Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Midbar Birding: Last post......

Midbar Birding: Last post......: It is with great sadness, but also much anticipation that i write this last post. sadness because after 8 years of voluntary ringing i am l...

Last post......

It is with great sadness, but also much anticipation that i write this last post. sadness because after 8 years of voluntary ringing i am leaving my station in Sde Boker, but much anticipation because i am moving to Yerocham ringing station, which has the potential to be among the best ringing places in Israel. Furthermore the reason for the move is to take up a full time job with Hoopoe: the Yerocham Centre for Ecology and Ornithology  (, where i will be the Head ringer. A professional bird ringer, my dream job at this time of my life.

 it was a busy last month here, starting with the Champions of the Flyway; a 24 bird race in order to raise awareness and money to combat the appalling slaughter of birds in Cyprus (over $50,000 was raised), which was great fun and although our total was nowhere near challenging for any honours i thoroughly enjoyed the day, especially birding around Har Katom where i picked up a lifer in the Rock Thrush. at one point i had 3 birds in my binoculars at the same time.

Rock Thrush courtesy of  Itay Herling 

I entertained a German ringer Hans Eilts, who arrived fresh from a week in the north of the country, at the Agmon Station one of the busiest in Israel. Luckily we found enough birds to keep him busy and even managed a couple of ringing ticks for him (Hoopoe and Desert Finch). Talking of ringing ticks i managed one this month when i was given a tired Swift that after feeding, flew off to the north to hopefully make it to its breeding grounds

Finally my good Friend Francis Argyle joined us, principally for a meeting in Yerocham where 398 birds were ringed by around 20 ringers in a very enjoyable morning. While he was here we also managed to break my highest total for a single species in a day when we ringed 112 Spanish Sparrows. I narrowly failed to beat it a few days later with 104 Blackcaps.

So thats it for my Ringing Blog here in Sde Boker, but don't fear i will be back with a new blog from my exploits as a professional ringer in Yerocham!!!!

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Doing it for the Money

one of the pleasing aspects of my hobby is that occasionally someone pays me money to do it. I have been asked a few times now to clear large greenhouses of nuisance birds. The latest of these was at Kibbutz Alumim in the western Negev, I removed 25 birds that they believed were damaging their peppers, mostly White Wagtails and Crested Larks, but also Bluethroats, Stonechat, Chiffchaffs and a Willow Warbler that must have been trapped there for a few months, i just hope the experience of being trapped for the winter didn't affect their ability to migrate.

Another way of earning extra money is through guiding both at my local ringing station and out and about, such as today's session in Park Eshkol and next week at Yerocham Lake. It's a really pleasing feeling showing birds to kids and adults and seeing the various emotions on their faces when they come face to face with an actual bird, I hope every one gets as much out of the experience as me and hopefully we may meet some of the kids in years to come out and about with binoculars or helping on a ringing station somewhere.

Kindergarten children getting up close with a blackcap

My Daughter Maya getting ready to release a Reed Warbler during her kindergarten  visit

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

The Darkest Hours are Always Before the Storm.... I Hope

February came and went in one icy blast. Bird numbers were extremely low around my nets, so low that I shifted my focus to catching Tristrams Grackles in the university cactus garden where they come to feed on the Aloe. I managed to net 31 of these handsome but noisy birds my best years total yet. The winter here in the Negev seems to be dragging on and it seems to me to be the longest and coldest since i came here in 2006, the last weekend in the month even brought some snow with it, which even if you have  seen as much snow as me, is a spectacular sight in the desert. immediately after the storm a large flock of Spanish Sparrows boosted the months total and the first migrants started showing up (excusing the December and January Blackcaps as i'm never sure which way they're heading). We also had a couple of Foreigners drop in, previously i'd had two in 7 years, but two more arrived in the space of a week firstly a Blackcap with a German ring and secondly a Lesser Whitethroat with a Belgian ring. I also had 10 long term re-captures, ie birds caught over 1 year ago, of which 8 were migrant species. It's always nice to welcome old friends and I wish I could have seen the places they have in the last year. Heres hoping to a fruitful March.

2cy male Tritrams Grackle

One good thing that all the rain has brought is a splendid show of desert flowers such as this Tulip.

Snow near Mizpe Ramon

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Morning madness

okay i am officially mad. Not content with getting up before the sun to ring one or two birds at my local plot, i actually traveled, be it not so far, to Nafcha farm to do the same! To be fair Nafcha is usually fairly reliable whatever time of year, so having met up with Yoram Tvik and putting up nets we discussed what would be a good number for the morning, "20" i said "no more " he replied. but what we ended up with was 2 new birds a chiffchaff and a white wagtail, and 2 recaptures, be it interesting ones as they were returning wintering birds first caught last January 2014. to cap it all i forgot my binocular and camera that i had meticulously packed the night before so i can't even post pics of empty nets! Things can only get better.

To cheer myself up and to remember that spring migration will soon arrive here's a photo of  a large number of Levants Sparrowhawks over our ringing plot last April. Photo by Dominic Standing

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

January cold

As a ringer i dislike January as much as the unmentionables, from down the road from my former place of residence in Wolverhampton. Which if you know football is a lot. It's cold here in the desert, close to freezing at night, and the recent storms seem to have got rid of all but the hardiest of individuals. Getting out of bed is hard and doesn't seem worth the while for 2 or 3 birds that frequent my ringing plot. So i jumped at the chance to go and join Israels premier ringer Yosef Kiat on a trip to the Meishar plain, a large flat area of desert frequented by numerous wintering larks and warblers. We arrived around 6am, after the nets were up, just as first light was beginning to show. A little bit of birding was done first, getting some nice views of Temincks larks and seeing good numbers of Spotted sandgrouse. Then it was back to the ringing. Around 20 birds were caught including Desert wheatears, Hooded wheatears, Asian desert warblers and a first for me Scrub warbler.

Asian Desert Warbler Sylvia nana

Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti

ScrubWarbler Scotocerca inquieta

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Ringing Break

With ringing in February as slow as Martin Demichelis (the centre half of man city for those only interested in tits and bulbuls), I joined with Meidad for a night safari deep in the Judean desert in search of the legendary Hume's owl. We met with Yoav Pearlman and his group of Dutch birders at the entrance to a wadi and after introductions, coffee and with darkness setting in, the tape of the owls call was played. after what seemed like a lifetime of waiting, nothing and so with the light of the full moon of we set deeper into the wadi. two more stops like the first and was this going to be my normal wildlife experience, well no because on the fourth stop about 2km into the wadi and with everyone becoming resigned to missing out, the unmistakable call was heard. Yoav quickly located the bird with his spotlight and everyone got some terrific views of this almost mythical bird. with everyone well chuffed Yoav suggested we go see the Nubian nightjars that were close by. So two lifers in the night made for a very satisfying and enjoyable evening. many thanks to Yoav for letting us join. And here's a couple of photos taken by Meidad.

Hume's Owl

Nubian nightjar