Southern Israel Birding Updates, April 2007.

This update page is to deal with two "burning" issues we are dealing with these days, with birds recently seen in southern Israel: the Bean Goose and Blyth's Reed Warbler.

Bean Goose

The great bird that stayed loyal to the Eilat soccer pitch for nearly 3 weeks was seen by many birders. From the first day it was seen on the ground, the birders were happy with the bird being of the eastern subspecies "rossicus", due primarily to the amount of orange on the bill, the dark head and neck and other finer points. Several European birders visiting the country had a chance to see the bird and some agreed with the bird being rossicus, others were more hesitant.

Many people saw the images posted here and elsewhere and there is still much debate as to he subspecies of the bird. One thing is certain, since we first saw the bird on the ground on march 16th , we have learned a great deal about the Bean Goose complex, about the great variation within the nominate subspecies and the various eastern forms of Bean Goose.

Due to the fact that no one in Israel has enough experience with Bean Geese of any sort the images were sent on to birders around the world to help and resolve the sub specific identity of the Goose. At the moment the general notion is that the bird is of one of the Eastern forms, probably not rossiccus but rather one of the lesser known forms with several votes towards "johansenni". The most recent comments come from Kees Roselaar, one of the world's foremost taxonomist and one of the writes of the BWP, and I quote:

"De snavel is te slank en lang voor een toendra rietgans. Zowel serrirostris als rossicus hebben nog meer 'bulldog'-achtige korte snavels met sterker uitgebogen ondersnavels. Dit is een johanseni uit de taiga van W of C Siberiכ . De vogel is een eerstejaars."

Translation: "The bill is too slender and long for a rossicus. Both serrirostris and rossicus have more bulldog-like shorter bills with more curved underpart of bill. This is a johanseni from the taiga of W or C Siberia. The bird is a first year."

I am adding the images of the Eilat Bean Goose again. As usual more comments are welcome.

The Yotvata "Blyth's Reed Warbler" – caught and ringed on 25 March 2007.

There has been much debate as to the identity of the short winged Acrocephalus Warbler that was caught and processed on the morning of March 25th.
The Yotvata bird was a 2nd cal year bird and looked very small and compact. In the hand and especially in direct comparison with a Reed Warbler the Blyth's Warbler wing seemed short and round. The overall color was a cold brownish grey and lacked the warmer rufous tones of Reed Warbler, especially on the rump. The biometrics of the bird were as follows:

Wing 60.5
Tail 47
Tail / wing = 0.777
Fat 0
Weight 8.3
2nd p. = 5/6
Notch in 2nd p. = 11.5 mm <tert = 3 mm
Notch in 3rd p. = 6 mm = 7/8
Primary projection = 14 mm
Bill f. = 11.5
Emargination in 3rd p.
Notch in 2,3,4

Since posting the data we have received many comments, some supporting Blyth's but several people were hesitant and others gave quite elaborate notes why the bird is actually a Reed Warbler and definitely not a Blyth's Reed. I will bring several comments, the first by Barak Granit:
The bird Yoav ringed and photographed is not a Blyth's Reed Warbler but a Reed Warbler instead. There are quite a few contradictory features for BRW which makes identification of that species impossible, and simply suggests a small Reed Warbler.

  1. General coloration of upperparts: the bird is quite warm brown color and not at all 'very cold colored' or uniform as stated. The warm colors are well visible on mantle/scapulars, crown, flight feathers edges and most importantly on the Rump. Beside that the bird is not uniform at all but instead, has quite contrasting upperparts. Infact the upperparts are not anything unusual for Reed Warbler. - Only by these combination of features one can exclude spring Blyth's Reed Warbler. BRW should show real uniform cold upperparts.

  2. Close wing of Blyth's should show no more than 6 well visible primaries on the primery projection. Reed shows between 7-8 well visible primaries. This bird shows 8 well visible primaries.
  3. Alula - Never Blackish or noticibly dark centered with sharp pale edges on Blyth's (and again - perfect for Reed). There is no way that light effect or a new feather caused that impression unless this is the true color of the Alula which is again - wrong for Blyth's.

