Israel, and particularly the Eilat surroundings, has ranked high among foreign destinations for European birders for many years. Sometimes described as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of Israeli birding, Eilat is a fine and logical place to begin any desert birding tour.
Extraordinary concentrations of migratory birds use the area, making Eilat one of the busiest migration areas in the world. While the largest bird movements occur in spring (March–May) many interesting species occur in autumn. In addition to migrants, Eilat offers a rich and varied local avifauna, comprised of desert species, tropical species typical of the Rift Valley, Mediterranean and Red Seas.
Finally, Eilat has a proven record for attracting vagrant and accidental species, with new species for the country and the Western Palearctic recorded Every now and then.
The International Birding & Research Centre in Eilat has been operating a Bird Ringing Station for the last 25 years which has contributed greatly in monitoring and understanding bird migration along the Eastern Flyway while utilizing hands on approach to train and educate many bird ringers and visitors
who come to volunteer at the park.
Job Description - Passerines Ringer vacancy at the IBRCE
- The ringing period is August 20 to 30 November. Minimal staying period is six weeks.
- During the staying the volunteers are expected to take part in all ringing duties: 7 mornings a week and afternoon ringing if occurs (afternoon ringing happen up to 3 times a week and according to migration).
- In addition, ringers are asked to take part in tasks of the maintenance of the station's equipment and ringing site, entry of data on a daily basis to the computer and in accommodation general duties - cleaning of own room, cooking evenly with and for all etc.
- Monitoring - In the afternoons the team will be asked to take part in birding monitoring activities in Southern Arava and Eilat area.
- Some assistance with updating our Blog might be asked- from writing text to putting some of your photographs (with full credit). All volunteers might appear in the Blog, with names or pictures, during their voluntary period.
"Typical" day schedule*
- 05:30 nets opening and breakfast before first round.
- Ringing days typically start at 05:30 a.m. and end around 11 a.m, affected by weather and migration, 7 days a week. During ringing days checking of nets+ Helgoland traps will be done according to "Eilat Ringing Manual" as a guideline and guiding of groups will take place (not by the volunteers).
- Right after ringing- Fast cleaning of the ringing station and kitchen (toilets when needed).
- Breakfast/early lunch break.
- 12:00-14:00 Site/ equipment/ station maintenance and\ or data punching.
- 14:00-16:30 Lunch, Noon break (heat), time for birding around or visiting the beach (free time).
- 16:30-20:00 afternoon birding monitoring in the area or ringing in the afternoons a few times a week (no more than 3).
- 20:00 Dinner (Cooked by the volunteers).
- After dinner- Finishing all data punching for the day and free time (including possible visits at Eilat). All volunteers are very welcomed to bring slideshows or pictures to enrich the others.
*Times may vary along season due to changes in day length, weather conditions, waves of migration etc…
- Proven experience with ringing of passerines (experience with raptors and/or waders- helpful).
- Basic English/Hebrew level which enable fluent work as team.
- Health and/or travelers insurance will not be provided and is needed while traveling abroad.
- While working and living at the park, it is vital to keep all the facilities in a proper and inviting condition. These include: Sleeping Room, Shower & Toilets, Kitchen and Ringing Station. A cleaning-duty round should be maintained by all volunteers and staff throughout the season. At all times of work, both at the IBRCE Park and outside, as well as while participating in any event (lecture, festival…), you are representing the IBRCE. Thus, all staff and volunteers should follow a proper dress and behavior codes.
- The ringers will benefit from a great experience in working at one of the most exciting and interesting Eurasian-African Flyway ringing stations as well as gaining field and ringing experience with many near-eastern and eastern species and subspecies.
- We provide a full coverage of the basic accommodation and food at the IBRCE volunteer's camp next to the ringing station.
- As time will allow, birding activities in Eilat & Arava region will take place as other free time activities- swimming at the red-sea, snorkeling, enjoying Eilat's night life etc.
- Free days for traveling and birding around will be positively considered and permitted during your staying, and will be approved if manpower allows it.
The 2nd of May will be remembered as Eilat's Big Day, when at least 250,000 Honey Buzzards passed through the region. The madness commenced right from first light when rivers of Buzzards streamed through Wadi Shlomo just below our Raptor survey post at "High Mountain". It looked like as if the wadi was flowing, only that it all went upstream and then glided down to the next wadi.
The wave was endless and got thicker and thicker as the air warmed up. Johan from Denmark, the main raptor surveyor of the Israeli Ornithological Center of the SPNI in Eilat, counted 40,000 by 09:00 and then called the other surveyors for help. At the same time, our other monitoring team that focuses on migration hotspots for passerines and waders, already knew it was a special day as they witnessed tens of thousands of Buzzards passing above Yotvata.
