Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Israel - update 5 (the final two days and lots of gulls!)

The final two days in Israel (Friday and Saturday) were spent staying in the centre of Tel Aviv. I actually quite liked the place - a nice crumbly exterior to most of the place with a pleasant cycle way along the seafront. Also nicely cosmopolitan. And, importantly, well located for a bit of gulling - with Ashdod to the south and then Ma'agan Michael to the north. So it was Friday at the former (very much possible due to the kindness of Amir Ben Dov) and then Saturday at the latter. With a brief interlude of a male Black-eared Wheatear, a couple of Hoopoes and copious numbers of Common Mynas along Tel Aviv's seafront on Saturday morning - nice to see migration still happening in the urban Med: -

male Eastern Black-eared Wheatear Tel Aviv, Israel 2nd April 2016
Hoopoe Tel Aviv, Israel 2nd April 2016
So back to normal service, with the rest of this post dedicated to the gulls that I saw. I was privileged to have been able to hook up with Amir Ben Dov at Ashdod on Friday, one of Israel's only dedicated gullers - and sharp as nails when it comes to reading metal rings from vast distances. Really impressive! The site itself isn't public access, and consists of settling lagoons near a small waste site. Here it was great to get some good experience of Baltic Gulls, with at least a couple of hundred present; very low numbers here this year according to Amir and he isn't too sure exactly why the marked decline in gull numbers. Anyway, I was pretty content so here are a selection of adults (note the small mirror on P9 on the image down): -





adult Baltic Gulls Ashdod, Israel 1st April 2016
And as well as the fuscus above, a bird I'd not really seen too many of previously was Heuglin's Gull. In fact, the adults were quite obvious in this Middle Eastern context though further west, they would probably be extremely hard to clinch. Anyway, those second calendar year birds were very Casp-like and kind of distinctive.




Heuglin's Gulls Ashdod, Israel 1st April 2016
There was also this nice Crested Lark in the dunes at Ashdod, as well as a few European Bee-eaters and Northern Wheatears. Typical Mediterranean birding at its eastern limits!
Crested Lark Ashdod, Israel 1st April 2016
Saturday was spent to the north of Tel Aviv, and having got a spot from Mick S at Ma'agan Michael, I headed there for a couple of hours. The birds were quite skittish on the beach, not really allowing close approach. However, this lingering lump was the most showy of any of the gulls and was a bit of a bonus considering the lateness in the season: -
Great Black-headed Gull Ma'agan Michael, Israel 2nd April 2016
Compared to Ashdod, Ma'agan Michael has a lot more Armenian Gulls. Again due to the date, the adults had largely headed off so I was left with some scraggy immatures. Being honest, the second calendar years are not too obvious with little distinguishing plumage tracts - pale underwing, dark tertials and a clean cut tail band with a relatively unmarked uppertail. The thick set bill was obvious on most: -


Armenian Gulls Ma'agan Michael, Israel 2nd April 2016 - note the near adult in the last photo

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