  4. As it seems by the photos the forhead is not flat enough, instael looks quite rounded, or too rounded for BRW anyhow.

  5. Blyth's should show emargination on both p3 and p4. This bird however shows emargination only on p3. again - bad for Blyth's.

  6. The tertials are too contrasting for Blyth's. should be more uniform. Beside these above mentioned contradictory features (which are well over enough), wing length of 60.5 is indeed short for many RW, but not for all Reed Warblers. Hadoram mentions very small Reed Warblers with wing length of 59 mm.

  7. Not an ID feature but a 'suspicion feature': Blyth's Reed Warbler is a late migrant. It is way to early for BRW to return to it's breeding grounds which are still covered by snow. End of April onwards is more suitible time for that species.

Conclusions: The bird can not be a Blyth's Reed Warbler due to too many contradictory features, instead, the bird shows many features of Reed Warbler, and infact the bird looks just like any Reed Warbler. My opinion is that this bird is a Reed Warbler, most probably of what Hadoram calls - 'small Levant Reed Warbles'.
Barak Granit.

Eyal Shochat, who previously ringed a Blyth's Reed Warbler in Israel ( Beer Sheva 20th April 91' ) added as follows:
"I do not have much to add over Barak's thorough review of this bird. Given the date I already suspected this would turn out to be a common RW. The pictures confirmed my thoughts.

A few things, from my little experience with this species:

Blyth's Reed Warbler is not an easy species, even in spring. Svenson's book is not sufficient in such cases, and one must read carefully and follow the instructions in the special book for Acrochephalus species (I believe by Pitterson? It's been a while) . Many additional measures to the regular ones should be taken before concluding about a Blyth's reed, especially in March.

All birds of the local breeding population in southern Israel are smaller than those passing in fall. A wing of 60 mm is not exceptional. The bird caught in Beer Sheva on 20.4.91 took many years before accepted by the committee. Several Scandinavian birders highly experienced with this species examined the (bad) photographs we had.

"There is nothing 'cold' about the tone of the bird, as seen in the pictures. All looks very warm actually".

The following remarks were forwarded in by a Finnish birder/ringer that has quite a lot of experience with the complex.

"bird is definitely NOT a Blyth's reed. It is very small, and having some odd features, but it is not reminding (me of) the Blyth's Reeds we have here (in Finland).
It looks like Reed, but as the text says, it is of different colour than typical Reed Warbler. Could the simple answer be that it is the Eastern 'fuscus' race of Reed Warbler, although odd as being so small. Some points how to rule out Blyth's Reed:

-the colour is not the cold toned brown of Blyth's, instead this bird looks rather warm toned yellowish brown in mantle.

-although the wing length is good for Blyth's and not for Reed, the primary projection is too long for Blyth´s.

-it lacks the typical plain wing of Blyth's: this one has too strongly paler edges in remiges and especially in tertials. This one also lacks the bicoloured largest alula feather, good feature to id Blyth's in fotos.

-bill is a bit too weak and pale for Blyth's.

-pale supercilium in front of the eye is rather weak for Blyth's and typical for Reed.

-wing feathers in Blyth's are much more worn (reason of different timining in moult?) here. But, it is the same case for Reed Warbler here. This birds wing feathers looks, curiously, fresh like those of Marsh Warbler (Which it is not either...).

-2nd p. = 5/6 is atypical for Blyth's, very rare in Reed (in short winged individuals this should be most common?).

-Emargination in 3rd p. is the most strong evidence against Blyth's, which should always have emargination at least in 4th in such moulted birds (should be treated as adult although the eye colour reveals it as 2nd cy)

Hope this helps".

Several others commented on the bird but these were the most elaborate explanations that we received. Attached are the images of the bird once again, these are copyright of Yoav Perlman. We welcome more comments from people with experience with Blyth's Reed Warbler.

Thanks and stay posted.

Jonathan Meyrav. 

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