Thursday, July 09, 2015

Honey with a touch of the east

One of my main target species when I was in Eilat was Oriental Honey Buzzard. The mystery surrounding there occurrence in Eilat, recent discovery, eastern flavour, ID challenge and the thought of picking them out of kettles of European Honey Buzzards drew me towards them.

Whilst in Eilat I was lucky enough to connect with at least 4 of these enigmatic raptors. The first one was certainly a surprise as at that time I had only seen 1 other Honey Buzzard, the crazy early one on the 18th March!

I was heading out birding with Chen (now of Senegal Thick Knee fame, more here) when a raptor flew low through the date palm just north of the bird park, my first thought was Honey Buzzard so we went to check it out, I then got another brief glimpse of the bird and the thought of Oriental entered my mind, it appeared big and the barring on the tail very bold. But I needed better views and the bird had vanished into the plantation and we couldn't find it. A few hours later I was driving the 4x4 round to the Saltpans to do the daily monitoring of the waders there. As I was driving along the track 2 birds caught my attention, a dove on the wires to the left that looked like a Turtle (would be first of the season) and a large eagle like raptor flying low across the track a little further on, I decided to stop the 4x4 and as so often happened in Eilat I didn't know which way to look! I lifted my bins to the raptor and I could see it was a 'Honey' Buzzard, panic mode quickly set in as I realised I initially thought this bird was an eagle... I jumped out the truck and started rattling off some pics, but the bird was almost directly into the sun! I raised my bins again and couldn't see any carpal patches! Surely not! I rattled off as many pics as I could as it dissapeared low over the plantation and appeared to land! I quickly looked at my pics and there staring back at me was an Oriental Honey Buzzard!!! I doubted myself and checked my ID but sure enough it all fit fine for a male Oriental! I quickly rang a few of the other guys on the IBRCE team who agreed to meet me at the plantation. Soon Doug and Dave arrived and I got Chen once he had finished guiding, walking through the plantation Doug had a large grey raptor fly in front of him and land again, it then flew round in front of me and landed not far away! Quickly getting some shots and being amazed how close the bird was, <20m a="" actually="" and="" away="" but="" continued="" european="" for="" honey="" i="" luck="" no="" not="" oriental="" p="" realised="" searching="" the="" then="" this="" was="" we="">
Whether or not the Honey I first saw that day in the plantation was the Oriental or the European, by the end of the day I had a 2:1 ratio of European to Oriental Honey Buzzard so far on my trip! Be alright if that continued!!!

I never did see if it was a Turtle Dove or not!

Initial views into the sun, was it just the lighting washing out the carpals?!


what a beast, what a buzz!

Once the Honey Buzzard passage really got going, Johan had the next Oriental through the mountains, then I had a superb pale male bird over the park, I was only going to feed some of the Steppe Buzzards we were looking after but made the sensible choice to take my bins and camera with me! Just before going into the cage with a Steppe Buzzard in I had a quick scan and picked up a high kettle of Honeys, and a gleaming white Oriental beast! I quickly dropped the Buzzard food (defrosted day old chicks) and made sure I didn't loose it and rattled off a few pics, an extreme crop and amazing the 'crop-potential' on the 7D with the 400m compared to my old Panasonic super zoom and with a bit of help from photoshop made this nice comparison shot.

The next Oriental I saw was whilst cleaning sewage off a European Honey Buzzard and this bad boy flew over us, luckily it was low enough that I could ID it with my bare eyes!

I then doubted this bird as a hybrid and a theme started, we seemed to then get a few birds with Oriental-genes in them, maybe just variation in European but maybe some hybrids, comments on the following birds more than welcomed! Please email me on timdjones10'at'

secondary 'bulge' and plenty of barring in the primaries

real broad wing and weak carpal patch

weak carpals and lots of barring with a cleanish tail

the gorgets on some birds was really distinctive, normal for European?

huge gorget!

A lot of these 'Oriental' looking birds were this colour morph so probably just Europeans that look striking in this morph

presume this is just a dark female European

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Honey Buzzards pt.III

More pics of Honey Buzzards from Eilat this Spring, I will get round to editing my photos of other species at some point...

One of my favourite colour morphs

Just look at that eye!

true stunners!

Short-toed Eagle Morph

amazing to look down on them in the mountains, not so easy to photograph!