Sunday, June 21, 2015

Honey Buzzards pt.I

So I spent 2 months in Israel between early March and early May, volunteering at the International Bird Research Centre in Eilat. Whilst there I was part of the team carrying out daily ringing, raptor and migrant counts. I plan on updating my blog with various photos and information about what I got up to and saw whilst out there.

One of the definite highlights of the Spring for everyone out there was the Honey Buzzard passage. We were lucky enough to witness a new world record Honey Buzzard passage count when on 2nd May nearly 250,000 Honey Buzzards were counted passing through Eilat! The next day saw over 200,000 pass over! The sheer spectacle was incredible! Thanks to the clever thinking from Noam Weiss the lake at the bird park is now fresher water and so very attractive to a wider range of birds, this valuable patch of fresh water in the desert proved to be a massive draw for Honey Buzzards. Throughout late April early May period we'd get hundreds if not thousands on the big days of Honey Buzzards dropping into drink at the lake. When they took off from the lake to carry on north they would fly over the ringing station at treetop height (and the 'trees' out there are barely 15m high!). This allowed for amazing views of the birds as well as the chance to take lots of photos! Even trying to be sensible and not go trigger happy with each bird I was filling 32GB cards very quickly, luckily I could clear them off onto hard drives quickly as the birds were flying over my bedroom!

By the time I'd left the 'Honey Buzzard' had given me so many highlights, I'll talk about more in subsequent posts, for now, this is where it all began...

So this is the bird that started it all... On the 18th March I was at the Lower Mountain raptor watchpoint, there was a decent mixed passage of mainly Steppe Buzzard with around 10 other species of raptor. I've always enjoyed getting an early record of migratory species, so I started to think about Honey Buzzard and Levant Sparrowhawk, as you'd expect the next Sparrowhawk that came through I tried my hardest to string it as a Levant but couldn't! The next kettle of Steppe Buzzards I saw one bird that made me think of Honey but quickly dismissed it, I can then remember thinking that I need to forget about Honey's otherwise I'm gonna be trying to make every Steppe into one! However with my next scan almost the next bird I looked at was a Honey Buzzard! I doubted myself straight away, but undeniably there was actually a Honey coming past! I quickly grabbed my camera and rattled off a few shots and surprisingly it still looked like a Honey in the pics! Turns out this bird was the joint earliest ever Honey Buzzard to pass through Israel! Think the other guys on the raptor counting team couldn't understand why I was so excited about 1 Honey Buzzard when we would be seeing thousands of them in a few months time, but I just was!

I'll start off with some of my earlier photos, with the birds generally a bit more distant. Variation in these birds was amazing,  hope that these photos show some of this!

1 comment:

  1. Great post Tim...It must have been a real pleasure to see so many Honey Buzzards en masse!