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Bulletin 5:01 Rare Birds in Israel

Rami Mizrachi, Yoav Perlman and James P. Smith, on behalf of the Israeli Rarities and Distribution Committee, January 2nd 2007.

This bulletin includes a total of 17 accepted records, including three new species for Israel, and several other records of extreme rarities. These records were submitted in 2004 and 2005. The IRDC still holds 9 records that were submitted in 2006 or await circulation, including several firsts for Israel. They will hopefully be published soon. We still request information about other exciting species that have occurred in Israel in recent years. The IRDC encourages all local and visiting birders to submit their records of rare birds to contribute to the understanding of vagrancy patterns in Israel.

Records accepted into category A:

Swinhoe's Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma monorhis) - One, Eilat's north beach, 8th September 2001, and not 8th September 2000 as published in bulletin 4:01 (Reuven Yosef et al., see Sandgrouse 25:150-151). The bird flew into a window of one of Eilat's seafront hotels. It was picked up and brought to the IBRCE, but died shortly afterwards. The information about this bird was not submitted to the IRDC. However, I. Tsurim and N. Sapir examined the skin, which is preserved in the Zoological collection of the Tel Aviv University (specimen #AV15980) and confirmed the identification. This is the second record for Israel. The first record involved an individual found dead at Eilat, January 1958.

The IRDC is also aware of a recent report from September 2004 involving a bird that flew into a lamp at the north beach of Eilat. It was brought to the IBRCE, but later died. Information on this record hasn't been submitted to the IRDC.
All Israeli records to date involve injured, dying or dead birds (see also the 2003 record in bulletin 4:01). A record of a live, healthy bird would be well received.

Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra) - One, adult. Seen and photographed at Rishon Letziyon Beach, Dan region, 16th July 2004 (Itzik Amir). This is one of those stories that leaves us all with our mouths open. The finder is a professional photographer, who was working at a wind surfing competition at Rishon Letziyon Beach, on the Mediterranean coast south of Tel Aviv. Among the surfers, he noticed a large seabird flying north very close to the shore. He took some photographs, and later that day sent them to Jonathan Meyrav and Yoav Perlman for identification. His high quality images left no doubt about the identification. This is the first Israeli record and the first for the Mediterranean region.

African Darter (Anhinga rufa) - One, adult. Ginnosar Beach, Lake Kinneret, 31st May 2004 (Gert Ottens). A darter was observed swimming in the lake, close to the shore near a mixed colony of Pygmy Cormorants & egrets. The description was clearly that of an African Darter and ruled out the remote possibility of Oriental Darter. The draining of the Hula Lake in the 1950s, and the draining of Lake Antioch in Turkey at about the same time, saw the disappearance of this species from Israel in the late 1950s, with the last being in the winter of 1957. The bird in 2004 offers hope of future occurrences along the Rift Valley.

Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus) - two records:
- One, 2nd or 3rd year, Nahal Dishon, Northeastern Galilee, 18th February - 7th March 2003 (Moshe Galili, Nir Sapir et al.).
- One, 2nd or 3rd year, Gamla, Golan Heights, 8th March 2004 (Vincent de Boer, Eric Beudin).
Since the winter of 2000/2001, it is possible that one or more non-adult Lammergeiers have been returning to winter in northern Israel.

Great Bustard (Otis tarda) - One, probably female, east of Qazerin, Golan Heights, 30th January - 17th February 2004. Photographed (Vincent de Boer, Gil Ben-Noon et al.). 5th Israeli record. Seen and photographed by numerous observers. The record predating this was of a male that overwintered near Sde Eliyahu, Bet She'an Valley in the winter of 1999/2000 (See bulletin 2:01). More winter records of this exciting species may be anticipated in the future, especially in the North of the country.

Long-toed Stint (Calidris subminuta) - One, probably 2nd calendar year, Ma'oz Hayyim, Bet Shean Valley, 22nd - 25th October 2004. Photographed. (Steve Mann, Ben Dvir et al.). 2nd Israeli record. The bird was observed and photographed by many birders during its short stay. The first named finder produced an excellent description discussing in detail the age of this bird.
The first record was of a bird trapped and ringed in Eilat in August 1991.

Great Snipe (Gallinago media) - two records:
- One, Rose Garden city park, Jerusalem, 7th - 8th May 2004. Photographed (Noam Weiss et al.).
- One, Yotvata sewage ponds, Southern Arava, 27th April - 1st May 2005. Photographed (Jonathan Meyrav).
Extremely rare in recent years. These are the first and second records since April 2001, and we are awaiting details of another which was photographed in May 2005.

White-rumped Sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis) - One, adult or first-summer in breeding plumage, Ma'ayan Zevi fishponds (Ma'agan Mikhael), Carmel coast, 26th April 2004. Photographed (Daniel Gelbart et al.). The finder quickly shared his information allowing many other birders to see and photograph this bird during its one-day stay. The first unequivocally documented Israeli record of this North American breeder.

Black-crowned Finch-Lark (Eremopterix nigriceps) - One, male, Yotvata, Southern Arava, 28th - 30th April 2004. Photographed. (Jonathan Meyrav, Yohan van Ginneken, Martin Epstein et al.). The first Israeli record since 1989. A highly nomadic species and one of the more exciting finds of spring 2004. The IRDC is waiting to receive details of two records from spring 2006.

