Champions of the Flyway!

Friday, April 27, 2018

Desert Terriers - The Movie

Jono - the Zeiss Yorkshire Terriers' very own Duracell Bunny and inextuingishable furnace of burning enthusiasm - took it upon himself to put together this frankly ace little film about our Champions of the Flyway exploits. Enjoy......

Monday, April 23, 2018

Israel, March '18 - Four White Arses

Nope, not the Terriers together in the tub after arriving in Eilat (that's a subscription-only site), but a few of the Wheatear (a corruption of 'white arse') species we encountered out there.... apparently I was too busy enjoying the experience to photograph many of them (always a good sign), but these are the ones which made it to the memory card. From the top: Mourning, Eastern Black-eared, White-crowned and Isabelline.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Israel, March '18 - Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters

A scarce but expected migrant through the region and high on the team's wish-list, it took us until race day to finally connect with Blue-cheeked Bee-eater - but when we did, we really did. I'll blog about the day itself in due course, but to say we took our time and lapped it up would be an understatement (as Darren's various paintings doubtless illustrate much better than photographs)....

Monday, April 16, 2018

Israel, March '18 - Arabian Green Bee-eaters

Widespread in suitable habitat and often endearingly tame, Arabian Green Bee-eaters (to give them their proper name - see here) were a joy throughout our time in Israel - and it's easy to see why. (For their larger and scarcer cousins, see the next post).

Friday, April 13, 2018

Israel, March '18 - Black Bush Robin

Although a rarity in the Western Palearctic, southern Israel in late March or early April is the time and place to connect with Black Bush Robin, the Darth Vader of tail-cocking chats, and we got very lucky indeed during the Terriers meanderings in the area.

As we sipped coffee and slurped freshly-made organic lassis with Bluethroats hopping around the tables at the paradisical Pundak Neot Semadar cafe, news of a bird at the nearby Kibbutz Lotan came through; with the rest of the team keen to catch up with this iconic personal first (I'd been lucky enough to see one last year), we decided to go for it on our way back to Eilat.

Was it still there? Would it show? Was it shy? The photos happily answer those questions, and we were treated to a ridiculously Bolan-esque stray cat strut of a performance as the bird flew out of its bushy bolt-hole straight towards us, landed pretty much at our feet and paraded around as we ooohed and aaahed appreciatively. Quality.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Israel, March '18 - Palestine Sunbirds & Palestine Sunbirders

They may be pretty much everywhere in Israel, but what absolute beauties Palestine Sunbirds are. Even in low light (as in these pretty grainy shots) their iridescence shines; as did our comrades the Palestine Sunbirders - Noam, Saed and especially Ikram (with Rich and I, below) - an inspiration to all.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Israel, March '18 - Yellow-stoned

xanthophrys‘ / ‘superciliaris‘ Yellow Wagtail, K20, Eilat, 20th March 2018. This bird was one of at least three black-headed-yellow-super'ed males, colloquially known as xanthophrys‘ / ‘superciliaris‘ due to (apparently) fairly stable morphological forms, present within a flock of more than a hundred flavas on the bank of the saltpans. Superficially similar to the eastern 'Green-headed' taivana form, there are several obvious differences, as detailed by Yoav here: .

If you like your Yellow Wagtails nice and clean and easy, look away now; but if you like 'em vibrant, messy and fascinating, dip your bread in. As with last year, I was easily sidetracked by the beauty, abundance and variety of the Flavas passing through various sites in southern Israel, a mesmerising kaliedoscope of neon yellows, greens, blues and blacks. But as expected, there were more questions than answers regarding subspecific pigeon-holing, and plenty to chin-scratch over while admiring these trans-Saharan pin-ups.......

xanthophrys‘ / ‘superciliaris‘ Yellow Wagtail, K20, Eilat, 20th March 2018 (same bird as above). 'Classic' superciliaris‘, an apparently commoner form with a white supercilium, were not noted. 

'dombrowski' (?) type Yellow Wagtail, K20, Eilat, Israel - 20th March 2018. 'dombrowski', another apparently stable mix-type (this one breeds in Romania), is supposed to look like a dark-headed/white supered flava, but to me looks more like an eye-browed/tear-dropped thunbergi. If that's what this is, which it probably isn't.

Fairly standard Blue-headed (ssp. flava) Yellow Wagtail, K20, Eilat, Israel - 20th March 2018. 'Fairly' standard, as in, showing hints of yellow in the face and supercilium - as many of them did out in Israel, and as many of those that I've been able to study close-up in the UK do, too. Discuss.

Same bird as above

Yellow Wagtail, site and date as above. I wonder what'd be made of this at a glance in the UK - Thunbergi? Feldegg hybrid? Glad I don't have to judge...

Yellow Wagtail, The Canal, Eilat, Israel - 21st March 2018. An interesting bird which superficially resembles beema (and probably would've been claimed as such historically in the UK), but which doesn't fit the accepted criteria re: head colour, ear-covert patch etc. Bit like a 'Channel Wagtail' (flava x flavissima) eh, British birders? It did, however, give a cracking, harsh, clearly 'eastern-type' call.... 

Same bird as above

Yellow Wagtail, Neot Smadar, 20th March 2018. Ah, a nice classic Black-headed feldegg, right? Wrong! Not only would this bird be rejected as such in the UK due to the paler feathering in the hood (a trait shown by the vast majority of 'Black-headed' Wagtails here), it also called three times - each time a nice, sweet, flava-type call. Ouch.

Same bird as above

A bit easier (and a perfect example of why bird names should always be capitalised!): a lovely yellow wagtail - not a lovely Yellow Wagtail - at the IBRCE, in fact a very accommodating female Citrine Wagtail. Would be made very welcome at East Lea, Filey in the next few weeks.

Citrine Wagtail, IBRCE, 26th March 2018.