Fear No Forecast

Winter in Israel brings a different type of cold than in Chicago. It’s a deceivingly mild 40 degrees from November through January, but with such a strong dose of wetness and fog combined with buildings designed to protect against heat, that the indoors feel the same as the outdoors. Fog rolls in each night, and sometimes remains for days at a time. Winds blowing over the hills in a certain way sometimes create a distant howling sound, and in some years (but not this one) it snows. It is quite interesting to adjust to a place where there is no snow even in the depths of the winter, not to mention the fact that it never rains here in the summer!
We had yet to receive the first big rain on November 19th, although it was especially windy. I set out on my usual route, but the wind was keeping everything down except for a Eurasian Sparrowhawk that appeared to successfully nab a pigeon. While walking by some vineyards though, I heard an odd clucking sound. Suspecting a certain overdue lifer I have long been on the lookout for, I scanned the ground and quickly laid eyes on a covey of 8 Chukars! This felt huge, simply because the rate that I have been seeing new birds had really been slowing down. It was also a bit irritating to see many checklists with Chukars on it in the area - until now. As I was still celebrating, the rain began to fall, and very heavily. I didn’t care, even though the rain was effectively being pelted sideways at me, and appreciated my brief views of a commonplace bird instead.
Two days later, I had incredibly awesome looks at a Rock Martin flying around the area - a slightly uncommon bird that usually requires great looks to ID. A Lesser Whitethroat was still lingering, and a Graceful Prinia was a bit of a surprise. A pair of soaring raptors which must have been a distance of a mile or two away - one definitely a huge eagle - sadly remained distant silhouettes, but it did remind me to keep an eye on the sky. As I walked by an overlook with an incredible view, I heard far-off trumpeting calls. Surely it was what I thought it was? And sure enough, a large flock of Common Cranes flew overhead in good lighting, a bird that I was not confident at all in seeing this year!
I went out the next day of course with high expectations, but was unable to identify a dark falcon that quickly swooped by and then continued out of sight. More great looks at the Rock Martin in addition to 4 European Robins, however, were well appreciated.
Thursday was Thanksgiving, and cue the annual Thanksgiving rituals here, such as a Thanksgiving dinner beginning at midnight. While walking back to my dorm after 3 in the morning, I was quite surprised to hear birds singing despite the lack of a full moon. I grabbed my binoculars, and saw multiple blackbirds, and then Merlin picked up my lifer Eurasian Wren - at 3:15 in the morning! I was eventually able to get half-decent views of it under a lamplight as it sang its immensely impressive song. A bizarre way to pick up another overdue lifer.
The first week of December brought not much at all, and then one day, while walking near some vineyards, a stonechat with a very large amount of white on the wing caught my eye. I excitedly focused on the neck, and confirmed a board white collar! Despite the tough challenges from telling it from a European Stonechat, I was pretty confident I had just found a Siberian Stonechat. I saw what I figured was the same bird on the 12th, and on later walks I was not confident that I saw that individual stonechat again. Although for some reason my submission for the bird was rejected, I felt I had taken some pretty convincing photos - or so I thought. Only later, by posting on the Facebook group What’s this Bird, did I learn that the uniformly distributed orange on the underside pointed to European Stonechat and not Siberian.
On December 8th, I went back to the sewage ponds mentioned in an earlier post, chasing a report of a Common Redshank with a possible side bonus of Gray Heron. I saw what was probably the Redshank, but sadly the sun was right behind it. Several Green-winged Teal and a Eurasian Kestrel were ok, but the target bird was sorely missed. The consolation prize was an excellent Bluethroat showing itself nicely as well as a Black Redstart that briefly perched on a roof, both of them lifers. A few days later however, in a nearby city while watching a large flock of Eurasian Jackdaws, a Gray Heron flew over! Given the lack of water in the area, this was a bird that I figured I would have to find at the sewage ponds. It was also my 296th bird of the year, but I knew the chances of getting to 300 were very slim. Not much happened in the next few weeks, except for a stonking male Black Redstart and an increase in Song Thrushes.
With 4 days left in the year, I saw the distinct shape and a faint view of the pattern of a Black Kite heading somewhere in a hurry high overhead, and then 20 minutes later a Long-legged Buzzard flew past! A Hawfinch was a nice bonus, but 3 large distant soaring raptors contributed to the raptor sp. list. Even on a day like this, the number of unidentified raptors outnumbered the identified ones. But that wasn’t the case on the last day of the year, as a kettle of 27 Black Kites gave fantastic views, capping off the year with a bang.
I’ve been keeping it going in 2024, and spring migration is just beginning. More posts to come!

Publicado el febrero 26, 2024 09:57 TARDE por yonatansimkovich yonatansimkovich


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