Blyth's Pipit (Anthus godlewskii) - Two, Ma'agan Mikhael beach, 13th January - 28th February 1999 at least. Photographed (Killian Mullarney, Barak Granit et al.). 3rd Israeli record. The two previous records came from Eilat in November 1987 and at Kefar Ruppin, Bet Shean Valley, September 1998 (see IRCD bulletin 1:01). This record fits within the now established pattern of Central Asian vagrants attempting to over winter in Israel.

Eye-browed Thrush (Turdus obscurus) - One, first-winter, IBRCE, Eilat, 17th October 1996 (John Morgan, Christophe Gruwier). The bird was trapped, ringed and photographed. The first and only Israeli record to date.

Menetries's Warbler (Sylvia mystacea) - two records:
- One, adult female or first-winter, Birdwatching Park of Kibbutz Lotan, Southern Arava, 8th November 2003 (Amit Geffen, Yoav Perlman).
- One, female type, trapped, ringed and photographed, IBRCE, Eilat, 19th April 2004 (Paul R. French, Janne Aalto, Reuven Yosef et al.).

Green Warbler (Phylloscopus (trochiloides) nitidus) - One, adult, Sirin Height, Eastern Galilee highlands, 24th - 30th August 2004 (Zev Labinger, Gert Wichers et al.).
This bird was discovered by observers taking part in a migration survey. It was seen and photographed by many birders during its seven day stay. The second Israeli record. The identification of this bird was not straightforward, as first-winter Greenish Warblers may show a strong yellow or green tinge early in autumn, but a good set of photographs and good descriptions of the calls helped to clinch the identification. The first record was from Eilat, in October 1987.

Alpine Chough (Pyrrhocorax graculus) - One, adult, Mt. Hermon, Northern Golan Heights, 13th - 14th May 2001 (Eyal Vanunu). The bird was observed perched and flying near the Israeli peak of Mt. Hermon, at about 2200 metres. Now a major rarity in Israel, it was the first record for many years.

Rejected Records:

Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis) - A flock of seven birds, Haifa coast, 24th September 2002. Previously accepted into category A (see bulletin 2:02), but on re-examination by the IRDC it was rejected due to a lack of compelling evidence. A single observer record with no photographs taken at the scene.

Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus) - One, Gamla Nature Reserve, Golan Heights, 21st March 2004. Even though the observer had seen a Lammergeier in the same locality only two weeks earlier, the report referred to a distant raptor, lacking many of the essential identification features and was not supported by any documentation.

Amur Falcon (Falco amurensis) - One adult male, passing over Afula, Jizreel Valley, 3rd October 2003. Potentially the first for Israel, it was seen on migration and rejected due to a lack of well described identification features. The report was from a single observer, and not supported by photographs. The IRDC would regard photographic documentation as being essential under these circumstances.

Oriental Turtle Dove (Streptopelia orientalis) - One, Hula valley, 6th November 2003. Even though this bird was seen in excellent conditions by experienced birdwatchers, the description lacked some key features, and there were no supporting photographs. Large dark Turtle Doves (Streptopelia turtur) remain a serious pitfall for claimants of this species in Israel.

African Collard Dove (Streptopelia roseogrisea) - One, Eilat, 18th March 1994. The description submitted to the IRDC, and the attached photographs shed a serious doubt on the bird's identity as an African Collared Dove. In fact most IRDC members identified the bird in the photographs as a Eurasian Collared Dove.

Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pelschanka) - One, Qetura experimental Garden, Southern Arava, 14th April 2003. The record was withdrawn by the observers. The identification of female and non-adult Pied Wheatears still remains a serious challenge, even with supporting photographs. The separation from dark Eastern Black-eared Wheatears O. hispanica can be problematic and withdrawals are welcomed by observers with concerns over their own claims.

Basra Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus griseldis) - One, Sede Eliyyahu, Bet Shean Valley, 7th May 2004. Trapped and ringed by an experienced ringer. The date and location fall within the established vagrancy pattern of this species in Israel, but the description submitted to the IRDC was minimal, and lacked most of the essential identification features, plus there were no photographs taken at the scene. Basra Reed Warbler remains a major rarity in Israel and the details submitted here were regarded as inadequate.

Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus) - One, Mt. Hermon, 2 Km. north of Majdal Shams, Northern Golan Heights, 21st August 1995. Observed by experienced European birders, familiar with this straightforward species. However, at the time of observation they were not aware they were watching a major rarity, and took no field notes and paid no special attention to the bird. Unfortunately, the submission was based on a retrospective description submitted to the IRDC some years after the observation. Although this is not a difficult species to identify, the lack of photographs and lack of detailed notes taken at the scene left the IRDC with little choice to reject this intriguing report.

All visiting birders are urged to pay attention to familiar common European birds that may actually be stragglers in Israel. There have been several similar incidents in the past, including reports of species such as Bullfinch and Common Redpoll which have yet to be fully documented in Israel.

Little Green Bee-eater
(Merops orientalis) Yotvata, Mar.05

Terek Sandpiper
(Xenus cinereus) Ma'agan Michael, Jul.05

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