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Bulletin on Rare Birds in Israel (1989 - 2000)

James P. Smith

The Israeli Rarities & Distribution Committee met at Kibbutz Lotan on 7th May 2001 and revised the criteria for the recording of Rare Birds in Israel. Here we present our new guidelines and recommend that discoverers of rare and unusual species adhere to them. We have attempted to redefine the standards of record assessment in Israel, details of which can be found on this page. At the same meeting on 7th May 2001, we also discussed and evaluated several outstanding records. These records are listed in this bulletin with brief comments on their occurrence. We hope that a further bulletin will appear towards the end of the year to update readers on further rarities committee decisions.

The Israel Rarities & Distribution Committee has been transformed over the last six months with some additions to the membership. Currently its serving members are: Barak Granit, Yoav Perlman, Hadoram Shirihai, Eyal Shochat, James P. Smith, and Ido Tsurim. Each member of the committee has been chosen for his broad birding experience, his proven record of finding and documenting rare birds in Israel and his willingness to commit to the tasks of committee membership.

Our main objectives are to improve the standard of rarity recording in Israel and to speed up the acceptance/rejection process by meeting at least three times per year. It is our ambition to publish our findings on a regular basis. Each record will be voted upon by at least five out of the six members and judged upon its own merits.

In general we will be looking at species recorded in Israel less than 25 times up to and including the publication of the Birds of Israel (Shirihai 1996). An actual species list accompanies this bulletin.

Ideally we would like to receive reports that include the following:
1. Written documentation of date, location, observers, weather and optical aids used.
2. Full written documentation of the events surrounding the observation.
3. Full written documentation of the identification complete with field notes.
4. The inclusion of good quality photographs, digital images or video images.
5. The inclusion of ringing data/ bio - metrics where appropriate.
6. The inclusion of sound recordings where appropriate.
7. Supporting documentation from co-observers.
8. Brief documentation of the observer's previous experience of the species.

We realize that not every report will meet these criteria but we encourage all finders of Israel rarities to submit what ever they can to the committee. Reports from sole observers will also be considered. On the other hand, reports that mention just a few lines of a description with comments such as " we didn't bother to look at it closely, because it's a common winter visitor back home" will not be considered seriously by the committee.
We look forward to receiving your records and publishing our results accordingly.

In this systematic list of accepted records we placed the reports into two categories;
Category A - Full acceptance of a report based on the submission of full documentation by the identifier, finder or a supporting description from a co-observer. Ideally, full documentation would include at least one of the following; a multiple observer sighting supported by several good quality photographs or digital images, ringing data and measurements if handled, and sound recordings, provided with a full written presentation of the events surrounding the observation. Field sketches, no matter how amateur, are an integral part of good field reports and are encouraged by the committee.
Category B - The committee finds the description acceptable but that the report lacks complete documentation, such as a good quality photograph or other evidence that would remove all reasonable doubt from the identification. In most cases, these records apply to single observers (without a submission of photographs), or records of birds that were heard only, or birds seen in unusual circumstances in which it would be difficult to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the report was fully valid.
In the following summary the identifier is credited first followed by the finder (if different), and any co-observer/s who were present and supported the identification. In other cases, only the observer that has fully documented the record is credited, despite the fact that the bird may have been seen or found by a number of different observers.

List of records accepted into Category A ;

Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata - Eilat North beach and area from 23rd November - 7th December 1999 (P. Naylor, F. Crystal et al). Photographed. 3rd Israel record.
Clearly an outstanding rarity in Israel, and one that could have been seen by a number Israeli birders. However, the news coming out of Eilat was far from clear and sadly the bird had moved on by the time most birders became aware of it.

Crested Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhyncus - 1, adult male over Kibbutz Lotan, Southern Arava on 13th May 1995. (J. P. Smith). 2nd Israel record, and 1st in Jordan (Jordan Bird Report 1995 -1997).
This record followed on almost one year to the day Hadoram's Shirihai's famously photographed 'classic' male in the Eilat Mountains on 14th May 1994. Since 1998 there has been a 'flood' of reports in spring and autumn and more on this exciting species will appear in future bulletins.

Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum - 1 at Beer Sheva sewage ponds on 2nd - 3rd October 1999. (E. Shochat et al). Photographed. 1st Israel record.
Perhaps one of the most expected 'firsts' for Israel, well documented and photographed by the finder with former experience of the species in Thailand.

Baird's Sandpiper Calidris bairdii - 1 juvenile at Ma'agan Michael, Carmel Coast on 17th October 1998. (I. Tsurim, E. Shochat & N. Sapir.). 1st Israel record.
Whether this bird came from North America or North-east Siberia will always be debated, but it is certainly an exciting addition to the Israel list.

Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotus - 1 juvenile at Maoz Hayyim, Bet Shean Valley on 17th September 1998.( A. Corso et al). 5th Israel record.
It was quite remarkable that the finder should locate this bird on his first full day of birding in Israel. Another record from the same period and location remains under consideration.

Dunn's Lark Eremalauda dunni - 1 at Ma'agan Michael on 3rd April 2000 (L. Raty) Photographed.
Although not considered a 'real' rarity in Israel the location is unusual, most records coming from the desert regions. This interesting record recalls one at the same location on 3rd April 1980 and was backed up a by an excellent description and a series of superb photographs.

Blyth's Pipit Anthus godlewskii - 1 (1st cal. year) at Kefar Ruppin, Bet Shean Valley on 24th - 25th September 1998. (A. Corso, B. Granit et al). 2nd Israel record. Contrary to Shirihai in Sandgrouse 21 (1) : 1999, the identifier was A. Corso.
The first was in 1987, so this bird was long over due and followed by 2 at Ma'agan Michael in January - February 1999 a record for which details are still required. However, this species remains truly rare in Israel.

Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus - 1 at Kibbutz Lotan on 30th October 1996. (J. P. Smith, P.Cnodder, A. Gooding et al). 2nd Israel record. A typical date for an Asian straggler, its stay was all too brief. Several more are under consideration.

The following records were accepted into Category B;

White - rumped Sandpiper Calidris fuscicollis - 1 juvenile at Ma'agan Michael, Carmel Coast on 29th September 1998. (A. Corso).

Common Redpoll Carduelis flammea - 1 in the Hula Valley on 19th March 1989.( S. Warry).

In both of these cases the committee accepted that the birds were described accurately but that the reports lacked sufficient documentation for acceptance into Category A. Unfortunately, both were sole observer reports and photographs or supporting details from other observers could not be supplied.

The following record was rejected;

Eye-browed Thrush Turdus obscurus - 1 in Fradkin Park, Eilat on 7th March 1994.

This was considered insufficiently documented for a 'first' for Israel.
The Israel Rarities & Distribution Committee are; Barak Granit, Yoav Perlman, Hadoram Shirihai, Eyal Shochat. James P. Smith, and Ido Tsurim.

Rock Bunting
(Emberiza cia) Mt. Hermon, Jun.05

Spur-winged Lapwing
(Vanellus spinosus) Ma'agan Michael, Apr.06

Tristram's Grackle
(Onychognathus tristramii) Zeelim Wadi, Mar.07
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