Saturday, 27 November 2010

Short eared Owl at Brandon Marsh

Short eared Owl, Brandon Marsh N.R. Warks.

Short eared Owl

Short eared Owl

Friday 26th November 2010

At the fourth attempt, Short eared Owl (181) is finally in the bag. A significant bird as it takes the County year list into unchartered territory. The previous best effort being 180. The day began at the big shopping place just off the A5 at Tamworth but I quickly relocated to Middleton Hall to spend a couple of hours checking over the bunds at the Dosthill Ski centre. They were busy planting trees around the place to make it more 'environmentally friendly'. Anyway I didnt bother them and they didnt bother me. There were small groups of finches, pipits and Reed Buntings in the thistles but nothing out of the ordinary. A Yellow legged Gull was on the more northerly of the Fisher's Mill pools but that was about it.

After collecting the happy shopper and grabbing a bite at home it was back to Brandon Marsh Nature reserve for another crack at the Short eared Owl which has been there for over a week. The secret was trying to predict which area it would favour today. I took up station on the track overlooking the Newlands reedbed. Just after 2 o'clock something whitish appeared amongst the bushes. My first reaction was Barn Owl but with better views it was clear it was the Short eared Owl I had been looking for.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

In conclusion

Sinai Rosefinch

Sinai Rosefinch


Common Bulbul

Common Bulbul

Oh yes, thats the spot....Oooh, just dont stop

Mountain Bunting
- and a few insects
Large Salmon Arab

Scarlet Darter

Lesser Emperor

African Babul Blue


Blue spotted Arab


Apologies for dragging this report out but there were so many memorable birds and sights, its hard to do them justice. I think everybody enjoyed our last hotel, the clientelle raised an eye brow or two, or maybe it was just heavy mascara, when we arrived looking like extras from 'Ice cold in Alex.' At least we brought the average age down. It was a very relaxed holiday hotel and when it came to evening entertainment walking frames were cast aside and fun was had by all. Even Ann Widdicombe wouldnt have looked out of place, if a little on the young side.
The Warwickshire 5 maintained their dignity, for once, and declined to take the floor. In actual fact the whole group was pretty knackered by this stage and we'd been given a challenge for the morning!
Come the morning James explained that there was a site for Sinai Rosefinch and House Bunting nearby but that the path although not particularly long involved a near vertical ascent and quite technical rock climbing skills. Were we up for it? In best British Birding tradition -If there was a tick at the end of the path, we were up for it.

On the final day we stopped at a couple of sites on the drive back to Tel Aviv where the best birds were White breasted Kingfisher and Blue rock Thrush.
Thanks to co-leaders James and Nigel for showing us so much of Israel's wonderful bird life but also to the rest of the group for making it such a good humoured experience.
Total no of species seen = 163
New WP Species = 10

Sunday, 21 November 2010

From the Red Sea to the Dead Sea

Arabian warbler

Arabian warbler

Arabian warbler

Clamorous Reed warbler

Clamorous Reed warbler

Clamorous Reed warbler

White crowned Black Wheatear

Another Wadi

Greater Flamingo, this sub species found only in the Red sea has extremely long legs

Day 5

We left Eilat by the more mountainous western route to avoid the road closures caused by a Tri-athlon event. We headed North and were soon searching more Wadi's. I must admit to having given up on the Striated Scops Owl but James wouldn't be beaten and finally found one. It was well concealed in a dense bush but could still be seen from the right angle. The two warblers I wanted to see on the trip proved relatively easy. Both Clamorous Reed Warbler and Arabian Warbler showed well eventually. We checked into our new hotel on the Dead Sea. It looked a distinct improvement on our previous accommodation but we didnt have any time to appreciated the luxurious surroundings. There was more birding to be done - in the dark. Our first quest was to search for a Hume's Owl. We met up with an guy who knew where the Owls were likely to be found. His Owl calls rang out in the still air of the Wadi but there was no response. For over 40 minutes the calls were unanswered until a different tactic, shining a torch into the trees, revealed a Humes Owl. Our other nocturnal target invloved searching the fields of a Kibbutz for Nubian Nightjar. We drew a blank but I'd seen 3 new birds in the day so all was well.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

