Interesting visitors to the bird sanctuary, Eilat
Birders look at birds and write so much about them. But what do the birds see when they look at us? I'm sure that there are many kinds of bird - human interactions and many other things that birds can see in humans other than danger, like with any other creatures around them.
Do they try to figure out who are the rare human visitors to the birds’ sanctuary, in what seasons they come, and what kind of special behavior they show?
What the birds surely hear very often is the rolling laughter of our secretary Liby. When she laughs, you needn't be an owl to hear it from a mile. When birds hear other birds sing, it gives them confidence. I wonder if her laughter has the same impact on them.
When we guide groups it seems like the birds come and listen rather than fly away. Do they listen to the tone of speech or are they just inquisitive to see who came into their territory?
Bluethroats are very much like that and often run between the visitors, while Chiffchaffs gather on the branches above. When I guide and show recently ringed birds in my hand, they seem totally relaxed, and sometimes when I release them, they wait on my hand and may even grab a fly from the air and still not fly away. What do these birds see and feel?
Winter is especially interesting as the birds stay longer and have more interactions. A curious Bluethroat by Anita's Lake likes the photographers and shows them it’s shiny chest when they come. The Little Grebes dive, show up next to the person and dive away again.
Photographers and birders are probably interesting as they seem to want to get close, don't try to steal their food and never harm them. So why not discover who we are? Does it make them happy?
The visiting groups are not used to birding. They don't really know what to look at and where. So the Pale Rock Martins and jumpy Chiffchaffs surprise people at very close range, as if just for a second to make them aware of their presence. It reminds me of the days when I used to guide people to see the Desert Tawny Owls, deep in the desert. The owls were the ones to choose whether to call and thereby expose themselves or to stay quiet and hidden. It was very clear to me that relaxed visitors always got to see the owl while arrogant or stressed birders did not. These owls could tell the new energy in their territory and react to it just like a Chiffchaff that comes to another singing Chiffchaff yet doesn't come near the ever-stressed Arabian Babbler.
Last week we had an interesting group of blind visitors come to the bird sanctuary. We let them feel the birds just ringed at the ringing station and release them. For the first time they could really tell what a bird was and why it is so special. The crazy thing was that when we went birding with them, all the birds were calling around them instead of just a few. Black winged Stilts were flying around noisily and the Bluethroats and Chiffchaffs were singing to give them the full experience, and I think they all loved it.
You need to come to the bird sanctuary in Eilat to really understand the magic and wonder of this experience.
Annual yet incredible - spring migration is on again
Winter died slowly. The stability we got used to is no longer valid. It felt good to know that a Greenshank and a Bluethroat would greet you every morning entering the office and the Dead Sea Sparrows and the Long-eared Owls would wait at the same spot on my morning monitoring rounds.
We had some good birds in the bird sanctuary this winter - a Redwing that stayed most of the season, a visiting Black Bush Robin and an exceptional number of up to 60 Dead Sea Sparrows.
It was also a great winter for the desert. Following autumn rains we had an "influx" of 5 of the extremely rare Basalt Wheatear and the gathering of Larks in Ovda Valley was the best ever with well over 500 Temminck's Larks, over 100 Bar-tailed Larks and some Hoopoe and Thick-billed Larks. Additionally, the concentration of Desert Warblers around Evrona was unprecedented. Now, stability makes room for change and surprise and the monitoring team finds new exciting stuff every morning.
It's always the beautiful House Martins that give it away first that spring is here. Pallid and Common Swifts followed and the skies fill up with tens of Steppe Eagles daily. Scops Owls are seen here and there and the reed beds sounds like Sedge and Savi's Warblers. The first Syrian Serin has made the morning a happy one for most of us and you can feel that something really good is on the way.
There is no way to know what kind of spring it is going to be, but I can tell beyond doubt that the desert will be full of birds this year. Hoopoe Larks are already preparing to nest and the numbers the Temminck's, Bar-tailed and Thick-billed Larks indicate a great year for them here.
The bird sanctuary in Eilat is ready fruity and in full bloom for the new arrivals and the IBRCE team armed with state of the art optics given to us by Zeiss optics and strengthened by our volunteers from Israel, Latvia, UK, Spain, France, Belgium and the US, are ready to support and monitor the wonder and excitement that flies just now over the Sahara Desert on the way to us.
As every year, the bird sanctuary will function as a hub for information about the location of interesting birds. You can come to our office and get coffee, smiles and advice (free) or you can book a tour to see some cool birds.
See you in Eilat
Spring is just around the corner
Little Green Bee-eater. Photo - Shlomi Bachar