Stormy weather north of us resulted with a fall of migrants in Eilat.
The ringing station was kept busy with tens of Bluethroats and Chiffchaffs and exciting reports from the field. The bird of the week was a young Oriental Turtle Dove that was first found by the IBRCE team in Yotvata southern circular field, but lack of a photo and the speed of the observation left it out of the official list until the Dove was relocated by Itai Shani 3 days later at the same spot.
In the same field it was joined by a locally rare bird, a Stock Dove, and the usual gatherings of Desert Finches (30) plus hundreds of Red throated pipits. 3 Cream colored Coursers were an additional nice decoration for the site.
Closer to Eilat a shiny adult Imperial Eagle showed well in Km 19 alongside the usual Osprey and Marsh Harriers. In the Bird Sanctuary in Eilat a Mangrove Heron surprised us in the lake making it 2 individuals in odd places in a week (I saw 1 in Timna Park lake last week). This cannot be a coincidence.
The nice story of the week started with a phone call from the lifeguard in the north beach (and yes, people still swim here in the sea in November, it's 33 Celsius down here) reporting a drowning Heron. Our team (Nesia, Juan and Euan) arrived at the scene and located a Great Egret that couldn't fly. Nesia jumped in and rescued it. It was entangled with fishing lines attached to a giant shark hook threatening to do serious damage.
The bird was swiftly released from the lines and after warming its body temperature and drying it we released it in our lake. In the first 2 days it was catching fish like crazy, then started to fly and will probably leave very soon. The local media showed some interest in the story and Nesia will undoubtedly become a local hero in a few days when it is published.
The sad side of the week belongs to our neighbors the Jordanians and Palestinians. This Monday is the 20th anniversary of the Israeli - Jordanian peace agreement.
It was due to be celebrated in a nice event in Jerusalem and I was invited to present a project I was in charge of - a cross border cooperation project using Barn owls as pest controllers in the fields.
It was very successful as farmers in Israel, Palestine and Jordan dramatically reduced the amount of rodenticides implemented just by putting Owl nest boxes in their fields.
The project also resulted in a network of experts and farmers from all 3 countries starting talking and cooperating in other areas of environmental protection and agriculture. I'm also involved now with a nice project that is giving Palestinians the ability to survey nature, build and maintain nature reserves and guide wildlife watching tourism.
I had great hopes to be able to use the event not only to meet good friends from the other side of the border, but also to promote a new project that will unite Eilat and Aqaba (Jordan) to work together and to raise awareness of the environment on both sides of the border, and to cooperate solving problems that our shared coral reef, deserts and migratory birds face.
But it was cancelled.
A sequence of incidents in Jerusalem that included Palestinian extremists driving into crowds of people, the subsequent manhunts and the usual inciting claims that the mosques in the Temple Mount are in danger, raised the tension to unbearable levels and the celebration was cancelled.
Also our Jordanian partners in Aqaba have backed off for now.
So sad that in a place where peace creating projects are so desperately needed, they are cancelled because of the lack of peace and tension. If we had peace and everything was fine we wouldn't have the need for projects like these.
It's days like these we need to show the light of hope and highlight our peace making projects, not follow an agenda that is dictated by extremists that have no plan of a better life for anybody. We birders and environmentalists in this troubled area know we have to wait for the wave to pass and continue working together, but a good opportunity has been lost because of the wrong reasons.
So the birds of Eilat and Aqaba, as well as the great coral reef we share with Jordan and Egypt, will have to wait before we safeguard them in a united regional action that is needed here so very much.