Friday, March 23, 2012

Israel - Owls in March

The Birdfinders week in Southern Israel (March 12th-19th) was typically excellent with migration in full flow, and a superb range of 'classic' key species making for a very successful tour. We also had a great week for owls, tallying five species, though in theory we might have seen as many as eight with a bit more luck. A personal favorite was Pallid Scops-owl, a species which I've surveyed twice in the southern Arava Valley in 2002/03 and again in 2003/04 with Susannah Lerman . Traditionally thought of as a rare winter visitor to the Southern Arava, my extreme late date in spring was March 5th (2003) so I became especially intrigued when Itai Shani spotlighted a foraging bird several times in the Yotvata fields between March 4th and 7th. Then, remarkably, the Birdfinders tour came up with two more individuals - one at Yotvata (Km 50) on March 15th, and one in the Hiyyon Plains on March 17th.  Both of these came from sites where I'd found birds on winter territories during the surveys so it would be impossible to determine whether these were on passage or late winter visitors. Either way, the presence of these birds added an exciting and otherwise unexpected element to the tour, especially with respect to the (more likely) possibility of migrant European Scops-owl occurring in the same habitat. I would have put my money on European rather than Pallid Scops on those dates!

 Pallid Scops-owl - Hiyyon Plains, Arava Valley, Israel. March 17th, 2012.

 Barn Owl - Neot Hakikkar, Southern Dead Sea region, Israel. March 14th, 2012. 

 Long-eared Owl - Gevulot, Western Negev, Israel. March 14th, 2012. 


1 comment:

Larry said...

Some great owls....sounds like a great trip.