The Eilat experience - Part 2

Brown Booby, North beach, Eilat

Brown Booby

Little Bittern, Neot Smadar

Little Bittern

Western Reef Heron

Blackstart, Showaddy Wadi

Short toed Lark

Caspian Tern, K 20

Mild for a November evening

Day 4

The day began with the continuing search for the mythical Striated Scops Owl at Wadi Shlomo and Wadi Roded. Reminds me of a band from Leicester back in the 70s. The wadi's were hot, very hot but good for Blackstarts, Sunbirds and the occasional Sardinian warbler but again no sign of Owls. The team moved on to the fields of Neot Smadar and a pool where we found a confiding Little Bittern.
In the afternoon we went to K20, a pool with wader appeal. We saw numbers of the more regular species but also birds like Greater Sandplover and Marsh Sandpiper rarely seen in th UK. Other birds of note included Greater Flamingo, White Pelican, Caspian Tern and Slender billed Gull.
....and then a touch of inspiration from our leader James Smith. Well, I was impressed. James was aware that the wind had gone round to the south and predicted that even with a slight southerly breeze we should be heading for the beach at Eilat. When we arrived I was chuffed to see a dark phase Western Reef Heron in the small pool, but even more chuffed when James shouted Brown Booby. The bird arced over the water trying to find a buoy to land on which wasn't occupied by a White eyed Gull. Another great end to the day.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Day 3 - The Eilat Experience - Part 1

Pied Kingfisher, North Beach, Eilat

Black crowned Sparrow Lark, Yotvata

Black crowned Sparrow Lark

Striated Heron, Shizzafon Sewage works

Desert Wheatear

Steppe Eagle

Richards pipit

Oriental Skylark

Oriental Skylark

Hoopoe Lark

Hoopoe Lark

Trumpeter Finch

Trumpeter Finch

Common Crane


Day 3
I dont want to dwell on the negative aspects of this tour because we all saw a great many wonderful birds and had a great time. But, and I shall say this only once, the hotel in Eilat was apalling. Despite the best efforts of James and Nigel we spent 2 nights in what one member of the Warwickshire 5 described as conditions worse than a Bail hostel.
Our first location on day 3 was Yotvata, an area of agricultural fields adjacent to sand dunes and desert. The fields, in various stages of cultivation were well irrigated and attracted a range of bird species but particularly Larks. One Lark in particular, a Black crowned Sparrow Lark, had been seen in the fields the day before so the search for this rare visitor to Israel was on. As we worked our way around the fields there were large numbers of birds on the ground including Desert Wheatear, Tawny Pipit, Bluethroat, Common Crane, Steppe Eagle, Hoopoe Lark, a flock of Thick billed Lark, Richard's pipit and cracking views of Oriental Skylark. Typically the Black crowned Sparrow lark was in the last patch of ground we had to cover but it was well worth waiting for with very distinctive plummage for a lark.

We moved on to Wadi Quetura to begin the search for Striated Scops Owl, the first of many such Wadi's we were to explore in vain. We were more successful at Shizzafon Sewage works with some good birds including a Striated Heron which flew in while we were there. Other species included Dunlin, Little Stint, Water pipit and Trumpeter Finch. A quick check of the North beach in Eilat produced White eyed Gull, Pied Kingfisher, Little and Great White Egrets before we moved on to Eilat north Sewage works just before dusk. As we made ourselves comfy on the rocky banks of the pool a number of species could be seen in the far corner. Spoonbill, White Pelican, Night Heron, Pintail and Caspian Tern. As we waited in the gloom 3 Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse landed just in front of us. Amazing, simply amazing and a great end to the day.