Shalom from Israel!

Greetings, in case you haven't heard I'm currently in Israel while poor Non Birding Bill has to live the bachelor life back in Minneapolis.  I'll be posting photos when I can on my Twitter feed and on my Facebook page (you should see what I've been eating).  I'll of course update here, but from what I've heard, it sounds like this trip is the sort where they get you up and dawn and bird the crap out of you until 10pm, so we'll see what happens here.

This weekend was spent mostly in Tel Aviv and we birded around the Negev for some desert species.  Above is a long-legged buzzard that I shot with my iPhone.  I'll note when I can which photos are from my SLR and which were taken with my phone.  This is mostly for me as I'm on a quest to see if I can eventually go out in the field with just my iPhone instead of my camera to document birds.  The long-legged buzzard is in the same genus as red-tailed hawk.  Those are a couple of hooded crows on the fence.

Some of the Negev is cultivated and some is desert.  The brown landscape is full of brown birds (I'm so happy!).  I love travel, it's always been one of my goals with the blog, but I still can't help but look around and think, "How the heck did I end up in the Middle East to go bird watching?"

Here are some of the elegant brown bird running around in the above photo.  These are called cream-colored coursers and they scurry around eating insects, they are so delicate and perfect in their shape, size and movement, they look as if they were designed by the artist Erte.

It's been hard for me to figure out what bird has really knocked my socks off--they are all amazing and I tend to find my favorite bird is whatever bird is right in front of me.  But these Namaqua doves above (taken while balancing a Swarovski spotting scope on the car window with my SLR are made up of pure awesomesauce.  You are looking at thinking, "Yeah, Shaz, I see a bluish gray dove with a black mask and beard, that's a cool looking dove."

But what you can't see is that these guys are about the same size as a house sparrow!  BT3 is commented that they are like a Harris' sparrow of doves.  It's like someone took a little budgie, a little Harris' sparrow and a mourning dove and conjured up this.  Awesome little guys.

Quite a few of the bird species that are in Israel are some of the same that I saw in Kazakhstan a few years ago like the above juvenile red-footed falcon.  It's great to see birds that I was not sure I would ever see again.

This is a photo from my hotel balcony in Tel Aviv this morning.

What I'm most looking forward to in this trip is learn more about the conservation efforts of Israel.  We're on our way to spot with tons and tons of cranes and I hear we are in mobile in the blinds move as we are in them.

This was one of the photos they sent along with the information about the Hula Valley Bird Festival.  I noticed the cranes were flushed and that a tractor was pulling the blind bird watchers are using to view cranes.  This is not something that is done at other crane festivals, but the local ornithologists tell me that there is specific method in this madness and we will see why they do it first hand (it's to help the cranes out).

So excited to learn some new bird stuff!