Saturday, 30 October 2010

Finnish crane in Israel

Itai Shanni the crane researcher reports:
Today (28/10) a Finnish colour-ringed Eurasian Crane was observed at Agamon Lake, Hula valley. This individual was ringed as pullus on July 2008 at Joensuu, Pohjois-Karjala, Finland, and was seen for the first time at the Agamon in October 2008 together with its family as it lingered for a few days before heading south to Africa. It was seen again in November 2009 as an adult and overwintered in the Hula valley. We have had a few Finnish crane controls, but all were migrants, seen passing through in autumn or spring, but this one was the first overwintering Finnish-ringed crane in Israel. Today it returned once more and was seen together with about 20,000 cranes at the Agamon. Will it stay for the winter or will it continue south?
Thanks to Itai Shanni for informing us and also to Jukka Matero from Finland for the lovely images.

As pullus - Finland

With the ringer Kimmo Koskela - Finland

At Hula Valley, 2009

Monday, 25 October 2010

Massive autumn migration, winter birds, Hungarian Blackcap and more recoveries

The purified waste water in Tzor'a reservoir is used for agriculture in the Tzor'a Valley. At this time of year most summer crops have already been harvested and irrigation is no longer necessary. As a result excess water flows from the reservoir and around the ringing site, and makes the habitat much more attractive for wagtails, Bluethroats, Phylloscopus warblers, and more.


Tzor'a reservoir

Last Friday (22/10) around the reservoir I ringed 120 birds, including a massive wave of Bluethroats (55), Caucasian Stonechat, Moustached Warbler and other Acrocephalus warblers (Great Reed, Clamorous Reed, Marsh, Sedge and Reed Warblers), White Wagtail (2), Zitting Cisticola, Moorhen (2), Wryneck (2) but only 4 Willow Warblers!

Caucasian Stonechat

On Sunday (24/10), at the same site using fewer nets I ringed 200 birds (from 29 species!); most Bluethroats have moved on and a massive wave of Phylloscopus replaces them. I ringed 70 Willow Warblers and 10 Chiffchaffs. The previous cool and moonlit nights must have provided excellent migration conditions for passerines. Other interesting species included a Little Bittern, European Stonechat (2), an Indian Silverbill, Spanish Sparrow, first Serin of the season and more.
Spanish Sparrow

This morning (25/10) at the Jerusalem Bird Observatory (JBO), we (Avner and myself) controlled a Hungarian Blackcap - this is the first Israeli foreign control this autumn! Other nice birds were a Wood Warbler and my first Chaffinch this season.


Hungarian Blackcap
Wood Warbler

Recently we got reports on two of our ringed birds. First was a Crane ringed at Hula Valley in February 2008 by Itai Shani found dead in southern Ukraine (1475 km), it's only the third Israeli Crane recovery. Second is a Spanish Sparrow hunted last week in Cyprus.

Moustached Warbler

Indian Silverbill

Little Bittern


Saturday, 16 October 2010

Dice Snake in the net!

Last Friday I ringed at Tzor'a Valley Ringing Station. After the setting the nets up I noticed that the lower pocket of one of the nets was lying mysteriously on the ground. I approached to stretch the net and I was surprised to see a Dice Snake (Natrix tessellata) tangled in the net! It was very difficult to extract it from the net, even after cutting the net. I have caught many animals apart from birds in my nets, including 7 bat species, dragonflies and many other flying insects and crustaceans (!), but a snake was new for me.

Dice Snake

Other birds in my last ringing sessions included first significant numbers of Bluethroats - few retrapped from last years, a few Marsh Warblers (this is good season for this species), Clamorous Reed-Warbler, a few Sardinian Warblers, Whitethroats and my first Chiffchaff for the season. In JBO, a few 'European' Redstarts are ringed every session.



Recently we got a report on one of our ringed Kestrels found dead in eastern-Jordan, near Shaumari Wildlife Reserve, on the main road to Saudi Arabia. This Kestrel was ringed (05/2010) as pullus in its nest box in the Jezreel Valley (170 km), as part of a national project that uses kestrels and barn owl as biological pest control agents. These records of short distance dispersal, especially in young birds, are always surprising and interesting.


Saturday, 9 October 2010

East-European Eagles controlled in Israel!

Last days were the peak of Lesser Spotted Eagle migration over Israel. About 100,000 eagles passed from Eastern Europe to their African wintering grounds - all of the world population passes through Israel. October 1st was a double lucky day for foreign ringed eagles read in Israel!
Edith Katsnelson saw a colour-ringed juvenile LSE in the Ben-Shemen Forest, this forest is regularly used by LSE flocks for roosting every year. The Eagle was identified, and had been ringed this summer as a nestling in its nest at Kloda Duza, Lublin, Poland (2415 km). This is only the fourth LSE controlled in Israel; previous controls were from Slovakia and Russia.

