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Bulletin 4: 01 Rare Birds in Israel

By Nir Sapir, James P. Smith and Eyal Shochat, on behalf of the Israel Rarities and Distribution Committee (IRDC), 4 March 2005

This bulletin includes the summary and decisions of the 24 records recently discussed by the IRDC. Two of these were submitted in 2004, 19 submitted in 2003, and three submitted in 2002. Fifteen records are still under review, including 11 submitted during 2004 and the remainder submitted in previous years.

The IRDC would like to encourage the submission of rare bird reports from both local and visiting birders. There are still a number of promising reports that have yet to be submitted to the committee, some of which date back to 1996. These reports are important and observers are urged to submit their records no matter how old the reports may be. This can only better the understanding of rare and unusual bird occurrences in Israel.

The IRDC has a website which includes submission guidelines, contact information and a list of species reviewed by the IRDC. The web page is found at: http://www.geocities.com/birdingisrael/RC/Rarities_Committee.htm

Finally, members of the IRDC are pleased to welcome Rami Mizrachi to the committee. Rami became the seventh member of the panel and we are confident that Rami's extensive knowledge of bird identification and distribution in Israel will be a significant contribution to the IRDC, and to the birding community in Israel.

Records accepted into category A:

Fea's Petrel (Pterodroma feae) - Following a mild controversy over the identification of Israel's sole record (Shirihai 1996,1999), on 11 May 2004, Ido Tsurim and Nir Sapir conducted a thorough examination of the specimen held in the zoological collection of Tel-Aviv University. The bird was originally found dead on the shores of the Dead Sea on 8 February 1963. As a result of the examination and the circulation of photographs of the specimen between IRDC members, the identification of P. feae was ratified. This remains the only record of the species for Israel and the Middle East.

Swinhoe's Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma monorhis) – One was found moribund at sea, off Eilat's North Beach, Gulf of Aqaba, following a major southern storm on 19 April 2003 (James P. Smith, Arnon Tsairi , Barak Granit, Rami Mizrachi and Nir Sapir). The bird was taken into care and unfortunately died two days later. The body was subsequently transported to the zoological collection at Tel-Aviv University. This is the second Israeli record and the first to be seen alive in the field. (For a detailed account see Granit and Smith 2004 Sandgrouse 26(1): 51-52). A detailed report predating the above record concerns an individual picked up in Eilat in September 2000 and was recently published (Yosef et al. 2003 Sandgrouse 25(2): 150-151). Details of this record were not submitted to the IRDC. Moreover, there appears to be a more recent report regarding another individual at Eilat's North Beach in September 2004. The IRDC kindly requests details of both of these individuals to help further our understanding of this species' occurrence in Israel.

Swinhoe's Storm-petrel

Great Egret (Egretta albus modesta) – One of the eastern form “modesta” in the fishponds of Kfar-Ruppin, Bet She'an Valley, described and photographed on 25 November 1996 (James P. Smith and Andy Hirst). This bird was in breeding condition, which was unusual for the date.
One individual was also seen and photographed in the ponds of Ma'ayan Tsvi, on the Carmel coast, during May 2002 (Ruti Ram and Yossi Eshbol). These two records are the first and second Israeli records of the eastern subspecies of Great Egret.

Smew (Mergellus albellus) – One female or first winter, seen and photographed in Kfar-Ruppin fishponds, Bet-She'an Valley on 8 December 2003 (Vincent de Boer). This species has become annual in recent years and has wintered in the reservoirs of the Golan Heights.

Greater Scaup (Aythya marila) – Two birds, an adult female and a probable first-winter female, were seen and photographed in Kfar-Ruppin ponds, Bet-She'an Valley, on 12 December 2003 (Vincent de Boer). The birds remained in the area for the rest of the winter and were observed by many birders. This is the first confirmed Israeli record since 1990.

Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus) – One, probably adult, of the Asian subspecies vociferus, photographed in the fields of Ma'oz Haim, Bet-She'an Valley on 18 November 2003 (Vincent de Boer). Unlike former records of the species, this bird wintered in a relatively small area, and was last seen on 20 March 2004. This tame individual attracted many admirers and was one of the highlights of an exceptional winter for rare birds in Israel. This is the seventh Israeli record, and the first concerning the Asian subspecies vociferous. It is also only the second individual recorded outside of Eilat.

Painted Snipe (Rostratula benghalensis) – One female, seen and photographed on Ma'agan Michael beach 23-30 November 2002 (Itai Shani, Rony Livne, Nir Sapir, et al.). Most Painted Snipe records in Israel are concentrated in the Carmel region and Jezre'el Valley and even include one breeding record. However, the species still remains an elusive and irregular rarity.

Red-necked Stint (Calidris ruficollis) – One bird in almost full breeding plumage was found at Eilat's northern sewage ponds, on 15 April 2003 (Barak Granit and Daniel Gelbart et al.). The individual then moved to Eilat's northern salt ponds just one kilometer to the North. The bird was photographed (James P. Smith) and subsequently observed by many birders during its eight day stay in the area. This is the first Israeli record of the species.

