source in the arid desert is particularly important for desert seed-eating passerine in summer; the most common species coming in to drink at this spot is Striolated Bunting with many tens arriving every morning. But also Desert Lark, Trumpeter Finch and Sinai Rosefinch come in to drink every morning in good numbers. Other local desert birds include Sand Partridge, Little Green Bee-eater, Rock Martin, Blackstart, White-crowned Wheatear, Tristram's Grackle, Fan-tailed Raven and more.

Persian Salvadora
I have been monitoring this stunning site every summer since 2006. The objective of this activity is to study the demography of some desert species, and to study their moult too, especially the little known Striolated Bunting. Ringing sessions there are usually rather small, but always very interesting. It's a tiny spring so I use only one 6 m mist net and catch on average 25 birds per session. It is worth mentioning that this site is deep inside a nature reserve, and any ringing activity there requires a special permit from the NPA. Further, it is forbidden to camp there overnight in order not to disturb nocturnal animals coming in to drink.
This morning we (Yotam, Avner and myself) ringed 22 Striolated Buntings, 7 Desert Larks and one Sinai Rosefinch a cracking pink male. One of the buntings was ringed in summer 2008 - an interesting retrap.
This time of the year adult Striolated Buntings are in active complete post-breeding moult, and most juveniles already completed their partial post-juvenile moult that included tertials and wing coverts.

Sinai Rosefinch

Other birds and wildlife around included a nice flock of White Storks heading south, Eurasian Griffon, Barbary Falcon, Nubian Ibex and a young Carpet Viper.

Striolated Bunting - male

Striolated Bunting - juvenile

Carpet Viper

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Sylvia Warblers in Jerusalem

This morning I was ringing at the Jerusalem Bird Observatory (JBO). August is a good month for migrants Sylvia warblers in Jerusalem. They feed on the Pistachio and Blackthorn fruit that are abundant now in the Mediterranean scrub. We ringed about 40 birds, most of them Lesser Whitethroats and Eastern Orphean Warblers.

Lesser Whitethroat

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

First summer Terns

First-summer Common and Little Terns do not breed. Most birds remain in their African wintering grounds, but few return to the northern hemisphere, and spend the summer around the breeding colonies. Last night I caught some 1st-summer Common and Little Terns at Atlit. In total, this summer, out of 117 Common Terns and 114 Little Terns ringed, only two Common Terns and one Little Tern were first-summers. In addition I ringed a Little Ringed Plover and a White-winged Tern.

1st summer Common Tern

Juvenile Little Ringed Plover

Juvenile White-winged Tern

Mist netting course

Last weekend I led mist netting course in Tzor'a Valley Ringing Station. This is the first stage of the long training for obtaining a ringing permit in Israel. I had six participants and the course went very well. Thanks to Yotam for his assistance. Weather was hot and steamy; however we ringed quite a few migrants - 4 Great Reed Warblers, 2 Savi's Warblers, 3 Common Kingfishers and this nice male Little Bittern.

Little Bittern

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Tern of fortune

Last night I returned to Atlit salt-pans for another mist netting session to catch terns. Atlit salt pans, 15 km south of Haifa, are the best site in Israel for ringing terns. We (Yotam and myself) arrived early in the evening and enjoyed the good birds around for a few minutes before setting the nets up. We had 7 Greater Flamingoes, 30 Avocets, 20 Black-tailed Godwits, tens of gulls, many sandpipers and Ruffs and of course a few hundred terns, most Common, but also Little and White-winged Terns.

We ringed all night long, using 100m mist-nets and captured 33 Common Terns, 7 Little Terns, White-winged Tern, Greenshank, Little Stint and Common Kingfisher.

White-winged Tern

One of the Little Terns was an ancient control. I don't have the exact ringing data yet but it was ringed in the early 1990's! This must be the oldest Little Tern documented in Israel.
We could feel the wind of change in the Common Terns, which are preparing for migration. Their moult is almost completed, especially body feathers, central primaries and tail feathers. Their bills and legs have changed colour and are now blackish-red, not the bright red seen early in the summer. Most Common Terns were fat and weighed about 30gr. more than on our previous sessions.

Little Tern

As I mentioned in my earlier post, this summer we started marking our breeding Common and Little Tern with colour rings, in a project coordinated by the NPA. We use white rings with individual black codes. This summer was our first experience in trapping flying breeding terns in Israel (not pullus). Until now this is a great success; we marked 109 Common and 91 Little Terns. I hope that the hard work (spending long nights feeding hungry mosquitoes) will help us study the migration patterns of these graceful birds, and hopefully we will receive some exciting recoveries from their distant African wintering grounds.

Common Tern

Common Tern - juvenile

Little Tern - juvenile


Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Rehab birds are so easy to ring…

This summer Ohad Hatzofe (NPA) and myself started monitoring terns breeding in Israel. We are marking adult Common and Little Terns with colour rings. Most of our work takes place in the Carmel Coast tern colonies. Last night we failed to catch any Common Terns in the Hula Nature Reserve colony, but had some luck early in the morning back at Ma'agan Michael.

We had more success with larger beasts. We ringed and released in the lake three rehabilitated White Storks and one White Pelican that were found wounded. In Israel most of the ringed 'big-birds' are rehabilitated individuals, treated in the NPA Wildlife Hospital. In addition to a metal ring the pelican was marked with a colour ring and a wing tag. Most of our recovered pelicans come from the Danube Delta in Romania, but we have two old recoveries from Iran! I expect to get regards from our 'X34' from interesting destinations.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Kingfisher morning

Last Friday in Tzor'a Valley Ringing Station, I caught my first two migrant Common Kingfisher of the season. They were ringed together with the two other kingfisher species in Israel, White-breasted Kingfisher and Pied Kingfisher.

The White-Breasted Kingfisher was a very worn adult in active post-breeding complete moult and the Pied Kingfisher was a juvenile after limited partial moult.

Pied Kingfisher

White-breasted Kingfisher

In Israel, most migrant and wintering Common Kingfishers are juveniles while most adults stay further north for the winter. In autumn 2009, out of 86 birds ringed in Tzor'a Valley, only one was adult.

Common Kingfisher

Savi's Warbler