zondag 30 december 2012

Review of the year 2012: what remains!

To follow up on my previous post on Israel, now a post including my other personal highlights. Starting with the discovery of the Baird's Sandpiper!

13th of May Bairds Sandpiper
On the 13th of May, this year, my dad and I decided to some birding. It was a nice and sunny day. A Red-throated Pipit had been present near Wageningen. It was a singing bird, showing well on some occasions! A singing Red-throated Pipit is quite an exception so we went there. We didn't have to wait long for the bird to show up. It gave a fantastic show, singing in a tree just a few metres away from us.
Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus), male; singing

After this succes we went to Brummen, where we got lucky ticking a new county species: a Middle-Spotted Woodpecker! A species I'd wanted to see in my county for quite some years now. We still had some time left and went to check the IJssel near Deventer. We said to each other: ''It's May.... one of the best months of the year for rarities.. Why shouldn't it be possible to discover one along the IJssel??'' We paid a visit to the Veenoordkolk where we started a walk around one of the waters. There weren't that many birds around, just the ordinary stuff, but then my dad noticed a sandpiper.. It was a bit distant but with the scope on it I could see the bird well. A weird thing, first thing that came up in my mind was Temminck's Stint. From a distant my dad thought it could be a Sanderling but it wasn't. It also wasn't a Temminck's Stint because it didn't have green legs.. The bird started to walk and we started to see more features. I started writing them down, as I was becoming sure we were looking at something rare! In the mean time my dad had made some decent photos with his camera. With my phone I took a picture of those photos and sent them through on Whatsapp for opinions. I also called Maarten, to help us with the id, since we didn't have any guides with us. In the back of my mind I was thinking of Baird's.. While we were looking at the bird I searched some pictures of Baird's Sandpiper on my phone.. and indeed, 'our' bird looked very much like one! Once we'd gone through all the features with Maarten we were pretty sure it was a Baird's. Soon our reinforcements, Jurgen, Tim and Maarten arrived to confirm the id of the bird. As that was done, and everybody agreed it was a Baird's we alerted all the other twitchers through Dutchbirdalerts, and the fun could start! 
It was a weird experience discovering a 6th record for the Netherlands, first spring record and first inland record, because usual you visit rare birds found by other birdwatchers.. The bird itself may not be that exciting, but the discovery sure was!!
Baird's Sandpiper (Calidris bairdii), adult
Jurgen, Tim, Maarten (reinforcements) and Tammo

20th of June: Manx Shearwater
Laying in the grass in the middle of the night, waiting to hear the first call of a Manxie, waiting for them to come in an be caught! What a moment that was.. Being surrounded by many Manx Shearwaters, shearing low over your head, calling. And ringing those unique, scratching, screaming, fiesty creatures is a thing apart too :) 
One of the fourteen Manx Shearwaters (Puffinus puffinus) we ringed.

26th of July: Houbara Bustard
We'd seen Houbara's already, even flying over the highway just above our car, but the 'real' Houbara moment was still missing. On one evening we went back to the place where we saw them on our first evening on Lanzarote. And with result.. We found 5 Houbara's foraging just next to the road, at close range. We stopped the car just off the road. The first few minutes I wasn't able to get satisfying photos: the adrenaline was going through my entire body!! Only after I'd calmed down a little bit I could start taking acceptable photos. We didn't have all the time of the world, since the place we'd parked the car wasn't the safest in the world... Every time we drove past this location over the next few days, we saw the Houbara's foraging there!
Houbara Bustard (Chlamydotis undulata fuerteventurae)

30th of August: Dotterel
It was a day, just in between the introduction week in Wageningen and the introduction of my students union, that I had some free time. And of course there were some exciting birds in my county! Dotterels were around! And I wasn't planning on missing out on them! I went to the Kootwijkerzand where they had been seen the day before. After some intensive searching I suddenly found them (by accident, just scanning on part of the area one last time). For a couple of hours I was just lying next to them, enjoying, studying, photographing the birds. It was great, alone time with Dotterels, can't get enough of them!
Dotterel (Charadrius morinellus), juvenile bird

14th of October: Great Tit invasion
Never will forget the day that we broke the nation record (it was broken a few days later but nevermind haha) of ringed Great Tits.. The tits started their invasion early, with Coal Tits dominating in September and the other two species Blue and Great Tit increasing late September. My trainer, Hans, had already caught many tits in the week preceding the 14th of October. Since we were with enough people we had put more nets on with tapes, still we only had tape of Great Tit on at three nets. Throughout the morning, and part of the afternoon the tits kept coming! Ending the day with 233 Great Tits..!! 
Great Tits (Parus major) everywhere

Not to forget all the other cool birds I saw in the Netherlands this year: Gyr Falcon, Great Yellowlegs, Citrine Wagtail, Wilson's Phalarope, Woodchat Shrike, Steppe Grey Shrike, Olive-backed Pipit and so on..!

vrijdag 28 december 2012

Review of the year 2012: starting with Israel

As the end of the year closes in it's time to review this year! It's been a great year concerning birds, my two months stay in Israel being the definite highlight! Therefore I will start with a review of the two months Israel, followed by other top birding moments of 2012.

At the end of February I went to Israel to volunteer for 1,5 months at the IBRCE and for a week at the JBO. It was a great experience, learning lots of things about the passerines there - birdspecies I'd never handled before - and next to that, the raptor migration was impressive as well, with thousands of Steppe Buzzards passing by.