Often LSE flocks contain a few other eagles species, especially Steppe Eagles but also Greater Spotted and Eastern Imperial Eagles. The second control for that day was a Greater Spotted Eagle with wing-tags. It was identified as a juvenile ringed also this summer at 'Pripyatski' National Park, Belarus (2292 km). This is the third Belarus ringed GSE found in Israel; we have had another GSE control from Poland.

Polish Greater-spotted Eagle, Hula Lake, 02/2009

Thanks to Edith Katsnelson for the report and images, to Jan Lontkowski, Eagles project coordinator (Poland) and to Belarus Bird Ringing Center for sharing their data. Thanks to Thomas Krumenacker for the beautiful images.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Marsh & Reed Warbler identification

On 05/10 I ringed at Tzor'a Valley Ringing Station a Marsh Warbler and a few Reed Warblers. Low numbers allowed me enough time to create this side-by-side slideshow, enjoy! Both are 1cy.

Head and bill pattern

Tongue spots

Notch on 2nd P

Wing formula

Hind-claw colour

Other ID signs: Only weak or no tongue spots are present on 1cy Marsh Warblers, contrary to 1cy Reed Warblers that have bold dark tongue spots. Wing-length is typically different too, Marsh Warbler = 69.0 mm, Reed Warbler = 66.5 mm.

A few nice birds from Tzor'a Valley and JBO:

Swallow ringing

Sand Martin

Collared Flycatcher - female

Sardinian Warbler - male

Sardinian Warbler - female

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Summary of two weeks full of ringing

During the last two weeks I had a large variety of migrating species. In my last session at Jerusalem Bird Observatory (20/09) I ringed Quail, Whinchat, Nightingale, 2 Thrush Nightingales, Spotted Flycatcher, Red-backed Shrike, Garden Warbler and other common Sylvias.


In Tzor'a Valley Ringing Station we (a few volunteers and myself) ringed about 1200 birds. Most were Barn Swallows, Yellow Wagtails, Acros and Common Kingfishers.
Other good species included Squacco Heron, Little Egret, Pied Kingfisher, 2 European Bee-eaters, Wryneck, Sand Martins, Red-rumped Swallows, Red-backed Shrikes, Savi's, Garden and Willow Warblers.
But best of all were two 1st- winter Citrine Wagtails ringed on (22/09) in the alfalfa field together with about 120 Yellow Wagtails. Their pure grey mantle, bold white wing-bars and typical supercilium left no doubt on their ID. This was a ringing tick for me (and for Yotam); in the last three years we ringed almost 5000 Yellow Wagtails in my alfalfa fields and had no citrines - this morning we had double luck!

Citrine Wagtail

Further, I recaptured a Wryneck with ring AB-40076; this bird was ringed in January! We ring only few Wrynecks in Tzor'a Valley Ringing Station, in last six years only 9 birds. I don't know whether this bird managed to stay hidden here all summer or perhaps it's a returning bird?


I also recaptured two migrant Kingfishers from last year, one in active primary moult. Kingfisher primary moulting strategy is called 'descendant moult from two centers', in this time most of our adult kingfisher have arrested their primary moult, so this is uncommon in Israel - first time for me.

During late September many European Bee-eater flocks were heading south, they were going through all day and stopped only sometimes to eat and drink, so are hard to catch, and I ringed only two birds. In Israel, we have had Bee-eater controls from southern Europe, Ukraine, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria and Cyprus and also from Zimbabwe.

Our annual national ringing conference took place on 24/09 at the Jerusalem Bird Observatory, this was a successful gathering.

Our lecture program included:

Israeli Birds Base website - Dr. Gidon Perlman, IBRC director

2009 National Ringing Report - Yosef Kiat, IBRC coordinator

Wader ringing at the Wash, England - Ron Haran

Monitoring and research of desert species at drinking sites - Yoav Perlman, SPNI

Rehabilitation and ringing importance as monitoring tool - Ohad Hatzofe, NPA

Long-term bird ringing on Mt. Hermon: trends in finch population dynamics - Dr. Eyal Shochat, SPNI

This was a good day; we started with ringing, met most of the active ringers in the country and heard interesting lectures - thanks to participants and to the lecturers.

On Friday (01/10) I ringed around the Tzor'a reservoir. The bad weather (hot with strong easterlies) did not help my ringing efforts. I really enjoyed massive raptor migration overhead. Between 07:30 and 08:30 a low passage of thousands of Lesser Spotted Eagles, hundreds of Levant Sparrowhawks and a few Short-toed Eagles, Honey and Steppe Buzzards and Marsh Harriers was definitely great show.

And today I returned to my computer and discover so much office work, and many interesting rings found, most of European White Storks but also Eurasian Griffons, Lesser Whitethroat in Poland, Lesser Spotted Eagles with Polish colour ring and more… Details soon...

Quail - arrested moult

Squacco Heron