Friday, December 30, 2011

MA - Lesser Black-backed Gull - 12/27

 Lesser Black-backed Gull - one of the two regular winter adults. Poor record shot taken from the bike path at Unity Park on a gloomy evening with drizzle. Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. December 27th, 2011.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

CA - Great Gray Owl - 09/14/11

Update: December 30th, 2011; Gracious thanks to everyone for the comments received on this bird. In particular Peter Pyle, Ian Paulsen and Jeffery Davis provided some very useful links on Great Gray Owls, some of these with specific reference to the Sierra Nevada population;

 Great Gray Owl - Yosemite, Mariposa Co., CA. September 14th, 2011.

Although I've been fortunate enough to see quite a few Great Gray Owls in North America this bird struck me as being especially small, dark and distinctly brown-toned. The image set was taken at dusk in low light, but even so, the colors are relatively true to what we observed in the field. It wasn't at all what I 'expected' to see in a Great Gray, without doubt the smallest, brownest individual I've seen. Apologies for the poor quality shots digi-scoped at dusk but I'd rather come away with some images than go home empty handed.

 Great Gray Owl - Yosemite, Mariposa Co., CA. September 14th, 2010. By way of comparison, this bird was observed at a different site in Yosemite a year earlier and more in keeping with what I'd expect to see in a Great Gray Owl.

 Great Gray Owl - Montreal, Quebec, Canada. February 5th, 2005. Images from the incredible incursion of northern owls in the winter of 2004/05. We saw six Great Grays at one site alone and haven't see anything like it since!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

MA - back to gulling - 12/14

My first outing (since returning from Israel) to Turner's Falls  produced the first Kumlien's Gull of the winter, along with two adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls. I suspect that these are the same two adult Lesser Black-backs that have been consistently wintering at Turner's Falls/Barton Cove for the last two or three winters. There's a good chance that they will remain part of the local gull flock until mid-March or so. Numbers of other large gulls were difficult to assess this evening with a constant rotation of birds dropping into bath, then heading out to the north, but I think less than 100 birds were involved.

 Lesser Black-backed Gull (right) - adult, Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. December 14th, 2011. Smaller than the bird featured below which was quite a bit larger (Herring Gull sized) with a heavier bill.

 Lesser Black-backed Gull (center) - adult, the larger of the two Lesser Black-backed Gulls present, flanked by two Great Black-backed Gulls, Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. December 14th, 2011.

Kumlien's Gull - first-cycle, Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. December 14th, 2011.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Israel - Blackstart

Blackstart - Wadi Mishmar, Dead Sea region, November 25th, 2011. Surely one of the most confiding and inquisitive of all desert birds in Israel. Just sit down by a hiking trail in a beautiful wadi and a Blackstart will appear and just hang around with you.This one was tried to grab our attention as we watched a small flock of Sinai Rosefinches.

Wadi Mishmar, Dead Sea region. A national nature reserve and home to many desert species including the Blackstart pictured above.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Israel - more from November

 Macqueen's Bustard - Nizzana, November 28th, 2011. One of three together. Much sought-after on any trip to Israel. Below, more highlights from the recent Birdfinders trips to Southern Israel.

 Sinai Rosefinch - male, Wadi Mishmar, Dead Sea region, November 25th, 2011. One of a small, confiding party of five birds, including three males. 

Arabian Warbler - male, Hazeva area,  November 25th, 2011. 

 Crowned Sandgrouse - male, Ovda Valley, Eilot region, November 20th, 2011. 

 Black-bellied Sandgrouse - Nizzana, November 28th, 2011.

 Temminck's Lark - male, Ovda Valley, Eilot region, November 20th, 2011. 

Indian Silverbills - Eilat, November 16th, 2011. We saw surprisingly large numbers of these compared to our spring trips. Flocks of 25-30 were encountered from Eilat to Yotvata.

 Whiskered Tern - adult, Nizzana, November 21st, 2011. Given the late date, somewhat surprisingly still almost in full summer plumage. 

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse - part of a large flock of c.1500 birds near Urim, Western Negev. November 28th, 2011.

 Namaqua Dove - juvenile,  Yotvata, Eilot region, November 16th, 2011. The fresh, scaled appearance of this juvenile would suggest relatively recent fledging from a local nest. The adult female was closely attending this juvenile. 


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Israel - a few more rarities - Nov 2011

 Olive-backed Pipit - one of a small flock of four, the flock also including a single Tree Pipit. Eilot Date   Plantation, Eilat. November 24th, 2011. These birds were initially found by Barak Granit on November 19th. Nice to see them in autumn looking so fresh and 'olive'. 

Blyth's Pipit - Yotvata southern fields, Eilot Region, November 23rd, 2011 - subject to ratification by the IRDC. This bird was initially discovered by flight call, flight shape and size in direct comparison to several Richard's Pipits in the same field.  Apparently seen again by Rami Mizrahi on November 25th. In addition, we have more images and some video footage which will go towards documenting the record. About the 5th for Israel if accepted.

Pallid Scops Owl - Nahal Ketura, Eilot Region. November 24th, 2011. Rare, low density winter resident and passage migrant mostly in Acacia wadis in the Southern Arava Valley. A true denizen of the desert and often very difficult to find.