Red-necked Stint

Franklin 's Gull (Larus pipixcan) – One adult in summer plumage, seen and photographed at Eilat's northern salt ponds between 3-6 June 2003 (James P. Smith et al.). This represented the first Israeli and Middle Eastern record, as well as the first North American gull of any kind observed in Israel.

Franklin's Gull

Oriental Turtle Dove (Streptopelia orientalis) – One first-winter, possibly of the subspecies orientalis, seen and photographed in arable fields north of Eilat on 2 November 2002 (James P. Smith et al.). This is the second Israeli record, and possibly the first concerning this particular subspecies. The only previous record dates back to 4 September 1984 when an individual was trapped in Eilat (Shirihai 1996). One first-winter, probably of the subspecies meena, seen and photographed in Kfar-Ruppin fields, Bet-She'an Valley, on 12 October 2003 (Yoav Perlman, Vincent de Boer et al.). This is the third Israeli record. Details concerning a number of other reports have not been submitted to the IRDC, perhaps clouding the true status of this tricky species in Israel. However, it remains an exceptionally rare bird in the country and potential claimants are urged to take good quality images to assist the identification process.

Oriental Turtle Dove

Blyth's Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus dumetorum) – One bird, trapped, photographed and released in Be'er Sheva sewage ponds, Northern Negev, on 20 April 1991 (Eyal Shochat and Ido Tsurim et al.). Only the fifth Israeli record and the first recorded outside Eilat. No subsequent records of this species have been submitted to the IRDC, despite several reports of trapped and ringed birds in Israel.

Menetries's Warbler (Sylvia mystacea) – One, adult female or first-winter, photographed and sound recorded in the gardens of Neot Smadar, Southern Negev, between 20 November and 7 December 2001 (James P. Smith and Killian Mullarney).

One male, seen and photographed at Neot Smadar, Southern Negev 8 April 2003 (James P. Smith). This bird was likely a spring migrant, fitting within the developing pattern of occurrences between late March and mid-April. We also know of a number of good reports concerning the occurrence of this species that still need to be submitted to the IRDC.

Hume's Warbler (Phylloscopus humei) – One heard, seen and photographed in Neot Smadar's gardens, Southern Negev, on 4 November 2002 (James P. Smith).
One heard, seen and photographed in Kibbutz Ketora's gardens, Southern Arava , between 26 November and 10 December 2002 (James P. Smith and Ayala Wise).
One, possibly two, seen and photographed in Ha-Ruhot Junction sewage pools, Central Negev , between 8 and 20 November 2003 (Arnon Tsairi and Ido Tsurim).

Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka) – One female, seen in Ketora's experimental garden, Southern Arava, on 14 April 2003 (Barak Granit and Daniel Gelbart). Despite its status as a scarce but regular migrant, this species still poses some serious identification problems and consequently continues to be reviewed by the IRDC.

Grey Hypocolius (Hypolcolius ampelinus) – One, adult female or first-winter, seen and photographed at Yotvata, Southern Arava, between 30 December 1998 and 2 January 1999 (Kris de Rouck et al., James P. Smith). This is the fifth Israeli record.

Radde's Accentor (Prunella ochularis) – Two birds found and photographed in Gamla Nature Reserve, Central Golan Heights, between 16 January and 28 February 2004 (Eric Beudin, Vincent de Boer, et al.). This irregular species has been less than annual in Israel since 1996 but appears to be on the increase in recent years.

Steppe Grey Shrike (Lanius (meridionalis) pallidirostris) – One first-winter, seen and photographed at Ha'Meishar, Central Negev , on 25 January 2003 (James P. Smith). This bird was seen irregularly at the same location for about one month and represents the second individual of this form discovered in mid-winter in Israel.

Rejected Records:

Lesser Sand Plover (Charadrius mongolus) – One photographed at Eilat's northern salt pools, August 2000. This was a retrospective identification based on a single, full colour photograph. Although the photograph was initially suggestive of Lesser Sand Plover, the committee felt that Greater Sand Plover could not be ruled out based on the details submitted. Such an important record would require significantly more photographic evidence. There is only one formerly documented record for Israel with another bird (photographed in 2001) still under consideration.

Iberian Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava iberiae) – One in fields north of Eilat on 21 April 2003. M.f.iberiae is an exceptionally rare form of Yellow Wagtail in Israel with only two documented records to date (Shirihai 1996). The description did not conclusively rule out the distinct possibility of a hybrid, or aberrant form of Yellow Wagtail and was not supported by photographic evidence.

Acknowledgements The IRDC would like to thank Jyrki Normaja and Tapio Aalto of the Finnish Rarities Committee for their help in resolving the Blyth 's Reed Warbler identification. We also thank Tsila Shariv and Prof. Yoram Yom-Tov for their hospitality while examining the Fea's Petrel specimen at the zoological collection of Tel-Aviv University. Special thanks to Susannah B. Lerman for proof reading and commenting upon this draft.

White-tailed Lapwing
(Vanellus leucurus) Samar, Mar.05

(Cercomela melanura) Sde Boqer, May.04

Little Owl
(Athene noctua) Negev, Jun.04
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