The Beatterns of Eilat

Noam Weiss 03/12/2018 00:00






Bird life here at Eilat's bird sanctuary is usually pretty peaceful, the birds get along quite well together. Yes, we do have three horrific days a year,  when the Levant Sparrowhawk pass over in their thousands, leaving a trail of screams and blood in their wake, but normally winter is all about relaxing and spending some time warming up in the winter sun (Yes Europeans, the sun is here…).


Being aggressive is normally acceptable among birds. Any bird ringer knows that a Reed Warbler can be hysterical and sometimes pretty violent. Maybe because its life is spent only seeing its predators for a split second in the dense reeds, possibly for the last time. I also wrote once about the "bad romance" the water rails have - beating their spouses and offspring without any shame and screaming as if it was a romantic love song. However, what the bitterns did here over the last month, is beyond imagination.



I am a one in Ten


This winter is definitely the Year of the Bittern here in Eilat. In normal years, we see none. In the last few winters, we’ve spotted one or two sculking in the reeds. Now we have no less than ten of them, probably more. I was certain they ate fish, maybe the odd reptiles or insect as well but I was proved wrong. They love Bluethroats. As a snack.




The Great Bittern stance


The literature suggests that they can only be found amid the reeds. Here they are just about everywhere; along the lake's shore, deep in the saltmarsh thickets and even between the trees. What do they do there? Hunt the birds. Nothing is safe, Chiffchaffs, Bluethroats, Robins and Reed Warblers are helpless from the fast and violent bill, striking out from nowhere. It is real horror. It doesn’t feel natural. It feels like a war, and the small birds are losing. We are afraid that there will be no bird left to tell the tale of the Bitterns of Eilat. You can't escape it… It’s just a matter of time. They are impossible to spot, hiding almost in plain sight, their sharp dagger bill and lighting reflexes, it could be the last thing you will feel…



The Bluethroat Slayer


So dear Europeans. I know your bitterns are rare and fussy in regard to their habitat choice and you have put many an effort into protecting them and their homes but in this peaceful part of the world (I'm not even sure why I wrote that), we just can't take it anymore. Take your Bitterns back, we have enough trouble of our own.




See you in Eilat


Spring is just around the corner















Little Green Bee-eater. Photo - Shlomi Bachar


Eilat - birders HOTSPOT

land marks