Little Bunting - Yotvata southern fields, Eilot Region. November 23rd, 2011. We also saw the same bird at the same location on November 26th. Extremely rare migrant, and only my second in Israel, the first being way back in October 1992 at Kefar Ruppin in the Bet Shean Valley. First found by Birdfinders tour participant Richard Patient.

 Steppe Grey Shrike - Yotvata, Eilot Region. November 24th, 2011. Rare migrant from Central Asia. 

 Red-breasted Flycatcher -  Ofira Park, Eilat. November 19th, 2011. Scarce autumn late autumn migrant, rather rare in spring.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Israel - Grey Hypocolius - Nov 27th

Despite every intention to leave Eilat early in the morning, Birdfinders first attempt at the long drive across the Negev was nicely interrupted by a timely phone call from Barak Granit just as we were leaving town. Eilat pulled us back like a magnet when Barak said he had a male Grey Hypocolius at the birdwatching park. It was a blatant twitch! Within five minutes were on site, first finding Barak and Rami, and then finding the bird. It was flighty and difficult to observe at times, but ultimately gave wonderful views. Its presence was often betrayed by mobbing bulbuls which, for some reason, wouldn't leave it alone. We all enjoyed fantastic views of this great rarity, and there was still more magic to come. A flurry of thrushes included mostly Song Thrushes but also a Redwing, the latter being only my third ever in Israel. An Olive-backed Pipit called from the same spot and it sounds like we narrowly missed a Rose-coloured Starling seen by Barak and Rami just as we arrived. After twenty or so minutes in the area, it was with great reluctance that we eventually left Eilat for the 300 Km drive NW across the Negev leaving only the imagination to wonder what else we might be leaving behind!

Grey Hypocolius - male, IBRCE birdwatching park, Eilat. November 27th, 2011. Rare and unpredictable, Hadoram Shirihai documents only four birds in the 'Birds of Israel' published in 1996. It has probably been slightly less than annual since that time. Almost all of the reports have come from the Eilat area, but occasionally as far north as Samar and Yotvata. On a personal level, this was my first since 2000 despite annual visits to Israel. The image below shows the ever attendant White-spectacled Bulbuls which seemed to harass the hypocolius where ever it went.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Israel - Red-flanked Beauty - Nov 19th.

Just back from two phenomenal autumn migration weeks in Israel with Birdfinders. November, the month of 'infinite possibility', more than lived up to its reputation producing a slew of rare and scarce birds of Asian descent. This stunning Red-flanked Bluetail, initially found by Birdfinders tour participants Simon Ingram and Martin Wolinski, furnished only the second National record for Israel, instantly becoming the first truly twitchable example in the country. The first record was found by Barak Granit in the Galilee region, way back in January 1996

Red-flanked Bluetail - first-winter, Eilat Cemetery, Israel. November 19th, 2011.

Eurasian Woodcock - sharing the cemetery with the Red-flanked Bluetail and another nice surprise for the Birdfinders group. Rare as far south as Eilat.

Much more to come from an incredible two weeks in Israel...............................


Friday, November 11, 2011

MA - Western Kingbird & Golden Eagle - 11/11/11

Western Kingbird - poor record shot of bird at disatnce, but diagnostic black uppertail with white outer feathers rather striking on this individual. Feeding in a sheltered spot at the rear of the field behind the Central Congregational Church in New Salem, Franklin Co., November 11th, 2011.

After a very mild week, the day became one of brisk Westerlies and signficantly colder than of late. Being a national holiday we had plans for a family hike into North Quabbin. Having dipped miserably on the reported Western Kingbird at New Salem yesterday, I couldn't resist swinging by there on the way to Gate 35. Fortunately, Jacob Drucker and others were on South Main Street, New Salem searching for the bird and it wasn't long before Jacob refound it feeding in a sheltered field behind the Congregational Church. Views were distant but good enough in the scope. 

A little later we were at Gate 35 at the North end of the Quabbin Reservoir and had a pleasant but bracing stroll down to the water's edge. Ten Bufflehead and a Common Loon were the only birds visible on the water, and two immature Bald Eagles drifted slowly SW giving reasonable views. As we packed up an early lunch, a high flying raptor gliding south at speed caught my eye. One glance through the bins and I immediately yelled to Susannah "it's a Golden Eagle!!". Sure enough, we both had great views as it bolted south at speed without flapping its wings once! Personally, I've found Golden Eagle to be a rare bird in the Pioneer Valley having seen it just once before in Whately in October 2005. On the walk back to the gate, we had nice looks at a Porcupine on the ground rounding off a fine family walk in the Quabbin.

Golden Eagle - high flying migrant gliding south, North Quabbin, Franklin Co., MA. November 11th, 2011. First identified by 'classic' Aquila flight shape and pale based remiges contrasting with dark brown underwing coverts. The golden brown nape was surprisingly striking, even though this bird was more or less overhead. The dark terminal band to the tail and buffy undertail coverts were also notable. In view only for a few seconds at it glided south at terrific speed.

 Quabbin Reservoir - North end on a raw day in November.

North American Porcupine, North Quabbin, Franklin Co., MA. November 11th, 2011.

Closer to home, the best bird of the day was a Pine Siskin over Main Road, Gill just after dawn.

Overall, a fine day to be in Franklin County.