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