At the Bird Sanctuary in Eilat there was a massive amount of Honey Buzzards stopping for a drop of fresh water, and people everywhere in the area had called to report more and more flocks. Doug, our American team member, drove to the North Beach just to discover tens of thousands more Buzzards short cutting-above the bay to the east towards Jordan.
This is not only Eilat's big day but also Johan's. Johan came here 2 months ago for bird ringing but fell in love with the raptors and insisted to spend every possible day in the mountains counting them. He was happy with 500 Steppe eagles a day in March and super excited when 40,000 Buzzards flew above him in early April. Today he got rewarded for his very hard work and could hardly talk on the phone from High Mountain station. At 12:00 he had 100,000. At 14:30 more than 150,000. By sunset it climbed to 198,000. Between the Honey Buzzards also 11,000 Levant's Sparrow Hawks made it north through the region.
Dan Alon, the director of the Israeli Ornithological Center can still clearly remember the last time we had such a day. It was the 2nd of May 1985, when he observed 200,000 Honey Buzzards in High Mountain in a single day. That crazy year the survey counted 850,000 Buzzards in about 10 days. Today is probably the best ever day count in Israel, and the highest ever day count of Honey Buzzards.
It's the first year we have counted Raptors after 20 years of no consistent surveying. The Steppe Eagles seemed to decrease sharply from numbers recorded in the 1980's, and also the Steppe Buzzards didn't do so well this spring. It is so exciting to discover that at least for the Honey Buzzards it is still happening just like good old days.
I would like to thank my staff that have worked so hard today, with endless smiles on their faces and red eyes, The SPNI survey team - Johan, Denmark - High Mountain, Dave, UK and Doug, USA, Arava, North beach and Low Mountain, Tim, UK and Euan, Scotland at the bird sanctuary. Just myself, in Tel Aviv, getting ready to fly for fund raising to the US, has missed it all. I think they call It in America "when sh*t hits the fan". I'm soon to find out.
Eilat, Israel; a place where your dreams come true - especially when your dreams involve birds! Every day for the last 3 weeks I have been here, I have seen many new birds, which only in my wildest dreams could I imagine seeing in my homeland of Denmark! Every day is different and you never know what the next thrill will be! There have been many new birds for me as the new Danish IBRCE ringer, but also a surprising connection to "back home".
One morning turned out to be very special for me. A week after my arrival at IBRCE we caught a bird with a foreign ring. When we read the information upon it we discovered we were holding in our hands a Lesser Whitethroat with a Danish ring around its leg! - Wow what a thrill! On top of it I, as a Dane, had the luck of reading it.
Two days later we got a reply from The Danish Zoological Museum informing us that the bird was ringed in Denmark on 26th April 2014 at Blaavand Bird Observatory in Western Jutland. A distance in a straight line of 3587 kilometers in 10 months and 25 days. Not bad for a bird that weighs about 12 grams! Of course it has also been south of the Sahara Desert and now is on its way back north again.
What a very special recapture for me having a ”Danish” bird in my hands, and on top of that it was a bird ringed at Blaavand Bird Observatory, where in 2009 assisted the ringer of this bird Henrik Knudsen. What an amazing coincidence, and yet another example of the magnificent international flyways migratory birds use, and how they are linked together. The distances on earth are great, but at the same time the closeness and the connection in it all becomes clear, when something like this happens. l wonder if the "Danish” Lesser Whitethroat will appear in 3-4 weeks in Blaavand again?
This bird has been the highlight for me, but the ringing station is bursting with a rich variety of other birds, with the many species of warblers never ceasing to amaze me! As well as the standardized ringing sessions in the morning, we try when it is calm enough to catch gulls and waders on the salt pans in the evenings. This has resulted in some very interesting ringing with a variety of at least 10 species of waders and 2 species of gulls caught, including the "charming" Slender-billed Gull. This Thursday we also ringed the first Steppe Buzzard for the season.
Furthermore I have spent some days now in the Eilat Mountains monitoring migrating birds of prey as part of the raptor team. The Steppe Buzzards are peaking now with days with well over 30.000 individuals recorded. There are still a pretty good number of Steppe Eagles passing by, with 120 seen by myself one day. Now we look forward to the arrival of the Levant Sparrowhawks and the Honey Buzzards, which should begin very soon
So all in all, what more can a Danish birder like me ask for on this his first time to Israel in the legendary "birding hotspot" of Eilat!