To start off with the typical migrants that stop by in Eilat:
 Cretzschmar's Bunting (Emberiza caesia). Many were present during the month March with up to 60+ at Ofira Park on one single occasion. All over the city and the IBRCE this species was seen. Ortolan Buntings arrived later, also passing by in huge numbers.
Rüppell's Warbler (Sylvia rueppelli). We observed and trapped many species of warblers. Rüppell's Warbler being one of my favourites! Over 100 individuals were trapped, an impressive number! This picture was taken in Ofira Park, where they were foraging out in the open. 
Barred Warbler (Sylvia nisoria). This is my other favourite warbler. Such 'bulky', large, sylvias are amazing birds to handle! And look at the eye...
Rufous-bush Robin (Cercotrichas galactotes). These beautiful bush robins arrived late March, early April. Too bad we missed out on the Black Bush Robins this year..
 Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka), adult male
Cyprus Wheatear (Oenanthe cypriaca), adult male
'Vittata' Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka), adult male

This spring was marked by an unprecedented influx of Pied and Cyprus Wheatears. They popped up everywhere and some eventually ended up in our mistnets at the IBRCE. Most wheatears were present just behind the IBRCE in the Date palm plantations. Identifying them in the field was quite a challenge, once in the hand it was much easier.. The second (well first one alive) 'vittata' for Israel was found on the 24th of March by two Dutch birders, Marc Guyt and Arjen van Egmond near K20.  It was my first Israeli twitch. It was a very nice bird, and certainly one of the Wheatear highlights for me. 

 Semi-collared Flycatcher (Ficedula semitorquata), male. While I was suffering from sinusitis and lying on my bed with a vast headache the boys woke me up, guess what we have!! They showed a beautiful male Semi-collared Flycatcher. A species that is not caught annually at the IBRCE (unlike this year with more than 10 being trapped). This bird made my sinusitis more bearable for sure... What a stunner! We also saw quite a few at the Date palm plantations behind the IBRCE. Up to 5/6 birds during one single visit.
Caspian Stonechat (Saxicola maurus variegatus). This surprise we found in the mistnet is one hell of a bird too! Nice white rump, T-shaped tail.. you won't get a Caspian better than this!

Crested Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus). Pictured above: the famous female that has been wintering in the Eilat Northern Date Palms for the past few years. The Crested Honey Buzzard was one my wish list, we first saw this female on 8-3, but I got very poor views of the bird, I couldn't tick it yet.. Then the next day we were extremely lucky to see the bird fly in between the two date palms. Normally we were only able to see it glide through the palm tops, having a very short observation. This observation however, was of longer duration! A few weeks later, we had an adult male Crested Honey Buzzard flying over the Southern Date Palms. First we thought it was an Osprey, then a Bonelli's Eagle and then: oh sh*t! Crested Honey Buzzard. Of course one of those moments during which you've left your camera at the ringing station..

Continueing with the Nightjars:
Egyptian Nightjar (Caprimulgus aegyptius), a memorable night we had in March at Yotvata. We observed several Egyptian Nightjars and were able to ring two of them! Other than the Egyptians the evening trip held lots of Stone Curlews, a Pharoah Eagle Owl, a Barn Owl and Jackals not to forget the Pallid Harrier we saw hunting on hundreds of Short-toed Larks in the evening!
European Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus). On the last day of my stay in Israel we ringed two European Nightjars at the JBO. We'd caught one in Eilat too but catching European Nightjars in the middle of the city of Jerusalem is much more special...
Nubian Nightjar (Caprimulgus nubicus). This was a very special night. After a long drive to the Dead Sea, resulting in, eventually, a broken car, we had a crazy night with first Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters catching insects above our head and then as it started getting dark displaying Nubian Nightjars. To see (and ring) this endangered species was incredible!
Hume's Owl (Strix butleri). Together with Nubian Nightjar, these were my two target species for my trip! Walking in the dark in a deserted wadi, only light coming from the stars and moon and then... a singing Hume's Owl, showing off on a cliff just above our heads!
Scops Owl (Otus scops). Cute little owls, a pleasure to catch!
Common Bee-eater (Merops apiaster). Many Israeli bird ringers won't agree that this is a nice bird to catch, since they can be a plague for farmers and then the ringers have to catch them and take them to some other place! To me it's one of the most beautiful birds to have in hand.
Eurasian Bittern (Botaurus stellaris). When we got the report of a heron sitting in a small pool in one of the big hotels near the North Beach we'd never expected it would be a Eurasian Bittern! The bird was not weak at all, and after release it lingered around the IBRCE for quite some time! It's quite a rare bird in Eilat and its surroundings.
Hoopoe (Upupa epops). It would be a crime to leave out the National bird of Israel, the Hoopoe! 

donderdag 27 december 2012

Chaff- and Greenfinches

My last post was almost 1,5 months ago, far too long ago! Now I have some time again and I will post some blogs again :)

The past weeks the weather has been very bad, with lots of rain and wind. I've done some ringing the last month in the garden, not much of interest but last monday I had quite a decent morning with Greenfinches and Chaffinches.

Lots of Greenfinches and Chaffinches have been coming to our feeders which is nice. Usually when I put up my net I catch a Greenfinch and then all the Greenfinches know the net and I won't catch them anymore during the session. Due to the dreary weather last monday the net was hardly visible resulting in an increase of Greenfinch catches. This gave me a chance to have a close look at them again. They're certainly not the easiest to age, so it's a nice practice to catch some. Chaffinches usually see the net very well, they fly towards the net and just in front of it they bend off..

I managed to catch:

Blue Tit 4 - 2
Chaffinch 3 -
Greenfinch 5 -
House Sparrow 2 -

Total 14 - 2

 Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris), adult male
Two wing photos of both adult male Greenfinches

Compare those to the wing photo of this 1 cy male Greenfinch:
Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris), 1cy male; note the difference in the pattern/colour of the tertails, secondaries, greater coverts, primary coverts and alula's compared to the adult males.

I ringed three Chaffinches, 2 adult males and 1 cy female.
 Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), adult male
Tail of an adult male Chaffinch