Thursday, October 16, 2014

Eilat - The Birding Home

Eilat - The Birding Home

This is going to be kind of personal. My name is Noam Weiss and I am back to my birding homeland, Eilat, this time as the director of the international birding and research center of Eilat. I have returned to the "thing" that was always about the most professional birding for me. I call Eilat a "thing" as it is far more than a place for me.

Eilat is where 30 years ago I had learnt that there is a lot more about birding than what is in the identification guide. That there is so much more to learn than just compare the bird you see and the illustration in a book. It is where we learnt about birds and birding by researching in an unknown territory of knowledge and there was so much more to discover.

Hadoram Shirihai was our mentor. Showing us birds that nobody knew how to identify or expect them anywhere near Eilat. It was the days of the discovery of the Buff – bellied Pipits Japonicus that were totally unknown around Europe and the Middle East, the days we had learnt the difficult plumages of some Sylvia warblers, the first Crested Honey Buzzards and the exiting raptors surveys. Eilat was magical, with the numbers of migrants, the fantastic diversity and the discoveries that were beyond any possible birder's imagination.

After some years back in Jerusalem as a business man (the worst kind - securities underwriter) I was back to my dream land for 5 years of bird ringing, guiding and research, surveying Hume's Owls in the desert nights and falling in love with the barren mountains and  colorful canyons. And now I'm back to be the one to continue the learning, to be your ears and eyes and to share with you the wonders of this place. And if you come along, you'll get a coffee too.

I'm back here after Yael Lenhardt did a great job solidifying the research, connecting the community of Eilat to the birding park and a lot of guiding. Tzadok made the birding park an exciting place to visit and a very comfortable one too.
My dreams are to open it up to the public and birders by moving the ringing station to be accessible and open to you birders, and to become the information center for the birders visiting Eilat. I will try to resume the intensive bird monitoring in Eilat like in the good old days, discover new birds, find new challenges that birds face here and remove them, and safeguard the birds of Eilat.

The past 3 weeks I've been here have already been exciting. Autumn comes late to Eilat but it's already full of good birds and activities. The ringing station catches up to 150 birds per day and the diversity is very high. The best birds until now have been a young Rosy Starling and 3 Scarlet Rosefinches.
Barred Warblers are caught every other day and a Little Bittern, Wood Warbler, Curlew Sandpiper, Levant Sparrowhawk, some Lesser Grey Shrikes, many Namaqua Doves, and a few Scops Owls have joined the party here.

Interesting to note it has been a good year for the Red-backed and Masked Shrikes (up to 23 caught per day). Another surprise has been the Blackstarts, that find refuge in the irrigated areas of the bird sanctuary from the difficult and dry conditions in the desert wadis. Up to 4 of them were observed and a few got marked.

In the Field the most impressive is the daily take off of Levant Sparrowhawks in the early mornings. We have them now almost every day with numbers moving between 50 and 1,000. The peak was on the 29/9 morning with 4,000 of them swarming above the bird sanctuary.

These Hawks are probably missed by the main Raptor survey in Kfar Kasem. The survey's crew speculated that these Hawks end up passing in Eilat on days with strong westerly wind. I'm not so sure this is actually the case as their usual route is passing about 150 KM west of us, very few are reported between Eilat and the main route and these Hawks are seen here year after year.
I would like to believe that the Hawks that are seen as if they come from the east, belong to an easterly population, maybe from the Caucasus mountains. This is still to be checked one day. It's on the list with talking to some Jordanian birdwatchers and may be tracking some of these Hawks with GPS transmitters.

In the field here Shachar Shalev reported a Crested Tern (very rare) and a Lesser Crested Tern on the 22/09 at the north beach. They were not relocated but that's how the north beach works - it is very dynamic. A Spotted Crake was noted in the bird sanctuary and a new Sooty Falcons nest was found in the mountains. The first Rollers and some Lesser Kestrels have been reported from a few sites. Common Cranes travelling towards Africa started passing above us too.

That's all for now.

Stay posted.


1 comment:

  1. Hey, thanks for that comment :) I would love to volunteer in Eilat one day <3 (especially during spring bird migration) Thanks for the tour you gave us in September!